8.23.2004

medal controversies

So American gymnast Paul Hamm, whom one San Jose resident interviewed on Kron 4 news last night refered to as a jerk, won the all around gold because the judges miscalculated the scores. The Korean gymnast actually scored higher. Hamm is refusing to give back his medal, even though the world knows it's not really his gold if he scored the second highest. Great article on MSNBC that discusses this controversy... but also ties in bigger issues about America's image, good will in general, and even the Iraq war. Very worth reading. Here's a short snippet:

It’s just incredibly bad luck that Hamm’s medal was won at the expense of a Korean. But in that country, it’s taken as proof that America is an arrogant and bloated monolith that won’t be satisfied until it owns the world and all the gold medals in it. That’s an absurd belief, but so are a lot of the things we believe in. The point is if you collected all the ill will toward America on the planet and wadded it up into a ball, it would be a really big ball. We can’t turn all of it into goodwill overnight. But if we can perform one selfless act on a stage that the entire world is watching, we can put a dent in it....You have to ask what’s more important, doing the right thing or having a gold-plated hunk of bronze that tens of millions of people are going to say from now until forever that you wouldn’t have won if the dumb judges — and, aha, one of them was an American — had been able to count? (Celizic, 2004)



10 comments:

Mr. Syndromes said...

Vanessa, I think we should get married! We'd argue like a married couple anyway ;)

The one thing I think is missing from the argument that the Hamm's score was lower is the whole aspect of competition. People run faster when they run against other people (as opposed to running solo sprints). I would argue that Hamm also performed at the level he knew he had to perform with. I'm not denying it was hella close, but I think to ask him to give up the Gold which he earned under the circumstances and information he was given would be a mockery of what the games stand for - competition. Who knows what the results would've been had the Korean been awarded the extra 1/10th (?) as he should've been. I don't think stripping Hamm of his Gold is the solution though, regardless of how much of a "jerk" he's accused of being.

So when do we go shopping for diamond rings?? :)

Olivier T. said...

God knows I can feel suspicious about America's good will at large - pardon me, I'm French, but I guess giving Paul Hamm's attitude (which after all is legitimate, given the fact that the mistake was not his, but the jury's) as an example of the supposed arrogance of his country sounds a little too extrapolative for me...

(I mean, c'mon, we're talking about Gym at the Olympics, not War against Irak)

(Great blog, by the way :-) )

prayforsnow said...

I wonder if those judges were working the polls in Florida in 2000...

Shaky Jake said...

I think the argument above about Hamm taking his game to another level if the occasion arose with the Korean guy leading is a little retarded (pardon my French). We're not talking about sprinting against a clock, lifting a certain amount of weight, or scoring more baskets. We're talking about a sport where the scores are judgemental. To say that he could lift his performance so that he could score 1/100 of a point more or 1/10 of a point more is not entirely under his control.

What you could say though is that if the Korean was given the correct score and the judges saw how far back he was, they could have skewed their scores a little so that Hamm would get the gold anyhow. Now that's something that's not too entirely impossible considering how biased some of the scoring is.

As for keeping the gold because the games are about "competition"...I think the same argument could be made for the games being about "good sportsmanship". I know I'd rather be known as the guy who gave up the gold in the name of sportsmanship than the guy who kept the gold even though he finished 2nd.

Van said...

Yes judging is subjective in nature, but the error made was an obvious and really an undisputable one, particularly at this level of competition when errors are few and far between. Using the wrong start value is a glaring mistake if you have any knowledge in gymnastics judging procedures. In any case, I was just pleasantly surprised to see an American journalist take the stance he did. I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with him but kudos to him for looking at things differently.

Shaky Jake said...

I wasn't questioning the mistake that the judges made with the starting difficulty value. That was obviously a mistake and not subjective at all.

I was questioning the comment made above about athletes stepping up their game when they know what score they're shooting for. It's a little harder to step up your game in a subjective sport like gymnastics. It's also harder to step up your game in accordance to minute score values like that of gymanstics.

Mr. Syndromes said...

Oi. I need to stop reading your blog - it's too hard for me not to comment :)

In reference to my retarded comments, my point was that competition brings out different things in different people, whether they be spectators, judges, atheletes... bloggers ;) To just tack on an extra tenth and say that is right seems to look beyond the competetive aspects of sports to me.

As to what good sportsmanship consists of, it's such a subjective area - to each their own I suppose.

ceaz said...

I was watching the gymastics competition last night and one of the NBC commentators kept defending Hamm anytime there was some reference to the controversy. They wanted to prove that Hamm is deserving of the gold medal by showing a replay of the Koren gymast's routine. They pointed out that he had done 4 strength holds when the athletes are only allowed 3, which meant there should've been an automatic deduction. They said that if the judges caught that, then Hamm would still be the gold medalist.

Then a few minutes later, one of the Russian gymnasts performed an awesome routine and got shafted with a low score from the Canadian and Malaysian judge and the crowed booed for about 5 minutes straight which led to a change in the scoring. All this is just way too subjective for me!

Shaky Jake said...

You're right...it's quite subjective. I'm sure most Americans don't question Hamm's sportsmanship at all.

Tacking on the extra 1/10 isn't something that was subjective. They shafted him of the 1/10 because they started off deductions from a reduced score than they should've for his difficulty level.

Ben said...

I'm no gymnastics expert, but if the judges made an error (which they did), they should correct it. From what I've read, I've concluded that Hamm is simply a person who is more interested in keeping a gold medal that isn't rightfully his, in plain view of the world, without regard to the sportmanship spirit that the Olympics are founded on.

This is bigger than just a chunk of metal -- it's symbolic of many other things, and people around the world will extrapolate that to even more attitudes about Americans (be they founded or not). He didn't cheat to get the gold. But he shouldn't have it. And that's just it: don't be a prick, and do the right thing.

In viewing what's "just" and "fair", how would he have liked being in the other position? What if the Korean had won that gold? How much stink do you think the American crews would put up, in the name of "democracy" and "the free world" and the "American way of life"? Please.