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  • Sunday, February 8, 1998

    Ice-dance judges 'read riot act'

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
      NAGANO -- The head Canadian figure-skating official at the Olympic Games is dancing on top of the world, for something has finally been done about the unscrupulous state of ice-dance judging.
     Carol Hopper, the team leader, told The Toronto Sun yesterday that the world's top ice-dance judges "were read the riot act" prior to last month's European championships.
     All season, there were obvious indications that many of the top ice-dance judges -- at least those from Russia, Italy and France -- were voting in political blocs. That is, they were propping up each other's skaters.
     It was readily apparent at the Champions Series final in Munich just before Christmas that a deal had been worked between the Russian, French and Italian judges. Because of that, the popular Canadian team of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz had no chance of winning.
     The concern, of course, was that the same sort of bloc voting would occur at the Nagano Olympics and the defending Olympic champs -- Pasha Grishuk and Evgeny Platov of Russia -- would be a lock for the gold no matter how they skated.
     Hopper, however, believes the pre-competition lecture at the Europeans means the Olympic meet at the White Ring Arena will be judged fairly -- or at least significantly moreso than in the past.
     "We think it's a positive because it makes us feel that our teams will get a better judgment here," said the retired teacher from Owen Sound.
     In Munich, the Russian judge Maira Abasova voted her compatriots, Grishuk and Platov, first right across the board (for the compulsory, original and free-dance programs), despite the pair falling in the original portion.
     Abasova also scored the top French team, Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, second after all three dances.
     The French judge, Jean Bernard Hamel, scored the Russians first across the board and the French team second, as did the Italian judge Isabella Micheli.
     Abasova and Hamel, in turn, awarded the Italian dancers, Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, their top marks of the tournament.
     The Canadian judge in Munich, Jean Senft, showed her sense of fair play by scoring the Russians ahead of Bourne and Kraatz, who are two-time defending world bronze medallists. The American judge scored the Canadians first.
     The other positive news for Bourne and Kraatz here is that both Abasova and Micheli will not be judging the Olympic ice-dance competition and have been replaced. It should be noted that Senft and Hamel will be on the panel here.
     The trade-off, if it can be called that, is that there will no American judge be on the panel. The Americans have shown an appreciation for the style of Bourne and Kraatz.

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