Things have long been a bit touchy between the United States and Russia, with these current times ranking among the touchiest. But rarely does any of this make it into the sports pages.
Enter USA Today’s Christine Brennan.
In a column described as “a scathing attack” by the state-owned RT.com (formerly Russia Today), Brennan criticized Russian skater Alina Zagitova’s routine for gaming the scoring system by killing time early in her routine to save energy for big jumps later in the routine, when bonus points are awarded for such jumps.
It wouldn’t be a top international women’s figure skating competition without its share of controversy, however. This one involves one of the Russians. (Of course it does.) It’s the way Zagitova has laid out her long program, specifically her jumps. They’re all in the last two minutes of her program, every single one of them. She doesn’t do any jumps in the first half of her program, then jumps like mad in the final two minutes – all to get the 10% bonus in points for jumps in the second half of a program.
RT is not having it.
However, bitter Brennan, who authored the acclaimed best-selling skating book ‘Inside Edge’, implied the 15-year-old’s routine lacked creativity and brazenly called for judges to penalize her for “composition of the program.”
Comparing Zagitova’s tactics to chicanery, Brennan makes the outlandish accusation that the teenager is not being punished because “international judges who are in love with both Russian women don’t seem to care,” despite Zagitova’s routine being well within the laws of skating.
Despite the criticism, RT concludes that Zagitova has “won the hearts and minds” of many observers.
And a good time was had by all.
Disclosure: The Big Lead is owned by USA Today Sports, who also employs Christine Brennan.