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Sneaky Olympic Judging Changes

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The Globe and Mail reports that the International Skating Union has voted to decrease the number of judges on Olympic voting panels (to nine). Apparently they decided this during the recent World Championships. The change is being announced next week.

Why is panel size so important? In the new judging system, officials drop the highest and the lowest marks and then do a random selection that drops two others. Therefore, just five judges will actually determine Olympic results.

A U.S. statistician and figure skating enthusiast, George Rossano, says if one of those five judges offers a single bad mark — whether it be by mistake, misconduct, incompetence or national bias — the importance of the mark is increased by 40 per cent "since a bad mark will now be one of five instead of one in seven."

He said a judge can create a one-point change between two rivals by manipulating the presentation marks alone.

Judges may also skew marks by more than three points by using the grade of execution marks they give for technical elements, too, he says. Final results are often determined by less than three points.

Rossano said with fewer countries on a panel, a voting bloc may turn from a slim majority of the panel to a vast majority.

The ISU says it is reducing the size of judging panels to cut costs.

The judging panel size came up in another blog post awhile back. I'm going to go ahead and side with those who think it's a bad idea. I know there are a lot of ways to cut costs...isn't judging kind of the last thing that should go? Philip Hersh reports that the US objected to the changes. But he also reports about what little pull the US has in skating now.

Apparently Hersh is also getting a lot of emails from paranoid Yu-na Kim fans thinking that Japan has paid off the judges to ensure a Mao Asada victory at the Olympics. Not sure what makes people think that, since Mao wasn't even on the medal stand at worlds, but I wish these people would email me! I will blog your letters, people!!! A Hersh sampling:

``Nowadays there seems like some referees are suspected of getting money from Japan.'' And, from a different emailer: ``I wonder if Japan buys all judges? Or is there some judge who has (a) conscience?''

Ahhh, judging controversy and accusations of corruption. It must be figure skating!