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Did You Know...

... that half-speed judging does not slow down the pace?

Board of an earlier IPC Meeting
posted Jan 8th, 2008 - The NSL News story on 19 December 2007 brought the annual meeting of the International Parachuting Commission (IPC) to the attention of the NSL News audience. Next day's story followed up on one of the topics that will be discussed intensively in Paris, France.

Half-speed judging has already been the topic at many discussions and debates on and off the dropzones for quite a while. It is a very controversial issue for many reasons. The officials at the IPC meetings and at the international competitions have mostly been opposed to the idea of judging competition jumps in a different way so far.

The main reason for this situation is the fact that the IPC has been pushing in the opposite direction for many years. The application of slow-motion judging in the earlier days of Formation Skydiving competition has been a bad memory for judges and IPC officials. It increased the working time for judges and slowed down the posting of the official scores.

IPC presentation to the general public
The IPC was committed to speed up the judging procedure and post the scores as soon as possible after the competition jumps were done. It was the declared goal to get as close as possible to real-time and live judging. The IPC had mainly the presentation of the sport to the general public in mind with this goal.

The goals were set when the scoring average was at a significantly lower level, and judging was much easier as it currently is. Windtunnel training as a crucial training tool came into the teams' game plans and increased the performance and scoring level dramatically, especially for the faster sequences.

It became naturally more challenging for the judges and even the top teams and competitors to follow the action in the original speed. It is even more difficult at competitions when there is not much time for many reviews, compared to the situation in training.

France Maubeuge observes DeLand Majik on DZ-TV
The IPC officials were probably hoping that the progression of 4-way and 8-way performance and the training and progression of judging would develop parallel with each other. However, the windtunnel training and the increasing number of full-time teams caused the athletes to run away not only from the judges, who have still been greatly appreciated amateurs and volunteers throughout the years.

The top teams made it even difficult for themselves when they increased the pace and the performance to a level where it became difficult to evaluate a jump correctly without any technical help. Thus, they also ran away from the current rules how to judge competition jumps in 4-way and 8-way Formation Skydiving.

The matter became even worse, or at least more diffcult, when the IPC changed the penalty rules a few years ago. The previous "2-point bust" turned into a "1-point bust", once again an IPC move targeted at the general public. The goal of this move was to make it easier for the public to understand rules and penalty situations.

Teams and competitors watch DZ-TV
The goal made sense, and the change made it easier for the teams and competitors to understand the penalty rules, as well. However, the same rule change surely did not make it easier for the judges and the athletes to follow the real-time action in front of the TV screens.

Each competition team could easily conclude that it made much more sense from here on to ignore any flaw or infringement and move on forward. It would take more time and effort to communicate and correct a mistake, compared to just moving on and swallowing the 1-point deduction for a possible infringement - if it was detected.

The combination of the progression of the performance level with the ever-increasing pace in 4-way and the "1-point bust" rule did not come along with a measure by the IPC that would make it easier for the judges and performers to follow the competition action and get as close as possible to a correct evaluation.

Open IPC meeting with top teams and competitors
Result was an increasing number of incorrect and/or questionable calls at the major and minor events. The top competitors began to feel uncomfortable, and more discussions of judging calls have again been heard in the viewing areas after years of a relatively calm atmosphere between competitors and officals.

At the same time, there was a psychological reason that kept teams and competitors often from discussing and arguing the judging openly and directly with the officals. The Formation Skydiving competition community meets in a small world, and many of the judges and competitors run into each other regularly. It is important for the teams to maintain a comfortable relationship with the judges of their performance.

However, the increasing number of incidents with disagreement on judging calls brought the top teams and competitors to the point where the issue was taken on at the meetings with IPC officials. France went a step further and presented a proposal for half-speed judging, as the above mentioned NSL News story reported.

Public live judging at USPA Nationals in Lake Wales
It also happened at the discussions with IPC officals that a misunderstanding between judges and advocates of half-speed judging became quite obvious. Half-speed judging was mistaken as "slow-motion judging".

Fears of judges and IPC officials came to the surface that the judging process would once again be slowed down to the unacceptable pace of years in the past. It was apparently not communicated very well between both sides that half-speed judging would not slow down the judging process at all, if the rules were changed accordingly.

There is technically no time difference between three viewings in original speed (3 x 35 seconds = 105 seconds) compared to one viewing in original speed and one additional viewing in half-speed (35 seconds + 70 seconds = 105 seconds). The judges would be done with their work at the same time, and the scores would be posted without extra delay.

IPC committee at work
The advocates of half-speed judging would like to re-establish a trustful relationship between athletes and judges and make it easier for themselves and others to detect the real infringements. The only declared goal is to get as close as possible to the truth that happens in the 35 seconds of freefall.

The whole topic will be discussed on January 22 - 27 in Paris, France. It is important for the IPC officials to receive feedback directly from the Formation Skydiving community. The IPC delegates of each country usually collect feedback from their own following and forward it to IPC's Formation Skydiving committee before and at the annual meeting.

However, the committee's chair, Fiona McEachern from Australia, is always open to comments directly from the field and can be contacted by e-mail.

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