The Ladies’ Final: an Olympic masquerade

Let me tell just that: I congratulate myself for not spending a fortune in order to watch the Ladies’ Olympic event live, in Sochi; I would have died a little. To put it bluntly, nights like this are a disgrace for the sport – and I’m not taking any of those words back. In any given country the Olympic podium would have looked a little different, with Yuna Kim taking the gold, Carolina Kostner, the silver, and Adelina Sotnikova settling for the bronze. Well, Russia is just not any given country and skating in front of a hostile audience was really an act of courage for the non-Russian skaters and especially for the ladies fighting for a medal; as if it were a patriotic duty for the Russian audience to only cheer for their skaters and show the utmost contempt for the others.
Seeing their complete numbness during Carolina’s and Yuna’s performances – people in the arena were literally having their arms crossed, refusing to acknowledge greatness in front of them, hearing them chanting incessantly “Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!” when the Russian ladies took the ice and, finally, seeing the scores – well, all of the above threw me back in time, at the Summer Olympic Games held in Moscow, in 1980. The Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci was denied then her second all-around Olympic gold medal, after the one she won in Montreal-1976 (the Russian Yelena Davydova won the event in Moscow and Nadia was given the Olympic silver) – and 34 years later, the story repeated itself with Yuna Kim being the victim. To refuse this wonderful skater the chance to make history for herself and South Korea (with two Olympic golds, Yuna would have equaled Katarina Witt) – this was just wrong; and equally wrong was to deny an obvious silver to the Italian Carolina Kostner. For my own sake, I think I’ll just give up watching figure skating at the Olympics.

by Florentina Tone

At the end of the day, the Olympic podium should have loked like that: Yuna Kim, Carolina Kostner, Adelina Sotnikova

At the end of the day, the Olympic podium should have loked like that: Yuna Kim, Carolina Kostner, Adelina Sotnikova

On facebook, someone summarized the evening perfectly: “Call the Sochi police, because two people have been robbed. 1. Kostner and 2. Kim”. As for me, I’m just incapable of celebrating Carolina Kostner’s well deserved and long-awaited Olympic medal only because I know she should have been given the silver. She skated wonderfully her “Bolero” – but, unfortunately, her sensual and powerful performance wasn’t enough to melt the hearts of those in the crowd; Carolina skated mostly for herself and for us, the millions watching in front of the TV. At the end of her routine, she was first, with 142.61 points for the free and a total of 216.73; but her superiority only lasted for 8 minutes. In a terrible noisy arena, Adelina Sotnikova took the ice – she came, she conquered and she left; and in the end she was given an unbelievable set of scores, 149.95 points for her free program (and a total of 224.59); and I just couldn’t believe my eyes.

A boom in PCS for Adelina Sotnikova
Technically, Adelina was superior to Carolina: she had a base value of 61.43 points compared to those 58.45 of Kostner’s. But Adelina got more than 14 points from her GOEs, while Carolina only managed to get 10. But what I find most troubling are Adelina’s Program Components scores compared to the Italian’s: 9.18 vs. 9.14 for Skating Skills; 8.96 vs. 8.71 for Transitions; 9.43 vs. 9.43 for the Performance; 9.50 vs. 9.21 for Choreography (really?); 9.43 vs. 9.61 for Interpretation. So, except for the Interpretation part it seems that Adelina Sotnikova outscored Carolina Kostner in every department of the PCS; and this is just unthinkable.

As her colleague Julia Lipnistkaia in the Team Event, it looks like Adelina managed to improve tremendously, when it comes to the Program Components, in a matter of weeks. At the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, in December, the 17-year-old Russian only managed a 60.47 points for Program Components in the free program (but, back then, her free program was flawed). On the other hand, at the 2013 Trophée Eric Bompard, in November, Adelina won the free program – and was awarded, for a great performance, 64.65 points, while at the 2014 Europeans, in Budapest, she got a 69.60. As in Julia’s case, Adelina’s Program Components scores really exploded during the Europeans – for the same program presented throughout the season – and experienced a boom during the Olympics: 74.41 points for Adelina, compared to those 73.77 of Carolina’s.

To me, Adelina outscoring the Italian when it comes to artistry, musicality, performance, choreography is completely unreal; and unreal is also the fact that Mao Asada, skating a wonderful free program last night in Sochi, was given for Program Components no more than 69.68 points (really?!), namely: 8.75 for Skating Skills; 8.36 for Transitions; 8.79 for Performance/Execution; 8.79 for Choreography and 8.86 for Interpretation. I find these scores completely outrageous if we look at the quality of this particular program (third of the night) and at the general quality of Mao’s skating. So, there you go: it seems that Adelina Sotnikova was really the winner of the golden ticket last night, outscoring both Carolina Kostner and Mao Asada when it comes to Program Components; and don’t tell me it’s irrelevant to compare the PCS from different events: after all, the Skating Skills, the Transitions, the Choreography do not change overnight. I wish Tatiana Tarasova would have a say on that; after all, she coached Mao for years and choreographed her free program too…

…as if the scores increased exponentially with the enthusiasm of the crowd
Skating last, one would have feared Yuna Kim, the Olympic champion from Vancouver four years ago, would melt under pressure. Well, there’s reason why they call her The Queen: she just gets out there and delivers. At her second Olympics, Yuna did just that, skating a wonderful (and lyrical) version of tango and being her usual self: great, big, Olympic material. At the end of the routine, the same icy atmosphere in the arena, except for Carolina’s fans, waving their flags and, yes, cheering for Yuna; how about that for fair-play? And then this happened: 144.19 points for the South Korean skater, the second free program of the night (as the judges say) and Olympic silver for Yuna Kim. I felt like saying: “Shame on you, judges, for turning the Ladies’ event into a masquerade”. Because if we were to believe the judges, Yuna Kim and Adelina Sotnikova have pretty much the same Program Components (74.50 vs. 74.41) – really? And this 9.50 for the Choreography of Adelina’s program (compared to 9.39 of Yuna’s) is what annoys me the most.

I totally agree with the fact that Yuna had a lower base value of her elements comparing to Adelina (57.49 vs. 61.43 – and this was probably the biggest problem for Yuna last night), but I’m not buying the fact that Adelina was given a 14 points bonus from GOE comparing to those 12.30 of Yuna’s. The Korean skater’s jumps are teaching material – so why give her a 6.50 points for her triple Flip and Adelina, a 6.80? Or a 5.52 for her triple Salchow, and Adelina, 5.82? Or a 4.42 for her double Axel, and 4.70 to Adelina? It seems that the Program Components Scores and the points for Grade of Execution increased exponentially with the enthusiasm of the crowd. Once again, I was baffled. I can only say as Lori Nichol said to Gracie Gold, after a wonderful performance of the American: “It’s Russia”.

A petition was started
At the end of the night, there was an outcry of disbelief and disappointment: how was this even possible? Commentating the event for the Canadian television, four-time World champion Kurt Browning was asked to explain what just had happened by a journalist from “The New Work Times”: “I don’t know, guys. I just couldn’t see how Yu-na and Sotnikova were so close in the components. I was shocked. What, suddenly, she just became a better skater overnight? I don’t know what happened. I’m still trying to figure it out”. As for Gwendal Peizerat, the 2002 ice dancing gold medalist with Marina Anissina, he stated: “That’s not fair to see Carolina and Yuna, who have great skating skills and had great skating tonight – good jumps, nice presence on the ice, maturity, expression – could be six points behind somebody who has tremendous skill but is just coming out of juniors. Compared to Carolina, compared to Yuna, something has happened”.

By this morning, things really escaladed – and a few major newspapers, including “The New York Times”, included short descriptions of some of the judges in the panel in the ladies’ free program: “One of the judges in the women’s competition, Yuri Balkov of Ukraine, was at the center of an ice dancing scandal at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, when he was reportedly recorded by a Canadian judge trying to predetermine the outcome. Another judge, Alla Shekhovtsova of Russia, is the wife of Valentin Piseev, who was formerly the president of the Russian figure skating federation and is now its general director”.

Furthermore, a petition was started last night, urging International Skating Union (ISU) to open an investigation into judging decisions of Women’s Figure Skating; at 11:09 a.m. (local time in Bucharest, Romania), it had already been signed by 1.332.580 people…