This Is a Substantive Magazine Article by Richard Corliss Published in Time on August 12, 2002

This Is a Substantive Magazine Article by Richard Corliss Published in Time on August 12, 2002


UNIV 112

Dr. Johnson

Is Figure Skating Judging Biased?
“A Gold for a Gold…and a Visa Too?”
Richard Corliss / “A Reputation Bias in Figure Skating Judging”
Leanne C. Findlay and Diane M. Ste-Marie / “Time to Restore the Perfect 6.0? Plushenko’s Silver Sparks New Criticism of Figure Skating Judging; Arithmetic Trumps Artistry”
Geoffrey A. Fowler and Phred Dvorak / “Figure Skating Judging: How did Adelina Sotnikova Beat Kim Yu-Na?”
Mark Sappenfield
Type of Source /
  • This is a substantive magazine article by Richard Corliss published in Time on August 12, 2002.
  • This is a scholarly research/empirical article by Leanne C. Findlay and Diane M. Ste-Marie published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology in 2004.
  • This is a substantive newspaper article by Geoffrey A. Fowler and Phred Dvorak published in the Wall Street Journal on February 25, 2010.
  • This is a substantive newspaper article published in The Christian Science Monitor on February 20, 2014.

Purpose /
  • Corliss’ purpose is to inform readers of the 2002 Winter Olympic figure skating judging scandal.
  • Findlay and Ste-Marie’s purpose is to present the results of the study the authors conducted on skater reputation bias in figure skating judging. The authors concluded that because a skater reputation bias in figure skating judging was found, the new judging system implemented after the 2002 Olympic figure skating judging scandal does not adequately eliminate judging bias, for it does not correct reputation bias. The authors argue that there is a “need for minimizing the effects of nonperformance factors in competitive sports.”
  • The study’s purpose was to find out if figure skating judges would give known skaters with good reputations higher scores than unknown skaters.
  • Fowler and Dvorak’s purpose is to present criticisms of the International Judging System (IJS), the figure skating judging system implemented after the 2002 Olympics, and to compare the IJS to the previous 6.0 judging system.
  • Sappenfield’s purpose is to give an explanation of how Adelina Sotnikova beat Kim Yu-Na in the 2014 Olympics and to show that there was not really any judging bias.

Target audience /
  • The target audience of this article corresponds to Time magazine’s average audience, which is well-educated American adults who make over $100,000 a year (“Print”). Those who are interested in figure skating could be included in the target audience as well.
  • The audience of this article is sports researchers that could use this research to build upon for their own research or conclusions. More specifically, the audience is figure skating researchers and figure skating judging researchers.
  • The Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology is “designed to stimulate and communicate research theory in all areas of sport and exercise psychology” (“About JSEP”).
  • The target audience of this article corresponds to the audience of the Wall Street Journal, which is wealthy, well-educated American adults (Mayerowitz and ABC News Business Unit). Those who are interested in figure skating could be included in the audience as well.
  • The target audience of this article corresponds to the audience of The Christian Science Monitor, which is a global audience. Those who are interested in figure skating are also members of the target audience.

2002 Winter Olympic Figure Skating Judging Scandal /
  • Officials from Italy and the United States named the person responsible for the scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics, 53-year-old Uzbek, Tokhtakhounov.
  • Events of the scandal:
  • Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, a Russian pairs figure skating team fell and still won gold in the pairs event.
  • Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, a Canadian pairs figure skating team skated better than the Russians and won silver in the pairs event.
  • Didier Galihaguet was elected again to be the head of the French skating association, just one month after he was suspended for participating in the 2002 Olympics pairs result.
  • The day after the pairs event concluded, a judge from France stated that others pressured her to give the Russians better scores than the Canadians.
  • After the scandal, commotion occurred and both the Russians and Canadians were awarded gold medals.
  • Now, the scandal is thought to include Marina Anissa and Gwendal Peizerat, a French ice-dancing team, who won gold in the ice dancing event. If this is true, six judges could have been participants in the scandal.
  • The FBI received recordings from the Olympics from the Italians and translated them into English.
  • Tokhtakhounov was recorded speaking with two women, assumed to be Anissa and her mother.
  • It is believed by U.S. Attorney James Comey that Tokhtakhounov set the scandal up so that the Russians and the French would win gold at the Olympics, and he might get his expired French visa renewed.
  • Tokhtakhounov told the woman that her daughter would win gold, even if she fell.
  • The U.S. delivered a complaint that charged Tokhtakhounov of two counts of collusion to commit athletic bribery.
  • Italy placed Tokhtakhounov into a jail to wait to be extradited.
  • A commotion about judges swapping votes at the 2002 Winter Olympics resulted in a completely different figure skating judging system.

2006 Winter Olympics /
  • Before the Olympics a judge was stripped of his or her judging abilities because the ISU perceived their judging as biased.
  • Results in women’s event under the new judging system were not perceived as abnormal.

2010 Winter Olympics /
  • Russians believe that Evgeni Plushenko should have won gold in the men’s event.
  • Plushenko performed the quadruple toe loop, one of the most difficult jumps in figure skating, and he believes that the judges did not give him enough points for it. After skating his program, Plushenko said that men’s figure skating has turned into dancing.
  • Disputes mostly are about the skaters, and not the countries.
  • Results in women’s event under the new judging system were not perceived as abnormal.
  • However, results in the men’s event were questioned. Although Evgeni Plushenko of Russia landed all of his jumps, Evan Lysacek of the U.S. won gold because he earned more points in the areas other than jumps.

2014 Winter Olympics /
  • After Adelina Sotnikova from Russia won gold over Kim Yu-Na from South Korea, debate occurred as to whether Kim should have won.
  • The scores seem to show that the judges liked Kim over Sotnikova, but Sotnikova skated a program with great technical skills.
  • The women’s results could be the first detailed view of the mechanics of the new judging system, and the world might not be very pleased.
  • Three women almost had the same scores in the short program and skated almost perfect free skate programs. As a result, the oddities in the new judging system have surfaced.
  • Sotnikova won because she skated a cleaner and more difficult program than Kim. Sotnikova scored higher technically than Kim. Sotnikova’s total points for her three jump combinations were 27.48 points, and Kim’s were 22.64. This 4.84 point advantage for Sotnikova allowed her to jump over Kim’s 0.28 point lead from the short program. Sotnikova performed more difficult jump combinations and performed two of her jump combinations in the second half of her free skate, resulting in an added bonus. Kim only placed one of her jump combinations in the second half. Although Sotnikova’s program was risky, it paid off by balancing the deduction for stepping out of her final jump combination.
  • Sotnikova won because of her base technical score, 61.43 points, which the judges have no control over. Kim’s base technical score was 57.49 points.
  • The judges scored Sotnikova’s grade of execution higher, 14.11 points, than Kim, 12.20 points. Grade of execution is based on how well each element was executed.
  • The judges have greater control over component scores, which are an evaluation of the skater’s artistry, choreography, interpretation, and performance. Judges have the ability to inflate scores of a skater that they want to place.
  • Kim earned 74.50 points and Sotnikova earned 74.41 points in component scores.
  • The judges could have given Sotnikova high component scores, but less than Kim’s component scores, because the judges knew that Sotnikova’s technical scores would be higher than Kim’s technical scores. However, it does not appear that Sotnikova received scores higher than she should have.
  • Sotnikova seems to have scored similar to Lysacek in the 2010 Olympics.
  • The IJS scoring system seems to have given the better skater the gold.

Old 6.0 judging system /
  • Subjective
  • Nationalist bias
  • Judges compared skaters to each other.
  • 6.0 was given to skaters who skated perfect programs.
  • The 6.0 system was more impressionistic than the new IJS judging system.
  • The 6.0 system gave the judges too much power to do what they desired.

New International Judging System (IJS) judging system /
  • Although the rules changed, there is still controversy about the judges’ scores.
  • Some skaters believe that the new judging system, now based on merit, sacrifices creativity to math.
  • Some skaters believe that the new judging system did not correct the subjectivity of the old system.
  • Valentin Piseev, the president of the Russian Skating Federation, stated that the new judging system alters figure skating’s true meaning, since jumps are the main elements. He believes that skaters who take risks are not rewarded by the system, and thus countries with skaters who are trained well are not at an advantage. Piseev stated that the new judging system was designed to make all countries more equal.
  • The IJS has created more stability in skating.
  • Ottavio Cinquanta, President of the International Skating Union (ISU), stated that the IJS was not flawless, but it was adequate because it puts subjective notions into numbers.
  • Skaters are judged by technical specialists and judges on how they skated their own programs.
  • No perfect score
  • Points are given to skaters for completing certain elements and for their program’s artistry.
  • Each element has a base value, and depending on how well a skater performs the element, points are subtracted or added.
  • Skating now requires a lot of math.
  • A lot of skaters believe the IJS provides them a better idea of how they performed.
  • Katarina Witt believes that the IJS is more accountable, but the sport has become just about getting points, making it hard for skaters to put emotion into their programs.
  • Sasha Cohen believes that the IJS makes skaters count during their performance, because skaters lose points if they do not hold elements long enough. She believes that the IJS limits freedom and uniqueness.
  • The new judging system is more anonymous than the old judging system. People have criticized the new system for this.
  • Eric Zitzewitz, a Darthmouth Economic Professor, stated that the new judging system gives skaters a greater advantage if there is a judge from the same country. Under the new system, the judges give skaters from their country scores that are 20% higher than under the old system.
  • However, a consultant to the ISU, Ted Barton, stated that the new system has lessened a judge’s ability to impact a skater’s overall score. This is because the lowest and highest scores a skater receives from judges are dropped.
  • Judges’ scores are reviewed by the ISU, and the ISU can strip a judge of his or her judging abilities.
  • Each element a skater performs has a specific value, and the skater who earns the most points wins.
  • This system places more importance on all parts of a skater’s program than the 6.0 system and gives risk-taker skaters more points.
  • Judges can inflate or deflate grade of execution scores to affect which skaters place, but this would be a risky maneuver.
  • The IJS was created to reward the better skater.

Figure skating in general /
  • Cinquanta stated that skaters should not just do the greatest jumps, but they should be skilled in all areas.
  • Olympic figure skating relies on judging conflict.

Figure skating judging in general /
  • Judges might utilize cognitive strategies to help make judging easier by lessening the cognitive load.
  • Judging can be influenced by cognitive load, time constraints, and vagueness.
  • Valuation of a skater’s program is difficult. Judges have to watch and enumerate the program based on artistic and technical aspects.
  • Judges have to identify errors in performance and apply the right deductions.
  • Judges have to score during the performance.
  • The encoding part of judging is the time when judges watch skaters’ performances, record which elements were performed, and note errors.
  • The evaluation part of judging is the time when the judges combine all of the information noted in the encoding part and previous knowledge.
  • Final scores are given after the evaluation process.

Skaters’ reputation and judges’ scores /
  • The study tested if expectations of skaters, based on their reputation, caused biased judging.
  • Hypothesis: “The ordinal ranking of figure skaters would be better when skaters were evaluated by judges who knew their positive reputation, as compared to when they were evaluated by judges who had not heard of them.”
  • Fourteen ladies’ short programs were judged by judges who knew or did not know the skaters. Skaters were placed higher and given better technical scores when the judges knew the skaters, but artistic scores were no different between known and unknown skaters.
  • The results of the study indicate that judging in figure skating is biased.

Study Methodology /
  • Authors used DeNisi, Cafferty, and Meglino’s (1984) information processing model of performance appraisal, where performance appraisal is “the product of a set of cognitive perceptions which includes acquisition of information through the observation of performance organization and storage of that information through the observation of performance, organization and storage of that information in memory, retrieval of information from memory, and its integration to form a judgement.”
  • Participants included 6 Novice competitive level or higher accredited judges from the Eastern Ontario section and 6 from the Quebec section of Skate Canada, the Canadian governing association of figure skating, with 7 to 35 years of judging experience.
  • Videotapes of 71 skaters’ short programs from the 2000 Eastern Ontario sectional competition and the 2000 Quebec subsectional competition were used.
  • Three judges from each section rated the 71 skaters on how well known they were. Seven skaters were known by the Ontario judges, and seven skaters were known by the Quebec judges. These 14 skaters were those used in the study.
  • After the judges scored the skaters’ video performances, they filled out a questionnaire that asked if the judge thought the skater had a positive reputation.
  • Skaters’ names were changed to make it seem like they all came from the same region.

Works Cited

Corliss, Richard. “A Gold for a Gold...and a Visa Too?” Time, 12 Aug. 2002,,9171,1003021,00.html.

Findlay, Leanne C., and Ste-Marie, Diane M. “A Reputation Bias in Figure Skating Judging.” Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 26, no. 1, 2004, pp. 154–166., doi:10.1123/jsep.26.1.154.

Fowler, Geoffrey A., and Dvorak, Phred. “Time to Restore the Perfect 6.0? Plushenko's Silver Sparks New Criticism of Figure Skating Judging; Arithmetic Trumps Artistry.” Wall Street Journal, Eastern ed., 25 Feb. 2010, 2748704240 004575085970678051754.

“Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology: About JSEP.” Human Kinetics Journals,

Mayerowitz, Scott, and ABC News Business Unit. “What Do the Rich and Powerful Read?” ABC News, ABC News Network, 28 July 2007,

“Print.” Time Inc., Time Inc.,

Sappenfield, Mark. “Figure Skating Judging: How Did Adelina Sotnikova Beat Kim Yu-Na?” The Christian Science Monitor, 20 Feb. 2014,