Top 10 figure skating game changers | Figure Skating | CBC Sports

Figure SkatingTop 10 figure skating game changers

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012 | 09:00 AM

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In this Feb. 11, 2002 file photo, figure skating pairs silver medal winners Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada, left, look towards gold medal winners Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia during the awards ceremony at the Winter Olympics. The pairs judging scandal rocked the Salt Lake City Olympics, resulting in Sale and Pelletier going from silver to co-gold medallists a week later. (Doug Mills/Associated Press) In this Feb. 11, 2002 file photo, figure skating pairs silver medal winners Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada, left, look towards gold medal winners Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia during the awards ceremony at the Winter Olympics. The pairs judging scandal rocked the Salt Lake City Olympics, resulting in Sale and Pelletier going from silver to co-gold medallists a week later. (Doug Mills/Associated Press)

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Skating has had its fair share of scandals. Some personal, some funny and some reveal the origins of lesser known rules. On another level, Pj Kwong counts down 10 figure skating moments that have prompted rule changes.
If you are a fan at all of figure skating you will undoubtedly have moments in your own mind that inspired lots of talk around the water cooler.  

Skating has had its fair share of scandals to be sure, but for this list I also wanted to include other moments. Some are personal, some are funny and some reveal the origins of rules I didn't know about.

Here are my Top 10 figure skating game changers that prompted several rule changes:

1. Sponsored streaker at worlds in 2004

At the 2004 worlds in Dortmund, Germany a spectator identified as Ron Bensimhon of Montreal, hopped the boards during the Ladies free program and started skating around. This was just before American Michelle Kwan was about to start.

He ripped off his shirt to reveal a casino website printed on his chest. A gold tutu appeared from underneath his tear away sport pants.

Fortunately, this was a harmless prank which is why we can chuckle about this now. The image of the security people trying to catch this guy on foot on the ice while he easily slipped away does make me smile.

The fact that five-time world champion Kwan was able to move from fourth to take the bronze once she skated makes me smile even more.

The result: Tightened security and possibly cleats for streaker chasers.



2. 2002 Olympic judging scandal in pairs event

The nuts and bolts of this story involved Russian Olympic champions Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, co-Olympic champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier from Canada, and French pair judge Marie-Reine LeGougne. LeGougne was exposed in a scenario in which she had pre-determined her result favouring the Russian team regardless of how they skated. She was not alone in favouring the Russians as the final decision was a 5-4 split on the nine-judge panel.

The issue was not the result as much as it was the fact that she had told people in the fall preceding the 2002 Games, including current Skate Canada president and fellow Olympic pair judge Benoit Lavoie, that she would be voting for the Russians at the Olympics. As a result of the collusion, Sale and Pelletier went from the silver position to co-Olympic gold medallists a week later.

The result: A newly proposed judging system was expedited.



3. Tara Lipinksi - USA - 1998 Olympic Champion

In 1998, American phenom Tara Lipinski was 15-years-old when she became the youngest woman to win an Olympic figure skating gold medal in Nagano, Japan.

The result: A new ISU age restriction requiring skaters to be 15-years-old on July 1 prior to the Olympics. The rationale was to try and protect young skaters from concentrating on bigger tricks, causing injury to their still developing bodies.



4. Sonja Henie - NOR - 1927 world champion

There is no doubt that Norwegian Sonja Henie was one of the most decorated skaters that ever lived. She was a three-time Olympic champion, six-time European champion and 10-time world champion. On the way to collecting her first world title in 1927, it was with the support of three fellow Norwegian judges on the panel. This does not take away from Henie's vast accomplishments but simply highlights that the optics were a little tricky.

The result: No more than one judge per country on the judging panel.

Click here to see video.

5. Katarina Witt - GER - 1988 Olympic Champion

The decade in which Witt skated was marked by great skating and costumes that were slowly becoming more and more theatrical. The ISU introduced costume guidelines in order to prevent the emerging Dancing With The Stars outfitting of the sport. Witt was the most glamorous skater of her day and the beautiful dress from her 1988 Olympic short program from Calgary highlighted that glamour for me, but even I can see that the marabou feathers and sequins may have been a bit over the top.

The result:  Costume guidelines for more appropriate athletic wear and less Vegas showgirl.

Click here to see video.

6. Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski - ISR - 2002 world bronze medallists

Israeli ice dancers Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski earned their only world medal, a bronze, at the 2002 world championships in Nagano. Their closest rivals from Lithuania, Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vonagas, dropped from third position after the first two segments of competition to fourth overall. It was widely felt that the Israelis did not deserve the medal and a formal complaint was lodged by the Lithuanian Federation. In addition, Bulgarian ice dancers Albena Denkova and Maxim Stavisky, who finished in fifth, started a petition signed by dozens of skaters to try and overturn the final result.

The result: Another blemish in an already troubling 2002 season.



7. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir - CAN - 2011 Grand Prix Final

At the Grand Prix Final in Quebec City, a glitch in the judging computer software undervalued one of Virtue and Moir's lifts by .50 in their free dance. Had they been correctly scored, they would have won the free dance segment of the competition by .45 ahead of eventual Grand Prix Final champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. It would not have been enough however to have earned them the gold medal.

The result:
The official results stand in keeping with ISU regulations.



8. Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz - CAN - 2001 Grand Prix Final

This was a strange one. At the time, the Grand Prix Final in Kitchener, Ont., required a short program and two free programs from the competitors. The second free program was worth 50 per cent of the total score.  I was one of the PA announcers and was also doing Bold-type commentary. The Canadian skaters won the second free dance, ahead of French rivals Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat. At the end of the event, the big scoreboard in the building had the French team as the winners, while my TV graphic showed the Canadians as the winners.

Needless to say, the board in the building was taken down quickly to try and determine the reason for the two different results. What they figured out was the computer program being used to calculate the results in-house had not taken into account the extra value for the second free dance - and under the old 6.0 system - the French team had taken it. The TV network had hired its own computer calculation team that correctly factored the scores, which explained the different result at the end of ice dance. During the next event, about an hour later, I got the chance as the PA announcer to let the excited crowd in-house know that hometown favourites, Bourne and Kraatz had been officially declared the winners.

The result: Only one scoring feed going to both the big board in the building and TV.



9. 1996/1997 ISU Champions Series Final - Men's event

The Champions Series Final was the Grand Prix Final predecessor, and was held in early 1997 in Hamilton, Ont. The six-skater men's event was unbelievably exciting and I was lucky enough to be rink side as the PA announcer. It would be the first time that quads were performed by three different skaters in the same event: Russians Ilia Kulik, Alexei Urmanov and Canadian Elvis Stojko. Stojko won the event and also had the distinction of becoming the first skater to perform a quad/triple jump combination.

The result: Quads were well on their way to becoming normal but still spectacular fare for elite skaters.



10. Casablanca - Kurt Browning - CAN - 1993 Canadians

Copps Coliseum was packed for the Canadian nationals that year and the men's event was the highlight with a planned showdown between Browning and Elvis Stojko. When people think of Kurt Browning, they often think of his 'Casablanca' program, which was new for him that season. He took his starting position in a white jacket and blue shirt that would subsequently be changed to white shirt and bow tie. His pantomime of stubbing out a pretend cigarette was acting perfection. The program put together by Sadra Bezic was beyond innovative.

ISU vice president David Dore recalls the performance this way: "I remember that night in particular because I felt that this was a big change in skating. Up until that time nobody had ever, to my recollection, taken on a complete character for 4:30. I realized for the first time that I was seeing something new. It was like he [Browning] had assumed the skin of another person. It was unbelievable - Humphrey Bogart personified."

It was as if Browning didn't just skate having the music as a layer of his program. The music, choreography and character were so intertwined as to become inseparable. Browning would go on to win worlds in Prague in 1993; the final one of his four world titles

The result: Already well-known in skating circles, Kurt Browning became a performance legend.



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