Ice Network

Forward-thinking Lakernik hints at changes to IJS

ISU figure skating VP discusses creation of artistic-specific program
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Rather than take a step back at the age of 71, ISU figure skating vice president Alexander Lakernik is crafting the sport's future. -Courtesy of Alexander Lakernik

Alexander Lakernik is a mathematician and professor who used his professional expertise to help create the international judging system (IJS). Now he is committed to improving the system and making it more understandable for viewing audiences.

After 22 years on the International Skating Union (ISU) technical committee -- the last 14 as chair -- Lakernik has a new role as ISU figure skating vice president. At 71, his passion for skating has not diminished. Unfazed by his busy skating-related travel schedule and the demands of his job at Moscow State University of Communications and Informatics, he is eager to develop figure skating in new and interesting ways.

Icenetwork caught up with Lakernik during a brief time home in Russia and asked him about what he envisions for skating's future.

Icenetwork: You helped develop the international judging system. How can it be further improved?

Alexander Lakernik: In my opinion, we should simplify some of the approaches and make the system more consistent. It's too early to speak on the details, but the work is already going on.

Icenetwork: In your vision statement, you mentioned bringing more distinction between the short program and the free skate. What do you envision?

Lakernik: Now, these programs are too similar and the difference is only the number of difficult elements, by example in singles, the number of jumps. A long-term plan is to have two quite different programs: one more technical and one more artistic. The technical program could be something like current short programs or free skates. The artistic program could contain less difficult elements with a focus on the program presentation. The programs could be equal in length. This way, we can increase the number of medals by having technical, artistic and maybe overall winners.

Icenetwork: In your candidate's vision statement, you wrote that you hoped to promote ways to improve the TV viewing experience. What are some of the things you hope to develop?

Lakernik: First, I welcome any measures to make our competitions shorter as currently they are too long and the audience in the rink and TV viewers can hardly survive it all. Second, during the performances, the viewers should get as much information as possible about the points currently obtained. This is partly done already. Then the breaks should be filled with more information about performances and skaters -- we must study such possibilities.

Icenetwork: How can the IJS be changed to be more understandable to viewers?

Lakernik: By giving more explanations of how it works -- by written materials and by experts. Small details are not so important, but basic principles could be explained much better.

Icenetwork: Anonymous judging was eliminated at this past ISU Congress. How will you help judges and officials get used to being identified with their marks going forward?

Lakernik: Anonymity of judging is not part of the IJS; the system can work with or without it. The main thing is that a judge should have knowledge and be objective. If he/she has these two qualities, I do not think that identification of judges will create big problems for them. In comparison to the 6.0 system, now a judge gives so many scores for a program -- in senior men's free skates there are 13 Grades of Execution and five components scores -- that it will not be so easy to blame certain judges for the result. As for the technical panel, they make all decisions by the majority's opinion.

Icenetwork: With the anonymity gone, will it impact post-competition review of judges?

Lakernik: It's difficult to see how this will go, but we will try to keep the existing structure and concentrate the discussions on scores -- what is the range of the correct ones -- and not on those who gave the scores. Only after judges' errors are identified will we look at the authors of these erroneous scores. Though one thing will definitely change: If a judge has errors in several parts of an event or in several events, it will be much easier to combine these errors.

Icenetwork: What kinds of new events would you like to see?

Lakernik: I am not afraid of any new events: Theater On Ice, team competitions, ultimate team skating, etc.

Icenetwork: After 22 years on the ISU technical committee, 14 as the chair, what motivates you at age 71 to increase your involvement in skating rather than taking a step back?

Lakernik: My love for figure skating, which has become a vital part of my existence, and hopefully the ability to do more than I've done up to now.

Icenetwork: What about skating still inspires you?

Lakernik: I just love it.

Icenetwork: What is on your schedule these first few months in office?

Lakernik: Development program; relations with three technical committees, including more knowledge on ice dance and synchronized skating activities; amendments to the IJS; and many day-to-day activities.