World Skating Federation Launches

World Skating Federation Launches

Elfman, Lois

Today marks an important milestone for the sport of figure skating,” declared Paul Wylie. “It is my pleasure, therefore, to announce the formation of the World Skating Federation (WSF), an athlete-focused world governing body of the sport, holding the key underlying concepts, which are logical, self-evident truths.”

On Tuesday, March 25, during the World Figure Skating Championships, while the ice dance compulsory competition was going on at the MCI Center a few blocks away, some of skating’s most prominent names – Dick Button, John Nicks, Sally Stapleford, Scott Hamilton and Ronald Pfenning among them – gathered to announce the formation of a new international skating federation. The planning began in secret last June after the ISU Congress in Kyoto. Members signed nondisclosure statements, which supposedly carried a $100,000 fine.

Acting vice president Sonia Bianchetti Garbato even kept the news from her son, Fabio Bianchetti, a member of the ISU Figure Skating Technical Committee, until 30 minutes before the press conference.

“I am here to tell you that this emperor, the ISU, has no clothes,” said Pfenning, who has been named acting president of the WSF. “It has no code of conduct or even an ethics commission, even though the leadership assured the Congress at Kyoto that it would have both. It has no respect for its own constitution and regulations. It has no respect for the athletes who put their talent out in the open and on the line. It has no respect for the sport of figure skating itself. . . .

“The World Skating Federation has been formed to accept the challenge to return the integrity to the sport,” he added. “Our goal is to attain recognition from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) as the sole international sports federation authorized to govern the sport of figure skating.”

Stapleford, former chairwoman of the ISU Figure Skating Technical Committee, said the WSF would use the time-honored 6.0 and calculate results using the best of majority system that was utilized from 1980 to 1998.

“Naturally, we will investigate alternative methods of calculating results, because our aim is obviously to get the very best results for our skaters,” she said. “We won’t turn a blind eye if another system other than 6.0 comes up and we feel it’s more beneficial. We will look into it.”

Once a judge in the WSF reaches the level of international judge, his or her annual re-nomination will no longer be in the hands of the member federation, but rather in the hands of the WSF. This is something the ISU Technical Committee had proposed at the ISU Congress of 2000, but it was soundly defeated.

Donald McKnight, a member of the ISU Appeals Commission, noted, “The WSF is providing a code of conduct and a code of ethics, which is what we will live by. There is an ethics committee, which includes both an athlete and a coach.”

The WSF will utilize six geographic zones to assure balanced representation in office holders and judges.

They have retained high powered attorney Melvyn I. Weiss to represent them.

What the WSF does not have are skaters, events or member federations. At the press conference, Jon Jackson said, “I am pleased to announce the first endorsement by a member federation of the principles of the World Skating Federation, the United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA), who only hours ago gave their support.” Jackson then read a letter from USFSA vice president Ted Clarke.

Pfenning said he believed a statement from the USFSA would be forthcoming. A statement did come from the USFSA executive committee, but it read: “The U.S. Figure Skating Association has had neither the time, nor the opportunity, to review the proposals being offered by those seeking to create a new world figure skating body. As such, it would be inaccurate and untrue for anyone to suggest that the USFSA leadership has endorsed the proposed new entity. We will follow the well-established representative process we have in place to determine what is truly in the best interest of our membership.”

Jackson said the WSF has thus far been funded by private contributions.

“We raised these funds in a confidential environment,” he said. “Today we will reach out to all the fans of figure skating.”

Although a fax and a package containing information were sent to IOC President Jacques Rogge, the board presented no timetable for approaching the IOC to seek recognition.

“We have to let this organization grow and evolve,” Jackson noted.

None of the WSF board members resigned his or her position with the ISU prior to March 25. When asked, none said he or she was planning to do it. One had the decision made for her. Judit FurstTombor of Hungary was scheduled to judge the women’s competition at Worlds. Shortly before the qualifying round, the president of the Hungarian National Skating Federation told her they had withdrawn her from the panel.

“I was judging in the ISU more than 27 years,” she said. “Now I started a new life in the WSF.”

The skating world waits to see what that life will entail for all involved.

Copyright Ashton International Media, Inc. Jun 2003

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