I'm always a little amused when I read comments about "the judges," as if they are some kind of group of people who all know one another and conspire for or against competitors.
Yes, I'm aware that, especially in the past, there have been issues with shady judging. But really, haven't those occurrences been relatively rare? I believe that most judges are honest people who merely want to do their part for the sport. Many international judges don't even speak a common language. If most big competitions were fixed or based solely on reputation, Michelle Kwan would have won OGM in 1998 (no one was particularly politicking for Tara that year); Irina or Michelle would have won OGM over Sarah Hughes (Sarah was a podium contender but hardly an OGM favorite); Kurt Browning would have been awarded an Olympic medal of some sort, regardless of how he skated; the Carruthers would have been kept off the podium, etc., etc., etc.
So, do most of you think that competitions are pre-judged/rigged and that there is major conspiracy going on behind the scenes? (For the record, I think it is very rare.)