LONDON, Ontario. -- After covering figure skating for 33 years, you learn to accept the partly subjective nature of judging in the sport.
That does not make the “reputation judging” that falsified the men’s and pairs results at the World Championships that ended Saturday any less maddening or unconscionable.
The number of tweets from past and present elite skaters perplexed or outraged by Patrick Chan’s home-cooked-up victory over Denis Ten of Kazakhstan in singles makes that clear.
“This judging is ridiculous and the only reason people buy it is because it's in North America,” three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir tweeted. “Imagine the outcry if it were Russia+Plush!? (Evgeny Plushenko.)”
Wrote Grand Prix finalist Christina Gao, smart enough to be a Harvard freshman: "Wait what? I'm confused by my own sport. #somethingswronghere”
Three-time world champion Chan of Canada apologized to the crowd for his sorry showing in the free skate. Four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, undeservedly given second place, admitted to surprise over how high their scores were.
As my colleague Christine Brennan noted in a USA Today column, the judges gave scores to leading skaters based on what they have been capable of doing in the past rather than what they actually did in this event.
Judges use the program component scores to prop up favorites just the way they used the old artistic impression mark. Whether it’s 5.9 out of 6.0 or 9.11 (one of Chan’s inflated PCS marks) out of 10, it smells just as bad.
*The one good thing about the current scoring system is it allows a Denis Ten to finish 12th at Four Continents last month, then second at worlds. That makes the instances of pure reputation judging even more maddening.
*Mother Russia won’t be able to watch many of her children in singles at the home Olympics next winter. The country whose men have won four of the last five Olympic gold medals (plus two silvers) earned just one men’s spot for Sochi. Russia will have just two women despite having won five straight world junior women’s titles.
*Ashley Wagner struck just the right note in her team-first comment that earning the third spot for U.S. women at Sochi is “more important than standing on top of that podium.” It still sounded a bit like rationalization for someone who finished fourth last year (missing bronze by under four points) and dropped to fifth this year. Yes, South Korea’s Yuna Kim returned in all magnificence to win again, but Wagner finished behind two women whom she had beaten in 2012.
*Notwithstanding problems in short programs that left her behind Wagner in the overall standings, Gracie Gold finishes the year as the leading U.S. woman. She beat Wagner in the free skate at nationals (handily) and worlds (by two points). Two-time U.S. champion Wagner peaked early, then had messy free skates (aggregate five falls) in her final three events.
*Wagner / Gold are odds-on for two of the spots at Sochi. Will the third be Wagner’s successor as the “almost girl,” Agnes Zawadzki (third at last two nationals)? Gao, taking a year off from school to focus on skating? Courtney Hicks, the 2011 junior champion who made a strong comeback after losing a season to a broken leg? Two-time U.S. champion Alissa Czisny, if she can return from a 2013 season lost to injury?
*The ice dance rivalry between Davis/White (USA) and Virtue/Moir (CAN), now both two-time world champions, has heated to the point you can sense a growing chill between these frenemies (same coach for years)– especially because the two teams are so much better than all the others. They are so good the event no longer is my dinner break.
*Giving full base-value credit for jumps landed on two feet or followed by an immediate fall is ridiculous. Does a putt count if it hits the flag or rims the cup before failing to drop? There should be a deduction (beyond grade of execution and minus-1 for a fall) on the base value for those flaws.
*Silver medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy competed with a bloody nose she had to wipe in the middle of her free skate. Chan just made a bloody mess of his free skate.
*If 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek came back still without a quad, he would be giving a 3.6-point handicap to those who do one in both the short and long programs. That still could be overcome with clean skating if the quad squadders make mistakes. Of course, the bigger question is whether Lysacek will be physically able to return, now seeming less and less likely.
*Yuna Kim. YUNA!!!!! KIM!!!!!
(Correction: An earlier version of this column referred incorrectly to the music Patrick Chan used in his free skate. It was from the opera, La Boheme, not the film, Captain Blood. The author regrets the error.)