Tough math leaves Liukin silver

United States' Nastia Liukin (L) looks on as she stands on the podium with China's He Kexin (C) and China's Yang Yilin (R).

United States' Nastia Liukin (L) looks on as she stands on the podium with China's He Kexin (C) and China's Yang Yilin (R).

BEIJING — Nastia Liukin tied for first but got second in an incredibly convoluted scoring mess in the women’s uneven bars competition Monday at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It seemed she was robbed, China’s HeKexin getting the gold, Liukin left with silver. China’s Yang Yilin got the bronze, the bars results adding to the host nation’s sensational gymnastics performance at these Games — the great haul of China.

Was Liukin robbed?

No, at least not mathematically.

But that didn’t do anything to lessen the sting of getting the exact same score, 16.725, but getting silver instead of gold.

“It’s nothing I can control,” Liukin said. “It’s all up to the judges.

“I’m definitely a little upset. You know, I was hoping I could get another gold,” to go with the individual all-around gold she won last Friday.

She also won bronze in the floor exercise and a team silver. She and Shawn Johnson, who has three silvers, compete Tuesday night on the beam — their final event.

“… You know,” Liukin said, “a fourth Olympic medal — I have to be happy.”

Steve Penny, the president of USA Gymnastics, said the Americans would not file a protest. “We agree with it,” he said. “It’s done. We’re moving on.”

Martha Karolyi, the U.S. women’s head coach at these Games, would say only, “I’m not saying anything.”

Her husband of 43 years, Bela Karolyi, the legendary gymnastics coach who at these Games is also serving as an adviser to NBC, was hardly so reticent.

“That makes no sense,” he said, adding, “They’re saying they improved the scoring system. Look at this.”

Gymnastics’ new code of points went into effect after judging controversies rocked the Athens 2004 Games. The new code was ratified in late 2005 and was first implemented in 2006.

A complete score is now made up of two parts, A and B. The first, the A score, or the start value, is an assigned degree of difficulty.I n this instance, both He and Liukin had the same start value, 7.7.

The second part of a score, the B score, is an execution score. Six judges vote. The high and the low are tossed per the rules.

That leaves four scores. Those four are averaged. That average becomes the B score. Add the A and B together and you get a complete score.

In this instance, both He and Liukin got 16.725.

Thus: onto tiebreakers.

The first tiebreak is the B score. Here both got the same B score, 9.025.

The next tiebreak: the judges drop the next highest deduction. That obviously leaves three judges’ scores instead of four — or to be precise, the marks those three judges gave for deductions.

Here, the average of those three judges’ deductions for He: .933. For Liukin: .966.

Liukin had a greater deduction. Thus she was second.

Another way of getting to that math: Take the B scores of the three judges from that second tie-break, add them together and divide by three.

The math for He: 9.1, 9.1, 9.0. That equals 27.2. Divide that by three, and that equals 9.066, the sixes stretching out to infinity.

For Liukin: 9.1, 9.0, 9.0. That equals 27.1. Divide that by three and it’s 9.0333, the threes going out forever.

Thus she was second.

Which, all the same, didn’t make it any easier. Because even if the math is right, it’s logically still just naturally tough to get.

“Seeing the exact same score and ‘second’ next to my name,” Liukin said, “made it a little bit harder.”


~ by Digory Kirke on August 19, 2008.

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