And three days after enduring a manufactured controversy, a real one erupts. I admit between one thing and another I haven’t seen Carolina’s skate yet, but apparently everyone except possibly the Koreans believe it was better than Yu-Na’s, and I admit in terms of performance Yu-Na really did trump Sotnikova, though the Russian girl’s technical advantage seems to be fair enough. If any allegations and/or evidence of a fix emerges here, that might be believable, especially with two infamous judges on the panel, one with an actual infraction in his past, the other married to Valentin Piseev, the infamous czar of Russian figure skating.
But the sad thing is, there might not have actually been a fix. There might have been simple judicial stupidity, as the figure skating judges(including Mrs. Piseev, who might have only done what plenty a Russian judge would’ve done), do things they often do, things that sadly get ignored as people go for the more colorful but less plausible conspiracy theories. There are multiple factors that might also explain why Sotnikova came more than close enough to Kim’s PCS numbers to beat her:
The most likely culprit was the location of the event and especially the audience. Home-ice advantage can happen, and when everyone in the arena is screaming over a skater, well, it’s hard to even blame the judges if they get a little swayed, given how subjective the second mark can be. It would not be the first time the audience determined a placement.
I don’t know how much of a part reputation judging, the usual culprit in a situation like this, might have played, if only because Kim and Kostner are both notorious beneficiaries of it themselves(you can bet had Kostner won, especially on her PCS, the Koreans and Russians would never stop sneering about it, and wouldn’t be the only ones, and Kim winning the same way would’ve had the Russians and some others grumbling. Perhaps controversy was unavoidable once all three women skated the way they did). But Sotnikova’s certainly not without reputation; back when she was the rising junior phenom it arguably got her quite a few generous results against less famous skaters, and it probably at least enabled the above mentioned home-ice factor to do the rest.
One thing that noone seems to be talking about, but has sometimes happened in the past, is judges have given too high PCS marks to skaters with high technical content, though this is something that is more known for happening in the men’s event; at one point fans even grumbled that landing a quad apparently caused a skater’s PCS score to jump up ten points. In any case, if the top technical skater has good enough a reputation, the judges perhaps are still a little reluctant to hold him/her down.
It’s unfortunate that these things all happen, especially because they make a problem that’s harder to solve than outright fixing would be if the ISU ever really wanted to do it. Getting rid of anonymous judging might help, and I like the suggestion being made on message boards that judges be required to publically answer questions about their marks, but much of it is in the culture of skating judging, and that’s hard to root out. And most likely cause of this case, the cheering audience, is probably hard for any set of judges who aren’t robots to withstand. Rearranging the system’s always a possibility, but much of this happened under 6.0 too. If later we learn that Sotnikova’s winning was a fix, it would arguably make dealing with it easier, but will we really be that lucky?