Ukraine Men's Gymnastics Controversy: Scoring Errors Must Be Resolved

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJuly 30, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30:  Team Ukraine reacts after the end of the Artistic Gymnastics Men's Team final on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on July 30, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Poor Ukraine. For a glorious moment, the team was able to revel in the fact that, after a late miracle, they were the bronze medalists in the men's team gymnastic competition in the 2012 Olympics

Unfortunately for them, that miracle proved to good to be true, and Ukraine was all of a sudden out of the medals in fourth place. That fourth-place finish is territory that very few felt Ukraine could occupy. Most did not consider them a legitimate medal threat. 

Consequently, that fourth-place finish should be a great source of pride for the team. Instead, it will now be tinged with the memories of losing a medal they very temporarily owned. Due to a judge's error, the Ukrainian team must now reconcile the feelings of losing out on a medal they thought they had.

The scoring error occurred on Japan's Kohei Uchimura pommel horse routine. He fell on his dismount and was initially awarded a score of 13.466. This was low enough that it caused Japan to fall from second to fourth, which moved Great Britain and Ukraine up to second and third respectively. 

However, Japan filed a protest and after minutes of deliberation it was concluded that the judges did not give Uchimura a high enough difficulty score, and his score was raised enough for Japan to hold onto second. As a result, the sport now has a new, highly-visible black eye. 

Former American gymnast, and 1996 gold medalist, Dominique Moceanu highlights the damage done with the following tweet: 

GYMNASTICS=GREATEST SPORT IN THE WORLD, but we can't make a mess every Olympic Games and hope to grow! #JudgingBlunders #gymnastics

— Dominique Moceanu (@Dmoceanu) July 30, 2012

As Moceanu points out, this certainly is not the only scoring controversy to hang over a competition. 

In fact, in 2004, American Paul Hamm won the gold medal individual all-around in a similar situation involving a disputed difficulty score. These kinds of blunders need to stop.

Now, it is impossible to eliminate all room for controversy in gymnastics scoring. After all, these are human judges giving a score based on what they saw—it is never going to be perfect. 

That said, there is no reason they can't come up with a system to ensure that difficulty scores are set in stone when the score is announced. They can take the time to get it right the first time, and make it so the scores will not be changed due to any disagreements over difficulty score. 

The changes would not be perfect, but it would eliminate situations like the one that caused Ukraine to taste medal glory only to have it abruptly stripped from them when they did absolutely nothing wrong.