Friday, September 24, 2004

Hand back your medal!

I had an earlier attempt at a blog elsewhere, I'm just filling this one up with the old material before I get some more stuff under my belt.

According to Yahoo!, the US Olympic Committee are up in arms that the International Federation of Gymnastics have asked their gymnast to give up his gold medal despite the fact that it is now clear the judges made a clerical error which wrongly denied a South Korean of a win. In no way is this something that officials should "react furiously" to.I can understand the problems Hamm must be facing right now. At the end of the event, he genuinely believed he had produced a phenomenal comeback to snatch the most unlikely gold. Yet now it is clear that the judges didn't even fail to judge the performance correctly, but simply wrongly counted the difficulty of the routine performed by the South Korean. Surely it is obvious to all that, however well Hamm performed on the day, he was not actually good enough to deserve to win the gold medal?The linked article says "Hamm, ...has made clear he sees himself as the rightful gold medallist." There are only two ways that Hamm can think this is the case: 1) the judges did not unfairly dock points off his opponent. 2) the judges were cheats and graded his opponents wrongly on the basis of their performances.Now, to me, gymnastics is an inferior sport to many because ultimately it relies on subjective judgements to decide winners (other sports with referees or judges are defining whether rules were fulfilled or not). Yet leaving this aside, I wonder what satisfaction Hamm gets from continuing to claim his gold medal. He is obviously a fantastic athlete, and although I know nothing about gymnastics, I would imagine at 21 he has the chance to fight for gold at the next Olympics too. As an amateur knockabout sportsman, I can only imagine what it must be like to have the ability to compete at such a high level in any given sport. My desire to win, however, is as great, if not greater, than most currently residing in the Olympic village. But whenever I play sport, I want to win through being the best. I would never want to claim a trophy if I felt a match had been thrown, or there had been a judging error, or the game had been scored incorrectly. If Hamm had the Olympic sense of fair play, he would accept that he wasn't the best man on the night. His victory is hollow. The medal is not his. And if the spirit of fair play is truly to reign at the Olympics, he should hand his medal back. Only then would he be shown to be a true sportsman.