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Skating Controversy in Salt Lake City

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In response to a harsh crowd reaction over awarding the Olympic gold medal to a Russian pair instead of a Canadian one on Monday night, the International Skating Union said it will investigate whether or not judges had followed its rules and procedures, reports The New York Times. The pairs in question are Russia’s Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who narrowly edged Canada’s David Pelletier and Jamie Sale, who appeared to have performed a cleaner and more elegant program, at least as far as the cheering crowds in the Salt Lake Ice Center audience were concerned. While skating officials told The Times that the judges’ decision could not be overturned, an inquiry could help restore some credibility to the ruling process after the strong reaction by the crowd, which booed the scores, and the international attention the incident brought. The Russians received five first-place votes to four for the Canadians: Russia, China, Poland, Ukraine and France selected the Russian couple, while the U.S., Canada, Japan and Germany placed the Canadians in first. Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze received presentation marks of 5.9 (out of a possible 6.0) from seven of the nine judges and 5.8 from the other two, while Salé and Pelletier received just four 5.9s and five 5.8s. “Those were the lowest presentation marks we’ve ever had,” Sale told The Times. The controversy escalated on Wednesday with a disclosure from the head of the French Olympic team that the French judge was pressured to “act in a certain way” in scoring. The disclosure capped a day that began with International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta’s stating that the head referee for the pairs, Ron Pfenning (from the U.S.), has brought forth allegations “regarding possible pressure on judges for the result.”