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Winter Olympics

Corrupt Chinese figure skating judge: I'm back, baby!

February 02, 2022

VCG

You couldn't pay me to watch figure skating outside of the winter Olympics [Note: You could definitely pay me to do this] but when it's Olympic time? I'm riveted. Like gymnastics or archery or biathlon, it's one of those sports that holds absolutely no interest for me during 99.8% of my existence, but in that remaining 0.2%, I watch it like...(searches brain for timely reference)...like I'm watching the Russian Roulette scene from Deerhunter for the first time. It is more important to me, at that crucial moment, than anything up to and including my own life.

One truth about Olympic figure skating is that for all the impressive athleticism and execution under pressure, it's just more exciting when there's controversy. Such is the case with all sports where the winner is judged. There is judgment in all sports, because we need referees and umpires, but figure skating is almost pure judging. You win or lose based on a number concocted by people, and while steps are constantly taken to make sure the process is objective, the human element is always lurking, particularly when geopolitical status is at stake.

Enter Huang Feng. Feng is a figure skating judge who earned a one-year suspension in 2018 because he showed "obvious and systematic bias" at the pairs figure skating event in Pyeongchang. In that event, a Chinese pair won the silver medal, edging out the Canadians in third place, and Feng was apparently a major part of their success, giving them ludicrously high scores while lowering the scores of their competitors. This was in tandem with another judge whose marks were so bad that he was banned from the 2022 Olympics.

Now, to what extent can we blame the judges? Hard to say, but China has a long history of institutional interference in its Olympic program, and there's a chance—probably even a good chance—that the judges were acting under orders from on high, in which case, what else were they supposed to do? I'm not really mad at the judges. In fact, I'm not really mad at anything here, because the Olympics are fundamentally corrupt and broken anyway.

But it is newsworthy that as the Beijing Games approach, Feng is back. From Yahoo:

For the Beijing Games, which begin on Friday, Huang is listed as a technical controller, an official who supervises technical specialists and can propose corrections regarding the level of difficulty identified for a given element.

This is kind of amazing, because in theory, Feng now has even more power, and that power is over the entire figure skating program, not just a single event. The fact that these Olympics are in China gives him an even longer leash, and you get the feeling that—stop me if I'm being controversial—things might not be on the up and up when the skaters hit the ice.

To me, this is fine. I want fair play, sure, sure, sure, but as one of the many American dip-in-dip-out figure skating fans, I want controversy most of all. I want the emotions stimulated to excess. I want to get mad. Huang Feng and whatever other judges the Chinese have ready to rock give us the best chance for chaos, so you know what? Unleash the beast.