An online petition on the Web site Change.org demanding an investigation into the results of Thursday’s women’s Olympic figure skating competition has generated nearly 1.7 million signatures.
The petition, posted under the name “Justice Seeker” and claiming to originate from Sochi, generated 700,000 signatures in the first six hours after it was posted Thursday evening Eastern time, nearly five times the previous traffic record for the site, according to a Change.org news release. About 90 percent of those initial signatures came from inside South Korea, home country of silver medalist Kim Yu-na, the site said.
The uproar stems from 17-year-old Russian Adelina Sotnikova’s upset of Kim, the defending Olympic champion, and the surprisingly decisive margin by which she won in front of her home crowd. Controversy in figure skating is nothing new, of course — the current scoring system, for example, was adopted with the goal of increased objectivity after a judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Now the new scoring system is again under fire, as is a perceived lack of transparency in judging.
Christine Brennan of USA Today pointed out the makeup of the judges’ panel before the leaders even took the ice for Thursday’s long program:
More judging controversy: Judge No. 2 tonite, Yuri Balkov of UKR, suspended for a year for trying to fix 1998 Olympic ice dancing. Really.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 20, 2014
One more judging note: the RUS judge, Alla Shekhovtseva, is married to the RUS skating federation president. I am not making this up.
One more judging note: the RUS judge, Alla Shekhovtseva, is married to the RUS skating federation president. I am not making this up.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 20, 2014
Many of those who defended the results did so by saying they accurately reflected the sport’s scoring system. Scott Hamilton, the 1984 men’s Olympic singles champion and an analyst at Sochi for NBC, said Sotnikova’s victory was a triumph of strategy aimed at the system. “Adelina collected more points. That is really the only way you can describe it,” Hamilton told the Associated Press. “If you look at Yu-na of the past, this was not a program as difficult as she has done, and she left the opportunity for someone to collect points on that side of the scoring. It may not have been as beautiful as Yu-na 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.”
That defense of the results did not satisfy fans who criticized Hamilton on Twitter:
Reading lots of angry tweets. Please know that I am doing the best I can without showing favoritism. I love the sport. Want the best for all— Scott Hamilton (@ScottHamilton84) February 21, 2014