Rarely does a Winter Olympics pass without something happening that invites intense scrutiny of the figure skating judges. On Thursday night, the latest issue emerged — this time at the most high-profile moment, after the reigning gold medalist, Kim Yu-na of South Korea, performed the final free skate of the competition.
Kim was given a lower score (144.19) in the long program than Adelina Sotnikova (149.95) of Russia. Sotnikova finished with 224.59 overall points to Kim’s 219.11, a result that gave Sotnikova the gold medal and provoked international debate.
After a vote-trading scandal by judges discredited the pairs and ice-dancing competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, skating officials overhauled their scoring and judging systems, trying to make the sport more objective and less susceptible to corruption. But the sport’s credibility remains a source of great dispute.
Individual scores by judges are given anonymously. The votes by each judge are kept in a safe at the headquarters of the international skating federation in Lausanne, Switzerland, according to Sonia Bianchetti of Italy, who has judged at seven Olympics.
Anonymity was granted to judges in an effort to lessen pressure from their national skating federations. But this makes it extremely difficult to detect collusion and nationalistic bias, Bianchetti recently said.
Here is a rundown of the officials and judges involved with the women’s free program on Thursday night in Sochi:
■ Judge No. 1: Birgit Föll of Germany.
■ Judge No. 2: Yuri Balkov of Ukraine. At the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, Balkov was taped by the Canadian judge Jean Senft explaining what order the competitors would finish in the ice-dancing competition before it took place. He was suspended for one year. He returned to judging and is certified by the international federation.
■ Judge No. 3: Franco Benini of Italy.
■ Judge No. 4: Zanna Kulik of Estonia.
■ Judge No. 5: Nobuhiko Yoshioka of Japan.
■ Judge No. 6: Alla Shekhovtsova of Russia. She is the wife of Valentin Piseev, general director of the Russian figure skating federation.
■ Judge No. 7: Hélène Cucuphat of France.
■ Judge No. 8: Karen Howard of Canada.
■ Judge No. 9: Adriana Domanska of Slovakia.
■ Technical controller: Alexander Lakernik of Russia, who has been the vice president of the Russian figure skating federation. He was voted chairman of the international federation’s technical committee in the wake of the 2002 Salt Lake scandal.
■ Technical specialist: Vanessa Gusmeroli, a retired French figure skater and a world championships bronze medalist.
■ Assistant technical specialist: Olga Baranova of Finland.
■ Referee: Diana Barbacci Levy of Switzerland.
■ Data operator: David Santee of the United States.
■ Replay operator: Alexander Kuznetsov of Russia. In the aftermath of the judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, Russian officials, including Kuznetsov, expressed frustration that the Canadians pushed to have the pair of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier elevated to a gold medal. “The Russians would never have brought up this issue,” said Kuznetsov, identified as a “figure skating coach.” “The Russians would have proven their right to victory at the next competition.”