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Petition protesting Russian figure skater's win garners record number of signatures

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Feb. 20, 2014: Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, centre, Yuna Kim of South Korea, left, and Carolina Kostner of Italy stand on the podium during the flower ceremony for the women's free skate figure skating final at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Sotnikova placed first, followed by Kim and Kostner. (AP)

An online petition protesting the final results of the women’s figure skating competition at the Sochi Olympics has received a record number of signatures on Change.org, with more than 2 million people calling for a closer look into the judges' scoring.

South Koreans believe the judging was biased and cost figure skater Yuna Kim a second gold medal. The 2010 champion finished with silver, behind Russian teenager Adelina Sotnikova. Carolina Kostner of Italy placed third.

“I can’t tell you if the petition will trigger an [International Skating Union] investigation – it will depend on whether the ISU responds to public pressure,” Change.org Communications Director Tony Robertson told The Wall Street Journal.

The petition, started by the user “Justice Seeker” in Vancouver, Canada, received more than five times the amount of signatures than the previous record, the site said, according to CBS News. Around 90 percent of the signatures were from Koreans, while nearly 10 percent were from Americans.

The South Korean Olympic Committee also protested the results of the competition, although the sport's international governing body said Saturday it has not yet received a letter from the organization.

International Skating Union rules always have required such protests be filed immediately after the event.

Much of the uproar over the women's free skate centers on what many perceived as a lack of artistry in Sotnikova's program. Yet her marks were comparable or better than those for the highly artistic Kim. Her technical marks were significantly better. Kostner of also fell into the same category as Kim in her marks.

Asked to comment on South Korean media reports of the protest, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams on Saturday said any figure skating issues would be a matter for the ISU to handle.

"They have their processes and regulations," Adams said. "From what I understand the letter wouldn't trigger any investigation."

The ISU said it had not received the letter, and declined to comment further.

On Friday, the ISU released a statement saying it "is confident in the high quality and integrity of the ISU judging system."

"The ISU is strongly committed to conducting performance evaluations strictly and fairly and has adequate procedures in place to ensure the proper running of the sporting competitions," the statement said. "The officiating judges were selected by random drawing from a pool of 13 potential judges. All judges in an event represent different ISU member federations. The ladies' free skating panel included judges from Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine."

Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic champion and a longtime television analyst who worked the games in Sochi for NBC, sees an intrinsic flaw in that setup. He believes the judges should be insulated from the day-to-day management of the sport, not a part of the federations that run it.

"The problem was never the scoring system," Hamilton said of the 6.0 format that was changed to the points system soon after the 2002 Games pairs scandal. "It was how the judges are selected for these competitions. What happened in Salt Lake City resulted in this scoring system not treating the issue. Every sport out there has an affiliated association of officials. They are separate from the federation, and figure skating is hesitant to do that. It is a fundamental issue that leads to people having a hard time taking the results as the results."

But Hamilton also defended Sotnikova's gold medal performance.

"Adelina collected more points. That is really the only way you can describe it," he said, according to CBS News. "If you look at Yuna of the past, this was not a program as difficult as she has done, and she left the opportunity for someone to collect points on that side of the scoring.

"It may not have been as beautiful as Yuna and Carolina, but under the rules and the way it works, she did all that. ... I think it was a just strategy that worked on the night."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.