Saturday, March 1, 2014

This Thing of Ours

Two of these things are not like the other three.
BTW - I am going to put up waltzflower's video(s) later tonight or tomorrow.

This post, though, looks once more at the secrecy with which figure skating operates, not just behind the judges' panel but within the organization itself. And more than secrecy, the vague. And how this vague is accepted not just within the sport, but by the media that covers the sport, that legitimizes figure skating as a sport.

Law enforcement and the media call traditionally structured crime organizations of Italian origin the "mafia," or "national crime syndicate," but these organizations historically called themselves "cosa nostra" - "our thing".

I've also been thinking about David Dore:

David Dore is the ISU vice president. He's a figure skater. The ISU president, Ottavia Cinquanta, is a speed skater. Cinquanta doesn't know figure skating, nor know, from what takes place on the ice, if a figure skating event is judged fairly or unfairly. Cinquanta's more like Lynn Rutherford: "The protocols did the same thing before, which means the protocols this time are fair. So shut up."

Dore does know figure skating. I think he's more influential about how figure skating is judged on a grass roots, skater-by-skater basis, than Cinquanta.

About Dore, wikipedia says (yes, I know, but one must start somewhere), first, that he was a Canadian skater, then an international skating judge (seven World championships and the 1984 Olympics), then in 1972 he was "a director" of the Canadian Figure Skating Association (now Skate Canada) and then its president from 1980-1984. He's got a long long long history with Skate Canada.

From wikepedia:

"Dore was at times a controversial leader, known for promoting policies whereby CFSA's national team athletes and coaches were expected to work directly under the control of the central organization. He has also been criticized for failing to support Canadian judge Jean Senft when she acquired evidence of judging corruption at the 1998 Winter Olympics."

"Dore resigned from his paid position at Skate Canada in early 2002 in order to become eligible for an elected position with the ISU. He was elected the Vice President for figure skating at the 2002 ISU Congress and was re-elected in 2006. He has become known as a strong supporter of Ottavio ("Speedy") Cinquanta's policies, such as the adoption of the ISU Judging System and keeping the identity of figure skating judges secret."

I know many people are more familiar with the ISU structure and history than I am, but it's not as if the ISU makes it a simple matter of search and click to get the lowdown on who's who, how it's structured, and who the players are below the very top. For instance, it's easy to find the ISU president, not so easily members of the governing councils. There's more transparency in the actual cosa nostra, actually. Just google. With the ISU, not so, especially when it comes to what the skaters "hear" and who decides what it is skaters should "hear". The who, what, when, where, why and how about that is impenetrable.

This somewhat older article (2012):

Lame Duck

mentions that at the time the article was written, Cinquanta is a lame duck, and that, while Dore is his logical successor, Dore is getting on in years (me: you'd think that would make him a shoo-in with the ISU), he's eligible for the presidency in 2014 only, and not if the elections are delayed until 2016, which is what some people apparently wanted, for the express purpose of preventing him from becoming president.

I'll amend this post as I acquire a clearer picture of things, but the above article (again - 2012) also mentions that former Skate Canada president Benoit Lavoie and French Fed member Didier Gailhaguet are among the aspirants for the presidency. Lavoie himself not long ago resigned Skate Canada in order to throw himself into the embrace of the ISU. We can be sure he made that decision only after devoting himself 1,000% to the best interests of Skate Canada and its figure skaters during his tenure at president, and never once let himself be influenced by a desire to curry favor with the ISU, where his future lay.

Here, let's observe that, for quite some time now, and for all of Scott Moir's public support, Mike Slipchuk has sounded cavalier in almost all of his public commentary. The results of a given competition hardly engage his interest. He was near-dismissive about what happened at the Olympics to Scott and Tessa, didn't seem especially fussed by Patrick Chan's disappointing skates, and I don't think uttered a peep of complaint about the GPF either. He's not pressed about anything. He's been super laid back for a long time, even though he's not the one getting fucked.

In fact, looking ahead to the coming Olympic quad, Slipchuk thinks everything's fine with all things Canadian Olympics, because MTM or Duhamel/Radford or both could make the 2018 podium, so why sweat it (I've heard lame shit from SC before but that remark was almost insulting in its lack of effort).

He hasn't seemed to care since about 2008. Since then, no matter what happens with Skate Canada's skaters, he's told us everything is the best in this best of all possible worlds.

In the mix is Scott Moir's family. His family's business depends upon an amicable relationship with Skate Canada, so, if you're getting screwed in your own house, you really have to turn the other cheek, so to speak, or maybe find a more convenient scapegoat (such as the coach. Or the Russians.).

This past quad and the end of the last quad saw a pattern of overscoring for DW coupled with a pattern of undermining Virtue and Moir not just in how they were scored but in late day suggestions to change something in their program at the risk of it impacting their scores. Scott and Tessa were often faced with either adding material that wasn't yet in their muscle memory or in their timing, which put them at risk of making a visible error, thus negatively impacting their scores, or ignoring these suggestions and seeing it negatively impact their scores, all just prior to the season's culmination at the World Championships.

I want to know how this was relayed to Scott and Tessa and by whom, and by what authority, and what was the procedure and process behind it. For sure, there wasn't some repeated collective unconscious conclusion that was transmitted telepathically to the skaters, but, as reported by the media, there may as well have been.

Nobody, including the press, seems to think it's bizarre that the process is unknown and described so elliptically, with no specificity. No names. No acknowledged chain of decision-making.

The reason I'm just putting a few people on stage in this post, such as David Dore, is I want to know how come we only get abstractions like "grapevine" and "word reached them" when Scott and Tessa appear to have been advised to do this or that type of program or lose or change this or that element. Why the bullshit? Why no specifics? It's only the judging panel's votes that are supposed to be secret, not the workings of the entire organization. And I want to know why these abstractions are accepted by a press that continues to pretend this is an actual sport.

By googling organized crime, it's easy to trace a decision back to its origin - whether it's how to divide territory, take someone out (whack someone) or everyday business, like this guy was told by this other guy to talk to this third guy about this other person because it was making the guy over there mad. Find something like that going on and law enforcement can usually slap a name on every member of the cast and what they did and who said what and when. And why.

The ISU, OTOH, is opaque. At a grass roots, skater-by-skater basis, it becomes very nebulous, but that's where the dirt gets done.

When this stuff happened to Scott and Tessa, when they'd get their chains jerked at the end of a season, it happened under what official mechanism or process? What IS the process? What controls it? What monitors it? What rules govern it? What are the names and what is their authority and from what position of authority are they communicating? Who tells the judges at an event that Scott and Tessa have been "spoken to" about something (as the judges would need to be alerted to possibly disallow or deduct for the something Scott and Tessa were warned about so vaguely).

This isn't a Bronte novel - you don't hear things in the wind. Somebody talks to the coach or talks to the skaters.Who? And who talks to the person who talked to the coach and the skaters? And who specifically, who particularly, had the conversation that put Scott and Tessa's various suddenly-in-question moves on the table, and who, in particular, each time, was delegated to inform Scott and Tessa, and who was told - the coach or Scott and Tessa?

What are the names? What are their positions? When do they have these conversations, when do they decide they're all like minded, under what authority do they decide something that was legal last month isn't legal now? Scott and Tessa habitually found themselves hamstrung late in the season, almost as if the sport didn't want them to get their sea legs under them, as if the point was to destabilize them, get them off-kilter on ice, helping along that reputation of "making mistakes" in order to justify predetermined placements.

The skaters don't tell us.The press is the usual - huh duh - when it passes this stuff on, which is another weird thing.The press seems to accept that this "sport" IS like the cosa nostra. But the press also assures us that ice dance is not corrupt, at least not in North America. Even though figure skating is so resolutely secret and vague about things like whether what champion skaters are doing is legal or not. Oh no, says the press, it's fair fair fair. Don't whine! Don't get hysterical.

Why is it so impossible to find out the mechanisms that get these sorts of balls rolling, and put some names on who got involved? Who, for instance, specifically - names, position, etc. - got together and decided Scott and Tessa should do lyrical for the 2014 Olympics and how and by whom were Scott and Tessa informed?

I know there are discussions and feedback after competitions but I also know these people talk among themselves, and I ALSO know that the bit about the 2010 od move at Worlds reached Scott and Tessa before they skated, not in the feedback after they skated. But at the same time, there has to be something official about what reaches the skaters because this is a sport governed by rules.


But I do not know who and by what authority they were told, and if they were told by some authority, how come they weren't told definitively.

I am wondering if what happened with Scott and Tessa at Sochi is they were sold out by their own Federation, and by ex-members of their Federation, because of the very warm relationship between the ISU and the ambitions of some of Skate Canada's highest ranking members.The silence, and, when not silence, downplaying, by those who ought to be Scott and Tessa's biggest advocates is a pretty strong indicator; their treatment at the past two Canadians is another strong indicator.

It's no secret that Skate Canada is full of people who put self-interest ahead of the interests of Skate Canada. For the longest time the most visible example was Debbi Wilkes, but of course, somebody had to be allowing Debbi Wilkes, who had the title of Director of Business Development, to spend her time on the inane promotion of Debbi Wilkes while Skate Canada bled sponsors. Skate Canada seems to be about personal - individual -  self-interest, not organizational best interest, not skater best interest.That's the recent history.

It's not just the USFSA and the ISU that are dirty here, in fact, it might not even be the USFSA that is primarily dirty here, but Skate Canada.You have a Federation concerned with what they perceive to be organizational best interest (the USFSA, presumably), and a Federation populated with officials concerned with personal self interest (Skate Canada), and an ISU whose highest ranking figure skating community member comes from Skate Canada and has influence with Skate Canada.

I am not letting the likes of the USFSA's Shawn Rettstatt off the hook, but I see him as an outcome, not a prime mover. What created the environment that allowed Davis White's mistakes to be ignored or get full credit, and Scott and Tessa's mistakes to be egregiously lowballed at best, or invented (as in the Olympics) at worst? That happened before Rettstatt, and he's not the only judge - it takes a lot of judges ignoring what DW are not doing and lowballing what Scott and Tessa actually do, and taking a couple of levels off just for insurance.

And Scott and Tessa can't complain because - Ilderton Skating Club.

I don't even like saying "what" created the environment, or even using the names of organizations, because that makes everything too abstract, as if none of this is attached to actual, specific people. It's always attached to actual people, and is here. But here, we're never told who's involved, even when something is presented as legitimate, such as when the ISU and Skate Canada were constantly throwing trip wires in Scott and Tessa's path. The press reported that Scott and Tessa were told this or that, but the press never bothered to ask who told them or how it reached them and what exactly was communicated. They never questioned why it wasn't communicated in the manner of a real, grown up sport - with specificity and relating to a specific section of the rules, and with someone's name on the communication, and that name made public. This stuff doesn't interest the people who write about figure skating.

So "who", not "what" is the question. Who? It's a person, it's people, it's a group, they have names, they have jobs.

When I think about DW's trajectory, and the things they were told, the picture is much clearer. Marina was contacted by the members of the USFSA about sticking DW with "Phantom" for 2010 Olympics. I'm sure I could go to the USFSA website, look at the breakdown of who holds what position and who handles what, and figure out what section of the USFSA would be interested in this, what bunch was likely to have attended Champs Camp, and from where the concern sprung. Same thing when Le Strada was ditched - DW went into Champs Camp with Le Strada and came out knowing they needed new music. There's nothing mysterious about where the feedback is coming from and who is giving it.

It's mysterious with Scott and Tessa. It's all very vague.This doesn't happen in hockey. If there's an issue in a real sport, a controversy, any one of us can go to the web, click around and find a name and a quote or a report that tracks the chain of authority.

Not only don't we have that in skating, but apparently the media takes pains to let us know it's a sure sign of hysteria to even ask questions about how all this works. Figure skating can appear arcane, but this isn't something the sport itself should encourage or excuse. It should encourage the media to become more informed about the technical side of the sport. I think if the media felt any pushback from the sport itself a few journalists might take some time out of their day to know what they're talking/writing about. But the sport seems to prefer that the media write about skating as if it's a pageant.That's what the sport itself wants. It doesn't want an informed media, and it doesn't want an informed public. BUT it isn't corrupt. Not in North America.

Transparency is an indispensable indicator of anything's legitimacy. People - individuals - can be compromised. Public relations is about spin - spin is putting the most positive construction on something. But at bottom there has to be transparency, because transparency is the key to accountability, and without accountability, it's not legitimate. This quad has been revealing, not just about figure skating, but about the complicity of the press in enabling the (continued) corruption of figure skating.


  1. Interesting. So if SC has been taking it up the ass with no lube in the hopes that the election won't be delayed and Dore might win, then once Dore is president, V&M could actually start winning stuff again.

    This is good an explanation as anything for the Olympics, and the first time I ever read anything about ISU politics that didn't involve "the Russians" being the root of everything. Thank you.

    1. 4:08, I'm actually saying the opposite of what you've just concluded.

      Dore has a long history with Skate Canada, he's the highest ranking official of the ISU who knows anything about figure skating, he's a fan of secrecy, and under his tenure Skate Canada kept its mouth shut while Scott and Tessa got screwed.

      I also wonder why Skate Canada enabled what the ISU did to Scott and Tessa - gave it an actual helping hand.

    2. My train of thought was: Dore has a lot of power in the ISU. One would expect someone with power in the ISU to help the best skaters from his country (especially since, if he's an honest type, VM and Chan actually do skate to the rulebook better than anyone). Dore's presence at the top did not benefit the Canadian skaters; he let the ISU technical committee run amok and drop the CDs, choose SD rhythms to benefit DW, train the judges to think DW are better (that Aussie person used to post that she thought VM were better skaters, until she went to an ISU seminar and it was explained that DW ticked more boxes), not change the twizzle rules, etc.

      I was reading between the lines (which I guess was not what you were trying to imply) that the reason Dore sat back was to play nice so that they wouldn't delay the election, so he could win it.

      And then once he became ISU president, he would be able to help the skater's from his federation - or do you think he has no desire to do this?

      I'm not trying to be argumentative whatsoever, I just inferred the complete opposite of your intention, as you said.

    3. I think he has no desire to do this. I think Skate Canada's top officials, for years, are all about their individual self-interest and using their personal influence to get others to go along.

      I didn't think you were being argumentative, but I did go back to the post and try to clean it up a bit to make my point clearer. I don't think Dore has an agenda beyond a desire to become ISU president, and I don't think Lavoie has a particular desire to reward Skate Canada either. The idea is that Skate Canada has become a platform that advances indvidual self-interest, not necessarily the interest of Skate Canada, the organization, and, as with Virtue and Moir, often in conflict with the interests of Skate Canada, the organization. I don't think there's any quid pro quo going on. It's not reciprocal.

    4. I also think that at the end of the day some sort of compensation or accomodation could be tossed the way of the ISC, as long as the ISC bitches about Meryl Davies or the Russians, and never about how Skate Canada sold out their own "kids".

    5. Is there anything at all that could force a clean up at Skate Canada? I've been following skating for a very long time now, and it seems like that once upon a time, it was at least a reasonably competent outfit, compared to today anyway. They're at least partially publicly funded, correct? Is there some sort of way to hold them accountable through that avenue? Or, are they just stuck in this pattern with no way out?

      Tangentially related, but I recently took a look at Leanna Caron's LinkedIn profile. She did leave Genzyme (or Sanofi, technically, since they bought out Genzyme a few years ago) in June. It seems the SC President job is her full time gig now and she's in Ottawa. It doesn't seem to have done any good though. This woman actually has a serious business background and she didn't make it to where she did in the biotech industry without being hard core. It's frustrating to see a person with the proper skill set not applying it in this situation.

    6. A few things. Caron is not in Ottawa. The Skate Canada website indicates that the President is an elected position and she lives in Switzerland. WTF?? The paid guy is the CEO.

      It also indicates that Caron is an official so she is just advancing her official career doing this SC thing. I notice that both she and the CEO said nothing about the Tessa and Scott situation in Sochi. Didn't want to risk their own positions. Pathetic. In fact the only thing I see the CEO talking about in the press in the past year was dropping "figure" from the name of the national championships for "consistent branding" and adding staff members. I counted 13 senior staff on the website, more than lots of real companies. Wow, that's quite the accomplishment Dan.

      Add to that the gazillions of people on committees as indicated on the website and its pretty clear where the money and attention is going and it isn't the athletes.

      Its clear from his past behaviour that Dore only cares about Dore. He doesn't give a shit about Canadian athletes. Same for Lavoie. OC is dead on here.

      There was zero support from SC for Tessa and Scott over the past two seasons. There were problems before that but they managed to win worlds and olympics at least. Since 2012 worlds, they've been tossed under the bus. Would love to know why and how it lines up with these other SC issues.

    7. Well said anon at 7:03 am. Well to give Caron - a little bit of a fair shake - she came into the equation long after Thompson, Lavoie and Slipchik. Basically what was needed with this organization was to have someone like a Dick Pound come in and clean house. I've always wondered why previous Canadian competitors never got involved with Skate Canada. I also that think that Skate Canada's relationship with Brian Orser is a big WTF...Look Orser may not be the easiest person to get along with 24/7..but the man gets it done...
      Once VM retire - those are pretty big shoes to fill...yes we know that PR wise - they are a fail...but skating wise - they that the Olympics are over and the funding will go back to will be interesting to see how the Canadian skaters will do...I think for most folks MTM, DR and WP will get more media...but because we live in a world where the news cycle is shorter and shorter - I don't think they will get the expected exposure...

    8. WP and PI train outside of Canada...I wonder if SC will still be throwing their weight behind GP. I hope not, I think PI will succeed VM (much as I love WP, they're not as naturally skilled as PI).

      Also, the Canadian women actually look strong in the next quad; Osmond still needs to up her technical difficulty, but she has podium potential; will she get the support she needs?

      And it will be interesting to see what happens with the men...I doubt Chan will continue, Reynolds is not in the same league as him, will SC continue their obsession with a men's OGM into 2018?

      USFSA's gameplan will be to get Gracie Gold to the top of the podium in 2018, and Jason Brown on the podium as well...I'm sure they're shipping him over to Kristy Krall to get him a quad. All their ice dancers will get thrown under the bus, as a heavy price for D/W's undeserved OGM. Too bad, because the Shibs, HD, AE, and some of the other junior teams coming up the ranks would have been more OGM-worthy teams, because they actually skate and dance.

    9. Anon at 8:00 am - short term - I think SC will back-up Osmond and to a lesser extent MTM, DR, WP and GP. To be honest - I agree with you that Chan is more or less done. Although I do enjoy MTM and DR for different reasons - I think that both teams have peaked. Ditto for WP. As for PI - they have potential - no doubt about it. The challenge for them will be to showcase versatility and increase their power.

      As for the USFSA - I agree with your assessment. Personally although I adore Jason Brown - I am not sure he can get a consistent quad. It will be interesting to see for both the Canadian and US skaters whether with the increased expectations whether mentally they can keep challenging themselves...
      The mental part is so underestimated and really we were spoiled with the likes of Kim, Mao, VM, Joubert, Takahashi, Chan, PB, SS, Pang/Tong...these skaters stayed in the sport for a very long time and were classy and in one form or another dealt with injury...

    10. Anon 7:45, anon 7:03 here. According to the release when Caron was elected, she has been on the Skate Canada board since 2008. So, there is no reason to cut her any slack. She's been part of it all along.

      I still find the whole thing really fishy. Especially the timing of the departure of the first Thompson and then the complete abandonment of Tessa and Scott and the big increase in staff and structure. Love to know how this fits together.

    11. Does SC get funding from Own the Podium? I wonder if they have any say in the matter. Sochi was a huge failure for SC...Chan was expected to bring home the first OGM, V/M should have easily defended their title (if the judging was fair, which it wasn't), D/R dropped from third in the world last year to 7th in Sochi, and W/P dropped as well. Obviously, the judging in Sochi across all disciplines was a joke, so it wasn't really a reflection on their performances, which were very solid. The podium placement in the team event was correct, but no way there should have been such a big points difference, and Canada not winning a single segment in any of the disciplines.

    12. For awhile it appeared to me that Skate Canada was UNDER staffed. The most visible director, Debbi, was nominally in charge of the key part of Skate Canada's financial welfare - maintaining and developing and acquiring sponsors. The bottom fell out and she carried on promoting Debbi. Was on skatebuzz and functioned as team leader in Vancouver and was obviously not doing anything in the field of business development. If Skate Canada intended that position to be anything but a shell position Debbi wouldn't have had the job.

      I think the organizational infrastructure was neglected. Marketing? We don't need it! Thompson bails as CEO? We don't really need a CEO - we can go months without one!

      At this point I don't know if the new CEO is padding the payroll or if he's staffing an organization that had been understaffed for years.

    13. I don't think so. I think its been wrongly staffed, not understaffed. That many senior staff for SC means they are overstaffed or completely incompetent. What is interesting to me is that Debbi continues in her role when clearly incompetent. Neither old nor new CEO has gotten rid of her. I'm thinking that there's a misread going on with this. Someone with power insisted she be hired and is protecting her and insisting that she keeps her "job" and somehow I don't think that's the CEO. It doesn't make sense. Would love to know who that is and why.

    14. "Someone with power insisted she be hired and is protecting her "

      No kidding. Whoever is making sure Debbi stays in must have an awful lot of power and control in the federation.

    15. 8:26 am I don't think MTM have peaked. The question mark might be Dylan - he's 30 and occasionally needs to muscle his way through singles elements like jumps and spins. Moore-Towers revamped her body and her technique (one led to the other) two years ago. Her core was much stronger, her knees were deeper, her alignment was better, she finished her moves. This made her much more consistent on the ice and made their lifts even more spectacular. I think she can continue to improve - the question in my mind is if he can maintain, if not improve himself.

    16. Yeah, at this point, obviously not the CEO, although it could simply be that getting rid of her would be acknowledging SC was mismanaged, and the new CEO began by announcing how professionally SC was run. The new CEO has hired people who more than cover the responsiblities implicit in her job title - a job she never did.

    17. When it comes to being "wrongly staffed" a question that existed previously and still pertains today is how many competent, professional, credentialed people would want to become involved in the organization as it is structured and run today - as it has been structured and run for years? The problem is self-perpetuating - the people who want to be part of it embrace the dysfunction because they share it.

  2. You are really rambling today, like you haven't slept in 3 days kind of rambling. Anyways.....

    Skate Canada has done more damage to Figure Skating than all other Federations combined, with the dragging out Sale-Pelletier silver into the media - forcing a new scoring system, thereby legitimizing a culture of constant complaining as the new norm, or be it Skate Canada basically declaring war on the gay community.

    All Skate Canada members should be banned for life from the ISU. Dore should be fired. With only 2 genuine (not forced by complaining) Olympic Golds in all history and only US owned skating shows, Canada is a minor player in figure skating anyways.

    1. 4:47
      Which part of oc's entry is rambling? You mean the parts you don't agree with?

      SC didn't force a new scoring system. Cinquatta did that. And for all it's problems, the new scoring system is a million times better than that old dinosaur the 6.0 system. The problem is the secret judging and in icedance specifically, there is no open discussion about any tweaks that need to be made season to season as they refine the scoring system. If there was honesty and genuine desire for fair results, the scoring system would work just fine.

      Skate Canada is certainly not a minor player in figure skating. It's one of the more powerful federations, which makes what they did to VM particularly egregious. SC has the influence and standing to have protested against corruption that would bring down VM, but they did nothing. Instead, they aided and abetted VM's lowballing, and not because SC is a minor player but because they chose to use their considerable influence in a game of dirty politics. VM were abandoned by their federation.

    2. Agreed that the scoring system AS IT IS DESIGNED to break down and score the skating is a good system. It's not perfect, but no system is. Unfortunately, given the culture surrounding the sport and the ways it is manipulated from the top, the system is rarely allowed to function as it was designed. This season (and last), it was completely hijacked.

    3. The problem isn't with the scoring system, the problem has and always been with judges, who are easily corrupted. The new system is actually much better, because there is a breakdown of objective criteria that is much more quantifiable to evaluate the skaters.

      The anonymous judging, the lack of accountability of the judges to the public, the bizarre manner in which the judges are chosen (the fucking Olympic panel was selected in September 2013; can you imagine the wheeling and dealing that has been happening since then?), the fact that federations submit their country's representatives on the judging panel, the fact that the judges are not paid...these are reason why the judging is so dismal. Is it like this in other judged sports, such gymnastics, diving, and the X-Games? I doubt it.

      Also, the judges are obviously not being trained properly, as per the Australian judges' account that D/W "ticked all the boxes" and "were tight with their music". WTF is that? And how is that relevant to SKATING?

    4. Dore should be embarrassed. He knows skating and has done nothing. Typical. Just make sure you don't lose your perks! God forbid you do anything that is based on principle.

    5. Actually we don't know he's done "nothing." He's the V.P. He could have done plenty, and none of it good. He's not some White Knight who is sitting on his ass instead of getting up and fixing the problem. This organization is corrupt. He's at the top. He's the highest ranking official in the ISU who actually knows what good figure skating looks like. Where do we think the corruption of this sport is coming FROM?

  3. Marina Zoueva has said that after V/M won the Olympics in 2010, they were being held to a higher standard by the judges. She knew it, V/M knew it...everybody knew it. That runs completely counter to rules of actual, legitimate sport, but there it is. They won, so the target on their backs was painted larger and brighter than ever before.

    Neither V/M or Zoueva publicly questioned why the judges were holding them to a higher standard, they simply affirmed it was the case. That's how coaches and skaters get hamstrung. They can go along with it and try to work within the parameters they're given, even though those parameters have a tendency to contract or expand at the ISU's will, or they can speak out and take it up the ass. The ISU is mobocracy at its finest. Figure skating requires great athleticism and artistic talent, but it isn't a legitimate sport. It's a game, and the rules of that game are rewritten whenever the people at the top decide to do so (for various reasons).

    1. We don't know if VM or Zoueva questioned the judges. And besides, that's not really their jobs. That's the job of their federation, which has been established as being completely incompetent.

    2. About where Skate Canada spends its resources, which is not on the athletes -

      look at the year running up to Vancouver and the year after Vancouver. Despite the potential gold medal in Vancouver and the actual gold medal after Vancouver (and Joanne's bronze), Skate Canada lost its mega-sponsors and many minor sponsors. Gone was Homesense. Gone was BMO. Despite this, Skate Canada kept Debbi Wilkes, she of the ever shifting director title, in the job of "Director of Business Development' even though she did no business developing. Debbi spent most of her time wrangling the Scott/Tessa/Jessica hoax, as did Barb McDonald. The rest of the time she shoved her face on skatebuzz.

      What organization that has just lost those kinds of sponsors can afford to keep an empty suit in the position of Director of Business Development? What organization neglects business development and sponsorship (which includes staffing that directorship with somebody qualified) in order to devote its time to star fucking and preening in a reflected spotlight and to managing the inane logistics and stagecraft involved in presenting a pathetic romantic hoax?

      Apparently, Skate Canada. Skate Canada also deployed actual personnel to wrangle the Jessica situation at competitions and spent time promoting Jessica post-Bryce and creating opportunities for Jessica post-Bryce.

      When you keep a bunch of do-nothings in their jobs because its personally convenient to your in-house stars (back then, that was Scott and Tessa) - the organization at large suffers. The larger Skate Canada membership would have benefitted more from Skate Canada paying attention to the health of the body of the membership than the personal convenience of the Vancouver stars. I have no doubt Skate Canada sold the national membership on the "trickle down" theory when it comes to Scott and Tessa, but that didn't exactly play out as promised.

    3. If I were a lower ranking skater or part of a a non-star training center or the family of a skater struggling to make his or her mark, once the excitement of Vancouver faded I might get pissed that so many members of Skate Canada were functioning as Scott and Tessa's personal retainers while the organization bled money and anybody not in the star fucking matrix had to beg for opportunity. I might get pissed at Moirville, too, who were ALSO star fuckers, who also saw Scott and Tessa as their brand's signature, so who didn't mind that so much of SC appeared geared towards their "kids" because that raised the status and profile of the ISC.

      Then after 2010-2011, things shifted. A public distance appeared to occur between SC and Scott and Tessa. Who put that distance there? Scott and Tessa, or SC? I SUSPECT Scott and Tessa, but don't know for certain, of course.

      Scott and Tessa appeared to take a lot as their due because they were the best ice dancers in the world. On the ice and off they may not have played the "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" game because the only way they scratched YOUR back was to be the best ice dancers in the world.

      They had a great deal of faith in the skating. When you're that good, you don't need to offer anything more.

      IF, as they pretend, they stayed inside the bubble and only stepped back to take a bird's eye view after this past season's GPF; I think that's amazingly myopic. Of course we can't believe anything they say, so who knows if that's how it really happened. But, based upon their public remarks of the past few years, they knew that the ISU liked jerking their chains (change the goose, change the end of the 2010 at Worlds, oops, not that spin, whoa, maybe we don't love that lift even though you went through the whole GP with it) - etc., and it was almost a point of pride with them that they could change something at almost the last minute and still deliver the best ice dancing in the world. I don't know if they saw what all of this tinkering and chain jerking was really about. It wasn't - we're going to make you jump through all of these hoops before we let you get gold. It was, we're going to make you jump through all of these hoops because we're creating a pattern where you're NOT going to get gold and the public will understand you're far from perfect because there's going to be three years of problems with your programs while DW are flawless.

      VM took a lot of personal assistance from SC while SC neglected the organization. That was selfish and short-sighted. It didn't hurt the ISC, so the ISC isn't going to complain - the ISC still bought into that old 2008 "Star" forumula. Of course, as selfish as it was of VM, the ultimately responsible parties are those within Skate Canada who decided this was where they would spend their energy - on personal advancement via the reflected spotlight.

    4. And then of course when the road to self-aggrandizement via VM was roadblocked for those outside Moirville, VM were thrown under the bus. Moirville was still demonizing "Meryl and Charlie" and a vocal segment of the fandom was demonizing "Marina". Demonizing Marina suggests that the progams and technique were the problem, that VM were struggling because of an issue at grass roots level (the actual skating), when it didn't matter one fucking bit what they were doing on the ice - it was never about the skating. There was nothing from the ice up or the coaching situation up that could have been done - this was all top down. Again, LOOK AT DW. Hand in hand with VM suddenly struggling was a DW that received astronomical scores every time they stepped on the ice - doesn't matter if Meryl two-footed or went on a flat, doesn't matter that Charlie's skates rocked (look again at the middle-of-the-rink change-edge spiral in, I think, Die Fleudermaus, not only do Meryl and Charlie's edges not track each other but Meryl's edge is shallow and Charlie's blade rocks like a ship in a storm), doesn't matter the second twizzle set slowed to a standstill and it didn't matter that by the end of the season their performances became labored. VM are more popular, VM are better, VM are the lightning rod, and so it was very easy for everyone to take DW for granted and just focus their attention on what was going on with VM. Nothing was going on with VM. VM were fine. VM were brilliant - in themselves.

      What was going on was overscoring of DW. It was top down, not Arctic Edge up. It wasn't about "politicking" - it was about corruption.

    5. About Brian Orser - Orser now has two Olympic gold medalists - women's and men's. I have no doubt Skate Canada would love to have Brian Orser under the umbrella - I don't think they're keeping him at arm's length, although with an organization that complacent, that focused on the individual self-interest of its officials, that stupid, and that perverse, you can never be sure.

      Orser is an out gay man and Skate Canada thinks gay is toxic to the sport's popularity. Skate Canada has never lacked for a potential World Champion in men's skating, seldom lacked for a potential Olympic champion in men's skating, and these men have sometimes been gay, but Skate Canada continues to act like there's tumbleweeds blowing through the men's division because the parents of boys think men's skating is too gay. I could see Orser saying "fuck this". There are gay skaters who are philosophical about the attitudes we find with Skate Canada, not just at the top but in the rank and file, but I imagine there may be skaters who hit a point and say I'm not enabling it.

      That could be part of it, and I mention it only because Skate Canada has historically been so flagrantly obnoxious about wanting to change skating's "gay image" (meaning, gay men), it's not something someone like Orser would have to be super sensitive about - it's in your face. It's part of Skate Canada's proactive brand.

      But, if Orser, like many skaters, just takes that kind of bullshit for granted and the price of doing business with complacent neanderthals, than the reason he keeps his distance could be that Skate Canada is both corrupt and incompetent. Those are two very good reasons.

    6. Good points, OC. Orser is currently the coach of Nam Nguyen, the 15-year old junior men's champion in Canada, and talked about as Chan's likely successor. He will be 19 when 2018 rolls around, the same age as Kim and Hanyu when they won their OGMs. I'm sure SC want to get their hands all over him.

    7. "We don't know if VM or Zoueva questioned the judges. And besides, that's not really their jobs. That's the job of their federation, which has been established as being completely incompetent."

      We know they did not *publicly* question the judges about holding them to a higher standard, was what I was getting at in the original post.

      If, as is OC's main point in all of this, transparency indicates legitimacy and is the key to accountability, Marina Zoueva and V/M (or any other coach or skater) should never be able (or be forced or feel the need) to say "we were told by "judges" or "officials" to change this, or stop that, or add these things, or go in this direction, etc. and everyone in the press respond with "oh, okay. No big deal. That's the sport, very secretive in some respects."

      NO. Legitimate sports are not very secretive, cryptic messages are not sent down to athletes through backchannels, indirect methods, or a line of officials who are nameless to the public. If someone tells V/M "your lift that was legal all through the season (including the Olympics) is probably going to get called 'illegal' at Worlds, so think about changing it," an hour or so before the FD, that person should not get to exist "in the shadows" of the public realm. In a legitimate sport, names would be made public, as would explanations for the change, and the press would be able to go to the rule book with an understanding of how the sport is scored and report whether the change is valid or not.

      Why is this the case? Falling back on an excuse like "it's a subjective sport" doesn't work, because subjectivity does not equal non-transparency. The sport's culture facilitates the non-transparency, as well as politicking, back-biting, and deal-swapping, and it all starts at the top.

    8. "What was going on was overscoring of DW. It was top down, not Arctic Edge up. It wasn't about "politicking" - it was about corruption."

      THIS. If more fans could understand the distinction between corruption and politicking, I think breaking this all down would become a lot easier for them. Or maybe it would make it more difficult because then the grandiosity of the heist would be more visible. It's real, it's deep, and it's seemingly impenetrable.

      The issue with D/W was always over-scoring, all of which directly impacted V/M (particularly after Worlds 2012) but, in essence, they could do nothing about at the coach/skater level. V/M could grow/edit their own programs, which they've always done beautifully, but that wasn't going to prohibit D/W's scores from continuing to rise. It was a slow process at first, but by the time this season rolled around nobody made any efforts to ease in because the die had been cast - D/W skated their first pre-GP performances and were given scores in the stratosphere.

      To argue that V/M could have found another coach to "politic" for them, or who would have publicly called out the egregious overscoring of D/W, is to believe that the issue is one of politics and not of outright, top-down corruption. Or at least to believe that it would have been worth a shot. No, it would have been a massive waste of time and benefited no one. The only thing it would have done was had the potential to backfire on V/M.

      Outright, top-down corruption is not easy to dismantle, and I think there's a misconception borne out of people reading too many books about progressive era muckrackers or repeated viewings of "All the President's Men" that if someone just stands up and says publicly "this is happening," it will start the dominoes falling and everything will have the potential to unravel. The truth is always far more complex than that, especially when the people getting screwed by that corruption have, in some way, also benefited from it in the past.

    9. Anon 2:55: Bang on. You have to wonder if the anonymous Russian coach who spoke to L'Equipe was aggrieved somehow, and that's why they spoke to them. And I'm sure there's aggrieved personnel (or soon-to-be aggrieved at the end of this season) at USFSA, SC, ISU, and the Russian Fed just waiting to slip the beans. If I was he USFSA, I would be freaking out, making sure everybody kept mum about the biggest heist job in the history of the Olympic Games.

    10. It's interesting to me that year after year, when Scott and Tessa let it be known they were told that ice dance wanted this program from them, then that program, then the other one, that we never heard the same from Meryl and Charlie. Meryl and Charlie never reported that they'd received word that people would like to see them stretch themselves. Well, once, in 2010-2011, when VM were expected to sit out the season and DW did the tango. After that it didn't matter what they did. The ISU never said - how about this, how about that. Only from VM. The ISU never let it go to back channels that if DW didn't change something it would hurt the scores. Everything they did, no matter what it was or how it was executed, was deemed perfect, impossible for it to be improved.

      The only ones who kept an eye on DW were the USFSA. This heist was predicated on DW creating a certain illusion. If the USFSA said that Le Strada would have to go, what an ungodly, illusion-busting mess it must have been.

    11. It's almost as if, in 2010-2011, the ISU thought - "well, maybe it might help us lift DW to Sochi gold if they performed more in hold, relied more on edges than on running and hoping. And here's the chance, without having to worry about VM showing them up."

      So DW tried (although the truth is, when you look back at the tango, it's all upper body and posing the feet off the ice - it's not tango at all. It's a crippled mess) and it wasn't good. And it seems the ISU said, well, it would have been nice but I guess it's going to be Samson & Delilah Version 5 that gets the gold in Sochi! We'll just do without the value add and add value to DW's programs anyway.

  4. Orser is definitely staying away from Skate Canada, who are essentially an Evangelical Christian skating association.

    Funny the CBC still supports Skate Canada. I guess the CBC is really trying to kiss the Reform - Conservative Party's, butt for funding.

  5. Given that D/W's over-scoring has always been the primary issue, and that it represents the way the application of the scoring system was hijacked to "legitimize" their marks (mostly done in the press by people saying "the protocols prove that the protocols are accurate"), has anyone ever considered the possibility that the reason V/M were allowed to stay as close to D/W as they were was *because* V/M are coached by Marina Zoueva? In other words, having Zoueva as their coach ensured them a silver medal in Sochi, rather than resulted in them being pushed down below I/K on the podium or even off of it entirely?

    I'm not insinuating their silver medal was the result of Zoueva's throwing her weight around politically. Rather, that people in the sport are fully aware of the exceptional quality of what she and V/M have always created, and there was no way that team/coach combination could be knocked around *too* much. Together, they'd won a gold medal in Vancouver and two world titles, after all. So, a directive to change a lift here, to alter this step sequence there - they could get away with that fuckery to a point, but the main method to get D/W to the top had to be through over-marking, not outright stomping V/M's heads on the curb. Even the "V/M's skating has regressed!" BS in the press was done gradually as D/W were pushed up the scoreboard.

    If V/M had left Zoueva, not only would that have severed the team they'd created and cultivated over the years, but wouldn't it have been much easier to smack V/M around if they were with a different coach? Their leaving would likely have been spun by the American media as "running away," is my guess. Then if that new coach starts screaming in the press about corruption? DISASTER.

    Full disclosure: I think they were right to stay with Zoueva because together there's no better coach/team combo in the sport and their success and programs over the years have proved that, BUT, in looking at the situation from different angles, I'm not sure I understand why so many people were willing to assume their leaving Zoueva would be worthwhile, but so few were willing to look at the very possibility it could have been disastrous for V/M. I think it would more than likely have been the latter. When the entire system is rife with corruption and turns on you, you can't hide, nor will a change of scenery ensure better results.

    The argument "they should have left her right after Vancouver" makes even less sense. They've always been better off with her for a variety of reasons. It's no surprise none of the major teams in Canton left to go with her when she split from Igor. She ensured them all - through her choreographic/coaching work - a kind of credibility, even when, in D/W's case, it wasn't earned on the ice. She didn't do it through outright politicking, per se, but through the quality of the work they all created. V/M's programs were built on highlighting their superior skating skills, technical proficiency, and artistry (emphasis on the skating, letting it speak for itself - what they wanted from her), D/W's were in the smoke and mirrors mold. Would D/W have won an Olympic gold medal without Zoueva? No, I don't think so. Without her choreography, they'd have never made any kind of splash in the sport to begin with. They would have been forgettable.

    1. Based on the USFSA association's historical interest in DW's "package" (their quizzing Marina on whether or not she was giving DW the dregs when she gave them Phantom, the fact that the USFSA tossed out "Le Strada") - I think the USFSA had as much to do with the DW package as Marina. She created that Samson & Delilah package, and if you peel back every program they've done since it's the same program with different timing - Die Fleudermaus was a purely cosmetic change (ballroom costuming, waltz music) presenting the same two-footing, flailing, arm flinging, head throwing and stand-still posing and yanking and pulling. No waltzing. I think they attempted a two-step for a beat in there somewhere but that was it. Same with Schez. That was all Meryl waving an arm in the air. There was sbs and open hold stuff with Charlie that was EXACTLY what they pretended was ballroom in the past - Charlie flinging an arm towards the audience to express his joy over the woman he's refusing to look in the eyes.