Did we just experience the Russian hustle? This year’s 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics has concluded with Russia winning the overall medal count with a total of 33, beating the United States by five.
Was Russia always number one? In the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Russia was ranked in sixth place with only 15 medals. This year’s count is more than double the amount it won in 2010.
Russia won its first gold medal in women’s ice skating this year. According to Breitbart Sports, Adelina Sotnikova, a 17-year-old Russian athlete received a score of 149.95 in the free skates even after stumbling on one of her jumps.
That score is suspicious because it is high, even for a perfect performance. Yuna Kim from South Korea, who came in second place, gave a flawless performance and deserved the gold medal.
The Breitbart Sports reported that in the 2010 Olympics, “Yuna Kim shattered the world record at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in what was hailed by nearly every figure skating analyst as one of the greatest performances in the history of the sport.”
Kim received a score of 150.06 in 2010, only a 0.11 point gap with Sotnikova’s score in this year’s Olympics.
This makes some eyebrows rise and mouths drop in shock. Jane Rider, a California Lutheran University professor with a doctorate in health and physical education, explained the technicality of the scoring system for ice skating.
“Sotnikova’s program had seven triples, five in combinations while Kim had six triples, three in combinations. So, Kim was awarded fewer points on technical skills,” Rider said.
Aside from the technicality, artist skills and creativity also factor deeply in the score. Sotnikova’s performance was as artistic as Kim’s performance.
Sotnikova got advantage points just because she was in her home country.
Rider said there were many factors as to why Sotnikova got the score she received.
“Any time you have judges making subjective judgments, there is room for controversy. The judges’ scores are anonymous,” Rider said.
Christine Brennan, a writer from USA TODAY, also added some valuable background information about the judges.
“The nine-person panel for the Olympic women’s long program included judges from four former Soviet bloc nations – Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and Slovakia—as well as France, which conspired with Russia for the Salt Lake City pairs judging scandal in 2002,” Brennan said in USA TODAY Sports.
Yuri Balkov, the Ukrainian judge, was suspended for one year in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics for trying to fix the ice dancing competition.
Alla Shekhovtseca, the Russian judge, is married to Valentin Pizeev, the power general director of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia.
The Chicago Tribune confirmed with NBC that the backstage cameras caught Shekhovtseca embracing and celebrating with Sotnikova over the gold medal.
Alexander Lakernik, the judging panel leader, also happens to be the vice president of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia.
Olga Baranova, from Finland, was another member of the technical panel, and was seen hugging the members of the Russia’s skating delegation after the ceremony.
Brennan just noted that half of the judges for the Olympics could have had biased scores. However, their individual scores are never known, due to the anonymous scoring rule that was passed.
Justin Fallon, a junior exercise science major, expressed interpretations of his own about the scoring system.
“Regardless of where the judges come from, they have rule books for exactly how many points they take off for part of the routine. And if they don’t stick to it, there is obviously some bias and corrupt system,” Fallon said.
Kayla Drummond, a sophomore psychology major, adds on to the artistic aspect of the skating.
“Sotnikova’s performance was filled with skilled techniques, however, she didn’t have the aesthetics and grace that Kim had in her performance,” Drummond said. “I didn’t see any mistakes made in Yuna’s performance, but I did catch some mistakes in Sotnikova’s performance.”
Can we stop this biased scoring? Unfortunately, we will never completely know the truth.
“Corruption, favoritism, politics has always been a part of the Olympics,” Rider said.
Published March 5, 2014