Canadians call for enquiry into 'unfair' judging

By Mike Rowbottom
Wednesday 13 February 2002 01:00

Canada are pushing for the International Skating Union to investigate the judging decision which denied their ice skating pair of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier a gold medal, and have hinted that national federations could take group action to force greater consistency.

The announcement that the title had gone to the Russian pair of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze by a 5-4 margin was greeted with outraged disbelief by most of the spectators at the Salt Lake Ice Centre, who felt the Canadian world champions had performed almost flawlessly.

"Most decisions in skating are fair," said Canada's chef de mission, Sally Rehorick, yesterday. "The fact that this one is not the right decision could have an effect on the rest of the disciplines. We want the ISU to investigate what has happened here."

Asked if she felt countries might jointly take sanctions against the ISU in protest against its record of questionable judgements, she replied: "I think there is solidarity for that right now. I think people are definitely banding together."

Monday night's controversy, which made the front page of many US newspapers, was the latest in a long line of similar incidents in a sport that has always had a queasy mixture of objective and subjective judgements at its core. Eight years ago in Lillehammer, it was Britain's turn to register outrage as Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean received only a bronze medal for an ice dance performance which many observers thought should have earned them a second title.

Sale and Pelletier had already survived a minor trauma in the warm-up for their final when Sale was sent reeling to the ice, heavily winded, after colliding with Sikharulidze. At the end of their performance, she pumped her fists and her partner kneeled to kiss the ice. Clearly both felt they had done enough to win. But, although the Russian pair were awarded lower technical marks than the Canadians, following a slip by Sikharulidze on one of his landings, they took the gold by virtue of a better showing in the artistic category, gaining seven 5.9's in comparison their rivals' four. The announcement was greeted with stunned dismay by the Canadians, and the venue erupted with booing and jeering from a crowd convinced that Sale and Pelletier's interpretation of their favoured "Love Story" programme should have been rewarded with gold.

Britain's women curlers, who beat Norway 10-6 in their first match, were unable to maintain their momentum in the second of their round-robin matches, losing 7-4 against Sweden.

Glynn Pedersen's Olympics ended in disappointment as he failed to reach today's final of the K120 ski jump. The Canadian-based 20-year-old, both of whose parents are British, produced an opening practice jump of 98.0 metres in front of a 19,000 crowd at Utah Olympic Park, placing him within the top 50 qualifying places, but a final effort of 91m saw him drop out of contention.

Pedersen, who has a K120 best of 113.5m, was a frustrated man afterwards. "My training was going so well and I'm annoyed that I've performed below my potential," he said. "On my first practice jump I made the top 50. But my second jump was poor. I could feel it wasn't right."

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