International Skating Union OKs New Score System

A new scoring system for figure skating was approved Wednesday after the Olympic pairs scandal forced the sport's governing body to make radical changes.

The International Skating Union's (search) new system replaces the famed 6.0 score and is based on points for jumps, spins, footwork and artistic elements.

The format was tested last season in the Grand Prix series and will be used at all international competitions and the 2006 Olympics (search) in Turin, Italy.

ISU head Ottavio Cinquanta has been urging change since his sport was disgraced at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. The International Olympic Committee (search) pressured the ISU into awarding a second pairs gold medal and made clear it wanted a new judging system.

The vote at the biennial ISU congress was 43 for the ISU proposal, three for a Russian proposal, two for an Australian proposal and six abstentions. Two-thirds of the members of the 54 figure skating federations needed to pass the proposal.

"This is a new way of judging," said U.S. Figure Skating Association president Chuck Foster, who voted for the system. "You are no longer placing the skater you are judging each one and the various elements. It is a new approach to the judging and we feel a better one."

Amber Corwin, fourth in the U.S. championships and a member of the ISU athletes' commission, said the new format will help skaters develop.

"We are now looking at things we have never looked at before," Corwin said. "It makes you a well-rounded skater. It will be more fair. It is pushing the skater to become a better athlete."

The new system relies almost as much as on computers as on humans and allows the marks to be masked by anonymity to eliminate pressure on judges.

The Russian proposal to modify the 6.0 system and eliminate a lot of costly expenses was rejected.

"Our system is very simple, very objective and doesn't require big expenditures. We don't need millions," Russian skating federation president Valentin Piseev said.

Ted Barton has spent the last 2 1/2 years helping design the new system with video technology.

"Knowing what we were doing to the athlete, to have it defeated would have been so devastating for the sport," he said.

The ISU passed a resolution to allow a recommendation to invest in funds for the new technology.

"The introduction of the resolution concerning funding available to individual federations, gave us the confidence to support the motion," said Keith Horton of the British delegation.

At the 2002 Olympics, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne claimed she was pressured by her federation's chief, Didier Gailhaguet, to favor Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze in the pairs event over Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

The Russians won by a 5-4 margin among the judges, but Le Gougne's admission, which she later recanted, led to the IOC awarding gold medals to the Canadians, too.

A few months later, the ISU started to develop a new system. Since then an interim judging system based on random selection and anonymity of judges has been used.

In the new system, each of the sport's aspects — jumping, spinning, footwork, edge quality, choreography, theatrics — would be judged for individuality and not simply as part of an overall performance and given one mark.

David Dore, the ISU vice president in figure skating, said the judging system will "ensure a positive future for the sport and the athletes."

After the initial vote, an amendment was passed for a maximum of 12 judges with only nine marks counting.The highest and lowest for each skater would be discarded, and the other seven would formulate a skater's points in major international events. For smaller competitions, the maximum judges would be reduced.

The new judging system does not name the judges publicly although there is a way to assess a judge's scores to determine if it is far from the overall average.

Michelle Kwan, the five-time world champion and eight-time U.S. champion, had the last 6.0s awarded in ISU competition. She had six in her free skate at the world championships in March at Dortmund, Germany, but finished third.