20 Sep 2004 21:46:15
Sandra Loosemore
Competitive Figure Skating FAQ: Rules and Regulations


Archive-name: sports/skating/ice/figure/rules
Last-modified: 20 Sep 2004


COMPETITIVE FIGURE SKATING FAQ:
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RULES AND REGULATIONS
=====================

This article is part of the FAQ list for (amateur) competitive figure
skating. This section covers rules governing the sport of figure
skating.

This FAQ list is posted monthly to rec.sport.skating.ice.figure. Send
corrections and suggestions to sandra@frogsonice.com.

This file is available in both plain-text and HTML/Web versions. You can
get to the HTML version from SkateWeb Figure Skating Page at URL:

http://www.frogsonice.com/skateweb/

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Table of Contents

* [1] How is figure skating scored?
* [2] Is it true that the Code of Points prevents judges from cheating
or engaging in "block judging"?
* [3] Wouldn't it be better to use all the judges' marks?
* [4] What about the old 6.0 ordinal system?
* [5] What about rules for professional competitions?
* [6] Are professional skaters allowed to compete in the Olympics? Are
amateurs allowed to be paid for skating?
* [7] Why can't skaters do back flips in competition?
* [8] What is the "Katarina Rule"?
* [9] What is the "Zayak Rule"?
* [10] How do they decide which skaters get to go to the Olympics or
world championships?
* [11] Why doesn't the US send its top skaters to the Four Continents
Championships?
* [12] Why was [well-known skater] not disqualified when she had
trouble with her skate laces?
* [13] How was [some skater] able to compete in both the World Junior
championships and senior-level competitions in the same season?
* [14] Why do the TV commentators keep patronizingly referring to women
skaters as "ladies" instead of "women"?
* [15] Isn't it unfair for the judges to watch the practice sessions?
Aren't they supposed to judge only what happens in the actual
competition?
* [16] Why is vocal music permitted in dance competitions? I thought
vocal music wasn't permitted in eligible competition.
* [17] Why are there four skaters on the podium at US Nationals instead
of only three?
* [18] Why do they bother having the World Championships immediately
after the Olympics?
* [19] Where do they get those judges from?
* [20] Why do the judges all sit together? Doesn't this just encourage
them to cheat?
* [21] [TV commentator] says that skaters are marked down for being
young! Isn't this unfair?
* [22] [TV commentator] says that under the 6.0 system the judges won't
give high marks to the first skater! Isn't this unfair?

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[1] How is figure skating scored?

In 2004, the International Skating Union voted to completely change
the way skating is scored, abandoning the traditional 6.0 ordinal
system for a new system called the "Code of Points". The general
idea behind the Code of Points system is that every aspect of the
skating is marked individually.

Technical elements attempted by the skaters are identified by a paid
technical specialist, informally known as the "caller". The judges
then assign a "grade of execution" (GoE) to each element. A table in
the rulebook determines the base value of each element and the
deduction or bonus corresponding to the GoE value.

The judges also assign five overall "program components" scores on a
10.0 scale, for Skating Skills, Transitions, Performance/Execution,
Choreography, and Interpretation. In theory, these are also supposed
to correspond to specific criteria, but in practice, the judges have
so far shown themselves unable to distinguish these criteria and have
simply used the program components as a subjective valuation of the
program, or to fiddle the ranking of the skaters as they did under
the old ordinal system.

A secret and anonymous random subset of the judges on the panel is
chosen by the scoring computer. Of the selected judges, for each
element and program component, the high and low marks are discarded
and the remaining marks are averaged. The skaters are ranked by
their total scores.

The singles and pair events each have two parts, the short program
and the free skate. Both programs are scored similarly and require
the skaters to complete a list of required elements; the difference
is only in the length of the program and number of elements. (There
is nothing truly "free" about the "free skate" any more.)

Scoring for ice dancing is similar, except that skaters do one or two
compulsory dances selected from a set that rotates yearly and an
original dance to a rhythm that also changes each year, as well as a
free dance. In ice dance, the "program components" are slightly
different, and the marks are multiplied by various weighting factors
instead of all being given equal weight.

For the 2004-2005 season, the compulsory dances are the Golden Waltz,
Rhumba, and Midnight Blues. The original dance is a "Rhythm
Combination" including at least two of Slow Foxtrot, Quickstep, or
Charleston.

For the 2005-2006 season, the compulsory dances are the Ravensburger
Waltz, Yankee Polka, and Tango Romantica. The original dance is a
"Latin Combination" including two or three rhythms drawn from Mambo,
Cha Cha, Samba, Merengue, Rhumba, and Salsa.

[2] Is it true that the Code of Points prevents judges from cheating or
engaging in "block judging"?

No. Because of the complexity of the system and the secrecy and
anonymity of the judging, all the Code of Points does is make it
harder for the public to identify instances of cheating or block
judging, or even just judges who are incompetent. There is nothing
in the system itself that prevents judges from manipulating their
marks deliberately.

[3] Wouldn't it be better to use all the judges' marks?

Yes, using the marks of the full panel would give a result that is
statistically more accurate, but the ISU people who designed and
approved the system are not statisticians. In addition, the ISU is
adamant that randomness and secrecy are necessary to prevent any
accountability of the judges to the public.

[4] What about the old 6.0 ordinal system?

The 6.0-based ordinal system is still in use in some countries that
have not yet adopted the Code of Points for their own internal
competititions, including the United States. Under this system,
judges assign skaters two marks on a 6.0 scale, one for technical
merit and one for presentation.

The marks from each judge are translated into rankings called
"ordinals". If you think of each skater's marks as the rows of the
scoring sheet, then the ordinals are the rankings of the skaters
within each judge's column.

The original version of the system (still in use in the US), called
the "majority ordinal" system, the placements within a competition
phase are based on which skater has the largest majority of ordinals
for the highest place. For example, if there is a skater who has a
majority of ordinals for first place, then that skater is the winner.
Another variation that was used in international competitions between
1998 and 2004 was called "OBO", or "one-by-one", and involved
comparing skaters' ordinals pairwise and totalling the number of
"wins" in each of these comparisons for each skater.

Under the ordinal system, the combined results from the short program
and free skate are computed by multiplying the placements in each
phase by a weighting factor and adding the factored placements
together. The factors are 0.5 for the short program and 1.0 for the
free skate.

[5] What about rules for professional competitions?

In general, there AREN'T any rules for non-sanctioned events --each
competition seems to have its own format and judging system. Most of
the pro events are invitation-only, and often skaters are guaranteed
large appearance fees in addition to the announced prize money.

Pro-am ("open") events have historically had a variety of formats,
including team events with few, if any, rules, and judging as silly
as that at any of the pro competitions; events consisting of a
regulation short program and an interpretive free skate; and events
consisting of interpretive free skating only. Invitational
competitions for eligible skaters only may also use nonstandard
formats.

[6] Are professional skaters allowed to compete in the Olympics? Are
amateurs allowed to be paid for skating?

The policy of the international governing body for skating, the ISU,
has been that any skater who takes part in a competition that is not
sanctioned by the ISU (or one of its national governing bodies, such
as the USFSA) loses eligibility to compete in future "amateur"
events.

Loss of eligibility isn't tied to competing professionally in a
particular discipline of skating, or with a particular partner. A
skater who competes as a pro in singles is ineligible to compete in
ISU competitions in pairs as well as singles; and members of pro pair
and dance teams who subsequently change partners can't become
eligible again, even if their new partner is still eligible.

The ISU offered professional skaters a one-time option to reinstate
as eligible competitors between 1992 and 1995. However, this
opportunity has closed, and professionals may no longer reinstate or
compete internationally as Olympic-eligible skaters.

Sometimes professional skaters talk about wanting to reinstate to
compete in the Olympics again, but they cannot do so unless ISU
changes the rules again, and this is unlikely to happen. Many people
consider reinstatement to be a failed policy because it did not have
the intended effect of bringing all skaters back into ISU-sponsored
competitions on a permanent basis. The ISU's current policy is aimed
at encouraging skaters to retain their eligibility by offering prize
money and other financial incentives.

Appearing in an unsanctioned professional competition is the only
activity that the ISU now defines as being off-limits for eligible
skaters. As long as they have the permission of their national
federations, so-called amateur skaters can now be paid for doing
tours and iceshows, competitions, endorsements, TV appearances, and
the like, as well as coaching. It is more accurate to refer to their
status as "eligible" than "amateur".

For example, skaters may appear with Stars on Ice without losing
their eligible status. The reason why eligible skaters typically do
not appear on the US tour is that its schedule conflicts with the
eligible competitive season, but a number of active competitors have
appeared in their spring and summer tours of Canada, Europe and Asia.

Since there's very little practical difference any more between
"eligible" and "ineligible" skaters, many people wonder why the ISU
doesn't do away with the distinction entirely and open up all
competitions to all skaters. The ISU's monopoly over the World
Championships and Olympic Games is both the reason for their policy,
and the means they have of enforcing it. For example, the fact that
they can ban people who take part in unsanctioned competitions
discourages skaters from taking part in (and hence lending
credibility to) any other supposed "world championships" which might
be put on by private promoters or by a breakaway federation or
skater's union, and which might conceivably rival or displace the
ISU's own World Championships if such a check were not in place.

[7] Why can't skaters do back flips in competition?

Basically, because the consensus in the skating community is that
back flips aren't really a skating move, and that if they were
allowed in competition, the character of the sport might change in
ways that are seen as undesirable. (It doesn't really have anything
to do with whether the skater lands on one foot or two.) The same
reasoning applies to other forbidden moves, such as pair-skating
moves where the man swings the lady around by her feet, or lifts
above the shoulder in ice dancing.

Note that pairs tricks such as Detroiters and head-bangers were
originally banned because they originated in, and were strongly
identified with, show skating, and the governing bodies for the sport
explicitly wanted competitive pair skating to keep its own separate
character. It used to even be encoded in the rulebook that
"performances suggestive of carnivals or shows" were forbidden in
pairs skating.

These elements are not forbidden specifically for safety reasons,
either, as other pair-skating elements, such as lifts where the woman
is carried or swung in a head-down position, are also very dangerous.
In fact, in 1998 the ISU Congress basically ignored a recommendation
from their own medical advisors to ban such lifts.

[8] What is the "Katarina Rule"?

This refers to the guidelines for skaters' costumes that were adopted
after Katarina Witt showed up at the 1988 European championships
wearing a skimpy showgirl costume trimmed with feathers, and no
skirt. (Many people were dismayed by the increasing emphasis on
theatrical costuming and displays of pulchritude, rather than
athleticism.) As a result, ladies were required to wear skirts and
pants "covering the hips and posterior" until this rule was repealed
in 2004, allowing women to wear tights or trousers in addition to
skirts. Men are required to wear trousers and not tights. Clothing
is also supposed to be free from "excessive decoration", such as
feathers that can come loose and create a safety hazard on the ice.

[9] What is the "Zayak Rule"?

This refers to the rule that disallows skaters from repeating the
same triple or quadruple jump over and over in their free skating
program. Skaters can only repeat two triple or quadruple jumps, only
if at least one of the attempts at each repeated jump is in a jump
combination or sequence, and no triple or quadruple jump may be
attempted more than twice.

Note that this rule does NOT, by itself, put an absolute limit on the
number of triple jumps allowed in a program. That limit is now
enforced by the restrictions on the number of elements that were
adopted with the Code of Points.

This rule is associated with Elaine Zayak, who for a time was
including up to four triple toe loops in her competitive programs,
but it was actually a more general trend in the early 1980's for
skaters to pack their programs with repeated jumps. The rules were
changed to reward skaters with a greater variety of skills.

[10] How do they decide which skaters get to go to the Olympics or world
championships?

The ISU allocates the slots to the different countries depending on
the placement of their skaters at the previous year's world
championships.

In past years, the formula was based on the placement of the highest
skater from each country in each discipline. Now the formula is
based on adding the placements of the two best competitors from the
country. Competitors who didn't qualify for the short program or
original dance are arbitrarily assigned 20 points, competitors who
didn't qualify for the free skate get 18 points, and anyone who
finishes lower than 16th overall gets 16 points. There is now an
exception made for skaters who have to withdraw in the middle of the
competition because of injury or equipment damage.

For a 2- or 3-competitor team in the previous year, 1-13 points
qualifies 3 entries, 14-28 points qualifies 2 entries, and more than
28 qualifies only 1 entry.

For a 1-competitor team in the previous year, 1-2 points qualifies 3
entries, 3-10 points qualifies 2 entries and more than 10 points
qualifies 1 entry.

Because the number of skaters participating in the singles
competitions has become very large in recent years (making it hard to
judge these events), there is now a qualifying round competition at
the world championships to reduce the number who make it to the final
round to a fixed limit of 30. Skaters perform their long programs
only in the qualifying round. There is also a cut made after the
short program in all disciplines to further reduce the field to the
top 24 for the free skate.

There is no qualifying round competition at the Olympic games, but
the ISU has instead strictly limited the number of skaters in each
event, again giving priority to countries whose skaters placed higher
at the previous year's worlds. For the 1998 Olympics, a qualifying
competition was held in the fall of 1997 to fill up the last few
slots in each discipline, so that countries who did not previously
qualify at worlds could have a second chance.

In some countries, the national skating federation and/or Olympic
federation impose additional rules on qualifying. For instance,
thanks to "Eddie the Eagle" (the frighteningly incompetent ski
jumper), the British Olympic federation now won't send athletes to
the Olympics unless they have shown they have a reasonable chance to
place in the top half of the field. Similarly, Canada sets
requirements for Olympic qualification based on minimum placements at
past international events.

In the US, the teams for the Olympic games and world championships
normally consist of the top finishers from the US national
championships. In theory, the selection committee is permitted to
deviate from the consecutive order of finish, but in practice about
the only time they do so is when a top skater from the previous year
is unable to compete at nationals due to injury. (There is actually
a legal reason for the loophole in the selection procedure: if the
national championships were considered "Olympic trials", the TV
rights and revenues would belong to the US Olympic Committee rather
than the USFSA.)

In turn, skaters qualify to compete in the US national championships
by skating in regional and sectional qualifying competitions. Canada
has a similar three-level hierarchy of qualifying competitions.

[11] Why doesn't the US send its top skaters to the Four Continents
Championships?

US Figure Skating DOES offer the top finishers at US Nationals the
opportunity to compete at the Four Continents Championships every
year, and every year, the top singles skaters choose to turn it down.
Nobody (other than possibly ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta) really
seems to think it is a good idea to FORCE skaters to compete at
events they don't want to enter.

Part of the trouble is that the timing of the Four Continents
Championships has invariably been inconveniently close to US
Nationals and/or the Grand Prix Final and/or the Olympic Games, and
it often involves fatiguing travel to Asia. Aside from wanting to
concentrate on preparations for the more prestigious World
Championships or Olympic Games, the top US singles skaters generally
have enough other competition and performance opportunities during
the year that the prize money isn't enough to tempt them to compete
at Four Continents. It's a different story for the pairs and dancers
because they have fewer opportunities to make money.

[12] Why was [well-known skater] not disqualified when she had trouble
with her skate laces?

The rules specifically allow for situations where skaters have
problems with their equipment or clothing breaking that make it
difficult or dangerous for them to continue skating, as well as
similar problems with their music or the ice surface. Prior to the
2000-2001 season, the rule used to be that the referee could allow
the skaters either to immediately pick up where they left off, or to
reskate their entire program after all the other skaters in the group
finished, depending on the nature of the problem and how long it
would take to fix it. Now the rules have been changed to disallow
the second option; skaters are given up to two minutes to correct the
problem and pick up mid-program again, and they are disqualified if
they cannot continue.

[13] How was [some skater] able to compete in both the World Junior
championships and senior-level competitions in the same season?

Eligibility for ISU junior events such as the World Junior
championships is based strictly on the age of the skaters. It's not
uncommon (especially among European skaters) to continue to compete
at World Juniors after also starting to compete in senior-level
international events. In some countries (notably Japan and Russia),
skaters who are age-eligible can also compete at both junior and
senior nationals in the same year.

In US events, on the other hand, "junior" and "senior" refer to skill
levels rather than age. Skaters who have passed their tests and
qualified at to skate at the senior level may still be selected to
compete at ISU junior events as long as they meet the age
requirements. Likewise, there are some US juniors who are too old to
compete as ISU juniors.

The ISU's current age restrictions are:

* For ISU senior championships (Worlds, Europeans, and Four
Continents) and the Olympic Games, competitors must have reached
the age of 15 by the previous July 1st.

* For other international senior events, competitors must have
reached the age of 14 by the previous July 1st.

* For all international junior events, competitors must have
reached the age of 13 by the previous July 1st, but not yet 19
(except for men competing in pairs and ice dancing, where the
upper limit is 21).

It used to be that skaters who placed in the top three at the World
Junior Championships received an age exemption to compete in the ISU
senior championships, but that loophole was abolished in 2000.

[14] Why do the TV commentators keep patronizingly referring to women
skaters as "ladies" instead of "women"?

"Ladies" is the official and traditional terminology of the ISU.
Back in the old days, figure skating clubs were typically snobbish
social organizations where the rich and well-connected could hobnob
with one another, and it would have been a gross insult NOT to use
the term "ladies" to refer to the kind of rich society women involved
in the sport. It's very similar to the elitist traditions
surrounding country clubs and golf, another sport where women
athletes are still referred to as "ladies".

Nowadays, most people don't take the terminology very seriously,
often using the term "ladies" with tongue planted firmly in cheek and
an attitude of exaggerated reverence for the traditions of the sport
that long predate contemporary notions of political correctness.

[15] Isn't it unfair for the judges to watch the practice sessions?
Aren't they supposed to judge only what happens in the actual
competition?

It's actually a GOOD thing for the judges to watch the official
practices at competitions, because it REDUCES the possibility that
skaters will be judged by reputation or past performances instead of
the way they actually skate at the event in question.

Chances are, the judges have already seen some of the competitors at
previous events and are somewhat familiar with their strengths and
weaknesses as well as the layout and content of their programs. If
the judges didn't go to practices, then the other skaters that the
judges weren't already familiar with would be at a disadvantage. Not
only does attending practices give the judges an equal opportunity to
see ALL of the competitors, but it also gives them an impression of
how they are skating NOW as opposed to during past events or previous
seasons.

The judges have an awful lot of things they have to look for during a
performance, and it can be very difficult to catch everything when
seeing a program for the first time. The skating goes by very
quickly and there are no slow-motion replays. So becoming familiar
with the skaters' programs in practices helps the judges do a better
job in evaluating them in the actual competition. If the judges have
a rough idea of the planned technical content of the program and
where in the program the big jumps are, they're less likely to miss
them in the final performance because they blinked at the wrong time
or were writing notes or otherwise distracted. The practices also
give the judges an opportunity to observe if the skaters are doing
anything unusual or especially difficult, so that they know to look
for these elements and give the skaters extra credit if they're
completed. (For example, a lutz with an unusual footwork entry might
be confused with an easier flip jump on first viewing, or a quadruple
jump might be mistaken for a triple.) Conversely, practices also give
the judges a chance to observe whether skaters have particular
problems with faulty technique that they should especially watch for
during the competition.

Besides keeping track of what technical elements the skaters
complete, the judges also have to pay attention to factors like the
difficulty and variety of connecting steps, whether the program is
balanced in terms of its layout and use of the ice surface, and the
skaters' speed, carriage, and ease of movement in harmony with the
music. It can be hard to evaluate the overall structure and
choreography of a program at the same time that you're looking for
specific technical elements, so again it's helpful for the judges to
be able to make some preliminary observations in the practice
sessions. These factors generally don't change much in between
practice and performance anyway.

In short, while judges are supposed to judge only what they see
during the actual competition, watching the practices gives them a
better idea of what to look for, so that they see the right things.

[16] Why is vocal music permitted in dance competitions? I thought vocal
music wasn't permitted in eligible competition.

The ISU develops requirements for the music and choreography for the
original dance each year that are specific to the particular rhythm
that is being skated. In the case of the jive for the 1997-98
season, they decided to allow vocal music because coaches and skaters
complained about the difficulty of finding suitable music without
lyrics. (Similar problems were encountered some years earlier when
rock'n'roll was the designated rhythm.) Apparently the ISU has
decided that dance would now be too boring without vocal music so the
rules change to allow vocals has carried over into subsequent years,
and to the free dance as well as the original dance.

Incidentally, this is not the first or only time that vocal music has
been used in eligible competition. Up until 1990, there were
actually no rules prohibiting the use of music with vocals in the
singles and pairs events and it was simply a tradition not to do so.
When a few skaters used vocal music in the 1989-1990 season (notably
US skaters Erik Larson and Natasha Kuchiki & Todd Sand, who both
skated to opera selections), the ISU reacted by closing the loophole.

[17]Why are there four skaters on the podium at US Nationals instead of
only three?

At the regional and sectional qualifying competitions for US
Nationals, there are four skaters on the podium because it's the top
four that advance to the next level of competition and it makes sense
to honor all of them at the medal ceremony. US Nationals is also
considered a "qualifying" competition in the USFSA rulebook, and is
governed by the same rules regarding medals and awards.

The medals presented to the fourth-place skaters are made of pewter.

[18]Why do they bother having the World Championships immediately after
the Olympics?

Television revenues from the World Championships are the principal
source of income for the ISU, the international governing body for
figure skating. The ISU doesn't make money from the Olympic games.

Also, the number of entries in the figure skating events at the
Olympics is now strictly limited. The ISU is actually much more
controlled by the many smaller member countries than by the
traditional skating "powers" such as the US, Canada, and Russia, and
they are firmly committed to holding an open competition in which all
countries which are ISU members can participate. Moreover, the World
Championships have been in existence much longer than the Olympics,
and they carry a considerable amount of tradition and prestige of
their own.

[19]Where do they get those judges from?

Judges are unpaid volunteers who have spent years of their own time
and money to qualify for their positions.

The procedures for qualifying as a judge vary from country to
country. In the US, it works something like this:

To get started, you must be a member of the USFSA, and at least 16
years old. You do not have to be a skater, although it helps.
There's an accelerated qualification track for former high-level
competitors.

Prospective judges start by trial-judging tests (not competitions)
for beginning skaters. "Trial judging" means you basically do what
the judges do, but your results don't count towards the outcome of
the test, and are only used to evaluate whether YOU know what you're
doing. Once you have trial-judged an adequate number of low-level
tests, you are eligible to receive your first appointment to judge
these tests "for real". At the same time, you may begin to
trial-judge intermediate tests. From there, you can move up to
judging high tests, and then novice, junior, senior, and
national-level competition judging assignments. The judging tracks
for ice dance and synchronized skating are separate from the
singles/pairs track, and you must qualify to judge each discipline
separately.

As a judge, you must take the yearly judge's examination and attend
judging schools. You must also judge a certain number of events each
year in order to retain your appointment.

You will probably need to travel outside of your home area to get
enough trial-judging experience to qualify for a high test or
competition judge appointment, unless you live somewhere where there
are multiple clubs with lots of high-level skaters. (If you live
near Boston or Los Angeles, you're in luck; if you live in
Mississippi or North Dakota, you're not.) Judges usually have their
expenses paid by the club sponsoring the test session or competition,
but any travel you do to trial judge or to attend judging schools is
at your own expense.

For more information about what's involved in becoming a judge, check
out this web site:

http://www.usfigureskating.org/About.asp?id=108

[20]Why do the judges all sit together? Doesn't this just encourage them
to cheat?

The judges are not allowed to confer with one another during the
competition, but they have to sit where they can communicate easily
with the referee. The referee has to be able to give instructions to
the judges (for instance, to make sure that all the judges are aware
if a skater's program runs overtime, or what to do in case a skater's
program is interrupted and they have to restart). The referee (and
sometimes the assistant referee or accountant) may have to consult
with a judge as well if there is some sort of problem with their
marks --for instance, if they're having trouble punching in the right
numbers on their keypad.

Also, when the electronic scoring system is not being used, the
referee has to collect "chits" -- slips of paper with the marks
written on them -- from the judges. (The referee double-checks these
against the marks that are read from the cards that the judges hold
up.) It has happened from time to time in the past that the
electronic scoring system has failed in the middle of a competition
and the judges have had to revert to the manual method, so this is
another reason why the judges have to be situated near the referee
instead of scattered all around the rink.

[21][TV commentator] says that skaters are marked down for being young!
Isn't this unfair?

It sometimes happens that TV commentators make statements about the
rules and scoring system that are just plain wrong. This can happen
for a variety of reasons. The ex-skaters who do TV commentary often
have no real training in judging or accounting and may not even have
bothered to read the rulebook. They may have more regular
involvement with the professional side of skating, instead of the
eligible competitive side, and have a tendency to view skating from
their personal perspective where entertainment is more important than
sport. They may be remembering the way things used to be when they
were competitors themselves, which may be long enough ago that the
rules have changed significantly in the meantime. They may have been
misinformed by staff researchers or coaches who had the wrong
information. They may actually know better in their own minds, but
be unable to articulate what the rules really say when they're "on
the spot" and only have a few seconds of air time before they must
move on to something else.

On the specific issue of judges marking down skaters for being young
or inexperienced, sometimes people involved with skating say this as
a kind of shorthand to describe technical problems that are
legitimately penalized under the rules. When one says that a skater
"skates young" or "looks like a junior", what this typically means is
that they still lack speed and power, that their edges may not be as
strong and deep as those of more developed skaters, that they may
still lack security or a fine degree of control on certain elements,
that their programs may be constructed with less complex connecting
moves in between the elements, and that they aren't able to fill the
entire ice surface as they skate.

[22][TV commentator] says that under the 6.0 system the judges won't give
high marks to the first skater! Isn't this unfair?

Remember that in the 6.0 system, the marks don't mean anything by
themselves; all that matters is the relative placement of the
skaters.

The judges can't give out 6.0 marks to a competitor who has to skate
early in the draw order unless they are absolutely, positively
certain that none of the remaining skaters could conceivably, under
any circumstances, turn in a better performance. Judges are rarely
willing to go that far out on a limb. It is far more appropriate for
them to leave some room just in case later competitors do turn in
better performances. If nobody does outskate the first competitor,
then his/her marks will still hold up for first place. There are
many, many examples of real competitions where skaters have won when
they had to skate early in the draw order.