In a couple of words, they don't.
Or not much anyway.
I usually stay out of fangirl territory in this blog. There are lots of blogs parsing scores minutely, and offering analysis, some simplistic, and some quite cogent, about elite skaters.
But today there feels like more than the usual sour grapes.
The 2013 Ladies Single podium felt tainted last night-- Ashley Wagner won with a flawed free skate, golden child and media darling Gracie Gold pulled off "only" 2nd in her first senior appearance, perennial crowd favorites Carolina Zhang and Mirai Nigasu had heartbreaking falters.
I think the judges probably held Gracie up a little bit, and they were remarkably kind to Ashley on some questionable executions. They came down awfully hard on Mirai and Caroline (and Christina Gao for that matter-- geez, will you put that girl on the podium already?)
But here's the thing about IJS. For all the #theyruinedmysportwithmath jokes, and avenues for manipulation (levels, component scores), in point of fact it is very hard to cheat at IJS, which was entirely the idea behind the system. There are a lot of checks; there is a lot of independent scoring, like the technical calls, that make it hard for judges to independently prop someone up.
And I don't believe in conspiracy theories.
I also believe in good intentions.
Here's why Gracie didn't win -- she blew the short. And that's where
the old adage comes in-- you can't win a medal with the short, but you
can lose one.
Here's why Ashley did-- she rocked the short program, and she had a smart, points-packed long so that even if she had some mistakes she would have enough points to recover. This isn't cheating, and it isn't evidence of collusion. It's smart coaching, and it's evidence of a competitive skater who, frankly, spent years being pushed down and disrespected-- by the media, by the fans, and by the judges-- but who knew she had it in her, and made a plan to achieve it.
I'll take that over the latest golden girl any day.
P.S. Shame on Ice Network for its appalling morning after headline: "Wobbly Wagner outlasts glittering Gold in Omaha." You owe Ashley Wagner, first back to back Ladies Champion since Kwan, an apology.