Tony Torres doesn't just bring his engineering mindset to his day job -- he brings it to rink as well.
For the past 17 years, Torres, chief of the systems and cost engineering division for Huntsville Center, has served as a judge for U.S. Figure Skating, putting his unique way of thinking to the test when it comes to all the twists, turns and jumps that accompany the age old art of figure skating.
"Being an engineer, you analyze things, so you become very knowledgeable about the sport and what is required," Torres said. "Figure skating goes back to the early days of skating just being an event of being able to sketch figures on the ice. It's really nothing related to the things that you see on television, all the spins and jumps. Figures, circles -- it's geometry. A lot of people that have a scientific background do very well as judges. The jumps and spins -- it's all physics and biology."
Formerly a skating dad, Torres spent a lot of time around the rink when his son was skating competitively in the early '90s. Upon the suggestion of fellow parents and others at the rink who saw that judging was a natural fit for Torres, he decided to give it a try. Today he judges about 20 to 25 events every year, and is one of five judges in the state of Alabama. Judging has taken him as far south as Florida and as far north as Ohio.
Within U.S. Figure Skating there are two types of judges: competition judges, who do all of the qualifying competitions, and test judges, who ensure that skaters are at the appropriate level to be able to compete. Officially a test judge with an expertise in singles and pairs, Torres can also judge a lot of the non-qualifying club competitions, which prepare skaters for those qualifying competitions, which typically occur October through January, with every four years being an Olympic year.
"I enjoy helping the kids," Torres said. "Skating is a very healthy activity. It requires a lot of discipline to become a good skater. The more we can do to encourage them to keep that discipline, that's something that they can transfer to life."
He looks for power and speed, proper edges, good posture, proper takeoffs and landings, and whether or not jumps are fully rotated when judging.
"You have to be a fair judge," Torres said. "Some of the judging has more of a clinical evaluation, and some of it is more subjective, because the sport itself is not only the physical activity but there's a lot of artistry as well."