Ice skating: ISU to review pairs judging

CONTROVERSY HAS always been a part of the sport of figure skating and this year's World Championships in Helsinki have sparked one.

International Skating Union rules forbid judges from talking to each other, but Canadian television on Wednesday filmed the Ukrainian and Russian judges talking to each other during the pairs final.

What they said is unknown and Penny Dain, an ISU spokeswoman, said neither the referee or the assistant referee would comment on the incident. However, following usual practice, the event scores and procedures were to be reviewed yesterday.

The Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the pairs in a decision that brought loud complaints from many spectators, who preferred Shen Xue and Hongbo Zhao after the Chinese pair presented more elements than the Russians. Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze prevailed on the strength of their straight 5.9s for presentation.

Earlier in the Championships there was also much criticism of Maria Butyrskaya's win in one of the women's qualifying rounds. The Russian fell badly and made several errors but was marked above performers who skated cleanly.

On the sidelines of the World Figure Skating Championships, the ISU is putting on a promotional push for synchronised skating, a discipline that is more about fitting in than standing out.

In synchronised skating, teams of 16 to 20 members undertake five compulsory formations - circles, lines, blocks, wheels and intersections. It's like combining a marching band with a chorus line and sending them out on the ice.

The ISU holds its first World Championship in synchronised skating next year in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and hopes the event will help legitimise what some traditionalists regard as a slightly vulgar entertainment rather than a proper sport.