The Queen Robbed in Russia? Figure Skater Wins Controversial Gold on Home Ice over Yuna Kim

Feb 20, 2014


Written by Tony Lee

They call her the Michael Jordan of figure skating. But on Thursday night in Sochi, South Korea's Yuna Kim discovered there were no "Jordan rules" in Russia as "Queen Yuna" stunningly and controversially won silver in her attempt to be the third figure skater in history to win back-to-back golds. In fact, the opposite may have applied to her. 

UPDATE: According to Christine Brennan of USA Today, this may have been worse than 2002:

One of the nine judges who picked a young Russian skater over two more refined competitors for the Olympic gold medal Thursday night was suspended for a year for trying to fix an event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

And another is the wife of the president of the Russian figure skating federation. Another Olympics, another huge skating controversy involving the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Adelina Sotnikova of Russia won the country's first-ever women's figure skating gold on home ice with some questionable scoring that has already generated plenty of buzz and controversy for all the wrong reasons. Sotnikova was described as the "chosen one" in an Olympics marred by rumors of potential fixes being in for the Russians in a sport notorious for shady activity (see: ice dancing at the 2002 Winter Olympics).

Consider this: Sotnikova did not land all of her jumps cleanly, yet scored 149.95 in the free skate. Yuna Kim scored 144.19 and Italy's Carolina Kostner scored 142.61. In 2010, Yuna Kim shattered the world record at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in what was hailed by nearly every figure skating analyst as one of the greatest performances in the history of the sport. Yuna's score then? 150.06. That's barely above what Sotnikova received with a performance in which she did not even land all of her jumps correctly.

Sotnikova's total score for the event was 224.59 while Kim received 219.11. Kostner of Italy got 216.73. Kim led by mere tenths over both figure skaters entering the free skate.

Those watching and commentating on the event scratched their heads when Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya, who fell twice and stumbled around on the ice, received higher technical marks than Japan's Mao Asada, who turned in a world-class and flawless free skate after stumbling to 16th after the short program. 

Things got stranger when Sotnikova stumbled and two-footed a landing, yet still received far superior technical marks than Kostner. 

Kim was the final skater on the night. And the woman who has what is unquestionably the most difficult routine, hit all of her elements. Though Sotnikova had one more jump in her routine, Kim's degree of difficulty was greater on the non-jump elements. Yet Sotnikova got perfect marks on all of her spins and footwork while Yuna, doing more difficult elements and considered the world's best at them, got a couple of subpar marks from the judges that were enough to make the difference. 

Yuna announced her retirement after the event even though she helped secure the 2018 Games for South Korea, and she is still considered one of the greatest figure skaters of all time. And on Thursday she was trying to go out at the pinnacle of her sport in a way Michael Jordan (Kim, like Jordan, took years off from the sport only to come back to dominate effortlessly upon return) initially did before Jordan un-retired and decided to give basketball another try. 

It was, though, not meant for Kim, who leaves Russia with more in common with the 1972 USA men's national basketball team than Jordan.  

Immediately, reporters spoke about the "judging controversy" while numerous analysts said that Kim had the far better performance and Sotnikova's huge score in the free skate seemed inflated and seemed like a score that tried to leave nothing to chance. Nobody knows how the judges scores, since the total scores just pop up on screen, clouding the process in intrigue. Some believed that Sotnikova was nowhere near even eight points better than Kostner, which is what her scorecard said. Others thought the real battle should have been between Sotnikova and Kostner for silver. After the program concluded, Yuna Kim's name was trending worldwide on Twitter. There was no buzz surrounding Sotnikova and plenty around the result.

Asked about the results, Kim replied with class: "Well, the scores are given by the judges so I am not in the right position to comment on it. There's nothing that will change with my words. The most important thing for me is to participate in these Games. This was my last participation in the competition, so I'm happy with that."