The Russian ice dancing official who supported the controversial Aboriginal routine of Russia's top team at the Vancouver 2010 Games is running for an International Skating Union post.
Alla Shekhovtseva, who has worked as a judge at world and Olympic ice dancing competitions, is a candidate for the ice dancing technical committee. The Congress of the International Skating Union will hold elections on Friday in Spain.
Shekhovtseva has served as a judge over the years even though her husband is the Russian federation chief, Valentin Piseev. Despite what some critics see as a conflict of interest, she has judged at most world championships and Olympic Games during the past decade.
One respected Russian journalist described Shekhovtseva as "the most knowledgeable, powerful and respected of Russian judges" and that "her opinion is deferred to at the elite level."
However, there are also critics of her judgment and influence. In Vancouver, Russian skaters failed to win a Winter Olympics gold medal for the first time in 50 years and with the next Winter Olympics to be staged in Sochi, Russia, Russians have a long way to go to regain their dominance.
"When [Chaikovskaya]came to the federation, it was a terrible story for skating in Russia," Elena Chaikovskaya, a renowned ice dancing coach in Russia, told The Globe and Mail in a telephone interview. "[Shekhovtseva] thinks she knows feeling and creation and this is the first tragedy in Russian figure skating."
"The problem is she decides that one person is good, another is not. This is why we have what we have now."
The ice dancing team of Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin settled for a bronze medal in Vancouver after winning the world championships in 2009.
Domnina and Shabalin are from the Odintosova club, of which Shekhovtseva is a director. She reportedly had a strong hand in approving the Aboriginal routine that received worldwide criticism for lack of authenticity, over-the-top costumes, and a tone that struck some as mocking rather than honouring Native dance. Domnina and Shabalin kept the routine for the Vancouver Olympics, as it was too late to prepare another.
Because of injury, Domnina and Shabalin skipped the Grand Prix season, and the routine was first presented at home at the Russian championships where it received high marks. It wasn't exposed to international scrutiny until they skated at the European championships a month before the Olympics.
Domnina and Shabalin were not strong enough skaters to carry off the kind of programs that they used at the Vancouver Olympics, Chaikovskaya said, adding that somebody should have encouraged them last September to find other material.
When she and others at home first saw the Aboriginal routine, Chaikovskaya said: "We all just stared at each other with fear in our eyes."
But only she and top coach Tatiana Tarasova said anything. Tarasova spoke out on Russian television during the national championships, saying that it would be "impossible" for them to win the Olympics with the routines. Subsequently, Tarasova was not sent to the European championships or the Olympic Games, Chaikovskaya said.
Top Russian coach Natalia Dubova, who left Russia to work in the United States in 1992, was also critical of the routine.
"I always think, when I work for Russia, how the country will be represented in the world," she said. "We try to follow the standard and be the best of the standard and have personality."
Attempts to reach Shekhovtseva in Spain have been unsuccessful to date.
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