SOCHI, Russia — From the country that created Skategate, the 2002 Salt Lake City judging scandal, comes a report that the Americans and Russians have arranged a deal that would help each other win an Olympic figure skating gold medal while blocking the Canadians.
L’Equipe, the French sporting daily, said Saturday that according to an unnamed Russian coach, a “proposed barter’’ would have the US support Russian skaters in the new team event that concludes Sunday night in exchange for the Russians aiding ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White in their quest to become the first US Olympic champions in the event.
The US Figure Skating Association called the report “categorically false.” “There is no ‘help’ between countries,” the USFSA said in a statement. “We have no further response to rumors, anonymous sources or conjecture.”
Since the Russians and Americans were expected to win those events without illicit assistance, a deal to rig the outcomes didn’t appear to make sense, especially since the Canadians used their second-string pair in Saturday’s finale and will replace Patrick Chan, their three-time men’s world champion, with Kevin Reynolds in the free skate.
“Canada is confident that the results of the competition will be determined where they should be, on the ice,” said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high-performance director.
Even if a deal had been made, the new scoring system, in which the marks of seven of nine judges are chosen at random with the high and low marks dropped, would make it nearly impossible to know whose scores would count.
After five of the eight segments (the short programs in the four disciplines and the pairs free skate), Russia led Canada, 47 points to 41, with the US third with 34. On Saturday, the hosts won the women’s short program with European champion Julia Lipnitskaia, the pairs finale with backups Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, and finished third in the short dance with Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev.
The Russians figure to place in the top three of all of the Sunday finales with Evgeni Plushenko, their three-time Olympic medalist, and likely the same woman and dancers in order to win what could be their first gold of the Games.
Davis and White, who’ve claimed two of the last three world titles, most recently on Canadian ice, plus the last five Grand Prix finals, were favored to dethrone Canadian rivals and training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won in Vancouver four years ago. “We’re confident that what we’re putting out onto the ice kind of speaks for itself and that’s what we stand behind,” said White, who with Davis finished three points ahead of Virtue and Moir in the team short dance.
The Canadians were the victims of a deal between the French and the Russians in 2002 when French judge Marie-Reine LeGougne said that her federation pressured her to vote for Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze ahead of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in the pairs competition. After the arrangement was revealed, the Canadians also were given a gold medal and the old 6.0 scoring system was scrapped.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.