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Nation/World

February 22, 2014

Judging talk overshadows figure skating again

SOCHI, Russia — Leave it to figure skating and judging, where winning can be obscured by whining.

Any sport without a finish line or clock or some definitive standard is subject to skepticism about the results. It has happened at the Olympics before, and now it’s happened at Sochi after Adelina Sotnikova skated away with the gold medal, the first for a Russian woman in the individual event.

Social media was ablaze yesterday with questions and accusations, particularly from South Koreans who saw countrywoman Yuna Kim denied a second straight Olympic title. Others wondered why there is so little transparency in the judging, or about the makeup of the panel — Alla Shekhovtsova of Russia is the wife of Valentin Piseev, general director of the country’s figure skating federation.

Perhaps this simple fact can be offered as an explanation: Under the current points system, adopted after the judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Sotnikova, 17, did exactly what she needed to come out on top.

“Today’s figure skating comprises those evaluations that include a program, steps, jumps,” Sotnikova’s coach, Elena Buyanova, said yesterday. “We were not behind in our complexity, rotations, and I think we should be proud of our two girls because they did not give in to the world elite.”

Watching from his NBC broadcast location, 1984 Olympic champ Scott Hamilton was intrigued by the 17-year-old Sotnikova’s strategy, which he said worked perfectly for the scoring format. It was more than enough to beat Kim and Carolina Kostner, whose bronze medal was the first in Olympic singles figure skating for Italy.

“Adelina collected more points. That is really the only way you can describe it,” Hamilton said. “If you look at Yuna of the past, this was not a program as difficult as she has done, and she left the opportunity for someone to collect points on that side of the scoring.

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