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Thursday, April 28, 2005

SYNCHRONIZED SKATING

SCANDAL IN GETEBORG

Article by the President of the Figure Skating Federation of Saint Petersburg, Mr. Oled Onilov, printed in the Russian language publication "The Neva Sports" on April 26, 2005.

The results of the world championship in synchronized skating that took place in the Swedish city of Geteborg from April, 21 till April, 24th, 2005, threatened a real scandal. The winner of the gold medal was a team from Sweden, the second and third places were taken teams from Finland. The Russian team skated cleanly in the short and free programs but came in only 9th.

We, unfortunately, got used a long time ago to the fact that quite often Russian sportsmen are condemned to unfair judging at international competitions. Tamara Moskvina's famous phrase, that for victory “it is necessary for a Russian sportsmen to be two heads above the others," became a motto at the time of preparation for future international competitions. But the world championship of synchronized figure skating 2005 unpleasantly surprised even the worldly-wise trainers. The Russian team in Geteborg, "Paradise,” which showed the highest class of skating, was placed by the judges in 9th place.

The results of the Championship offered good news and bad news. Firstly, the president of the International Union of Skaters (ISU) closely observed the World championship in Geteborg. He watched all the performances and, at the press conference before the start of the competition, declared, that synchronized skating - already an established kind of sport, is worthy to enter into the program of Olympic Games. He will use his best efforts to advance that initiative at the next international congresses of the Olympic committee. Therefore it is possible that at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, synchronized skating will be presented as an Olympic discipline.

Secondly, this year, the new judicial system was tested, and tested for the first time without any additional qualifying competitions. Already, at the beginning of the championship, it became clear that there was an active struggle for places. For the Russian team, which was surrounded by such traditionally leading countries as the USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Germany, it was difficult to change the existing state of affairs for several reasons.

Rules of the competition are created by people from the technical committee of the ISU, who represent the so-called leader-countries. These countries have concepts according to which the rules are "customized" for them. For example, in the USA and Canada, there are thousands of skating rinks on which thousands of skaters practice. Certainly, to keep interest up in synchronized skating, Olympic prospects are necessary. Thus it is necessary to win, or the interest in this kind of sports will die away. It is necessary "to urge on" skating mothers who give their daughters to synchronized figure skating. If you look at the figures of the majority of the overseas synchronized skaters, they are far from the standards accepted in figure skating. Girls look at the not so skinny sportswomen and think: " If she can do it, so can I!" This is not bad.

Except that it turns out that by the new rules, Russia lags behind "modern" ideas of synchronized figure skating - which are absolutely not clear. Why, for example, it is impossible to jump even 1.5-2 turn jumps? The answer of the leader-countries: "It is dangerous." But in fact, lifts are allowed. In Geteborg, one of the American skaters was dropped on her head on the ice from a lift! Nevertheless, despite having rougher transitions and even the fall, Swedish and American skaters were put above Russians, whose skating was clean.

All of us shall remain in our positions, we shall fight and participate in more world competitions. Despite the psychological attacks, we are not going to shut the door behind us, we intend to review carefully each incident and to analyze all similar cases. From now on, we shall receive results from each referee and for each element - and we will try to prove our correctness to the ISU. We shall actively discuss and argue until we all understand that the system has not ripened to a necessary level.

Nevertheless, at this world championship we reached our objective! The team "Paradise" with strengthened energy will advance synchronized figure skating. It will prepare special programs with a set of complex elements. And it will be our answer to the new rules, an original variant of discussion, which Russia will conduct on the ice and in the technical committee of the ISU. It is difficult. But if we succeed, the Russian team will be a head above all of the other countries. We should not try to be like the weakest teams, we should not simplify figure skating to please the majority because it is a question of an Olympic kind of sports!

To attract the masses, there are synchronized skating shows during hockey game breaks in the USA and Canada. Let there be two kinds of synchronized skating! One like a kind of show - then thousands can participate in it, any child, each willing girl. But the Olympic kind of sport should be technical, entertaining and should necessarily include complex elements. Today's rules of refereeing are sufficient only for a good show, but not for a high-grade kind of sport (especially Olympic) like figure skating.

Translated by G. Sivorinovsky
Web Translations in Real Time
GSivorinov@aol.com
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