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Olympics Virtue and Moir won’t wade into ice dance judging controversy

Ice dance gold medallists Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir hold up the Canadian flag during victory ceremonies at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada's Olympic ice dance champions won't wade into the fuss France's skating federation president is kicking up over the judging at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir edged French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron to win gold Tuesday, becoming the most successful figure skaters in Olympic history with five medals.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, Didier Gailhaguet questioned the impartiality of Canadian judge Leanna Caron, who is also president of Skate Canada. He said Caron gave Papadakis and Cizeron the lowest scores on the judging panel.

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"I can say at Skate Canada we have a history of very professional judging. It's very fair. We're proud of that," Moir told a news conference Wednesday. "I feel like as Canadians when you win an Olympics, it's when you deserve it. And we feel like these are Olympic medals that we deserve, and we're very proud of the work we've put in."

Virtue and Moir scored 206.07 combined points, a world record, to win gold. Papadakis and Cizeron, who train with the Canadians in Montreal and share the same coaches, scored a world's best 123.35 points in the free dance for a total of 205.28.

Gailhaguet said Caron was the only judge not to give the French team any scores of 10. He added that for the short program, other judges had the French team first in artistic merit while Caron had them eighth.

Questionable scoring has long plagued figure skating, and Gailhaguet was at the centre of one of judging's biggest scandals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

He was suspended for three years for putting pressure on French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne in Salt Lake, rocking the figure skating world and prompting a complete overhaul of the scoring system.

He had asked Le Gougne to favour Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, who won pairs gold ahead of Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, in exchange for giving good scores to Gwendal Peizerat and Marina Anissina of France.

The International Olympic Committee ended up awarding a second pair of gold medals to Sale and Pelletier, while the ISU suspended Le Gougne and Gailhaguet and banned them from the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

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Canadian fans worried corrupt judging might rear its ugly head in Pyeongchang, venting on social media after Monday's short dance. Virtue and Moir set a world record to win the short dance, but led the French by less than two points, despite the fact the hooks broke on Papadakis's dress, exposing her breast. The French didn't receive any point deductions for the costume malfunction.

"I did have a similar thought to that," Moir had said when questioned about the small point difference. "It was tight. We felt like we kind of blew the roof off the arena."

While Caron gave the French team their worst scores for the free dance, Gailhaguet didn't mention that Turkish judge Tanay Ozkan Silaoglu did the exact opposite — giving the French the best scores and the Canadians the worst.

The Canadian and Turkish judges' scores didn't matter because, under the scoring system, the highest and lowest scores are eliminated.

Virtue said it's "always unfortunate when there's controversy at an Olympic Games and it's inevitable, especially in a subjective sport that is judged."

"It's (also) part of what we love about skating, because there's artistry and people connect to different styles of movement," she added. "But there are also downsides, and when we're so passionate about what we do and the sport that we've invested our lives in for two decades, we never want that tarnished, and we never want any Olympic experience to be affected by that controversy."

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It was a group effort that saw Canada win its first gold medal in Korea, in the team figure skating event. Canada had secured an insurmountable lead even before the finale of the program.
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