Losing is frustrating
The past several days have been a blur of activity on the Olympic front. The 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea are a reminder of how sports of this calibre can bring together people from all over the world.
It can also be a reminder that in a split second the work of the athletes can come to a complete stop.
The Games are the peak of any athletic career. Losing based on a judge’s decision can be frustrating. But so can losing out by one one-hundredth of a second, having a non-simultaneous touch (which can happen in swimming), having a clock get wiped at the last second (actually happened) or even falling.
The Games are rough, and what the athletes do is incredible, but there will only be three winners.
Getting rid of judged sports in the Olympics will not eradicate the disappointment that athletes can feel if they don’t medal.
There have been some high-profile judging scandals in the Olympic Games’ history, including the most well-known scandal from the 2002 Winter Olympics.
These scandals are exceptions, not the rule; they don’t happen as frequently as we think they do. The scores awarded to the competitors are based on actual parameters.
These judges are chosen from former athletes and coaches who know the sport extensively. It can be easy for us to criticize from our couch, but the athletes know going into the competition that their sport is judged. All you can do is to go out there and do your best.
Out with judged sports
The Olympic Games are a spectacle, no doubt. It’s a time for countries to show off their best athletes and vie for the highest medal counts and most prestigious wins.
But what about when those sports are rigged, with judges deciding one team should win regardless of the actual performance?
In sports like curling and hockey there are no judges. Those sports are won based on rocks closest to the button and pucks in the net. That can’t be fudged.
But in sports like figure skating and freestyle skiing and snowboarding, athletes’ skills are evaluated by a human judge. That’s subjective by definition, no matter how “objective” the process appears.
As a huge figure skating fan, it’s hard to say, but it’s time for judged sports to be removed from the Olympics.
Reform has been attempted. The entire evaluation process for figure skating was revamped after Canadian pairs skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, silver medalists at the 2002 Olympics, were awarded the gold medal after allegations surfaced that the competition was fixed.
There were calls of judge bias in PyeongChang during the ice dance free skate on Feb. 20 prior to Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir taking home the gold.
There will always be bias in sports judged by humans. Everyone has different preferences.
It’s time for the Olympics to take a hard look and rethink the inclusion of judged sports.