Another Rip Off?

If you’re an avid Olympics watcher, you’re probably wondering what’s up with the women’s gymnastics? First off, you’ve got Alicia Sacramone who did two vaults where she stuck both landings and she lost the bronze to Cheng Fei on the vault — even though Fei collapsed on her second vault.

Now you have Nastia Liukin and He Kexin in a tie on the uneven parallel bars — and all this comes with a scoring change in gymnastics where the “Perfect 10” is no more. Moreover, nowadays in Olympic gymnastics, there are no ties. The tie breaker procedure basically erases the highest and lowest scores from the individual judge scores, and then adds up the remaining scores. Kexin had two higher scores, so Liukin got the silver.

The other thing is that the judges at this Olympic competition are not from countries who have competitors in the games. This is supposed to increase a level of fairness, but what happens is because they don’t have experience scoring athletes at this level, they tend to judge too harshly for some, and too softly for others. It seems every four years the Federation of International Gymnastics revises the rules for scoring, and it often results in odd things like those mentioned above.

Bela Karolyi — the larger-than-life coach and now commentator — called what happened to Sacramone a “rip off,” and I agree. It wasn’t just Fei’s fall, but all the other things she did that should have been deducted (but weren’t) that added to the rip off. If I were her coach, I would launch a formal protest, but maybe they went through the numbers (i.e., start values, first vault, and the like) and figured it wasn’t worth the fight.

Liukin, on the other hand, lost out on the gold due to a computer program — which calculated the tie breaker. She was rightly confused and slightly disappointed, but she knows the rules the govern the sport, so she just accepted it and went home with a silver — which, in her family, is a color the signifies “the worst.”

Considering all the money these athletes are going to make once they get home, however, I see a lot of gold in their immediate future.

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