Monday, February 18, 2002
A new storm brews
More judging controversy on horizon
By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
SALT LAKE CITY -- There is something strange going on in Utah, besides the fact it's easier to buy a bazooka than a beer.
"We are black with anger," Italian ice dancer Barbara Fusar-Poli said. "They (the judges) have taken us for fools. The Olympics are over. Everything is already lost."
Fusar-Poli believes the order of the dance as been preordained. But at least she and her partner, Maurizio Margaglio -- the defending world champions -- are in medal position with only the free dance to go tonight.
Canada's No.1 team, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz, is languishing in fourth. It has become obvious something is amiss at the Salt Lake Ice Centre in the most controversial of figure skating events, and not just because the Canadians are sitting out of a medal slot.
There has been very little movement in the order of finish from one dance to another -- to say the least. That's always a tipoff the judges are not voting according to what is happening on the ice.
After the first compulsory, the order of the ice dance was France, Russia, Italy, Canada and Lithuania.
After the second compulsory, the order was France, Russia, Italy, Canada and Lithuania.
After last night's original, the order is France, Russia, Italy, Canada and Lithuania.
Actually, absolutely nothing changed after the three dances with any of the teams in the top 10!
On top of that, it is apparent some of the judges are voting based on nationalistic allegiance. Even though the Italians are third overall after the three dances, the Italian judge, Walter Zuccaro, consistently has voted his team higher than the other judges. And the Israeli judge, Katalin Alpern, voted the Israeli team exceptionally high last night.
Before these Olympics, there were published reports the fix was already in for these Games and that Bourne and Kraatz would finish fifth. That could still happen.
Bourne and Kraatz skated the Cell Block Tango from the musical Chicago by Bob Fosse for their original last night, not the most dramatic number but very quick and athletic.
Bourne isn't ready to accept that the fix is in -- at least publicly. It would be suicide for a dancer to criticize the judges while the competition is still on.
"The event's not over. (Tonight's event) is worth 50% and we have a very good free dance," Bourne, 26, said.
Bourne and Kraatz won the Grand Prix final in December on the backs of their free dance, a program performed to a Michael Jackson medley.
Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat of France, world champions in 2000, are in first, and that's something everyone agrees on.
Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh of Russia are second, earning a perfect 6.0 for presentation from Polish judge Halina Gordon-Poltorak last night.
Canada's No. 2 team, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, did its original to Yo Soy Maria and is 12th.
On the surface, this is a team that has very little in common. Dubreuil, 27, enjoys ballet, film and animals while Lauzon, 26, is a grease monkey who likes to restore cars.
But while their hobbies don't jibe, there is wonderful chemistry between them and and they are slowly, but steadily, climbing up the ladder on the international front. Last season, the Boucherville, Que.-based couple finished sixth at the ISU Grand Prix final and moved up one notch this year.
Athletes find inspiration sometimes in the most unusual places, and Dubreuil and Lauzon are no different. They get theirs from Hall of Fame jockey Ron Turcotte, Lauzon's uncle.
Turcotte won racing's Triple Crown on Secretariat but retired after becoming partially paralyzed in a race accident and now lives on his farm in New Brunswick.
2002 Games Figure Skating Coverage