Tara Lipinski and her husband examine the 2002 Olympic skating scandal – NBC4 Washington


There’s one word that always catches the world’s attention in sports: scandal.

Figure skating had its share – anyone remember Tonya and Nancy in 1994? This one has been looked at as often as Nathan Chen lands a quadruple jump.

Not so much the shame of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Until now.

Tara Lipinski, 1998 Olympic gold medalist and now analyst for NBC, has teamed up with husband Todd Kapostasy on a four-part documentary series on NBC’s streaming channel Peacock. It’s titled “Interference” and takes an in-depth look at the impact the judges’ misdeeds had on the two teams involved: Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.

Just after irregularities in the scoring centered on French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne surfaced, Sale and Pelletier, who had finished second to the Russians, were elevated to co-gold medalists. Then they shared the highest step of the podium during the medal ceremony.

“It made me sad as an Olympic champion to know what that night was like,” says Lipinski. “You skate hard and it’s all good, the rest is just fun and soaking up the crowd and seeing marks. And you win and have your time on the podium listening to the national anthem, and those are unique memories.

“I think they would all agree it was the weirdest and most unfortunate night. How uncomfortable and extremely awkward it was to share the podium. David said it was ‘made for the people, not for us.’

“I don’t think any of these skaters will ever find this night their one chance to win Olympic glory and experience what it would be like to win a gold medal.”

Instead, they got chaos. As the AP reported:

“So on Sunday night, after the original dance was over, a blue mat was laid out on the ice and a medal podium was placed on it. Canadian and Russian flags were hung on scaffolding ready to be pulled up. to the rafters.

“It had the potential to be awkward – medals usually won by a couple torn between two. But Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze accepted their co-champions with grace, a gift Sale and Pelletier acknowledged.”

Yet, as Lipinski and Kapostasy discovered in interviews with everyone involved – including Le Gougne – it left scars. On Sport, which immediately underwent an overhaul of the scoring system, eliminating the perfect 6.0 which ultimately wasn’t so perfect. And on the four skaters, 20 years later.

Figure skater Jason Brown has always been known for his bubbly personality and flowing ponytail through jumps and spins on the ice, but when he makes his second Olympic appearance in Beijing in February, he’ll be sporting a whole new look .

Lipinski notes that there hasn’t been a thorough examination of the scandal over the past two decades. Although it was a dominant theme during the Salt Lake City Olympics, a continuous drama for days, the general perception was that the French judge had voted for the Russians that night under pressure from others .

“But you had to detail every facet. It’s a deep and responsible look at what happened,” she says of “MEDDLING.” “There are so many different layers to this story that I had no idea they were happening.”

The docuseries are Le Gougne’s first time addressing US media, Lipinski says. They did a six-hour interview.

“It affected his life so much,” Lipinski says. “She came back to live with her mother in France and feels like she can’t live her life, she misses her sport so much. Unfortunately, she even contemplated suicide.

“Twenty years later, we see where these people are now and how it has so profoundly affected their lives.”

Lipinski and Kapostasy hope to do more projects with their May Fifth Productions. Not necessarily focusing on figure skating, although it is full of potential.

“The reason I wanted to do it is that I never want to back down from things that happened in this sport, and that was a huge flaw,” she says. “It’s good not to pretend it’s not, but why not take a look and relive the story and find out more? At the same time, we can appreciate that this sport has evolved and has a new judging system.

And, in recent years, no scandals.

Watch the first episode of “Meddling” on Peacock for free here.

Gender roles are ingrained in the sport of figure skating – creating a challenge for athletes outside of the binary, like American pair figure skater and Olympic hopeful Timothy LeDuc. In this episode 3 of the My New Favorite Olympian podcast, LeDuc talks about his rise in the world of skating, being out twice in his family and how he navigates a sport whose official rules define skating pairs as a man and a woman.


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