Judges have too much say in Olympics


Judges decide the winners of all of the figure skating medals and many of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events. (Matthias Schrader/Associated Press)

I love the Winter Olympics, but I don’t like Olympic judges.

Too many of the medals in the Winter Games are decided by judges. Judges determine the winners of all of the figure skating medals. It’s the same with many of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events.

I watched men’s slopestyle snowboarding. That’s the new event in which the snowboarders do wild flips and tricks over a series of ramps and jumps. I was glad that American Sage Kotsenburg won. But I don’t know why his flips and tricks were better than those of silver medalist Staale Sandbech, from Norway. He looked terrific, too.

Check out the figure skating. Some people like the way Americans Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold skate, while others prefer Kim Yuna from South Korea or the 15-year-old Russian sensation, Julia Lipnitskaia. Unless a skater falls on his butt, I can’t tell the difference between the gold medalist and the bronze medalist. The judges say who’s the best.

I won’t go so far as to say that figure skating and snowboarding aren’t sports. The skaters and snowboarders have to be terrific athletes to do those leaps and spins. But those sports also involve artistry. That’s something to be appreciated, but maybe it shouldn’t involve a competition.

We turn lots of things that shouldn’t be competitions into contests with winners and losers. Why? Because people love competitions. Hardly anyone would watch amateurs sing or dance, but when they turn that activity into a contest on television shows such as “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars,” millions of people tune in to watch.

Every year the elementary school in my neighborhood has a geography bee. Knowing stuff about geography becomes a competition. Suddenly, kids who hate doing their homework are studying geography facts and dreaming they will win first prize.

While the skiers and skaters are competing for medals in Sochi, Russia, some folks are excited about the 138th annual dog show put on this week by the Westminster Kennel Club. That’s the big show in New York where dogs compete for titles such as best in show and best of breed. (See story at right.)

We love competitions so much we’ve even made a competition for dogs. Doesn’t every kid think her dog is the best dog in the world?

Even though I wish every Olympic event were a race without any judges — such as downhill skiing or short- track speedskating — I will still watch the figure skating and the other judged events.

Why? I love competitions, too. And I want to see who’s going to win.

Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 18 sports books for kids that combine sports fiction and sports history. His latest book is “Perfect Game.”

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