Thursday, February 28, 2013

Freestyle Judge Training in Madrid

This weekend I gave a hand to a long-term friend to help him into a delicate task: Examining candidates who passed a freestyle skating judge test.
The judge training was taking place in Madrid, Spain. Kio and Marie, whom I met in rehab, came pick me up at the airport on Saturday afternoon. I worked on the exam videos the candidates would have to explain the next day, and then we went for a night trip, driving the streets of Madrid in Kio's convertible Mercedes, visiting the Temple of Debob (an ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in the center of Madrid), having a drink, going to a friend's where we spent most of the evening telling weird stories about mosquitoes in Asian jungles and English seaside resorts inhabited by old people, until bed-time.

The Judge Training
Madrid, 22-24 Feb. 2013

I made my entrance on Sunday morning for the interview part of the judge test. Igor had been there since Friday to run the class. I would have been of no help before as I do not speak a word of Spanish. Still, some interviews were in Spanish and I had a hard time concentrating to pick up a few words here and there (blessing my 6 years of Latin at school), but more than the half were in English and I could let my sadism run wild (this is a joke, righ!)
Out of the 18 candidates, only 1 given the international level certification and 5 validated the national level.

The test was in two parts: written test and oral interview.
The written test had theoretical questions on the rules of the various disciplines that had been discussed during the classes (speed, freestyle classic and battle slalom) and a practical analysis with the judging and ranking of four classic performances and a battle group.
The oral interview lasted around 30 min, during which we would go back on the rule points misunderstood by the candidates and ask them to explain their judging and ranking processes.

Recovery definitions from THAT post
  • WSSA: World Slalom Skaters Association
  • Classic: A slalom competition for which you show a 1'30'' free choreography on three lines of cones of different spacings (50, 80 and 120cm) on the music of your choice.
  • Battle: A slalom competition per comparison in groups of 4 skaters who have 3 runs of 30'' each to seduce the judges. The two best go through to the next round and so on until the final.
  • Speed: Slalom as fast as possible through 20 cones spaced by 80cm with a 12m run-up. The final phase is organized in one on one fights. You need two winning runs to go through to the next round.

Classic Judging Test

The test was on four videos from various competitions and times:

The ranking was to be divided into two inner fights: Klaudia V. Alexandre for the "1st place" and Tiziano V. Sung Jin for the "3rd place". As long as that clear separation was respected, we would accept the candidate's ranking according to the relevance of their reasoning.

The leading fight is technically above the two other freestylers, with more developped combos and a greater variety of tricks. Alexandre has a huge speed advantage which boosts up his technical score, whereas Klaudia has some cleaner combos and a better artistic management. Igor votes for Alexandre and I am on Klaudia's side but it is an endless debate and I do not stand my ground.
As for the 3rd place pretenders, I am totally for Sung Jin who may not be very clean but whose performance is full of freestyle details, links and originalities which give more weight to his technique. Yet, Tiziano has the advantage of being able to make up for his mistakes thanks to his good mastering of balance and of finishing with the most successful part of his run: He leaves a better impression that the Korean who kicks a good bunch of cones on the last seconds. Last impressions can be misleading!

Battle Judging Test

That was one hell of a hard battle group: the Men's Final of the 2011 World Championships in Geisingen.

Here again two inner fights take place: Chinese Pu Hao Yang (4th to go) and Ye Hao Qin (2nd) pretend to the title, while Korean Kim Sung Jin (3rd) and youngest skater Chinese Zhang Hao (1st) aim at the 3rd place.
The final ranking is still debatable according to your reasoning.

My opinion is that Pu Hao Yang deserves the first place for his mastering of high level tricks and his way of combining them into combos, as well as for his creativity (he is the only one innovating) ...despite a heavy strategical mistake: His 40-cone toe seven took the whole 30 seconds of his 3rd run. He should have saved it for the last trick and performed his brand-new deck-seven instead (cf. last trick) and use the remaining time to add up more tricks. Hopefull for him, his direct opponent Ye Hao Qin also failed his last trick.
Kim Sung Jin is overrun by the new Chinese generation but cleverly adapts and rather than trying to outbid in technique, shows more wheeling variety and wraps it all up with sophisticated freestyle, which gives him the advantage over Zhang Hao who still lacks maturity.


Check out the corresponding paragraph of the 2011 Worlds Report:
"This is quite a comical picture: Kim Sung Jin surrounded with Chinese kids. It looks like the final of a local competition, but don’t you judge a book by its cover: These kids are programmed to kill!
Guess who’s going to get the first place? Pu Hao Yang, you’re right! After his three amazing runs, two of them being 30-sec combos, he didn’t even take the trouble to ask for a second try for his last trick (a 4-cone deck-seven with two cones down). Actually I guess I would have felt comfortable too with a [14-cone deckchair + 20-cone toe shift + toe star] and a 40-cone toe seven…
Ye Hao Qin gets the second place thanks to his 14-cone back deckchair, his 19-cone toe seven, his various wheeling combos… and a 3-cone Christie deckchair as a last trick to crown it all.
Kim Sung Jin manages to pass Zhang Hao thanks to his freestyle, originality and the maturity of his skating. The little Chinese is a wheeling machine but he doesn’t have the creativity… yet! He still gets an honorable fourth place with his 14-cone deckchair and his diverse shifts and wheelings."
Full article in ENGLISH and in FRENCH.

Note: Lots of candidates argued that the above-mentionned 40-cone seven was out of line thus void, and consequently ranked the 2011 word champion last of the group. Indeed PHY does not always cross the line, but:
  1. You should make the difference between theory and reality
  2. Always put things into context: How much cleaner were his opponents' sevens?
  3. However successful the performance, as a battle judge you should take it into account to compare the skater to his group opponents
  4. At which point quantity wins over quality: Is a perfect 8-cone seven worth more or less than a 40-cone seven that is not 100% academic?


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