Yet more rot in the state of Sochi

In the moments following the stunning win of Adelina Sotnikova in the Olympic women’s event in Sochi, television cameras showed the young skater being embraced enthusiastically by a woman wearing a ponytail.

That woman was Alla Shekhovtseva, who happened to be the Russian judge on the panel that had just finished judging her. Not only that, Skekhovtseva is the wife of Russian federation director-general Valentin Piseev. For as long as Piseev has been in power with the Russian federation, Shekhovtseva has drawn the plum judging assignments, although critics suggest it’s a conflict of interest for her to be on a judging panel.

In the free skate on Thursday, Sotnikova got higher scores than she ever has in her life. She smashed her previous best scores. In fact her score of 149.95 was the second highest free skate score in women’s history, not bad for an 18-year-old who still lacks the polish of the older competitors that she defeated.

Are these results real? Many fear they are not. Sotnikova was delightful in her speed, attack and guts. But there was little detail in her skate, and little interpretation of the role. Skaters like Yuna Kim, who took the silver medal and Carolina Kostner, who was third, fulfilled the program component list much more completely.

“I think the podium should have been turned upside down,” said former coach and development consultant Louis Stong. In other words, Kostner should have won gold, Kim silver and Sotnikova bronze.

Also on the panel was Yuri Balkov, who has surfaced after years in the minors, after he was suspended for a year for reading off the results of the ice dancing event to Canadian judge Jean Senft at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Senft recorded the telephone conversation with him, and turned it over the International Skating Union, who suspended both of them. Go figure.

Balkov is a Ukrainian judge, famous for his bowties and his lack of knowledge in ice dance. Neither Shekhovtseva nor Balkov had drawn onto the short dance panel in Sochi.

Still even in the short dance, results seemed confusing. Kim led the show, by only by about a quarter of a point, with the forgotten Russian newbie Sotnikova breathing down her neck, ahead of Kostner whose Ave Maria routine was a masterpiece. Less than a point separated the top three skaters.

Sotnikova drew such high scores, because the technical panel awarded her level four of difficulty on ALL of her elements. Kim dropped to level three on a layback spin – and she may not have done enough rotations – and on her footwork sequence. Kostner was nailed for has layback spin and her footwork sequence.

The technical panel determines the levels of difficulty. And guess who the technical controller was? Alexander Lakernik, a Russian, who has long held positions in the ISU’s technical committee. Could it be a conflict of interest for a person from a country with a medal contender to be on that panel?

Sotnikova also had a full complement of level fours in the long program. So did Kostner. Kim had level three on her layback spin and footwork steps again.

There are three ways that an official can affect the results in this code of points judging system: the levels of difficulty, the grade of execution and the program components.

Let’s stick with the program components for now. According to some judges on the panel, Sotnikova had suddenly become the second coming.

Here are the scores of Yuna Kim, who although delivered a routine that had lower technical content, was by far away the best with her exquisite performance detail:

Skating skills….8.75 to 9.50 (9.21)

Transitions……8.50 to 9.25 (8.89)

Performance/execution:…….8.50 to 10.00 (9.36)

Choreog./compositon…………9.00 to 10.00 (9.18)

Interpretation………………..9.00 to 10.00 (9.36)

The disturbing question is the wide array of marks. How can one judge award 8.50 for performance and execution and two judges award Kim a mark of 10, which means “outstanding.”

Compare this to Sotnikova’s marks:

Skating skills……8.50 to 9.50 (9.18)

Transitions………8.50 to 9.50 (8.96)

Performance/execution…..9.00 to 9.75 (9.43)

Choreogr./composition…..9.00 to 9.75 (9.50)

Interpretation………..8.75 to 9.75 (9.43)

Are we really supposed to believe any of this?

14 thoughts on “Yet more rot in the state of Sochi

  1. Bev, which European results did you look at, because the ones I’m looking at from free programme in Budapest are considerably higher than the ones you listed? All 8,50 or above and amounting to 69,6 – not such a big difference to 74 after all?

    Adelina skated bad all fall, but certainly has gotten back to the game as already shown by the Europeans. I guess it is possible to think that the technical panel got the levels wrong for Kim on purpose, but I would have expected them to do the same to Carolina Kostner, too? The differences were minimal after the short, after all… And thinking that ALL 9 judges in the panel would have been persuaded to participate in the Russian plot is very disturbing indeed – they are all in agreement for all three top women after all when awarding levels for quality and scoring skills.

    Sotnikova was able to boost her technical content after the Europeans and used the same strategy as Hanyu to get maximum points by placing difficult jump elements towards the back end of the programme. So, maybe not a surprise that the maximum levels for difficulty were also there for all the other elements? She scored 1,89 points more than Yuna on those two level 4 elements that Yuna did not get and got an additional 3,43 points over Yuna with her last four jumps. Even if Yuna would have gotten top levels for all her elements, Sotnikova would have won (assuming that the GOEs would have remained the same).

    I really enjoyed some of the earlier posts for clever ways of looking at the scores, but this was a big drop in quality of analysis and research. Conspiracy plots are hard to prove and even rather difficult to execute with the current judging system.

  2. I checked the judging draw in the morning and saw the sudden addition of both Alla and Yuri and knew the fix was in…where skunks go it always stinks!!!!

  3. Good that you dropped the mistaken European result from your text! It was a bit silly. But what remains is still thin as evidence for foul play in my opinion. You should also maybe look again at the Yuna Kim scores as they are not correct – the averages, I mean.

    First, the calls for levels. A quick look at Yuna’s track record shows that that layback spin was awarded level 3 also in the Worlds 2013, in the short and in the free at Sochi – so maybe it really IS a level 3 layback spin? I think I demonstrated above, Sotnikova would have won with the strength of her more difficult jumps even if Yuna would have gotten the two level 4 calls.

    Second, the component score. You are implying that there is something wrong with the range of the scores awarded, but do not demonstrate what it really is. The question remains is that kind of range normal or exceptional? Now, I confess I did not do an awful lot of work on this. I looked at the score for other women in Sochi as well as what Yuna was given, glanced briefly at men’s scores at Sochi.

    Kostner’s component score was virtually identical to Kim and Sotnikova. The range in the IT score was the same for her as for the others. The same applies to IT in the short – 8.25-9.75 for Yuna, 8.50-9.75 for Adelina, 8.75-10 for Carolina. Yuna was awarded almost identical component score for her free in London 2013 and the range for IT was even wider from 8.50 to 10. Usually the ranges tend to be within 1 point, but apparently can be consideraby higher without it being in any way unusual. In the team event Plushenko’s transitions got 4.25 to 9 in the short and 6.25 to 9.5 in the free!

    The judges are expressing their educated opinions within a range of 1-10. Some judges – if we could follow their scoring over time – might be revealed to be strict and use scores in the lower range consistently and vice versa. At Sochi free, Sotnikova got compnent scores consistently in the 8s and 9s, Kim 8s, 9s and 10s with one 7.75 for transitions, Kostner the same as Kim. The two more experienced skaters were evaluated higher than the young Russian – nothing wrong in that, I guess?

    In the end, however, the range is not very significant for the final result because of the averaging. The top and bottom score are always discarded and the rest are added up and divided by 7 to get the final result. The majority vote always wins. In the case of IT score in Sochi, Kostner got 8.50 to 10 and as she got most perfect 10s of the three skaters, she got the highest final score, 9.61, Yuna was second with 9.57 and Sotnikova third with 9.43. Again, I have to agree, Kostner’s was the best interpretation. Yuna was consistent, but slighlt bland in her tango and Sotnikova’s strong modern danceish presentation started to crumble a bit towards the end.

    Sotnikova’s strong technical mark means that she could have been scored much lower in the components and she still would have won. All three top contenders were scored consistently for near perfect programmes in both parts of the competition.

    Looking at Yuna in 2013 got me thinking about the structure and difficulty of her programmes based on the basic element score and I went back to 2010 to see if there was any difference. Some development in difficulty can maybe be seen in the jumps, they have placed most of the jumps in the back end of the programme to gain max points. Development in the spins and steps are more difficult to evaluate based on levels and scores, but level 3 or 4 in general. How the levels are defined has probably changed from 2010 to 2014, so the score cards are not absolutely comparable. Yuna did what she always does and she got the scores that she has gotten for that effort for the past four years.

    So, to me it seems, that Yuna plateaued after Vancouver. She was considerably better than any of her competitors then and has been for the past four years. She has not been challenged. However, the nature of the sport is that someone sets the bar high and then the rest of the field works towards that bar and at some point someone always comes and reaches that bar and even goes over it.

    I think this happened to Yuna on Thursday evening. Her team were confident that they did not need to do more than they had always done, business as usual would be enough to take the second gold even based on GP series results. They were maybe a little complacent, maybe even a little arrogant? Unfortunately, they were wrong. Sotnikova’s team built two programmes with a strategy to gain maximum points when all was delivered clean and their gamble was worth it. Adelina delivered her part. Even an old competitor, Carolina Kostner, got very close. If Yuna wants to continue winning, she needs to develop and challenge herself. The same applies to Patrick Chan who was overcome already during the fall and failed to upgrade his skating for the Olympics (I really would have wanted him to win).

    In a way I should thank you, Bev, for your rather shoddy analysis, because it made me look at scores long and hard and convinced me that the best woman overall of the evening won in the end. Emotionally I would have given the gold to Kostner – she was the outstanding performer with the saintly Ave Maria and the devilish Bolero and her technical performance was the best she has ever done in both programmes. But as the score card mercilessly shows her technical difficulty was not a match for either Sotnikova or Kim and I have to live with that. I’m just happy that her long and marvellous career was crowned with an Olympic medal!

    The women’s competition was absolutely brilliant – when is the last time when all three top contenders have delivered two near perfect programmes with great interpretation and flair? Especially at the Olympics where nerves tend to make the race flat and flawed (look at the men’s competition, what a downer!)? The rest of the field were also very, very good. It was really a marvellous evening for figure skating and I feel very sad that the rumours of foul play and petitions to correct an alleged wrongs are marring the glory of the achievemnt for those three skaters.

    • Adelina Sotnikova’s previous years records leading up to 2013 European Championship and finally in Sochi Olympic show a clear pattern of score manipulation emerging: In 2010-2011 season, other than at the Russian Championship where she got the total score of 197.33, the average score of the other 4 world wide competitions was 172.67. In 2011-2012, again at the Russian Championship she scored 193.71 while getting the average score of 164.89 in other 6 world wide competitions. In 2012-2013, she got 190.75 at the Russian Championship but her average score for the 6 other world wide competitions she entered amounts to only 174.70. In 2013-2014 season, her 3 previous world wide competition average was again in the 170 point range at 179.27 except at the Russian Championship where she got 212.77 until at the problematic European Championship where she received 202.36.

      It was a prelude to the Sochi Olympic fiasco where she received eye popping, head shaking 224.59 points (50 point increase from the average) with the same recycled junior season program she used all year long. Performance and Interpretation of music might improve from one routine to another, but Skating Skills and Transitions, and Choreography don’t change or improve much in a matter of weeks or months with the same old routine. Sotnikova’s Sochi performance included a wrong edge take off(flutzed) as found out and judged at the 6 out of 7 previous competitions this year and also the full blade take offs in the jumps as opposed to just the toe pick take off in the toe jumps. (Julia Lipnitskaia has the same technical flaws in her jumps) By the way, she stepped out of a jump and two foot landed the jump.

      In comparison, Yuna Kim’s jumps were higher, longer, faster without 1/2 turn pre rotation of the upper body before the take off as Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaya’s jumps did. Kim’s air positions and the landing positions in the jumps were without equal in their text book like form and consistency. As for Sotnikova’s artistry, It is laughable that judges rewarded Sotnikova with level 4 while they gave Yuna’s step sequence level 3 which has much more speed, precise clean turns with deeper edges and variety of movements. After seeing the Olympic performance, Longtime analyst and skating legend Dick Button said in his twitter: “Sotnikova has no dance ability no performance level..”

      With the technical inferiority and artistic immaturity in her junior skater like performances, both in the short and the long, compare to that of Yuna Kim’s almost perfect performances at Sochi, Sotnikova was outrageously awarded by ISU judges.

      Betraying the trust and expert decision dependence of millions of figure skating fans and Olympic hopefuls and sports fans around the world, both Julia Lipnitskaia and Adelina Sotnikova were groomed and fraudulently over scored and positioned just in case one will fail to accomplish the Olympic Scheme of the corrupted ISU in behalf of Russia. If one Russian skater had an explosion of such a score increase, it is unbelievable in the eyes of millions. But when two of them had it at the same time, it was beyond unbelief. Both of them had almost a parallel line of unexplained increases in their Program Component Score in the graph shown at the following link: It is just another piece of puzzle added on to the growing body of evidence that ISU figure skating as we know it has come to it’s demise in it’s integrity and general support from the public.

      Due to ISU’s internal corruption and arrogant contempt toward the public out cry for fairness in the sport many would be Yuna Kim of the future was hoping to dedicate their lives at, I see only those who are naïve or uninformed are willing to sacrifice much of their precious time and effort and lives into a sport that is rotten to it’s core. Those NBC commentators who were praising the performance of Yuna Kim profusely during her performance at the Olympic and then just kept silent right after the final score was revealed or even defended the high score of Sotnikova’s score should be ashamed of themselves. In my eyes, they are just profitieers of the sport of figure skating who do not care anything about the integrity of the sport which they claim have been an important part of their lives as ex- figure skaters themselves.

  4. *******************************************************************************************************************

    Please join a rapidly growing Facebook group called “Golden Yuna,” which is a growing world-wide movement to bring about the return of integrity and fairness to the sport of figure skating, as well as to bring justice for Yuna Kim for her gold-worthy performance at Sochi. Join at this link:
    (please log into your Facebook account first)

    Thanks, and see you there!


  5. I am amused by all the hand-writing over Shekhovtseva as an alleged conflict of interest. If the problem with her is that she’s related to a federation official and therefore represents a conflict of interest, well then anyone remotely informed about skating will tell you that actual skating federation officials, let alone their relatives, routinely sit on judging panels. So why pick on Alla?

    In that vein, I find it deliciously ironic that the weeping nation of South Korea sent the VICE PRESIDENT of their skating federation, Chihee Rhee, to sit on both short and long program judging panels in Vancouver, where the native daughter won the gold medal. Was it a conflict of interest for Chihee Rhee to judge Kim?

    While we’re at it, do you want to run a few stats on the judging panels where David Dore sat over the years?


    • Are you saying that because there are other examples of conflicts, that it was okay for Alla to be involved in one?
      Alla is being “picked on” as you put it because the results of the women’s event in Sochi are very controversial, Sotnikova is Russian, Alla is Russian, and there is video showing Alla embracing Sotnikova after the event – not a good optical. Controversy follows Alla. It’s not new.
      You did reach awfully far back to use David Dore as an example. He hasn’t judged for 30 years. In the meantime, the ISU has adopted a code of ethics. And Benoit Lavoie, while he was president of Skate Canada, did not work as a judge at all. When he stepped down from his post as president, he resumed judging. That was very proper.

      • I am saying that it is ironic that Korea, of all countries, claims it was a conflict of interest for Shekhovtsova to sit on a judging panel for the ladies’ competition, when their own officials engaged in that very same behavior. A bit of introspection would not be entirely out of line here. Pot, meet kettle.

        Furthermore, it defies logic to say Shekhovtsova’s presence on the panel is unethical because the results ended up to be controversial. A conflict of interest rests on identity, not on performance. It is either OK for skating federation officials to sit on judging panels, or it isn’t. It’s hypocritical to say “it’s OK for federation officials to judge native skaters, as long as we agree with the way they vote. But if we disagree, then it’s definitely a Big Conflict of Interest. “

    • Why do people like you get your knickers in a knot whenever there is discussion of fairness, integrity, and the truth? These values are not practiced where you live?

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