Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Gymnastics judging...Start value 8.9

Have you been watching the men's gymnastics competition in the Olympics? The athletes are amazing, the skills both complex and simply beautiful, and the judging...Beyond comprehension. The first sign of this was on the first day of competition, when several Americans were informed that their some of their skills had been devalued by the head judge on the high bar competition. These were skills that they had used in the world championship just last year. It is not as if the community was seeing a new skill and hence had no notice as to what it should be scored at! But instead of establishing the value a year beforehand, as apparently is standard, the head high bar judge declared the skills to be less valuable...The day before competition. I guess that was our first sign.
Next was the ensuing scandal associated with the men's all around competition. Apparently the parallel bar routine of the bronze metal winning Korean athlete was scored out of the wrong start value. The Korean Olympic committee contends that he should have won the gold in place of Paul Hamm.
However, the final, and perhaps most telling piece was the High bar judging in the event final last night. For the first few routines the commentators were disagreeing with the scoring as usual. But then the Russian Nemav, four time olympic gold medalist went. He did beautifully, didn't quite stick the landing, but overall it was great. But the judges put him in last. Not just in last, way in last! Two judges in particular, the Canadian and some Asian judge, gave him about 9.6. This was so obviously too low that the crowd reacted in protest. They were yelling and booing, and probably being the loudest crowd ever at a gymnastics meet. It must have gone on for five minutes at least. Then the person over judging came over to the high bar judges, called the two lowest scores aside and had a talk with them. After another few minutes new scores were posted, Nemav still would not win a metal, but at least the crowd showed him that they new more than the judges. This didn't stop the uproar (which lasted a full 10 minutes) and Paul Hamm, they gymnast to go next, had to go and ask Nemav, who seems like a really honorable guy, and speaks English quite well, to quiet the crowd down. He got up, waved to the crowd, and tried to quiet them, lowering his hands. It really didn't work though. The crowd only quieted to cheer Paul's release moves once he started his routine. Paul ended in second, his twin brother Morgan in forth, and Nemav in fifth.

The judges very likely took last in the event. I only gave them a start value of 8.9 out of 10, but I am pretty sure that they earned a few deductions along the way. I hope the ten minute crowd uproar will do more than change two of Nemav's high bar score, and go on to help do something about the quality of gymnastic judging. The athletes deserve something more after years of dedicated practice than to have their outcome hinge on the perhaps randomly wrong, or perhaps prejudiced scoring of a bunch of obviously fallible old men...