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Changing the Face of FF Judging

A new system for judging dynamic free rounds and freestyle is being introduced tomorrow at the Wind Games 2017.

Judging of artistic events can create controversy when people think the winners are not a true reflection of the talent. Of course this will always be the case for subjective disciplines but the problem has increased recently. There is an increasing amount of pressure on artistics judges, who are expected to judge the routines live, with music, and to get it right. It’s hard to evaluate different elements in a routine when seeing it for the first time.

One way the dynamic community has circumvented this problem is to run their meets with a series of head-to-head battles, with the idea it’s reasonably easy to tell if one team is better than another. By direct comparison battles you can give the teams a ranking (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc) and thereby in theory arrive at the best result. But, this approach gives its own set of problems to competitors in that they don’t finish the meet with a score, just a position. So, it’s hard to know if your own personal performance was better or worse than the previous meet. Competitors want a score, so they can measure progress, set goals and compare with other flyers/competitions.

A new system will be used tomorrow (3 February ’17) at the Wind Games, Windoor, Empuriabrava. In the two events with subjective judging – 2-way Dynamic free rounds and Solo Freestyle – teams supply videos of their routines (without music) before the comp, to be evaluated for technical merit. The judging team will watch the routine together more than once, and they will agree a technical difficulty score, in a calm environment, with no distractions such as crowd, music, or trying to score other elements at the same time.

The judges will subsequently watch the routines live, with music, on the day of the competition. Each judge gives his or her individual scores for execution and presentation; execution is how well they perform their routine, and presentation for elegance, musicality and aesthetics. So, attempting something really hard but not quite pulling it off will still get a reasonable score, thus encouraging teams to improve and go big! The scores will be added to the inTime scoring system to allow competitors to see their individual marks (for technical, execution & presentation), which has not been possible before. This system keeps the ‘wow factor’ for the competition routines but most probably will result in more consistency in technical scores.

2WD at Wind Games 2016 — by Windoor
2WD at Wind Games 2016 — by Windoor

A meeting wth judges and competitors was held to discuss the system and invite feedback. Pro flyer and dynamic judge Josh O’Donoghue, welcomed the change, saying there were so many different elements to see in a freestyle routine it was really hard to give a fair score on one live viewing. It seemed competitors welcomed the change. A few questions were discussed. It was pointed out that certain moves are harder / easier depending on your body type. The judges said they were aware of the correlation of difficulty with personal bio-mechanics; for example, some people are more flexible, others are more capable of physical power moves. Chief Dynamic judge Adam Mattacola explained they would judge according to each person’s style, so all types of flying would be credited. Other queries were whether you could submit more than one routine. The reply, you can do as many routines as you like but you must submit them for the day before, and tell the judges which one you’re doing. Of course if competitors miss out elements of their routines on the day that were on the prior video, the judges will know and adjust the technical score accordingly.

Tomorrow will be the ‘proof of the pudding’, when the new rules are put into action. Anne Maxwell, Pro Flyer of Windoor, stressed it was a work in progress. They thought the new approach had benefits but of course need to see how it works in action. She invited competitors to input their thoughts afterwards, to help develop the best system going forward.

IPC discussed this concept of pre-determined technical difficulty at the recent IPC Plenary meeting and are going to adopt this system in Dynamic and Freestyle events from March. Freestyle already had a good structure for execution and presentation but not for technical. With Dynamic, the other elements of the score (separate elements for execution & presentation) are to be evaluated with real competitions over the next year, and data supplied to IPC to plan a way forward in the future.