- Figure Skating
Adelina Sotnikova looks past Olympic scoring controversy to future wins
SOCHI, Russia – The day after a judging controversy swirled around figure skating, newly crowned Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova had her mind on one thing: more gold medals.
“This isn’t the end. There are new golds to win,” a smiling Sotnikova told a packed press room. “There are the World Championships – I want to win there. I only have a silver at the European Championships; I want to win gold there. I want all the gold that there is.”
Sotnikova’s win has been questioned by fans and insiders alike, and the presence of a judge who was previously suspended from judging competitions for trying to fix an event at the 1998 Nagano Olympics has particularly raised eyebrows. But many experts point to one important factor in Sotnikova’s victory: the Russian completed one more triple jump than Kim. She also skated with greater passion in a free skate where Kim and Kostner were clean, yet safe and restrained in their performances, giving Sotnikova a higher component score.
Embedded video_content_type: Ladies free skate sparks another scoring debate
“For me yesterday Adelina was the champion,” said Eteri Tutberidze, the coach of Yulia Lipnitskaya, Sotnikova’s teammate. “It all goes into a package. If you look at all of the components of the skating, she was the champion. Yuna Kim is a strong skater, a strong person. But for me, Adelina won the skating.”
American figure skater Ashley Wagner strongly disagreed, telling Reuters the sport needs more transparency.
"I saw a lot of very nice, decent landings [from Kim] and I am speechless," said Wagner, who finished seventh. "People need to be held accountable. They need to get rid of anonymous judging. There are many changes that need to come to this sport if we want a fan base," Wagner was quoted as saying.
Sotnikova’s coach, former world medalist Elena Buyanova, said Sotnikova's win was the result of a collective regrouping after the Vancouver Olympics. Russian coaches came together in 2010 after the figure skating team won just two medals, its lowest count since the 1976 Innsbruck Games.
“After Vancouver we had to sit down with all the coaches and analyze what was happening,” Buyanova said. “We could not imagine any better training conditions now; we have had the full support of the Russian sporting bodies.”
Sotnikova becomes the first Russian woman to win gold at the Olympics. Ladies had won a total of just three silvers and bronzes, most recently by Irina Slutskaya (silver in Salt Lake and bronze in Torino).
Embedded video_content_type: Adelina Sotnikova waits for Yuna Kim's scores to be revealed
It was a disappointing end of the Games for the 15-year-old Lipnitskaya, who had won the ladies’ portion of the team event – in which Russia claimed gold – yet faltered to fifth place in the singles event.
“After the end I was very disappointed,” Lipnitskaya said. “I just couldn’t focus during it because I was so tired. I felt sad. It was just too much. Last night I cried and cried. But still, No. 5 in the world is not something very many people can do.”
Calls have been renewed for figure skating’s judges to be identified after scores were viewed high for Sotnikova. A panel of nine judges is named, though just five of their scores are used after each skate. The displayed scores do not reveal which came from which judge, but the final panel included two names that jumped out to figure skating insiders: Russia’s Alla Shekhovtseva and Yuri Balkov of Ukraine.
Balkov was suspended for one year in 1998 after attempting to fix the ice dancing portion of the Nagano Games. And Shekhovtseva is married to former Russian figure skating federation president Valentin Pissev. The Russian coaches did not feel as though that played a role in the judges’ scores, however.
Embedded video_content_type: Sotnikova, Kim free skate routines side by side
“It doesn’t make sense to discuss that here,” Buyanova said. “Alla was a judge long before that marriage. We have always known her as a judge.”
“We play by the rules that this game is offering us,” said Peter Chernyshov, Sotnikova’s choreographer. “I don’t think we’re in the position to promote new ideas. At this point we’re focused at following the rules and doing our best.”
“It’s hard to find the ideal system that would work for everyone,” said the former ice dancer. “It’s not track and field where you run faster than someone. It’s very subjective. There is not just one judge on a panel. The opinion of one judge doesn’t make the whole result.”
Tara Lipinski, who won gold in this event in 1998 and worked at these Olympics as a commentator for NBC, said she thought the results were appropriate.
“There are questions about the judging, but I felt the podium ended up in the right order," Lipinski said.
Both Lipnitskaya and Sotnikova said they’re looking forward to the World Championships next month in Japan. It will be Lipnitskaya’s first, while Sotnikova was ninth there a year ago.
With her gold, she becomes the first Olympic champion not to have medaled at Worlds before her win.
The teenagers credit one another for pushing Russian skating to the next level.
“It’s good to have someone on the team that makes you go forward,” Sotnikova said of Lipnitskaya. “I have to say thanks to Yulia because she is my rival. It’s not over yet. This season took a lot of nerve, but there are still World Championships, and I want to win there.”
Embedded video_content_type: Adelina Sotnikova gold medal routine
Best of Sochi