At the 2010 AT&T U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, Mirai Nagasu was in first place after the short program. Rachael Flatt was in third, behind Sasha Cohen. Flatt skated before Nagasu. She skated great. Nagasu's performance followed. She also skated beautifully and put much personality into her program. The audience and the television commentators were sure she had won. Then the scores came. Nagasu placed third in the freeskate and dropped to second place overall. What happened?
Triple Jumps Were Scored As Double Jumps
At a figure skating competition, each move in an ice skater's program is given a base value and a skater gets credit for every element correctly attempted. Jumps, spins and footwork all have an assigned level of difficulty (base value), and it is up to the technical specialist to assign a level of difficulty to each element.
In Nagasu's case, the technical panel decided that she didn't complete the required number of revolutions on three triple jumps.
Figure skaters are required to complete two and three-fourths revolutions of a triple jump to get full credit, but anything less than that is called "cheating." The jump is then downgraded.
The takeoff is also noticed. Some figure skaters pre-rotate their jumps which means that they turn on the ice before they jump.
The Technical Score Was Low
The base value of some of Nagasu's jumps were scored only as doubles. She was given credit for only three triple jumps, but Rachael Flatt got credit for all seven triple jumps she attempted, so Nagasu lost about ten base points because of the downgrades. Her "perfect" program, was given a much lower technical score.
A Lower Grade of Execution (GOE) Was Given
Judges give a "grade of execution" (GOE) for each element by giving plus or minus grades (+1, +2, +3, -1, -2, -3). A fall automatically gets a -3. In addition, a fall gets a 1.00 deduction. The plus or minus values are then added or deducted from the base value of each element. This is how the skater's technical score for each element is determined. The scores for all the elements in a skater's program are then added up. That is how a skater's total technical score is obtained.
When the judges awarded a "Grade of Execution" (GOE) to Nagasu's jumps, they gave her either a "O," which meant the jump was "just fine," or they gave her plus or minus scores. Their opinion affected Nagasu's total element score.
The Program Component Score May Have Been Affected
In addition, at figure skating competitions, points are also awarded for program components. The total score given to figure skaters for the program components is called the component score. The judges give points on a scale from 0 to 10 for program components. The five components are:
- Skating Skills - skating ability
- Transitions - movement between elements
- Performance - style, carriage, unison
- Choreography - quality of the program's choreography
- Interpretation - a skater's expression and style
At some figure skating competitions, a competitor can win an event based on the points earned from the component score. In that area, Mirai Nagasu (61.78) did score slightly higher than Rachael Flatt (61.71), but her lead in that area was not enough to keep her in first place since she lost so much ground in the technical area.