Saturday, February 14, 1998
Canadian pair doomed
It was perfectly predictable all week that the judges were going to play politics and sewer and skewer the Olympic gold-medal dream of Victor Kraatz and Shae-Lynn Bourne.
And that's exactly what they did.
Unabashedly. Unashamedly. Completely without conscience.
And it's obvious for the whole world to see. Everybody saw it before they skated. Media people predicted it.
The Russians want to stay on top of the podium. The French want back on the podium. So they did a deal.
"It's a joke,'' said Bourne and Kraatz's Russian coach Natalia Dubova, her eyes wet when the ice dance preliminary ended with her Canadian skaters fourth.
"It's a bloc. Old friends. Together.
"They had lots of time to discuss their plans of what to do here. They think they must put us down so we don't have a medal. This is planned. I saw it from the first moment.
"Planned before the competition.
"It's the Russians together with the French. It's because they see Bourne and Kraatz are ready to win the gold. The Russians are worried. They found a good partner in the French. And it's all because they are worried about the gold medal. North America can't have or want anything more than maybe one time a bronze.
"They want to keep the tradition. It doesn't matter how they skate, they must keep the gold.
"I saw Russians laugh at the results we have. I will never again give Russians free time renting ice in the U.S.''
You could say that any hope of Bourne and Kraatz winning a medal virtually vanished an hour into their Olympics. Except, it appears it vanished about six weeks ago when the Russian-area countries and the Europeans started trading favors in Milan.
Dance has never come close to being an actual sport, but what we watched here was a total travesty, an absolute abomination.
"This event is being played off the ice. It has very little to do with what's happening on the ice,'' former Canadian pairs world champion Paul Martini said before the compulsory event was half over. "It should be punted out of here.''
Kraatz and Bourne came here looking for the elevator and were given the shaft. And it had nothing to do with anything they did or didn't do. In fact, unbiased figure skating experts say the Russians, who placed one and two, and the French, who placed third, were unusually flawed this night.
"Why would you want to do dance ... why would you want to do it when this is what happens?'' said Edmonton's Michael Slipchuk, the No. 2 Canadian during the Kurt Browning years who is getting an education as a media liaison man this year.
What do you say if you are a skater in the middle of an alleged competition?
"Let's just say I'm not too surprised,'' Bourne said, her voice cracking. "I kind of expected this could happen.
"We know we had a strong skate today. I saw the other ones and they weren't that strong.
"What do we say. It's just the way it is.''
Bourne kept answering questions directed at Kraatz so he wouldn't spout off.
"Something is going to happen,'' she predicted. "It has to change. And we're going to play a part in it.
"I have this weird, gut feeling that we're in this for more than just a medal. Something is going to happen and things are going to change and we'll be a part of it. That means so much more than a medal. If we get one or not, something has to change. The event will go down if it doesn't.
"We just want the sport to progress -- to keep it a sport, to make it a sport. Tonight had nothing to do with how we skated. That's when it's not a sport.''
The bloc bit of work by the Russian, Czech, Ukrainian, Italian and French judges hosed Canada's bronze-medal winners at the '97 worlds.
It's not just what the judges did. It's also what they are going to do.
If this works the same at these Olympics as at every other Worlds or Olympics, then fourth is where they will stay.
If these Olympics work the same as every other dance competition at Olympics or Worlds, they might as well have put up the podium and presented the medals so Evgeny Platov and Pasha Grishuk could wear the gold, Oleg Ovsyannikov and Anjelika Krylova could wear the silver, and Gwendal Peizerat and Marina Anissina could wear the bronze for the rest of the competition.
You have to go back 18 years to find the last time the judges didn't simply Xerox the results the following two nights.
It was the Worlds of 1980. Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov led after the first day and ended up second, switching positions with Krisztina Regoeczy and Andras Sallay of Hungary.
It's rare that anybody in the top 10 changes positions at any stage of the dance after the first set of standings come out.
Russian coach Alexei Michin referred to it the day before, when the judges sewered his 17-year-old phenom Alexei Yagudin and placed him fourth in the men's short program.
"It's like dance,'' he said. "They decide before and they never go away from what they decide.''
It is a joke. And even when they're not flagrantly fixing it, as they are here, it's still not a sport.
Get it out of the Olympics.