Russia and Canada tied up in Olympic scandal

By on February 21, 2002

Only four days into the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, one country cried fowl over their loss in a pairs figure skating competition.
On Feb. 11, Russian figure skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the gold medal for their performance of “Meditation” from the opera “Thais.”
They edged out the reigning world champion Canadian team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who only garnered four 5.9s compared to Russia’s seven.
Fans as well as those involved in the pairs skating competition at the Olympics were shocked about Canada’s placement after their moving, nearly flawless performance.
According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, the competition judges gave Russia’s team higher marks as compared to Canada’s, “apparently preferring a traditional, romantic program to a more playful program.”
With this controversial gold medal win, Russia continues a 38-year legacy of winning gold in pairs figure skating.
Sale fought to keep from crying as she and Pelletier were awarded the silver medal at the awards ceremony. According to the Tribune, at one point Sale shrugged to friends and family in the audience as if she was saying “Oh well.”
“I’m embarrassed for our sport right now,” Sandra Bezic, a NBC figure skating commentator told the Tribune.
According to CNN Sports Illustrated, Pelletier was so upset by the judging that he threatened to quit figure skating.
“The Olympic dream can sometimes turn into an Olympic nightmare,” Pelletier told the Tribune. “What we can’t control, we can’t control.”
“That’s the way it is,” Pelletier continued. “If I didn’t want this to happen to me, I would have gone down the hill on skis.”
It was announced on Feb. 12 that the International Skating Union would conduct an inquiry into the controversial judgement in the pairs competition.
“Following the reaction of the public and the media to the results of the pairs event at the Salt Lake Ice Center last night, and to respect public opinion, the ISU is doing an internal assessment to monitor if the ISU rules and procedures have been respected,” read a statement from the organization.
The ISU statement came after a routine judges’ meeting to review the competition voting.
On Feb. 15, in order to resolve the judging conflict, Olympic officials awarded a second gold medal to the Sale and Pelletier. It was also decided that the French judge sitting on the competition’s panel would be suspended.


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