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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 14:37 GMT
Fall and rise of the Chinese skater
By Anna Thompson
BBC Sport at the Winter Olympics

Chinese skater Zhang Dan
Zhang Dan suffered a crashing fall in the middle of the routine

Figure skating is back in the spotlight at the Winter Olympics after a dramatic fall in the pairs event on Monday night.

But not only because Chinese skater Zhang Dan's crash was so spectacular.

The fact she and partner Zhang Hao were able to resume - after a long delay - and go on to take silver focused attention on the sport's rules, and their interpretation.

After 'Skategate' in Salt Lake City four years ago forced the judging system to be overhauled, the International Skating Union (ISU) would have been hoping for an easier ride this time round.

But eyebrows were raised again after Zhang Dan's unsuccessful quadruple salchow.

She suffered a nasty fall and took time to compose herself, before consulting with officials and resuming the routine to an incredibly high standard - and a standing ovation.

Under the new scoring system, the duo were duly docked one point for the element they had messed up.

But there was surprise they had been allowed to take such a long stoppage.

British gold medallist Robin Cousins, who is covering the figure skating for BBC Television, explained that the maximum time-out was two minutes for a bad crash or for a competitor to tie up their laces if they had become undone.

But observers timed the stoppage at three minutes, 40 seconds, and Cousins called for the rules to be clarified.

It was an incredibly motivated performance
Robin Cousins

He told BBC Sport: "What happened in Turin was unprecedented. It was a freak incident which calls the new judging system into question and it looks as though it is a loophole which needs clarifying."

The judging system was changed after the International Olympic Committee was forced to award two sets of gold medals in 2002 when a French judge admitted she had been pressured to vote for Russian pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharudlidze at the expense of Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

So instead of starting at 6.0 and docking points for mistakes, the new system starts at 0.0 and skaters gain marks as each jump, spin or lift is given a base value depending on its difficulty.

The 12 judges each decide how well the element has been executed and then nine marks are drawn randomly to make up the score.

Cousins said the Chinese pair had done nothing wrong in resuming their routine after being given the green light to continue.

"It was an incredibly motivated performance. But they are at an Olympics and were in a medal position, her coach told her she could do it and most of their technical elements were of the highest tariff."

Zhang Dan and Zhang
The pair regained their composure to successfully resume their routine

ISU spokesman Devra Pitt-Getaz insisted the pair had not exceeded the two-minute break allowed for a fresh start.

"The rule states that the competitor shall continue immediately from the point of interruption if the circumstances which caused the competitor to stop can be rectified without delay," she said.

"If that is not possible, a period of up to two minutes before the continuation will be allowed. The two minutes time period commences immediately after the referee's decison is announced to the competitor.

"In this case, the ISU confirmed the time period commenced from the time the referee announced the decision to the competitors.

"A time period of no longer than two minutes was used."

That may well have been the case, but on the biggest stage of them all, the fall - and then rise - of the stricken Chinese skater showed lessons may still need to be learned.


Russians triumph in skating drama
13 Feb 06 |  Winter Sports
Skating bosses back Chinese pair
14 Feb 06 |  Winter Sports

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