Critics of Ice Dancing Push for Juging Reforms
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 1998; Page C1
NAGANO, Feb. 15 The call for judging reform in ice dancing has reached new heights during these Olympic Games. Not only have skaters and coaches been uncharacteristically outspoken in their criticism of their sport's judges, but figure skating's international governing body also has announced more stringent guidelines for point deductions for falls.
With Russians Pasha Grishuk and Evgeny Platov solidly in the lead entering Monday's concluding free dance, tonight featured almost as much talk about ice dancing's judges as it did about its competitors.
Canadian Tracy Wilson, a former Olympic and world medalist in dance and now a CBS commentator, said the judging of ice dancing has cast a black mark on the discipline.
"We've seen skaters fall and win competitions based on past results," Wilson said. "There are issues undermining the credibility of the sport. It's got to be black and white like it is in pairs and singles. It's a sport I love, and it has no credibility right now."
International rules prevent judges from commenting during competitions.
Ice dancing judges are the most scrutinized and criticized of any figure skating event because dance is the sport's least technical discipline.
"In dancing, there is not enough objective details to judge," said Tamara Moskvina, coach of the Olympic gold and silver medalists in pairs. "It is less objective than in pairs. In pairs you have lifts, throws, jumps, spins that you can judge."
New guidelines introduced here today by the International Skating Union offer judges specific point ranges for deductions for falls in the free and original dance. Those two aspects of ice dancing unlike the compulsory dances previously lacked guidelines regarding point deduction for falls.
The guidelines would be included in the official rule book only after a vote by the ISU Congress in Stockholm in June.
The ISU proposals come after a season in which Grishuk and Platov suffered falls in three different competitions-yet won each one. In Friday night's waltz, Grishuk misstepped in front of the judges, yet she and Platov still received the night's best marks from a nine-judge panel that includes five from former Eastern Bloc nations. Russians Anjelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov skated cleanly yet landed in second, where they remained after tonight's original dance. The French team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat were in third place.
"The fact that [Platov] fell two times before the European championships and didn't lose any points for that, that makes people realize they can win no matter what they do," Peizerat said. "If there is a mistake in the middle of a competition, [the judges] have to judge the mistake. They cannot just carry on as if they didn't do anything wrong."
Krylova told Reuters: "It's all politics, political decisions. This is the Olympics, and it happens especially at the Olympics."
The Canadian dance team of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz in fourth place after the first two rounds of competition have been the most vocal critics, charging that Eastern European judges have conspired to keep them below the sport's top two Russian pairs. Grishuk and Platov, who won the past four world championships and the 1994 Olympics, have a winning streak of more than 20 competitions. They haven't lost since before the '94 Games.
"The reason they have to pick on us is that we are the only threat to each of the teams ahead of us," Kraatz said. "You see the panel, and you know who the judges are that are going to support you and the ones who are going to vote against you to block you."
In ice dancing, there is a strong tradition of giving extra leeway to the current champion, regardless of certain mistakes-evidenced by the extension of Grishuk's and Platov's winning streak despite a spotty year. There also has been a trend of setting an order after the first compulsory dance and sticking to it.
In this Olympic competition, there were only three overall changes to the order of the top 10 from the first compulsory to tonight's original dance. The fourth and fifth teams flip-flopped and 11th place moved into 10th.
"The problem in ice dancing is that maybe one year, you are very good," said Roberto Pelizzola, coach of the Italian dance team of Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio. "You are good two or three years, but then you are not so good. But you remain on top. That's the problem."
When told of the new guidelines, Bourne and Kraatz shrugged.
"It has nothing to do with rules," Bourne said. ". . . Year after year after year, no one has said anything. No one has talked about it. Now people are speaking up, and the whole world is listening."
Said Peizerat: "This year, we feel that people want to change it. Even the judges think it must change now."
Staff writer Wendy E. Lane contributed to this report.
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