February 22, 2014

"[T]he system rewards skaters who know how to game it. And Sotnikova did."

Is that supposed to sound like something's wrong?

These are the Olympic Games. Knowing how the game is played and playing it to get the best score is exactly what it means to win a game. I don't get this attack on Adelina Sotnikova's victory. Yuna Kim may have looked more lovely and mature, but she achieved that in part by choosing a lower level of difficulty. She knew the risk of playing the game that way, and she didn't act like a bad sport when her strategy failed. Her admirers did, however. I'm irked by their babyishness in support of the older woman's approach to the game.

22 comments:

richlb said...

This may sound weird, but this reminds me of the current "controversy" around current Jeopardy champ Arthur Chu. Chu has a non-traditional method of playing the game, which angers some Jeopardy purists. He doesn't follow the norm of starting at the top of categories and working his way down. Instead, he begins by "hunting" for the Daily Double clues.

Both know how the sport/game is played and are maximizing their technique for victory, not for fan appeal.

MayBee said...

Kim skated beautifully, but she skated like someone who had been hauled out of retirement by her country to skate for the glory of the nation.

She was the Whte Swan, but Sotnikova was the Black Swan. The one with passion. As Tara Lipinski and Johhny Weir said as they watched the competition. "Heart will win every time"

ddh said...

I think the real problem is that no one who knows the sport trusts the judges to be impartial. After all, one of the judges at Sochi had been caught taking a bribe in an earlier Olympics.

Titus said...

I want the 6.0's back. The new scoring system is too difficult....for me....to understand.

Also, I want to know which scores came from which judges.

I thought the Russian should of won.

Titus said...

I have read quite a bit about figure skating judging, and of course, it is completely political.

Also, there is no new blood. All of them have been there forever, like congress.

Tank said...

Did not see it, but it sounds like she "gamed the system" by performing more difficult jumps that yielded higher scores.

How is that objectionable?

betamax3000 said...

Men Without Hats Robot says:

I Believe a Figure Skater is Downright Foolish Not to Skate to 'Safety Dance.' Furthermore, I Would Like to Know Althouse's History with the Song. Did it bring an Epiphany -- She Could Indeed Dance if She Wanted To? Was She So Bold as to Draw the Line in the Sand By Leaving Her Friends behind, Because 'If Your Friends Don't Dance, Well They're No Friends of Mine?' Did her Analytic Mind Amuse Herself By Moving the Comma and having the Line Read "If Your friends Don't Dance Well?' Did She Run Through Verdant Fields with Renaissance Midgets? Tag This 'Althouse in the Eighties'.

EDH said...

Speaking of "Safety Dance", it's almost as if the lyrics could have been written by Jeffery Toobin about Clarence Thomas' demeanor during oral argument.

And you can act real rude and totally removed

And I can act like an imbecile

Big Mike said...

In other words, Slotnikova had the better coaching and better choreographers.

southcentralpa said...

The imcumbent President gamed the Donk primary system ...

Ann Althouse said...

"In other words, Slotnikova had the better coaching and better choreographers."

No. Both women had strategies, and either might have worked. If Slotnikova fallen, which she risked with the harder program, Kim would have won.

The 2 women had different strengths, and both made what look to have been rational choices.

Edmund said...

The biggest problem is the lack of transparency. The highest and lowest scores are thrown out, then two at random are thrown out. But the skaters don't see what's thrown out.

This highlights the problem I see with the winter Olympics. They are moving away from sports to athletic competitions. In a sport, the score is up to the athlete: run fastest, score the most goals, jump the farthest. In a competition, the tastes and prejudices of the judges. Reputation plays a role. Personal ties can play a role - the Russian judge is married to the head of the Russian skating federation.

Of course, lots of the carping now is sour ... fish?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I thought Adelina's skate was electric and Yuma's was a little boring. But was that the truth or did NBC Jimmy my perceptions with the commentary they were able to add after they knew the result?

The Russian judge is married to the head of the Russian team federation. The Ukrainian judge had been caught cheating at the 2002 Olympics. I'd call bullshit too, if I were South Korea.

SOJO said...

I have no problem with her win, but both Russians were scored suspiciously high, including the 15 yr old who fell twice.

The us team in ice dancing was also .... Meh. I thought others were better, but then I don't know much about twizzles.

Twizzles.

SteveR said...

Such as it is with gymnastics, diving, etc. it has become difficult to care much about the medals because the judging can be (or appear) to be questionable. This is not new but has become an increasing focus of coverage. Too bad they continue to dilute the Games with more of these subjective events, e.g. half pipe.

Luke Lea said...

What about the human drill bit, should she have won gold? Steve Sailer has an interesting discussion of the dilemma here.

Birches said...

I'm so glad someone else is being rational about this. I didn't understand the controversy at all.

Christy said...

I liked the South Korean best, but what do I know? I made them grind the point off my skates cause I kept tripping. Anyhow, I didn't question the judges decision until NBC started working so hard to convince us it was correct.

halojones-fan said...

The issue is that "figure skating", in the Olympic sense, is a technical competition and not an artistic one.

It's like the Summer Games gymnastics events; the parallel bars, the rings, the balance beam, and so on. The purpose of these events is to demonstrate proficiency at performing difficult actions. While those actions might be chosen with aesthetics in mind, you can't make different choices and still excel at the event. Maybe you do your dismount with a tuck-and-roll followed by a t'ai-chi pose instead of just standing there like a stick, but you don't get extra points for looking awesome (and, in fact, you lose points because you didn't follow the form.)

And that's what figure skating is. The purpose of the event is to demonstrate the ability to do difficult jumps and maneuvers. Maybe the appropriate thing would be for figure skating to have no theme music, and for the competitiors to only wear their national costume (modified appropriately for figure skating, of course.) This emphasizes that the event is about technique, not aesthetics.

On the other hand, "ice dancing" *is* where artistic excellence is a factor. Performers do moves that originate in the technical competition, but they are chosen for their emphasis of the overall performance, not to demonstrate technical proficiency; and *that* is where you can say "the performer executed a less-challenging routine flawlessly and with good artistic sense, unlike the other performer who had more technically-challenging moves but did not do them as well".

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, I was busy today, but I signed in this evening and I see you responded to my comment.

I disagree. My recollection is that Yuna Kim went after Slotnikova, and therefore should have known that she needed another jump to win. Better coaching should have prepared her to add another triple or turn a triple into a triple-double combination.

Joe said...

How is there a controversy? One skater performed a more difficult program. How is that "gaming" the system? The author's article doesn't understand the meaning of the word.

For the reverse problem, look at gymnastics in the late 80s. Rule changes meant gymnasts would do easy and extremely boring routines.

Rob said...

The controversy is that Yuna Kim is Korean, from a arguably rising country with a higher sensitivity to perceived slights than most others.