Skating union passes new judging system

The International Skating Union has said goodbye to the perfect 6.0 score.

A new judging system for figure skaters was approved Wednesday, and is based on points for jumps, spins, footwork and artistic elements.

The format was tested last season in the Grand Prix series and will be used at all international competitions and the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

The ISU was forced to make radical changes following the Olympic pairs scandal.

At the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne claimed her federation's chief, Didier Gailhaguet, pressured her to favour Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze in the pairs event over Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

The Russians won by a 5-4 margin among the judges, but Le Gougne's admission, which she later recanted, led to the IOC awarding gold medals to Sale and Pelletier, too.

The International Olympic Committee pressured the ISU into awarding a second pairs gold medal and made clear it wanted a new judging system.

Since then, an interim judging system based on random selection and anonymity of judges was used.

In the new system, each of the sport's aspects - jumping, spinning, footwork, edge quality, choreography, theatrics - would be judged for individuality and not simply as part of an overall performance and given one mark.

"You are no longer placing the skater you are judging each one and the various elements," said American Figure Skating Association president Chuck Foster, who voted for the system. "It is a new approach to the judging and we feel a better one."

Two-thirds of the members of the 54 figure skating federations needed to pass the proposal. The vote at the ISU congress was 43 for the ISU proposal, three for a Russian proposal, two for an Australian proposal and six abstentions.

After the initial vote, an amendment was passed for a maximum of 12 judges with only nine marks counting. The highest and lowest for each skater would be discarded, and the other seven would formulate a skater's points in major international events. For smaller competitions, the maximum judges would be reduced.

Ted Barton has spent the last 21/2 years helping design the new system with video technology.

"Knowing what we were doing to the athlete, to have it defeated would have been so devastating for the sport," he said.

David Dore, the ISU vice-president in figure skating, said the judging system will "ensure a positive future for the sport and the athletes."

It does not name the judges publicly although there is a way to assess a judge's scores to determine if it is far from the overall average.

American Michelle Kwan, the five-time world champion and eight-time U.S. champion, had the last 6.0s awarded in ISU competition. She had six in her free skate at the world championships in March at Dortmund, Germany, but finished third.

with files from Associated Press