Paul Hamm: Did he earn gold in gymnastics in 2004?
What is the controversy about?
At the 2004 Olympics, an all-star group of athletes from around the world gathered to compete for titles in a gymnastic way. In the spirit of competition, there are always disagreements between analysts and spokespersons about whether the athletes deserve the medals they receive. Sometimes the judges are held responsible for the controversy, and sometimes the fiasco is faked by uneducated speculation. In this case, Paul Hamm was harmed due to an accompanying mistake: the judges incorrectly set his rival’s starting grade at 9.9 instead of 10.0. It is believed that this mistake was Yang Tae Young, Paul Hamm’s South Korean rival, who cost all-around gold medals.
Judging in gymnastics is not a science.
This is proven time and again. There is no mathematical way to measure your gymnastics routine – in fact, gymnastics is perhaps one of the most subjective sports. There are no goals like in football – no tires like in basketball; there are no bullseyes like archery; the dancers do not go at a distance or height as in pole vaulting or shot put. In gymnastics, an athlete is judged on its shape and judged on its perfection. It is extremely difficult to do this precisely because there are no vectors that can be calculated to see whether someone is holding the bars wrong or landing with a wiggle.
If you have ever taken part in a gymnastics competition, you will probably understand that the panels pay attention to the execution of points: something that is full of twists and turns and poorly executed gets fewer points than something that is simpler but perfect is performed. The criteria for evaluating this aspect of gymnastics include stability and landings – whether or not he or she staggered at the end point of the element, whether he or she remained in position for less than three seconds at the end of the exercise, or whether he or she added one Pace or stumble. This inevitably leads to criticism of the judges’ ability to perform their task and errors in the awarding of points.
Why did Paul Hamm earn gold?
Paul Hamm was, and is, like any other athlete, not part of the game’s politics. He was there to measure himself and he was there to win. That is the goal of thousands of Olympic hopes around the world – going to the games and showing off their skills in the sport they love most. No athlete should actually have to deal with the things that forced Paul Hamm. It is completely understandable that he refuses to give up his medal – the gold is certainly not spoiled, it was his and his own. The judges’ mistakes are not his own. He is an incredible gymnast indeed.
Why does Yang Tae Young, his rival, not earn gold?
Perhaps more convincing is why Yang TaeYoung, Paul Hamm’s Korean rival, did not deserve the gold medal that so many have attributed to him. First, the Korean gymnastics team representative filed a late complaint, which completely invalidated the investigation itself – and all the stress associated with it (Olympic rules state that a protest is made before the end of a full game, such as with the parallel bars) must do what the Koreans didn’t do). Second, and perhaps more importantly, even if the judges awarded Tae Young the additional 0.10 points that were justified because of the difficulty of his practice, Tae Young would still have performed worse than he because of another additional mistake. After reviewing the tapes, it turned out that Tae Younga accidentally made four handles to the bars instead of allocating three, which would have resulted in a 2 point deduction, so he would still have a tenth of a point deficit.
The mess around Paul Hamm’s gold medal – and of course the medal being given to the South Korean team – is unfortunate. There should have been no question that Hamm deserved his medal, and he certainly shouldn’t have had to deal with problems around the world. And he didn’t deserve all the bad press around his name either. The gold medal was well deserved. It is certainly not a flaw, nor is its balance sheet.