How Media Cheat You, Move by Move - Spins

How Media Cheat You, Move by Move - Jumps

The Rebuttal of The New York Times Article

Feb 24, 2014

Written by FeverSkatng



Composite Image by The New York Times


The New York Times has recently published the above photographs, comparing the figure skating jumps executed by Yuna Kim and Adelia Sotnikova at the 2014 Sochi Olympics Ladies Free Event. Upon seeing this, one would make an immediate conclusion that the skater above (Adelina Sotnikova, RUS) jumps higher than the one below (Yuna Kim, KOR) .


However, there are a number of issues with these photographs.


First is the fundamental difference in their jumps.

Sotnikova on the top is executing a 2A-3T (Double Axel-Triple Loop) combination, and Kim a 3S-2T (Triple Salchow-Double Toe Loop) combination.

They are two completely different TYPES of jumps and their numbers of rotations differ as well.

Moreover, two skaters are executing their jumps at different places on the ice. This of course would mean that the angle and the direction in which the photographs were taken differed as well. Taking these facts into consideration, it becomes readily evident that comparing two different photographs of two different types of jumping combination is a pointless exercise.


Secondly, there is a major scale discrepancy.

According to the Sochi Olympics’ official website, Sotnikova is 1.63m (5’4“); Kim is 1.65m(5’5”).

Sotnikova is shorter than Kim. But in the photos below used by NYT, she is scaled to 3cm while Kim is scaled to 2.8cm.







The fact that Sotnikova appears bigger in the photo means that there is a scale discrepancy in the two photos used by NYT.


Why this is important? It's because this scale discrepancy creates this much visual error, as seen in the images below we are providing. 



This much scale discrepancy is enough to make Sotnikova's jump look bigger than it really was and of course than Kim's.


Below are the images we adjusted based on the correct ratio of height difference between the two skaters.



Is it not that clear to you how they are different from the original?


Then let's go back to the original images.





Composite Image by The New York Times


The error becomes fairly obvious. 

Next, the poor compositing. Let's start with enlarging the photo.





Then zoom in.



Notice the choppiness in the stitching that exists neither in any other area in Sotnikova's image nor Kim's?


Of course it is HIGHLY probable that this is just due to the camera rotating on the y-axis too much at the time of photographing this double axel,

resulting in losing the coherency in the speed photos' perspectives which would have made the stitching more complex.

In any sense, it would be safe to say that as a result, the particular area of the stitched photos lacks the accuracy to properly represent the double axel moment.


Lastly, the line with an arrow used in the NYT's image to illustrate the jump path, the flow and the height.

The first arrow-line in Sotnikova's image has a wrong starting point. It starts from her right leg which is the free leg(kicked to the back and swinging in the air, in preparation for the jump). The actual take off didn't happen from that toe point as illustrated in NYT's image.




By using that free leg as the point of take-off, the arrow end up being an inaccurate representation of Sotnikova's jump.

If anything, this misrepresentation only glamourizes her jump than it really is.

In using these photographs, New York Times wrote:

'Sotnikova’s combination had a much higher base value because she chose to do the most difficult double jump, the double axel. She received high marks for her good flow, height and distance.', 'The double jump Kim chose is one of the easiest, so it has a low base value. The entry was simple, and the jump ended with little speed.'


If the New York Times was to demonstrate the total difference between the difficulty of Sotnikova and Kim's total jump elements, the analysis should have been based on ALL the jumps that Sotnikova and Kim each did and didn't do. 

If the New York Times was to demonstrate the difference in the quality and execution of the jumps, they should have made the image comparison using the jumps that Sotnikova and Kim both did, such as 3Lz-3T, 3F, 3S, 2A in the free program.


These are the flaws in the supporting images used by New York Times.

Now, let's take a look at the article "How Sotnikova Beat Kim, Move by Move".

The article included the following table to explain "where Sotnikova scored higher". 




Composite Image by The New York Times


The major flaw here: this table is using the COMBINED points of the base value and the GOE, the grade given by the judges based on how well THE JUDGES THOUGHT the element was executed at the time of performance. Even though as we have all heard many, many times this week, the judging is "subjectively" done.


Therefore, we created the following table to show only the base value.



(The reason why the step and spin elements are not included in this chart will be explained later.)

Please note that unlike New York Times' table, this table includes the base values from both short and free programs.

That is because as Brian Boitano has said in his interview with CNN, we also believe that "Kim's score should not have been so close to Sotnikova's after the short program and that is the gap that should not have been bridged so that Yuna Kim would have been a two time Olympic champion."



Also notice that even though Kim's short program was "more difficult" judging from the base value of the jump elements that advances Sotnikova's by 1.90 points, this didn't seem to have been reflected as loyally as what those who defend Sotnikova's free program score like to say, since the final scores after the short program were only separated by 0.28 in Kim's advantange.


The New York Times' claim that Sotnikova won because "her combination had a much higher base value because she chose to do the most difficult double jump (while) the double jump Kim chose is one of the easiest, so it has a low base value", therefore; faces a challenge to establish itself especially given that Kim's short program had a higher base value.


No, Sotnikova didn't win by the 5.48 total point difference because her program was "more difficult". She won because the judges "subjectively" unanimously thought that she executed her elements EXCEEDINGLY BETTER than Kim, then the reigning Olympic Champion and the current world champion, and added that much GOE to her protocol.


Out of the 108 different GOE pts received from the nine judges on the twelve elements in free skating, Sotnikova received a whooping thirty-three 3 GOE pts(the highest), and only nine of the 1 GOE pts. While many believe that Kim's free skating was near perfect, only thirtheen of the Kim's was marked with 3 GOE pts by the judges. Forty-one of them was marked with 1 GOE pts.



So, in spite of all this, does the NYT article still hold credibility in your eyes?


For those who say yes, I'd like to present another piece of data. (Actually, this is the part that just might be the highlight.)

After watching this particular video and reading these materials, if you still have doubts as to whether the NYT article was being truthful or otherwise, I'd certainly like to hear from you.



>>Was scoring for the ladies figure skating acceptable?

>>Comparing 'One-foot step' in FS Kim and Sotnikova



The New York Times reported that Sotnikova won over Kim "point by point" using the overall technical element score -- the sum total of base value and grade of execution-- as the support for their claim. 

However, as we have seen, that argument is flawed in various aspects. Further, as noted in many other media reports, there is something suspicious about the judging panel, and the judges awarded exceedingly generous marks for the Russian athlete.

The fact that Sotnikova received the unmatched number of GOE 3s out of all skaters as well as the exceptionally high PCS would mean that her Olympic program was one of the most groundbreaking, revolutionary masterpieces(if not unprecedented) performed since the new scoring system was implemented.

But was it really?

History will be the judge of that.