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Janet Lynn's article: what is figure skating?

Updated on April 25, 2017

Janet Lynn in 1967: Here you can see 13 year old Janet.

Lynn's lamentation

Lynn said, forcing skaters to perform what they are not born to handle only results in injuries and more side effects than merits. According to Lynn, to facilitate ideal "body type, [fundamental] skills or safety" is more important than heaping up points. Lynn doesn't want to see skaters pushing to the limit of their bodily capacity such as "turn[ing] their bodies into pretzels or high impact jumping beans". Lynn also points at how spin variations could potentially injure skaters saying because "the dunkin donut spin has been linked to fractured backs".

"If a skater has never seen or practiced basic bending, pushing and gliding on one foot, or if a proper edge, turn or cross-over escapes them, no worries. Just keep conquering those triples by age 9 to earn more points! Precise jump landing technique on good edges could stave off the hip and knee surgeon in teens and early twenties. Can that be measured?"

Does it sound familiar to what you are seeing these days? Yeah, the current Russian skating of deformity! Even at an unlikely event where most skaters conquer triples, Lynn questions its validity in light of gain and loss in the sport. But as we all know, perhaps except Yuna Kim, none of skaters today even scratch on the surface of triple jumps. The so called Russian jumps are just an utter disgrace to the sport technical legacy. Lynn's article precisely foresaw what would happen in the ISU and its agendas in the end. Take a look at how Lynn thinks of step sequences these days. Lynn mentions "isolated" footwork sequences, and defines that as "compact cacophony of constrained chaos".

How poetically brilliant and poignantly laconic! Believe or not, when I recently wrote on step sequences, I didn't reread Lynn' article. I had no idea of the contents in the article except vague memory about Lynn's safety concerns and penetrating insight and literary eloquence. And I was pleasantly and proudly surprised at the similarity of Lynn's words to mine. Maybe those words were subconsciously deposited into my brain several years ago? Who knows?

"Skaters seem like puppets on the end of a tether controlled by some unknown master." This is how today's Russian skaters' skating looks like.

I used the word of wooden puppet to describe the mode of their skating while Lynn more focuses on the ISU's policies. Of course, Lynn's point on how dictated rules produce unnatural skating and even ugly skating, can be extended to the nature of those Russian skaters' skating. Those who lack of fundamental skills can't remedy their deformed skating and fractured moves on ice, which make them look like puppets. They can't glide, turn, and even jump. Lynn goes to more details :

"Here is a tiny partial list of audience pleasing skating skills that cannot be measured: smiles; pointed toe; stretched leg; line of body; flowing true edges and change-of-edges; long controlled glide that looks like it floats-- to music; footwork that makes the music come alive throughout the performance; an edge or turn that "whispers" (instead of ripping or grinding), the excitement of a classic sit, change sit, change sit, change sit spin to exacting music; a long blurred spin with musical crescendo. Oh, how the immeasurable soaring delayed one revolution axel made audiences feel as if they were flying with the skater!"

Janet Lynn in 1971

What is most impressive about Lynn's article?

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Lynn's judgment is simple and decisive: "Skating to music cannot be measured."

Lynn's proposition seems resonating the uncertainty principle. The quantum universe defies accuracy in measuring fundamental elements without sacrificing elements themselves. Here, Lynn's declaration appears to comprehensively denounce the validity of point-based system, but that's not Lynn's real point. Measuring skating is on principle not "possible" but methodologically measuring skating is still "probable". Judging is a way of measuring the immeasurable after all. Lynn's point is that it is "impossible" under the COP the ISU was running at that time and its methodological directions. Even the pre-Sochi COP isn't an ultimate solution to the sport according to Lynn. The direction is fundamentally flawed, Lynn points.

But it is the very duty of the ISU and its judges to find the optimized, if not perfect, system and run it with uncompromising integrity. As we all know, that's not what happened for the last few years. Basically, in Lynn's assessment at that time, the COP grading was made and directed too "unprofessionally", "artificially" and "shortsightedly" without proper understanding on fundamentals of the sport and crucially lacks of knowledge on figure skating technicality and expertise, at least as far as the ISU management is concerned.

Lynn's criticism directed to the inborn limit of the COP has more to do with its artificial merits, if you will, while the ISU advocates jump elements without counterbalance, a sign of its depleted visions. In retrospect, it is a presage to arbitrariness --- how can you expect people without visions to contribute to the sport?--- and has become an excuse for a pretentious frame designed by amateurism and its criminal operation, which has at least been proved for the last a few years as we know it.

By asserting "immeasurable skating" Lynn is not necessarily opposing the COP itself. Quantification is inevitable. But the problem is what to quantify and how to promote it. In this, the ISU failed, and that's Lynn's verdict even in a time when the COP was being settled aided by a skater like Yuna Kim. Basically, skating is not completely measurable. Measuring valid points from the immeasurable skating requires understanding about figure skating principles, physical and metaphysical. Based on that map of the sport, something similar to the ideal needs to be presented through judging practices, if not possible to perfectly match the ideal.

In this the ISU is completely bankrupt.

Virtually all skaters today or even in Yuna Kim's time can't connect their skating to music. There are grossly-faked out acting and fractured mess throughout programs with the so called "jumping passes performed to tally up more points" as Lynn laments.

"How is the intangible joy of skating measured? The imagination to create beauty and excitement on ice is unending. Watching skating used to be interesting and relaxing. Now it is monotonous and stress filled."

I can hear Lynn's silent cry in these sentences. If you read it carefully, there are several adjectives: intangible, unending, interesting, and relaxing as opposed to monotonous.

Isn't it astounding that Lynn thinks of even "relaxing" to be a part in competition? I think that's what only a towering skater like Lynn can say.

"Young skaters now have skills and new thinking patterns to watch old skating movies and count up points, and tell why vintage champion’s performances would not have gained many points."

Lynn must have felt helplessness and even injustice at the prospect of how those points system would look down on the long legacy of ladies figure skating, especially of modern figure skating. But at this point, I boldly disagree with Lynn: How could a horde of points based on bogus and fraud be justified and ever be compared to the shining legacy many great champions left behind in history of ladies figure skating?

"Exciting jump sequences of the past that thrilled audiences have been confirmed to now have low point value. A one foot axel and inside axel in a jump combination are considered only a single rotation, easy and insignificant."

At this, Lynn criticizes the COP for dictating unverified (and indiscreetly selected) values and its enforcement regardless of their validity related to figure skating principles.

"The measured point value must also be low for the split flip, walley, and myriads of other magnificent elements; they are dormant. But now, only those elements that gain the most points will be learned, performed and remembered."

Poor Lynn! She is tormented watching all the glorious legacies of old times devalued and dumped into a trash bin in the name of point system, accurately speaking, by dictatorial management. And how right she was then, now that we look back.

What particularly worried Lynn was absence of creativity in figure skating. That kills progress of the sport.

"If the present International Judging System had been in place in the past centuries, the axel, salchow, lutz, Hamill Camel, Biellmann spin and on and on, would never have been invented."

The way the ISU designs the COP and its operational direction failed Lynn and her ideal richly implanted in the sport. Discontinuity of tradition. That's what is in jeopardy. Did Lynn find much need even in Yuna Kim, or maybe skaters like Asada, Kostner or others who didn't blossom as much as Yuna Kim could have developed differently than they were? Who can't answer that for sure? But Lynn appears frightened as if she is about to send her beloved to a doctor with questionable credence. If that self-claimed doctor is to operate a surgery, her fear is not unfounded.

"What parts of these skills and language on ice will be captured under the IJS lid, what parts that drew the awe of audiences will never be revived, what will never be invented and what institutional knowledge of skating will fall through the ice?"

Here, Lynn issues a yellow card to the ISU. The ISU, as a guardian of the sport, is, unequivocally and categorically, found guilty of negligence, abuse, and mismanagement -which would be developed to a grand fraud in Sochi. Indeed, skating is a language. And it has to be captured by the audience. But it has to be through communication, however. It's not through cacophony; not pretentiousness. It's neither phony protocol sheets with bogus points nor institutional artificiality that makes the communication possible. The perpetual seed of ladies figure skating has been genetically embedded within its long traditions, even prior to Lynn, and particularly regenerated by Lynn's ideal. In other words, as long as the institution is equipped with sanity and integrity, the rich tradition of figure skating will continue to facilitate the due growth. It's because the seed is in its genetic codes. Of course, some thick-headed and politics-oriented judges won't be able to even understand what that is, but all you need is the least knowledge of figure skating and a spoonful of common sense that appreciate its true values. Unfortunately what we have today is : A sink hole in the outlandish outlook of the COP and with it, as Lynn put it, " [the] institutional knowledge of skating will fall through the ice[?]"

Yes, the ISU and its fraudulent theater have already caved in.

"The system no longer assures knowledge, security, individuality and freedom on ice. Longevity of skating is sacrificed."

As I mentioned before, Lynn's lamentation is a paradox. Some time ago I wrote an article in which I likened Lynn to Einstein. Yes, very few may contrast more distinctly than figure skating and Physics, but Einstein and Lynn share a towering greatness in each field. Lynn freed the sport from compulsories, the very foundation of the sport. It has been 40 years since modern figure skating kicked off with Lynn, but after all those years, the sport still lacks of the virtues - knowledge, security, individuality and freedom - that Lynn breathed into the sport.

"Now, too often skaters never start, or soon stop, competing. Coaches don’t want to teach competitive skaters. Talented choreographers stop choreographing. It is bland at best, or boring, to choreograph for skaters who have never learned much of the skilled language on ice."

In conclusion, a variety of resources that could have enriched the sport have lost but a real loss is depletion of skaters who never learned much of the skilled language.

"Figure skating enthusiasts, are we having fun measuring yet? If measurable defines sport, then anyone who can best measure the distance between their eyebrows is performing a sport."

"Objective measurement is causing figure skating to fall from popular grace. The technique is wrong for enthusing skaters to keep skating, general audiences to watch, and news media to retain interest. Measured numbers tell the story."

Lynn says waning popularity of the sport results from objective measurement. Some said, if my memory is correct, Lynn's diagnosis on the waning popularity of the sport was wrong-footed. But I think what Lynn means here is basically that "objective measurement" the ISU proposes in the COP has proved to be "wrong measurement" or "wrong objectification". Lynn's criticism points that those measured are not as much crucial to the sport as the ISU would like to propagate, and those "immeasurable" - but crucial - are painted as of less merit and dumped like outmoded junks. That is, the "measured points" that should have told the story "never actually" does it. Look at those Russian skating and its over 200 points!

Do you see anything valid in those numbers except fake objectification? Your common sense are forced to submit to its artificially manufactured point-numeration that becomes a make-believe. Now we are officially living in the era of lie and fraud. Commentators today are praising those Russian deformity, by painting it with "fantastic and superb" in order to make the institution look nice, but are you buying it? Ha! Some objective measurement! Was it "objective"? Was it even "measured"? Is there anything "objective" there or anything "measured"?

When Lynn says "objective measurement", she means "wrong objectification" engineered by blinded totalitarianism. In consequence, what we see today is judges-conspired fake measurement that becomes a by-product of dead legality. By advocating triple jumps, yet neglecting quality control thereof or even worse, fabricating the measurement thereon, for example fake GOE and PCS, the ISU not only wrongly objectifies but also fabricates the measurement itself.

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