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ISU's Dore talks Olympic team event, rule changes

Terms ISU minimum scores a success; blasts 'injury timeout' rule

French ice dancers Gabrielle Papadakis and Giullaume Cizeron were aided at the world junior championships by ISU Rule 551, which allows skaters to stop their program without incurring a deduction.
French ice dancers Gabrielle Papadakis and Giullaume Cizeron were aided at the world junior championships by ISU Rule 551, which allows skaters to stop their program without incurring a deduction. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/16/2013) - With ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta in Sochi, Russia, attending organizational meetings and site visits for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, David Dore conducted the annual ISU press conference held at the World Figure Skating Championships.

The longtime Canadian figure skating official, and current ISU first vice president, covered a range of topics, but reporters leapt on his comments about the figure skating team event, set to debut in Sochi.

"It is a new venture," Dore said. "Will it be perfect? Probably not. ... It is an opportunity for our young skaters to earn an extra medal, and we have to jump at it."

According to Dore, the ISU considered holding the team event at the end of the Games, after figure skating had concluded. NBC, the U.S. television rights holder, wanted to stick with tradition and broadcast the ladies discipline as the final event.

"You're fighting television contracts, and ladies is the big thing," Dore said. "U.S. television is the biggest monetary contributor to the IOC."

The top 10 figure skating countries, as determined by a points system based on finishes here in London, Ontario, and on the fall Grand Prix Series, will qualify to participate in the Sochi team event.

ISU negotiations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which carefully manages the number of athletes participating in the Games, resulted in a compromise: 10 extra entries for skaters who did not qualify for their country's Olympic figure skating teams ("additional athletes' quota").

An ice dance team or pair counts as one entry. The 10 "extra" entries will be offered to the 10 countries participating. In order to compete in the team event, a country must field entries in three of the four disciplines.

"So, if the team that qualified third needs to fill in a fourth discipline, with someone not necessarily qualified to compete at the Olympic Games, it can," Dore said.

A minimum technical element score (TES), which is yet to be determined, will be set for Olympic entrants, but these additional athletes will not need to post this score. A lower score will be set for them.

This provision will affect Japan and Italy, home to several of skating's biggest stars, including Mao Asada, Daisuke Takahashi and Carolina Kostner. Japan did not enter a pair at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, and the two Italian men entered failed to qualify for the free skate. Both countries will likely enter competitors at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, in September, the Olympic qualifier for open spots. If they do not succeed, this additional athlete quota will come into play.

Another hot-button topic: the elimination of the preliminary round at the world championships, and setting of higher TES minimums for world championships entrants.

"The elimination of the preliminary round was done at the [2012] ISU Congress, by member nations," Dore said. "The ISU went to great lengths in 2010 to get the rounds [instituted]. Many compromises were made, one of which was that they would have to be renewed in 2012. ... Our intent to renew the preliminary rounds was defeated, and they went into cyberspace."

Setting the new minimum standard, which has resulted in 14 fewer countries entering skaters here, had the desired effect: smaller fields.

"Having 65 or 68 ladies compete in a short program doesn't work," Dore said. "It's something like 10 hours of skating, and it doesn't work for the young people, and especially not for the officials. I cannot imagine it would be popular with spectators. So, we made the decision [to up the TES] so we would be looking at between 30 and 40 skaters."

In the end, Dore judges the ISU minimum scores a success.

"We're happy; yes, we hit the mark," he said. "We did the responsible thing, and we have not heard any comment."

Finally, Dore addressed the ramifications of ISU Rule 551, which permits skaters to pause their programs for up to three minutes with no specified deduction. It reads, in part:

"If a competitor gets injured during the performance or another adverse condition related to him or his equipment (such as health problems or unexpected damage to his clothing or equipment) impedes his/their skating, the competitor must stop skating. If he does not stop, he will be ordered to do so by an acoustic signal of the Referee. ... the referee will allow an up to three minutes period for the competitor to resume skating from the point of interruption."

At the 2013 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Milan last month, three teams -- French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, winners of the silver medal; Chinese ice dancers Zhang YiYi and Wu Nan; and Italian pair Giulia Foresti and Leo Luca Sforza -- halted and then re-started their programs. In the case of the ice dancers, it was due to injury. Sforza had an open boot lace.

Papadakis injured her ankle during an off-ice warm-up, not while performing the free dance. When the team halted its program, though, referee Rossella Ceccattini encouraged them to take the three-minute break and then resume skating -- even though the injury was sustained earlier that day.

Asked whether Rule 551 was working well, Dore replied, "No, no, no. We just don't have the right rule in place. The skaters have done nothing wrong. It's created considerable discussion in the ISU. Something will come out of this shortly."

While the ISU constitution dictates that a rule change must wait for the 2014 ISU Congress, held the summer after the Sochi Games, Dore said steps would be taken before that.

"We can make some modifications. The referee, in my opinion, can move faster to clean up the situation. My problem with it is everybody is looking at one another, saying, 'Who is doing this?' That will be clarified."