February 20

Judging controversy surfaces at women’s skating

Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova’s high scores are questioned by some.

The Associated Press

ADLER, Russia — Two of the judges on the panel for Adelina Sotnikova of Russia’s controversial upset of South Korea’s Kim Yuna in the Olympic Games women’s figure skating competition have been linked to two of the biggest judge fixing scandals in Olympic history.

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Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, centre, Yuna Kim of South Korea, left, and Carolina Kostner of Italy stand on the podium during the flower ceremony for the women’s free skate figure skating final at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics

The Associated Press

Alla Shekhovtseva, the wife of the executive director of the Russian figure skating federation and herself implicated in the 2002 Salt Lake City judge-fixing scandal, and Yury Balkov, a Ukrainian judge previously suspended for trying to fix results at the 1998 Olympics, were among four judges added to the nine-judge panel for Thursday’s women’s long program.

Among the judges Shekhovtseva and Balkov replaced were an American, a South Korean and Diana Stevens of Great Britain. Last June, Stevens was the key witness in a case that led to the suspension of another Ukrainian judge, Natalia Kruglova, for trying to fix the judging in an international event in 2012, according to International Skating Union documents.

“This sport needs to be held more accountable with its (judging) system if they want people to believe in it,” said two-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, who finished seventh Thursday.

And it was clear in the aftermath of Sotnikova’s controversial victory that even some of skating’s all-time greats no longer do.

“This is why people laugh at it. :{ #figureskating #mysport #corrupt,” tweeted former World champion pairs skater Tai Babilonia, who trained with Randy Gardner under Orange County’s John Nicks.

Even Sotnikova seemed taken aback by her score, a look of disbelief coming across the 17-year-old’s face when her scores were posted on the Iceberg Skating Palace scoreboard.

“When I saw my scores,” Sotnikova said, “I really didn’t believe my eyes, frankly speaking.”

She wasn’t alone.

“Sotnikova was energetic, strong, commendable, but not a complete skater. I fear I will never be allowed back in Russia,” tweeted two-time Olympic champion Dick Button, a longtime television commentator.

Sotnikova’s margin of victory and overall score, in particular, raised eyebrows. Her total score from the two programs was 224.59, more than five points ahead of Kim’s 219.11 overall mark and within four points of Kim’s world record performance in winning the 2010 Olympic title, generally considered as the greatest skating display in history.

“I’m not the right person to comment on it and there’s nothing that I could change with my words,” Kim said when asked about her score.

Sotnikova’s free skate score of 149.95 was also more than seven points higher than Japan’s Mao Asada (142.71), who was overwhelmingly considered by former Olympic medalists and longtime coaches and officials as having the night’s top long program.

Italy’s Carolina Kostner finished with the bronze medal (216.73) rebounding from disastrous performances in two previous Olympics that led her to consider retiring in 2010. Gracie Gold, 18, the U.S. champion, was fourth at 205.53.

“Carolina and Yuna, (had) great skating skill, they’re skating great tonight,” said Gwendal Peizerat, a 2002 Olympic ice dancing champion. “Good jumps, nice presence on the ice, maturity, expression. How could they be six points behind somebody who has tremendous skill, but is coming out of juniors? Compared to Carolina, compared to Yuna, it’s like something has happened.

“There’s something that happened that makes people look at Adelina in a different way tonight and looked at Mao a different way tonight because she messed up yesterday. And so from nowhere, her skating skill and the marks in her jumps are dropping while Adelina’s are just really high, with one of the highest scores we’ve ever seen and she just popped up out of junior? Wow.”

Wagner, the only American to turn in two clean programs in the women’s event, was also disappointed in her own mark of 193.20, which like her free skate mark (127.99), was substantially lower than Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya, 15, whose error-filled routine included an ugly fall, but still received a 135.34 free skate mark for an overall score of 200.57, good enough for fifth place.

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