The gymnastics competition judging controversy at the 2008 Olympics in Bejing continued after American Nastia Liukin lost a Gold medal for the uneven bar competition to Chinese He Kexin although the two obtained the same score.
The scoring between He Kexin, obviously under sixteen-years of age and therefore unqualified, and Liukin came down to a third-level tie breaker. In Olympic gymnastics scoring, the third-level tie breaker is “the average of the three lowest of the four counting judges’ deductions” according to Sports Illustrated. Liukin lost because the Australian judge did not deduct the proper amount of points for He Kexin’s visible errors.
I’m no gymnastics expert, but the experts on television are aghast at the judging of this year’s Olympics.
The American squad lost the team finals to a Chinese team that is obviously mostly underaged and arguably turned in worse performances on most of the events. That was explained away by a few mistakes perpetrated by Alicia Sacremone.
Sacremone later lost a bronze medal for the vault competition to Cheng Fei of China, who hit the vault crooked and landed square on her knees. Sacremone was competent in her performances and hit both landings.
And now an inaccurate score has robbed all-around winner Liukin of a well deserved Gold medal in favor of an athlete whose hometown paper listed her age as 13 this Spring.
For her part, Liukin is a lot more gracious than I am about China’s questionable Gold.
“I know I didn’t have my best routine, but I had the same exact score as she did, which makes it a little harder to take,” she said. “I still don’t understand how they broke the tie, but that’s the rules, and you just have to play by them. If it had happened in the all around, I would have been a lot more disappointed.”
Liukin was also asked if the fact that He was one of the gymnasts suspected of being underage — in May she was identified in a Chinese newspaper as being just 13 — made the silver medal harder to swallow. But she wouldn’t bite. “She’s an excellent athlete no matter how old she is,” she said.
Next up for Liukin is Tuesday night’s balance beam event, in which she’ll try to beat her father’s total of four medals in an Olympics.
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