Some people liked it, some people hated it and a lots of people just couldn't really follow it, but 'Overall Impression' certainly made an impact in Aspen. It's back this weekend at X Games Norway, so Jason Arens gives us a brief refresher, his impression of it and how it can be improved. Tom Wallisch was actually judged using the system when he competed at Knuckle Huck and had front row seats for other events as a commentator.
So how exactly is the new system meant to work? Jason explains:
"Overall Impression (OI) has been the “standard” in freeskiing for years, factoring in 5 unique criteria (variety, amplitude, progression, execution, and difficulty) as they apply to each run/performance ranking against competitors judged on the same criteria. The X games OI system works the same, we are factoring a skier's complete performance through the heat based on their ability to fulfill the criteria; originality, difficulty, creativity, style, trajectory while only worrying about the skiers “ranking” as their performance stacked up against the field, without a numerical score."
He thinks the new system actually worked well in Aspen: "Granted there was some confusion amongst the athletes (coaches) about the new format but we spent quite a bit of time explaining the new system to the athletes, by the end of which I felt everyone was on the same page for the most part. This system was completely new to us as well, so we felt it was necessary to be as transparent about the system as possible.
"Overall, I like the system. Our judging is based on a ranking system, scores are only given arbitrarily to organize that runs ranking against the other runs taken/completed that day. Everyone gets hung up on the "scores" despite the numbers having no actual meaning, so its refreshing to be able to rank competitors' performances minus the numbers that tend to get hung up on. The system was also designed to give skiers more runs/more time on course, to encourage less repetition which I think stands to make a much more interesting contest. Many other contests these days are becoming pretty rigid in their format, so it's refreshing to see a big event switch things up to bring something new to the table.
Jason admits that when evaluating OI over multiple runs throughout multiple competitors, it can definitely be difficult for athletes/spectators to follow along; understanding shifts and lack of switches in rankings.
"While we tried to make clear to the athletes that their “best/most difficult” run, while not being the only thing factored into their OI ranking would account for a large portion of their ranking we did not establish a number/percentage for which the “best” run accounted for, which was something that I think would have helped the athletes understand.
"This created a scenario in which "the best run" would not always win that contest as viewers/competitors generally expect. It also created in a few events a situation in which high-level consistency outweighed sheer difficulty/progression, while not necessarily a bad thing, I think athletes may have been a bit conservative in their trick selection knowing that one crash on one of 4/5 runs would affect their ability to end on the podium."
Moving forward to Norway, they are using the same system but with some small modifications. "There will be greater emphasis to the riders/spectators on the importance of each rider's "best/most difficult” run, noting that it will likely account for a significant amount of the OI rankings.
"The way the contest leaderboard appears on-screen/at the event I’m not always sure people understood when and where changes in the judge's rankings occurred, so we may see changes in the way the ranking shifts/swaps are shown on screen, to make it more easily understandable."
Jason's "dream case scenario", would be that the judges can communicate in real-time to commentators explaining switches in rankings and the reasoning behind it.
You might expect a judge to support the new system, but what about the skiers? Not just any skier, X Game gold medalist, commentator, and Freeski legend: Tom Wallisch.
"I love the idea of changing things up. Shaking it up if you will. I think the new Overall impression jam format judging is cool because it is different. Not just the same shit we see every event. Not stagnant like the format and courses in FIS events. I think it could use some work evolving but the idea of it is great. We got to see more action than ever before at X because of the new format.
"It was however hard to follow and understand who was leading and why. I think with more discussion between the judges, organizers, and athletes the format could work great and be easier to understand for athletes planning their runs. I’m hoping we can have more discussion leading into Norway and fine-tune everything to be great for athletes and spectators alike!!"
So Overall Impression might not be perfect yet, but are you happy X Games are sticking with it?