The Impact of the New ISU Minimum TES on the 2013 World Championships and Beyond

by Katerina Tetzloff

13FourC-FD-8349-OM-RR 595As the World Figure Skating Championships return to Canada this week, 29 ice dance teams will take the ice to compete, nine fewer than at last year's championships.

Why such a considerable drop? For the 2012-2013 season, the International Skating Union drastically raised the minimum technical element score. In order to compete at the 2012 World Championships, teams needed to have a TES of at least 17 in the short dance and 27 in the free dance at a previous ISU event. This year, however, these minimums leaped up to a whopping 29 points in the short dance and 39 points in the free dance.

The top teams had no problems reaching this score, with Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir's short dance season’s best technical mark at 34.29, Meryl Davis & Charlie White's at 33.50, and Nathalie Péchalat & Fabian Bourzat's at 33.64.

At the 2012 World Championships in Nice, France, only eight teams earned a 29-point TES in the short dance. Obviously the ISU is trying to cut rosters to save money, but setting a minimum TES in the short dance for 2013 that only eight teams were able to reach in 2012 seems extremely unfair.

Many of the internationally competitive ice dancers, who would not have qualified for this year's Worlds in London, Ontario, Canada, with their scores from Nice, were able to meet these new standards during the course of the 2012-2013 season. These teams include Russians Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev and Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko, Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland of Great Britain, and Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi of Germany, all of whom finished in the top six at the 2013 European Championships.

 

Many countries who skated at last year's World Championships fell short of achieving the new TES this season and were locked out of London. Despite the long-held idea that every country should be able to send one entrant, missing from 2013 (but competed in 2012) are teams from Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mexico, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Uzbekistan. Of these countries, Australia, China, and Uzbekistan finished in the top 25 overall in 2012.

13JW-DFD-5576-NK-MH 595Though the minimum TES for the World Championships was initially raised in all four disciplines (ice dancing, men, ladies, and pairs), it was lowered for the men's, ladies, and pairs events mid-season. However, the TES for dance remained the same. The men's requirement dropped 3(SP) and 5 (FS) points, ladies 2 (SP) and 2 (FS), and pairs 4 (SP) and 4 (FS), which equaled approximately nine, 11, and four additional London entrants, respectively.

Many of the teams who met the 29-point TES SD requirement over this season did so at a smaller "B" international competition. In general, at these competitions, the judging was more generous than at Grand Prix and ISU Championship competitions. Teams were able to achieve higher levels at these events than they did at ISU championships, and the grades of execution (GOE) awarded by the judges were also higher. Almost all of these events are scattered around Europe. The expense to attend “B” events often falls to the competitors, and the cost for skaters who train outside of Europe is exponentially higher. The three teams who placed in the top 25 at the 2012 World Championships, but are excluded from competing at 2013 Worlds all hail from outside of Europe. What long-term effects will these new standards have on teams from smaller (and non-European) countries in gaining the necessary experience for performing at the highest level of ice dancing?

Unfortunately, the 2013 World Championships will have a very important effect on next year’s season. The majority of spots for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games will be awarded based on placements at Worlds this year, so countries without representatives in London will miss out on this opportunity. Another qualification will take place in the fall, when about five spots are usually up for grabs.

Of course, next year’s minimum scores could complicate things even further, and they will not be announced until much later in the season.