Extraordinary and the most difficult executed elements of the day will receive a Bonus of 2.0 points. The Bonus will be awarded for maximum two for each program. These special elements will be decided by the Technical Committee and specified in the ISU Communication prior to the season.(Also, if I'm understanding correctly, it was proposed by the governing skating body of Japan. Japan? Not Russia? Really?)
Reason: We have not seen any Bonus points given to unique, special and innovative movements so far. Challenging more difficult elements imaginable for its time must be ordinary idea for skaters as far as the figure skating is recognized as a competitive sport. Considering the development of figure skating, the regulation must support the spirit and give an appropriate credit for the success of difficult challenge.
I have some questions about and problems with this proposal. The main question that I have is, does "unique, special and innovative" necessarily equal "more difficult"? Because I'm not opposed to uniqueness or innovation, quite the contrary; for all its strengths, a major weakness of the current scoring system is that it seems to have limited the scope for individuality in creative expression and technical execution. For example, most skaters can only rotate in jumps and spins in one direction or the other; most rotate counter-clockwise, a few rotate clockwise, but very few can do both. Michelle Kwan could (and presumably still can) spin in both directions; if it wasn't unique to her, it was very unusual and it was one of the things that set her apart. But I went back and watched some of her competitions from the 2004-2005 season, 2005 being the first year that the new scoring system was used at the World Championships: early in the season her free skate program included a sequence of spins in both directions, but at the U.S. Championships it did not, which leads me to believe that either it wouldn't be accepted under the new system or that it wouldn't score very high. In that instance, her unique move was more difficult, but I don't know if that is always the case. Brian Boitano had a couple of signature moves, including the "Tano triple lutz," in which he raised his left arm over his head while jumping, but I'm not sure if that necessarily makes it more difficult. Another signature move was a prolonged spread eagle, but it was the length of it that made it unique and difficult, not the move itself.
This also raises the question of what makes a move unique? A Biellman spin is not remotely unusual in women's competition, but it is more so in men's competition. There are only two or three men in competition currently who do it, but I don't know if it's because it's more difficult for the men or if they just don't want to appear effeminate. (The impression that I get is that it is more difficult for the men; I imagine that it must put a lot of strain on the groin muscles.) Another question I have is, if the "special elements" are predetermined by the Technical Committee and communicated prior to the season, how "unique" and "special" can they be? That sounds like it's going to do more to homogenize the routines than to make them more "unique" and "special."
It says that the "special elements" will be decided and communicated prior to the season; it doesn't say that they must be different every season, but it seems to imply that they will be or should be. If, as I believe, this proposal is in response to the quad controversy, is this going to satisfy the more relentless quad proponents if the quad is not the special element every year?
Then I have a question which is also a problem: if I understand correctly, "The Bonus will be awarded for maximum two for each program" means that two bonuses will be awarded in the short program and two in the long program/free skate (and as applicable in ice dancing). My question is, are they going to award them as they score each routine, or are they going to wait and award them at the end? My problem is, if they do it as they go along, they run the risk of awarding the bonuses prematurely, and if they wait, it's going to take longer to determine the winners. Right now the scoring is fairly straightforward in that the one with the most points at the end is the winner; if we have to wait for the judges to apply the special bonuses, that muddies the clarity of the scoring process, and if the medal race is close it could also lead to more contention and controversy.
Another problem that I have is, there is already a bonus; it's not applied to specific elements, but jumps performed in the second half of the free skate earn a 10% bonus (and if ol' crybaby Plushenko had performed his more difficult jumps in the second half of his Olympic free skate, as Lysacek--and most, if not all, of the other men--did, he might have taken home that gold medal). I don't think it's a good idea to start layering bonus upon bonus; that's just asking for confusion and trouble. I really don't think they should do this "special element" bonus at all, but if they do, they should only have it in the short program where there is currently no bonus.
Another problem that I have, not with the proposal specifically but with the ISU's written communication in general, is that it has some grammatical and stylistic anomalies that make it hard to understand. I realize that many if not most ISU members are probably not native English speakers, but for crying out loud, can't they find someone to proofread?