August 15, 2008

Liukin wins gold, Johnson silver in gymnastics : BEIJING - Nastia Liukin won the gold medal in women's gymnastics Friday, beating teammate and friend Shawn Johnson. Liukin, whose father was a double gold medalist for the Soviet Union 20 years ago, finished with 63.325 points, more than a half-point ahead of Johnson, the reigning world champion. Johnson finished with 62.725. Yang Yilin of China won the bronze medal.

Awesome display by all competitors.
I have three questions for all of the posters in SpoFi:

1. Do you realize the mental toughness it takes to compete in the All-Around in gymnastics in the Olympics? No doubt there is talent, opportunity, and practice, but if you choke on ONE event, you are screwed. Not one "play" to let up. You can't once "walk someone intentionally". If you fumble, it is OVER. Miss the final 3-point shot and you don't even medal.

2. These WOMEN (not girls) take the beating of a lifetime to get to where they are. If you were watching closely (in HD), you could easily see the incredible number of bruises Nastia and K. Semenova had on their legs and forearms leading into and during this competition. How about the number of wrist supports the Chiniese had? Some of them had layers upon layers just to compete. Even Pro hockey players have to be amazed that they could still perform.

3. Michael Phelps has been truely amazing. Don't bother to ask him because they aleady did. Even he is astounded at the performance of these under 21 SUPER athletes. Don't they deserve the same respect? Anywhere from 4-10 years of preparation....Nastia '(That Ms. Liukin) if you know shit' and Shawn deserve every bit of respect we can muster. YOU GO (WOMEN)

Posted by a 10 year gymnast who was resigned to being an NCAA cheerleader (which was spectacular).

posted by knowsalittle to olympics at 01:51 AM - 20 comments

I was watching this on my DVR tonight, and even after a useful Metafilter discussion about the new scoring system I found it difficult to understand. The announcers were a bit befuddled as to why some scores were higher or lower, and with the differential in question .150 on each rotation is the difference between Gold and Silver. I think Liukin did well enough to win, but it wasn't clear why Johnson's score wasn't higher; if she was unfairly dinged compared to other competitors in the balance beam and uneven bars, that isn't very fair or sporting. Had those poorer scores been the difference between Silver and Bronze, or even missing medaling, that would be atrocious.

I get the idea of an A score for difficulty- that's a cool addition, and the idea that the judges are expecting that routine and if you miss something such as half a turn, you can even get a double whammy (your A score is reduced, as well as a deduction). I even get the principle of the B score, that half steps are -.1, big steps on landings are -.3, etc. On that Metafilter thread, I was a big proponent of the newer system, compared to the old one.

What I don't get is why, when you see the judges have fancy computers with video feeds and presumably frame-by-frame replay capability, one-click scoring systems, etc, that there is any discrepancy in the scoring or that scores can be unusually low enough that people will wonder "Where did the deductions come from?" Are the particular deductions well-documented and just not mentioned in the telecast, or is it still some vague "9.025" that no one will ever quite know why it is that way? Shouldn't the judges look at each move in slow motion, note if there is a mistake in degrees of position, slips, etc, and then confer and agree which are valid, etc? It seems like there's still a high degree of subjectivity. In the broadcast, one of the announcers was noting that Shawn Johnson, for "unknown reasons", was getting unusually low balance beam scores even compared to other gymnasts, throughout these Olympics.

My question is why that would ever happen- since it can and does impact medal standings. Shouldn't gymnastics be striving for as objective a system as possible, right down to a clear sense of whether a move is deducted such that there isn't really anyone who watches the same information and says "That was an unfair deduction"? Several times during the telecast, the announcers said some variation of "Where did those deductions come from?" and apparently they didn't know and had to guess what the judges might be thinking.

What the fuck? Why should it be guess work- shouldn't the exact deductions be listed and delineated? For example, why not this:

Put unobtrusive IR tape on the gymnasts wrists, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows, and use at least three cameras to create a 3-D wireframe representation of their motion, overlaid onto the video with tagging for things like angles, etc. The judges then watch the performance live for initial impressions, then watch this video at 1/2 speed, and each notes for every motion possible deductions such as > 30 degree angle during a handstand. These potential deductions are then viewed collectively by the judges with computer assistance to determine the exact angle. If it is indeed at or greater than 30 degrees, the deduction is filed. In the telecast/scoreboard, the list of elements, A score value, and their B score deductions along with reason are clearly delineated.

Then there's no dispute or question, and the rules can be written such that the only subjectivity is whether an angle is 29.9 degrees or 30 degrees, not "That was about 30 degrees to my eyes on first time viewing"

posted by hincandenza at 07:49 AM on August 15, 2008

Also, knowsalittle, your front page post is fairly editorial in nature; if you're a former gymnast, perhaps you could write up a little "behind the scenes/day in the life of a gymnast" post as a column for Sportsfilter. I'm sure we'd all be interested to read more about what it's like in the 3 years and 51 weeks these women are not performing in the Olympics.

But it's generally considered poor form here to have opinion-heavy front page posts that read more like essays.

posted by hincandenza at 07:51 AM on August 15, 2008

I believe that the reason it is still so subjective is because it is up to the judges to notice whether something is a deduction. For some gymnasts, it seems they look harder for deductions. It would be nice if they showed where they got the deductions from. Then, if they deducted from Johnson for a "mistake" that they didn't deduct from another gymnast, it would be obvious.

posted by bperk at 08:07 AM on August 15, 2008

Hal: I have been nothing but a supporter of your opinions. I will continue to do so, despite your over 1000+ character ramblings to prove your point.

Response: Despite my unawareness of the new posting venue, it is not your place to correct me. If you don't like me having a comment in my postings, take it up with SpoFi. As well as I could tell, this was where you could have an opinion while posting. If that was not the case, SPOFI should have posted as was the case.

Despite my retort, Hal did nothing to defer the greatness of the actual performances, which I attempted to convey. Rock on Nasita and Shawn. Thank you for your conviction and dedication.

posted by knowsalittle at 08:21 AM on August 15, 2008

Hal, was the use of the "f" word necessary. I had been under the impression that we were above that.

posted by knowsalittle at 08:27 AM on August 15, 2008

knowsalittle, Hal's criticism was legitimate. We do a lot of self-policing here because the moderators can't be here all the time. There is no need to take it personally.

posted by bperk at 08:32 AM on August 15, 2008

It's perfectly OK to editorialize, just not on posts (which show up on the front page). Better to make a comment.

Your first paragraph is perfect, just take everything starting with "Awesome displ...," move it to a comment next time and you're golden. Welcome to SpoFi.

Side note: this is the problem with not having user numbers or some obvious way of telling how long someone's been around. I love it when a newbie goes after justgary, rcade or kirkaracha for telling them what to do...

posted by dusted at 11:52 AM on August 15, 2008

To answer your questions:

1. Yes, I do. I imagine it takes quite a bit of physical toughness and muscle memory as well. And practice, which is paramount and an important part of any discipline. 2. Is the question about the wrist supports the Chines gymnasts had? How about them, indeed. I'm sure hockey players respect gymnasts for their dedication and hard work, and their bearing up under pain and duress. 3. Yes, they deserve the same respect. And I'm pretty sure they get it.

Knowsalittle, was the use of the "s" word necessary? I had been under the impression that you were above that.

posted by Hugh Janus at 12:06 PM on August 15, 2008

If that was not the case, SPOFI should have posted as was the case.

As bperk point out, we like to self-police in these parts. That's because We (you, me, Hal, any other active member) are SpoFi. The Pantheon may be in charge of this place, but we are all part of the collective.

Anybody hear the discussion on NPR (I think it was Fresh Air?) yesterday about how hard gymnastics is? The guy being interviewed, and I paraphrase, said, "If you were to design a sport for the sole purpose of hurting women atheletes it'd look a lot like Gymnastics."

posted by apoch at 12:53 PM on August 15, 2008

Shouldn't gymnastics be striving for as objective a system as possible

I don't think there is any way that you get ever get an objective system. Gymnastics, like certain other competitions (skating, diving, some skiing events), has too much subjectivity built in. They can assign certain points to certain skills, which is one component of the score. But the other component, execution of the skills, is almost entirely subjective.

And politics, as well as other factors, do influence the judges. This is probably true even more on the international stage such as the Olympics, but also in lower levels. In the past I have seen it at local competitions where some gymnasts with a "reputation" (a girl can apparently get a reputation as young as 12) can fall off the bars or the beam and still make a higher score than other gymnasts who appear to do their set without error.

I am just happy that the Americans won since, from the portions I saw, they appeared to be the best. After seeing some of the scores for the Chinese girls after shoddy or shaky performances on events, I was afraid the fix was in.

posted by graymatters at 02:48 PM on August 15, 2008

Why did SpoFi delete user numbers? And why can't you see how many total posts/comments people have made? And why can't you click to the next or the previous entry anymore?

Bad decisions SpoFi.

posted by DudeDykstra at 07:53 PM on August 15, 2008

The new setup actually goes you one better on user numbers, it tells you the actual date a user joined. But my understanding is that the numbers have been preserved and are on their way.

Nastia Liukin was absolutely amazing. Johnson is also fantastic. The two of them put on a clinic. It was really fun to watch.

posted by Venicemenace at 09:29 PM on August 15, 2008

Very sorry about the above Hal. Just so excited I was not able to convey my thoughts accurately...If you notice the time stamp, it was less than 10 minutes after the Gold and Silver was won. What I was trying to say is that if you have seen the new post window, there is a place for the headline, URL, storyline, and a large blank area which appears to allow the poster to view his opinion that was not previously available. I used this area to spew my rant as I typically do in my posts. I was not aware it appeared as part of the FPP, and for that I do apologize. I value Hal's comments as one of the most intelligent reparte posters on SPOFI, as I do bperk and others. My final comment on this issue is this: I do not believe that the gymnasts get the same respect during the Olympics as the swimmers in the US. I have seen many more interviews with the competing female swimmers than with the world champion gymnasts. Just my opinion, which is why we you and I are here.

posted by knowsalittle at 10:31 PM on August 15, 2008

Of course it wasn't my final never is. I offer no apology for the use of the "s" word. If you can say it on South Park without being bleeped, I will use in my posts. (Just watched the Turrets Syndrome episode with Cartman spewing profanity where the only word that was censored besides CS was MF - and it was hilarious) I am sure many of you do not think SP is the measuring stick of American culture, but if you have seen almost every episode, you know what I am talking about.

Thanks again Nastia. You are one of the greatest athletes to walk on American soil and we love you. I am sorry for 'misspleeing' your name above.

posted by knowsalittle at 10:45 PM on August 15, 2008

I have to disagree with you on the respect of the other athletes. While obviously everyone in Beijing is in awe of what Phelps was doing, I don't think anyone- and certainly not the other athletes- dismiss or disregard what the gymnasts are doing. Gymnasts are probably among the best overall athletes at the games, and I'm sure the other athletes acknowledge it.

Well, Chad Johnson probably thinks he could do better on the balance beam than any of the Olympians.

I mean, after all, these people are all freakish in their own ways, and they'd all be decent at any athletic they chose but it's their unique physiques, dedication, and immeasurable practice hours that turned them into the phenoms of their own sports.

Your original point was so uncontested, no one really discussed it: we're all beyond able to really be vocally impressed with the gymnasts, because it's so insane we already know how beyond anything the rest of us could do it is. Watching those people do fearless flip and twist on the uneven bars, vault, floor, or especially balance beam, consistently nailing the landing with barely a waiver even on a 4" wide strip, it's nuts.

I repeat my original comment, knowsalittle; while the Olympics are still going, you should post a column about the kind of practices that are involved with gymnastics- for example, how much work and what the daily life might be like for people like Johnson and Liukin. For most of these athletes, we only ever hear about them once every four years; we don't see the countless hours of practice, we don't see the various regional and world championships, we don't see the blood, sweat, and sprains that come with the territory of turning into an elite Olympic athlete.

posted by hincandenza at 04:06 PM on August 16, 2008

Why did SpoFi delete user numbers? And why can't you see how many total posts/comments people have made? And why can't you click to the next or the previous entry anymore?

Bad decisions SpoFi.

I am under the impression that these features will return once SpoFi gets settled in the new server. Of course I'd reccomend asking rcade any such questions.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 06:47 PM on August 16, 2008

Ying's right. We're restoring features. It just takes some time.

posted by rcade at 10:51 PM on August 16, 2008

Thanks Hal for taking the high road. I am interested why anyone's user number is so important to some other users who do not post, but only comment. The only conclusion I can surmise is that "Oldbies" think that because they joined SpoFi years ago and have a lower number, their views bear more measure than others who may have not had the availability to do so. If I am incorrect, why are user numbers important to anyone? What actual value do they have, except judgemental?

posted by knowsalittle at 04:18 AM on August 17, 2008

It is judgmental, but then again something with a low user number who is still active means they've continued to comment, participate... and probably has a sense of the "tribal wisdom" of places like SpoFi.

Look, knowsalittle, don't take it personally. You had a good post, the only complaint anyone had was that you might want to take some of the commentary and put it into the first comment, or as a separate column.

posted by hincandenza at 05:41 AM on August 17, 2008

Thanks Hal for an incisive response. And I am wayyy over it. USA won. I was a jerk. Commenters corrected me. I attempted to correct myself. I apologized and the parties that were better than me accepted. The end.

I have considered Hal's suggestion to write a commentary on the life of a gymnast, but since I am over 20 years removed from the regimine, and it would only be diet; coach screaming at me; practice; more diet; more practice; more screaming; no real free outside contact; a workout; short rest; more practice; more diet; occasional video; sleep; blah, blah, blah; day after day for 3+ years story, I don't think it would enthrall anyone.

posted by knowsalittle at 07:15 AM on August 17, 2008

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