Grand Prix Series Evolves

Meryl Davis and Charlie White

The 2011-12 Grand Prix of Figure Skating events will play out differently next season.

The International Skating Union’s (ISU) Grand Prix committee has made major changes to both the junior and senior events.

“We want to raise the level of the senior Grand Prix,” said Peter Krick, chair of the ISU sports directorate. “We want to avoid the problems we experienced last season when invitations were extended to too many lower-level skaters.”

Invitations to the Grand Prix events will be extended to seeded skaters later than in the past. This will also likely eliminate the issues that occurred last season, when athletes such as Yu-Na Kim, withdrew because their plans had changed.

This season only 10 singles skaters will be invited rather than 12; there will be eight ice dance teams (down from 10) and eight pairs teams.

The top six ranked skaters and teams from the 2011 World Championships will have the right to compete at three Grand Prix events, just as they could in the first years of the Series. Skaters will have to identify, in advance, which two of the three will be point earners, but are eligible to win prize money at every event.

As with previous years, the top 12 from 2011 Worlds will receive two Grand Prix assignments. The top 24 from last season will be offered at least one.

In order to be eligible for a Grand Prix assignment, skaters and teams will have to have earned a minimum number of points at any international competition that was on the ISU calendar last season. They also may earn these points at one of the international B-level competitions that are held in the weeks prior to the
Grand Prix.

It was originally planned that the minimum points required would be two-thirds of the top point earner’s score from the previous season. However, this may change. “Both Patrick Chan and Meryl Davis and Charlie White earned an incredibly high number of points in Moscow,” Krick explained.

“If we used this premise, some fairly good skaters would be excluded. We are rethinking this.” (As an example, two-thirds of Chan’s 280.98 score at Worlds would be 187.32 points).

The upside is that competitions such as Nebelhorn Trophy, Ondrej Nepela Memorial, Finlandia Trophy, Cup of Nice and the NRW Trophy will take on more importance now.

“We are thinking of putting the winners of these competitions at the top of the substitute list,” Krick said. “The disadvantage for skaters training in North America or Asia has been that all B-level competitions are held in Europe. Those skaters always have to travel, making it a more expensive venture.”

In mid-May, the ISU designated the Thornhill Summer Skate in Ontario, Canada and the Asian Figure Skating Trophy in Dongguan City, China as B-level competitions next season.

The substitute lists will be changed, updated and published on the ISU homepage after each fall competition. Substitute skaters will be selected according to either their personal best from the prior season or from a fall competition.

Federations will no longer be able to play politics by inviting skaters from nations they favor, nor from those where travel expenses are lower because the skater(s) train in close proximity to the event.

Skaters who previously ranked in the top six but sat out a season are eligible to be put on the list. This would be important for people like Joannie Rochette or Evan Lysacek if they decide to return to competition.

The bad news is that the top three junior skaters and teams from the 2011 season are no longer guaranteed a senior Grand Prix assignment.

For financial reasons, only six skaters and couples in each discipline will qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final next season.

Originally published in August 2011