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Going for the Gold

sochiI’m a skating junkie. I love watching figure skaters and ice dancers. To me, there’s no greater marriage of artistry, beauty, and athleticism. I get all caught up in the drama and intrigue surrounding the skating world and its stars. My husband didn’t feel the same way. In fact, he had gotten to the point where he refused to watch any sport where the outcome is decided by judges, because he felt (and sometimes rightly so) that too often politics and prejudice determined the outcome of contests rather than the skill and talent of the contestants.

Last night’s women’s free skate proved his point. Only a fraction of a point separated the top three skaters after their short program, and the free skate would determine the medal winners. The favorite was Kim Yu-Na, the South Korean champion who won Olympic Gold four years ago. A graceful, elegant skater who skated an error-free, beautiful program, she lost the gold to Adelina Sotnikova, a Russian teenager who, although extremely good, did not skate error free and whose free skate didn’t come close to matching Kim’s in artistry or grace. In my (obviously inexpert) opinion, Sotnikova didn’t deserve the gold. I don’t think she even deserved the silver, because the Italian champion, Carolina Kostner, who ended up with the bronze medal, skated an all-round better free skate than Sotnikova.

But Sotnikova was skating in front of a home crowd. A crowd who not only cheered her on, but continued to chant her name even when others were preparing to skate and while the judges were (supposedly) objectively reviewing jumps and other technical aspects of Kim’s free skate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such blatant bias and poor judging. It’s almost enough to make a person swear off all judged sports (like my husband did). But I’m sure I won’t. I’ll forget my outrage and succumb to the lure of watching grace, beauty, and artistry yet again.

As I used to tell my children when they would complain about something not being fair, no one ever promised us the world was fair. I’d end by saying, “get used to it.”

But dang, last night it sure would have been great to see “fair” win.

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