Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Short Program Revisited: Bonus Material From Sonia Bianchetti Garbato


I want to start by saying a big thank you to all of you who have taken the time to share the latest blog on the origins of the short program. Prior to publishing the blog, I had actually reached out to Sonia Bianchetti Garbato regarding the topic at hand but we were unfortunately unable to touch base until after the blog was published yesterday. She provided me with another wonderful perspective and some further clarification regarding the institution of the pairs short program and some corrections to Mr. Vosátka's 1994 memoir "Idea Born From Rage" that I think all of you would find as tremendously interesting as I did. I'm reproducing her commentary below with permission:

"In 1963, the President of the ISU was Dr. James [Koch], from Switzerland, and not Mr. Labin. Mr. Labin was only a council member. Mr. Jacques Favart, from France, was the Vice President, who chaired the meeting on figure skating technical matters in Helsinki in 1963 when the introduction of the short program for pairs was discussed and decided by the Congress. The Technical Committee was composed of: Chairman Josef Dědič of Czechoslovakia [and members were] Karl Enderlin of Switzerland, Alexander Gordon of Great Britain [with] substitute member Rudolf Marx of West Germany. I never heard of Mr. Labin being involved with the content of the compulsory program, but I may be wrong of course. Second, in 1963 the pairs executed two free programs not only one. In the pairs events of the European Championships of 1962 and 1963, there were trials of new formats. Since their start in ISU Championships in 1908 the pairs competition only included one free skating performance. Considering the rapid increase in the technical level of pair skating there had been an increasing feeling that the pairs event should consist of more than one part. The first trial of a new format at the European Championships 1962 at Geneva (but not in the Worlds) was to skate the free program twice on consecutive days, with the first performance being marked closed - that is with no marks displayed. The result was calculated but not announced. The draw of the starting order for the second performance was based upon the result of the first, with the better pairs placed skating in the last group. The second performance was marked open in the usual manner, but the final result was based upon the combined marks for both performances.

The second trial was also at the 1963 European Championships at Budapest. [It] again consisted of two performances on different days but this time with performances being marked using the open system and with the result of the first performance being announced. The draws were carried out and the results calculated in the same manner as the first trial. The trial proved not to be so satisfactory, with more or less the same results in the two performances with a negative effect on the competitors having to perform the same program twice and generally, with a lower level of performance the second time.

So at the ISU Congress in 1963, in Helsinki, the principal matter considered was the format of pair skating. The double performance of free skating, tried out in 1962 and 1963 was definitely rejected, and a 'connected compulsory program', of two and one-half minutes of duration, with a value of one third of the total score, was adopted. The new program was approved for inclusion in ISU Championships in 1964 and 1965 but not for the 1964 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck. As I say in my book, the program consisted of six basic elements such as lifts, solo jumps, pair spins and solo spins, death spirals and step sequences.

The format of this compulsory program changed in the following years, but it remained as the basis for the 'short program with compulsory moves' which would be adopted in 1971 for single skating as well. The short program was judged on essentially the same basis and with the same marks as for free skating.

It was in October 1974, during Skate Canada in Kitchener (I was at the time the Chairman of the ISU Figure Skating Technical Committee) that I had a new idea. Because of the time difference, I woke up in the middle of the night and could not get asleep again. Thinking about the short program and how to better achieve the purpose of improving the quality of the required elements, I wondered how useful it would be to adopt specific grades of deductions for failures or omissions in the required elements. This would be made in the first mark only. During the night, I worked out the entire proposal, with a complete list of deductions to be applied to the different elements reflecting the gravity of the failures.

During breakfast, the same day, I met John Shoemaker, who was the Vice President for figure skating, and I told him what I had brought forth during the night and showed it to him. He found the idea great and the proposal was discussed with the Technical Committee and submitted to the Congress in 1975 and it was approved. The system remained into force till 2004 when the New Judging System was introduced after the scandal in the pairs event at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City."

I want to offer a huge thanks to Ms. Bianchetti Garbato for these clarifications and such a wonderfully in-depth 'behind the scenes' explanation of the whole process of the institution of Mr. Vosátka's proposal... and of course, her role in the short program's early development. A point of notice: Ms. Bianchetti Garbato is absolutely correct regarding the fact that Labin was not ISU President at the time of the submission of the proposal. He did, however, serve as ISU President in 1967, but died suddenly in Vienna during his term that year.

As I've explained to a few people on social media and on the figure skating forums, this is a topic that we will revisit in a future blog devoted entirely to Janet Lynn. The Janet Lynn blog will be actually be the final blog of 2015 in late December! You're also going to love some of the really unique topics from figure skating history coming your way rapid fire every few days during the months of October and November so stay tuned!

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