Was scoring for the ladies figure skating acceptable?




Brennan: Official says judges slanted toward Adelina Sotnikova


A high-ranking Olympic figure skating official, who spoke to USA TODAY sports on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic, said the geographic makeup of the judging panel "was clearly slanted towards (Olympic gold medalist) Adelina Sotnikova," adding "this is what they can do."


The Ukrainian judge, Yuri Balkov, was suspended for one year when he was tape-recorded trying to fix the ice dancing competition at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. The Russian judge, Alla Shekhovtseva, is married to the powerful general director of the Russian figure skating federation, Valentin Piseev.

1. Sotnikova’s PCS

Her PCS has increased by a total of 19.48 points (counting both short and free skates) in a space of 6 months.


 Cup of China

 Trophee Eric Bompard 

 Grand Prix Final


 Total increase 













The NY times Kurt Browning,

“I was shocked. What, suddenly, she just became a better skater overnight? I don’t know what happened."


This year, Sotnikova’s PCS was consistently scored at 30 points in the short program and 60 points in the free. It was not until the European Championships that Sotnikova’s PCS started to increase at an astonishing rate; the Olympics saw even further increase. That is a meteoric climb by figure skating standards. Generally speaking, judges tend to keep PCS of an athlete at a certain range. 

The question is, has she shown improvements in her skating skills as to merit such an increase? The PCS does take into account some subjective areas of judgement but subjectivity itself should not be an excuse for anything. There are guidelines and rules which ISU provides and should be adhered to as objectively as possible. For fair play to be upheld in the sport, the marks given, even if they are subjective, should always be justifiable on the basis of those standards. 

The dramatic inflation of Sotnikova’s PCS also begs the question of whether she is actually at a level where she might be awarded similar marks as Carolina Kostner or Yuna Kim. They are mature skaters who have been consistently awarded higher PCS. Taking into account this consistency and Sotnikova’s increase, it is more than a little puzzling that Yuna’s PCS has been scored at 7 points in the Olympics by some judges.

2. The edge call on the triple Lutz

Lutz is differentiated from flip by the take-off edge when entering into the jump. The former uses a deep outside edge and the latter an inside edge. If this distinction is not upheld by the judges, there would be little point in awarding different marks for each jump. The judging call on the wrong edge take-off in the Olympics is all the more interesting in light of this fact: from 2013 World Championships to CoC, TEB, GPF and The European Championships, she tried 3Lz 7 times and was found to have used the wrong edge 6 times.

As the replay of her program will show, Sotnikova still jumped with the wrong edge in the Olympics. But there was no wrong edge mark in her protocol. 

In fact, she received positive GOE for jumps that were done with the wrong technique. According to current rules, judges can request a super-slow video replay video of the jumps to verify the edge call. How could have the judges missed it?

3. The Under-rotation on the 3T in Sotnikova’s 3LZ ? 3T in the free program

It goes without saying that to be awarded full marks for a jump, it must be fully rotated or at least come within the margin of rotation that ISU has deemed acceptable. That her 3T was under-rotated by 1/4 or 1/2 was visible even to the naked eye without the slow-motion replay.  And as has been pointed out above, there should have been further deduction for her wrong edge along with the deduction for the under-rotation. Instead she was awarded plus GOE for the combination. Furthermore, 3T requires skaters to use the toe pick during the take off. Instead, Sotnikova used the full blade to jump off the ice?

a completely wrong and improper jumping technique.

4. The minus GOE on Sotnikova’s 3F+2T+2Lo in the free program

In that jumping passage, Sotnikova made a big mistake on the landing of the last jump. She stepped out of the double loop and two-footed the landing. It seriously disrupted the flow of the jump. In addition, her rotation in the air was shaky. According to guidelines given by ISU, such mistake (two footed landing in particular) merits -2 to -3 level of GOE. But the penalty given was only at -0.9. Even if the judges had decided that -2 level of GOE would be sufficient, the point deducted would have been at least 1.4.

5. The call on the level of step sequence

To obtain level 4, the skaters only need to satisfy what the rule book states as necessary turns and steps as well as further elements to go up the level. Sotnikova was the only skater who got the level 4 in both short and free programs. 4 both short and free program in the Games, despite the fact others had also satisfied the requirement for it. The step sequence is about the use of turns and the edges on the ice. Skaters who do not use deep edges with consistent speed and/or do not carry out a variety of turns and steps cleanly should not be rewarded for their step sequence. It is laughable and incomprehensible that  judges chose to reward Sotnikova with level 4 when they gave Yuna's step sequence (much more speed, deeper edges, spotlessly clean turns, variety of movements) level 3.

6. Awarding of GOE on the jumps

 GOE 1.2

 GOE 1.1

Giving positive GOE on executed jumps involves the consideration of ISU guidelines. Those include the consideration of flow, both in and out of the jumps, in-air position, and the take-off. In comparing Sotnikova’s flip with Yuna’s flip, the discrepancies in GOE are readily obvious. For one, Sotnikova clearly demonstrated poor take-off. The full blade, as opposed to just the toe, was in contact with the ice; the flow in and out of the jump also looked heavy and forced. Sotnikova's jumping mechanism is the same whether she jumps the flip or flutz (lutz with wrong edge take-off) - a clear indication of a technical flaw. 

On the other hand, Yuna's flip was executed with perfect technique, blended into the choreography of the programme, with excellent flow in and out of the jump. But it was Sotnikova who was awarded the higher GOE's. One of the judges even gave Yuna zero GOE for her flip, when the quality of the jump called for plus GOE. 

7. The rebuttal of the base value argument

Only 1.44 difference in the base value 

The base-value argument, i.e. Sotnikova had one more triple than Yuna, is logically flawed. We only need to look at the TES in the short program to disprove it. Yuna, jumping 3Lz-3T, 3F and 2A, had more base values in jumps than Sotnikova. Yet she was awarded lower TES though her jumps were perfectly landed. Even if we were to argue on the basis of base-value argument, the difference between Sotnikova and Yuna is extremely slim. Calculating the base values in the short and free skates, there is only 1.44 separating the two. That is not even worth a double flip or loop.

The base-value argument fundamentally ignores the fact that the final score of the program also relies on the awarding of GOE as well as PCS. Whether there were 7 triples or 6 triples or 8 triples is only a very small part of the story. Mao Asada jumped 8 triples for the free program, but was scored under Sotnikova because of minus GOE. It is the actual execution of those jumps and judges’ perception of their quality that determine the marks, not the plan on the paper. It has already been said that Sotnikova’s executions of technical elements were not the cleanest on the night. But GOE given to her is something you would see given to perfectly executed elements.

At any rate, 1.44 is a difference that could be overcome by a skater like Yuna, whose quality of skating and interpretation very strongly merits a high level of positive GOE and PCS. That much is evident, easily proven by referring back to Yuna’s protocols over the course of her career. Despite the fact that her free programme was executed perfectly well, her GOE in comparison to Sotnikova’s was underscored. The base value argument is misleading in the extreme, trying to take away the attention from poor judgment calls made during the ladies’ event. The level of PCS and GOE, as well as the edge call, given to Sotnikova should be the debating point, not Yuna’s base values.