At the Golden Spin of Zagreb, a skating competition in Croatia, the American pair skaters Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were in the final third of their long program on Friday, heading into their last overhead lift, when LeDuc’s hand appeared to slip as Cain was exiting the lift. She fell, headfirst, onto the ice. Cain hit the ice first, taking a hard blow to the back of her head; LeDuc fell over her as she tumbled down.
Though the fall was horrific and Cain appeared visibly dazed after getting up from the ice, the pair finished their program. This made for jarring viewing, even if it was just athletes continuing their program as they’re trained to do, but it was abundantly clear that someone should’ve intervened and halted the program so that Cain could receive proper treatment on the ice. That someone, it turns out, was the referee.
According to the International Skating Union’s rulebook, the referee has the power to stop a program if there is a medical emergency.
If, in the opinion of the Referee, medical attention is required, he must stop the performance by an acoustic signal and follow the Medical Protocol (Communication 2049 or any update thereof) The Referee, after consulting with the respective Team Physician, or, if not present, the medical doctor provided by the Organizer, he will decide if the Competitor is allowed back to compete. If the Referee does not allow the skater to resume within 3 minutes since he stopped skating his program the competitor will be considered withdrawn.
The wording of that rule leaves a lot to the referee’s discretion regarding what they believe constitutes a medical emergency. It seems that the referee at Golden Spin didn’t think the situation warranted a stoppage, even if everyone on Twitter did.
The language in Skate Canada’s rulebook regarding stoppages is far more specific. It reads:
At any time in Skate Canada competitions (qualifying and non-qualifying) if the referee feels there is a possible head injury or concern of concussion or if advised by medical, they should blow the whistle or stop the music to signal to the skater(s) to stop skating.
After their performance, Cain was seen wearing a neck brace while medical staff held a bag of ice to the back of her head. U.S. Figure Skating tweeted they will provide an update on Cain’s condition as it becomes available.
Here’s Cain’s and LeDuc’s long program. The fall happens at around 3:21 in the video: