The Grand Prix stage of the International Skating Union (ISU) in France, which ended on Saturday, was marked scandal. Russian figure skater Anastasia Gubanova, competing for Georgia, was openly humiliated by the judges – and reacted to this sharply.
At a press conference before the stage of the Russian Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, the leaders of the Russian Figure Skating Federation (FFKKR) were asked a question about judging, namely about the colossal dispersion in the scores of the skating pair Alena Kostornaya/Georgy Kunitsa at the tournament in Omsk. Afterwards, Kostornaya, without holding back, declared that her and her partner’s work had been flushed down the toilet, and that her favorite sport was turning into a swamp. Both the general director of the FFKKR, Alexander Kogan, and the head coach of the Russian national team, Elena Chaikovskaya, reacted in approximately the same way: everything was within the rules, and at international tournaments there is no less variation in assessments. And Tchaikovskaya added: “But no one raises any questions about this.”
Well, we will correct ourselves. Let's try to analyze the assessments of Gubanova, the current European champion. Moreover, Nastya is not a stranger to us – she, as before the change of sports citizenship in 2021, continues to live and train in St. Petersburg.
First the facts. Gubanova performs the short program confidently, with amplitude, at speed, with a smile, the jumps are well tailored to the rest of the elements. On each of them – a cascade of triple flip – triple toe loop, triple lutz and axel in two and a half turns – there was not a shadow of doubt. Gubanova greets the rental score – 66.73 – with a slight ironic smile and a shake of her head. But there is no catastrophe in the tournament plan – Nastya is second after the American Isabeau Levito.
Gubanova goes through her free program without such fire. Nevertheless, the rental was not outright bad. She did a triple lutz cascade – triple toe loop, in addition to this, she performed four other triple jumps, one of them in a cascade with a double, as well as two double axels, the second also with a cascade. But the European champion receives only 120.93 points for her performance. This is the seventh result in the free program – and the final sixth place. Seeing this, Gubanova says “******” in her hearts and twice tries to jump up from her seat in the “corner of tears and kisses.” She has to be stopped by coach Evgeny Rukavitsyn.
Now for a comparative analysis. It’s most convenient to compare Gubanova’s performance in France with her victorious performance at the January European Championships in Finland. In the short program there she performed the same technical set. The score for elements at the French Grand Prix stage is one point less. Nothing criminal: the skater lost levels on the step sequence and in the rotation, although, frankly speaking, this can be called nit-picking, which some other participants in the tournament did not experience.
However, in the components, Nastya had 29.94 points in Angers versus 32.10 in Espoo – and this is already a colossal and inexplicable difference for a short program, considering that the skate was clean both there and there. Not a single judge at the European Championships in January 2023 gave Gubanova a second score below 7.50. At the Grand Prix stage, the skater already had 6.25-6.75 (from judge number 2) and 7.00-7.25 (from judges number 4, 7 and 9). Let us hold back for now the information about which countries these referees are from.
Free program. Once again, the performance was not brilliant, but it was working, Gubanova did not fall and did not break elements. At the European Championships, the performance of the free program was dirtier – there the skater fell after a triple flip. Nevertheless, her score there is 130.10 points (64.31 + 65.79). What about the French Grand Prix?
And at the French Grand Prix it was almost ten points less. The components are 60.45. Judge number 2 scored between 5.75 and 6.75. Five, if anything, is the level of a weak junior. Judges number 4, 7 and 9 also did not appreciate Gubanova’s performance: all from 7.00 to 7.50. It can be translated into words like this – very mediocre. In France, figure skaters who made serious mistakes received the same amount.
Now it's time to reveal the cards. Judges numbers 2, 4, 7 and 9 are respectively Robert Rosenbluth from the USA, Francoise de Rappart from Belgium, Pekka Leskinen from Finland and Rolf Pipo from Germany. The American was openly outrageous, the others somehow restrained themselves, but in general it was these referees who turned out to be the most stingy in their assessments of Gubanova at the French Grand Prix stage. And it’s hard not to see block judging here. Despite the fact that the rest of the judges quite confidently gave themselves eights, although among them there were, for example, representatives of France and Japan, also not the most friendly countries for Russia.
Stop – but Gubanova speaks for Georgia, can we really talk about bias towards Russians here? Alas, there is already reason to state that it can. If they drown Nastya without any hesitation, it means that they are showing her her place. In the world of this sport they know that she is Russian by birth and place of residence. Some Ukrainian accounts have already tried to protest about her participation in international tournaments, while skaters with Russian passports are suspended. It happened just at the European Championships, but then Gubanova still withstood the pressure. In France, it seems that Nastya’s nerves have already begun to fray – judging by her obscene reaction to the assessments.
And it is quite possible to say that Gubanova’s case is not the only one. For example, last season they tried to drown the “Hungarians” Maria Pavlova and Alexey Svyatchenko, who live and train in Sochi, all the way. At the European and World Championships, they did not make a single mistake, but they were pushed under other sports pairs, some of whom did not get up from the ice at all.
When it was not possible to sue someone, other levers of pressure were used. For example, at the stage of the Junior Grand Prix this season, Muscovites Anastasia Metelkina and Luka Berulava representing Georgia could not be pushed under competitors – they skated much stronger. But they also had to go through humiliation – the Ukrainian sports couple pointedly refused to congratulate them on the podium. And the ISU, as expected, turned a blind eye to this, apparently taking advantage of the advice of the President of the International Olympic Committee to “show sensitivity” in such cases.
Well, for those Russian figure skaters who are going to change their citizenship, there is no sensitivity in the international arena there is no need to wait. They will be assessed through the prism of ethnic bias. And this is the main conclusion from what happened to Anastasia Gubanova at the French Grand Prix stage. In simple terms, they don’t want to see Russians at international tournaments, and those who use loopholes in the form of changing their passports to get there will not be welcomed.
And I would like to say to the leaders of our figure skating – there is no need to exile on international experience, assessing the actions of our judges. We often talk about the fact that hairdressers, accountants and other representatives of professions that have nothing to do with sports work abroad as referees. It's actually not that important. The main thing is to be essentially a professional and a decent person. Then there will be fewer scandals surrounding refereeing at our tournaments.