Skaters get quick test in new math

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

MISSISSAUGA -- There is an undeniable sense of history in the air at the Hershey Centre. A new era in Canadian figure skating is being ushered in at the Skate Canada East/West Challenge this weekend, and the excitement about it all is a wonderful thing to see. Officially, they're billing it as the cumulative points calculation system, but more to the point, it's Skate Canada's official entry into the sport's new world order.

CPC, as they're calling it, is Skate Canada's adaptation of the International Skating Union's "code of points" judging format -- the one you'll see at international events everywhere now up to the Olympic level.

But for virtually every skater here -- not to mention about two-thirds of the judges -- CPC represents a crash course of sorts in math that'll take a little getting used to yet.

"There's a lot of (confused) faces when the marks go up," said Mandy Valentine of the Nepean Skating Club, who scored 37.32 points to place third in the novice women's short program (Gatineau's Kim Caissy won with 38.24).

"It's like okay, what does that mean?"

CANADA JUMPS ON BOARD

In the simplest of terms, CPC is a combination of technical and program component scores. Everything -- jumps, spins, spirals, you name it -- can be a source of points, the idea being that the most complete skater should win.

While the ISU ratified the change from the old 6.0-based system at its June congress meeting, member countries weren't required to make the switch for domestic competitions immediately.

However, Skate Canada officials decided they didn't want to wait to join figure skating's new wave. Pam Coburn, the association's CEO, believes Canada is the first country to make the jump -- a fitting thing, given SC has been at the forefront of judging reform.

"We felt it was extremely important for every skater that advances out of sectionals and into qualifying for the Canadian championships to be judged the same way from coast to coast," Coburn said in explaining the timing of the move.

Another first this weekend: The judges' panel in the main rink here (three are being used) has access to video replay terminals to have a second look at questionable elements (no beanbags were distributed for coach's challenges. Yes, we checked).

In all, it's been a $300,000 undertaking but one which, when the sectional competitions come on board next season, will have everyone on the same judging page.

"We're very committed to making sure we make a system that is accepted at all levels of skating, from juvenile to senior," said Patricia Benoit, a Ph.D. in mathematics who was hired full-time to make it all work, along with technical adviser John van Schyndel.

NOTEBOOK: There's plenty at stake on the ice here, too. The top 10 in junior events advance to the Canadian championships, Jan. 17-23 in London, Ont. The top eight in novice and pre-novice events qualify for the Skate Canada Junior Nationals, Feb. 2-5 in Ste-Foy, Que. ... Short program winners yesterday from Ottawa-area clubs included Patinage Gatineau's Kim Caissy (junior women) and David Leenen of the Minto Skating Club (pre-novice men) ... 13 finals are slated for today.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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