SOCHI, Russia — In a news conference that was twice punctuated by applause, the coach of Olympic figure skating champion Adelina Sotnikova took a verbal swipe at Alexandria’s Ashley Wagner on Friday for criticizing the sport’s judging.
And asked to comment about the perception of a conflict of interest on the part of one of the judging panel’s members, the coach, Elena Buianova, said that “it doesn’t make sense” to discuss such matters in the aftermath of Russia’s gold, adding that it was time to support Russia’s figure skaters and “not look back all the time.”
The roomful of journalists, most of whom were Russian, applauded.
Sotnikova, 17, was awarded the gold medal by a commanding, 5.58-point margin over defending Olympic and world champion Kim Yu-na following Thursday’s free skate.
Kim was seeking to become just the third woman in history to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in singles. Sotnikova, regarded as the second-best skater in her homeland, was trying to become the first in Russian history to win Olympic gold in the women’s singles event. The skaters had entered the free skate in a virtual dead heat, with Kim leading by roughly one half-point, meaning the gold medal was very much in play.
Sotnikova, who competed first, performed a more difficult technical program that included seven triple jumps. Kim, competing last and therefore aware of the score she needed to beat, performed six triple jumps, ceding an advantage to the young Russian by that choice.
What puzzled many who watched the competition was the dramatic surge in Sotnikova’s artistic marks over her career best, which put her on a par with those of Kim, regarded as peerless in figure skating’s performance aspects.
In the immediate aftermath, Wagner, who finished fifth, said she was “speechless” over the outcome and went on to call for greater transparency in judges’ scores in the spirit of fair play and so that fans could understand the rationale behind the outcome.
Asked about Wagner’s remarks, Buianova said: “Ashley Wagner came up and congratulated us and said Adelina skated better. It’s good to know she said something behind our backs.”
Among the nine-judge panel was the wife of the former president and current general director of the Russian Skating Federation. Buianova dismissed a suggestion that this posed a credibility issue, saying the judge in question had established her reputation before marrying the skating official.
“It doesn’t make any sense to discuss this today,” Buianova said. “We respect great skaters like Yu-na Kim. She deserves only full respect.”