August 27, 2004

Paul Hamm's gold medal

The controversy over Paul Hamm's all-around gymnastics gold medal (story here) reinforces my . . . not scorn, but wariness of sports that are judged in the way that gymnastics and figure skating are. It seems that in these sports, the athlete is always dependent not only on his own performance, but is also dependent on the judges' competence and honesty.

Team sports that are refereed seem similar to this, and in some cases an erroneous call by a referee can give the game to the unworthy team. But in most of these sports, like baseball, football, or hockey, a single game involves many judgment calls by the refs that can be expected to cancel out any gross errors. Corruption remains a threat, but it's a threat that's inherent in sports. Even if there were no judges or refs at all, the athletes themselves are always subject to corruption.

Sports like running, swimming, or cycling, where the winner is decided by the clock, seem to be the least subject to the incompetence of human judges or referees. When Natalie Coughlin or Tyler Hamilton finishes first in a swimming or cycling race, it's tough to argue that they didn't really, that the clock made an error. I find it easier to trust the results of these sports, because I don't have to worry about corrupt Russian/French figure skating judges, or incompetent gymnastics judges, telling me days after the competition that the person I thought had won really lost.

As for Paul Hamm, I think this competition should be treated like a baseball game. In baseball, everyone realizes the umpire can make mistakes, but everyone agrees to live with his call. There's no instant replay. The results don't change. Paul Hamm was awarded a gold medal. He should keep it.

Posted by Carey at August 27, 2004 05:48 PM

So.. in baseball game, if a mathmatically challenged umpire gives 3 runs instead of 4 runs after a grand slam, would that be acceptable to you? We are not talking about subjective judging here but very basic technicalities. And please, you Americans should stop justifying the wrong by keep coming back with how the Korean had four holds instead of three and should have been deducted two tenth; if you had actually watched the routines , you would have seen Hamm falling off the Vault onto the judges lap.... There is noway he should have been given any more than 8.9 for that. The point is, especially after that letter to Hamm, the whole world knows who the true winner is including Paul Hamm. But for Hamm to give up the gold medal...well that's another story altoghether isn't it? because in America, winning is everything regadless how one gets it. Yes, everyone knows that Paul Hamm did not do anything wrong but so what?? Does that mean it's ok to hold onto the medal that does not belong to you??? What's wrong with you people??? Paul, you might as well have bought that gold medal on e-bay because you sure will not be recognized as the gold medalist, at least not by objective people in America and certainly not around the world.

Posted by: KELLY at August 30, 2004 12:14 AM

Damn, the way people are carrying on about this you'd think it was, like, important or something.

Bad calls/bad judging are/is a fact of life. If the IOC or the international sanctioning body for gymnastics doesn't have a means to appeal the judging and to "re-award" the medal, tough. The decision of the judges is final. Move on to something really important, and get on with your life. They're only GAMES, ferchrissakes.

Posted by: Len Cleavelin at August 30, 2004 12:44 PM

I'm not taking sides one way or the other about the actual routine. I don't know enough about gymnastics to second-guess either the judges or the judges' critics.

What I am saying is that, in a sport like gymnastics where winning depends upon a bunch of fallible human judges, you have to accept the fact that sometimes the judges will get it wrong, or, as in the case of the figure skating judges in the 2002 winter Olympics, will be corrupt.

As Len says, if there's no mechanism to appeal the judges' decision, the medal belongs to Paul Hamm until such time as he surrenders it.

Posted by: Carey at August 30, 2004 07:54 PM

I agree wholeheartedly with Kelly. If Paul Hamm, after watching the entire competition for the all around winner, would've realized and admitted he was not the all around best, and hang the gold medal on the Korean competitor's neck.....he would have been a true winner. All he did was whine in interviews after and say "I did nothing wrong, they gave it to me and I"m keeping it". He embarrassed me.

Posted by: Nancy at September 7, 2004 11:23 AM

I don't know how Paul Hamm can think he's deserving of this medal if he sat down and watched the entire competition. If he'd watched it on video and taken that gold medal and placed it around the Korean competitior's neck he would have been a REAL WINNER and endeared himself to the entire world (something Americans sorely need). Instead, all he's done is whine about it. I agree with Kelly and was embarrassed for how Paul Hamm has handled this entire thing.

Posted by: Nancy at September 7, 2004 11:28 AM

Paul basically won a worthless trinket. He has gained virtually no international recognition (except for being a dick), and he would've been SO much more popular if he would've given the fucking medal to the guy who deserves it. Oh, well. It's his loss.

Posted by: Paul "Sean" Hamm IV at September 8, 2004 10:45 PM

I've said it before, I'll say it one should be able to fall on their ass and win a gold medal. Unless of course, it's an ass falling contest. :)

Posted by: Beanie at September 13, 2004 02:17 PM