Kurt Browning 'shocked' by Adelina Sotnikova’s gold in figure skating
'Yuna Kim outskated her, full stop,' Canadian great says
The credibility of figure skating's judging system was firmly under the microscope on Friday as experts tried to fathom exactly what Adelina Sotnikova had brought to the ice that enabled her to dethrone Kim Yuna as Olympic champion.
While the hosts of the Sochi Games rejoiced in hailing the teenager who had finally ended the motherland's long search for a women's champion, there was confusion, bewilderment and outrage outside Russia about a result that seemed steeped in bias.
"How the hell were Yuna and Sotnikova so close in the components, I just don't get it?" exclaimed Canadian great Kurt Browning.
"Yuna Kim outskated her, full stop,” Browning said. “I'm shocked. What, suddenly, she just became a better skater overnight? I don't know what happened. I'm still trying to figure it out."
If a four-time world champion could not work out how or why Sotnikova managed to pull off a major upset, neither could anyone else.
What was even more incomprehensible was how Sotnikova smashed her own personal best by more than 18 points in just a month.
Her mark of 149.95 was just 0.11 of a point shy of Kim's world record free skate score of 150.06 - which the South Korean earned for a blinding performance at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
In layman's terms, Sotnikova's performance was the equivalent of a little-known sprinter improving his best time from 10.5 seconds to 9.6 in just four weeks to beat world record holder Usain Bolt over 100 metres.
To compound matters, Sotnikova was the only one of the leading trio whose free programme contained an obvious mistake - a two-footed landing from a double loop - but as far as the nine-member judging panel were concerned, she was superior to the more graceful Kim and bronze medallist Carolina Kostner.
While Sotnikova's camp were eager to point out that she performed one more triple than Kim, hence the 5.76 point margin, that did not explain why the Russian was 7.34 points ahead of Kostner, who also performed seven clean triples.
"The fact that Adelina improved her component scores so dramatically over this season proves that she has advanced at really, really high speed. Judges appreciated the progress and rewarded her with great marks," the Russian team's choreographer, Peter Tchernyshev, who represented the United States at the 2002 Olympics, told reporters.
"We played by the rules that this game is offering us...we are focused on following the rules and doing the best.
"It is difficult to find an ideal system that will work for everyone. This is not track and field because when you run faster, everyone can see things clearly.
"Here everything is very subjective, yet this sport is surviving for so many years because people realise it is very athletic.
"Not everyone is sharing the taste. Somebody likes more athletic, somebody else likes more balletic figure skating, who's right or who is wrong?"
Online petition deamnds 'rejudgment'
Browning isn't alone in his disbelief.
More than 1.7 million people have signed a petition on Change.org, a website that allows user to create their own petitions.
The petition calls on the International Skating Union to open an investigation into the judging decisions in the women's individual program, and demands "rejudgement" of the event.
"This is crucial," the petition says, claiming it "may help towards bringing fairness back into the Olympics."
Change.org says the petition is gaining between 30,000 and 40,000 signatures per hour, making it the site's largest Olympics petition of all time.