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What's up with the ISU World Standings?

Verner somehow tops the list; Lysacek, Chan are left in the dust

Tomas Verner's charasmatic <i>Zorba the Greek</i> short program earned 81.00 points.
Tomas Verner's charasmatic Zorba the Greek short program earned 81.00 points. (Getty Images)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(03/28/2009) - I was standing in the mixed zone at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships during the men's short program with some reporters, and the conversation turned to the ISU World Standings. We all found it a bit perplexing that Tomas Verner was the No. 1-ranked skater according to the rankings. A fine skater he, but the best in the world?

Verner has one ISU championship to his credit -- the 2008 European title. He has medaled at Euros one other time (bronze in 2007). He has never medaled at worlds. He has finished off the podium at Grand Prix Series events as often (three times) as he has medaled at them (two silvers, one bronze).

How does all that add up to his being numero uno?

Verner's ranking is boosted by his competing in a couple "senior Bs" each year, although his record at those isn't even that sparkling. This season, he won the bronze at the Karl Shafer Memorial and came in fourth at the Nebelhorn Trophy. Last season, he won the Finlandia Trophy and earned the bronze at Nebelhorn.

Verner is able to take part in these competitions because they are all held in Europe, so the travel costs are minimal. His federation is more than willing to send him to these as tune-ups for the Grand Prix season.

North American and Asian skaters aren't so fortunate. Expenses are much higher for them to fly to Europe and back, and since these competitions are not viewed as integral parts of the season, they rarely go.

Skaters in this part of the world instead compete in summertime non-qualifying competitions -- your Lake Placid, your Liberty, your Indy Challenge -- where the fields are arguably as strong as they are at the senior Bs. These events, however, do not qualify for points in the ISU World Standings.

A skater receives 250 points for winning a senior B, 225 for second and 203 for third. The 475 points Belgium's Kevin van der Perren accumulated for winning the NRW Trophy and finishing second at the International Challenge Cup are the difference between his being third and his being eighth in the standings.

Oh, I didn't mention KVDP was third overall, above Evan Lysacek (fourth) and Patrick Chan (sixth). Must have slipped my mind.

Another flaw in the standings is the distribution of points. Each successive placement is awarded 10 percent fewer points than the placement above it. For instance, winning the world championships is worth 1,200 points, second place gets 1,080, third 972, fourth 875, and so on. That's simply not enough of a discrepancy between placements.

The point of competing is to win. That's why we're all in this, right? Sure. So winning a competition should be worth significantly more than finishing second or third.

Medaling should be more generously rewarded as well, so there should be a considerable difference between the point total for third and fourth.

What's the big deal, you ask? Well, the ISU World Standings are used to seed skaters at the Grand Prix and ISU championship events. Skaters also receive a monetary bonus at the end of the year for finishing in the top three for the season just passed.

Here are some noteworthy results from the 2008-09 season for three of the top men's skaters:
• Skater 1 -- Two Grand Prix medals (silver and bronze), one senior B medal (bronze)
• Skater 2 -- Two Grand Prix medals (both gold), Four Continents gold, world silver
• Skater 3 -- Two Grand Prix medals (both bronze), Four Continents silver, world gold

Does one of those resumes not quite belong with the other two?

Skaters 2 and 3 are, obviously, Chan and Lysacek. Skater 1 is Verner, who has amassed the most points in the 2008-09 ISU World Standings and, thus, will receive a $45,000 bonus. Chan will earn 27 grand, while Evan will get a cool 18 large.

While the ladies overall No. 1 is yet to be determined, Italy's Carolina Kostner currently sits in that spot, largely thanks to her win at Karl Schafer, where she had to pull up to beat Elena Glebova and Annette Dytrt with a paltry score of 143.66.

When do you think the last time was that Mao Asada or Yu-Na Kim scored 143?