Men’s Final-By the Numbers

The men’s long program at the Sochi Olympics was a bird’s nest of flawed skates. The old judging system would have had a major spasm over it. Judges who had to work under it in the past have told me that it’s doubly difficult to determine placings if a lot of skaters make mistakes.

The system in use now isn’t built on comparing one skater to another, or it’s not supposed to be. It settles all the queries by calculating and figuring what the skater does do, adds them all up, takes off a few points for the messes, and spits out a number. It may not be the perfect system yet, but in the men’s long program in Sochi, it worked pretty well.

Take this for instance: Yuzuru Hanyu, who made mistakes, topped the technical charts with 89.66, while the elegant Denis Ten, who snarled up a couple of jumps, was second in line with 88.90. Hanyu ‘s excellent triple Axel- triple toe loop was worth a couple more points than Ten’s and so was his quad toe loop. Tatsuki Machida was close on Ten’s heels in third with 88.22, and Patrick Chan, who made numerous mistakes, even on a double Axel, was fourth on the list with 85.40, well behind the top three.

Chan was helped by that first quad-triple combination, which was worth a mind-numbing 17.40 points. He achieved this by earning the maximum number of bonus points possible. Judges gave him +3s across the board, so he was able to add three points onto his score, just for that one jump pass. (Mind you, he more than gave away those bonus marks with the mistakes he made on his next two moves.) Still, nobody even came close in points to Chan’s quad-triple combination – next in line was the 17-year-old kid Han Yan of China with 16.11, and batten down your hatches when this kid grows up. Here’s another interesting point to ponder: Hanyu doesn’t do quad combos.

But we digress. Kevin Reynolds was sixth on the list of technical wizards, while Jeremy Abbott, who skipped his quad altogether, rated seventh, ahead of Javier Fernandez who messed up his points with miscalculations. The lovely Jason Brown made too many errors, didn’t have a quad and was far, far down the list.

On the program component side? Patrick Chan, as usual, ranked first with 92.70 points, while Daisuke Takahashi was second with 91.00 and Hanyu third with 90.98. Fernandez stayed alive (but not bronzed) with his component marks (fourth overall with 89.14) and Brown was fifth best in this category with 84.28.

And we should all give this “Chanflation” thing a rest. To say that judges just love and favour Chan in the component marks, no matter what he does technically on the ice, doesn’t make sense. Chan doesn’t drop his choreography when he falls. Some do. His entrances and exits into jumps and other moves are screamingly difficult. Sebastien Britten, a former Canadian champion, says what Chan does with his feet is actually “dangerous.” Britten was known for his deft feet and his difficult entrances into jumps in his day. He cannot reproduce what Chan does on the ice. He’s tried. He cannot execute a single jump after using some of Chan’s steps. And Chan uses them in front of difficult triples. Chan is so articulate with his edges and his feet, that he can get to top speed in a flash. On top of this, he can also create these difficult curves in both directions. Many skaters favour one direction. This is what the judges are marking when they give him high component marks.

So yes, job well done, judges of Sochi.  Just hope this continues to the ice dancing event.



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