The Letters: Skating Community Calls For An End To Cinquanta's Reign

Handwritten letter with pen

A lot has gone on in figure skating world in the last week. Canada won a medal at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in Courmayeur, Italy, Stars On Ice kicked off the U.S., Johnny Weir was all over the news as usual and the skating community has rightfully been in an uproar over Ottavio Cinquanta's latest in a long string of autocratic debacles that started in the mid 1990's and has brought us to the boiling point today. I admonished his defense of anonymous judging and bid to eliminate the short program in my recent article How Do You Solve A Problem Like Cinquanta? and provided a list of contact information for skating federations around the world, urging skaters, coaches, choreographers and fans alike to speak up and contact their skating federation and express their concerns and people have in overwhelming numbers. In mere days, Monica Friedlander's Facebook group Save The Short Program has reached over 4000 likes from all corners of this fine Earth, two time Olympic Gold Medallist Dick Button has called the figure skating community to action on the issue, a petition to ISU federations to take action to impeach or call for a no confidence vote to remove the aging dictator of the ISU is in the works and letters and emails to member federations around the world are flowing in steadily. I wanted to share some of these letters that have been shared with me to remind you that now is the time to right your own. If governing bodies of figure skating from here to Beijing are inundated with letters from the people filling seats at skating competitions and paying their salaries and stipends, they would be wise to give them more than a passing glance, no? Skating is not only a sport and an art, but it's also a product. If people are paying to watch or see something, they are customers. Will the customer always be right? Time will only tell.


From La'Chia: "Dear President St. Peter and Mr. Raith, As a fan of figure skating, I am writing to express my concern over Ottavio Cinquanta's leadership of the International Skating Union (ISU). He clearly knows nothing about figure skating and could not care less about it. His recent letter filled with ill-advised ideas such as eliminating the short program is evidence of this. Eliminating the short program would result in dire consequences for the sport. First and foremost, it could potentially make the long program even more demanding for the skaters. Asking them to do more in one program could increase their risk for injuries that either severely stunt their careers or end them entirely. Also, getting rid of the short program would put more pressure on the skaters because they would only get one chance to prove to the judges they are worthy of a medal. Mr. Cinquanta is wrong when he says that almost no other sport has two segments. Gymnastics and half pipe snowboarding and skiing have qualification rounds. Track, swimming, and even short track speed skating have qualifying heats. The artistic side of the sport would be negatively impacted as well. Skaters and choreographers would be limited to one theme per season. This could stunt artistic growth because it could potentially take twice as many seasons for a skater to find a suitable style. Having two programs means more skating for fans like me to enjoy at each competition which leads me to another consequence. Eliminating the short program would cut the number of sessions at competitions nearly in half which means less ticket sales and therefore less money for host federations. Choreographers would also lose money because they only would be creating half as many programs. Mr. Cinquanta suggests that all five disciplines (men and ladies singles, pairs, ice dance, and synchronized) have programs of the same length too. He does not understand that each discipline has different demands. What works for the men's event may not work for pairs. Speaking of that, I already feel that the pairs long program is too long. Over the years, I have often seen the pair men nearly drop their partners during lifts because their legs are so tired. Time lengths should be based on the unique requirements of each discipline. Another troubling suggestion is that judging remain anonymous. Despite what Mr. Cinquanta says, anonymous judging makes it so much easier to conceal cheating. Some judges think, "I'm not going to get caught, so why not?" Of course, scores that are off may also be the result of a judge who is in need of remediation. If almost everyone is unable to determine which score came for which judge, then it would be impossible to find out who might need some retraining. Overall, transparency would improve the quality of the judges and the integrity of the sport, which is desperately needed. If all this isn't enough, Mr. Cinquanta also makes suggestions that would harm speed skating, his own sport. Clearly, he is not fit to lead the ISU any longer. I urge you and your colleagues to take action and vote to impeach Mr. Cinquanta. Figure skating cannot take another two years of his leadership. It needs a ISU president that will bring about positive changes."

From Bill: "Dear Gale and Phyllis and all ISU Representatives and Council Members, The time has come to boldly take control of the sport that we all love and enjoy. The quiet waiting game has to end, time is of the essence. It is not about what is best for me, or for you, it is what is best for the sport of figure skating world wide. Knowing how things have worked in the past at the ISU it is not time to hide and think someone else will make those changes or that if you stand up you will be removed from ISU committees. It is time to rise up as one body and change the direction of both speed skating and figure skating for the better. It is hard to imagine how far our sport has deteriorated. For too long the ISU Council Members and Representatives have been party to the tail wagging the dog. The facts are clear, the leadership of Mr. Cinquanta has been disastrous and now he threatens to further destroy what he does not clearly understand. There are no excuses. I ask all skaters and those who love skating to rise up and be a part of this movement. If someone can get a list of all of the ISU Representatives we can reach out to them all. Since the petition regarding the Olympic Ladies event garnered two million votes can we not take the next step and demand the retirement of Mr. Cinquanta?"

From Kathy: "Attention Mr. Dan Thompson: As you are aware, many people are disillusioned with the ISU and its leadership.The problems have been highlighted during and since Sochi 2014 and now there is a danger that the short program is in jeopardy not to mention; there is no transparency. I urge you to add Canada's voice to those who are insisting on an overhaul of the ISU. There should be a vote of confidence for the leadership with haste before the credibility of World Figure Skating is destroyed completely!"

From Claire: "An Open Letter to ISU Council Members and ISU Figure Skating Federations: Reject Ottavio Cinquanta's Recent Proposals and Request His Resignation. This week, the figure skating season ended with the World championships in Saitama, Japan. Normally in the skating world, this is a time of relaxation for skaters and coaches who have finished their season's work, and a time for skating fans to reflect on the memorable performances of an Olympic season. But not so this year. This year, the season is ending on a note of worry and concern. ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta chose to announce, on the eve of Worlds, a bizarre list of proposals that would drastically change the sport of figure skating. As a result, the World championships, normally the highlight of the skating year, took place under a shadow. And now we are left to confront Cinquanta's demands. In a letter to ISU officials, Cinquanta put forth proposals for major changes in both figure skating and speed skating. Let me note, first of all, that he offered no detailed rationale or reasoning behind any of the proposed changes. Basically, we have no idea why he is suggesting these changes. Is the ISU in financial trouble? Is he facing pressure from the IOC? There is no explanation. In his failure to lay out a solid rationale for the proposals, Cinquanta falls short in a basic standard of leadership. The most serious and drastic change he proposes in figure skating is the elimination of the short program. It is my opinion that this move would have a disastrous effect on the sport. And it's my contention that, in even suggesting this, Ottavio Cinquanta demonstrates such a complete lack of understanding and respect for figure skating that he is no longer an acceptable leader of this sport. The short program was established for all skating disciplines in 1972. In the ensuing 44 years, it has become an integral and popular part of the sport. It was therefore a complete shock to the skating world to hear Cinquanta call for the elimination of the short program. No one had ever suggested such a thing before, as far as I know. And again, with no explanation as to why. The proposal was so bizarre, many at first thought it was an early April Fool's joke! Eliminating the short program is a terrible idea. It would negatively affect many aspects of the sport. First and most important, it would damage the quality and integrity of the competition itself. The short program helps balance figure skating competition and gives skaters more opportunity to demonstrate their skills. Years ago, when people were complaining about having to skate qualification rounds at Worlds, the famous Russian coach Alexei Mishin commented that he had no issue with qualification. Mishin's opinion: The more phases/events in any single competition, the more likely it is the overall best skater will win that competition. Having more phases in the competition smooths variances, averages the results, and makes it less likely that atypically great or atypically bad performances will disproportionately affect the outcome. It's the same principle behind having a 7-game championship series in the NBA (instead of just one game). If the short program were eliminated, the long program would quickly turn into a high-risk jump drill, with everyone throwing as many hard tricks as possible and consequently, in all likelihood, failing in many elements. The pressure would be so intense that the chances of seeing great performances would be lessened. And we would soon start to see many one-hit wonders and flash-in-the-pan wins. Getting rid of the short program would negatively affect the quality of the competition as a whole. Eliminating the short program would also negatively affect the artistic side of the sport. Having two programs gives skaters more opportunities to try different program concepts, different music, and different styles of skating. It gives them two chances each season to make an artistic statement. Eliminating half of those opportunities would hamper skaters' artistic development and would lead, immediately I think, to the end of any artistic/musical innovation. With everything riding on one program, I don't think skaters would feel comfortable using anything but proven “warhorse” music pieces. Nor would they feel comfortable presenting new, innovative choreography. I believe cutting the short program would also be disastrous in terms of ticket sales/revenue. It would eliminate half the competition, and thus half the ticket sales and TV rights possibilities. Some might argue that, at many competitions, short programs are poorly attended and often not shown on TV. But this is not the case at bigger competitions. And especially for bigger events like Worlds and Nationals, organizers depend on many fans traveling to the event and buying all-event packages. For serious fans, all-event packages currently provide a satisfying experience: Four to five days of practices and eight separate events (short programs/long programs) to enjoy. Eliminating the short program would cut the value of that package in half, which would certainly affect ticket sales and fans' willingness to travel to events. Eliminating the short program would also negatively affect the overall dramatic tension of the event and, thus, viewers' enjoyment. It is reckless and dangerous to propose such a drastic change at a time when the sport is already struggling mightily to maintain attendance, viewership, and popularity in North America and Europe. The lack of professionalism and careful analysis revealed in his proposals is reflective of Ottavio Cinquanta's leadership of the ISU. Time and again, Cinquanta has failed to adequately perform the duties of president/CEO. He has been ineffective in responding to difficult situations. He has proven inept in communicating with the press and public. In 2011, he responded poorly when an earthquake in Japan forced the cancellation of that year's world championships. He kept the skating community in limbo for weeks before finally resolving the situation. Since 2011, we have seen increased criticism of the current judging system and the anonymity of judges, which Cinquanta has brushed aside. In his current proposals, he insists again on the “necessity” of anonymous judging, declining to address this serious issue. In Sochi, the ISU faced a scandal over Adelina Sotnikova's victory; questions were raised about judges on the ladies' event panel having potential bias or checkered judging histories (Alla Shekhovtseva and Yuri Balkov). Cinquanta's response: “It's more important to have a good judge than a possible conflict of interest.” Why, as ISU president, would he tolerate either situation? Isn't it his job to prevent this? The callowness and cynicism of his response was stunning. The ISU was also confronted with a petition protesting the results, signed by almost 2 million fans, which was essentially completely ignored. Any manager in business or government, facing a scandal of this magnitude, would certainly have been compelled to answer for the situation and provide a logical, coherent defense of his or her organization's activity. Not Cinquanta, apparently. Cinquanta's request to eliminate the short program is his worst proposal yet and reveals his lack of informed leadership and failure to understand the sport. He did not offer a single well-reasoned, well-supported, logical argument to support such a huge change in the structure of the sport. I strongly believe that the national figure skating federations need to stand up and call for Ottavio Cinquanta's immediate resignation. He has failed as a leader of this sport. His presence and actions are now hurting this sport rather than helping it. He needs to go now--before he can do any more damage. We can't wait any longer for the end of his misguided reign."


Ottavio Cinquanta and his actions as a leader of the ISU has been loudly booed and protested at international figure skating events dating back to 1996, when the audience at the 1996 World Figure Skating Championships in Edmonton, Alberta booed him for not allowing four time World Champion Kurt Browning and Olympic Gold Medallist Kristi Yamaguchi to skate in the gala. Only three years earlier, Olympic Gold Medallists Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin had performed in the gala at Worlds in Prague. Rule 128-6B in the ISU's Constitution and General Regulations, a technically enacted by Cinquanta, stated that "no exhibition by ineligible persons may be held in the same rink" after the conclusion of the competition of major ISU championships. He was faced with loud derision and jeers just two years later at the 1998 Worlds in Minneapolis and in 2002 during the Salt Lake City scandal admitted he "didn't know about figure skating too well". The speed skater promptly enforced a seemingly incomprehensible judging system built around anonymity that sucked the excitement and artistry out of the sport only years previous hugely popular OUTSIDE of skating circles around the world. Under his leadership, we've seen professional competition die an ugly death, the Salt Lake City scandal, numerous petitions about questionable judging brushed and laughed off, judges and officials directly involved in unethical behavior put right back into positions of power and control and now we have this man who knows relatively little about skating wanting to get rid of the short program and keep judging anonymous, right after what happened in Sochi. If you haven't written a letter yet, please do. Figure skating deserves better.


Andorra - President: Mrs. Mónica López - General Secretary: Mrs. Raquel Puigcernal
Argentina - President: Dr Jorge Fazio - General Secretary: Ms Maria Luz Carricart
Armenia - President: President: Mr Dario Urssino - General Secretary: Mrs Maria Dolores Cazorla
Australia - President: Ms Catherine Taylor - Secretary: Mr Sean O'Brien
Austria - President: Ms Christiane Moerth - General Secretary: Mrs Friederike Worff
Azerbaijan - President: Mr Iskander Khalilov - General Secretary: Mr Ramin Mammadov
Belarus - President: Mr Mikalai Ananyeu - General Secretary: Ms. Julia Komleva
Belgium - President: Mr Antoine Van Vossel - General Secretary: Mrs Gaby Deckmyn
Bosnia and Herzegovina - President: Mr Zikrija Donko - General Secretary: Mr Vladimir Kezunovic
Brazil - President: Mr Emilio De Souza Strapasson - Secretary: Ms. Otilia Faria
Bulgaria - President: Ms Tatiana Yordanova - General Secretary: Vacant
Canada - President: Mrs Leanna Caron - Chief Executive Officer: Mr Dan Thompson
China - President: Mr Tian Xiao - General Secretary: Mr Lixin Tong
Chinese Taipei  - President: Mr Jan-Tar Wang - General Secretary: Mr Rich K.H. Lee
Croatia - President: Mrs Morana Palikovic-Gruden - General Secretary: Mrs Melita Juratek Cipek
Cyprus - President: Mr Andreas Georgiades - General Secretary: Mrs Soula Constantinidou
Czech Republic - President: Dr Vera Tauchmanova - General Secretary: Mr Karel Oubrecht
Denmark - President: Mrs Ingelise Blangsted - General Secretary: Mrs Mariann Vasbo
Estonia - President: Mr Edgar Savisaar - General Secretary: Mr Gunnar Kuura
Finland - President: Mrs Susanna Rahkamo - General Secretary: Mrs Leaman
France - President: Mr Didier Gailhaguet - General Secretary: Mr Francis Fontanie
Georgia - President: Ms Mariam Giorgobiani - General Secretary: Ms Salome Chigogidze
Germany - President: Mr Dieter Hillebrand - General Secretary: Mr Michael Talermann
Great Britain - President: Mr Ken Pendrey - Chief Executive: Mr Nicholas Sellwood
Greece - President:Mr Georgios Markouizos - General Secretary: Ms Georgia Proimou
Grenada - President: Mr Earl Clarkson - General Secretary: Ms Reena Leschinsky
Hong Kong - President: Ms Yin Yip Siu - General Secretary: Mr Kwong Lin Hoi
Hungary - President: Mr Lajos Kósa - General Secretary: Mr György Sallak
Iceland - President: Mr Björgvin I. Ormarsson - General Secretary: Mrs Bjarnveig Gujónsdóttir
India - President: Mr Bhavnesh Banga - General Secretary: Mr Saurabh Gupta
Indonesia - Chairman: Mr. Ir. H. S. Wibowo S. Hardjito, General Secretary: Drs TB. Ade Lukman
Ireland - President: Ms Karen O'Sullivan - Vice President: Ms Cindy Mundow
Israel - President: Mr Boris Chait - General Secretary: Mrs Anna Slavin
Italy - President: Mr Giancarlo Bolognini - General Secretary: Mr Alberto Berto
Japan - President: Mrs Seiko Hashimoto - General Secretary: Mr Yoshihito Amano
Kazakhstan - President: Mr Vasily Krylov - General Secretary: Ms Anzjhelika Gavrilova
Latvia - President: Mrs Marika Nugumanova - General Secretary: Mrs Strautmane Arta
Lithuania - President: Ms Lilija Vanagiene - General Secretary: Ms Dovile Pervazaite
Luxembourg - President: Mr Neil Valentine - General Secretary: Mrs Thiresia Kafatsaki
Malaysia - President: Ms Laila Abdullah - Honorary Secretary: Ms Jennifer Campton
Mexico - President: Mr José Luis Aguilar-Urzaiz - General Secretary: Mr Alfonso Morones-Bulnes
Monaco - President: Mr Pascal Camia - General Secretary: Mr Gérard Ravera
Netherlands - President: Vacant - General Secretary: Mr Paul Sanders
New Zealand - President: Ms Jeanette King - General Secretary: Mrs Bridget Danbrook
North Korea - President: Mr Jin Choe Kwang - General Secretary: Mr Thae Kim Sung
Norway - President: Mr Rune Gerhardsen - General Secretary: Mr Lasse Sætre
Philippines - President: Mr Manuel Veguillas - General Secretary: Mr Benito Lim
Poland - President: Mr Dagiel Zenon - General Secretary: Ms Ewa Kierzkowska
Puerto Rico - President: Ms Lynette Spano - General Secretary: Vacant
Romania - President: Mr Adrian George Ciobanu - General Secretary: Mr Ion Armenciu
Russia - President: Mr Aleksander Gorshkov - General Director: Mr Valentin Piseev
Serbia - President: Ms Vojislava Vasovic - General Secretary: Ms Vesna Rakovic
Singapore - President: Ms Sonja Chong - General Secretary: Ms Alison Chan
Slovakia - President: Mrs Felicitas Babušiková - General Secretary: Mrs Mária Zervanová
Slovenia - President: Mrs Darja Gabrovsek Polajnar - Technical Secretary: Mrs Andreja Zelinka
South Africa - President: Mr Vincenzo D'Aguanno - General Secretary: Mrs Deborah Rees
South Korea - President: Mr Kim Jae-Youl - General Secretary: Mr Kim Kwan Kyu
Spain - President: Mrs Maria-Teresa Samaranch - General Secretary: Mr Antonio Fdez. Arimany
Sweden  - President: Mrs Katarina Henriksson - General Secretary: Mrs. Malin Jarl
Switzerland  - President: Mr Roland Wehinger - General Secretary: Mrs Yvonne Zahnd
Thailand - President: Ms Suwanna Silpa-Archa - General Secretary: Dr. Srihasak Arirachakaran
Turkey - President: Mr Fahrettin Kandemir - General Secretary: Mrs BaŠŸak Derbent
Ukraine - President: Mr Evgeniy Larin - General Secretary: Mrs Anastasiya Makarova
United Arab Emirates - Chairman: Dr Ahmed Almazrouei - Chief Executive Officer: Mr Juma Aldhaheri
United States - President: Ms Patricia St.Peter - Executive Director: Mr David Raith
Uzbekistan  - President: Mr Bakhrom Ashrafkhanov - General Secretary: Mr Evgeniy Nujdin

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