Accuracy and National Bias of Figure Skating Judges: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Vincent Dumoulin, Institute of Statistics, Université de Neuchâtel
Hugues Mercier, Institutes of Computer Science and Mathematics, Université de Neuchâtel


Figure skating has had its share of judging controversies in the last twenty years. The last in line is the suspension of two Chinese judges suspected by the International Skating Union (ISU) of preferential marking in favor of Chinese skaters during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. In this work we develop novel mathematical techniques to monitor the accuracy and nationalistic bias of figure skating judges. This is fundamental to guarantee a level playing field in this sport. Our analysis reveals systemic nationalistic bias, and although both suspended Chinese judges were undoubtedly biased, they were far from the only ones, nor were they the worst offenders. We also shed light on the current ISU monitoring practices and propose recommendations moving forward.