(Photo: Quinn Rooney / Getty Images Sport)
If you’ve been keeping up with your Olympic figure skating, you probably couldn’t help but notice that Sochi went and FLIPPED THE SCRIPT last night.
Earlier in the week, it seemed highly probable that Russian wonderchild Yulia Lipnitskaya would be on the podium, most likely joined by Kim Yu-Na of South Korea, Mao Asada of Japan, Carolina Kostner of Italy, Gracie Gold of the United States, or someone similarly high-profile. Not only were they favorites coming into the competition, but they had given us a preview of their talents in the team competition and the short programs.
Obviously Yulia significantly reduced her chances of medaling after a shocking fall on a non-technical element, but it seemed unlikely that the rest of the roster would get too shaken up in a matter of one day.
Enter seventeen-year old Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, who swooped in to take gold at last night’s ceremonies, pushing Kim Yu-Na to silver and Carolina Kostner to bronze, though many felt the two of them skated vastly superior programs. So many people, in fact, that a petition to the International Skating Union demanding a rejudging of the scores garnered 1.2 million signatures in only twelve hours, and is currently up to 1.7 million.
But no matter how riled up everyone gets, this is never gonna be as big an Olympic scandal as the one involving Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, and here are some reasons why:
- Judging protocol has changed. As The Atlantic Wire points out, it used to be that you couldn’t medal after falling during your program, but now it comes down to individual deductions, which can be outweighed by bonuses earned on other jumps.
- Protocol was followed. No matter how much you disagree with the judges, they are all allowed to vote however they see fit.
- It’s anonymous. In this case, the system is really designed to hide the potentially corrupt judges. Even though we know which judges presided over this event (and that one of them is the wife of the Russian Skating Federation’s President), there’s no way to definitively link them to their scores, so situations like this have happened before and will happen again.
- Everybody skated. Unlike when Nancy got a bye to the Olympics despite being able to perform, every skater got their chance last night. Life isn’t fair. These things happen, particularly in skating. (Salt Lake City in 2002, anyone?)
- This is Sochi. Speaking of fair, what were we really expecting when we showed up to a country that refuses to recognize its own citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? Totally unbiased judgement? Adelina’s scores improving by over twenty points in a month is ridiculous, but that’s what we all signed up for.
- It’s a question of skill, not character. People think that Adelina shouldn’t have won the medal because she didn’t skate well enough — when Tonya failed to medal in 1994, that felt justified to people because they felt she didn’t morally deserve it.
- Nothing will come of it. Remember in Beijing in 2008 when everyone was so positive that some of the Chinese gymnasts were under the minimum age of sixteen? People can be as sure as they want to, but ultimately no one wants to face off with Russia over a figure-skating injustice, so I predict this goes nowhere.
- No one’s career will be ruined. After the investigation into the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding was stripped of her 1994 World Championship and banned from the sport of skating. As much as this must suck for everyone involved — especially Kim Yu-Na and Carolina Kostner — everyone gets to keep on keeping on, just minus one (probably) deserved gold medal.
I happen to agree that Kim Yu-Na was robbed, but I don’t know why we’re bothering to sign a petition about it. There’s no way to go back in time and make this situation more fair to anybody — which I guess is the first and only thing that this scandal has in common with Tonya and Nancy’s.