Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris called the judging in the Olympic slopestyle event “ridiculous” after getting a surprisingly low score in Thursday’s qualifiers.
McMorris is the favourite to win gold. He had a clean run and landed the sport’s biggest trick (the triple cork), which should have been enough to get him in the top-four. Instead he came in seventh, to the shock of everyone.
“It’s pretty ridiculous, but it’s a judged sport, what can you do?” he said afterward.
“It sucks. To land a really good run that you’re really proud of with one of the only legitimate triple corks of the day and not even come close, I was bummed.”
The controversy shed new light on the slopestyle judging system, which is startlingly subjective.
Yahoo’s Jeff Passan did a story on how the sport is judged. Here are the basics:
- Riders are graded on a 1 to 100 scale based on entirely on “overall impression.”
- The judges are allowed to talk to each other, and the head judge can suggest changes.
- The official judging criteria urges judges to consider difficulty, amplitude, execution, variety, progression, and combinations. But there are no objective metrics for those factors. There’s no strict definition for which tricks are more difficult than others, or by how much. The official judges manual says “difficulty is very individual” to each rider.
- The judging is being conducted by a skiing federation, the FIS, not by snowboarders.
The definition of what constitutes a good run isn’t consistent from session to session or even rider to rider. And to make matters worse, the FIS is inviting corruption charges by allowing the head judge to influence scores.
American Sage Kotsenburg summed it up as only a snowboarder can:
“Sometimes they’re super down for the stuff and sometimes there not. I don’t know, it’s crazy here. I don’t really know what they want to see. I need to re-evaluate, I guess.”
It’s a crapshoot.
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