Canadians Share Gold With Russians

The Canadian Olympic figure skating team whose performance won the hearts of the crowd Monday night won their gold medal today.

Jamie Sale and David Pelletier will share the top prize with the Russian pair who were declared winners in what international skating officials now say was a competition marred by misconduct by one judge.

"The gold medal will be awarded to the Canadian pair," International Olympic Committee President James Rogge said.

International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta, sharing the podium with Rogge, said the French judge who was found to have acted improperly in the judging was immediately suspended. He said that she gave the ISU a signed statement, though he did not specify what was in the statement.

"She acted in a way that was not adequate to guarantee both pairs equal condition and this, I think, is enough," Cinquanta said of the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne. "We have declared misconduct."

He said the investigation into what occurred would continue, but refused to give any indication of what direction that inquiry was taking.

‘An Extremely Extraordinary Situation’

At a news conference on Wednesday, Cinquanta had all but ruled out awarding a second gold medal and said no action was going to be taken until a full ISU council meeting scheduled for Monday, but his aggressive, even belligerent responses to journalists only fueled the storm of controversy.

He said the ISU council was able to meet Thursday night following the men's free skate competition, and it was decided to recommend to the IOC that both teams should receive the gold medal.

"Even though this deliberation is not according to International Skating Union rules, this was an extraordinary deliberation of the ISU in an extremely extraordinary situation," said Cinquanta.

Russian duo Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the gold Monday night over Sale and Pelletier — leading some to suggest improprieties among the judges, with much attention focused on Le Gougne, the French judge.

Even before the competition, Le Gougne and her attorney approached British skating official Sally-Anne Stapleford and began to talk about alleged improprieties, according to a report on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Late Wednesday, Canada appealed the judging to the ISU, which said it had opened a probe but would make no decision before Monday — a timetable that angered some. Even the IOC said the matter should be resolved more expeditiously.

‘Nothing Against Russians’

The Canadian pair said they were glad to get a share of the gold medal, but they were also glad to get the controversy behind them. They struck a slightly apologetic tone — both to the Russian duo and to other athletes at the Games whose accomplishments in Salt Lake City have been overshadowed.

"We're happy that justice was done," Pelletier said. "It doesn't take anything away from Yelena and Anton. This was nothing against them."

"We feel a little bit shy about it, because other Olympians are doing their personal bests and winning and we're what everyone's talking about," Sale told a full room of journalists.

The two Canadians had seemed to be enjoying the week since the competition, showing up on stage with the rock group Barenaked Ladies and gracefully making the rounds of the talk shows, but Pelletier said the controversy was starting to take its toll.

"The way I was feeling about the thing this morning, I was willing to go down the skeleton ride with no helmet," he said.

Manipulated or Misunderstood?

Many observers — as well as the crowd — felt the Canadians should have won with their near-perfect performance, and pointed to technical flaws in the Russian duo's routine.

Speculation began almost immediately that the French judge was influenced by outside factors, including the possibility that a Russian judge would vote for a French competitor in a later event.

The intrigue deepened when French Olympic chief Didier Gailhaguet told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his country's judge had been "somewhat manipulated." A day later, he said he had been misunderstood.

"I totally reject the interpretation placed on words attributed to me," Gailhaguet said.

The AP stood by its reporter, and said he spoke to Gailhaguet in French.

In addition, the referee who reviewed the judging of the event told the ISU that one of the judges told him that there had been pressure from that judge's national skating union to vote for the Russian pair.