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I was confused watching the scoring last night. I had no idea what a good score was, except that higher is better. I wish NBC or Dick Button could have given us a clear description of the scoring.

The new system is pretty complicated. I'm starting to get it now and I have been watching every single ISU Grand Prix event for the past 2 years.

So, in a nutshell:
1. There is a technical specialist who determines *what* element the skaters do. Important in that said person can downgrade a jump if, say, it was more than 1/4 of a turn under rotated. That is this person's sole job - identifying elements.

2. Each element has a value. I should have some of these memorized by now, but I don't. Triple axel is 7.5. That is all I remember. Anyway, you do a triple axel, your base value is 7.5.

3. Unless you put it in after the half-way point of your long program. In which case you get value * 1.1.

4. The rest of the panel of judges can say "that was an amazing triple axel so +3." Or "you fell, -3." So, the base value can be increased or decreased by up to 3 points. For each element. This is still subjective. But the wiggle room seems smaller in the grand scheme of things.

5. Some things (footwork sequences, spins) are given difficulty ratings from 1 to 4. I do not know who determines the difficulty ratings. I think they also get the whole -3 to +3 thing.

So, #s 1 - 5 up there determine the "technical" score.

6. There is an artistic score which takes into account musicality, the transition steps (in between parts), choreography, interpretation and, ummm, some other stuff. This part I do not understand very well at all.

7. There are rules, and I have no idea exactly what they are, but they exist, to limit the number of elements overall and the number of times a skater can do a particular element. Thus you will not see routines with only triple flip jumps. Nor will you see a routine with 20 jumps and no other skating in between.

8. Judges' scores are not tied to them individually. This is meant to reduce pressure from, say, Russian mobsters. :) No way to prove a certain judge scored high or low. OTOH, no way to catch a judge who is showing favoritism. Also, it seems that two scores are randomly disgarded.

9. Judges can replay parts of the routines to help them decide on grades of execution (the +3 to -3 stuff).

10. Oh, and also, certain things carry mandatory deductions over and above what the judges do with grades of execution. Falls are -1. Going over the time limit -1. In ice dancing doing a lift for too long -1.

Some results of the system:
a) Skaters get a print out of their scores. It will show them "such and such spin was given a difficulty level of 2." So the skaters will try to change that spin to get more difficulty. They can also see exactly where they are losing points.

b) The system really rewards certain things. Like using the Biellman position. Or spins with 10 different position changes. Things which might work for some skaters but not all. It is acutely painful to watch some of the complicated spins some skaters try. In addition, the system seems to reward someone who can do a mediocre Biellman but provides a strong disincentive to do a really super amazing beyond perfect layback or scale/arabesque.

I hope that helps. Like I said, 2 years, at least 6 competitions per year, and I'm kind of getting the hang of it. It would be cool to see how, exactly, a score breaks down. As in, show us what the skaters would see in the print out.
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