The Russian who controversially won the women’s figure skating was pictured embracing one of the judges just moments after she was awarded gold.
Adelina Sotnikova, whose routine was widely regarded as having been slightly inferior to that of South Korean runner-up Yuna Kim, was a surprise winner at Sochi, leading many fans and pundits to question the impartiality of the judges.
And, as Sotnikova dramatically ran through the hallways of the Iceberg Skating Palace searching for family and friends with whom to celebrate, cameras caught her hugging and receiving warm congratulations from many people, including a woman who had just been judging the event minutes before, fellow Russian Alla Shekhovtsova (circled above in red).
The captured moment only fueled more fury over the results of the women’s figure skating Olympic competition, when Sotnikova beat out the heavy favourite, Kim, for gold. Images of the embrace blew up on social media.
It didn't take long for people to accuse the judges of favouritism for its home competitors, when Kim, who skated undeniably beautifully, brought home silver instead of gold. Fans went so far as to create a petition on Change.org, with more than 1.5 million people, demanding "rejudgement."
This sums up the sport. Not necessarily cheating, but enough to make you go Hmmmmn pic.twitter.com/g6xPYfYuix
— The Skating Lesson (@SkatingLesson) February 22, 2014
The drama continued soon after the event when it was discovered that Ukrainian judge Yuri Balkov was kicked out of judging for a year after being tape-recorded by a Canadian judge trying to fix the 1998 Winter Olympics ice dancing competition. Shekhovtseva (the judge who embraced Sotnikova) is married to Russian federation president Valentin Pissev.
The International Olympic Committee denied any sort of figure skating controversy, according to USA Today.
In addition to the cases of the two questionable judges, it's also worth noting that four of the 13 free skate judges hail from former Soviet republics — Russia, Estonia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
Several informed participants, if also biased in their own ways, in this Reddit thread have identified peculiar marks on several jumps from Kim, and there's a broad consensus within that Sotnikova's margin of victory was too large.
U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner, who placed 7th in the event, added to the controversy, when she publicly criticized the anonymous judging system and argued that it didn’t do any favors for the sport’s popularity as a whole.
Despite the accusations, the shady pasts of the judges and even the questionable hug, it is important to note that, despite the compromising information, there is no hard evidence of a fix in Sochi.
By Mikaela Conley / Yahoo! US