Ice Skating: Torvill and Dean's 'illegal' lift penalised: Winter Olympics: Judging inconsistencies revealed in British pair's ice dancing bronze. Mike Rowbottom reports from Hamar

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The Independent Online
THERE was no shortage of people who felt that Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean had done enough to win gold rather than bronze after Monday night's finale to the Olympic ice dance competition here.

The majority of BBC's estimated 23 million viewers - which would be a British record audience for a sporting event on a single channel - were probably of that mind. The audience that filled the Hamar Amphitheatre with oohs and ahhs and strewed its ice with bouquets clearly thought so. As indeed did Torvill and Dean themselves after a performance which they regard as one of their best ever, although they did not actually spell it out.

The decision of the panel of nine judges - from Russia, Finland, Britain, Belarus, Ukraine, France, the Czech Republic, Germany and Canada - to favour instead the youthful exuberance of Russia's Oksana Gritschuk and Yevgeny Platov thus caused circles of dismay from the kiss and cry corner outwards.

What may help to explain the outcome was the statement of the Austrian referee, Hans Katchura, that there had been one element of the Britons' hastily revamped and jazzed-up routine which had been penalised, an overhead lift.

That should have meant 0.1 of a mark being deducted from their first set of scores, for technical merit. If all the judges had done that, it would taken the British pair down from the silver-medal position. But at least one judge, Mary Parry of Britain, could hardly have penalised them, having given a technical mark of 5.9.

Parry, who was officially ticked off - and reduced to tears - for marking Torvill and Dean too highly both after Friday's compulsory section and on Monday night, was the only judge to place the British pair first overall, awarding them a perfect six for artistic impression. 'I expected to be out on a limb,' Parry said, 'but there was no doubt at all in my judgement. You get questioned, but you have to stand up and say what you believe.'

Perplexingly, the Canadian judge, Jean Senft, who gave the British pair 5.7 for technical merit, said she had marked them down 0.2 after spotting two illegal moves.

The overall impression created by such frustrating inconsistencies undermines ice dance's claim to status as a sport, and more specifically as an Olympic sport.

Dean virtually acknowledged as much yesterday after denying that there had been anything in the routine worthy of being penalised. 'It was within the rules and entertaining at the same time,' he said. 'Ice dance is a physical sport, but it is a subjective sport, and the hardest thing there is, how do you quantify something? It is like water, isn't it? Some people like ballroom, some people like rock and roll.'

And some people in the ice-dancing world do not appreciate professionals returning to competition as Torvill and Dean have done. And some people may have regarded the Briton's routine as something of a 'Best Of Torvill And Dean' effort, a beautifully put together compilation album which still lacked the freshness of the Russian's new release.

For all the confusion which they professed over the judges' requirements, the bronze medallists exhibited a quiet satisfaction yesterday. If the gold had been awarded for acclaim, they were champions.

'We knew we had to go out and give the performance of a lifetime,' Dean said. 'The minute the music started we were charged. Sometimes you get a feeling of how you are going on the ice. Yesterday that feeling was so positive. Whether it was generated by ourselves or the mood of the audience, it worked magic for us.'

Such was the charge that it rendered Dean apparently immune to pain. Torvill recalled that she had inadvertently hit her partner in the face with her elbow during the routine. 'It didn't phase him at all,' she said. 'I thought I was streaming blood at one point,' he said. 'But if you'd hit me with a lead pipe I would still have gone on.'

It took that first set of marks to make an impact on Dean.

The couple are due to skate again next month in Japan, at the World Championships, before returning to the professional ranks for a farewell tour. But there was little disguising their lack of enthusiasm for the first part of that schedule yesterday. 'We are going to think about Japan when we get home,' Dean said.

They are believed to have given an undertaking to the British Skating Federation that they will take part, as a top-five finish will guarantee Britain three entries in next year's World Championships in Birmingham. But a reference to that obligation was shrugged aside by Dean. 'That is our decision,' he said. 'After the six months of work we have put in there has to be some point, and finishing yesterday was it. It has been enjoyable sometimes and very tense at other times.'

At least they will have the opportunity to relax on Saturday, when they plan to skate the Bolero routine here, which won them the Olympic title 10 years ago, in costumes of the same colour. A reminder to a sport, which has since revised its rules conservatively, of what ice dance ought to be about.