In an article published yesterday, January 22, on her website, Sonia Bianchetti took a firm stand as regards this year’s judging at the Europeans: “No fair judge with a minimum of competence in figure skating, choreography, performance and execution, and interpretation of the music could have awarded higher marks to Lipnitskaia or Sotnikova than to Carolina. Still, three judges did place Julia ahead of Carolina and two did the same with Adelina. One even awarded a score of 10 in interpretation to Julia and only 9 to Carolina! These marks are appallingly outrageous”. The article does not say that Julia Lipnitskaia and Adelina Sotnikova (gold and silver at the Europeans) don’t deserve their medals; Sonia Bianchetti merely underlines that Carolina Kostner, third place in Budapest, was definitely undermarked when it came to Program Components.
by Florentina Tone
Writing about Julia Lipnitskaia’s performance in Budapest in flattering terms – “Skating to the beautiful music of Schindler’s List, she performed an extraordinary program, which included a triple Lutz/triple toe-loop combination plus six more double and triple jumps and jump combinations, and fantastic spins” –, Sonia Bianchetti reaches the point when she discusses the quality of judging at this year’s edition of the Europeans, as regards the Program Components marks awarded to certain skaters/couples.
Case study number 1: Carolina Kostner. In Mrs. Bianchetti’s words, the programs Carolina skated in Budapest “were just outstanding from the artistic point of view. Her short program, skated to Franz Schubert’s «Ave Maria», was breathtaking and extremely emotional from the beginning to the end. The public greeted her with a standing ovation. The same can be said for her interpretation of the «Bolero» by Maurice Ravel. […] Carolina glides on the ice like a butterfly. She lives the music and she makes it alive. Each movement of her head and arms is intended to express that particular beat of the music, as every good skater is supposed to do in a sport which is known all over the world as an «artistic sport». Still, the marks she was awarded in the Program Components do not seem to reflect the difference between her programs and those of Lipnitskaia and Sotnikova. The total marks for the Program Components in free skating were: Lipnitskaia 68.00, Sotnikova 69.60, Kostner 71.02. In Budapest, it was a general opinion among many coaches, officials and judges that Carolina was definitely undermarked. There is no doubt that both Julia and Adelina are marvelous, very promising young girls, technically fantastic, but at a sidereal distance from Carolina as far as the interpretation of the music, the body movement and the choreography are concerned”.
Case study number 2: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. The Russians made some important mistakes during their free program – and they won the gold only thanks to their exquisite short program. But even if “the overall impression suffered” with the falls of Tatiana and Maxim in the free, “their Components marks were very high”. Once again, Sonia Bianchetti hits the nail on the head: “With three falls, in no way should the PC marks be between 9 and 9.50, especially for performance/execution”.
Former Olympic referee, member and chairman of the Figure Skating Committee of ISU from 1967 to 1988, Sonia Bianchetti says it loud and clear: there were cases during these European Championships when “the PC marks were awarded totally disregarding what actually was happening on the ice. It really seemed that the judges were paying more attention to the country the skaters came from than to their actual performance. A real mockery. What is even more sad is that these judges can get away with it, thanks to secret judging. Thank God the US Figure Skating Association, together with Greece and hopefully some more European countries, is proposing to the next ISU Congress in June to delete secret judging”.
Mrs. Bianchetti is referring to a recent proposal made by the UFSA, to abandon the anonymity of the judges, in order to make them accountable for their marks. US Figure Skating executive director David Raith told “USA Today” at the beginning of January: “We believe after 10 years of the system the way it’s been, it’s certainly time the judges are known for the marks they are given. Just as it was in the past”. The anonymity was meant to protect the judges from outside pressure, but, in fact – as many voices say, including Sonia Bianchetti – it actually offers them cover to cheat.
Read Sonia Bianchetti’s entire article here.