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Zayak's code 2:

Updated on November 2, 2014

The great Peggy was cold to Zayak

Peggy Fleming, whose visionary skating became a role model for Janet Lynn, the founder of modern figure skating, was hostile to Zayak's skating. Peggy was never complementary of Zayak.

Peggy preferred Rosalyn Sumners, rightfully so. Sumners was closer to artistic skating with emphasis in style, line and extensions though Sumers wasn't quite as desirable as Peggy could have hoped for.

And who would gainsay Peggy? If Dick for men's skating, Peggy for ladies figure skating.

All great skaters' moves including Yuna Kim's derive from Peggy Fleming. Moreover, Peggy's concerns about Zayak was in fact accurate when it comes to the ideal of figure skating.

Thus, Peggy's criticism of Zayak's skating makes sense in her efforts to preserve the ideal of the sport within the rapidly evolving jumping technique.

So to Peggy or the ISU at the time, Zayak's talent in jump as opposed to her other elements, became a nuisance.

Elaine Zayak in 1994


In order to evaluate Zayak in the context of figure skating history, you need to see her within the frame of figure skating at her time.

Here comes what ifs. What if Zayak was free to add multiple jumps? What if Zayak looked like Fleming? When a willowy dame with marvelous charm demonstrated incredible show, would they still complain?

To be honest, I think not.

It was not until Zayak had thrown triples that the ISU began to realize that figure skating needs diverse triples to be desirable. But if the ISU says that, that's a hypocritical lie.

It may not have been possible for Zayak to ever reign her days like many great champions even if she were allowed to throw multiple triples.

But it would take typically years for skaters to learn triple jumps. Therefore Zayak rule was virtually an ex post facto law.

Yuna Kim and Elaine Zayak

Like Zayak, Yuna Kim was also checked. In Kim's time, the ISU's focus was how to reduce gap between Kim and other skaters and make the format more competition friendly. It wasn't about ideal of the sport.

The argument was that GOE cannot surpass the basic values and so on, but nobody can validate the basic values even though it's the ISU prerogative to determine them. More importantly, you can't be sure if your fall on double axel is optically less damaging than one on triple lutz.

Your fall on spin or on spiral may be more damaging than even fall on jump. What impairs the whole program is not necessarily fall. Again, there isn't technical points in figure skating from the beginning.

So it isn't quite as persuasive as you think to say that GOE reduction at that time is a way of correcting.

You can't help wondering why Yuna Kim alone became a beneficiary from the then COP system. This only testifies that those arguments actually won't stand.

The point is that both for Zayak and Kim, the ISU's actions were far from correcting systems; it was rather institutional culling on an individual in the name of correction.

Of course, the rule changes themselves are not entirely or retrospectively wrong but it is indisputably clear that both Zayak and Kim were treated unfairly due to their being exceptional.

The difference is it was for the ideal of the sport in Zayak's time while it was not in Kim's.

Elaine Zayak in 1994

Peggy Fleming, a passionate defender of the ideal

The rules can be changed and modified. Nothing is wrong about that, but we can't judge Zayak by what appears to be retroactively enacted.

Rather, it is fair to say that Zayak was deprived of what she could have been entitled to at that time, or at least the ISU had no vision of the sport at the time until it met Zayak.

At least Zayak was a skater who advanced faster than they thought possible. And the ISU feared that her jumping ability might appeal too strong to the judges.

Skaters might have thought jumps are easier to take on; or artistry is too vague to grasp; or artistry had been used up in Lynn's time.

Whatever it was, to skaters jumping technique was a new world. Once skaters freed from the "figured" corset, skaters saw salvation in jump; they were all shooting to the sky.

Zayak's skating unnerved even Peggy Fleming. Peggy never gave a nod at Zayak. Peggy's annoyance at Zayak's emergence was understandable; Zayak's jumping Hallelujah could have been sacrilege to Peggy.

What do you think Sochi Scandal will do to the future of figure skating?

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Zayak rule and Sochi Scandal

I am convinced, perhaps very sentimentally, that Dick, Peggy and many of us who loved figure skating felt sorry for Zayak and wanted to apologize for injustice fell upon her regardless of its belated validity, and tell her how blessed we once were with her talent.

I can predict one thing about Yuna Kim. Just as people applauded Zayak in 1994 in a symbolic gesture of apology, so will Kim receive a similar tribute one way or another.

Of course, for Kim, the ISU owes more than apology because Sochi Scandal cannot be passed by without due reinstatement as long as the sport stays alive unlike Zayak's case.


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