I agree that athletes should not suffer for judges' mistakes ["The Athletes Shouldn't Take the Fall," Outlook, Aug. 29]. Yet I doubt from reading this article that the writer, Joy Goodwin, has ever been an athlete or a sports official.

As a former NCAA swimmer and a current swimming official, I know such controversy is not limited to gymnastics. Yet the writer's proposal, apart from extra time for the judges to review their scores, is unworkable.

Ultimately Paul Hamm is the winner according to International Gymnastics Federation rules. All sports have time limits on challenges, and had the Koreans protested in time, there would be no controversy. That time limit should be lengthened, but only for future competitions. Rewarding this protest would require, in fairness, rescoring the entire routine in question -- including the deduction of two-hundredths of a point that the judges originally missed.

More important, if one gymnast's score is open to rescoring, so too is everyone else's. Who then would the winner be? Doing this would also set a precedent in which the country with the loudest complaints gets rewarded. That solves nothing.

The real problem lies with the International Gymnastics Federation. It has never claimed its rules were broken or acknowledged its judges' error. If it felt that Yang Tae Young deserved a gold medal, he should get a second medal -- but not Mr. Hamm's medal. Taking it from him would be making him pay for the judges' errors, and that is what is truly unfair.

GANNON SUGIMURA

Springfield

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I am peeved by Fred Bowen's opinion piece ["Who's the Real Winner?" KidsPost, Aug. 27].

It is true that the judges incorrectly assigned the bronze medalist a lower starting score on one apparatus. However, the judges also missed another deduction that would have given the bronze medalist an even lower score overall. They also made a scoring mistake a couple nights later that outraged some spectators, who booed and whistled until the judges changed their score.

The point is that the judging is imperfect and subject to mistakes. Many athletes -- in gymnastics and other sports -- have received or lost awards because of judging mistakes. Paul Hamm's impressive comeback and victory should not be diminished by a judging mistake that did not affect his score. He won fairly according to the rules that the athletes accepted before they competed.

JIM SEYMOUR

Springfield