Updated: Thursday, 27 March 2014 13:27 | By Agence France-Presse

ISU chief defends unpopular judging

The head of the world governing body for figure skating on Thursday defended controversial judging which saw defending champion Kim Yu-Na lose to Russian teenager Adelina Sotnikova at last month's Sochi Olympics.

ISU chief defends unpopular judging

South Korea's Kim Yu-Na performs at the Figure Skating Exhibition Gala at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 22, 2014 - by Yuri Kadobnov

South Korea's Olympic and skating leaders said last week that they would send a joint letter to the International Skating Union (ISU) calling for an investigation into the composition of judges for the female singles competition in Sochi.

ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta said his body had not yet received the reported letter.

"As soon as we receive something official from the Korean Olympic Committee, or from the Korean Skating Union, we will be able to make a comment," he told a news conference on the sidelines of the world figure skating championships which got under way in Saitama, near Tokyo, on Wednesday.

But the Italian recalled that the ISU, in consultation with the International Olympic Committee, had issued a statement which said his organisation was "confident in the high quality and integrity of the ISU judging system".

"Together with the IOC, we have evaluated and we issued a statement in Sochi. This is a fact," said Cinquanta.

The Korean bodies said they would ask the ISU disciplinary committee to see if there was a violation of ethical rules by the judging panel.

As soon as Kim, 23, finished second to 17-year-old Sotnikova, who had not won a major global title before, despite Kim's error-free performance in the decisive free skate, questions were heard about the judging.

Media and experts pointed out that one of the nine judges was a Ukrainian who was suspended for a year for his involvement in a fixing scandal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics ice dancing competition.

Another judge is married to the head of the Russian skating federation.

Kim's unexpected defeat sparked fury in South Korea where she is known as "Queen Yu-Na." More than two million fans who believe Kim was robbed of a repeat Olympic gold medal have signed a petition calling for a review of the result.

The ISU chief said suspicion of any wrongdoing needed to be "presented with evidence" to distinguish between "an opinion and something more precisely expressed".

A new ISU figure skating judging system was brought in after a scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games when French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne was accused of inflating the scores in the pairs finals under pressure from her own federation. 

The difference now is that the judges' scores are anonymous and not by country.

"Figure skating is an extremely difficult sport. So the judging system is not easy (to be understood)," the ISU chief said.

"We will do the utmost in order to be able to explain our judging system guidelines."

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