Speak Out

Judging Errors

It is wonderful that you dedicated your Reflections story (December ‘10) to one of Austria´s figure skating heroes of the past.

It is true that my mother, Eva Pawlik, the 1948 Olympic silver medalist, said that Emmerich Danzer should have won the bronze medal at the 1968 Olympic Winter Games.

In my opinion, there are two reasons why he finished fourth despite having the best free program.

First of all, one of the judges, Emil Skakala from Czechoslovakia, underrated Danzer’s free program. He later confessed that he had been mistaken in his marking of the program.

Secondly, judges often tended to rate mediocre free programs better than mediocre school figures. So a world-class skater who eliminated a triple jump (relevant for the first mark) or whose artistic impression was not so outstanding (relevant for the second mark) got perhaps a 5.6 instead of a 5.9.

If a skater made a mistake in school figures, however, they would only get perhaps a 4.8, while perfect school figures would earn a 5.7 or 5.8.

So the deductions for mistakes in figures were far more severe than the deductions for mistakes or for the lack of artistic impression in the free program.

The formal 50 percent split between figures and the free program was not true in reality. The weight of school figures was much higher than half of the total score.

That is why Danzer did not get a medal after placing fourth in school figures and first in the free program.

Eva Pawlik criticized this method of scoring and pointed out the disproportion described above when the system favored Austria’s Trixi Schuba at the 1972 Winter Olympics, where she won despite a
seventh-place finish in the free program.

If the scoring of school figures and the free program had been a factual 50-50 division, Danzer would have won the Olympic bronze or perhaps even the silver medal.

Thank you for all your efforts to keep Austrian figure skating history alive.

Dr. Roman Seeliger
Vienna, Austria

Originally published in February 2011