Only In America . . . TM

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.


The medal award ceremony held for the ice skating pairs made Olympic history as an example of the sportsmanship the Games were founded to promote.

As soon as the medals were placed around the necks of the six skaters, the gold medal recipients from Russia stepped down to the second place podium, exchanged their medals for the silver ones, and had the Canadian pair step up to the top podium with their new gold medals.

"It was the only fair thing to do," the Russians said later. "It was obvious to everyone except the judges that the Canadians out skated us. They had a more difficult program than we did and they performed it flawlessly. We came off of the ice knowing that we had won second place."

The Canadian skaters agreed. "We felt that we had skated the best program of our lives," they said. "We hit all of our jumps perfectly, and the program was perfect, and our timing was perfect -- and we just knew that we had won the gold. When we saw the scores and that the judges had put us in second place we were dumbfounded."

"Us too," the Russian pair said. "We were right down there on the ice, and there wasn't any question in our minds that we had been out skated. We did our best, but they did better. So, they deserve the gold medal; we don't. We feel that we actually won second place -- and the silver medal -- and we are happy with that. We came here to compete, not to cheat someone else out of what is rightfully theirs."

Both pairs tried to get the judges to change the obviously flawed scores, but they refused. "The integrity of the system must be upheld," the head judge said. "The job of the athletes is to skate; the job of the judges is to judge. We did that, and we decided that the Russians should have the gold. That ends the matter. Nobody can question our judgment on this; we are the final authority."

But, as millions of people around the world witnessed for themselves, such is not the case. The athletes felt that the judging was wrong -- for whatever reason -- and the situation had to be changed to prevent an injustice from being done.

"The purpose of the Olympic Games is to promote sportsmanship among athletes and harmony among nations," the Russian pair told reporters. "These games should be a place where athletic competition is held for its own sake -- not to promote nationalism or appease the feelings of the also-rans or feed the egos of arrogant judges."

All of the athletes in the ice skating pairs competition agreed with the Russian pair skaters and unanimously supported their actions in correcting what was to everyone except a few judges an obvious injustice.

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.