Kim VS Sotnikova: Who's the Real Winner?

by Joyce Y.

Controversy arose after Sotnikova bested Yuna Kim for Olympic Champion.

Is it possible Yuna Kim, current world-record holder for highest score in ladies figure skating and 2010 Olympics gold medalist, can be defeated by Adelina Sotnikova, who’s just coming out of Juniors competition? It seems impossible. But that’s exactly what happened on February 20th, when 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova defeated the infamous South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sotnikova shocked the audience when she snatched the gold medal at Ladies Figure Skating, leaving Kim, who was leading by 0.28 points in the short programme, with only a silver. As soon as the results were announced, home fans broke in cheers, while other foreign spectators, especially fans of Kim, seemed surprised and enraged at the results. Judges revealed while Kim had an artistic performance, Sotnikova had more of a technical performance with more jumps.

Despite their explanation, controversy still refuses to die out even after the Olympics have ended. A petition was started on immediately after the results, requesting the investigation and reconsideration of the medals. The surge of petitioners crashed and the petition is now up to over 2 million signers.

BBC (British Broadcasting Channel) was sure Kim’s performance would win a gold medal and couldn’t speak when she came in second. They commented, “Well, I think we saw a medal coming, just not that one.”

Many newspapers covered the controversy as well. The cover of The Economist poked fun at the results with the headline, “The triumph of Vladimir Putin”, stating it was the Russian president that was responsible for Sotnikova’s medal. USAToday commented in their article, “Adelina Sotnikova has an Olympic gold medal, and she didn't need anyone's help to get it. Or did she?” and Washington Post stated, "Judges have downgraded Kim on her presentation."

The angry fans also bombed and crashed ISU (Ice Skating Union)’s Facebook page with angry comments after the results. ISU had to shut their page down for awhile. Even after the website was restored, they took away the function to read comments and posted that you needed to be polite if you want to post on their page.

Just when the fire was about to die out, USAToday revealed 4 out of the 9 judges were from countries favoring Russia, one of them who is the wife of the head of the Russia Skating Union. A picture of Sotnikova and 2 of the judges hugging was released by a Korean reporter after the performance.

It was also revealed seven out of nine judges gave Kim a higher score than Sotnikova, but two of the judges gave Kim an extremely low score and Sotnikova an extremely high score, creating a gap, causing Sotnikova to win. Flames continued to flare up when the scorecard was released and one of the judges gave Kim a zero in one of the sections, an impossible score for her flawless performance.

Majority of the fans and reporters are stating they can’t understand the results. Over 80% of the people who took a poll about the results voted Kim deserved the medal. Katarina Witt, a German figure skating legend, commented that Kim was the true queen and that Sotnikova has herself a shameful medal. She then invited Kim to join the “repeat club” for figure skaters who won back-to-back gold medals at the Olympics, despite the fact that Kim only won one. This indicated that Witt thought Kim deserved the real medal.

NBC Olympic researcher Alex Goldberger posted on his Twitter, “Adelina Sotnikova was excellent tonight, but Yuna Kim was robbed,” and “I know she says she’s retiring, but Yuna Kim is going to have an entire country (plus me) hoping she skates at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.” He then showed his support for Kim by later posting a picture of Yuna Kim at her “Imagine” performance.

Dick Button, former American figure skater, wrote on his Twitter, “Dear Yu-Na, you are a true champion. When I criticize, I believe in recognizing changes. You were a different skater today. Congratulations!” despite her silver medal. He also posted, “To the people of Korea: At one point, I had doubts regarding Yu-Na Kim - not after today. She was superb, elegant, charming. Never a wilt,” then criticized Sotnikova by writing, “Sotnikova was energetic, strong, commendable, but not a complete skater. I fear I will never be allowed back in Russia again.”

Button was also known for criticizing Kim in past years, and surprised people by complimenting Kim on her performance.

Bill Plaschke, LA Times sports journalist, posted tweets regarding the ladies figure skating results as well. He wrote, “Queen Yuna Kim was unbelievable.nearly perfect. better than Sotnikova...if she is not Olympic champion in about 5 minutes, a huge scandal,” before the results were announced. Afterwards, he wrote, “Kim didn't win...unbelievable...scandal written all over this...Russian Sotnikova wins, fans going crazy, Kim disappears, wrong, wrong, Russians needed a champion after last night's hockey debacle, they got expense of Korea...How can leader skate perfect and lose?”

Some people agreed with the results, although very few. Elvis Stojko, a Canadian figure skater said in an interview, “Adelina came loaded. Did the other two have more beautiful skating? Absolutely. But it’s a sport, and this was totally fair,” acknowledging the fact that although the other two medalists were more artistic, Sotnikova deserved the medal.

However, no one is more enraged than the Kim’s homeland, the nation of South Korea. When their queen was defeated, things got so out-of-hand that Korea Skating Union actually had to file a complaint to the IOC to quiet people down. However, IOC denied all rumors of biased judgement and stated all judging was done completely fairly.

They revealed although Sotnikova made quite a number of mistakes, especially landing on her jumps, she was daring and energetic. Kim, while flawless, didn’t expand on her performance from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was less daring.

That doesn’t change the fact bronze medalist Carolina Kostner or infamous Mao Asada did exactly the same amount of or more triple jumps as her. Kostner was, in fact, flawless on her jumps and did more jumps the Sotnikova. Many are saying she was the one who deserved the real silver medal.

IOC’s excuse also doesn’t make up for the fact Sotnikova’s scores jumped about 14 points in the free program and 5 points, a total of 19 points for technical performance from her score from two months ago despite the fact that she made many more mistakes on this performance than her performance at the European Championships. Many are pointing out the fact that this might be the fastest score increase in history of figure skating.

Fans, especially in South Korea, still can’t accept the fact Kim was beaten. Kim is a six-time Korea Championship winner, four-time Grand Prix Winner, 2010 Olympics gold medalist, and 2009 and 2013 World Championship Winner. She also holds the current world record for highest score in short programme, long programme, and total score. She is also known for being the only “all podium” female figure skater, placing at least bronze in every competition in her career.

In fact, Wall Street Journal dedicated a huge section of their poem about the Olympics to Kim, stating, “And when she said softly, that she was happy now that it was over, this when she had lost the gold, and the bedlam around her told her she was cheated, I believed her, believed her relief, her sense that the weight of it all was now gone, that the queen unburdened of the stone around her to tutor her body through pain and to carry the flame of envy, anger, awe and fear inside her, stroking it for years and years as a flame—that this was over now, and all she felt was relief, gladness, and peace— when she said, I am happy, it is over, I believed her. And she, skateless, mortal, grounded, she walked, stuttering and ordinary, away from the arena.”

Suspicions rose even more after the gala show that took place after the competition. While Kim skated perfect to John Lennon’s “Imagine”, Sotnikova made even more mistakes in her program. She landed on both feet on her triple jump, and slipped at the end of her program, ending on her knees instead of standing like she was supposed to.

While so many are enraged by the results, Kim herself is very calm about the results despite the fact it was her retirement game. “Well, the scores are given by the judges so I am not in the right position to comment on it,” Kim said. “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.”

Kim even criticized herself for not winning the medal. "At that time (2010 Vancouver Olympics) I could die for gold in the Olympics,'' she said in an interview afterwards, mentioning her performance in 2010. "But that desire, that strong wish, was not as present. The motivation was a problem, I think.''

However, Korean media interviewed her backstage where she broke down in tears. Kim stated her tears were not out disappointment at her scores, but of bittersweetness that the pain and joy of the sport was over for her.

Figure skating is one of the hardest sports to judge, as there is no finish line or times to measure. The scores are in the eyes of the judges. And while the results show no sign of changing and controversy seems to have no sign of ending anytime soon, this will go down in figure skating history as one of the biggest surprises in the sport, the day young Adelina Sotnikova bested world champion Yuna Kim at the thing she does best- figure skating.

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