Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Much as we whine about them, it must be hard to be a gymnastics judge. Part of me would love the job. You'd get to watch gymnastics all the time and when you had seniority, you'd get to travel all over the place to international meets. 
But the other part of me would hate it. It is all so, so subjective, yet it's the one time when it is really not a good idea to have a different opinion from those around you. I mean, look at the Aussie judge, the target of Valeri Liukin's vitriol. She has had a lot of trouble. Hate mail. Media interference. Internet forums have been full of people saying nasty things about her. Right or wrong, I bet she didn't think that kind of abuse would come with the job.
And you know, I am sure there are dodgy judges out there. There has to be. We know plenty of occasions where gymnasts have suffered because of what looks like faulty appraisal of their routines or blatant favoritism. So, today’s list of quotes are from judges, gymnasts and coaches, talking about the subjective aspect of the sport and what it’s like to judge and be judged…..

"When you judge internationally and you're way off from your panel (of judges), you're going to look like you're cheating or look like you don't know what's going on.
 And, your panel may not be judging on the up and up. 
You have to work with the panel internationally more than just 'I have the right score.' Domestically, it's more cut and dry. But when we judge internationally, there's nothing cut and dry about it. When you're judging internationally, you don't want to be singled out. People ask, 'Will we see you a lot on TV? Will they have the camera on you?' I'm like, let's hope not because, if they do and it's not a glancing look at me, then there's trouble."
Steve Butcher, International Judge. Knox News

“I have a problem with the judges. In my opinion, I don't feel they are trained well enough, I don't think they like me. I was gold medalist in Athens on the beam and at the European Championships, and here I am only third. I'm very disappointed and unhappy with them."
Catalina Ponor, World Championships press conference.

''Let me tell you, having a worldwide audience of over 2 million plus looking on to see if the judges make a mistake, that's not the sort of pressure I'm hoping for!''
Daren Wolfe, Olympic Judge

“I don’t understand why the little people always have to suffer for the decisions of the big people.” 
Maria Olaru

“You have to have competent people evaluating the athlete, not the housewives! 
Bela Karolyi.

"If she'd got the gold medal, he wouldn't be noticing Helen's judging.  But the result is not what he likes so he then goes looking for a scapegoat.” 
Jane Allen on Valeri Liukin's criticism of the Australian Judge.

"I do not have any complaint about my score. The only thing I can say is that the USA got something more than it deserved. I am sad and bitter. I felt that I had the medal in my hand and I lost it.  Everyone got a fair judgement, with the exception of the USA, who got a little bit more." 
Marian Dragulescu, Romanian Gymnast on Hamm’s controversial AA win.

“I’d love to go, honey, but I'm protesting the crooked Olympics judges. To make my point, I'm boycotting movies with ABBA soundtracks until Alicia Sacramone gets the bronze medal in the vault she richly deserves." 
Fresno bee

"My perception is that, until the FIG really changes how judges are selected, there's going to be issues with what happens in the field of play. I believe they're headed in the right direction. It's like they're taking forever to wake up from a long nap, and they're having a hard time shaking the effects of sleep medication.” 
Steve Penny.

"I'm gonna get myself in a lot of trouble, but it's been like this forever. It hasn't changed: Countries have certain friends and friends help friends…I don't know what message was sent to the judges in between sessions, but I think we're a better team than the marks indicated.” 
Tony Smith, Canadian Men’s Coach (after Beijing Qualifications).

“It was brought to my attention that I gave the judges a death stare. Maybe I had a big toe on the line. I didn’t think I was out of bounds." 
Alicia Sacramone.

‘She should’ve been given a ten and she was standing there waiting to run back up to wave to the crowd, which is what you did if you got a perfect score. 
But she didn’t get the score she deserved.  
That feeling of having no control wasn’t good. 
I wanted to make sure that the kid who did the best job ended up on the podium at the end of the day.’ 
Helen Bingham on the moment she decided to become a gymnastics judge.

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, judging at the Olympics should be no different than competing at the Olympics. We expect perfection from our Olympic athletes, why should we not expect it from the Olympic Judges? After all are they not supposed to be the crème de la crème of the gymnastics officials?

    Unfortunately the athletes often do a much better job than the judges. A bit unfair when you consider how many years of training it takes to get there. When a competitor makes a mistake it usually costs them everything (Pavlova on vault?), what does it cost the judge to make such a mistake? Most of the time it seems almost nothing. A bit of bad press, perhaps a slap on the hand and everybody and their dog up in arms about how coaches are picking on them. Give me a break...