It was the biggest spectacle of the season so far, and I’m not talking about the Grand Prix Final, where the best skaters of the season gathered to compete in the second biggest fully-international competition of the season. It was the generally-unheralded NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany, where Olympic champion Yuna Kim made her return to competition over the weekend. Kim competed for the first time since taking silver at the 2011 World Championships.
Just how big was it?
Based on the stats of my posts alone, the amount of interest in the competition rivaled the last day of the World Championships earlier this year. Of course, the hits for Examiner Figure Skating were combined with interest in the Grand Prix Final. But even if you account for it, the NRW Trophy, and arguably, Kim’s performances alone, generated more page views to Examiner Figure Skating than any of the previous Grand Prix events this season.
And before anyone makes the claim that it was just South Korean fans, get this – there were more page views from both the U.S. and Japan than there were from South Korea.
But was she fairly scored?
Kim’s two performances at NRW Trophy earned her the highest short program and total scores of the ladies this season, and the second highest free skate score, just a half-point behind Mao Asada’s free skate score at the Grand Prix Final. I tweeted after the short program one of the judges’ marks, which were absurdly high. And not surprisingly, I got an earful from a few skating fans. So I’m revisiting both the short and the free skate to see if, indeed, these scores were objectively (and subjectively) fair.
As I have referenced in a previous post, Kim, Mao Asada, and Ashley Wagner now hold the top three scores in the short program, free skate, and overall total.
- Short program: Kim (72.27), Asada (67.95), Wagner (66.44)
- Free skate: Asada (129.84), Kim (129.34), Wagner (127.76)
- Total score: Kim (201.61), Asada (196.80), Wagner (190.63)
Short program WATCH
The first thing that I need to point out is – it was a clean short, and with the most difficult technical content currently being attempted by any of the ladies. That counts for a lot, especially when there are all of three jump elements in the short. As a comparison, here are the jumps-only base values for the skaters with the three highest short program scores of the season:
- Kim (19.03): triple lutz-triple toe (10.10), triple flip (5.30), double axel* (3.63)
- Asada (16.01): double axel (3.30), triple flip-double loop (7.10), triple loop* (5.61)
- Wagner (15.84): triple flip-double toe (6.60), double axel* (3.63), triple loop* (5.61)
*Indicates a 10% bonus for jumps performed in the second half
The hit to Kim’s base value, however, was that she was credited for Level 3s in all four of her non-jump elements. Both Asada and Wagner, in their season-high scoring programs, achieved Level 4s for all four non-jump elements. So the base values become a lot closer – Kim (30.53), Asada (29.31), Wagner (28.94).
So all else equal, should Kim’s advantage of just over point in base value over the Asada and Wagner have increased to four to six points when GOEs and PCS are taken into account? Not based on the her NRW Trophy performance.
- JUMPS – In terms of jumps, the judges got their GOEs pretty much right. The triple lutz-triple toe was done strongly, though the toe was not as big as we are used to seeing from Kim. The triple flip was a beauty. The preceding steps going in prior to the setup for the jump were adequate. Could they have been harder? Sure, but the requirement was satisfied. The double axel had a late checkout but the bauer entrance and the speed and height justified a +1. The +2s were generous, and the +3 was outright incorrect, but in the big picture of things, it didn’t affect the score that much.
- SPINS – This is where some of the marks were questionable. Spins have never particularly been standout elements for Kim, and they were average to above average at NRW. The biggest culprit was the final combination spin, which ended up getting a GOE-bump of 1.00. The mid-spin jump was labored and the spin as a whole wasn’t particularly fast. Overall, I would have had the spins probably a half-point lower. Again, not too big of an effect.
- COMPONENTS – Obviously, we are talking about cross-competition comparisons, so without Asada and Wagner on the ice competing with Kim, it’s tough to judge their relative marks. That said, Kim’s short was executed fine, but not superbly. Her average PCS marks were low- to high-8s. With a number of judges giving out 9s and above for some marks. I won’t go into the specific marks, but for the most part, low-8s would have been correct for that performance, which was well-executed and performed, but nothing that made it more stellar than the short programs that Asada and Wagner have delivered this season.
In comparing the short program scores across Kim, Asada, and Wagner, 72.27 was probably a couple points too high for that effort. The program has 70+ potential, for sure, but not the way that it was skated over the weekend. Something more around a 69-70 would have been more appropriate, given the marks that have been given this season to Asada and Wagner.
Free skate WATCH
Even with the triple lutz-triple toe and a second lutz, Kim’s jumps-only base value trails that of Asada due to multiple factors – 1) repeating the triple salchow, 2) doing double toes instead of double loops (the double toe is worth 0.50 less than the double loop), and 3) not having a seventh triple planned.
- Asada (45.38): 3loop (5.10), 2axel3toe (7.40), 3flip (5.30), 3lutz (6.00), 3salchow (4.20), 3loop2loop* (7.59), 3flip2loop2loop* (9.79)
- Kim (42.92): 3lutz3toe (10.10), 3flip (5.30), 3salchow (4.20), 3lutz* (6.60), 2axel2toe2loop* (7.04), 3salchow2toe* (6.05), 2axel* (3.63)
- Wagner (42.13): 3flip2toe2toe (7.90), 2axel2toe (4.60), 3salchow (4.20), 3loop* (5.61), 3lutz* (6.60), 3loop-2axel sequence* (7.39), 3flip* (5.83)
Note here that Wagner has not maxed out her technical repertoire. She will likely increase her base value by adding a triple toe to one of her first two combinations, which would increase her jumps-only base value to 44.93.
Likewise, Kim can add a triple loop to her program, though it’s a jump that poses more problems for her than any of the five triples have to either Asada or Wagner this season. As her program layout stands, it would seem that she would place the loop where first salchow is and replace the final double axel with the second salchow. That change would change her jumps-only base value to 44.81.
Back to NRW, all of my above thoughts about the PCS marks that Kim received more or less still stands, though I do think her free skate was better performed than her short was. Almost all of the elements were marked pretty fairly, with the exception, again of the final combination spin, which was even less well-executed than the one in the short program.
But overall, the 129.34 given for that free skate, relative to the scores that Asada and Wagner have received this season, is fairly correct. Remember that Kim, when flawless and brilliant, like she was at the 2010 Olympics, has the potential to go high-130s to low-140s in her free skate.
What’s the verdict?
In a nutshell, her short program score was a couple of points too high and her free skate score was just about right. But it’s also necessary to point out that in figure skating, scores are usually only relevant relative to the scores given to the other programs in the same competition. In that sense, Kim’s blowout win was more than justified.
But until we get Kim, Asada, and Wagner on the same ice together in the same competition, it is much tougher to compare what they have earned across competitions.
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