Sunday, August 29, 2004

Paul Hamm and the Gold

I am deeply frustrated by this whole debacle. I see it as really quite simply. Paul Hamm won the gold medal fair and square and all this talk about him giving back the gold is absurd. The FIG,the South Korean team, and the media should stop their haranging of this tremendous and heroic athlete.

I don't know about gymnastic judging or the specific rules, and so can only go by what I hear commentators say. But from what I understand, yes, the judges miscalculated the starting valuing of the South Korean's parallel bars. However, they also didn't take two mandatory deductions. The miscalculation would have added a 1/10 th to his score, but the deductions would have subtracted 2/10ths, leaving the South Korean with a score 1/10 lower. I am not sure, but given the closeness of the competition, this might have even dropped him from the bronze. So, the last person who should want a review of the tapes and re-scoring should be the South Korean!

Moreover, whose to say that even if the South Korean's score was adjusted up 1/10th in the parallel bars, he would have won the gold? He very well might have, but he might also have relaxed a bit too much thinking he had a good lead, and that could have caused him to do worse on the high bar. Or he might have tightened up or got more anxious realizing he was up for the gold, and this could have caused him to do worse on the high bar. Other competitors could have entered the high bar rotation with different expectations and competited differently, resulting in a different scores.

The point is that once play resumes, a call can't be changed. The call is one factor that determines later results and can't be changed without negating those results. This is why Football doesn't allow instant replay once play resumes. And why the Court of Arbitration rarely rules on field-of-play decisions. Going back and changing a call in the middle of game is not fair or right because we can't know the repercussions on the game or competition had that call been made differently on the field-of-play.

There was an appeal procedure available to the South Korean team during play. They should have checked the scoreboard before the next competitor and protested then. That's fair, and that's the place for it. The next day is just being a spoiled sport.

All this talk of showing good sportsmanship should be directed at the South Koreans, not Paul Hamm. He is a great sportsman, competiting hard and great when the chips are down. (Let's not forget how well the South Korean Young did under the stress of a booing crowd after the disputed Russian score on the high bar!)

Paul Hamm earned the gold and deserves the gold.

No comments: