February 11, 2018 / 9:42 AM / a year ago

Rumba numbers are harsh, ice dancers say

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Judging of the ice dance in the team event at the Pyeongchang Olympics has been harsh, especially for the mandatory rumba, competitors said on Sunday.

Figure Skating – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Team Event Ice Dance short dance – Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea – February 11, 2018 - Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the U.S. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson -

Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani, the 2017 world bronze medalists, finished second behind Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and said their score of 4.91 points for the rumba sequence, a figure integrated into their technical elements score, was lower than expected.

“I think we’re really pleased with the performance despite the score not being as high as we’re accustomed to,” Shibutani told reporters.

Virtue and Moir, who received 5.26 for the element, said they were eager to watch videos to determine how they could maximize their rumba points.

The Canadians, who won ice dance silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, did, however, see a positive side to the strict marking.

“We like to see when they are grading harshly because it separates the great skaters from the good ones,” Moir told reporters. “And I think it can only work in our favor.”

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, Olympic Athletes from Russia who finished third, also struggled with the element, receiving 4.57 points.

“We had trouble with our rumba,” Soloviev told reporters. “Of course we’re disappointed because we worked on this element more than on the others.”

Prior to the 2002 Salt Lake City scandal, in which Canadians finished second behind a Russian pair in an alleged vote-trading scheme, judges would rank skaters using a 6.0 scale for technical merit and artistic performance.

In a bid to prevent such scandals and better calibrate performances, the 6.0 scale was replaced by a more complex points system.

Now, every program element has its own numerical base value and skaters are rewarded for executing difficult elements. Skaters are given a technical and a presentation score.

The rules vary for the ice dance, where there is an additional music interpretation and timing component in the presentation, among other differences.

It was not only the ice dancers who were surprised by the scores on Sunday.

“When I finished my performance — well, I sort of wanted more points,” said Japan’s Satoko Miyahara after her routine in the team event.

“I was surprised. But that’s the measure of my ability, so the next time I want to try harder.”

Additional reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Clare Fallon

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