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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 02:19 GMT

Olympic memories tainted

By BBC Sport Online's James Cowling

In the figure skating world, the conclusion of the Winter Olympics is the end of one four- year cycle and the beginning of another.

American Todd Eldredge has already announced his retirement.

Eldredge, the oldest man in the men's competition, was hoping for Olympic glory to cap off an illustrious career that started with a world bronze medal in 1991.

No doubt others will be announcing their retirement in the coming weeks too.

For the winners there is little else to prove.

Olympic winners
Men's: Alexei Yagudin
Ladies: Sarah Hughes
Dance: Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat
Pairs: Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze and Jamie Sale & David Pelletier

Not only have they all won Olympic gold medals, most have world titles as well.

For others, their disappointment at not winning gold will be seen as "unfinished business" and they will stick around for another attempt in four years' time.

Skaters like silver medallist Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, who is only 19 and still has something to prove, as does bronze medallist Michelle Kwan of the United States.

And for some others, like Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China in the pair's event - the world junior champions - it was a chance to gain valuable experience for their shot at gold in 2006.

The same thing can be said for Marika Humphreys and Vitaliy Baranov of Great Britain.

Their goal is to be medal contenders in Turin, too.

Tarnished image

But for all the highs and lows in Salt Lake City, the Games will forever be tainted by 'Skategate'

The International Olympic Committee's ultimate decision to award a second gold medal in the pairs' event after a judging scandal was unprecedented in Winter Olympics history.

While some people will see the incident as a chance to revolutionise the sport, for others it was confirmation that the whole thing is rigged.

Regardless, the sport has lost some credibility and the International Skating Union will have to work fast to clear the air.

ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta has already announced some sweeping changes, including the scrapping of the current 6.0 system, but any moves must be put forward to its council before they get implemented.

That meeting will come in June of this year in Japan and any rule changes must gain a 2/3 majority vote.

If the changes do not get passed, the sport could be open to more scrutiny and ultimately end up being frozen out of the Olympics in the future.

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