Should Yuna Kim Have Won Gold in Sochi?

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In a shocking turn not even the live news announcers fully expected, Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova took home the gold medal in ladies figure skating (her country’s first), upsetting defending gold-medalist South Korea’s Yuna Kim at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Italy’s Carolina Kostner, a veteran in the sport, took home the bronze.

The internet, as always, is ablaze in the controversy. Even the New York Times (and Kurt Browning) is confused. Essentially, it all comes down to the math of the ever-confusing scoring system (oh for the days of the perfect 6.0).  The move-by-move breakdown shows where each skater gained points over the other, with Sotnikova gaining a clear edge with technical. Yet many feel she was out-skated by Kim. In my extremely non-expert opinion, Kim is a more beautiful skater in terms of artistry and grace. Both programs were near flawless, and in a sport rife with technical ambition to raise the number of triples and push for higher, faster jumps, it’s hard to know exactly what happened. Sotnikova certainly got a boost from the home crowd and did not break under what must have been immense pressure and expectations. Still, the question remains: Should Yuna Have Won?

Some accusations of controversy stem from the anonymous judging system. And that one of the judges had recently been suspended for trying to fix and event at the Winter Olympics over a decade ago and that another is married to the head of the Russian figure skating federation. A petition to investigate the judging on change.org has already reached more than 1.7 million signatures.

Kim, who announced her retirement after the free skate, has remained poised and accepting of her second-place finish: “The judges give points and I can’t do anything about that. I did all I wanted to do, like I wanted to do it…I did all I can.” A queen to the last, we salute you, Yuna.

Need more reading to help weed through the controversy?

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#MiraiEarnedIt: Why the Snub Will Still Matter, Even After the Olympics Are Over

Mirai and an official photographer wipe tears off Ashley's face at Nationals (Photo credit: Washington Post)
Mirai and an official photographer wipe tears off Ashley’s face at Nationals (Photo credit: Washington Post)

By Eugene Hung

“Not being chosen to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in Sochi and at the 2014 World Championships in Japan has been extremely disappointing to me, and it has been very difficult for me to process. … [It] was devastating and I remain confused by US Figure Skating’s decision.”

So said Mirai Nagasu via Facebook comments posted around 3 A.M. on January 30, breaking her long English-language media silence on the controversy we’ve followed for four weeks. (She had spoken briefly to Japanese network Fuji TV while at the Four Continents Championships in Taiwan.)

She’s not the only one who’s confused. Her numerous supporters, along with many journalists, longtime figure skating observers, and figure skating fans, have also been shaking their heads, trying to make sense of it all.

Of course, no one, least of all Mirai, is confused about how U.S. Figure Skating officials justified their decision to leave her off both the Olympic and World Championship teams. Her third-place finish at Nationals was never, according to U.S. Figure Skating’s rules, going to guarantee her a place on them. The decision was based on a comparison of each skater’s 2013-14 “body of work,” meaning each skater’s results in certain major competitions during that time period.

So on this, no one is confused; U.S. Figure Skating officials were operating within their rights when they left Mirai off those teams. The skating federation’s powerful International Committee Management Subcommittee (ICMS), the nine-member group that actually makes the selections, did indeed follow their rules, based on the letter of their law.

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photo credit: nabechiko29 via photopin cc

You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got … (Crickets)
But did they follow the spirit of their law? Was their decision-making process truly fair and ethical? That’s the big question. And this is where things get confusing, because the big question raises many additional questions, none of which have answers yet. Questions like:

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Asian Americans and Asian Canadians in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

640px-2011_WFSC_5d_432_Maia_Shibutani_Alex_ShibutaniNorthwest Asian Weekly recently published a list of Asian Americans in the Sochi 2014 Olympics.   While figure skater Mirai Nagasu is not going and snowboarder Chloe Kim cannot go, ice dancers like Alex and Maia Shibutani, Madison Chock, and Felicia Zhang are.  The article mentions that short track skater J.R. Celski is half Filipino.  John has already mentioned that hockey player Julie Chu will be at Sochi.

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