GOTHENBURG, Sweden (Reuters) - There was as much drama off the ice as on it at the figure skating world championships on Saturday when a debate over the nature of the sport erupted between the men’s gold and silver medalists.
Frenchman Brian Joubert, who staged a comeback from sixth place after the short program to finish second to Canada’s Jeffrey Buttle, expressed dismay about judging changes that he said made it more important to be accurate than bold.
Joubert, defending champion in the men’s event, told a news conference he was disappointed after Friday’s short program when officials penalized him for using music with lyrics.
“I am still disappointed (following the free skate) because Jeffrey had the perfect competition — he made no mistakes — but he did not try a quad jump,” said the Frenchman, who landed a successful quadruple in his program.
“The new judging system is like that — it’s better to do simple and clean (jumps) than to try something difficult... We need to give more points for the quad jumps for the future.”
Joubert said he “wouldn’t have bet on Jeffrey” winning the gold before the championships but the Canadian finished with 245.17 points, well ahead of the Frenchman’s overall 231.22.
Buttle, who skated flawless but quadruple-free short and long programs, hit back by saying he felt he deserved his title and that figure skating was about more than jumps.
“I was fortunate enough to skate a clean program today and I trained very hard to do that but it wasn’t just on the jumps. We worked whole sessions on spins and on stroking and all the in-betweens — because that is figure skating,” he said.
“It is everything that happens in the four minutes and forty seconds (of the routine), and it’s not really about the jumps.
“So I definitely feel that I earned the title,” he added, earning applause from some members of the press corps.
The International Skating Union created the new judging regime in a bid to rebuild confidence in the objectivity of the system after a bribing scandal at the Salt Lake City Olympics.
Buttle, asked after Joubert’s comments if he felt he had to apologize for not trying a quad, said: “No, absolutely not.”
The bronze medalist at the Turin Olympics choked up as he explained that he took up the sport after watching two compatriots who had won world championships, both of whom concentrated on the whole package and not just the jumps.
“I started skating because I watched Kurt Browning and Brian Orser, and it was about the program,” he said.
“So no (I don’t have anything to apologize for). I went out there and I left everything on the ice.”
Additional reporting by Oliver Grassman; Editing by Ken Ferris