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Monday, February 11, 2002
Updated: February 12, 3:23 AM ET
NBC commentators surprised, shocked by judges

Associated Press

NBC's Olympic figure skating announcers were thrown for a loop by the judging in the pairs competition Monday night.

The network's Scott Hamilton, Tom Hammond and Sandra Bezic were certain they knew who had won the gold medal.

My heart breaks, and I'm embarrassed for our sport right now.
Sandra Bezic, commentator for NBC

The trio made it clear to viewers that Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier had outskated Russia's Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze -- and then were shocked when the gold went to the Russians by a one-judge margin.

"My heart breaks," Bezic said right before the medals ceremony, "and I'm embarrassed for our sport right now."

Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze collected seven 5.9s for artistry, barely enough for their nation's 11th consecutive pairs gold medal, dating to 1964.

After the Russians performed, with at least one noticeable slip-up, the Canadians went about impressing NBC's talent. Near the end of their 4½-minute routine, Hamilton set the stage for a final key move.

"Throw triple loop, and the gold is theirs!" the 1984 men's Olympic gold medalist yelled.

After Sale landed cleanly, Bezic, a five-time Canadian national pairs champion, said: "Simply perfect. ... They did it!"

If there was any doubt in viewers' minds as to who was about to win, the announcers did their best to clear it away.

As the Canadians left the ice, Hamilton said: "There are going to be some giant, huge, high, enormous marks!"

And Bezic added: "Canada House is going to be jumping tonight!"

Only Hammond, the experienced play-by-play announcer, lent an ounce of measure, saying, "And the Russian domination, nearly four decades, perhaps ended again by Canadians."

As the Canadians' scores began to flash on the screen, Bezic was at it again: "Brilliant, brilliant skating, brilliant choreography -- tender, playful, accessible and perfect."

When it was announced that the Russians had won, Hamilton was adamant that it was a mistake.

"How did that happen?" he said, adding that Sale and Pelletier "won that program, there's not a doubt for anyone in the place, expect for maybe a few judges.

"That will be debated forever."