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Sarah Hughes vs. Michelle Kwan

Updated on October 14, 2014

Kwan's last quest

With the current ISU, an institutional fraud, bothering the present figure skating is no good.

So why don't we take a look at the path the sport has evolved?

It may give you a breather.

There are many memorable competitions since 2000, but nothing seems more exciting or heartbreaking than 2002 in Salt Lake Olympics.

At the time Sarah Hughes beat Michelle Kwan. But before delving into the drama, we need to bear in mind that it's really unfair if we judge the competition in today's standards.

But at least in terms of fundamentals of the sport, we still can judge the competition and it's worth taking another look at it.

Many express the 2002 figure skating ladies competition was incorrect but is there any problem or conspiracy in it?

Sarah Hughes in 2002

Which deficiency: skating or balance?

First you will notice the differences between Kwan and Hughes. Hughes, though far from being ideal in body type, is better in extension and line; Kwan is rather short and stocky compared to Hughes.

But Kwan is more polished in her overall skating while Hughes edges out Kwan in terms of power and expressiveness.

Hughes' greatest flaw will be her poor handling of balance and lack of control. Accurately speaking if I judge in today's standard, there will be 1.0 or more average PCS point difference between them.

The problem is, however, in this particular competitions, Kwan's PCS advantages may be greatly compromised due to her poor performances.

For example, her speed and power were too compromised to be fully credited. Her physiological handicap in connection with jump qualities and other elements will be taken into account too.

While Hughes' physiological line and extension may be flatted by the lack of polishing and lack of control, for instance, her high kick and overall executional deficiency shall subject her jumps to -2 in general, Kwan also presents far weaker performances than she is capable of.

Sarah Hughes in 2002

Who do you think actually won?

See results

But Hughes really beat Kwan in short program?

In short program, you will find Hughes' performance more directing, and well executed and focused, despite its low quality and her body use is more active and engaged than Kwan's, not to mention that her body shape is better than Kwan's.

Hughes' problem is her skating's rawness in polishing. That's due to her lack of control of body moves. But Kwan's conservative skating, such as lack of speed and uninspiring routine, nullifies her advantage in skillfulness.

Like today's Russian skaters, Hughes is also a skater who suffers physiological imbalance. But she almost doesn't betray it in her execution; her edge looks okay and she knows how to skate in all appearances.

Only due to her relatively high center of weight, Hughes shows throughout the program instability.

Michelle Kwan in 2002

Yes, Hughes has won!

If I were a judge, I would have penalized Hughes for her rawness and lack of polishing at the start by setting Kwan 1.0 to 1.5 PCS point ahead of Hughes.

But Kwan's advantage quickly dissolves as she puts out lackluster performances without much content. I think Kwan didn't realize she could be disadvantaged due to her physiological conditions compared to Hughes.

Hughes physiological disadvantage is also noted. But she overcomes with her line and extensions and expressiveness. That's the key of the competition.

As you may know, Hughes edge didn't look bad at all; her skating shows remarkable management. I like her skating despite critical flaws. I guess if I see any Russian skaters reach that level, probably I may be more lenient to their inherent flaws.

Hughes shows Kwan how you skate attitudinally, if not skillfully. Although Kwan seems coming back in free, Hughes appeal to the judges is somewhat convincing to me.

Technically, I'd say most of Hughes' jumps, especially with high kicks, are subject to -2 while Kwan's are in general -1. In PCS,I 'd give Hughes extra GOE, of course, there isn't GOE concept in PCS in the current COP; my point is Hughes will get bonus in addition to her default PCS points. And she will have more points in other elements than Kwan.

That will make the competition neck to neck. And let us say Kwan's fall just cost her gold. I think both can be the winner, but to me Hughes won by a small margin.

Kwan was a better and more proficient skater than Hughes in that competition, to be fair. But Kwan's lackluster outing cost her gold and Hughes' expressiveness appeal to the judges at the time.

Ironically that was another replica of the 1998 Olympics.



It is a just hypothetical question. Say, you are to judge using the COP, assuming that their layout are similar to today's skaters.

How do you grade Kwan's free?

See results

How do you grade Hughes' free?

See results

Michelle Kwan in 2002

Again, it's a hypothesis. If both have same layouts like today's skaters.

How do you grade Kwan's short?

See results

How do you grade Hughes' short?

See results

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