Sochi, Russia – In the wake of the judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, figure skating has done its best to revamp its scoring system. It’s not perfect by any means, but seems much fairer than before.
Nevertheless, there are many in international media who think that Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko and Julia Lipnitskaia were the beneficiaries of inflated scores during the team competition.
In an interview with USA Today, former United States Olympic coach Audrey Weisiger said she could not believe the program component scores Plushenko received in the men’s free skating portion of the team competition on Sunday night.
“I have the utmost respect for him . . . ,” Weisiger was quoted as saying. “But for him to get the highest score in interpretation and choreography, it’s insulting to me for those who have choreographed according to the component criteria.”
Program component scores are awarded in five categories in all of the skating disciplines: choreography, footwork, interpretation, performance, transitions.
Journalists Ice Time spoke with in Sochi had the same opinion about the numbers Lipnitskaia put up in the team event.
“She’s good, but she’s not that good,” said one longtime skating writer. “I don’t think her skills are as refined as the scores she is receiving.”
Part of the high numbers can be attributed to the human element.
During the three nights of the team competition, the boisterous crowd at the Iceberg Skating Palace was approximately 75 percent Russian. There is no question that this could have had an impact on the nine judges. It is not supposed to, but the reality is applause can sway even the most impartial of jurists.
Plushenko is now at the advanced age of 31, and has skated in only one international competition since the 2010 Vancouver Games (where he got the silver medal), so one has to wonder about the numbers he received in the team event.
The mere fact that the three-time world champion Plushenko can land a quadruple jump at his age is amazing, but there is a lot more to skating than jumping.
The oldest man to claim the Olympic gold in singles was Sweden’s Gillis Grafstrom, who did it at 28 in 1928, when he won the last of his three consecutive golds (1920, 1924, 1928).
Plushenko has now captured medals in four consecutive Olympics. He took silver in 2002, gold in 2006, silver again in 2010, and gold in the team event here.
But time has taken a toll on Plushenko’s body. He complained of back pain after the free skate on Sunday, and one has to wonder if he will be able to hold up through another event.
He will certainly be in the mix for a medal in the singles, but it seems like a long shot that he could emerge with the gold going up against the likes of relative youngsters Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan. If he does, you better believe there will be a massive controversy over the result.