During the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships it was released that the President of the International Skating Union, Ottavio Cinquanta, had written a letter suggesting numerous changes within figure skating and speed skating.
The International Skating Union (ISU) is the governing body of figure skating and speed skating, and President Cinquanta has been leading the ISU for twenty-two years. Many believe it is due to his leadership that the sport of figure skating is in decline.
His latest proposals released were so disturbing that it has unleashed confusion, anger and sincere doubt about the direction that figure skating is headed. One of the most outrageous recommendations that Ottavio Cinquanta made in his letter was his desire to eliminate the short program. His reasoning behind this decision is perplexing to anyone who understands the sport.
Cinquanta stated that no other sports are based on two segments. His hope would be, that without the short program, junior and senior world championships could be held at the same time. To him it seems to be more about convenience and time constraints then actually bettering the sport.
Ottavio Cinquanta also called for judges to remain anonymous, even though there was major uproar about the judging at the Olympic Games. The uproar was apparently not valid enough for Cinquanta to take notice. There were several other recommendations like redefining the age and name of the senior level, and changing the length of the free skates for all disciplines to be the same.
Fans and supporters of the sport are outraged by some of these recommendations, mainly the proposal to eliminate the short program. Most feel tired of the leadership of Cinquanta as he is a speed skater trying to lead figure skating, a sport which he admittedly does not understand.
Social media outlets have been lit up, blogs written and several petitions have been created, such as “Reject ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta's Figure Skating Proposals for the 2014 ISU Congress”, which has over 2,500 signatures and “Requesting the resignation of Ottavio Cinquanta from the presidency of the International Skating Union” has over 3,000 signatures which is sponsored by Tim Wood who is a world champion and Olympic silver medalist, Bill Fauver who is a five-time U.S. pairs silver medalist, Tim Gerber who is an ice skating technical specialist and journalist Monica Friedlander.
Cinquanta has dropped a bomb on the sport of figure skating and supporters of the sport have responded in outrage, yet there is no response from the ISU, leaving fans even more frustrated and feeling powerless. Athletes and fans alike assert that they are more vested in the sport than the president of the ISU and this silence from him only serves to reinforce that belief.
Figure skating legend, Dick Button, described it well in Newsweek as foxes in charge of the henhouse, as speed skaters, who do not understand figure skating, are not the best leaders for figure skaters.
It will be interesting to see how the skating federations along with the coaches and skaters respond, especially if these changes get instituted. Cinquanta’s proposals risk alienating skaters, coaches and fans, and with the lack of accountability from Cinquanta after proposing such radical changes, the future for the sport does not look promising with him at the wheel.