Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Changing the Code: Of Inquiries and Kohei Uchimura

Remember that time when this happend at the Olympic Games?

The French Coach is to the London Olympics as Jan is to Make It or Break It

Well, I got to thinking. What would have happened in London had the new Gymnastics Bible been in place? Would it have prevented the Uchimura fiasco from taking place? According to the new rules regarding inquiries, did the Japanese coaches take too long to submit their paperwork? Let's take a look.

Would the inquiry have been rejected because of timing?

My memory of the Olympics is pretty spotty. I'm not sure if it is because of my sleep-deprived stupor or the large amounts of caffeine I consumed during the Games or the Chinese takeout I ate almost every night while I watched NBC's broadcast. (Contrary to what the freshmen 15 will tell you, Kung Pao chicken is not good brain food.)

At any rate, the details are kind of hazy. I just remember the inquiry process taking a long time. But was it because of the Japanese coaches or the judges? Hmm...

Well, let's take a look at the old rules first. Here are a few of the key rules regarding inquiries:

  • Inquiries for the D scores are allowed, provided that they are made verbally by the coach to the D1 Judge immediately after the publication of the score or at the very latest before the end of the exercise of the following gymnast.
  • Every inquiry must be confirmed in writing within a few minutes and requires an agreement of payment of USD 300.—— for the first complaint; USD 500.—— for the second complaint and USD 1’’000...

"Immediately" and a "few minutes" are rather vague terms, so the technical committee made more specific rules for the 2013-16 quad:

  • Inquiries for the difficulty scores are allowed, provided that they are made verbally and immediately after the publication of the score or at the very latest before the end of the exercise of the following gymnast or group. For the last gymnast or group of a rotation, this limit is one minute after the score is shown on the score board. The person designated to receive the verbal inquiry has to note the time of receiving it which will start the procedure.

  • The inquiry must be confirmed as soon as possible in writing, but within 4 minutes, at the latest, after the verbal inquiry and requires an agreement payment of: - USD 300 for the first complaint, USD 500 for the second complaint and USD 1’000 for the third complaint. 

  • Should the inquiry not be confirmed in writing within 4 minutes, the procedure becomes obsolete.

Kohei was the last gymnast in his group, so, had the new rules been in place, his coach would have had 1 minute to issue a verbal inquiry and another 4 minutes to file a written inquiry. Unfortunately, I could not find video footage of the verbal inquiry, but here's what I did find:

Here's Kohei imitating a blowfish after he sees his score.

About a minute and a half later, the coach already has the paperwork and money in hand, so I'm guessing that the initial verbal inquiry was made 1 minute after the score was flashed and that the paperwork was handed off less than 4 minutes later.

So, would the new Gymnastics Bible have stopped the Uchimura fiasco from unfolding?



Is there anything in the new code about how long the Superior Jury can take to evaluate a routine?

Not really, and the Superior Jury took quite some time in London. I took the above screenshots using NBC's pommel horse feed, which cuts out halfway through the inquiry process. So, let's switch over to the main feed and take a look at the time stamps.

Here's Blowfish Kohei again:

Here's when the inquiry was finally accepted:

13 minutes!

To give you a frame of reference, Aly Raisman's inquiry during beam finals took roughly 5 minutes. That's from the time her first score was posted until the time her score was changed.

To be fair, since the Japanese coaches took a few minutes to file the paperwork, the Superior Jury did not have 13 minutes to evaluate the routine. (Nor did the Superior Jury take 5 minutes to assess Aly's routine.) I'm guessing that the assessment of Kohei's routine took more like 10 minutes.

But still!

I'm sorry, but 10 minutes is pretty ridiculous. Did one of the judges need to take a potty break? Did they decide to make each other friendship bracelets? Were they marveling at the French coach's hair in the background?

Hmm... I guess it really did take them like 10 minutes to sort through the mess that was Kohei's dismount.

At any rate, neither the old code nor the new code sets a time limit for the judges. Don't believe me? Here are the rules...

The old one:

  • The final decision (which may not be appealed) must be taken at the very latest:
    • at the end of the rotation for the Qualifying Competitions (C I), the All-Around Competitions (C II) and the Team Competition (CIV), (exceptions see below)
    • before the score of the following gymnast is shown for the Apparatus Finals (C-III), the last rotation of the Team finals (C-IV) and the All-Around finals (C-II).

The new one:

  • Every inquiry must be examined by the Superior Jury and the final decision (which may not be appealed) must be taken at the very latest: 
    • at the end of the rotation (or group) for the qualifying competitions, the all-around competitions and the team competition (final).
    • before the score of the following gymnast or group is shown for the finals.

I get it. You don't want the judges to feel rushed, and some cases might take more time than others. So, setting a time limit might not be a good idea... Yadda yadda yadda.

But if it takes you 10 minutes to evaluate a pommel horse routine, specifically whether someone hit a handstand, you either are working inefficiently, or there's something wrong with the rules governing handstands. That's just my humble opinion.


In unrelated news, there's a new gymnastics podcast in town. You can check it out at Our first guest was Tim Daggett!

For the record: Every panel member hates the sound of his/her voice, and we were super duper nervous. I mean, it's TIM DAGGETT we're interviewing! But the podcast should get better with time. At least, that's what we tell ourselves. :)

1 comment:

  1. Blowfish Kohei.

    That is all.

    Oh, but I did read the rest of the post and thoroughly enjoyed it again!