The Olympics have been over for a couple weeks, but this Russian skating scandal refuses to go away, as now it’s being revealed that the International Olympic Committee made up quotes in which South Korean silver-medalist in the free skate Kim Yuna congratulates Russian gold-medalist Adelina Sotnikova. Never happened.
But to go back to the beginning — even the day after Sotnikova defeated Kim, there was pretty widespread indignation from people who felt like the competition had been rigged to give the Russian athletes an advantage. After all, Kim had a clean skate, while Sotnikova badly wobbled on two occasions, even putting down an extra foot to step out of a spin. But at that point, we didn’t think it would really turn into anything, let along a scandal big enough to rival Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan‘s because bottom line, you can’t argue with the scores. (Even when they’re quite obviously inflated, and the wife of the Russian Skating Federation’s president sits on the judging panel.)
But the more details that come out, the more it seems likely that there is something really shady going on. There are allegations that Sotnikova ‘flutzed’, which is when you begin a jump off the wrong edge of your skate, downgrading its difficulty and (in theory) your score. There’s the fact that if Yulia Lipnitskaya hadn’t fallen, her technical scores would have put her in second place on the podium, pushing Kim to third and Italy’s Carolina Kostner off altogether. There’s the fact that Sotnikova’s Olympic score was eighteen points higher than any score she’s ever gotten in her whole life, including at the European Championships, one month before. And there’s a bunch more intricate scoring stuff that I go into in great detail in this post.
And then there’s this new SNAFU, wherein people discovered that the IOC just went ahead and invented a gracious response from Kim after her shocking loss. According to a post on their site that’s now been edited — without any retraction or notation suggesting that a quote was removed — Kim made the following statement praising Sotnikova:
“She put on a great show. She’s a highly technical skater and was very difficult to beat tonight. I saw her in Innsbruck as part of my role as Games ambassador. We both battled for gold tonight, but she managed to come out on top.”
But according to her team, Kim never said that, or anything like it. Here’s the statement that an official of Kim’s agency issued when they noticed the quote:
“We confirmed IOC’s article. It’s not what Kim Yu-na have said. We are working on it to handle this.”
The quote was removed, but as I said, there has been no explanation of how the error was made, or who is responsible. In fact, there’s been no response from the IOC at all. They’re acting like the whole conflict has been resolved. But it definitely hasn’t, because as The Wire points out, the made up comment is in direct opposition to a statement about the Olympics that she delivered in her home country of South Korea:
“It was all very absurd but I was just happy that it was all finished. I have never gone over the result and thought what might have been.”
Well you’re the only one who hasn’t, apparently, because this is starting to smell fishy to a lot of other people on almost every level. Especially when you combine it with the fact that Sotnikova pulled out of the World Championships to be held later this month. On the one hand, it would have been the ideal time to prove that her medal wasn’t a fluke. But on the other, she’d have to skate under much ‘fairer’ circumstances, and any score inflation would become incredibly obvious in the cold late of day. As stated perfectly by The Wire:
“People will be wanting to see if 1) Sotnikova can skate at a high level again and 2) if judges will reward her similarly to Sochi. If Sotnikova turns in a sloppy performance, she’ll look like she got lucky. If she turns in a good performance and doesn’t receive the same scores, then her medal becomes more questionable.”
They’re still hoping that Sotnikova skates at the Championships on March, as she may yet do, and we can’t help but join them in that wish, even though it would probably create more questions than answers.
(Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images Sport)