August 21, 2004

Oopsie. : Judges' scoring mistake cost Yang Tae-yung the gold medal in the men's all-around gymnastic competition.

I wonder how Paul Hamm feels about this.

posted by lil_brown_bat to other at 07:17 AM - 32 comments

So the governing body of the sport is suspending the judges involved and announcing the mistake, but won't be changing the awarding of the medals? Great policy -- guaranteed to offend everyone involved, from Hamm with his now-cheapened gold medal to the South Koreans, who have to be developing a pretty major grudge against the Olympics after the Apolo Ohno tiff and now this.

posted by rcade at 08:19 AM on August 21

I really can't see how they can admit the mistake but not change the result.

posted by dng at 10:41 AM on August 21

The article I saw said that the reason for no change in medals is that South Korea didn't actually file a formal protest. So no one to blame but themselves.

posted by billsaysthis at 11:59 AM on August 21

The lack of a formal protest didn't stop the judges from being given a time out. Why would it stop the significantly more important issue of whether the right athlete won the gold in an event that represents the pinnacle of his career?

posted by rcade at 12:07 PM on August 21

My read is that it sounds like procedural geekery being used as a defense/distractor for a serious screwup. There is an appeal process, and it wasn't followed; according to the Koreans, this was at least in part because they were given incorrect information on how to protest. Now the federation is saying to the Koreans, "You didn't do it right, and now there's nothing we can do." It's a slender leg to stand on under the best of circumstances, but when you add in this latest that the Koreans were given incorrect information on how to "do it right", it certainly does seem indefensible. I also don't buy the analogy made by the USA Gymnastics dude when he likened this situation to a protest filed about a football game after the game is over. In most cases, all you can say about a belated football ruling is that it might have changed the outcome; you can't say whether or how. But in this case, as long as we accept the integrity of the deductions made against the various gymnasts in their routines, it seems completely black-and-white: had the judges simply done the arithmetic right, Yang would have won, no ifs ands or buts. I don't know that there's any reason to suspect corruption rather than incompetence, but it is very like the figure skating scandal in SLC, in that the federation's structure and rules seem to be such that it can't do the right thing.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:27 PM on August 21

USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi compared the mistake to a bad call in football that wasn't discovered until after the game. Er, no. That's total bullshit. What lil_brown_bat said. In football (whether American, Association, rugby or Aussie Rules) the players do the scoring, and the judges assess whether scores are valid. It's an exoteric process: everything is laid out on the field of play. That's why the Germans were stripped of their gold in the team eventing (and Bettina Hoy lost her individual gold): it was possible to point to videotape and say 'hey, the horse jumped the gun, and the judges didn't do their job here.' In gymnastics, scoring is entirely in the hands of the judges. It's an esoteric process; and for esoteric processes, the appeals process should be much more open-ended, given that it involves learning what numbers the judges were working with, rather than relying upon the actual performance. Will Bob Costas mention this one, do you think?

posted by etagloh at 12:45 PM on August 21

Well, nothing good can come of this. Hamm can't have his medal taken away (such a subjective sport that even adding to the Korean's score presupposes that the rest of the judging was absolutely accurate, hence the gold should be his), and it's lustre is severely diminished. And that poor Korean guy - his country had never won an Olympic medal in gymnastics until that night (if the broadcasters were correct).

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:44 PM on August 21

If we are going to compare this to the figure skating scandal in SLC, can we resolve it the same way?

posted by smithers at 02:19 PM on August 21

Figure skating is a poor comparison. The more apt comparison would be the 1992 synchronized swimming final. An obvious judging *error* (the figure skating scores shouldn't be considered "errors") cost her the gold. She would eventually be awarded the gold... 16 months later. However, the lustre was diminished by that point and the first place finisher still got to keep her gold... so it was more of a symbollic awarding than anything.

posted by mkn at 02:40 PM on August 21

I know people have an incredible capacity to convince themself of whatever truth most suits them but I still wonder why Hamm would want to keep the gold in this situation. Giving it to the Korean would be an amazing demonstration of good sportsmanship and anti-ugly Americanism.

posted by billsaysthis at 04:01 PM on August 21

The judging in most of these subjective events is a joke though - I watched some of the women's diving last night, and the Chinese judge gave middle-to-bottom scores on every diver, except the Chinese competitor, who got 10s. I know they have mechanisms to weed out best/worst scores, but it's still farcical.

posted by rodgerd at 05:01 PM on August 21

The judging in most of these subjective events is a joke though Which brings back the whole "timer or tape" issue, which will never be resolved, because two of the subjectively-judged sports -- figure skating and gymnastics -- are among the most popular of the Olympics. And then there's the question of subjective judging vs. subjective officiating -- something that is part of many Olympic sports, such as basketball, softball, baseball, hockey, boxing, etc., but where (with a few well-known exceptions) controversies over this subjectivity seem both less common and less nasty. Now, why is that?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:14 PM on August 21

two of the subjectively-judged sports -- figure skating and gymnastics -- are among the most popular of the Olympics. ...for American TV audiences, that is. And pricing the seats at the gymnastics arena according to an 'NBC index' backfired big-style. (Count diving in that list, too: completely subjective, wracked by regional rivalries, and with relatively tiny distinctions in scoring that turn into huge disparities. Perfect for multiple ad breaks, though -- unlike, say, the 1500m freestyle.) As for sports with subjective officiating: well, Olympic boxing is less prone to scoring travesties than in games-gone-by: the Seoul and Barcelona games had a few shockers, so they changed the system to the 'point a punch' one used now.

posted by etagloh at 10:24 PM on August 21

lil_brown_bat: pretty simple, really; best-case scenario (and even in the average scenario) refereeing doesn't really affect the outcome. Nothing is perfect, so sometimes a call can affect a game, but that is rare. It's not possible to have a gymnastic competition where subjective judgments don't impact the outcome. They are the impact. That's the difference, really. (Which, I'd argue, is why there are more complaints about boxing at the Olympic level; since headgear reduces KOs it increases the number of matches which look less like soccer and more like gymnastics.)

posted by tieguy at 10:24 PM on August 21

Don't forget that judo (the source of some judging shockers every single time) would also go if the 'ticker or tape' rule were in strict effect, and probably also wrestling. And possibly also fencing, because there's a subjective decision on 'aggression' for simultaneous touches, which varies across the three disciplines. But weightlifting, which the Greeks do like very much, would stay. And that doesn't require a ticker or a tape, but we know what the principle is. (Minor OT gripe, with respect to the 'tape': why the hell do NBC's track and field commentators provide only feet/inches measurements for the field events? The events are conducted in metric, people. Acknowledge that there are no inches on the tape measure, and that you're doing back-of-an-envelope conversions!)

posted by etagloh at 03:20 AM on August 22

I'm not necessarily advocating a 'ticker or tape' standard, just that everything where a judgment call must always be made should go. Judo and fencing are more like boxing in this respect- frequently but not always a judgment call. So, maybe in the perfect future when I rule the world and gymnastics has been eliminated, I might get irritated with them and call for them elimination, but not yet :)

posted by tieguy at 09:58 AM on August 22

I still wonder why Hamm would want to keep the gold in this situation. Hmm, who knows? Maybe 'cause it sort of validates the fact he sacrificed a normal life for this sort of achievement and that makes it a little hard to "do the right thing." I'd say giving the medal away would be a much harder thing to do in practice than in theory.

posted by yerfatma at 10:13 AM on August 22

Everyone's at it now

posted by dng at 05:15 AM on August 23

Yep. Sveta's doing it too. I think the South Koreans have a real reason to beef, but Khorkina's just proven that she's got no class at all.

posted by ursus_comiter at 01:03 PM on August 23

Yep. Sveta's doing it too. She's taking sore loser to a new level. (And it must have been cold in that gymnasium.)

posted by dusted at 01:28 PM on August 23

To the people wondering if Hamm should give back his medal your nuts. I know it's hip and chic to bash the USA and all, but what did Hamm do wrong in this scenario? The Koreans didn't even follow the proper protest rules and technically have no grounds to stand on. Let us assume though, that Tae-Young's score wnt through correctly? Who says Hamm doesn't still beat him? Hamm went into his final routine with a score to beat to get the AA title and he beat it. Adding a tenth of a point to his score to beat doesn't mean he still couldn't have done it. Point is he didn't win JUST because of this scoring mistake. As for the "Co-gold Medal" thing, S. Korea can have one as soon as the '72 USA Men's Basketball team get their's.

posted by pivo at 03:33 PM on August 23

Yeah - totally. Hamm won. This is all the steady politiking that nations do. The atheletes just get swept up along in it.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:02 PM on August 23

And while I love to watch Sveta do her thing (and, strangely it's nothing sexual - she's a mutant) she is absolutely up there on the list of world's worst losers. She should immediately be booked for McEnroe's show.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:04 PM on August 23

As for the "Co-gold Medal" thing, S. Korea can have one as soon as the '72 USA Men's Basketball team get their's. Oh, fuck right off. As if they're even close to being the same thing. The NBC coverage of this has been atrocious: tonight's sleazy 'oooh, the judges should have docked a tenth here and here' against Yang Tae-yung was utterly jingoistic and reprehensible. If there's one thing American commentary teams have perfected, it's the art of being a sore winner. Hamm did nothing wrong. Yang Tae-yung did nothing wrong. Give the Korean a bloody gold. It's not as if it means anything. If Nemov can be denied a medal, you might as well just pick out names from a hat.

posted by etagloh at 12:17 AM on August 24

Actually, you are correct, they aren't even close. The '72 hoops game reeked of something fishy. This was an apparent simple mistake. If the medals means nothing, why all the bitching? Apparently some folks disagree. ...screw you too.

posted by pivo at 12:53 AM on August 24

For those too lazy to google: here's the 1972 basketball controversy they're arguing about. Now I've got to go fuck right off.

posted by dusted at 01:20 AM on August 24

Anyhow, Roy Jones says Koreans can't bitch about not getting medals they deserve. Karma's a bitch.

posted by pivo at 01:20 AM on August 24

Something is really fishy with the gymnastic judging, as it seems to have happened again. However, since it's a Canadian that might be getting screwed over, we'll just do our usual "oh well" routine and wait for someone else to take up our cause for us. Where is Jay Leno when you REALLY need him? As for the 1972 basketball controversy, that link doesn't fully explain how the FIBA official (who has ZERO jurisdiction at the Olympics) is the one who told the officials to give the Soviets a third try. That's the part that always smelled bad to me.

posted by grum@work at 07:17 AM on August 24

How about if we just have the gymnasts wrestle for the medals?

posted by 86 at 07:46 AM on August 24

Coolest gymnastic moment ever : 10 minutes of hissing and booing immediately following the posting of the scores for the Russian legend on the high bar, which prompted the re-evaluation and change of the hideously low original score...and he still didn't medal. What a crock of shit that judging is. personal quote of the day, while watching the finals of the women's, er, girls, er, female balance beam: 'nice dismount'

posted by garfield at 08:51 AM on August 24

E. M. Swift at SI had this to say: Yet he [Hamm] has said, and continues to say, if the FIG tells him to give back the gold medal, he'll abide by its ruling. At this point the controversy has already ruined what had been a lifelong dream. His mother, Cecily, has been crying for two days. His father, Sandy, is beyond disillusionment at the sport he introduced his entire family to. Yet the human element remains lost to the sportswriters, whose work has been made so easy as a result of the Hamm's misery. They pick at the bones of this story like jackals, jabbing at the raw nerves of the innocent athlete instead of going after the officials of the FIG and USA Gymnastics, all of whom have hung Hamm out to dry, leaving him to explain their mistakes and perhaps to arrive at a solution.

posted by Joey Michaels at 06:11 PM on August 24

here's a follow up - the ROC will be awarding him a symbolic gold medal anyways.

posted by garfield at 12:21 PM on September 08

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