Controversial Russian Judge Caught Embracing Gold Medalist Backstage After Home-Ice Win over Yuna Kim
The Russian women's figure skating judge -- who just happens to be married to the president of Russia's figure skating federation -- was caught backstage hugging the 17-year-old Russian skater who was awarded a controversial gold medal on Thursday at the Sochi Winter Olympics. The Russian gold medalist received what many have said were suspicious and highly inflated scores after a free skate program that saw her stumble.
A South Korean television station caught Russian skating judge Alla Shekhovtsova warmly embracing Adelina Sotnikova, the controversial gold medalist, and the Chicago Tribune confirmed, after it got the stills from the station, with NBC that the cameras set up backstage indeed "caught the women celebrating together after Sotnikova's gold medal."
As the Daily Mail noted, while the embrace does not suggest the judge was part of a fix, "critics have said that rushing backstage to congratulate her compatriot in full view of cameras was a bad judgment call." Under the anonymous scoring system, suspicious scoring and score-trading have reportedly increased by 20 percent over the old system, according to an ABC analysis. And another judge on the final panel had been suspended in the past for fixing skating matches. Judges from the UK, South Korea, and America were booted from the final panel in favor of judges from "Soviet Bloc" and France, the home country of the infamous judge who conspired with a Russian judge to fix an Olympic event in 2002.
South Korea's "Queen" Yuna Kim, considered one of the best figure skaters of all time, completed what was described as a flawless routine. Though the Russian skater had higher marks for jumps--even though she stumbled on one--many of the top figure skating analysts and past judges felt the Russian's scores in the components section were vastly inflated.
USA Today's Christine Brennan said that the Cold War is "still alive" in women's figure skating and other columnists said that Yuna Kim "never had a chance":
What happened tonight in the women's figure skating competition was worse than the 2002 Salt Lake City pairs judging scandal because, this time, we'll never find out who might have done what because all the judges' scores are now anonymous. In 2002, French judge Marie-Reine LeGougne's scores were easily identifiable. But in 2004, the International Skating Union adopted a new judging system in which all judges scores are now totaled into two numbers: a total element score and a total program component score.
Brennan also reported that the "nine judges for the short and long programs are chosen by draw from a pool of 13, with eight of the judges only working one event or the other. Judges from the United States, South Korea, Great Britain and Sweden were not chosen to work the women's long program after being on the women's short program panel the night before."
American Ashley Wagner said she was "speechless" after the final result and said the system needed to be more transparent.
Before the revelations about the judges came out, Breitbart Sports noted that the Russian skater's score was within a tenth of Yuna Kim's world record that she set at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and nobody believed Sotnikova's performance close to Kim's 2010 performance. In fact, skating analysts felt that Sotnikova and Italy's Carolina Koster should have been battling for second:
Consider this: Sotnikova did not land all of her jumps cleanly, yet scored 149.95 in the free skate. Yuna Kim scored 144.19 and Italy's Carolina Kostner scored 142.61. In 2010, Yuna Kim shattered the world record at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in what was hailed by nearly every figure skating analyst as one of the greatest performances in the history of the sport. Yuna's score then? 150.06. That's barely above what Sotnikova received with a performance in which she did not even land all of her jumps correctly.
An online petition calling for an open investigation has already received nearly 2 million signatures.