More than 1.7 million people – including 730,000 in just
six hours – have signed a petition at Change.org demanding an investigation
into the controversial judging decision in the women's figure skating
competition at the Sochi Olympics.
According to Change.org, the flurry of signatures was five times the previous record. About 90 percent of the signatures were coming from people inside Korea and roughly 10 percent came from inside the U.S., according to the world's largest online petition platform.
After the controversy, some wondered about the makeup of the judging panel and why there is so little transparency in the judging.
Perhaps this simple fact can be
offered as an explanation: Under the current points system, adopted after the
judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Sotnikova, 17, did exactly
what she needed to come out on top.
Kim was trying to become the first to win back-to-back Olympic figure skating golds since Katarina Witt in 1988. The 23-year-old Kim is now retiring, saying she is relieved the Olympics are over and she wants to rest.
What did Witt have to say about the scoring?
"I am stunned by this result, I don't understand the scoring," Witt said on German TV.
However, other former skaters saw nothing wrong with the judges' scoring.
Watching from his NBC broadcast
location, 1984 Olympic champ Scott Hamilton was intrigued by the 17-year-old
Sotnikova's strategy, which he said worked perfectly for the scoring format. It
was more than enough to beat Kim and
Carolina Kostner, whose bronze medal was the first in Olympic singles figure
skating for Italy.
"It may not have been as beautiful as Yuna and Carolina, but under the rules and the way it works, she did all that. ... I think it was a just strategy that worked on the night."
It was a strategy based not so much on artistry but on technical superiority. Nothing in the rules says the program must be an artistic masterpiece. Some observers called Kostner's "Bolero" just that Thursday night. Just check off the boxes: great coverage of the ice, connection between steps, execution that is powerful.
Sotnikova did that, although her
margin of victory of nearly six points was shocking.
"Later at night, I watched on TV and Sotnikova was an absolute champion for me," said Tutberidze, whose skater finished fifth. "It was a presentation of her life. I have never seen her before be so concentrated and skate every element so neat. ... Emotions, jumps, rotations, spins, spirals, and if you combine all these elements, Adelina won overwhelmingly."
Finding the correct elements is a challenge for everyone: skaters, coaches and choreographers. There is so much gray area in this scoring system, just as there was in the old 6.0 format, that even when the athlete's strengths mesh perfectly with the music, there's never any certainty the judges will be impressed.
So upsets happen.
"It's so hard to find the ideal
system that would work for everyone, when it comes to even making the rules of
figure skating," said Peter Tchernyshev, who won five U.S. ice dance
titles under the 6.0 formula. "It's not track and field when you ran
faster. Or lifted more weight. Or jumped higher. Again, it's very subjective,
yet this sport is surviving over so many years because everyone realizes it's
Is there even a right or wrong? Judging, after all, comes down to expert opinions.
The athletes wisely steer clear of it
all as best they can. Sure, American Ashley Wagner, who finished seventh,
questioned the veracity of the points system and, most notably, the lack of
openness in it. Generally, though, the skaters take the approach Kim used Friday, hours after she retired from
Olympic Figure Skating Scandal
Who should have gotten the gold in women's figure skating?
"There have been times in other competitions as well when the score did not reflect my performance, no matter how well I did, to the point of being strange. I imagine various scenarios before the competition: doing well, not receiving a good score and coming in second place. Because I imagined a lot of things yesterday, I don't think it was that surprising."