Decisions of the ISU Council
ISU Council allocates events for next fall and 2021 Junior Worlds, holding of Chinese events still uncertain.
Two years ago, the biannual ISU Congress made two huge decisions-the change of GOE range in the scoring system and the shortening of men’s and pairs’ free skates, that went in effect this fall, after another Congress had brought more changes with it, including a restriction of the jump bonus that may be the thing that’s had the most visible effect so far. But it’s not just at Congresses that the decisions get made. More frequent are the meetings of the ISU Council, which is where most of the skating competitions get their locations and often dates, but their purview is not restricted to that.
Most infamously, after the 2012 Congress banned the preliminary rounds that prequalified skaters had to get through to compete in the ISU Championships proper, the Council raised the minimum technical scores required of all skaters for each Championships, as another way of controlling the number of skaters entered. That too has become a regular thing set there. So when the ISU Council met last week in Geneva, the agenda included Grand Prix and Junior Grand Prix allocations, but also the first set of tech minimums to be set after we’d seen the new system in action.
They published their decisions today, and we got the allocations, and two season’s worth of minimums. Also the location of the pre-Olympic World Junior Championships, which combined with the Grand Prix assignments, make for an odd picture, because they’re being held in Harbin.
But first is next year’s Grand Prix events, and their order. Much of it is usual, including the U.S. and Canada starting the series in that order, and Russia and Japan finishing the series in that order is also a little old school; they did that back when the events were always in the same order. And the middle two events are France and China, in that order. Except China’s got a “to be confirmed” attached, so they may not have gotten back in the good graces of Chinese officials just yet. Presumably they’ll have a backup host fully prepared if necessary.
And yet they’re letting China have Junior Worlds, and when an ISU Championships is a lot harder to move than a Grand Prix event-although doing so’s not unknown. And it won’t even be the Olympic test event, meaning China will likely get to host two major international events within the next three seasons. The ISU may be doing it to try to get the Chinese figure skating officials (now that the speed skating ones are to be a separate problem) to like them again, but it’s a huge risk, if that tactic doesn’t work. They could have a backup host prepared for Junior Worlds too, but, again, it’s a much bigger thing for a country to agree to than being a backup Grand Prix host is.
France is looking to host the Final for the fourth time, with the last time having been only three years ago. It’ll be the first time for Strasbourg, which hasn’t hosted anything this big in decades. If, that is, they too are actually willing to do it. There’s been word of unrest in the French federation, which may have even contributed to the Cup of Nice, which would’ve happened this weekend, being cancelled for the season. That would explain why they, too, are TBC at the moment. The Final’s likely harder to move than a series event, but undoubtedly easier than an ISU Championship.
Five of the seven JGP hosts, too, are cities that commonly have them. Courcheval, Gdansk, and Zagreb have been especially frequent hosts. The only city that’s never hosted the Junior Grand Prix is the Russian one, and hosting events is far from unknown for Chelyabinsk; they hosted Russian Nationals only a couple of a years ago. Once again the pairs series ends before the rest of it, albeit at the penultimate event this time, but that’s definitely looking like the new norm now.
Especially since now the Junior Grand Prix isn’t the only series to suffer that fate. Now, the ISU has declared they’ll choose Challenger events to have pairs competitions at, presumably hoping to enlarge the pairs competitions left. It may be interesting, however, to see what the officials running those events think about that. The events that make up the series, unlike the JGP events, have not depended on being part of the series for their existence, and are not used to having decisions about who they have on the ice decided for them, though they’ve sometimes held competitions alongside the Challenger event that officially, at least, are different ones. One suspects a lot of backroom negotiation’s going to happen over who gets the pairs events.
A few skaters might be sighing in relief right now; even though all scores from before this season are consigned to the historical archives, they’ll still be able to use anything they got last season to qualify for the Championships this spring. But a number of the tech minimums for the men and pairs will actually go down next year. They’ve been the disciplines most prone to errors, so they may be due to all the skaters who made them last year, and didn’t get an as penalized as much as they would now. Of course, the ISU reserves the right to change them between now and the entry deadline, but they’ve now given them less time to do so, making the cutoff point 45 days before the deadline, when once it was only two weeks.
Whether these minimums work the way officials want them to remain to be seen. First the Grand Prix must happen. It starts with Skate America tomorrow.