Unicon Expert Freestyle

Now that the political discussion of Jamey’s act is drawing to a close, I’d
like to turn the discussion to a couple of more unicycle related points.

First I’d like to know how people feel about the application of some of the
Judging criteria. For the freestyle performances the rules state that “50%
of the score is based on level of Difficulty, which includes how well, or
how successfully,all moves are performed. The other 50% of the score is for
Presentation, which includes Style, Showmanship,Choreography, use of props
and other skills, Originality, and Choice of costume and music”. It seems to
me, though, that this balance is not being struck. This year there was a
beautiful performance, full of grace and artistry and also highly skillful
and mistake free from Anthony Soumiatin on a pair of Ultimate wheels which
was placed sixth. At the time people that I was talking to were also blown
away by his performance and expected him to be highly placed. I didn’t have
such high expectations because a similar act in 1996 got similar treatment.
The explanation given in both cases is that they didn’t do many tricks and
so although the things they did were extremely hard they suffered on the
technical score.

Now, I could argue with that at a technical level because I don’t think is
easy to judge the relative technical difficulty of skills which very few
people can do. In this case I think there are quite a few people who can
jump mount an ultimate but how many of them can do it without disturbing the
direction and rhythm of the wheel. Actually I suspect that jumping off
without disturbing it might be even more difficult and combining that with
the mount of the other wheel …

However what I’d like to suggest is that Anthony was possibly as far ahead
of the other acts in the presentation category as he may have been behind
them in the technical score. I don’t believe we are giving or ever have
given enough credit to those whose acts veer towards the artistic side
rather than the technical. It is inevitable perhaps that in order to really
make an act graceful one has to back off a touch on the technical content
because the highly technical moves can often be a bit jerky and so the
judging system at present seems to punish that sort of routine. I would
suggest that if we ever have hopes of becoming a higher profile world sport
then the balance has to shift the other way.

The second thing I’d like to ask is if there shouln’t be a minimum age limit
for the Open Expert category. This time in the male competition both first
and second place went to competitors who were under 14. Now maybe they
deserved to win from the performances on the day and maybe they didn’t (I
thought neither routine was particularly strong on artistic content but
they’re kids so thats hardly surprising). The question is rather whether we
should be letting kids be pushed on to compete at the top level so soon. I
saw a couple of occurences of excessive parenting this year. Again if we are
looking for wider recognition then this could get worse and most if not all
of the sports where youngsters seem to have some advantage have realised
that they need to put the brakes on a bit ( e.g. gymnastics ). I would like
to think that kids who get into unicycling would carry on doing it when they
get older but if you push too hard that just won’t happen.

Meanwhile there was only one competitor in the Jr. Expert male competition.
All his contemporaries had entered
the open so how could he judge how good his performance was?


Jonathan Marshall
LUnis Unicycle Hockey

Re: Unicon Expert Freestyle

As you described in your post, lack of variety was one of the weak points in Anthony’s difficulty score. I was one of the judges. I’m afraid I can’t recall the details of Anthony’s act now, but I recall how it looked in comparison with the several other variations on that act that I’ve seen over the years.

The guy at UNICON VIII in '96 had the act the least perfected, with the most trouble getting the UW’s lined up for his tricks and therefore most time lost. Here’s a picture (2nd one down): http://www.unicycling.com/garage/ultimate.htm Anthony’s performance at the 1999 USA convention was second up my list, similar to what he did this year, but more notable in that he was three years younger. His presentation skills were/are far superior to the first guy.

But I’ve also seen Alexander Sirotkin do his version of this act, which he did in the Ringling Bros. show. In addition I’ve seen several Chinese kids, in China, do the most spectacular UW trick I’ve ever seen, where two of the boys, who looked about 10 years old, jumped to two other rolling UWs. The rear kid jumped to the one just vacated by the guy in front of him, and that boy landed on the one they were following.

Anthony’s act is designed for the professional stage, and this clearly shows in its polish. But in general, un-altered professional acts don’t do as well in unicycle competitions because the difficulty level is usually lower than what the performer will be up against at UNICON.

So anthony had a great act, which would have a very high appeal for a general audience. His skills were great, but none of them were original. His presentation was top-notch. He benefits from a father who toured with the Soviet Circus, and who I saw in the Moscow Circus at Radio City Music Hall in 1991 (before the Soviet breakup, meaning it was a very big deal to be in that show).

If I had my judging notes with me, I’d share where I ranked him. Though he was very high on presentation, he didn’t have enough difficulty to remain competitive with the other guys.

But you bring up a valid point. I suspect a lack of “quality” in our judging panels. We’re all aware of it. Constance Cotter used large groups of judges (up to 9 at a time) to improve the averages. But what we really need is judge training, which essentially doesn’t exist, and judge certification.

I question my own judging at times as well. I’d like the chance to discuss it more with other judges and audience members (and a video; wish we had an official one this year!).

I think some of our judges are too focused on difficulty, not realizing a performance with strong presentation can beat one with higher difficulty if that performance has low enough presentation. But as in ice skating, there will always be a personal aspect to judging, where some judges will like some things better than others. The key for us is to make sure all of our judges fit their personal preferences within the written judging criteria.

I would not support a proposal to have more than 50% of the judging score go to presentation. However, I would also fight against having it be less. What we really need here is to educate the judges.

I disagree. As in the Olympics, there is no reason why an 11-year-old can’t beat the adults, if he’s good enough. Unlike the Olympics, this is not a career sport and I don’t see children having their lives ruined by being too dedicated to it.

However, as you, I notice instances of excessive parenting, though not in relation to the kids in this group. Excessive parenting is a separate issue.

Everybody please note that on the UNICON registration forms, there was not a Jr. Expert category at all. I don’t know exactly where it came from, and have not seen an explanation from Constance Cotter. I believe she did this in an effort to streamline the huge number of competitors that signed up at the last minute for Freestyle. By having some of them volunteer for Jr. Expert, she didn’t have to hold preliminary rounds. Otherwise she would have been required to by the rules (too many riders per category), and it would have taken more time.

But I agree wholeheartedly that if there is not a minimum number of competitors in a group, that group should be folded into the next logical group. In this case, instead of having a guy in Jr. Expert who can neither win nor lose, let him choose between his age group or Expert. As a judge, we were asked to not worry about his performance (since we obviously didn’t need to judge it), and use the time to get caught up on our other scoring if necessary.

Thanks Jon for bringing up some good questions! I hope there is more feedback on this. I represent only one of many possible opinions.

Stay on top,
John Foss

Re: Unicon Expert Freestyle

Both first place and second place young men were 14 years. They entered the
Open-X with special permission by the Chief Judge. Age grouping for Open-X is
15 and up, male and female combined.
Open-X is showing unicycle skills not showmanship. Open-X doesn’t need to be
Kids can be artistic(most of them were), it just isn’t required for Open-X.

Barb- in the red shirt