Ist der deutsche Turnsport noch zu retten...?

Is this issue only about the gold medal or about the  overall future of gymnastics...?
It certainly isn't only the discussion on 1 tenth - the whole judging world is mixed-up 

- by Eckhard Herholz, GYMmedia


Would you like to be Paul Hamm during these days...?

At the moment it is being discussed about his all-around gold medal at the International Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne. However, this gymnast had only done one thing - a great job:
He is one of the best gymnasts in the World - and completely innocent regarding this whole case. Paul Hamm is one of the very few gymnasts who is not "only" a great all-arounder but also manages to cope "Ivankov-like" with the specialists in the apparatus finals.

And now it is being argued about his top - performance...

The facts
The moment the bars routine of YANG, Tae Young took place in the all-around, the judging panels had already judged more than 100 routines. Also the routines of Hamm and his South Korean competitor had already been judged twice in the competitions I and IV.... and nonetheless the judges only saw a D- element (Morisue) instead of the higher- valued E- element (Belle) in the bars- routine of the South-Korean gymnast. Out of this followed a start value of only 9.9* instead of 10.00 (for a routine for which by the way the SV of 10.00 was given the two times before...?!). In the end this meant the third rank and only the bronze medal instead of the all-around victory for Yang, Tae Young.                                                                              )*
(In a close examination of the video it is even possible to agree with the judges as the poor form of the Korean gymnast Yang could be taken as tucked position only and not piked. This would explain why the judges decided for a bonus of 0.1 only and not 0.2.)

. Mistake or on purpose?
These are the facts: A mistake was made by the A- jury consisting of judge A1 (Benjamin Bango(ESP, FIG-judge) and A2 Oscar Buitrago (Colombia). The A1 judge was the head judge in the A-jury which decided on the value for the difficulty of the routine. The A- jury then handed over the start value which they had decided for the routine of Yang to the chair of the judging panel on parallel bars George Beckstead/ USA. He then confirmed the start value.                    
                                                                                 Well, although they are strictly being controlled, one could accuse the judges of "subjectivity" or "purpose"...but the A-judges, whose work clearly can be checked...?
Regarding minimal and concealable subjective manipulations, the B-jury certainly would have the better scenery for those!
Therefore these kind of accusations seem to be illogical and unobjective to me. The judges have made a mistake, they have judged a routine wrongly, everything else is just an assumption.

The gymnastics regulations state: Scores are fact decisions!
According to the judging regulations the final scores which were given in the all-around in Athens are fact decisions! Also a goal which was confirmed by a referee in a soccer match is a fact decision. No matter if the ball was one millimeter behind the goal line or not - the referee made a decision and it is a fact...! Everything would get extremely difficult if the results of a match still could be amended after the match is over or even a few weeks later!

Why did the Koreans officially raise their, certainly correct, objection only after the competition had ended...? If they would have officially addressed the jury during (!) the competition they would have had a better chance for the start value of the routine to be changed.

The regulations say: Protests against scores are not possible! The situation in gymnastics certainly would get difficult if everyone who doesn't like a score would be able to file a protest afterwards. There never would be a clear winner! Again: According to the currently known facts it was a human mistake and those things can happen. The judges in question were not sanctioned, they only were not chosen anymore for the apparatus finals. So it certainly is unobjective and not provable at the moment to see a US-deal which includes also the Colombian judge who lives in Ohio/USA behind all this.

So why a hearing in front of the CAS has been filed?
In the case of the all-around decision this hearing in front of the CAS is not understandable as the currently valid regulations in gymnastics don't include the opportunity to file a protest against scores afterwards. It is sad that this kind of judging mistake happened in the most important gymnastics event but in the moment of the awards ceremony at the latest Paul Hamm received the gold medal rightly, even if, seen in a sportive way, his victory unfortunately now (afterwards) is questionable.                                                            Only a personal decision by Paul Hamm to give his gold medal back "for the reasons of fairness" could change this... However, a comparison to the trampoline decision 3 years ago (Irina Karavaeva (RUS) handed over her World Championship gold medal to Anna Dogonadze (GER) due to an obvious calculation mistake in the scores) doesn't work because: Can you really blame Paul Hamm not to give back his medal when he has the currently valid regulations on his side, especially considering that there is only a score of 0.051 between the two gymnasts...?

The problem is a different one!
There are other things which actually should be criticized. With the current judging regulations a differentiation between the top gymnasts is nearly impossible.                                                              The FIG and the Technical Committees should react on this now!                                                            In this connection it has to be thought back to the situation one Olympic cycle ago:                               The men's and women's artistic gymnastics TC's presented their new and amended judging regulations for confirmation. At that point of time the fullfilment of the basic difficulty in the men's Code was at the score of 8.60 and in the women's Code at 9.00. FIG- president Bruno Grandi then intervened fatefully and asked for a unification of the scores for the basic difficulty. A salomonic decision by the two TC's for a basic difficulty at the score of 8.80 followed. This had the following impact:                                                                While for the women it became extremely difficult to reach a SV of 10.00 (as an example at the World Championships in Ghent 2001on floor only one female gymnast had a SV of 10.00 - now in Athens 2004 17 female gymnasts presented it), in the men's field already there in 2001 the top scores got closer and closer together (at that point of time especially on pommel horse and rings). In the progression now in Athens 2004 it was hardly possible to differentiate between the scores of many gymnasts. In the women's field it worked a bit better, as they had 2 tenth more to differentiate, than in the men's field considering that they had 2 tenth less than originally planned.

Judging World - completely mixed-up!
The judging World seems to be completely mixed up at the moment. It was planned that at the FIG- Congress in Antalya (TUR) in a few weeks the new judging regulations would be handed in by the TC's and would be confirmed there. The printed materials were supposed to be ready shortly afterwards. Now everything has been suspended.                                                                                                        The international judges courses - which were planned for the men in December in Leipzig/ GER and for the women in January in Osaka/ JAP - were cancelled!                                                                       Fundamental changes are now requested, even the score monument of 10.00 is called into question again. Grandy wants to present a detailed analyzis in Antalya and wants to propose new principles for the composition of the scores...!?

A table of difficulties and a time rule
Isn't a latent problem only coming to the surface again which is there already since more than a decade and for which a solution always has been prevented by the conservative forces of the national federations? The traditional procedure of fundamental changes in the judging regulations every four years certainly is not up-to-date anymore and completely prevents judging, understanding and transparency of gymnastics. Since long ago already a permanent catalogue of difficulties (elements) to be used for all times is needed! A somersault will always be a somersault and won't get objectively easier ore more difficult. Only if it is amended it gets another difficulty, up until a triple somersault with twist(s). However, for those amendments it again is possible to describe and clasify them objectively - in a catalogue of elements!                        This indeed calls the 10.00 into question as then it would be up to the subjective decision of the gymnasts which start value they can offer in their routine which would be combined observing certain technical and aesthetic regulations. A start value then could also be higher than 10.00.                                              The fear for an uncontrollable raise of start values is justified. Therefore clear limits of what is reasonable are necessary. The solution might be simple: On all apparatus clear time rules could be established on the basis of already known aspects and specific characteristics of each apparatus. On floor this has been common since long ago already. Offences against the time rules will be punished and will lead to clear deductions.                                                                                                                                      The possible start value on the apparatus, also over 10.00, is then defined through a clever and aesthetic (B-score) choice of more and less difficult elements and their combination (A-score). Records of difficulty, like already existing in trampoline, would be possible then.

Responsibility towards the public
Up to now it seemed that the primary task of the Technical Comittees has been to find the best way to classify the performances of the gymnasts with the modification of the Code every four years. However, modern judging regulations in the media- era primarily have the responsibility for gaining the public for the sports and for enabling to use all mechanisms and chanels of the media for it. The judging of sportive performances has to be understandable, traceable, logic and transparent.

If the TC's won't react and will continue to work in their traditional way, cases like the one mentioned above will happen again and the media will avoid gymnastics in favour of more comprehensible kinds of sport - and from those will exist more and more...! 

And there have been other judging problems in addition to the "case Hamm" - Nemov, Jovtchev, Tampakos, Maras... All of them were possible through the lack of differentiation between the top performances.

Eckhard Herholz

Has a "case Nemov" happened at all...?

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. Has a "case Nemov" happened in Athens at all?
Of course it has: It was the clearly audible, emotional protest of the audience which couldn't understand the clear discrepancy between an impressive performance and the score for it. Someone who presents overall 6 impressive flight elements simply has to win a medal is the opinion of a thrilled audience which doesn't know the judging regulations!

frequent flier Nemov

Actually the "case Nemov" hasn't happened, at least considering the current judging regulations. Russia's Alexei Nemov - already Olympic Champion and a hero charged with emotions from Sydney - presented as many as 6 flight elements, the most difficult of them a layout Kovacs (E- element), however with slight technical problems. E.g. the 3 flight elements of Fabian Hambüchen clearly were presented with a better execution.                              Hambüchen made a small step on the dismount which according to the current regulations is deducted with 1 tenth - Nemov made a larger step on the dismount which according to the current regulations is deducted with 2 tenth. Furthermore the specific regulations on high bar require a variety of elements from 5 different groups - Nemov strongly relied on the flight elements, only the dismount was from another element group. 

Regulations and the impact on the audience
Through this Nemov presented a routine which was as one-sided as the ones from those gymnasts which mainly presented different variations of giants - however, those were not as spectacular for the audience. That means Nemov clearly had the thrilled audience on his side and the sport of gymnastics has to ask itself for who it actually is staging itself. The factor of the impact on the public definitely can't be ignored any longer. The sense of the gymnasts' performances actually is to fascinate the viewers with their difficulty, elegance and virtuosity.
So a judging level which is compliant with the reaction of the audience is desirable. Regulations which are understandable only internally are useless even if they are completely clear to specialists but if they are against the whishes of the consumers. If gymnastics continues to ignore the requests of the public it should only happen in a closed company and staged only in front of itself!

However, the only clear mistake in this case was made by the supervisor of the jury, the head of the men's TC
Adrian Stoica (ROM). Faced with the emotional pressure of the audience's protest he decided for a helpless mini- correction of Nemov's score. This actually is not allowed according to the regulations (judges decisions are fact decisions) but on the other hand also is not clearly forbidden due to wish-wash wording in the regulations. As this correction of the score anyway has not brought a medal for Nemov it also was quite useless.

A clear Champion
The example of the clear Olympic Champion on high bar Igor Cassina >>
and the content of his routine showes how a differentiable routine looks like: He presented "only" 3 flight elements but a layout Kovacs was the easiest of them. The other ones were a Kovacs with 1/1 twist (Kolman) and his own creation the "Cassina", a layout Kovacs with 1/1 twist, a super-E element!                                                                                                 So the conclusion of this "case Nemov", which actually hasn't been one, is the same like described above in the "case Hamm".
The defiances which gymnastics faces in the modern media- era can't be solved with mafia-shouts by Leonid Arkaev according to the motto "stop thief!" but only with a clear and comprehensible differentiation between the top performances which leads to a better transparency of the sport for the public.

If the soccer audience wouldn't understand the regulations anymore and wouldn't be able to discuss about the sport, the ranks certainly wouldn't be as crowded there anymore.                                                      Of course the regulations for gymnastics can never be that easy so that everyone in the audience understands them completely. But please give the gymnastics audience at least a small chance to follow and understand the sports. 

, long-year TV- commentator
Chief- editor GYMmedia

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Ist der deutsche Turnsport noch zu retten...?

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