I was rooting for Yuna Kim to take home a gold medal at Sochi. After watching Kim’s short program, I quickly became enamored with her ballerina-like abilities on ice. She made a difficult routine look easy. When I read online that after the free skate competition Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova won the coveted gold medal by more than five points I was pretty surprised.
However, after watching both performances and reading commentaries that analyzed the routines, I understand why Sotnikova won gold. Kim’s performance was beautiful and well-executed. It was a captivating performance that highlighted Kim’s gracefulness and skill. Sotnikova’s routine, while not nearly as artistic, was slightly more difficult, more athletic than Kim’s which explains why she went home with the top prize. While Sotnikova did bobble after a jump, her program was so complex that she could afford that small error. Had Kim done one or two more triple jumps, the results of this competition would have been different.
Mark Sappenfield from The Christian Science Monitor breaks the scores down:
Sotnikova blew Kim away with her combinations. Sotnikova’s three combination jumps added up to 27.48 points, with Kim’s adding up to 22.64 points – a massive 4.84 point gap…
Sotnikova built such high scores on her combination jumps in two ways. First, she did harder ones. And second, skaters get bonus points for every jump made after the halfway point in the program – an acknowledgment that the same jump with tired legs is more impressive than with fresh legs.
Sotnikova put two of her combination jumps after the two-minute mark. Kim did only one… All of these points are not “judged,” per se. If you execute the element, you get the score. Sotnikova’s “base technical score” – the cumulative mark for all the elements she executed, with no “judging” involved – was 61.43 points. Kim’s was 57.49.
On paper, from a technical standpoint, it’s clear why Sotnikova won. Nevertheless, Kim’s fans who expected Kim to walk away with a gold medal believe that she was robbed. An online petition demanding an investigation into the judge’s decision has already amassed nearly two million supporters. Now, did Sotnikova deserve a score a whopping 5.48 points above Kim? That’s definitely debatable. While I think it’s clearly plausible that Sotnikova be awarded a gold medal for her performance, I’m uncertain if she was worthy of that high of a score. After all, Kim’s components score (judged on choreography, interpretation, skating skills, etc.) was 74.5 whereas Sotnikova’s was 74.41 which seems a little suspicious.
But, just because no one really expected Sotnikova to win doesn’t mean that she didn’t deserve to win. Kim’s piece was beautiful and she will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the world’s best figure skaters. However, on this particular night her performance came up a little short. Sotnikova skated a complex, nearly flawless routine and while the win will always be controversial, it was certainly justified.