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Number and Text Message Voting Decide Figure SkatingChallenge

Boston - If you don't like the new scoring system recently introduced into the world of figure skating, you could make up your own on Sunday and help choose the winner of the Marshall's Figure Skating Challenge. Presented by ABC television, fans from all over the country were able to pick the winners during the first-ever live, interactive, fan voting during a nationally-televised ice skating event. Fans were able to vote via a 900 number, cell phone text message, or online voting at The US Figure Skating Association web site. The 900 number and cell phone text message costs were .

75 per vote. In addition, 2000 fans at Boston University's Agganis Arena were able to vote from their seats with a handheld device. But, the Marshall's Figure Skating Challenge did not totally abandon traditional judging. The ABC panel of experts--Peggy Fleming, Dick Button, and Peter Carruthers--were there to offer their expert commentary based on more than just who wore the cutest outfit. In the men's preliminary, Michael Weiss thrilled the crowd with a back flip he dubbed a "tornado" and advanced to the championship round. Favorite Johnny Weir, whose 900 number message indicated a vote for him was a vote for the fact that he was "hot," also advanced to the final round.

Interestingly, however, the panel did not agree with the public. It unanimously named Matt Savoie, a late replacement for the injured Evan Lysaceck, as the overall best. Savoie finished last in the public voting just behind third place Tim Goebel. On the women's side, Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan advanced to the final round by easily outdistancing Alissa Czisny and Emily Hughes. The panel of judges voted Cohen the best, although she finished behind the veteran Kwan who was skating for the first time since a September injury sidelined her. In the men's championship round skate-off, Weir overcame a fall in the first round to receive 64% of the vote over Weiss.

For the ABC panel of experts, it was the only time that it agreed with the 900 number, text message, and internet voters who also gave Weir the title and $50,000 in prize money. The ending of the show seemed similar to most of the women's figure skating competitions that we've witnessed over the past decade when Kwan has copped nine national titles. Kwan won the event, but it was bittersweet, because the panel of experts all voted for Cohen who is still looking for her first national title. In all, according to the New York Times, 104,418 votes were cast via the 900 number, text message, and the web site. Advanced Telecom Services (Wayne, PA) handled the 900 number voting.

Spark Network Services (Des Plaines, IL) provided the text message voting through its PromoTXT.com system. WinnerComm (Tulsa, OK) tabulated the online voting. One thing is for sure, with over 100,000 votes, each costing .

75, it was pretty difficult to rig the judges. .

By: Anthony Wayne


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