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May 12, 2012

Ode to the Right Leg

Everything looks better with a pretty photo of Stephane Lambiel. 

Sometimes, the things that we encounter in our quotidian existences just seem better after a vacation, however brief said vacation may be. Your home may appear to be the very lap of quiet luxury after a few days of sharing a grubby hostel room the size of a shoebox with a bunch of rowdy, permanently-inebriated Australians. Similarly, after excising figure skating from my life for the past while, the ISU now seems to resemble shining beacons of reason more than the doddery old bunch of apparatchiks I usually fondly think of them as....particularly after reading through some of the most recent technical proposals set forth to be decided at the upcoming 54th ISU Congress. Namely, I am most excited about the proposed elimination of the "at least half a pattern on one foot only" bulletpoint as a level feature for step sequences. May it be officially excised from the ISU technical handbook soon!

Like the abuse of Biellmans, catchfoot death spirals and other CoP peculiarities, the idea of rewarding a step sequence done with at least half the pattern on one foot as a level feature didn't look all too bad on paper. After all, doing a CoP-style step sequence with the requisite complexity, number of turns, etc., on one foot is definitely not easy. And when done well (i.e. with speed and flow, etc), it can be rather impressive, even to the layman's eye:

Yet for the vast majority of skaters electing to aim for the one-foot bulletpoint in their quest to achieve the coveted Level 4 call on their step sequences, the results have been less than stellar (if not downright strenuous in many cases). Indeed, the one foot feature of step sequences is yet another example of the CoP's tendency to prioritize difficulty over quality, often to detrimental results. Step sequences turn even more laborious and slow to a crawl during the one foot part (correspondingly eating up more valuable time that could have been spent on more interesting choreography), the performance and overall arc of the program lose continuity and purpose, the audience falls into a dazed stupor, etc., etc. Yet (barring a fall) the GOEs rewarded are often positive or at worst zeroes no matter how much the skater is painfully grinding back and forth on their one foot with all semblance of the footwork corresponding to the music fallen to the wayside:

And with the current structure of CoP as it stands, it was perhaps inevitable that the one foot level feature of step sequences became nearly ubiquitous among skaters both great and small. For a variety of reasons (e.g. the structure of a tech panel vs. a panel of judges, the way GOEs are averaged, how GOE features are officially merely "guidelines," etc), satisfying level requirements is a much more predictable process than satisfying the requirements for higher GOEs, and so in the never-ending quest for points we see a certain homogeneity across programs to fulfil as many of the proscribed level feature bulletpoints as possible: in this case, the first half of many, many step sequences all done (often dreadfully) on one foot, to the point that it really made no sense to automatically reward points for the feature.

As such, it is for the best that the ISU has proposed to remove the "at least half a pattern on one foot only" level feature from step sequences, as the hearts and minds of the GOE-scoring judges are unlikely to be changed without lobotomies and/or corporal punishment. So, let us bid our adieu to the one-foot level feature for step sequences by giving a toast to the right legs of the competitive skating populace, as many of them were no doubt subject to grueling workouts for the past while to give the one-foot feature its recent place in the sun.

Also, on a semi-related note: use of upper-body movements for at least 1/2 of the pattern as a level feature for step sequences has also been subject to a proposal reducing the requirement to at least 1/3 of the pattern instead. Dare I say, does this mean less frenzied flailing during step sequences?


  1. Another AnonymousMay 13, 2012 at 2:50 AM

    Good riddance, and may the upper body bullet point follow swiftly in its wake. I'd like to see some skaters with good posture maintain said posture. Also, bring back step sequences with a distinct pattern! Unless you are driving the Zamboni, covering the entire ice surface should not be a goal.

    p.s. it's mean to pick on Kevin van der Perren.

  2. I agree with you and hope they get rid of both. I'm over the major arm-flailing going on. Do you think the one-foot difficulty is the cause of many skaters doing their footwork in basically a straight line? Like the commenter above, I'd like to see more curves in the serpentine patterns, or heaven forbid a nice circular step sequence.

    I'll have to go back and read some more of your blog, but have you written about difficulty levels on spins? Man, it is downright painful to watch a skater who's not a great spinner try to pull out 4 or 5 different positions and wind up barely moving. I DO like the feature of holding one position for 8 revs, because at least you have to focus on doing one position well enough to hold it.

    Kevin van der Perren should totally be picked on.

    1. "Do you think the one-foot difficulty is the cause of many skaters doing their footwork in basically a straight line?" - I wouldn't be surprised if this were indeed the case.

      Also, I hate the fact that straightline steps are often so packed with content that they often resemble anything but a straight line these days!

      No, I haven't written about the pernicious influence of level requirements on spins, but perhaps I should....watching mediocre skaters do things like cram hideous and slow donut positions in their camel spins en masse is enough to make me throw things sometimes.

  3. Oh yes, there are way too many steps in some of the sequences. If it's slowing you to the point that you're not even with your music, maybe take out a few...or a dozen. Does the IJS give points purely for having more steps? I honestly can't keep track of all the rules.

    Camel/sit/back sit/donut/Biellmann/back spin/Y spin! Who cares that I'm not even really spinning anymore? I think the worst spin is one I don't even know the technical name for. I call it the "butt in the air spin" or the "dog peeing on a fire hydrant" spin.