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First figure skating medals awarded stir controversy

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- Despite a magnificent challenge by a pair of Canadians, Russia added another solid layer to the most amazing dynasty on ice Monday night.

Elana Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze were smooth but not flawless in their free skating in continuing the Russian domination of pairs skating. Not since 1964 -- 11 straight Winter Olympic Games -- have the Russians been defeated in pairs skating.

And the 2002 Winter Olympics have their first major controversy.

The crowd, the American commentators and most of the house thought the gold should have gone to Canadians Jamie Sale and David Peltier. They electrified the crowd with a free skate performance with no noticeable flaws and drew a standing ovation from a largely American crowd when they accepted the silver medal.

The Chinese team of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao took the bronze. Americans Ina Kyoko and John Zimmerman were fifth. The top of the standings didn't change after the compulsory routine.

Each of the three top teams had a chance at gold entering the free skate.

The reaction of the top two teams immediately after their performance told how tense the competition got at the Salt Lake Ice Palace.

When the Russian pair finished their free skate and saw the scores, they grimaced, knowing the door was open for the longest dynasty in Olympic sports to end.

The Canadians followed and executed a smooth performance that to brought roars from the capacity crowd.

When they finished Peltier slid forward and kissed the ice, then shoved his hands forward in a Brandi Chastain pose with his shirt on. Then, the two Canadian skaters, who upset the Russians for the 2001 World Championships, leaped into the air and hugged.

 

Silver medalists Jame Sale and David Pelletier of Canada pose with their medals after competition in the pairs free program in the Winter Olympics at the Salt Lake Ice Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, Feb. 11, 2002.

AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

Before the scores were shown, the crowd begin chanting "6, 6, 6" (the highest score that can be awarded by the judges.

The Canadians got the edge on the Russians on technical merit, but the crowd began booing immediately when they saw the marks for presentation (5.8s and 5.9s), not enough to catch the Russians, who led after the short program. The Russians eventually got the edge with higher scores in presentation from judges from Poland and the Chinese Republic.

The free skate even began with an unexpected collision when Sikharulidze, preparing execute a throw during warmups, saw Sale going sailing into his chest as she made a turn. Sale fell, obviously shaken. Sikharudlidze left the warmups holding his left arm, but neither team showed any effects during a free skate that had the crowd almost breathless in anticipation.

When they received another pairs gold medal for Russia, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze smiled in relief.

Sale forced a smile but could barely hold back the tears.



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