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1997 Worlds:Tara Lipinski, Michelle Kwan, Vanessa Gusmeroli, and Irina Slutskaya

Updated on February 13, 2015

Tara Lipinski in 1997

The 1997 Worlds was an interesting event.

Here three best skaters in the 1990s clashed. Like the 1996 Worlds, it was an extraordinary event.

It was one of the most difficult events to judge and at the same time, there was a glaring judging flaw.

I don't say it indicates fraud or corruption in that event, but something was definitely wrong in the judging.

The final result was, Tara Lipinski won gold, Michelle Kwan, silver and Vanessa Gusmeroli, bronze while Irina Slutskaya finished off the podium.

It's not clear whether the judging problem came from the 6.0 system or judging criteria at the time or even factors from qualification round.

Given all that matters at the time, Slutskaya's fourth placement cannot be justified.

tara Lipinski in 1997

Tara Lipinski was a tiny skater but her skating was mature and remarkably expressive.

Her weakness was low jump height and jump deficiency, but her overall skating skill was among the top of the 1990s.

Compared to Slutskaya, Lipinski and Kwan showed more definitive moves and and lines in their skating while Slutskaya was superior to them in terms of jump height and diversified elements.

Sluskaya's weakness was in polishing, though she was by no means far from the level of her competitors such as Kwan or Lipinski. Their differences, either of merits or defects, were very marginal.

Michelle Kwan in 1997

In fact, Kwan was a skater whose lines appeared the most mature among her competitors.

However, her short height hampered her aesthetic quality. While Slutskaya was seen as athletic skater due to her power skating, Kwan and Lipinski were seen as better in presentation.

But this contemporary assessment was ambivalent, because, if Kwan or Lipnski were to be judged under the COP, their weakness could have outdone their advantages.

Each skater's skating was as much flawed as it was merited. And it's sometimes very hard to pinpoint who was better than whom in what way.

That's why the COP is preferred to judge this kind of cases.

Michelle Kwan in 1997

You can see how Kwan's moves are different from her free program.

Her speed and moves improved sharply. Kwan's advantage or Lipinski's was either of them didn't fall while Slutskaya did once.

Back then, one fall could crash your competition. If you fall, while your competitors didn't, then you would be marked down.

Then, you may question, what if they made terrible landings? Under the 6.0 system, imperfect landing was far better than fall. In that context, you can understand why Slutskaya received such terrible marks on her short program.

But Slutskaya's skating with that fall was still very high quality even in today's standards, nevertheless.

Irina Slutskaya in 1997

In the 1997 Worlds, the biggest problem was Slutskaya's short program.

The judging panel slaughtered Slutskaya for her fall. In fact, that was a very bad judging.

Moreover, Vanessa Gusmeroli's scores are abnormally bloated. Truth be told, Gusmeroli's scores given by the judges should have been Slutskaya's. Even in the eyes of non-expert, Gusmeroli's skating was far inferior to any of those top three ladies'.

Given that three ladies are virtually tied, first or second placement should have been the most desirable result for the 1997 Worlds.

Irina Slutskaya in 1997

But that may be radical for some. Under the 6.0 system, sensitivity for fall couldn't have been underestimated.

Even today, if skaters with falls win, people tend to question its credibility.

But quality is not an option in figure skating. It is one of the most critical factors that appreciate figure skating.

So, with that in mind, I think, Irina Slutskaya should have won or at least should have won a medal in the 1997 Worlds.

The revised scores are following.

Revised marks

Short program
Free program
Tara Lipinski
Michelle Kwan
Irina Slutskaya
Vanessa Gusmeroli
Based on the revised scores, Lipinski won short program while Slutskaya won long program. Note that three skaters are very close to each other. One thing is clear that Slutskaya was deprived of her medal in the 1997 Worlds regardless of its color.

Who do you think is the real winner of the 197 Worlds?

See results


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