Saturday, February 22, 2014

Another Judging Controversy In Olympic Figure Skating

Russian judge at women's final
 The issue of inflated scores for the Russians has been a hot topic of conversation at these Olympic Games, and the women's figure skating long program renewed the debate. Adelina Sotnikova of Russia was the surprising winner of the gold medal, upsetting reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea and Italy's Carolina Kostner.

"It's sad that I just presumed Sotnikova was going to get a boost (in points) because this was in Russia," former U.S. Olympic figure skating coach Audrey Weisiger said in a phone interview. "Isn't it sad that I automatically thought that? Not one person in skating I've talked to said that's the way it should have gone."

"I was surprised with the result," Joseph Inman, a top U.S. international judge who was on the women's panel at the 2002 Olympics, said in a telephone interview.

Judges from the United States, South Korea, Great Britain and Sweden were excluded from the panel for the women's long program.  Two of their replacements were Ukrainian Yuri Balkov, who was kicked out of judging for a year after being tape-recorded by a Canadian judge trying to fix the Nagano ice dancing competition, and Alla Shekhovtseva, a Russian judge who is married to Russian federation general director Valentin Pissev. The two other new long program judges were from Estonia and France, which was the country that conspired with Russia to try to fix the pairs and ice dancing competition at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

Russian judge hugging Russian winner
The controversy was further fueled by the unexplained actions of Adelina Sotnikova immediately following the conclusion of the competition.  She was seen coming back onto the ice and embracing Russian judge All Shekhovtseva in apparent gratitude.

What happened in the women's figure skating competition was worse than the 2002 Salt Lake City judging scandal because, this time, we'll never find out who might have done what because (due to the new judging system) all the judges' scores are now anonymous.   The idea was to help eliminate bloc judging and cheating, but the result is that the system now hides, and even can protect, those who are not playing by the rules.

"People need to be held accountable," U.S. Olympic team bronze medalist Ashley Wagner said after the competition, "they need to get rid of the anonymous judging. There are many changes that need to come to this sport if we want a fan base because you can't depend on this sport to always be there when you need it. ... This sport needs to be held more accountable with its system if they want people to believe in it."

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