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Figure Skating History: Scandals

Updated on September 1, 2014

Sexual Harrassment Scandal in Japanese Figure Skating Federation

One of the leading Japanese figure skaters, Daisuke Takahashi has been caught up in a sexual harassment scandal.

In this latest devemopment, Takahashi isn't an offender, however.

In a photo taken from a party after Winter Olympics, Seiko Hashimoto, the president of Japanese Skating Federation appeared hugging and kissing Takahashi.

Takahashi in a press conference defended Hashimoto saying "It was a case of two adults getting a little out of control."

Meanwhile, Hashimoto also denied insisting that she was merely showing affection she would any other athlete.

Some affection, I should say. Lie and pretension are a part of life, but it's getting sicker when they are pushed down on the throat.

Scandals seem never in short supply in figure skating. But it's even sadder to see when a victim has to defend the offender.

Is it just a coincident after Sochi Scandal that we are seeing a metaphor for the condition of the sport in the behavior of the head of the Japanese Figure Skating Federation?

Sports have become a tool of political propaganda, so have atheltes become comfort toys for politicians. Right.

The ISU, Ottavio Cinquanta, Yuri Balkov, Alla Shekhovtseva, and pro-Russian judges in Sochi all got away with it. Why not Hashimoto, even in her home field?


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Early Scandals

So let us look back at a couple of old scandals.

One of them was 1956 Olympics where the Canadian pair Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowdencompeted against the Austrian pair Elisabeth Schwarz and Kurt Oppelt.

At that time figure skating was dominated by Austrian skaters and Austrian skating board, and they made sure that the Austrian pair Elisabeth Schwarz and Kurt Oppelt won.

Dafoe was informed that there would be seven judges among whom a judge from Switzerland was included, known as neutral. But In competition, two pro-Austrian judges were added without a proper procedure.

"It was game over," said Dafoe afterwards as soon as he saw them.

Dafoe suffered defeat as four out of nine judges placed the Canadians first, while five the Austrians. That night, most of the coaches at the competition asked the ISU to reverse the decision, but the ISU refused.

At the banquet, Dafoe and Bowden were referred as the most outstanding skaters, and this time, Austrian skaters left in protest.

In 1952, Jacqueline du Bief won the World Championships in Paris. At that time there wasn't TV camera to record the compulsory competition, but spectators were left dumbfounded as one judge gave her a perfect mark 6.0 despite she fell twice and at one point, derailed from her track.

Du Bief beat Klopfer, the apparent winner, and crowd booed and threw glass bottles.

Another example comes from Sonja Henie.

In 1927 World Championships in Oslo, the judging panel consists of three Norwegians and an Austrian and a German. The Norwegians voted for Henie while the other non-Norwegians voted for Herma Szabo, an Austrian skater.

Most spectators favored Szabo and protested, which eventually led the ISU to change the rules so that only one judge per country was allowed at the international events.

Figure skating's susceptibility to nationalism has a long history. Sochi Scandal was just a reminder of its incorrigible past.

Soviet Scandals

In my earlier article, I mentioned compulsory was an objectively measurable discipline in contrast with free skating.

The irony was that the compulsory event was in fact a brooding ground for international manipulation. It's because, in most of compulsory time, there wasn't TV broadcasting on the compulsory event. It was only after Peggy Fleming that people was able to watch the compulsory competition on TV.

During the 1950s to 1960s, the Soviet dominated the judging panel, which secured pro-communist skaters to thrive.

Those judges from Czech, Hungry, Bulgaria, or Poland were doctrinally oriented; it was impossible for them to be neutral while their entire life was indoctrinated with communism.

Back then, the judges had an almost exclusive access to the figures on the ice and there wasn't TV recording or a mass of spectators: few came to see the compulsories.

The world was a divided one, and the judges from the Soviet or Eastern blocs were indoctrinated by communism and typically chauvinists.

There were sometimes conflicting reports on the same mark. One judge told there was flats on the mark while the other judge said there wasn't any flat on the same figures. The latter excused himself later that he could have been confused by sunlight when confronted.

The judges could do whatever they wanted, and the pattern didn't change as you might notice as the judges today use GOE arbitrarily in Sochi. The kind of fool play is adopted by the ISU today when accused of fraud, evidently in Sochi and its aftermath.

Sergei Tchetveroukhin, the first male skater of the Soviet Union, once said there was an agreement between the Soviet Union and its satellites despite it wasn't always kept as expected. You can see clearly why the ISU shows a leper like moral sensitivity today.

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