Consequences of judging seating changes

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RAFIKI

Defender
Since 2015 worlds judges have been seated off the competition floor at big events. What do you think are the pros, cons and neutral consequences of this?
  • Something that came up in Glasgow was that the increased distance from the apparatus means it’s harder to spot verbal coaching assistance on bars. The Chinese coaches are pretty infamous for this.
  • On beam all the judges being on one side means they all have the same rubbish view of gymnasts performing their sideways choreography facing away from them. I can’t think of an example where this might have mattered for judging that artistry component and it’s probably a give benefit to gymnast if you can’t see exactly what their arms/hands are doing situation anyway. However I have seen examples on floor where the judges wouldn’t have been able to see exactly what was going on for sections of low choreography.
  • Perhaps to guard against the previous point, floor routines are increasingly being choreographed to perform to one side of the floor. As a fan that enjoys taking photos during competitions, I really noticed this at 2022 Euros and 2022 worlds. So many key poses and choreographic passages all face the same way and for many gymnasts I have nothing but back photos. Minor annoyance for me, but it’s still a shame to see performing to the audience as a whole being neglected.
  • We miss out on seeing judges facial expressions e.g. Cheryl Hamilton and Maroney’s vault, judge smiling at Cheng Fei on floor in Athens.
  • No chance of vaulters ending up in judges’ laps a la Hamm/Purvis.
  • Ending on a positive, it has made the field of play look much cleaner and this is a clear benefit for photographers.
 
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Sitting together makes judging conferences easier and more private.

The cheating barriers between judges always make me giggle.
 
Honestly it’s a good question.

I wish they’d kept the judges on the competition floor for a couple of reasons. First, and most importantly, it’s a sport, not a broadway show. Judges should be seated in such a manner that they can best do their job, and I can tell you that this is not it. Secondly, for the performance reasons you listed above. And thirdly because it gives an odd impression of being less serious when the judges are tucked away semi out of view. I agree that it does make for a cleaner floor, but given that it also impacts the performance to the audience, I would say that the aesthetics are a wash, for me.
 
I’ll preface this with an “I’ve never judged a podium competition.” But I would prefer to be at ground level so that I am not craning my neck to see skills that are high up or low to the ground, and at an angle that is comparable to my usual experience of viewing gymnastics in a gym. And would prefer seating on at least opposite sides of the apparatus (judges not all grouped in one row) for different angles. I definitely don’t want to have, say, the beam between me and my view of a gymnast’s feet/toes, as could happen at an angle. Eye level is much better for the beam than lower.
 

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