Snowboarders Criticize the Judging at Beijing Winter Games: 'Been Hard on Everyone'

“I never cared about any of this, and all of a sudden, I find myself caring,” Team USA snowboarder Red Gerard said in an interview

red gerard
Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A group of snowboarders competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are growing frustrated with what they say is inconsistent judging.

According to the New York Times, several judging controversies have already unfolded at the Winter Games in Beijing.

During the men's slopestyle final, judges awarded Max Parrot of Canada 90.96 after he performed three consecutive triple corks. The score was enough for him to win gold ahead of China's Su Yiming. But a replay of Parrot's performance showed he grabbed his knee instead of his board during one of his runs. The judges missed Parrot's error and did not dock him any points, the Times reported.

Head snowboarding judge Iztok Sumatic told snowboarding website Whitelines in an interview that the panel in Beijing includes "some of the most experienced judges in the world." He said the judges are being pushed to "make a decision in seconds" and from their camera view, they saw a "grab and a well-executed switch frontside 16" from Parrot in the slopestyle final.

In another instance, Japanese snowboarder Ayumu Hirano was given a 91.75 after becoming the first Olympian to land a triple cork on the halfpipe. Despite his jaw-dropping performance, judges gave him a lower score than Scotty James of Australia, who remained in first place with a 92.50. During the live NBC broadcast in the U.S., commentators were audibly shocked at the points total for that run and expressed that they felt Hirano was underscored.

Hirano performed the trick again on his final run, however, and was awarded a 96.00, which was ultimately enough to earn him the gold medal.

Speaking to the AFP, Hirano expressed frustration at the situation. "We want to have sound standards and I think we should look into exactly what the judges were looking at," Hirano said. "For the athletes, they're putting their lives on the line, they're giving it their all. So for the riders, I think some steps need to be taken to address this issue regarding the judges."

red gerard
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After Monday's big air men's qualifiers, Team USA snowboarder Red Gerard, 21, told the Associated Press of the judging, "I never cared about any of this, and all of a sudden, I find myself caring. It's a bummer."

"It's just like, this has been brought to my eye over the last month-ish that we've been here. It's just been hard on everyone," he added.

Gerard told the outlet that he believes judges also made an error during his big air qualifying run. He believes his switch backside 1620 was scored lower than other competitors who did the same trick. Bronze medalist Mark McMorris earned 81.50 for his switch backside 1620, while Gerard was given 75.50.

"It doesn't really make complete sense," Gerard told the AP. "Having that six-point difference is pretty incredible."

"It's heartbreaking," Gerard added to the AP. "There's nothing they can do after they put the scores in to change it. ... You're talking about, this is life-changing for some people, you know?"

McMorris also weighed in on the situation to the AP, responding to the camera angles comments by judges, saying, "Until we have people caring about having proper cameramen on the scene, proper feeds displayed for the judges, proper training and accountability for the judges, as well, it's going to be an uphill battle to get proper judging."

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The International Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment in response to the complaint. Team USA also did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment about Gerard's remarks.

As of Monday, the U.S. trails Norway and Germany in the overall medal count. Team USA has 16 medals so far, seven of which are gold. Norway has a total of nine gold medals and 21 overall.

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