ISU Council Sets Junior Grand Prix Order, and Other Decisions
ISU announces Junior Grand Prix order for next season and a couple of changes; also confirm Korea’s pairs berth for the Olympics.
With the senior Grand Prix underway, by anyone’s definition, the Olympic skating season has now started. But the International Skating Union is now looking further forward, to 2019, and even to 2020 for Synchronized Skating. The ISU Council met last weekend, and this week, they published their decisions. They include next season’s Junior Grand Prix schedule, and a couple changes of plans.
Junior Grand Prix Order
Published for the first time were the list of events of next season’s Junior Grand Prix: Slovakia, Austria, Lithuania, China, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Armenia. It also seems the ending of the pairs series earlier may become a regular thing. This time around, it’ll end with the fifth event in Ostrava, taking place in all of the first five events except Lithuania’s.
Four of those countries are currently common hosts. The Czech Republic especially has hosted ten times, all but one of them in Ostrava. China has also hosted a Grand Prix event twice in Harbin before, and three times in Beijing, though the last one was back in 2010. But this will be the first time for both Lithuania and Armenia. Armenia especially doesn’t host skating events much, though Lithuania has the Kaunas Autumn Ice Cup, a very minor event which is actually concluded today. The JGPs do often go to countries not up to hosting anything bigger.
The order of events for the 2018 Grand Prix came out back in the summer. It was a typical North American-Asian-European order, and it still is. Now, however, the two European events have traded places. France is now second-to-last, and a year after starting the Grand Prix, Russia will instead wrap it up. If, of course, the schedule doesn’t change again. This year’s order was also announced only last summer, so these things can be settled quite late.
Hopefully more likely to stick is the new location for the 2019 Four Continents Championships. Previously, it was going to Colorado Springs, one of its most common haunts. Now, it’s still happening in the U.S., but in Anaheim, which has never hosted an ISU Figure Skating Championships before. It’ll be interesting to see both how they do and if they’re willing to host any more. It hasn’t been easy in the past for Four Continents to find cities willing to host it, as it is still considered the least prestigious of the ISU Championships, though its image has improved in recent years. The reason for this change is probably Colorado Springs deciding they didn’t want another one. A new host is always welcome. At least Anaheim still has a year and a half to prepare; sometimes Four Continents gets assigned much later than that.
Confirmation of a Host Pairs Berth
One of the most confusing things this quaddrennium was what would happen if host South Korea didn’t qualify entries into all the individual events at the Olympics. The individual sports at the Olympics have always been run by their federations, so the rules vary, but most federations will guarantee an Olympic host entries into their events even if they didn’t qualify one. The ISU, however, has gotten more stingy about host entries in general in recent years. Since neither Canada nor Russia were ever in danger of not qualifying for all four disciplines, the question hasn’t come up.
But while Korea was always pretty certain for at least one ladies berth, all three of the other disciplines have been at times uncertain. The ISU indicated they could possibly get host berths to any event they were left out of after Nebelhorn, but it might be dependent on the qualification of the team event. When that first happened at the last Olympics, they formed a 10-berth Additional Athletes Quota out of which they could allocate berths to athletes to compete in the team event only, and they indicated any host berths would have to come out of that quota, and would have to still be available after the team roster was filled. With Korea now officially needing only a pairs berth, that’s now been confirmed.
The interesting thing about the announcement, however, was the note that they still may not get it if the team event doesn’t use all the extra berths. There’s been a general assumption countries needed to be qualified for three events if be eligible for the team event. That was the case in 2014; Spain actually finished ahead of Great Britain in the standings, but the latter got in because the former was only qualified for men and dance. But if that’s the case, there are only thirteen countries eligible, and six of them are in all four events, so it would be impossible for there not to be berths left over.
It raises the question of whether the rules have been changed, which has not been established either way. Of course, it could just be the ISU being very official and waiting until everything is truly finalized to make the declaration.
They also noted the Korean pair will skate first in the individual event, a throwback, perhaps, to a time when countries hosting ISU Championships were guaranteed someone in each discipline participating in the free skate, and leading it off if they didn’t qualify properly. Once upon a time, that would have, rather poetically, made them the first skaters on Olympic ice, since pairs always came first. Now the team event comes before all of them, but they’ll still get to be the first skaters to compete for the individual events.
The Council also dealt with things like the sport’s development and turning more environmentally friendly. Most promising is the mention of a possible ISU App coming. It would be about time.