Monday, January 19, 2009

American skaters lament scoring system, preview U.S. Championships

Four years after it replaced the 6.0 system, the new way to score figure skating is still a point of controversy. That much was clear Wednesday during a conference call with several athletes preparing for the U.S. Championships, Sunday-Jan. 25 in Cleveland. Among the highlights:

Johnny Weir (24)

The flamboyant Weir started this season by winning the silver medal at Skate America.

With the new scoring system, how do you put the art of figure skating above the math? "It’s something very difficult to balance. This judging system is killing the sport. It’s very difficult for someone that is artistic, like myself, to come up with their own image out there and tell a story, unless you have the whole story written on your costume."

Is the new system leading to more injuries? "With this system, you have to be prepared to run a marathon all day, so it’s no shock to me that people are getting injured and getting sick. Injuries are going to come easier and this system is slowly killing everyone off. I’m just longing for the system where you can watch Michelle Kwan get a perfect 6.0. You got an emotion from that. The judging system has taken that away, and it’s such a shame."

Evan Lysacek (23)

Weir’s rival was an Olympian in 2006.

Do you miss seeking perfection in the 6.0 system? "Regardless of how I feel personally, the 6.0 was a brand for U.S. figure skating and a brand for the figure skating world. Anyone could flip on the TV and see a 5.9 and know it was good and a 4.1 isn’t so good. One of the things I think people enjoyed, too, was looking to see what the judges were going to do."

What do you think about the current state of figure skating? "We need to try and promote the athletes and the athletes need to keep pushing the envelope. If we want to be a prominent sport among football, baseball, hockey and tennis, we have to keep growing and keep pushing ourselves to do high-risk elements like the [quadruple axel]."

Mirai Nagasu (15)

She won last year’s U.S. National Championship, becoming the youngest since Tara Lipinski to win the U.S. senior ladies title.

Being so young, how do you handle the pressures and challenges of competing at the senior level? "Age doesn’t really matter in skating or winning at the national championships. It was a lot easier last year when I was 14 because I had no thoughts and was always energetic. ... But it’s been a great experience and one of the challenges I’ve enjoyed going through."

Are you thinking about the Vancouver Olympics, or is that too early? "I’ve dreamed about going to the Olympics since I was young. Just making the Olympic team would be a dream come true. But, right now, the U.S. Championships is first on my list."

Keauna McLaughlin (16), Rockne Brubaker (22)

The reigning 2008 U.S. pairs champions have been together since 2006.

What are some things you guys need to improve in order to contend for a world title this year?

McLaughlin: "I think the biggest thing is capturing the audience and showing them the love story and being sassy. It’s all about bringing the audience into the story."

Any new elements you guys are going to incorporate into the free skate program?

Brubaker: "We added a side-by-side triple toes."

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