20 March 2006

My Night out at the Commonwealth Games

I went to see the gymnastics on Saturday night at the Commonwealth Games. They're currently being held in Melbourne.

Now, for those of you who don't know, that is, for those of you outside the remains of what used to be the British Empire, these are kinda like the Olympics, but only for countries in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Which naturally means that countries like Australia, South Africa and Canada dominate the medal count, rather than the USA and China.

Kinda like big fish in a small pond, though, cause the only other countries there are little tiddlers like Jamaica, Mozambique and St Helena.

Points if you can tell me where St Helena is without looking it up in an atlas.

Anyway, I went to see the women's gymnastics. I use the word "women" advisedly - most of these girls were scraping to see over the age of 12.

In fact, I think that I could count up those of teenage or older on 1 hand. Why did I bother typing "...or older"?

All that was missing was the pushy parents.

Gymnastics requires routines on different "apparatuses". These routines are then given a score by a panel of judges.

Routines are marked on degree of difficulty, a checklist of required moves and "artistry".

This is quite a bit different to what can best be described as "objective" sports in the games schedule.

In an objective sport, there is no ambiguity. Results are based on heaviest lift, highest jump, first past the post, furthest thrown, most targets hit, most goals, most points etc.

In subjective "sports", of which gymnastics is one, one certainly wins by gaining the most points. But the points themselves are based on the outcome of whatever is in the collective head of a panel of judges, all of whom are going to have different opinions vis-a-vis the artistic component.

Methinks that there is a bit too much scope for judges to display some artistry of their own when preparing their assessments.

Anyway, by the end of the night, Chloe Sims became Australia's youngest gold medallist of the Games by a long, long way. We got to noisily sing the national anthem and go home.

Funnily enough, I think that the crowd has had enough of this gold medal blizzard that Australia gets whenever this carnival is on. I only heard one half-hearted "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!" all night.

Back to little Chloe. Sims scored the same number of points as the Canadian silver medallist, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, but she won on a countback as per FIG (Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique) rules.

This was beaten up by Melbourne's newspaper for the truly illiterate, the Herald-Sun (Monday 20 March) into a scandal. In an article that was clearly not even considered good enough to go online, idiot journalist Mark Stevens (with ghostwriter Selina Steele) went fishing for quotes in order to drum up some sour grapes, and the best that he could do was these:

Asked if hometown judging was alive and well, Canadian coach Carol-Angela Orchard said: " I think there's always an advantage to be at home."

Questioned further if Australia was enjoying a good run from the judges, Orchard smiled and replied: "Yeah."

Fourth-placed English competitor Imogen Cairns was clearly gutted after being pipped [for the bronze medal by Australian, Hollie] Dykes.

When asked if she was gutted (my emphasis - Stevens & Steele must have been in a hurry) to miss out on bronze, Cairns said, "Well, we're in Australia."

From all of this, Stevens/Steele came up with an opening paragraph of:

Tensions are mounting in the usually genteel sport of gymnastics, with both England and Canada inferring they have been victims of hometown judging decisions.

Sorry, Mark, Selina or whoever wrote this pice of crap. You cannot infer squat from the quotes that you have provided.

The best that you could do after needling these poor souls for God only knows how long was Cairns' quote. Given that Cairns is, most likely, a pre-nubile, I personally wouldn't trust that her opinions accurately reflected the English gymnastics hierarchy. If she has actually reached pubescence, I would put even less stock in anything that she has to say. Adolescents can be a hysterical bunch.

Now the Herald-Sun is never actually going to win awards for "Fair and Balanced" journalism (for Chrissakes, Rupert, grow some brains, morals and something vaguely approaching honesty) but I do have to say their sport coverage is usually pretty darn good. That is, of course, when Scot Palmer isn't writing.

This article was stellar rubbish of the highest order, but it does beg the question: would this piece of mind-numbing schlock have been written if gymnastics was an objective sport?

I think not.

What surprises me most about this whole affair is that I have been able to write an article on gymnastics without once mentioning how uninterested I am in it. I've done well.

Stevens' article on the other hand - I give it a 5 for the degree of difficulty (he is a footy writer, after all) and a perfect zero for the artistic component.

No comments: