Adelina Sotnikova won the first-ever Olympic gold for Russia in the women’s figure skating event yesterday. Her victory, however, is not reflected fairly by Western media. The athlete’s performance is stained by reports of judging faux-pas, political bias, and sheer journalistic incompetence.
Something rare happened today. The women’s figure skating champion was not on the front page of any Western newspaper I checked, let alone on the cover of the sports sections. Russian and Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova was overlooked, relegated to second or even third billing, if at all, across the world’s English language newspapers.
What should have been big headlines as an upset victory of Russia’s champion over South Korea’s Yuna Kim, has ended up stifled, or worse, manufactured into a controversy where no real controversy exists. Watching the event live, not even Kim registered a complaining look as Sotnikova took to the podium.
The scene was poignant as Sotnikova took to the ice last night at the Iceberg Skating Palace. Spectators in house, and those watching on television, breathed a collective sigh of surprise over the Russian champion’s position and appearance alongside the beloved Kim in the standings. The darling of the team competition, 15-year-old Julia Lipnistkaia having faltered in the short competition, it seemed Russia’s dream fell with her slightly flawed free skate routine. And then, there came Sotnikova. Even the BBC commented: “Hey, remember me [Sotnikova] I am the Russian Champion, after all!”
Olympic Flame, Sochi, Rusia. (Courtesy Pasha Kovalenko and the author)
Now, after a true accomplishment for Russia, unexpected and unwanted by many passionate about women’s figure skating, not even the New York Times can muster an unbiased front page headline. In a sports reporting meltdown, stray dogs or Pussy Riot itineraries, seem more important for Western media than the true, Olympic spirit, and its champions. The eternal Olympic flame does remain lit over all this skepticism and negativity.
As for commentators, and those in the know, I find it interesting that the best of them, America’s own Scott Hamilton, understood and analyzed accurately the Russian skate strategy. I quote from an AP article by Barry Wilner:
“1984 Olympic champ Scott Hamilton was intrigued by the 17-year-old Sotnikova’s strategy, which he said worked perfectly for the scoring format. It was more than enough to beat Kim and Carolina Kostner, whose bronze medal was the first in Olympic singles figure skating for Italy.”
Normally, at least in my memory of Olympic figure skating glory, the women’s champion is pasted all over the front page of some newspapers, or at least featured in a dominant position at the top of the sports section. Not today, not even in Google News, Yahoo Sport, or in Bing News searches.
Imagine this 17-year-old Russian girl, having beaten the odds against all Las Vegas bookmakers, to have her dream melt beneath the weight of politically motivated negativity. Make no mistake here, not one major media outlet outside Russia carried a feature image, or story, of this young lady’s triumph. Men’s Olympic curling, more stray dog reports, and questions about what will become of poor, poor Sochi is what the Western reporters are concerned.
Early this morning I sent a note to the legendary repeat champion of this event, Katarina Witt, who Scott Hamilton introduced to the NBC audience during the short program. I told her a petition intro at Change.org was headlined with a tweet attributed to her. She immediately made an actual twitter comment (the first in 3 days) of the “shame” of misquoting. That petition partially reads: “The following public figures’ twit will give you a good gist of what happened: Katarina Witt (German Figure Skater) “Shame Gold Medal, Yuna Kim is a real queen”
There seems to be a tweet out in the world about the ladies skating result ,which is NOT my tweet and my opinion! Shame on that tweeter !!!
— Katarina Witt (@Katarina_Witt) February 21, 2014
Two time Olympic champion Katerina Witt during short program. (Courtesy Katarina Witt and the author)
It’s hard to see the saddest part of this story. The idea of a jubilant young Adelina Sotnikova, somehow transformed from champion to political toy, this is onerous for any true sports’ fan. When the most trusted news in the world, The New York Times, cannot even eke out celebratory congratulations the morning after, it’s a shame. In fairness, the world’s most famous newspaper did manage (four hours later) a technical explanation of how Sotnikova edged out Kim, and that correlates actually what Scott Hamilton had to say.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.