Why did Sasha come in first?
February 22, 2006 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Can a figure skating geek out there tell me why Sasha Cohen did better than Emily Hughes last night?

To the eye of this person who doesn't know any better, both skated flawlessly, did all the cool jumps, looked great doing it, etc. The NBC crew didn't shed any light on why Hughes deserved seventh while Cohen deserved first, other than to comment on the idea that this was Cohen's "time to shine" and that she was "living up to her high expectations." And Emily Hughes was portrayed the last minute fill-in who was just getting her feet wet and should compete for a gold in 2010. In the middle was this Kimmie Meisner person who apparently was flawless as well. Given that neither NBC nor the newspaper articles I read provided an objective reason for the judges' scores, can anyone fill in the gaps for me?
posted by Saucy Intruder to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
NBC has the detailed results. They are now very, very detailed. The whole point of the new scoring system is to be very transparent so it can't easily be fudged by corrupt judged.

But now there are so many numbers that it is not very easy to tell just by looking at the scores what made someone win or lose. One difference that jumps out at me is that Cohen got a +2 points adder on her "Spiral Step Sequence 4". Step sequences are the kind of thing that non-skaters wouldn't even think were a trick but she did it well enough to get bonus points. Cohen also got a much better Program Components score than Hughes.
posted by smackfu at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2006

I'm not a figure skating geek, but (forgive me if I am telling you things you already know) one score is a technical score and one is program components. The technical score is based on the level of difficulty, and the program component score is based on skating skills, transitions, performance/execution, choreography/composition and interpretation. I felt that Sasha's performance was as artistic and well-choreographed as it was technically superb. She also included a fantastic spiral sequence that no one else came close to. Hughes was good but not as polished. The things that separate the top women in these competitions often comes down to minutiae that you have to be a judge or an expert to pick up on. And although Kimmy had the triple-triple I felt the choreography was lacking a bit and looked a bit awkward, and she's admitted in interviews that she stumbled a few times during the program.

on edit: everything he said.
posted by apple scruff at 12:08 PM on February 22, 2006

Slate has a nice critical view on the new scoring system.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2006

I'm not really even into figure skating, but her program just looked better than the others to me. For example, there's a part where they skate in a big circle on one leg with their body horizontal and one leg stuck way up in the air (I'm sure there's some actual figure skating term for this move). Sasha, besides almost doing the splits, was *rock solid*. Other skaters either weren't in as good a position, or were wobbly, or both (I couldn't even stand still on solid ground with one leg a few inches off the ground and be that solid). It was pretty amazing, and I can easily believe there were lots of small things like that that I didn't even notice that added up to a first place score.
posted by blm at 12:31 PM on February 22, 2006

I watched both of them last night. Sasha's routine was incredibly fluid and rock-solid. Emily, while also being pretty fluid, displayed certain weaknesses. Her transitions weren't as smooth. She didn't hold her edges as solidly as Sasha. Basically, Sasha, despite her age, skated a much more mature, confident program.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2006

Her jumps were difficult, she did them flawlessly, and her spiral thingy was far and away the best of the night.
posted by teece at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2006

Sasha had better spirals, better spins, better step sequence, better conecting work, and better body position. Her jumps aren't as spectacular as Irina's or Shizuka's, but she completes them solidly; and she's got the best spirals in the field.

Emily's jumps were higher, but not technically any better than Sasha's She still has some rough edges on her footwork, and her spins and spirals aren't as good as Sasha's. Kimmie missed some footwork, and her presentation wasn't as good.

(I watched the coverage on CBC ... much better if you can get it.)
posted by jlkr at 12:39 PM on February 22, 2006

smackfu: thanks for that link to the detailed results. My wife and I were commenting last night that we really wished we could see those and compare the grade of execution marks on the various elements.

Saucy Intruder: I am with you in that it can be hard for an amateur to tell the difference between the skaters especially when they are all doing the same required elements in the short program. As you can see from the detailed results (especially among the top three skaters), even the judges saw very little difference on average between the skaters on the required elements. Most of the difference comes on the Component scores which are really the artistic scores.

Consequently, this makes the free skate tomorrow very interesting. It should also be more interesting for a layperson like me to see the difference in scores between routines. I think NBCs coverage would be better if after every element, they flashed up on the screen the base value for that element and then had their commentators say how they think it was executed. Then, they could compare that to the judges scores after.
posted by bove at 1:02 PM on February 22, 2006

I think NBCs coverage would be better if...

A person could write for days on this topic!
posted by jdroth at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2006

For example, there's a part where they skate in a big circle on one leg with their body horizontal and one leg stuck way up in the air

This is called edging, and Sasha was far smoother and stable while edging, she did a very difficult turn (short radius, which is tough on one fot) while holding one leg in the air. Emily wasn't as stable. Also, I thought Sasha's transitions into and out of jumps were smoother and shorter (more skill, higher quality). Overall, I felt that Sasha's choreography was stronger, she moved better to her music, and while Emily had a lot of energy it just didn't flow as well.
posted by tweak at 1:46 PM on February 22, 2006

I don't think Emily was judged unfairly. Remember, she was an alternate and only got to go after Michell Kwan bowed out due to a recent groin injury. I was impressed with Emily Hughes performance, but to my untrained eye she was not in contention for a medal.
posted by JamesMessick at 2:34 PM on February 22, 2006

jdroth: very true. I absolutely refuse to watch the Olympics unless I have Tivoed it so I can skip all of the "features" and commercials. Otherwise it feels like there are 2 commercials for every 30 seconds of actual competition.
posted by bove at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2006

In addition to superior technical execution in terms of figure skating's requirements, Sasha Cohen's skating is informed by extensive experience in ballet/dance which will always propel a skater or gymnast ahead of his/her non-dancing peers. While I have not found much mention of Sasha's dance training in media reports (though her mother was a former ballet dancer), it is absurdly obvious in watching her movements that she is well-versed in the infinite refinement of musculature that dancers develop over years of training. (This from being a trained dancer myself.)

Because of dance, Sasha learned how to completely control and empower every muscle in her body in a way that is both technically proficient and aesthetically superior in the sport of figure skating. (It is also the demon behind the perfectionism she struggles against as ballet training encourages full perfection of the physical form.)

Other skaters should take a lesson or two. Just my two cents!
posted by superfem at 4:12 PM on February 22, 2006

"Basically, Sasha, despite her age, skated a much more mature, confident program."

Sasha is in her 20s, although she still has that baby face. She ought to be skating more maturely.

Yes, Emily's skating was good under the circumstances, but she's clearly not up to Sasha's level yet. I didn't see anything unfair there.

Kimmie was judged fairly as well, I thought. She did amazingly well and I am definitely looking forward to tonight.

It's true, there are a lot of subtleties that non-skaters (or those who aren't experienced skatefans) don't pick up on. For example, you might see two skaters do a triple jump, and think that they are equal -- but one did a toe-loop, and the other a correct lutz from the outside edge; lutzes are much harder than toe-loops. And it is hard to tell jumps apart until you've been studying them for a while (or if you're a skater).

Other things to look out for that will make a difference include speed (this is hard to judge on a tv screen), extension and completion of moves, not telegraphing jumps, etc. In general Sasha is better than Hughes and Meissner in those categories. I would go so far as to say she is way better than Slutskaya there, as well. But Irina is less likely to fall apart under stress, and IIRC she is doing harder jumps. (I haven't been following closely this season so maybe that's not true anymore...) Irina telegraphs her jumps terribly and she doesn't have many of the other qualities Sasha has, but she is still pretty damned good.
posted by litlnemo at 4:16 PM on February 22, 2006

(My toe-loop/lutz example above wasn't about Sasha and Emily as they both did the same jumps in the short program; it was just a generic example.)
posted by litlnemo at 4:22 PM on February 22, 2006

Sasha Cohen? ice skating? sweet.
posted by Satapher at 8:28 PM on February 22, 2006

BTW, USA Network has a daily show during the Olympics called Olympic Ice, with analysis of the day's events, etc. (And lots of goofiness.) In the Wednesday episode, they actually discussed why the scoring went the way it did, which elements by which skaters were scored highly, and so on. They showed side-by-side footage of some skaters doing the same elements to compare them. I strongly recommend watching the show for the next few days if you're looking for more information on the figure skating events.
posted by litlnemo at 4:23 AM on February 23, 2006

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