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Angry skiers say judges gave Chinese easy ride

Angry skiers say judges gave Chinese easy ride
Dan Silkstone, Cypress Mountain
Source – The Age, February 22, 2010

AUSTRALIA’S winter Olympians are again embroiled in a judging controversy after medal chances Lydia Lassila and Jacqui Cooper took aim at the scoring of yesterday’s aerial skiing qualification round, suggesting the judges had made clear mistakes and favoured Chinese competitors.

”There are random scores and that’s not good enough,” an angry Lassila said afterwards. ”We’ve dedicated our whole lives to this. It’s not good enough at an Olympics.”

Lassila appeared to convincingly perform and land a double twisting double somersault on her first jump and punched the air in triumphant celebration. But lower than expected scores – particularly from a Norwegian judge – brought her only sixth position with a score of 85.65. After her second jump she qualified ninth.

”I felt my jumps were really underscored,” she said afterwards. ”I was thinking 95, not 85. That’s 10 points, which is a lot.”

Lassila said the jump had not been her best, but had been good enough. She has done it many times and knows what it is worth. It was in contrast, she pointed out, to the generous scores handed out to the Chinese team, which qualified three women in the top four and four in the top eight.

”I saw Xinxin from China do a full full full [triple twisting triple somersault] and she crashed it and got 88 points,” Lassila said. ”That doesn’t make sense. I stomped a double full full and got 85. Even though her degree of difficulty is higher, she still crashed. That’s something I don’t understand.”

The 28-year-old Australian said she did not want to bag the judges but had little option, so clear was the disparity.

”They’ve got to get their act together and make sure they don’t make mistakes and that they judge it fairly,” she said.

Cooper also pointed the finger at the judges, suggesting a deliberate bias towards the Chinese team.

Throughout the morning’s qualifying the judges twice scored Chinese skiers who performed triple somersault jumps higher than other competitors, even though both women badly missed their landing. Asked if the triples were unfairly overscored, Cooper answered: ”The triples in the red suits.”

The five-time Olympian said that all of her experience told her that her second jump – a simple back lay full – had been worth 85 points. Instead she scored 75.

”I was happy with my jump. It was well worth more than that and that’s all that matters,” she said. ”I just plan on wowing them so there won’t be any grey areas … you’ve just got to make sure you do them well enough that there is no question.”

Lassila said poor judging and obvious errors had become an all-too-regular feature of the sport. Her controversial first jump was scored radically differently among the six judges. A Finnish official allocated the jump 5.9 points while Norwegian Morten Skarpaas – clearly unpopular with the Australian camp – gave it 4.7. In the sport of aerial skiing that is a huge gap. Yesterday’s issue ignited an already simmering distrust of the officiating here among the Australian camp after some believed Dale Begg-Smith was harshly scored in the men’s moguls, in comparison with Canada’s gold medal winner Alex Bilodeau. Skiers and officials alike were calling for action last night.

Lassila said the sport should set up workshops and information sessions to educate judges about the tricks competitors were doing.

”A lot of the judges sometimes aren’t kept up to speed with the tricks over the years,” she said.

”They might come to one or two World Cups and then they don’t see aerials for a year.”

She said most judges were not former aerialists themselves and therefore did not have a good understanding of the sport.

Australian team performance director Geoff Lipshut shared Lassila’s concerns. ”In my opinion her scores were disappointing today,” he said.

Lipshut said there was nothing the team could do to address the issue mid-way through the competition but called for changes to the way judges were selected and trained in the future.

”The whole thing should be under review,” he said.

Filed under: Sport, The Age, Winter Olympics 2010

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