In the end, Russian figure skaters Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze had one last graceful move for the Olympic crowd, and they did it Sunday night.
After six days of skating controversy, the Russian duo shared the Olympic gold medal with Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier at a ceremony in Salt Lake City, with smiles all around. In an exclusive interview with Good Morning America, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze said they are glad to see an end to the skating controversy.
"I feel great because we are sportsmen, we are young people," Sikharulidze told Good Morning America. "We (understood) it's not about us, it's not about Jamie and David. It's about some judging system, and I'm a professional figure skater."
His partner agreed.
The Olympic committee made a decision, "we have to accept that, and it's great," Berezhnaya said.
After reports surfaced that a French judge said she had been pressured to vote for the Russians, the International Skating Union last Thursday recommended that both teams receive the gold medal, and the International Olympic Committee agreed. Sikharulidze admitted he was displeased when the scandal started.
What If It Were Them?
"I'm not talking about the decision to give them a second medal, I'm talking about the whole scandal, when it just began," Sikharulidze said. "Again, we're young. We're sportsmen and we are just going to go out to skate and make everyone happy. If two more people are happy in this world, that's great."
Still, if the Russian duo had been the ones who initially lost to the Canadians, Sikharulidze said he does not think he would not have challenged the results.
"I don't think so," Sikharulidze said, noting that the judging was also very close, 5 to 4, and such close calls are typical in the skating world. Someone is always unhappy with the decision, he said, adding that this case was a unique one.
"It's a special situation and I'm happy it's finished," he said.
As the Canadian skaters battled to get their case heard, it was difficult for the Russians to watch what was happening and not take it personally.
"When you turn on the TV and see all these things, it was very difficult," Sikharulidze said. At the ceremony, the two competing duos were friendly, as they always had been.
"We're maybe more friendly now because we came through this scandal," Sikharulidze said. "For them, it was hard too."
'We Must Be Even Stronger'
For Berezhnaya, the controversy was not the first thing that has threatened her pursuit of the gold medal. Her previous skating partner mistakenly struck her in the head with his skate while they were practicing a twirl, and she had to undergo brain surgery.
There were questions about whether she would be able to walk again, let alone skate.
"I think, OK I got through all this in the past, like surgery, so it seems to me I can handle everything after that," Berezhnaya said.
Sikharulidze, who has also endured injuries, said it has been a "really, really difficult road to win Olympic gold."
"If it's everything great (one day), the next day some injuries, and something is wrong," he said. "And we just said, OK after that, we must be even stronger and more powerful."