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New skating scoring system rewards athleticism above artistry, and that's a good thing

Fourth-Place Medal

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If you watched Saturday night's ladies' free skate, you were likely moved by Mirai Nagasu's routine. Her jumps, spins, spirals and footwork all beautifully interpreted her music and showed off the 16-year-old's strengths as a skater. Many people watching her routine -- including me -- thought Nagasu won the national title over Rachael Flatt.

We were wrong.

Nagasu had under-rotated a few of her jumps, and using skating's new rules, Flatt's seven triple jumps easily trumped Nagasu's three.

The new scoring system replaced the familiar perfect 6.0 system. Now, skaters' elements add up to a total score. Flatt broke 200 points with her combined scores from the short program and free skate. Though Nagasu's routine was amazing, it didn't have as many of the perfectly-executed, high-flying jumps that Flatt's routine did.

The new system rewards athletic achievement over artistry. Skating purists have bemoaned this change.

“This is the problem with the scoring system,” Walbert said. “The crowd thought Mirai won, and she didn’t because of something the crowd couldn’t see — a quarter under-rotation on her jumps. They’re making way too much of that. It’s getting to the point where it’s ridiculous. It hurts the sport.”

Skating purists love the artistry of the sport, and it does add to the beauty of it. Who can forget the extended figure-eight spiral that was Nancy Kerrigan's trademark? It was a breath-taking move, but it's hard to measure the amount of breaths that were taken away by a skating maneuver. The fact that Kerrigan held the spiral for over six seconds? That's easy to measure.

And that is the strength of the new system: objectivity. The 2002 judging scandal that resulted in two figure skating pairs receiving gold medals would have been less likely to happen under this system.

Not only that, this is the Olympics, an ATHLETIC competition. If you want artistry above all else, go to the ballet. It's beautiful and well worth your time, but in the Olympics, athleticism should be rewarded.

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