A Controversial Dive

Diving Board.jpg
Image by Markus Spiske at http://www.raumrot.com

Diving.

A great sport to watch, not so much to participate in.  Not for me anyway.

It’s been one of the highlights for Team GB at the Rio Olympics, with Chris Mears and Jack Laugher earning the country it’s first ever Gold medal in the sport after their performance in the Men’s 3m Platform Synchro.  An amazing and well-deserved win for the pair, and the start of a brilliant week for British diving.

Not everything has been perfect over at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre though, and I’m not just talking about the green pool.

A few nights ago, during the qualifications round of the Men’s 10m Platform, one of the Belarusian divers risked killing himself when his head came within an inch of the board.

This was not the first time the diver had come close to death, having previously scalped himself back in 2011 when competing at the World Championships in China.  He was extremely lucky not to have a repeat of that incident the other night, or indeed cause himself more serious damage.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

It wasn’t the dive itself that was the problem (or at least not in this argument anyway), but rather the judging of it.

Kreuzsteinbad Bayreuth
Image by Markus Spiske at http://www.raumrot.com

Dives that are deemed to be too dangerous are always marked severely low.  This dive, however, proved to be an exception to that rule after the majority of the judges failed to notice the close proximity between the Belarusian’s head and the board and scored him averages of 5/5.5.  An unintentional mistake on behalf of the judges, but one that shows a clear fault with the scoring system.

It’s 2016!

We have technology that can tell us how fast a runner crossed the finish line to the closest thousandth, or how strong an athlete kicked their opponent in a Taekwondo match, yet we’re unable to show the replay of a dive to the judges who have about five seconds to decide their score.

It’s ridiculous.  You can’t judge a dive accurately from that one viewpoint, not without seeing it again.  These people may be professionals, but it’s easy to miss out on small details because of the angle they’re watching from, or the distance between them and the diver.

Small details can make a big difference in sport.

And this is the Olympics!  If there was ever a time when mistakes should not be made, it would be now.  There should never be any doubt about who’s earned their place on the podium, and that can only come from an accurate judgement of how each competitor performed.

If the audience sat watching at home can be shown half a dozen replays of the dive (complete with a slow mo clip), then why can’t the judges be afforded that same luxury?  Surely it’s more beneficial for them to see it than us?

And it’s not just diving.

It’s the same situation in other Olympic sports, like with the gymnastics for example.  A vault routine that lasts approximately 3 seconds is apparently slow enough for a panel of judges to notice every detail the gymnast got wrong when they were spinning through the air.  It’s incredible that human error never interferes with their scoring.

Diving Forbidden
Image by Markus Spiske at http://www.raumrot.com

Now, before anyone says anything, I’m not here trying to insinuate that the wrong people have been awarded medals in the past.  As far as I am aware, everyone that’s ever been given a place on the podium has deserved it.  I’ve only ever watched three Olympic games but that’s not the point.

Despite my negative perception of the scoring system, it’s not often that a lack of reply has hindered a judge’s verdict.  Nevertheless, that’s not to say that that would still be the case in the future.

It seems pointless to me that we’ve deceloped so much technology in recent years, yet we’re unable to make the simplest changes to the judging process that could ultimately make that scores that little bit more reliable.

With all the issues that have come up in these Olympic games with doping scandals and the like, I would hope that the IOC become more intent on making sure that everything about the competition is completely fair-game.

It’s just a thought.

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