Whenever the Winter Olympics roll around, we are seemingly treated to another batch of controversy when it comes to figure skating scoring. It’s almost as if the BCS had an evil twin that only comes out to confuse the sporting world every four years.
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia took home the gold at the ladies’ competition in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but it was seventh-place finisher Ashley Wagner of the United States who made headlines with her comments after the competition.
Wagner complained to reporters in comments that were passed along by Martin Rogers of Yahoo! Sports:
I feel gypped… people don't want to watch a sport where you see people fall down and somehow score above someone who goes clean. It is confusing and we need to make it clear for you.
To be completely honest, this sport needs fans and needs people who want to watch it. People do not want to watch a sport where they see someone skate lights out and they can't depend on that person to be the one who pulls through. People need to be held accountable.
They need to get rid of the anonymous judging. There are many changes that need to come to this sport if we want a fan base, because you can't depend on this sport to always be there when you need it. The sport in general needs to become more dependable.
Yes, Wagner skated both programs without falling down and still finished behind Mao Asada, Gracie Gold and Julia Lipnitskaia, who all fell, but that is simplifying the competition and the results.
Wagner did not skate cleanly in either program and had issues with her triple toe and some of her combinations. Commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir both noted on air that the judges would be disappointed with some of the landings and deduct the corresponding points.
Had Wagner skated the performances of her life in Sochi and still finished in seventh behind skaters who fell, her words would carry more weight. Considering the fact that she was more than 20 points off the podium and is already known for the dismay she showed with her scores during the team competition, Wagner’s comments come across more like sour grapes.
The face captured in this tweet from 7News Boston (and her use of the word gypped in general) doesn’t exactly scream Olympic sportsmanship:
It may not be fair to Wagner, but complaints from the losing side in almost any sporting event are generally received as just that—complaints.
While the scoring system does leave something to be desired, especially for those who don’t avidly follow the sport, Wagner is virtually suggesting that those who take fewer risks and thus fall less should be rewarded for it.
Think of it as a one-loss team from the Mountain West in college football suggesting that it should be ranked ahead of a two-loss team from the SEC, even though the SEC team played much harder competition.
Plus, it’s not as if making the figure skating scoring system simpler is all that needs to happen to draw throngs of fans to the sport during a non-Olympic year.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if Wagner's comments have any detrimental influence on any of her scores in future events. Residing on the bad side of subjective judges isn't exactly the ideal place to be for a figure skater.
One thing that won't likely change in the future because of these comments are the actual scoring rules.
Ironically, the only reason Wagner was in the Olympics in the first place was because of a controversial decision from a figure skating association.
She finished in fourth place in the U.S. Nationals competition and fell twice. However, the skating association elected Wagner as one of the three American representatives instead of Mirai Nagasu, mostly because Wagner had more international experience and a better career resume.
Where was the complaining from Wagner when the system worked in her favor when she was the one who fell at Nationals?
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