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World skating chief defends under-fire Sochi judging

(Reuters) - The International Skating Union (ISU) has defended the under-fire figure skating judging system used at the Sochi Winter Olympics that deemed Kim Yuna's routine worthy only of a silver medal, Japanese media reported on Thursday.

Kim had arrived in Russia for the February Games favored to defend her title, but her faultless final routine left her only a silver as home favorite Adelina Sotnikova took a shock gold.

The South Korean Olympic Committee and the Korea Skating Union said in a statement last week that they would demand a thorough investigation into the composition of the judging panel in an official complaint to the ISU.

ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta said the governing body had judged in concert with the International Olympic Committee.

"The event in Sochi was not an event of the ISU. The event was an International Olympic Committee event," Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying at the World Figure Skating Championships at Saitama.

"Together with the IOC, we evaluated in Sochi. This is the fact and we cannot forget the fact.

"In addition, when point of view and opinion are expressed and are criticism, that is one thing, but criticism of wrongdoing needs to be presented with evidence, so that we can make a difference between opinion and something more precise."

The result drew derision from outside Russia, who celebrated their first victory in the women's event. More than 1.5 million people signed an online petition demanding an inquiry.

One judge was identified as having served a one-year suspension for trying to fix an event at the 1998 Olympics, while another, Alla Shekhovtseva - the wife of the general director of the Russian figure skating federation - was caught on camera hugging Sotnikova moments after the win.

"To measure the performance in figure skating championships, you need to have judges," Cinquanta said. "The judges are expert, they take part in seminars ... they are skaters themselves.

"We have provided them with a video replay system, and we are working very hard in order to give the skater the number of points the skater deserves.

"We are not perfect, as also the skaters are not perfect. Sometimes, they do a mistake. Mistakes are possible, because we are human beings.

"But the best human beings we may use are those sitting in the arena. If one is seated in the row No. 32 or 34, he or she does not have the same view as the official has sitting at the rink."

The governing body was working towards making the judging system more comprehensible for the public, the 75-year-old former speed skater said.

"So that what we are doing in regards to the judging system is recognizing the need to be comprehensible," he added. We are trying to work out an explanation that will be given to the public as well.

"But also, in the public, you have part that are expert, really expert. Others are not expert. We have to convey, give an explanation that is clear to everybody. That is not easy."

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by Ian Ransom)

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