Figure skating is one of the most popular sports in the Winter Olympics, but that doesn’t mean the discipline is without its controversy. Over the years there have been several events that have rocked the ice for these competitors…
Russian figure skating pair Maxim Shabalin and Oksana Domnina managed to upset the entire Aboriginal culture in 2010. The skaters wore Aboriginal costumes and performed a tribal dance at the European Championships. It didn’t go well. People were outraged at the inaccuracies meaning the pair were forced to tone it down for the Olympics. However, the judges still weren’t impressed and placed the couple third, therefore ending the country’s long-standing skating dominance.
In 2002, it was Canada vs. Russia. The Canadian pair, David Pelletier and Jamie Sale, performed a flawless routine. So how did they come up second to Russian pair Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya? Especially as the couple had many flaws in their routine. It was uncovered that the French judge had fiddled her score to see Russia win. This put an end to secret judging, and both pairs were ultimately awarded the gold medal.
Usually, America chooses the top three medalists at the US Nationals for the Olympics. However, in 2014 it was 1st, 2nd, and 4th place that were heading to the games. Mirai Nagasu had won the bronze but was forced to stay away so that fourth place Ashley Wagner could attend. It was revealed that the committee would also look at the competitors’ previous results, as well as their move difficulty, and the skater’s marketability. Ouch.
Tonya vs. Nancy
In 1994, Nancy Kerrigan was quickly becoming America’s sweetheart, which didn’t sit well with Tonya Harding. Nancy was practicing her routine when someone attacked her with a police baton. Nancy was out of the Olympics leaving gold open for Tonya. It was revealed that Tonya’s husband had hired the attacker meaning she was banned from ever competing in the sport, while Nancy recovered enough to take home Olympic silver.
Up until 1902, figure skating was a male sport until British Madge Syers decided it was time for a change. Until then, women had only been allowed in the pairs events, but Madge qualified for the individual competition. She was able to skate her way to silver, as well as create a separate event for women. The division debuted in 1906, and Madge went on to take home gold at two Olympic Games.
Katarina Witt was one of the Democratic German Republic’s leading skaters throughout the ‘80s as she regularly took home a medal. However, the skater was accused of wearing revealing outfits to flirt with the judges for better scores. The accusation meant the committee put strict rules in place about how much skin was allowed to be on show.
Surya Bonaly was competing for France in the 1998 Olympics when her illegal move saw her in a whole heap of trouble. The competitor had been warned not to perform a backflip as it was totally against the rules, but Surya couldn’t help herself. The move saw the skater drop to 10th place with no chance of winning a medal.
The reality show, Skating With Celebrities, caused a ruckus in 2006 for one good reason: Lloyd Eisler. The skater was paired with former Buffy star Kristy Swanson, but they took their relationship further than the ice. Lloyd left his pregnant wife so that he could be in a relationship with his new partner! The pair later went on to get married, so at least it wasn’t all in vain.
2014 saw figure skating fans all around the world campaign for South Korea’s Yuna Kim. The skater was set to win gold, but lost out to Adelina Sotnikova who was competing for Russia. 2 million people signed a petition stating the judges’ scores were fixed, but the Olympic committee ruled that it was all fair and the scores stayed as they were.
It looks as though these athletes aren’t as squeaky clean as they appear to be on the ice. There could still be plenty more to come from the figure skating world. It’s skates at the ready, and battle at dawn as competitors can be willing to do anything to make it to the top.