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The big ‘what ifs’ in figure skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics

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The figure skating events at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games concluded yesterday, Feb. 20 with the ladies. The team event along with all of the individual events, brought about some shocking moments. From a sudden withdrawal, to a dark horse winning gold, figure skating at these Olympic Games was filled with drama.

Some of these moments have left us scratching our heads and questioning the system as the results have been very surprising, which makes the athletes and the fans of the sport wonder “what if?”

What if the Olympic Games were not held in Russia?

If the Olympic Games were not held in Russia, would Adelina Sotnikova still have won the gold or would it have been given to Carolina Kostner or Yuna Kim? Debate has erupted concerning the scoring of the ladies event as many believe that Adelina was over scored due to “home field advantage.” This scoring system was supposed to eliminate room for favoritism, but that did not seem to be the case.

When we look at the ice dance event, it would also be interesting to know if Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov would have still won the bronze if the Olympics had not been in Russia. French skaters, Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat came in fourth in the ice dancing event. "We knew that if we didn't skate our best we wouldn't get it (medal). And we skated our best and we didn't get it anyway," said Bourzat to the media.

So would the ladies gold medal have gone to someone else and the bronze ice dance medal to the French? We will never know, but it is interesting to speculate.

What if the scoring system was untainted?

It was reported by USA Today that in the ladies event, one of the nine judges was suspended for a year for trying to fix an event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, while another one of the judges is the wife of the former president and current general director of the Russian figure skating federation. How could there not be bias? Some of the “greats” of the sport, like Dick Button and Frank Carroll have been very vocal about their dislike of the scoring system for various reasons.

What if there was a way to design a system that did not reward people for mistakes, that made sense to the fans who are watching and was fair and unbiased towards all of the athletes? What would have been the outcome of that type of judging? Would Javier Fernandez have won the bronze since he only missed the podium due to a technicality?

If change does not begin to occur in the system it will only discourage the athletes and the fans. Hopefully these Olympic Games will serve as a loud statement to the International Skating Union that this system is not working and needs another facelift.

More questions then answers

The questions continue: what if Mao Asada had performed a clean short program and still delivered the performance that she did in the free skate? What would have happened if Evgeny Plushenko had competed in the individual event instead of withdrawing, would he have medaled? What if Evan Lysacek had competed, what would that have looked like? What if the Germans had nailed each of their jumps and throws in the free skate, would the Russians still have won gold? What if this Olympics used the old 6.0 system, would that have changed any of the results?

These are all questions that skaters are left to deal with in the aftermath of the Olympic Games. Jumps left uncompleted, short programs that left skaters in a rut and victories that will be questioned and argued about for years to come. For the wise, they will leave these questions on the Sochi Olympic ice and move forward regardless of the outcome and hope and believe for change in the future.

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