Well if Sarah were really that far behind on points after the short, we wouldn't expect her to pull up to a medal unless we want what the skaters actually do during the short program to be irrelevant to their final results. However, if the scores were Kwan 60 Skutskaya 59 Cohen 58 Hughes 56 then she could easily win just by skating clearly the best, regardless of what order the other skaters finish in. With these particular skaters, we also have to consider how heavily the system penalizes things like underrotation and wrong-edge takeoffs, which would make a big difference in how far real-life 2002 Sarah Hughes might have been behind in the short program and how far she could have outscored the other medal contenders in the long. As a hypothetical example, if we're talking about four or five "clean" short programs with comparable tech content, then we would expect the SP totals to be close together, differentiated primarily by which skaters had the most strengths in basic skating, presentation, and positive grades of execution. But if we're talking about three skaters who all skated well, and the next best skater and everyone below either completely bombed and/or were in a completely different league on quality and difficulty, then we would expect the top three to stay ahead of the pack and fight it out for the medals among themselves.