August 27, 2004

Paul Hamm

I'm very put off by the behavior of US gymnast Paul Hamm. For those of you who aren't aware of the controversy, Hamm was awarded the gymnastics all-around gold in error over South Korean Yang Tae-young, who due to a scoring mistake was awarded the bronze. The South Korean team inexplicably did not file a protest in time, and so the results are considered final.

Hamm has left Athens and is back in the States, and because of the rules there are no official means of forcing or mandating the transfer. The medal is permanent as far as the rulebook goes. Nevertheless, the head of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) sent a sympathetic letter to Hamm, suggesting that the world would applaud in admiration were he to do the right thing and turn over the medal. US Olympic Committee (USOC) chair Peter Ueberroth responded by blasting the FIG for the letter, and refusing to deliver it to Hamm.

The whole thing is certainly unfortunate, but Hamm didn't win. The Olympics' closing ceremonies are on Sunday - Hamm has until the brazier goes out to announce he's giving his medal to Yang Tae-young, the true winner, or face eternal scorn. I am frankly amazed that the USOC and other people aren't telling him the same thing.

Posted by Sterling at 06:29 PM GMT | TrackBack (0)

I happened to be travelling while all this happened, which means that I stayed in hotels a couple of times, which means I actually watched some television. And the US TV coverage of this whole affair was utterly appalling. One thing was said over and over again: judges can't see everything, and once you go to the videotape, all manner of errors and stuff can appear which were missed originally, and it all becomes a big nightmare. The anchors, the experts, even Hamm himself -- all of them started on the "once you start going to the videotape" trope, and all of them noted that the Korean made one too many holds and so should have had points deducted which weren't.

What NO ONE said was that the Koreans WEREN'T going to the videotape, that the error had NOTHING to do with the way in which the Korean's performance was judged, and was simply a mathematical error in which deductions were taken from the wrong starting point. The disingenuousness of the TV coverage was sickening.

Now, I have to wander off for a few hours, in a complete daze, astounded that I actually agree with Sterling on something...

Posted by: Felix from on August 27, 2004 07:41 PM

Yeah, as soon as I saw that you had commented on it, I thought "Oh, fuck. Felix probably agrees with me."

Posted by: Sterling from on August 27, 2004 08:42 PM

Clearly Hamm never saw Saturday Night Fever.

Posted by: Mr. 99th Percentile from on August 27, 2004 08:51 PM


Posted by: D, from on August 28, 2004 05:18 AM

Was Yang Tae-young the guy who feel off the High Bar?

Posted by: public front from on August 28, 2004 12:14 PM

More good commentary here. It includes a link to a Denver Post article which actually quotes the talking point that seemingly every American on TV was given: "If you open the door to video review, other things can be seen as well." Can someone clear this up for me? Was the Korean's real starting value somehow discovered through video review? If not, how does this comment make any sense at all?

Posted by: Felix from on August 28, 2004 06:50 PM

YES, it was DISCOVERED through video review only because the Koreans were apparently not keeping track of their own gymnasts' scores when they were competing. They should have known there was a scoring error without looking at the tape, based on their own arithmetic.

If the Korean team had been more thorough in tracking their gymnasts' scores, this wouldn't be happening - no question. But it did happen, and now only Paul Hamm can set it right. He's got about 1 more day.

Posted by: Sterling from on August 28, 2004 07:49 PM

I'm not following at all, as these Olympics are so fucking boring (except for the women's fashion) but it would seem to me that a scorekeeper is not the ultimate arbiter of who gets the gold: the judges are, and if their scores are improperly tallied by a computer error, or through faulty data entry, I don't see how this mistake, once discovered, should preven the korean from getting the gold.

I'd hate to be Hamm. If I ever meet him, I'll make sure to congratulate him on his bronze medal.

Posted by: Stefan Geens from on August 28, 2004 08:22 PM

Hamm deserves the silver medal - his score was presented as highest because there was a tally error in another gymnast's count. That gymnast was given the bronze. So bronze becomes gold, gold becomes silver, silver becomes bronze.

There's a process, and rules for this, to make sure the right person gets the right medal. They failed because the South Korean team didn't do its due dillies.

USOC probably has targets for a certain number of medals, and it is loathe to surrender any. But USOC isn't a person - Paul Hamm is. Hamm has a higher obligation as a sportsman to correct the error, or forfeit his own honor.

Posted by: Sterling from on August 28, 2004 10:01 PM

They should give two golds. Simple.

Posted by: Dan Goldstein from on August 29, 2004 06:33 AM

But Dan, that's a cop-out. Two golds mean two winners. That's the sort of "make everyone feel good" nonsense that is used to remove the necessity for individuals to make hard choices.

Posted by: Sterling from on August 29, 2004 12:57 PM

I've been following the whole snafu closely, and although I predicted that Hamm would relent at the last minute (but too late to be seen as anything but peevish anyway) it hasn't come to pass--so far, anyway.

Of course, the Olympics are anything but boring, mostly because of the fallible human element that inevitably dents the veneer of perfection. Stuff like the Hamm story, or the Perdita Felicien story, or Svetlana Khorkina's drama, etc. are what make the whole event much more connected to us lower-rung beings.

So I get a kick out of this willful comment from bratty Hamm:

"I guess it's up to them if I share the gold, but I don't feel like that would be the right thing," he said.

"Right now, I feel like I shouldn't even be dealing with this. I'm glad I'm able to clear the air here and make sure everyone in the U.S. understands that I'm not a silver medalist. I'm a gold medalist. Once the meet is over, it's over."

Sophocles would be proud, methinks.

Posted by: camilof from on August 30, 2004 03:37 AM

Hamm's comments are unbelievably self-absorbed, and an example of situational ethics. You'd think a gymnast would know that pride goeth before the tumble.

Posted by: Sterling from on August 30, 2004 07:23 AM

Needed to point out something regarding the start values. Start values are not determined before an athlete performs his routine. Judges will note the intended start values, but the actual value is based on what is actually performed. (The vault is the only exception.)

What this means is that the start value is subjective. It is not a given that Tae-Young's routine should have had a start value of 10.0. While his routine did not vary from the same routine in the preliminaries, which had a 10.0 start value, during the competition the 2 judges saw something that, at the time, made them both agree the start value was a 9.9 (hence the head judge not stepping in to overrule them).

However, after going back and reviewing the tapes (which they shouldn't have done anyway), they later agreed that it should have been a 10.0. However, if one is going to argue that it is fine to change a subjective score (which a start value is) based on a videotape after a confirmation, then it would seem fair to correctly deduct the MANDATORY .2 deduction for the extra hold.

This still leaves Paul Hamm the correct gold medalist, but puts Tae-Young's bronze up for potential grabs. How long before the 4th place finisher starts complaining about how Tae-Young stole his bronze?

Posted by: whey from on August 30, 2004 08:19 AM

So Hamm gives the South Korean his medal, what does that mean? Neither the gymnastics federation nor the Olympic committee is going to change either the scoring or the standings offically, so he is still offically the winner, but he doesn't have medal.

If the gymnastics people want him to give back the medal, they should rescore the event, but they won't do that. They are making Hamm look like the bully and the bad guy.

Posted by: Rance from on August 30, 2004 01:33 PM

Looks like Paul Hamm is rather good at ducking awkward questions...

Posted by: Felix from on August 30, 2004 09:31 PM

Whey - my understanding is that the two judges did not consciously mean to dissent from the preliminary start value. They admit the error.

Posted by: Sterling from on August 30, 2004 10:10 PM

Americans like Hamm think that they are the most supreme beings on this planet . They poke their noses in other countries affairs demanding rights so that they can benefit from their loss but are not able to grant people like asians what is truly theirs and what they deserve.
They are self absorbed Fuckers and Hamm refusing to give back the medal will only make people hate AMERICA more

Posted by: FELIX from on August 31, 2004 02:29 PM

Prolly goes without saying, but I am not the "FELIX" above -- who, by his IP address, seems to be in Bangalore somewhere...

Posted by: Felix from on August 31, 2004 02:36 PM

I agree with everyone that there was a judging error with the start value, that if corrected, is in Tae-Young's favor. Does anyone disagree there was also another judging error, that if corrected, goes against Tae-Young and actually drops his score?

The major point is that FIG has really screwed this one up. They should have never gone back to the videotapes. The only reason I'm glad they did is it proves the standings as originally awarded are correct.

Posted by: whey from on August 31, 2004 03:32 PM

I'm sick and tired of people who don't even bother to find out the whole story making judgements.

What happened at the Olympic Games...Paul Hamm won the Gold medal...South Korea then went back and filed an appeal (this is not allowed by the rules). Why they were allowed to file this is beyond me...the people who should be sanctioned are those in the FIG who let this so called "controversy" happen. Paul Hamm has not done anything wrong here...he followed the rules and stuck to his beliefs. The rules state video review is not allowed in gymnastics (had it been allowed Yang would have finished well out of the medals). The rules also state if you are going to appeal a score it must be during the competition...which it wasn't.

For the record, Yang got a 9.712 for his PB routine which is an outstanding score in today's gymnastics...this score he received was much higher than any PB score he has ever received in international competition...he thinks he deserved a 9.812?!?!? That's a joke...Yang also wants to push his teammate down to the bronze medal...

Scores are final and official at the end of the competition...the only thing that can take away a medal is for tape review is not allowed...Paul Hamm won the Gold medal and deserves it...(he is reigning World's not like his Olympic medal is a fluke)...END OF STORY!

Posted by: Sarah from on September 6, 2004 01:03 PM

Sarah, you know as well as I do that there was no re-evaluation of the tape - this is about two judges making an error in their scoring calculation. No one's saying Hamm is anything but an exceptional gymnast, but he should have given over the gold to Yang.

Posted by: Sterling from on September 6, 2004 02:49 PM

The mistake in starting value WAS discovered on video. Starting value is determined during the routine in case a gymnast makes a mistake and leaves out or is unable to perform an element that was originally planned. That is why they have judges for it. Controversies like this are why tape reviewing is against the rules. It opens up a big smelly can of worms. In this case it comes down to this: If you allow reviewing of the tape, Yang gains .1 for the starting value, but loses .2 for the fourth hold. Hamm still gets the gold, and Yang LOSES his bronze. I really think it is horrible to berate and insult Paul Hamm. He is the champion. He played by the rules, and he won. Period.

Posted by: Liz from on September 10, 2004 12:43 PM

Liz - this was a judging error that did not involve evaluation of the competitors, but rather of the arithmetic in SCORING the competitors, after the fact.

We're not going back and evaluation EITHER Yang or Hamm - we're noting a procedural error by the judges, which the judges admit. There's a distinction there that you are deliberately refusing to acknowledge.

Hamm did not win.

Posted by: Sterling from on September 10, 2004 05:52 PM

i love what paul hamm did in the oly he crashed and rose like a diamond.he was phenomenal,inspiring never gave up and he got it.he is an inspiration of the challenges we encounter everyday.whatever happened with the judging it's not his fault. if they are gonna rejudge the korean he made a mistake anyway sowhat the heck?

Posted by: steve from on September 10, 2004 09:06 PM

Paul Hamm deserved that metal. If the judges had scored Yang correctly, even with the extra 10th of a point, he would still have only won the silver because of the four holds in his performance. It's not Paul's fault that the judges made an error, and taking this metal away from him would have caused serious conterversy. (even more than the scoring has). It's not his fault, and everyone needs to leave him alone and start placing the blame on the right people.

Posted by: Terrie from on September 11, 2004 05:38 PM

to the people that keep mentioning yang's extra hold. paul hamm fell on his but and crashed into the judges table...from what i've read, that should have been at least a 1 point deduction. no where near the score he received. definitely not a "gold medal" performance.

Posted by: debbie from on September 13, 2004 03:38 PM

I happened across this BB while trying to get information on the 'controversy' and was surprised to see that most of the posts, even those against the righteous gold medal winner, were written by adults.
The basis for my search efforts is so that I may write what I hope is a scathing rebuttal to one clown's 'commentary' on who also sets himself up as judge and jury as to what Paul Hamm should have done.
But now I've found an opportunity to practice on someone who appears to be a Celizic clone, right here!
Mr(or Ms) your opening post you write that you're 'put-off' by Hamm's 'behavior'; you caption the link to Grandi's smarmy effort to lay the onus for his organization's lameness on the athlete as 'sympathetic'; you erroneously attribute the USOC's reply to Ueberroth while failing to provide a link to Jim Scherr's letter; you conclude that Hamm 'did not win' even though you concede that, by the rules, the medal is his. Then, after banishing the 21 yr old lad to 'eternal scorn', you proceed to attempt to refute every bit of well-meant opposition by referring to the same rules you so cavalierly dismissed.
Who are you, dude?!
By all accounts, the facts are that the starting-value error could only have been determined by reviewing the video tapes. The tapes apparently also show that the judges failed to fault Mr Yang for an excessive 'stop' in his routine which, had they done so, would not have had a net effect on the final medal order.
Your (unstated) pedantic ('A' judges vs. 'B' judges) efforts notwithstanding, are you so omniscient as to presume what went through Hamm's mind as he evaluated the bungled scoring, all of it, and determined that the gold was rightfully his? I think not.
There's a nasty, unfounded, and indefensible tone to your and your ilk's attack on Paul Hamm - the any-way-you-slice-it winner of the 2004 Olympic men's all-around gymnastics competition - that's eeriely reminiscent of a previous administration. You lose this time. But fear not, Slick, your gal will get her shot four years hence; and maybe by that time some people in the country will be ready for the neo-Stalinist mindset that portends.
In the meantime, and with all due apologies to Tom Durkin (when providing the exclamation point to Da Hoss's 1998 Breeders' Cup Mile win)- Paul Hamm, in one night, "...the greatest comeback since Lazarus!"

Posted by: Mike Rehak from on September 13, 2004 11:47 PM

Boy, you are an imbecile.

Posted by: Sterling from on September 14, 2004 12:06 AM

I agree with the previous post that Paul Hamm is the winner of the competition and that fact should be accepted. I also agree that people are making too much out of one error made by the judges because it came at a crucial time in the competition, however people need to realize these errors creep into every gymnastics competition but effectively balance them selves out at the end. It's like a bad call in tennis or football. You cant go back and re-review each play for potential errors in judgement or the game would never be over. Yes there was an error in the start value, and yes there was an error in not deducting enough points for the extra hold, that would have resulted in Hamm still winning the gold. Accept it for what it was and move on.
It was not the only judging error in the men's allround. But you dont see every other competitor who was the victim of a bad call filing an appeal. That is because there are rules to prevent endless litigation attempts to appeal results and legally claim a medal outside of the field of play.
If all the errors were caught at the time and corrected all of the final positions would have been different.
So my point is that at some point you have to accept that any process that involves human subjective input is going to have some flaws from time to time, and also that in this case the error on the start value and the error in not properly taking the full deductions balanced themselves out. It was a fair decision in the end even though it was arrived at in a very lopsided and seemingly unfair way.
The real problem I have is that Paul Hamm, who I met this past thursday at my company's office in Columbus Oh, was not very gracious in his interviews. I agree with him that he should keep his gold medal unless ordered to surrender it, this because I feel he won it fairly. But I feel as though his attitude was one of, it's mine and I am better then the koreans, type mentality that showed is inability to think of how other people were feeling in this mess.
I am fairly certain that the Korean gymnast truly feels he was robbed of the gold and the glory so I am also sure that all this attention of having to try to go to the CAS to earn his medal is emabrrassing to him as well. What athlete wants to earn a gold medal in court a month after the olympics are over? What Paul could have done is keep in mind that it is an honor to be in the olympics and to win a gold medal a greater honor even if he did fairly earn it and his tone and attitude should be more gracious and understanding of other people. He came across as arogant and unrelenting and self centered and I ams ure that is because he knows the rules are in his favor. If he truly was in jeopardy of losing the medal I am sure he would have tried to sound more vulnerable to gain sympathy votes, but since his position is secure he acts as if he is the king.
So final statement, Paul won the gold medal, but lost in the attitude department. Paul, try to think of someone else besides your self. You could have defended your position but still come across as honorable.
And sterling........please get a life. There are more important things in the world then this crap.

Posted by: Chfman from on September 14, 2004 03:03 AM

I should get a life? You spent as much time writing (but apparently not editing) your comment as I've spent writing on this topic. And you're not even a contributor here. Maybe you should get a life?

Posted by: Sterling from on September 14, 2004 04:50 AM

Sterling a Neo-Stalinist? Now that must have hurt.

I'm really loving this thread -- Thank you Google.

Posted by: Stefan Geens from on September 14, 2004 06:44 AM

People just need to accept that Paul Hamm won! doesn't anybody know that once the contest is over it's over? No matter what people say, Paul Hamm still won! Besides, Yang Tae-yung had an extra hold, he could have finished out of the medals completely. and Terrie, you arent scored on how you do individually, but if you had been paying attention you would have figured that out. and sterling, SHUT THE HELL UP!!!!! Paul deserves it!

Posted by: kittycoo from on September 14, 2004 10:13 PM

Stefan - I suspect Google's mostly sending us 13-year-old girls who suffer from crushes on Paul Hamm.

Posted by: Sterling from on September 14, 2004 10:38 PM

You mean "batondiva" Kittycoo from Georgia? I thought that was a guy. I'm sure she wouldn't mind if Paul had an extra hold on her.

Posted by: Stefan Geens from on September 14, 2004 10:48 PM

I think we're getting visits from a lot of teenaged athletes who have been raised on a win-at-any-cost philosophy. Maybe when they're older they'll understand this. Let me try again to explain it to them:

No one here is saying that Paul Hamm is anything less than an exceptional, world-class gymnast. What I'm arguing is that integrity and honesty are more important than gymnastics.

The videotape argument that's been raised is spurious. Yang Tae Young is disputing the "start score" he was given in the Parallel Bars - that refers not to the evaluation of his performance, but rather the default scoring of the chosen routine. It is not in dispute by any party that he was mis-scored in this matter by one judge, who incorrectly and inexplicably assigned a value of 9.9 instead of 10.00.

By the rules, as I said above, Hamm won. South Korea erred in not protesting the results within the prescribed time frame. However, I did not build my argument on legalistic terms, but on moral ones. Unless Hamm is completely delusional, he knows that Young earned that gold medal. And when you know something like that, to fail to act on it is a terrible, terrible thing.

Paul Hamm had the opportunity to trade in that gold medal and be remembered forever as a man of integrity and honor, as well as a great gymnast. Instead he'll be remembered as petty and small-minded. I'm not sure he's old or wise enough to understand the consequences of what he's done, and it's a shame the opportunists at the USOC couldn't help him see it.

Posted by: Sterling from on September 15, 2004 12:20 AM

Let's try this again (I'll try to tone down the imbecility this time) using facts as we know them...according to every account but that of three members of the South Korean gymnastics group (see below) the error in the Start Value (SV) for Mr Yang's parallel bar routine was discovered two days after the event via a review of the videotapes thereof. That makes the tapes, and their review, the focal point of the controversy and anything but 'spurious'.
The 9.90 SV was determined after Mr Yang completed his routine by two judges who, at some later point (also at issue) admitted they erred and should have assigned an SV of 10.0. The two judges, Messrs. Bango and Buitrago Reyes, responsible for determining the degree of difficulty for the routine (the SV), comprised the "A" Panel of judges for the event. Six additional judges, the "B" Panel, were reponsible for evaluating each gymnast's performance of his respective routine. One of the B judges was a Mr Kim of South Korea. All eight judges were required to make what is inherently a subjective evaluation of each performance.
As it turns out, and based only on the errant SV, Mr Yang was denied the gold and had to settle for the bronze medal.
Subsequent to the review of the videotapes, the ultimate authority for gymnastics – IFG - suspended the two A judges and the non-voting judge-supervisor for the event, George Beckstead.
And Paul Hamm went home, his gold medal tarnished and his character besmirched by a few so-called pundits and their internet wannabe counterparts.
The South Korean account of the chronology of events differs dramatically from the popular version, as per this article:
As of this writing, and to the best of my knowledge, none of the suspended judges has been interviewed. In fact, the only comments we have from the two voting A judges is a heresay account from another American gymnastics judge who did not participate in the night's events, Harry Bjerke:
Based on all this, it seems that the real 'controversy' revolves around the actions of the one and only culprit in this fiasco, FIG. Here's an excerpt from its president, Bruno Grandi's 'sympathetic' letter to Hamm – "If, (according to your declarations to the press), you would return your medal to the Korean if the FIG requested it...". Poker, anyone?
And yet the FIG request never came, did it?
And, why exactly were the judges suspended? Was it because of an "honest mistake"? or their lack of undivided attention to Mr Yang's routine? or did they merely serve as convenient scape-goats for the FIG management staff? Are the suspended judges under a gag oder? If not, where's the always self-serving US news media on this one?

Posted by: Mike Rehak from on September 15, 2004 06:28 PM

Now with the gloves off...
In Post 36, Sterling writes:
'By the rules, as I said above, Hamm won.' Not true. In the relevant posts, you write:
'Hamm was awarded the gymnastics all-around gold in error...but Hamm didn't win' (Opener)
'Hamm deserves the silver medal' (Post #9)
'Hamm did not win.' (Post #24)

And...'Unless Hamm is completely delusional...'
You're the only one who's delusional because you and your collective cadre of self-annointed ethical police exhibit a myopic persistence in presuming to know what went through Hamm's mind and heart as he evaluated the information about the events surrounding his gold medal win. Unless you were privvy to the gymnast's decision-making process, you have neither the standing nor the right to tell him what he should have done. And that's the 'truly, terrible' thing.
Oh, btw, when you get a chance, can you post a copy of your letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.). As indignant as you appear to be over this issue, surely you conveyed your displeasure to a leading member of your own party, yes?
And don't call me 'Boy', Shirley. It appears that I've got about 20 years on you so that, during our respective teens, while you were 'flipping burgers', I was working at 50 Rock, at nights.

Posted by: Mike Rehak from on September 15, 2004 07:08 PM

How can you possibly care so much?

Posted by: Matthew from on September 15, 2004 07:55 PM

Whether something happened or not is not determined by whether someone viewed the videotape. But thank you for a very clear capsule of the events. The fact that the SV and the actual performance were evaluated by two different panels of judges actually strengthens my argument. It resembles what those of us in the financial services industry call a "Chinese Wall" - meaning there was little or no trafficking of information or sharing of interests between the two panels. It seems that the drawbacks of videotape re-evaluation after the fact fall entirely into the B panel area, not the A panel, which is simply setting the stage.

In your second post you raise no substantive counter to any of my arguments.

My point all along has been that Hamm won by the rulebook, but not in the true, higher sense. That is the whole point of this discussion, in case you didn't notice - that Hamm does not deserve the gold even though he won the event by the rules. For you to attempt some kind of semantical hedge by exploiting the necessarily thin line between these definitions is a weak tactic, and betrays a losing hand.

As for you not being a "boy", well, I suppose it's comforting to know that there's at least one person on the Internet over the age of 15 believes Hamm should keep the medal. However, I meant "boy" in the sense of "wow". According to Webster's: [3]c -- used interjectionally to express intensity of feeling {boy, what a game}

I don't think cleverness is working for you in this argument. Why don't you just try to state your case directly? It worked pretty well when you recapped the events leading to the bad decision.

Posted by: Sterling from on September 15, 2004 08:11 PM

I was surprised to see this issue still being so heatedly debated but thought I would weigh in on it. I have a few observations that none of you may care about but it will make me feel better to air them.

1st) All sports have rules. We learn to play by the rules and those that do win.

Both of my children are Competitive Gymnasts. I have a son and a daughter. They have learned that you may not agree with the judge’s score but that is what you receive and what you must live with. You strive to be as perfect a possible but your fate is in the hands of human judges.

2nd) I am sure that it would be difficult for any one of us to know exactly how we would act/react if put in the exact position that Paul Hamm has been put in. His frustration with the whole situation that should have been one of the biggest highlights of his life has no where to go but to come out as it has. I could see myself getting short, snappy, and not being the most endearing of personalities when the only thing I am being asked is about this entire situation that I had no control over.

3rd) I don't believe there would have been nearly the controversy had the situation been reversed and it was Paul who's start value was not correct and ended up with the Bronze Medal.

I hope that things improve and the issues from these games are resolved so that when my kids make it to the Olympics they don't have to go through this.

Congratulations Paul & Carly along with all of you hardworking Teammates.

Posted by: Sydney from on September 16, 2004 06:35 PM

Thanks, Sydney. Responding to your third point, if we as Americans are subject to unfair scrutiny then we should rise to the occasion.

I also think Hamm would have enjoyed a far greater reward if he had surrendered the medal. It's called "magnanimity".

Posted by: Sterling from on September 16, 2004 06:54 PM

I'd agree the two mistakes were different...

In one case, the 'pre-judged' technical complexity of the intended routine was worth 10.0. The gymnast did attempt that routine (i.e., didn't miss out some very complicated move), so 'should' have got a 10.0 technical score rather than 9.9 --and the two judges admit they made a mistake by giving it a 9.9. No video replay was *needed* for the judges to admit that mistake, even if it was a video replay that in fact alerted the world to the mistake. Had the team been paying attention, they could have got the mistake corrected without a video replay.

In the second case, the judges missed an error, which, had they seen it, would have led them to reduce the athlete's score. In that case, a video replay would have been needed to persuade the judges that they were wrong.

In both cases, what happened first was bad judging. Judges made errors in missing a fault, judges made errors in scoring a technical performance. In the technical performance mis-scoring, there was the additional error in bad oversight by the head judge and the Korean team.

The video review stuff does seem to be a red herring. For the technical scoring error, we didn't *need* video review to spot it. The question becomes 'what would you feel if we had no video of the event.'

In that case, I'd argue the only correct course of action would be to melt down the medal and ban gymnastics as a terminally boring, and yet cruel and unusual, abuse of pre-pubescent adults.

Posted by: Charles from on September 16, 2004 07:11 PM

And it was fair that the value of a move in two of the US Gymnasts High Bar Routines were downgraded in value from what they were at the World Championships just a few months before? This judging decision cost Blaine Wilson his chance at qualifying for the Individual High Bar Event.

And I believe that we all know where everyone who has already posted stands on this issue.

Posted by: Sydney from on September 16, 2004 10:44 PM

I've never been to this site before. Please, people who are reasonable, don't indulge these irrational loudmouths who chew people up and spit them out to make themselves feel important and try to get attention. When you respond to their bait, you empower them. We don't need that. They're not interested in what you have to say, no matter how much sense you are making. And some seem to have good minds. It's a waste, really.

Posted by: danny from on September 19, 2004 05:41 PM

In gymnastics there are two panels of judges. It is the ‘A’ panel that sets the start value. The ‘A’ panel is made up of two judges. The first thing the ‘A’ panel does is to determine if the basic requirements for a routine have been met. Next they must determine the number of bonus points to be awarded. Bonus points are awarded when the gymnast performs difficult skills or difficult skills in combination. When the bonus points are added to the base score the start value is set. The maximum value for a routine is ten (10.0).

Many routines do not start from a ten because the gymnast doesn’t have the ability to perform the necessary difficulty required. In other cases routines start from below a ten because a gymnast did not perform what he intended, did not perform the skills with the required proficiency, or chose to leave something out.

Much of what the ’A’ panel decides is subjective. Was the skill performed in a piked position or a straight position? Did the twist finish within the required degree? Were the skills sufficiently connected? Was the strength hold held long enough?

In the case in question, the disputed tenth has to do with s starting position for a skill on the parallel bars. In judging Yang Tae Young’s parallel bar routine both judges thought they saw the same skill, a double back between the bars that took off from the hands. What he really did was the same double back, but instead of taking off from the hands, he took off from his forearms. The skill he actually performed is harder, worth one tenth more than the other, and therefore the disputed start value.

Video review was required to discover what really happened. There was a mistake. Everyone admits that. But, as we all know, there was another mistake uncovered by video review.

At the Athens Olympics the scores along with the start value were clearly posted on a lighted scoreboard shortly after each routine was completed. It is at this time that the gymnast and his coaches are required to make any protests in writing about start value issues. Protests need to be resolved before the gymnasts begin competing on their next event.

The time sensitive nature of the protest rule is to insure that competitors have an accurate understanding of their position in the competition. Athletes do not compete in a vacuum. That is what makes athletics compelling. They are affected by what is happening around them. Athletes can be spurred to greatness or athletes can fold under the different psychological pressures involved.

Paul Hamm was not the last competitor in the meet by accident. He earned this position because of his first place finish in the preliminaries. The purpose is to give him the advantage of knowing what he needs to do in order to win. In the moments leading up to his final routine, his coach told him what score he needed.

Directly after the men’s all-around Yang Tae Young, who only had to do an average high bar routine in order to make it impossible for Paul to catch him, admitted that he performed that last routine complacently. Who knows how each of them would have performed if the tenth had been added beforehand? Maybe Paul would have been even more brilliant, maybe Yang would have been more complacent. And that’s the point. No one will ever know.

Posted by: marco from on September 20, 2004 03:17 AM

Sterling, I have to admit that Marco makes a reasonably compelling case. What I didn't realise until now was that the two judges who erroneously gave the chap's routine a 9.9 basis were the only judges scoring the basis. No one gave him a 10.0 at all. Until the video was reviewed, there was no indication that the routine was a 10.0 and not a 9.9 -- so Hamm's point about video review is not so stupid after all. Whether he acted in a sportsmanlike manner, of course, is a different question.

Posted by: Felix from on September 20, 2004 06:27 AM

This article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer suggests that (1) video review might have been required to spot the starting value error (2) however, such review would have been OK if it had taken place before the next rotation of events (3) video review of scoring the routine itself is not allowed: "such scrutiny cannot be made during a review of the start value."

So, the video issue remains a red herring (if for a different reason than I suggested above. That's what comes on relying just on a memefirst post and comments for information).

We're back to the start, then. The 'errors' are different. And Paul Hamm missed the opportunity to do an Irina Karavaeva. She learned that a judging error had wrongly given her the title at the 2001 trampoline world championships, and asked asked that it be given to the rightful winner, Anna Dogonadze. The results were officially changed.

And gymnastics remains a cruel and unusual, yet terminally boring, abuse of pre-pubescent adults.

Posted by: Charles from on September 20, 2004 01:21 PM


While you are certainly entitled to find gymnastics boring, your other assertion, that the athletes are pre-pubescent, is incorrect on the men's side. The vast majority of male competitors at the Athen's Olympics were in their twenties.

You also seem to want to allow for an 'out-of-rules' review of video for the purpose of changing the outcome of a competion after it is over, while at the same time invoking the rules that would prevent video review and evaluation of the other mistake.

Posted by: marco from on September 20, 2004 03:08 PM

Marco-- no, it is just that my understanding (based on an in-depth review of a four paragraph piece in that must-read font of wisdom for the gymnastics community, the Cleveland Plain Dealer) is that video review to clear up technical points mistakes prior to the next round of competition is allowed, but could not have been used to also review the missed performance mistake, so that the fact that a mistake in the routine was missed is a bit of a red herring in the context of this debate. An 'in the rules' review would have left the Korean ahead.

And yes, male gymnasts are older, but it would be sexist to allow the men alone to go ahead while banning the women's competition. Much better for the world at large just to let the whole sport die away.

Posted by: Charles from on September 20, 2004 03:47 PM

You are the one berating people for their comments. Thats what I call crap and you need to get a life. Seems to me you are having fun with putting people down who do not share your point of view more then actually debating the issue.
Your seeking enjoyment from bashing people, not a adult discussion on the subject. That's sad. If you had any life to speak of I doubt you would spend so much time on this subject. You should accept what the situation is because no amount of arguing is going to change it.
If you can do a better job then get yourself certified and become a judge or start a chain reaction to overhaul the system rather then pout on the sidelines because you dont like the results.
Your a sad person.

Posted by: Chfman from on September 21, 2004 09:12 PM

I think I'm ready to name a new fallacy - we can call it the Mapes Fallacy (after the storyline CBS is preparing to escape the forged documents scandal). The Mapes Fallacy is any attempt to contest a point by painting your opponent as being completely fixated on, and invested in, his argument. To attempt a Mapes Fallacy ploy, you must indicate that your opponent's entire universe is composed of nothing but the topic of the argument.

Thus, because I think Paul Hamm should have returned the gold medal, CHFMAN insists that I should dedicate my entire life to improving judging in the sport of gymnastics. Incredibly, he seems to consider this a coherent argument.

Since he raises no other interesting or compelling points, I will not bother to deal with his post in greater detail. I will, however, suggest to other visitors delivered to Memefirst by a search engine that this is not a gymnastics site. We don't care even the slightest about gymnastics. The topic here is Paul Hamm's MORAL obligations and interests, OK?

Posted by: Sterling from on September 22, 2004 12:01 AM


I agree with you that there are some disturbing aspects surrounding women’s gymnastics, but I do love the sport. I believe there are Olympic events where only one of the sexes competes. Do women wrestle or box in the Olympics? There are other events where only women compete. In any case gymnastics is probably going to remain an Olympic sport. At the Athens Games the gymnastics audience was given a little history lesson before the meets began. I didn’t know this, but gymnastics was one of the original five (I think that was the number) sports. So it has been around in one form or another for a very long time.

I did read the article you cite. What I understood the judge to say was yes he made a mistake, that video review is allowed in start value issues, but only timely review defined by the rules, and no video allowed for other issues. I agree with that. Those are the rules. I believe the judge’s position (a consistent one) is that both rules should be followed and the outcome of the competition should stand. My only point to you was that if one rule is broken to determine a ‘fair’ score for Yang Tae Young’s routine as actually performed, then why not the other?

In my first post I tried to explain the reason behind the ‘timely’ part of the protest rule. What seems obvious, to me at least, is if you go back and change some part of a competition, it is impossible to know what would have happened after that point. Maybe you believe it is improbable that much of anything would have changed. I was there, and the number of improbable occurrences in that meet was astounding. And I really don’t see how we can determine the outcome of an Olympic event based on what would have probably happened.

Now, I believe it is time to discuss the judges of the ‘B’ panel. The general belief is that this panel marks down all the deductions they witness in a given routine and when these are subtracted from the start value set by ‘A’ panel a final score is reached. Neat and simple right? But wait. What if the ‘A’ panel believes a skill is piked enough to devalue it from the intended skill done with a straight body, and in a sense defines it as a pike. Then, presumably, the ‘B’ panel needs to know that, because a ‘pike’ shouldn’t be deducted for being piked. These panels work much more in concert than most people understand. The ‘B’ panel has incredible latitude. What they are doing is more along the lines of ranking the various athletes. Many experts believe that even if the start value for the Korean had been a ten, his final score would have remained virtually the same. The ‘B’ panel can in effect ‘correct’ for the ‘A’ panel. If you study the routine, then review the supposed deductions, you find that this is exactly what occurred. Two days after the event in question we have this—Philipe Silacci, spokesman for FIG, on Friday confirmed that the higher start value would not necessarily have resulted in a higher score. “It could happen,” Silacci said, but added, “It’s also speculation”

Back to the timing issue. There is another, even more important reason, for the ‘timely’ part of the protest rule. If we allow such protests and tape review after the competition is over and the medals handed out, then just this sort of mess occurs. Both athletes have become the object of ridicule, one being called by some a poor sport and selfish, the other a whiner and poor loser. They have both been put into a painful, ‘no win’ situation where no matter what they do they will be criticized. The fans do not have a clear champion. The judges look like idiots. Everyone loses.

I recognize that no one will probably change his or her mind as a result of anything being written here. I just wish that people could, at least, understand that there are different points of view that have validity. I wish that people, who do not know what is in an athlete’s heart, could respect that athlete’s decision without making assumptions about his character. As the Code of Points for gymnastics tells the judges, if you are not sure give the gymnast the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by: marco from on September 22, 2004 01:34 AM


(1) your considered response to my puerile attack on gymnastics has left me feeling, well, puerile. In weak defense, that *is* the nature of the site...

(2) I'd have to say I think I agree with you that people of good will could disagree. Certainly, Hamm has it by the rules, and while I think there is a difference between the judging mistakes, how big is that difference is probably a matter of opinion.

I'd put it a different way, then: Hamm could have come out smelling like roses, world renowned good egg, etc etc, if he'd given up the gold. I hope that, if I was presented with the opportunity, I'd value that over the medal. But then, I've never been in contention for first place in a school running match, never mind the Olympics, so the point is somewhat moot...

Posted by: Charles from on September 22, 2004 01:23 PM

As a Dad and former gymnasts it is sad to think that anyone can distort the true results of any competition in order to create discontent in the minds of our children. The lessons learned here can be viewed in many different ways resulting in many different lessons learned. The only true result and one which we should teach our children throughout the world, competitive or not, is that there are rules (laws) which must be followed. Those that attempt to break the rules to gain something are called felons. Those that live by the rules (laws) are called winners. Paul Hamm is the winner in this situation. Anyone that feels differently apparently wishes to live by a different set of rules (laws). My suggestion to those of you who feel you can live by your own rules of law rather than your Governing body is simple. Go to a country where all can live by there own rules. You will find no Democracy or Republic for which to stand. No God, no rights as individuals, no constitution, a judiciary that can change the will of the people as they see fit - not the people. Wait - This is what the liberal left would like to see happen to the U.S.A.! So, in the end this topic has gone the way of everything else. Politics. Vote Republican or your life will be controlled by the Government.

Posted by: Richard Van Dyke from on September 23, 2004 08:27 PM

Paul Hamm for those of you that may be armchair analysts has worked extremely hard to get to the level he is at. How do I know? I have a son who is a gymnast and I see what he and every other serious gymnast goes through. In fact Paul, his brother Morgan, Blaine Wilson, Raj Bovsar and coach Miles Avery worked with my son along with the other campers at a gymnastics camp this summer. They did not just show up to make an appearance they help the gymnasts. He did win the gold metal. Why? The Korean, when reviewed on replay added one too many hand stands into his high bar preformance, which is a deduction, and was NOT deducted for the extra handstand. So, he would NOT have, and should NOT, beaten Paul for the gold metal.

Posted by: Rick from on September 23, 2004 11:07 PM

Felix and Sterling need to get a clue. You know nothing about gymnastics, even if you claim you are or were gymnasts. Americans are being stereotyped as mean people and as a famous person once said "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!" Paul has Gold around his neck, and even if he has to give the metal back, will still be the winner in the eyes of those who really know what's going on!

Posted by: Rick from on September 23, 2004 11:31 PM

This is the most boring thread I've ever read on MemeFirst.

All I care about it whether or not Paul Hamm is gay, and whether or not he is a robot.

He speaks in a manner to suggest that he might be both.

Don't get me wrong, I still like him and his brother. Thanks, Morgan, for reclaiming "Morgan" as a man's name.

Posted by: Eric from on September 24, 2004 03:47 AM

If somebody accuses somebody else of being Hitler, can I shut down comments on this thread?

Posted by: Sterling from on September 24, 2004 04:01 AM

What do you mean he won "in error?" A team of judges awarded him the gold. The South Korean team did not follow the rules, so why should Paul Hamm give back the gold? He earned it and he deserves it. Besides, didn't the gymnasts know the value of their routines before they started? And didn't Yang Tae Young make mistakes that were not deducted?

Posted by: Sue from on September 24, 2004 01:18 PM

Sterling --won't do the Hitler thing, but if I call you Pandora, will that suffice?

Posted by: charles from on September 24, 2004 01:18 PM

Oh my God,the more I read the more I think my head is going to explode.

"There's a process, and rules for this, to make sure the right person gets the right medal. They failed because the South Korean team didn't do its due dillies." They failed, meaning the South Korean's failed, right? Please tell me you aren't blaming Paul Hamm for the South Koreans' mistake? Clearly, the right person did get the medal.

"Hamm has a higher obligation as a sportsman to correct the error, or forfeit his own honor." It is not Paul Hamm's duty to correct the error of the judges.

"But Dan, that's a cop-out. Two golds mean two winners. That's the sort of "make everyone feel good" nonsense that is used to remove the necessity for individuals to make hard choices." You say this but you fail to realize that the South Korean's had the opportunity to change the outcome and didn't do it. It was their responsibilty, not Hamm's.

I seriously think I need an asprin. I'll bet you are the same people who blame others for your own shortcomings.

Posted by: Sue from on September 24, 2004 01:27 PM

"Hamm's comments are unbelievably self-absorbed, and an example of situational ethics."

Again, head exploding while reading the absurdity posted here. I am picturing a bunch of overweight, underexercised people blaming Oreo cookies and McDonalds for making you fat. There is no situational ethics here. Hamm won. The votes are in, the event is over. Hamm won. By the way, so did George W. Bush in 2000. Are you over that yet?

Posted by: Sue from on September 24, 2004 01:33 PM

"However, after going back and reviewing the tapes (which they shouldn't have done anyway), they later agreed that it should have been a 10.0. However, if one is going to argue that it is fine to change a subjective score (which a start value is) based on a videotape after a confirmation, then it would seem fair to correctly deduct the MANDATORY .2 deduction for the extra hold."

Finally, the voice of reason. Does anyone else get this?

Posted by: Sue from on September 24, 2004 01:36 PM

Charles - your refusal to call me Hitler when I asked so nicely reminds me of HITLER! You are just like the Nazis, you bastard!

Posted by: Sterling from on September 24, 2004 01:36 PM

Oh, gee. Look at that. Isn't it unfortunate that someone invoked Godwin's Law and also did something so unpleasant as to engage in petty namecalling? I'm afraid I'll have to shut down comments on this thread now.

Posted by: Sterling from on September 24, 2004 01:39 PM

Hold on a second, let's discuss this.

Godwin's law says nothing about closing comment streams, merely about who automatically loses the argument. This does not mean we know yet who the winner is. It might mean that we no longer care.

I am not comfortable closing any comment stream in a site that is all about the competition of ideas. I have no qualms about removing comment spam and personal harassment, but I am loth to cease the discussion on something other people are clearly more passionate about than the post's author.

Not responding to a continuing litany of pro-Hamm comments is not the same as admitting defeat, just that you've moved on. In the meantime, I vote for open comment streams on all posts in perpetuity.

Posted by: Stefan Geens from on September 25, 2004 02:00 PM

Paul Hamm deserved to win that medal 110% He came back from an unbelievable and disastrous fall in the vault and put everything he had into his last 2 routines. I don't know about anyone else, but don’t you think it takes a lot courage and strength to come back from that and put your mind into the events ahead other then what just happened? He did nothing wrong at all and shouldn’t be harassed for the mistakes of the OFFICIALS. it was not his FAULT but the OFFICIALS that the South Korean was wrongly scored and docked a tenth of a point from his starting value. I can see how a lot of people would think that was wrong and how he would of won if they would of started him from the right start value, BUT he still wouldn’t have won! in his routine on the parallel balls he had four holds, when you are only allowed 3. That there is an automatic mandatory 2 tenths of a deduction from his score, if the officials once again wouldn’t of screwed up and caught another one of their mistakes the South Korean still would have lost! They didn’t step up when they should have to complained. Since the complaint was filed after the fact, they lost out! They knew when they should have complained but didn’t. If they are going to make Paul Hamm give back his medal for something he had no control over then they might as well take away everyone else’s medals and have the whole all around competition all over again! I’m sick and tired of hearing the people of America say that Paul Hamm isn’t a hero because he wont give up his medal. If I remember correctly, he said if ordered by the FIG he WOULD RETURN IT! BUT the FIG hasn’t told him to do any such thing so there for he doesn’t have to and shouldn’t have to return it. EVERYONE OUT THERE WHO KEEPS SAYING THAT PAUL HAMM IS A DISGRACE TO THE UNITED STATES SHOULD SHUT THEIR MOUTHS! I DONT SEE ANY OF YOU GUYS DOING WHAT HE IS DOING AND GOING THROUGH THE KIND OF CRAP THAT HE HAS HAD TO GO THROUGH! Think about it before you guys go and run your mouths and scream insults about him.

Posted by: Shannon from on September 25, 2004 10:57 PM

Hurrah for the competition of ideas.

Posted by: Eric from on September 25, 2004 11:39 PM

"The competition of ideas"? It's an exhausted topic that's drawing repetitive, unthinking clutter from people who don't address the fundamental topic.

More importantly, it's my post. I wrote it, I own it. If I want to shut down comments on it, or even delete it, that's my decision to make, and you've got a lot of fucking nerve reopening them without talking to me about it.

Posted by: Sterling from on September 25, 2004 11:59 PM

Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough

Posted by: Felix from on September 26, 2004 03:26 AM