TURIN, Italy -- For those of you scoring at home ...
If you haven't been watching figure skating lately but are planning to tune in tonight for the start of the Winter Olympics women's competition, you might be surprised to find that the 6.0s, which used to reflect perfection, have disappeared.
The old scoring system, eliminated by the International Skating Union after the judging scandal four years ago in Salt Lake City, has been replaced by the Code of Points.
Here is basically how it works:
1. A technical specialist, also known as a caller, identifies elements in a skater's program. For instance, he or she informs the judges if a planned triple axel was turned into a double axel. You wouldn't think judges would need that kind of assistance, but you'd be surprised how many times they've lost a lutz in the corner because of poor sight lines.
2. Each element has a base value. A triple lutz, for example, is worth 8.8 points. A quadruple toe loop is worth 9.0. Judges can add or subtract three points depending on how well they believe the element was performed. That becomes the technical ability score.
3. As in the past, judges still give more subjective artistic impression scores. The name now is program components.
4. Twelve judges score each skater, but three are randomly dropped. The high and low scores from the remaining nine judges also are dropped,
5. Points are deducted for program length and other violations.
6. The final score is determined. The women's favorite here is Russia's Irina Slutskaya, who has an all-time high of 198.06. The United States' Sasha Cohen is close behind at 197.60. Kimmie Meissner of Bel Air has the 13th highest score among the 29 skaters with a 155.72.
There are pros to the new system. A biased judge can't affect the competition as much as in the past because there is a good chance his or her score won't be used.
There also are cons. The system heavily rewards risk, driving skaters to attempt elements that might be beyond them. Some of the aesthetics have been lost.
It can be argued that the last three Olympic women's champions would have been different under the new system.
Oksana Baiul had an ethereal quality to her skating that might not have scored enough points to beat Nancy Kerrigan in 1994.
Michelle Kwan probably would have scored so many points in the short program four years later in Nagano, as Russia's Evgeni Plushenko did here, that no one would have been able to overtake her as Tara Lipinski did in the long problem.
Slutskaya probably would have prevailed over the less technically proficient Sarah Hughes in Salt Lake City.
The ultimate irony: The Russian pairs team that had to share its gold medal in 2002 after the judging scandal was exposed probably would have been the outright winners under the Code of Points because their programs were more complex than those skated by the Canadians.