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Americans question figure skating judging

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SOCHI, Russia -
America's figure skating team on Friday diplomatically defended the controversial calls that separated the top two winners in the women's event, while questioning the system that initiated the controversy and trying to redirect the conversation to their next Olympic showdown four years from now.

The gold medal that went to Russian upstart Adelina Sotnikova and her acrobatic-filled program left many questioning the outcome after she defeated defending champion Yuna Kim, who delivered a near-perfect performance.

"They're absolutely opposite kind of skaters. Adelina is truly an athlete. She jumps over the moon," American Gracie Gold, who came in fourth following Thursday's long program, said on TODAY. "Yuna Kim has this mature grace about her and she already has an Olympic gold in her pocket. It was a very interesting mashup at this Olympics. Adelina came out on top but at another competition, it could have been Yuna, so who knows."

Ashley Wagner, who initially said the results left her "speechless" and spoke out against the judging system following her performance Thursday, clarified her remarks on TODAY.

"I think that the ladies in the top three, absolutely hands down, belong in the top three. I don't even question that," she said.

However, she called the judging rules that oversee figure skating competition "too opaque."

"It's not clear enough to the audience and it needs to be more fan friendly so that we can get a wider fan base," she said. "I think we need to get rid of the anonymous judging."

But Wagner stopped short of calling the judges biased, noting that she didn't watch any of the other skaters perform so she couldn't make a comparison. "I just know I skated a really solid program," she said. "The scores, I was pretty happy with. A little bit lower than I would have liked, but a bias against? I can't say anything to that. I don't think so."

Others felt differently. More than one million signatures quickly amassed on a Change.org petition that emerged immediately after the skating finals, demanding an investigation into the scores posted by the judging panel.

Gold's coach, Frank Carroll, a legend in the industry, also questioned the final call.

"I don't think the program component scores are being judged very accurately. I don't think it takes much of an eye to know whether somebody can skate or not," he told TODAY.com. "We're all good skaters. We can take a look at somebody who goes around the rink and you can say, ‘Yeah, he can skate. No, they can't skate.' Why can't the judges recognize that?"

Both Wagner and Gold, along with 15-year-old Polina Edmunds, said they already are looking ahead to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

"Absolutely. I'm looking to make the podium in 2018," Gold said, to cheers from the crowd.

Wagner arrived at the Sochi Olympics under a cloud of controversy after U.S. skating officials placed her on the team despite failing to medal at the national competition in January. But she said she's ready to prove herself again in the years ahead.

"As soon as I stepped foot here, I was sold for four more years. I'm ready to go and fight for what I like to think is mine," she said.

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