Russian skating gold sparks petition from Yuna Kim fans
Furious South Korean fans call for inquiry after Sotkinova pulls off Olympic shock
RUSSIA claimed a famous gold in the women's figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics, but in controversial circumstances as South Korean ice queen Yuna Kim was beaten by the host country's second-string entrant, Adelina Sotnikova, amid accusations of biased judging.
A petition calling for an inquiry into the result had more than 1.5 million signatures within 24 hours of the event, and several observers, including former double Olympic champion Katarina Witt expressed astonishment at the marking.
The competition had been teed up as a battle between the breakout star of the games, 15-year-old Russian Julia Lipnitskaia, and reigning champion Kim. But the outcome appeared inevitable when Lipnitskaia fell in short programme and Kim produced a flawless performance to surge into the lead.
However, 17-year-old Sotkinova, largely forgotten amid the media furore over her compatriot, was well placed in second. Then, on day two of the competition, and after another fall by Lipnitskaia, Sotkinova delivered a stunning performance in the long programme to take the lead and pile the pressure on Kim.
The South Korean produced what appeared to be a perfect routine, but fell 5.5 points short of the target set by Sotkinova to finish in second place, much to the delight of the Russian crowd.
"I am stunned by this result, I don't understand the scoring," Witt, the 1984 and 1988 champion, told German TV. On the BBC, commentator Robin Cousins seemed equally surprised, having declared Kim the winner long before the results came in.
"Sotnikova skated a more technically difficult programme [than Kim] to lift a Russian public still numbed by their exit from the ice hockey," reports The Guardian. "Yet her wide margin of victory may also raise questions over the judging in a sport well used to controversy, most recently over Russia's victory in the team event."
Nine judges score Olympic skating events, and their votes are anonymous. "The highest and lowest scores are dropped, and the skater's score is calculated by averaging the remaining seven scores," explains the Wall Street Journal.
It notes that the petition, on Change.org, is the fastest growing the site has ever had and is on course to surpass the plea from Trayvon Martin's parents calling for the prosecution of George Zimmerman. That petition gained 2.28 million votes.
Most of the signatories for the skating petition came from South Korea, where Kim is a superstar, adds the WSJ.
But could it all be a case of sour grapes? It is "debatable as to how scandalous the result really was," says Yahoo. "Many skating observers have agreed that Sotnikova's margin of victory was a bit shocking, but as many others... thought the order of finish was reasonable."
The website adds that the "culture of skating" is to blame, noting that the International Skating Union has appointed "questionable" judges and "accepted these complaints as the cost of doing business long ago".