SI Vault
March 21, 1994
"I hope that we Americans can sustain the same spirit in Atlanta as the Norwegians did in Lillehammer."RAYMOND D. BAECHLER, EAST GREENBUSH. N.Y.
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March 21, 1994


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"I hope that we Americans can sustain the same spirit in Atlanta as the Norwegians did in Lillehammer."

Figure Skating
What we saw in the ice dancing competition was shocking. Everybody knew that the British couple, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, deserved the gold.

It doesn't take a genius to understand what happened in the judging of Torvill and Dean. The judges obviously had determined that the torch would be passed to a younger generation of ice dancers, regardless of their performances. The high ratings given to Torvill and Dean in the original dance program were only a token to justify the judges' later action.

By this travesty the members of the sports world have become voyeurs, peeking through the mysterious veil that shrouds the judging of ice dancing. It appears we caught the judges in their skivvies this time!
KEVIN G. LOVE, Mount Pleasant, Mich.

I cannot fathom the scoring system in figure skating (Silver Belle, March 7). The technical program for singles skaters is supposed to count for 33.3% of their total score, but in reality the system of ordinal placements means that the top three skaters after the technical program are even going into the free skate. Thus the winner of the free skate, by however slim a margin, is the winner of the overall competition. Only if a skater entering the final stage in fourth place or lower is among the top three in the free skate does the ordinal ranking from the technical program become a factor.

Moreover, the actual scores (5.8, 5.9, etc.) seem meaningless in the ordinal system. The margin of superiority in the eyes of one judge is irrelevant if the other judges find a skater to be second best, by whatever margin.

Just for fun, I disregarded the ordinal rankings—whereby each judge ranks the competitors—and calculated the results of the competition between Nancy Kerrigan and Oksana Baiul based on their technical and artistic scores. I used two different scoring systems. For one I threw out the high and low scores for each skater in both the technical and the artistic programs and totaled the remaining scores. I multiplied their technical-program totals by .333 and their free-skate-program totals by .667 to account for the fact that the technical-merit scores count for one third of a skater's total and the free-skate scores count for two thirds. With this system, not only would Kerrigan have won the overall competition, but she also would have won the free skate.

In the second I calculated the scores without eliminating any of the judges' marks. Again Kerrigan would have prevailed overall and in the free skate.

Either of the two systems outlined above allows for a competition in which a skater can win the free skate by a slim margin but lose the overall competition because of another skater's superior performance in the technical program. This, I believe, would be a better system because it would give real weight to the technical program.

I am not suggesting that Kerrigan got a raw deal. She lost according to the existing rules. But I do think that in light of Baud's winning the gold medal while accumulating a lower total score, the powers that be in figure skating should reexamine the sport's scoring system.

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