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Competitive Figure Skating FAQ: Rules and Regulations


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Archive-name: sports/skating/ice/figure/rules
Last-modified: 21 Sep 2008

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                      COMPETITIVE FIGURE SKATING FAQ:
                      ===============================

                           RULES AND REGULATIONS
                           =====================

This article is part of the FAQ list for (amateur) competitive figure
skating.  This section covers rules governing the sport of figure
skating.

This FAQ list is posted monthly to rec.sport.skating.ice.figure.  It is
available in both plain-text and HTML/Web versions.  You can get to the
HTML version from SkateWeb at URL:

http://www.frogsonice.com/skateweb/

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Table of Contents

  * [1] How is figure skating scored?
  * [2] Is it true that the Code of Points prevents judges from cheating
    or engaging in "block judging"?
  * [3] Wouldn't it be better to use all the judges' marks?
  * [4] What about the old 6.0 ordinal system?
  * [5] What about rules for professional competitions?
  * [6] Are professional skaters allowed to compete in the Olympics?  Are
    amateurs allowed to be paid for skating?
  * [7] Why can't skaters do back flips in competition?
  * [8] What is the "Katarina Rule"?
  * [9] What is the "Zayak Rule"?
  * [10] How do they decide which skaters get to go to the Olympics or
    world championships?
  * [11] Why doesn't the US send its top skaters to the Four Continents
    Championships?
  * [12] Why was [well-known skater] not disqualified when she had
    trouble with her skate laces?
  * [13] How was [some skater] able to compete in both the World Junior
    championships and senior-level competitions in the same season?
  * [14] Why do the TV commentators keep patronizingly referring to women
    skaters as "ladies" instead of "women"?
  * [15] Isn't it unfair for the judges to watch the practice sessions?
    Aren't they supposed to judge only what happens in the actual
    competition?
  * [16] Why is vocal music permitted in dance competitions?  I thought
    vocal music wasn't permitted in eligible competition.
  * [17] Why are there four skaters on the podium at US Nationals instead
    of only three?
  * [18] Why do they bother having the World Championships immediately
    after the Olympics?
  * [19] Where do they get those judges from?
  * [20] Why do the judges all sit together?  Doesn't this just encourage
    them to cheat?
  * [21] [TV commentator] says that skaters are marked down for being
    young!  Isn't this unfair?
  * [22] [TV commentator] says that under the 6.0 system the judges won't
    give high marks to the first skater!  Isn't this unfair?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] How is figure skating scored?

    In 2004, the International Skating Union voted to completely change
    the way skating is scored, abandoning the traditional 6.0 ordinal
    system for a new system called the "Code of Points".  The general
    idea behind the Code of Points system is that every aspect of the
    skating is marked individually.

    Technical elements attempted by the skaters are identified by a paid
    technical specialist, informally known as the "caller".  The judges
    then assign a "grade of execution" (GoE) to each element.  A table in
    the rulebook determines the base value of each element and the
    deduction or bonus corresponding to the GoE value.

    The judges also assign five overall "program components" scores on a
    10.0 scale, for Skating Skills, Transitions, Performance/Execution,
    Choreography, and Interpretation.  In theory, these are also supposed
    to correspond to specific criteria, but in practice, the judges have
    so far shown themselves unable to distinguish these criteria and have
    simply used the program components as a subjective valuation of the
    program, or to fiddle the ranking of the skaters as they did under
    the old ordinal system.

    A secret and anonymous random subset of the judges on the panel is
    chosen by the scoring computer.  Of the selected judges, for each
    element and program component, the high and low marks are discarded
    and the remaining marks are averaged.  The skaters are ranked by
    their total scores.

    The singles and pair events each have two parts, the short program
    and the free skate.  Both programs are scored similarly and require
    the skaters to complete a list of required elements; the difference
    is only in the length of the program and number of elements.  (There
    is nothing truly "free" about the "free skate" any more.)

    Scoring for ice dancing is similar, except that skaters do one or two
    compulsory dances selected from a set that rotates yearly and an
    original dance to a rhythm (or set of rhythms) that also changes each
    year, as well as a free dance.  In ice dance, the "program
    components" are slightly different, and the marks are multiplied by
    various weighting factors instead of all being given equal weight.

    For the 2008-2009 season, the compulsory dances are the Finnstep,
    Paso Doble, and Viennese Waltz, and the original dance is based on
    dances of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

    For the 2009-2019 season, the compulsory dances are the Golden Waltz
    and Tango Romantica, and the original dance is a Folk/Country Dance.

[2] Is it true that the Code of Points prevents judges from cheating or
engaging in "block judging"?

    No.  Because of the complexity of the system and the secrecy and
    anonymity of the judging, all the Code of Points does is make it
    harder for the public to identify instances of cheating or block
    judging, or even just judges who are incompetent.  There is nothing
    in the system itself that prevents judges from manipulating their
    marks deliberately.

[3] Wouldn't it be better to use all the judges' marks?

    Yes, using the marks of the full panel would give a result that is
    statistically more accurate, but the ISU people who designed and
    approved the system are not statisticians.  In addition, the ISU is
    adamant that randomness and secrecy are necessary to prevent any
    accountability of the judges to the public.

[4] What about the old 6.0 ordinal system?

    The 6.0-based ordinal system is still in use in some countries that
    have not yet adopted the Code of Points for their own internal
    competititions.  Under this system, judges assign skaters two marks
    on a 6.0 scale, one for technical merit and one for presentation.

    The marks from each judge are translated into rankings called
    "ordinals".  If you think of each skater's marks as the rows of the
    scoring sheet, then the ordinals are the rankings of the skaters
    within each judge's column.

    In the original version of the system, called the "majority ordinal"
    system, the placements within a competition phase are based on which
    skater has the largest majority of ordinals for the highest place.
    For example, if there is a skater who has a majority of ordinals for
    first place, then that skater is the winner.  Another variation that
    was used in international competitions between 1998 and 2004 was
    called "OBO", or "one-by-one", and involved comparing skaters'
    ordinals pairwise and totalling the number of "wins" in each of these
    comparisons for each skater.

    Under the ordinal system, the combined results from the short program
    and free skate are computed by multiplying the placements in each
    phase by a weighting factor and adding the factored placements
    together.  The factors are 0.5 for the short program and 1.0 for the
    free skate.

[5] What about rules for professional competitions?

    In general, there AREN'T any rules for non-sanctioned events --each
    competition seems to have its own format and judging system.  Most of
    the pro events are invitation-only, and often skaters are guaranteed
    large appearance fees in addition to the announced prize money.

    Pro-am ("open") events have historically had a variety of formats,
    including team events with few, if any, rules, and judging as silly
    as that at any of the pro competitions; events consisting of a
    regulation short program and an interpretive free skate; and events
    consisting of interpretive free skating only.  Invitational
    competitions for eligible skaters only may also use nonstandard
    formats.

[6] Are professional skaters allowed to compete in the Olympics?  Are
amateurs allowed to be paid for skating?

    The policy of the international governing body for skating, the ISU,
    has been that any skater who takes part in a competition that is not
    sanctioned by the ISU (or one of its national governing bodies, such
    as the USFSA) loses eligibility to compete in future "amateur"
    events.

    Loss of eligibility isn't tied to competing professionally in a
    particular discipline of skating, or with a particular partner.  A
    skater who competes as a pro in singles is ineligible to compete in
    ISU competitions in pairs as well as singles; and members of pro pair
    and dance teams who subsequently change partners can't become
    eligible again, even if their new partner is still eligible.

    The ISU offered professional skaters a one-time option to reinstate
    as eligible competitors between 1992 and 1995.  However, this
    opportunity has closed, and professionals may no longer reinstate or
    compete internationally as Olympic-eligible skaters.

    Sometimes professional skaters talk about wanting to reinstate to
    compete in the Olympics again, but they cannot do so unless ISU
    changes the rules again, and this is unlikely to happen.  Many people
    consider reinstatement to be a failed policy because it did not have
    the intended effect of bringing all skaters back into ISU-sponsored
    competitions on a permanent basis.  The ISU's current policy is aimed
    at encouraging skaters to retain their eligibility by offering prize
    money and other financial incentives.

    Appearing in an unsanctioned professional competition is the only
    activity that the ISU now defines as being off-limits for eligible
    skaters.  As long as they have the permission of their national
    federations, so-called amateur skaters can now be paid for doing
    tours and iceshows, competitions, endorsements, TV appearances, and
    the like, as well as coaching.  It is more accurate to refer to their
    status as "eligible" than "amateur".

    For example, skaters may appear with Stars on Ice without losing
    their eligible status.  The reason why eligible skaters typically do
    not appear on the US tour is that its schedule conflicts with the
    eligible competitive season, but a number of active competitors have
    appeared in their spring and summer tours of Canada, Europe and Asia,
    and other eligible skaters have appeared in the US tour during breaks
    in their competitive activities.

    Since there's very little practical difference any more between
    "eligible" and "ineligible" skaters, many people wonder why the ISU
    doesn't do away with the distinction entirely and open up all
    competitions to all skaters.  The ISU's monopoly over the World
    Championships and Olympic Games is both the reason for their policy,
    and the means they have of enforcing it.  For example, the fact that
    they can ban people who take part in unsanctioned competitions
    discourages skaters from taking part in (and hence lending
    credibility to) any other supposed "world championships" which might
    be put on by private promoters or by a breakaway federation or
    skater's union, and which might conceivably rival or displace the
    ISU's own World Championships if such a check were not in place.

[7] Why can't skaters do back flips in competition?

    Basically, because the consensus in the skating community is that
    back flips aren't really a skating move, and that if they were
    allowed in competition, the character of the sport might change in
    ways that are seen as undesirable.  (It doesn't really have anything
    to do with whether the skater lands on one foot or two.) The same
    reasoning applies to other forbidden moves, such as pair-skating
    moves where the man swings the lady around by her feet, or lifts
    above the shoulder in ice dancing.

    Note that pairs tricks such as Detroiters and head-bangers were
    originally banned because they originated in, and were strongly
    identified with, show skating, and the governing bodies for the sport
    explicitly wanted competitive pair skating to keep its own separate
    character.  It used to even be encoded in the rulebook that
    "performances suggestive of carnivals or shows" were forbidden in
    pairs skating.

    These elements are not forbidden specifically for safety reasons,
    either, as other pair-skating elements, such as lifts where the woman
    is carried or swung in a head-down position, are also very dangerous.
    In fact, in 1998 the ISU Congress basically ignored a recommendation
    from their own medical advisors to ban such lifts.

[8] What is the "Katarina Rule"?

    This refers to the guidelines for skaters' costumes that were adopted
    after Katarina Witt showed up at the 1988 European championships
    wearing a skimpy showgirl costume trimmed with feathers, and no
    skirt.  (Many people were dismayed by the increasing emphasis on
    theatrical costuming and displays of pulchritude, rather than
    athleticism.)  As a result, ladies were required to wear skirts and
    pants "covering the hips and posterior" until this rule was repealed
    in 2004, allowing women to wear tights, trousers, or unitards in
    addition to skirts.  Men are required to wear trousers and not
    tights.  Clothing is also supposed to be free from "excessive
    decoration", such as feathers that can come loose and create a safety
    hazard on the ice.

[9] What is the "Zayak Rule"?

    This refers to the rule that disallows skaters from repeating the
    same triple or quadruple jump over and over in their free skating
    program.  Skaters can only repeat two triple or quadruple jumps, only
    if at least one of the attempts at each repeated jump is in a jump
    combination or sequence, and no triple or quadruple jump may be
    attempted more than twice.

    Note that this rule does NOT, by itself, put an absolute limit on the
    number of triple jumps allowed in a program.  That limit is now
    enforced by the restrictions on the number of elements that were
    adopted with the Code of Points.

    This rule is associated with Elaine Zayak, who for a time was
    including up to four triple toe loops in her competitive programs,
    but it was actually a more general trend in the early 1980's for
    skaters to pack their programs with repeated jumps.  The rules were
    changed to reward skaters with a greater variety of skills.

[10] How do they decide which skaters get to go to the Olympics or world
championships?

    The ISU allocates the slots to the different countries depending on
    the placement of their skaters at the previous year's world
    championships.

    In past years, the formula was based on the placement of the highest
    skater from each country in each discipline.  Now the formula is
    based on adding the placements of the two best competitors from the
    country.  Competitors who didn't qualify for the free skate get 18
    points, and anyone who finishes lower than 16th overall gets 16
    points.  There is now an exception made for skaters who have to
    withdraw in the middle of the competition because of injury or
    equipment damage.

    For a 2- or 3-competitor team in the previous year, 1-13 points
    qualifies 3 entries, 14-28 points qualifies 2 entries, and more than
    28 qualifies only 1 entry.

    For a 1-competitor team in the previous year, 1-2 points qualifies 3
    entries, 3-10 points qualifies 2 entries and more than 10 points
    qualifies 1 entry.

    Because the number of skaters participating in the singles
    competitions has become very large in recent years, the fields are
    cut to 24 after the short program.  The ISU voted in 2006 to
    eliminate the initial qualifying rounds that had been part of the
    World championships for several years.

    At the Olympic games, the ISU has strictly limited the number of
    entries in each event, again giving priority to countries whose
    skaters placed higher at the previous year's worlds.  The ISU
    designates a qualifying competition in the fall prior to the Olympic
    games to fill up the last few slots in each discipline, so that
    countries who did not previously qualify at worlds have a second
    chance.

    In some countries, the national skating federation and/or Olympic
    federation impose additional rules on qualifying.  For instance,
    thanks to "Eddie the Eagle" (the frighteningly incompetent ski
    jumper), the British Olympic federation now won't send athletes to
    the Olympics unless they have shown they have a reasonable chance to
    place in the top half of the field.  Similarly, Canada sets
    requirements for Olympic qualification based on minimum placements at
    past international events.

    In the US, the teams for the Olympic games and world championships
    normally consist of the top finishers from the US national
    championships.  In theory, the selection committee is permitted to
    deviate from the consecutive order of finish, but in practice about
    the only time they do so is when a top skater from the previous year
    is unable to compete at nationals due to injury.  (There is actually
    a legal reason for the loophole in the selection procedure:  if the
    national championships were considered "Olympic trials", the TV
    rights and revenues would belong to the US Olympic Committee rather
    than the USFSA.)

    In turn, skaters qualify to compete in the US national championships
    by skating in regional and sectional qualifying competitions.  Canada
    has a similar three-level hierarchy of qualifying competitions.

[11] Why doesn't the US send its top skaters to the Four Continents
Championships?

    US Figure Skating DOES offer the top finishers at US Nationals the
    opportunity to compete at the Four Continents Championships every
    year, and every year, the top singles skaters choose to turn it down.
    Nobody (other than possibly ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta) really
    seems to think it is a good idea to FORCE skaters to compete at
    events they don't want to enter.

    Part of the trouble is that the timing of the Four Continents
    Championships has invariably been inconveniently close to US
    Nationals and/or the Grand Prix Final and/or the Olympic Games, and
    it often involves fatiguing travel to Asia.  Aside from wanting to
    concentrate on preparations for the more prestigious World
    Championships or Olympic Games, the top US singles skaters generally
    have enough other competition and performance opportunities during
    the year that the prize money isn't enough to tempt them to compete
    at Four Continents.  It's a different story for the pairs and dancers
    because they have fewer opportunities to make money.

[12] Why was [well-known skater] not disqualified when she had trouble
with her skate laces?

    The rules specifically allow for situations where skaters have
    problems with their equipment or clothing breaking that make it
    difficult or dangerous for them to continue skating, as well as
    similar problems with their music or the ice surface.  Prior to the
    2000-2001 season, the rule used to be that the referee could allow
    the skaters either to immediately pick up where they left off, or to
    reskate their entire program after all the other skaters in the group
    finished, depending on the nature of the problem and how long it
    would take to fix it.  Now the rules have been changed to disallow
    the second option; skaters are given up to two minutes to correct the
    problem and pick up mid-program again, and they are disqualified if
    they cannot continue.

[13] How was [some skater] able to compete in both the World Junior
championships and senior-level competitions in the same season?

    Eligibility for ISU junior events such as the World Junior
    championships is based strictly on the age of the skaters.  It's not
    uncommon (especially among European skaters) to continue to compete
    at World Juniors after also starting to compete in senior-level
    international events.  In some countries (notably Japan and Russia),
    skaters who are age-eligible can also compete at both junior and
    senior nationals in the same year.

    In US events, on the other hand, "junior" and "senior" refer to skill
    levels rather than age.  Skaters who have passed their tests and
    qualified at to skate at the senior level may still be selected to
    compete at ISU junior events as long as they meet the age
    requirements.  Likewise, there are some US juniors who are too old to
    compete as ISU juniors.

    The ISU's current age restrictions are:

      * For ISU senior championships (Worlds, Europeans, and Four
        Continents) and the Olympic Games, competitors must have reached
        the age of 15 by the previous July 1st.

      * For other international senior events, competitors must have
        reached the age of 14 by the previous July 1st.

      * For all international junior events, competitors must have
        reached the age of 13 by the previous July 1st, but not yet 19
        (except for men competing in pairs and ice dancing, where the
        upper limit is 21).

    It used to be that skaters who placed in the top three at the World
    Junior Championships received an age exemption to compete in the ISU
    senior championships, but that loophole was abolished in 2000.

[14] Why do the TV commentators keep patronizingly referring to women
skaters as "ladies" instead of "women"?

    "Ladies" is the official and traditional terminology of the ISU.
    Back in the old days, figure skating clubs were typically snobbish
    social organizations where the rich and well-connected could hobnob
    with one another, and it would have been a gross insult NOT to use
    the term "ladies" to refer to the kind of rich society women involved
    in the sport.  It's very similar to the elitist traditions
    surrounding country clubs and golf, another sport where women
    athletes are still referred to as "ladies".

    Nowadays, most people don't take the terminology very seriously,
    often using the term "ladies" with tongue planted firmly in cheek and
    an attitude of exaggerated reverence for the traditions of the sport
    that long predate contemporary notions of political correctness.

[15] Isn't it unfair for the judges to watch the practice sessions?
Aren't they supposed to judge only what happens in the actual
competition?

    It's actually a GOOD thing for the judges to watch the official
    practices at competitions, because it REDUCES the possibility that
    skaters will be judged by reputation or past performances instead of
    the way they actually skate at the event in question.

    Chances are, the judges have already seen some of the competitors at
    previous events and are somewhat familiar with their strengths and
    weaknesses as well as the layout and content of their programs.  If
    the judges didn't go to practices, then the other skaters that the
    judges weren't already familiar with would be at a disadvantage.  Not
    only does attending practices give the judges an equal opportunity to
    see ALL of the competitors, but it also gives them an impression of
    how they are skating NOW as opposed to during past events or previous
    seasons.

    The judges have an awful lot of things they have to look for during a
    performance, and it can be very difficult to catch everything when
    seeing a program for the first time.  The skating goes by very
    quickly and there are no slow-motion replays.  So becoming familiar
    with the skaters' programs in practices helps the judges do a better
    job in evaluating them in the actual competition.  If the judges have
    a rough idea of the planned technical content of the program and
    where in the program the big jumps are, they're less likely to miss
    them in the final performance because they blinked at the wrong time
    or were writing notes or otherwise distracted.  The practices also
    give the judges an opportunity to observe if the skaters are doing
    anything unusual or especially difficult, so that they know to look
    for these elements and give the skaters extra credit if they're
    completed.  (For example, a lutz with an unusual footwork entry might
    be confused with an easier flip jump on first viewing, or a quadruple
    jump might be mistaken for a triple.) Conversely, practices also give
    the judges a chance to observe whether skaters have particular
    problems with faulty technique that they should especially watch for
    during the competition.

    Besides keeping track of what technical elements the skaters
    complete, the judges also have to pay attention to factors like the
    difficulty and variety of connecting steps, whether the program is
    balanced in terms of its layout and use of the ice surface, and the
    skaters' speed, carriage, and ease of movement in harmony with the
    music.  It can be hard to evaluate the overall structure and
    choreography of a program at the same time that you're looking for
    specific technical elements, so again it's helpful for the judges to
    be able to make some preliminary observations in the practice
    sessions.  These factors generally don't change much in between
    practice and performance anyway.

    In short, while judges are supposed to judge only what they see
    during the actual competition, watching the practices gives them a
    better idea of what to look for, so that they see the right things.

[16] Why is vocal music permitted in dance competitions?  I thought vocal
music wasn't permitted in eligible competition.

    The ISU develops requirements for the music and choreography for the
    original dance each year that are specific to the particular rhythm
    that is being skated.  In the case of the jive for the 1997-98
    season, they decided to allow vocal music because coaches and skaters
    complained about the difficulty of finding suitable music without
    lyrics.  (Similar problems were encountered some years earlier when
    rock'n'roll was the designated rhythm.)  Apparently the ISU has
    decided that dance would now be too boring without vocal music so the
    rules change to allow vocals has carried over into subsequent years,
    and to the free dance as well as the original dance.

    Prior to 1990, there were actually no rules prohibiting the use of
    music with vocals in the singles and pairs events and it was simply a
    tradition not to do so.  When a few skaters used vocal music in the
    1989-1990 season (notably US skaters Erik Larson and Natasha Kuchiki
    & Todd Sand, who both skated to opera selections), the ISU reacted by
    closing the loophole.

[17]Why are there four skaters on the podium at US Nationals instead of
only three?

    At the regional and sectional qualifying competitions for US
    Nationals, there are four skaters on the podium because it's the top
    four that advance to the next level of competition and it makes sense
    to honor all of them at the medal ceremony.  US Nationals is also
    considered a "qualifying" competition in the USFSA rulebook, and is
    governed by the same rules regarding medals and awards.

    The medals presented to the fourth-place skaters are made of pewter.

[18]Why do they bother having the World Championships immediately after
the Olympics?

    Television revenues from the World Championships are the principal
    source of income for the ISU, the international governing body for
    figure skating.  The ISU doesn't make money from the Olympic games.

    Also, the number of entries in the figure skating events at the
    Olympics is now strictly limited.  The ISU is actually much more
    controlled by the many smaller member countries than by the
    traditional skating "powers" such as the US, Canada, and Russia, and
    they are firmly committed to holding an open competition in which all
    countries which are ISU members can participate.  Moreover, the World
    Championships have been in existence much longer than the Olympics,
    and they carry a considerable amount of tradition and prestige of
    their own.

[19]Where do they get those judges from?

    Judges are unpaid volunteers who have spent years of their own time
    and money to qualify for their positions.

    The procedures for qualifying as a judge vary from country to
    country.  In the US, it works something like this:

    To get started, you must be a member of the USFSA, and at least 16
    years old.  You do not have to be a skater, although it helps.
    There's an accelerated qualification track for former high-level
    competitors.

    Prospective judges start by trial-judging tests (not competitions)
    for beginning skaters.  "Trial judging" means you basically do what
    the judges do, but your results don't count towards the outcome of
    the test, and are only used to evaluate whether YOU know what you're
    doing.  Once you have trial-judged an adequate number of low-level
    tests, you are eligible to receive your first appointment to judge
    these tests "for real".  At the same time, you may begin to
    trial-judge intermediate tests.  From there, you can move up to
    judging high tests, and then novice, junior, senior, and
    national-level competition judging assignments.  The judging tracks
    for ice dance and synchronized skating are separate from the
    singles/pairs track, and you must qualify to judge each discipline
    separately.

    As a judge, you must take the yearly judge's examination and attend
    judging schools.  You must also judge a certain number of events each
    year in order to retain your appointment.

    You will probably need to travel outside of your home area to get
    enough trial-judging experience to qualify for a high test or
    competition judge appointment, unless you live somewhere where there
    are multiple clubs with lots of high-level skaters.  (If you live
    near Boston or Los Angeles, you're in luck; if you live in
    Mississippi or North Dakota, you're not.)  Judges usually have their
    expenses paid by the club sponsoring the test session or competition,
    but any travel you do to trial judge or to attend judging schools is
    at your own expense.

    For more information about what's involved in becoming a judge, check
    out this web site:

    http://www.usfigureskating.org/About.asp?id=108

[20]Why do the judges all sit together?  Doesn't this just encourage them
to cheat?

    The judges are not allowed to confer with one another during the
    competition, but they have to sit where they can communicate easily
    with the referee.  The referee has to be able to give instructions to
    the judges (for instance, to make sure that all the judges are aware
    if a skater's program runs overtime, or what to do in case a skater's
    program is interrupted and they have to restart).  The referee (and
    sometimes the assistant referee or accountant) may have to consult
    with a judge as well if there is some sort of problem with their
    marks --for instance, if they're having trouble punching in the right
    numbers on their keypad.

    Also, when the electronic scoring system is not being used, the
    referee has to collect "chits" -- slips of paper with the marks
    written on them -- from the judges.  (The referee double-checks these
    against the marks that are read from the cards that the judges hold
    up.)  It has happened from time to time in the past that the
    electronic scoring system has failed in the middle of a competition
    and the judges have had to revert to the manual method, so this is
    another reason why the judges have to be situated near the referee
    instead of scattered all around the rink.

[21][TV commentator] says that skaters are marked down for being young!
Isn't this unfair?

    It sometimes happens that TV commentators make statements about the
    rules and scoring system that are just plain wrong.  This can happen
    for a variety of reasons.  The ex-skaters who do TV commentary often
    have no real training in judging or accounting and may not even have
    bothered to read the rulebook.  They may have more regular
    involvement with the professional side of skating, instead of the
    eligible competitive side, and have a tendency to view skating from
    their personal perspective where entertainment is more important than
    sport.  They may be remembering the way things used to be when they
    were competitors themselves, which may be long enough ago that the
    rules have changed significantly in the meantime.  They may have been
    misinformed by staff researchers or coaches who had the wrong
    information.  They may actually know better in their own minds, but
    be unable to articulate what the rules really say when they're "on
    the spot" and only have a few seconds of air time before they must
    move on to something else.

    On the specific issue of judges marking down skaters for being young
    or inexperienced, sometimes people involved with skating say this as
    a kind of shorthand to describe technical problems that are
    legitimately penalized under the rules.  When one says that a skater
    "skates young" or "looks like a junior", what this typically means is
    that they still lack speed and power, that their edges may not be as
    strong and deep as those of more developed skaters, that they may
    still lack security or a fine degree of control on certain elements,
    that their programs may be constructed with less complex connecting
    moves in between the elements, and that they aren't able to fill the
    entire ice surface as they skate.

[22][TV commentator] says that under the 6.0 system the judges won't give
high marks to the first skater!  Isn't this unfair?

    Remember that in the 6.0 system, the marks don't mean anything by
    themselves; all that matters is the relative placement of the
    skaters.

    The judges can't give out 6.0 marks to a competitor who has to skate
    early in the draw order unless they are absolutely, positively
    certain that none of the remaining skaters could conceivably, under
    any circumstances, turn in a better performance.  Judges are rarely
    willing to go that far out on a limb.  It is far more appropriate for
    them to leave some room just in case later competitors do turn in
    better performances.  If nobody does outskate the first competitor,
    then his/her marks will still hold up for first place.  There are
    many, many examples of real competitions where skaters have won when
    they had to skate early in the draw order.

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