Controversy and bias from the Olympic judges ruined Monday’s performance at the 2002 Olympics. Those who tuned in to watch the final program for the Figure Skating Pairs competition were grossly disappointed by the results.
Three teams, Russia, Canada and China were set to compete for the Olympic gold. Hopes were set on both the Russian and Canadian teams. The Russian team had faced hard times with past injury and disqualification, but was finally able to compete for the gold. The Canadians, on the other hand, were anxious to break the longest running streak of the Winter Olympics that the Russian held for the last 10 Olympic games. Each team was motivated and worthy.
When it came time to perform, the Russian team skated first. Their performance was close to mistake-free, until Anton Sikharulidze stumbled after an early jump. From that point on, the team skated with tension and little grace, leaving room for the Canadian team to take first.
David Pelletier and Jamie Sale took the ice with confidence and strong ambition. Their performance was flawless; they landed every jump and turn. Each stroke on the ice was graceful and assured. All those who watched saw a perfect performance and knew who deserved the gold, but unfortunately the judges saw it differently. By a tight vote of 5-4 (with Russia, China, France, Poland, and Ukraine voting Canada 2nd place), the gold went to the Russian team, and Russia continued its rein as Olympic champions.
Now, I am no figure skating expert, but I know a great performance when I see one. Why would the judges vote in such a ridiculous manner? The Canadian team was superb and deserved the gold. Their performance was the evening’s best, but was shadowed by the judge’s prejudice. The best team lost, and the games were forever changed.
Even the NBC commentators, Sandra Bezic and former Olympian Scott Hamilton, shared their dissatisfaction with the decision. Bezic said she was “embarrassed for our sport,” while Hamilton said “(They) won that program, there’s not a doubt for anyone in the place, expect for maybe a few judges.”
The point of the Olympics is to bring the world together, not to tear us further apart. The judges did not work in the best interest of the games. Rather, they chose to overlook what really took place and made a decision based on subjective material. They looked at the “team” and not their performance. They chose themselves over the sport.
Are political ties more important than building a collective world pride? The outcome was narrow-minded and selfish. From now on, spectators, athletes and the world will always wonder when a call is made, “Did they really win or do the judges have their own agenda?”
What is the point of having a competition when the playing field in not level?
Monday’s events send a strong message that politics are valued over performance. Individuals matter more then the collective whole. The Olympic judges did a poor job of recognizing excellent sport and compromised the integrity of the Olympic Games forever. They proved that no matter how hard an athlete works and performs, they could never live up to expectations of the “unbiased” judges.
Mike Celizic for NBC.com summarized the event best by saying, “Figure skating took something beautiful and made it ugly, staining the sport, staining the Olympics, staining us all.”
Judges are people too, therefore they will always be biased, but could we at least try practicing a little more humanity?
Ben Sintas is a senior majoring in speech communication. He welcomes your comments.