February 26, 2009

A Shout Out ...

to all those skaters who learned English on the job!

I was at a play rehearsal this morning with the other mothers of my daughter's kindergarten class. Don't get me started, but it is the mothers doing the play for the kids instead of the other way around! Why? Why are we doing this? I don't understand.

Anyway, the 2-hour rehearsal was conducted entirely in Spanish, in which I understood maybe 20% of what was going on and it reminded me of the days of new skaters, who didn't speak English, showing up with me for rehearsals.

Rehearsals were hard enough for a new skater, but in a foreign language? I knew at the time they had a tougher challenge than I, but this morning I understood it a little better with my own challenge. (I know 50% of the Spanish nouns I hear, but I'm missing all the verbs, so I can't follow a conversation.)

In Holiday On Ice, we had three new Polish skaters and only two or three other Polish skaters to translate. That kept them all very busy in the first few weeks. Luckily our stage manager, from Denmark, knew six or seven languages, so the important things, like paychecks and visas, were handled in their native language.

In a show I did in Japan, we had two new girls from Quebec, who only spoke French. I was amazed at how quickly they caught on, despite one of the girls - who had to fill in another skater's spot - shouting "Where I Am? Where I Am?" during the number on the ice. What she meant to say, was "Where am I suppose to be?" but she wasn't that advanced yet. She did learn though. After a couple of months, I sometimes forgot during conversations that she started out from scratch.

So hats, or shall I say, sombreros, off to all of you. It's not easy.

February 20, 2009

Has She Suffered Enough?

She was an excellent jumper and her spins were fast too. It's too bad, she didn't believe in herself enough to leave it up to her skating. I don't think she'll ever be forgiven by the skating authorities that be, but how different is her crime from some of the drunk driving charges that other skaters have gotten?

Maybe if she were more contrite (and fully admit her wrongdoing)she could start the comeback. What do you think?

This article was posted February 18, 2009 6:30 PM on the ChicagoTribune.com site:

by Mark Silva

Fifteen years after Tonya Harding became a household name in the breaking of figure skating rival Nancy Kerrigan's knee, the retired, disgraced and disgruntled skater has returned to television to ask just how long someone must pay for her past.

At the same time, Harding said last night on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, she owes President Barack Obama a certain debt for his campaign-trail remark that he wasn't about to "do a Tonya Harding'' on his primary opponents. She maintains it helped her find work, paid appearances - "because people forget who Tonya Harding is.''

Obama, then a candidate for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, remembered well in December of 2007 when he told a crowd in Vinton, Iowa, that he was not about to pull a Harding in pursuit of that first caucus victory in Iowa.

"Folks said there's no way Obama has a chance unless he goes and kneecaps the person ahead of us, does a Tonya Harding," Obama joked then, alluding to the athlete who had conspired to stop her rival during the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. "We decided that's not the kind of campaign we wanted to run.''

Yet, Harding voices a great deal of bitterness about all she has been through since then.

"How much responsibility do you think I need to take?'' she asked in the Real Sports appearance. "I paid my debt to society... How much punishment do you think I need to go through?... I've done my time in jail... Everything that I've made mistakes on, I have paid for.''

February 18, 2009

The New Judging System Explained

In case you too needed an easy explanation of the new judging system ... Aaron of Axels, Loops, and Spins sums it up below:

There are parts I like about it...parts I don't. Here's the easy way of beginning to understand it.

Every element (spin, jump, lift, etc.) has an assigned point value. Then the judges rate how well you do it...great is +3...terrible is -3...and there's everything in between. These are called Grade's of Execution (GOE's). The GOE's on each element are averaged and the skater get's that much bonus or deduction for the element.

Spins, footwork, spiral sequences have what they call levels. Level 1 stuff is pretty basic...level 4 stuff is the manic crazy stuff you were mentioning. The higher the level...the more points you get.

The old artistic score is now the program component score. Things like skating skills, transitions, choreography, interpretation, timing are each judged on a 10 point scale. 10 is great, 1 is really bad.

When it's time for the marks, a random selection of judges is chosen (we or the judges don't know which judges scores are counting)...the technical element score is all points and levels the skaters got on their elements all added up. The Program component scores are all those things on the 10 point scale added up. This gives you the segment total.

The final score is found by adding all the segment scores together...highest points wins.

February 12, 2009

The Problem With The Judging

is the judges - IMHO.

You could ask any construction worker on the street and they'll tell you figure skating is (was) one of the most crooked sports.

When I was a kid, a long, long, long time ago in the 70s, me and my skating friends would play a game with our U.S.F.S.A. magazine. We would find a page with an international competition, usually Worlds, and match each skater's nationality with the judge of that nationality. Most of the time, that was the skater's highest ordinal. Especially if they were east of the Iron Curtain.

I think a lot of this came to light when the French judge exposed the whole swapping votes thing. But it had been going on for a long time.

Look, I can't say I blame someone (especially in the 70s)if they wanted to get out of their country and jump aboard the judging boondoggle. They feed you, you get put up in nice hotels, nowadays you probably get a nice bit of swag as well.

But you tell me, will it get better by Vancouver, or is it just as likely that there could be a corrupt scheme brewing?

My solution - Each judge should also be judged by how close their score came to the overall score for that skater. (If you placed your little Suzie at number one, but she really came out sixth overall - that's not good.) And if your placement was the outlyer, you get docked points, or don't get points or something like that.

Put their performance on the line.

With the new system and random judges being selected, it seems that judges have more incentive to boost the ranking of their country's skater and not be objective.

Aaarrghh! But then again, what do I know. I just like to watch strong freestyle programs with long spread eagles (Brian Boitano) or ina bauers (Lisa Marie Allen) or a super tight scratch spins with a long wind up (Dorothy Hamill) or a bunch of Russian split jumps (Toller Cranston). I said I was old, remember?

February 10, 2009

Old Showgirls Never Die ....

they just (1-foot)glide away.

I bet you didn't know that showgirls age like dog years .... for every one year you skate in a show, you age four years!

This leads me to a confession I must make. I don't have a clue about the new judging system. Couldn't tell you what the new points are about - I'm an old showgirl, after all. All I know is I see long programs filled with crazy spins of manic shifts of positions and more stretching and pulling than a Chinese acrobat.

So maybe someone out there could email me a super simple, "New Judging For Dummies" outline and then I'll be able to follow all these blogs giving their take on the skaters' programs. It sounds to me like others don't like the new system, I'd love to know your thoughts on that too.

I could wait until Worlds this year, where they devote a ten-minute segment to the change, but I'm not likely to see it.

Please, please, please, someone fill me in.

February 5, 2009

We're all swept up ....

with the 4CC in Vancouver, so I can't think of any skating yarns from the past right now.

I looked over at Axels, Loops, and Spins and saw that my latest post was a week ago! How am I going to make it to Worlds and keep you entertained?

Okay, okay, give me a day or so ....

In the meantime, Aaron, please give Brian Orser a big hug from me!