Ladies' figure skating and drama go together like sequins and nude tights. The latest controversy comes after Thursday night's finals, which saw Russian underdog Adelina Sotnikova snatching the gold from previous champion Yuna Kim of South Korea. Yuna gave a flawless performance, while Adelina took a few missteps during her still impressive program. Now spectators and experts alike are pointing to signs of impropriety. For one, there were no South Korean judges on the panel, but it did include a judge who is married to the general director and past president of the Russian skating federation. Also, a Ukrainian judge who was previously suspended for score-fixing in the 1998 Nagano Games participated.
Following a huge cheating scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, which ended with a second gold medal handed out in the pairs competition, figure skating altered its scoring rules. One change was to make scores anonymous, taking the pressure off judges to vote along geopolitically biased lines. After this year's upset, people, including Team USA's own skaters, are weighing in about whether more changes are needed.
Ashely Wagner, who finished seventh, said, "I think we need to get rid of the anonymous judging." She also noted, "People don't want to watch a sport where you see people fall down and somehow score above someone who goes clean."
And Gracie Gold, who placed fourth, also commented: "Yuna Kim has this mature grace about her, and she already has an Olympic gold in her pocket. It was a very interesting mashup at this Olympics. Adelina came out on top, but at another competition, it could have been Yuna, so who knows?"
For her part, Yuna Kim is rising about the fray. She said, "The scores are given by the judges, so I'm not in the right position to comment, and there is nothing that will change with my words." And, of course, figure skating is an inherently subjective sport. Adelina's home field advantage, which came in the form of crowd support and an impassioned performance, can influence the judges. That, not necessarily cheating, might just be part of it. What do you think?