Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Orthodox Gymnast Update

Yesterday I posted about Amalya Knapp, a Level 4 gymnast who is a Sabbath observant Jew and cannot be ranked since she competed on Sunday, the day after her age group had performed. The article, which can be found here, describes Amalya's plight. Yesterday I contended (as usual) that the world doesn't have to accommodate her religious observance, and that though keeping the Sabbath often doesn't feel like a choice to the Orthodox, it still is one.

Apparently it's a slow news day in New Jersey and Assemblyman Gary Schaer doesn't have enough work to do because now he's taken up Amalya's cause in this CBS News report. (Amalya's mother comes off as totally appreciative and respectful of USA Gymnastics so I have nothing snarky to say about the Knapps.)

But when I was writing yesterday, I hadn't considered that there is a perfectly good gymnastics reason not to rank her based on her Sunday competition results. Thankfully, Amanda Turner, a writer at International Gymnast Magazine provided it to me:

"There are a lot of things that can affect judging. These judges might have been judging hundreds of Level 5s all day, and then to go back and do ONE Level 4 routine could throw them off slightly. They might even be harder on her because they didn't have anything fresh to compare it with. So much of judging, especially compulsories, is rank. You might give a vault an 8.7, and then the next one comes along that your deductions add up to 8.6, but in your mind you know it was definitely better than the 8.7 you just had, so you give it 8.8. When specific deductions vary from .1-.3, you have that leeway. The main thing is getting all the results right and being fair to everyone." (Just a note: Until Level 7, all gymnasts perform compulsories, or the same routines so ranking them properly is especially important since they are not competing different elements.)

She went onto suggest a possible solution. "I have to wonder if this could have been avoided though. Typically Level 4 is the biggest group and they have multiple sessions. They could have had Level 4, ages 7-8 on Sunday. That would not have affected Level 4, ages 9-10 etc. on Saturday...But then you run into the issue with, were there Orthodox kids competing on Sunday? Maybe Level 5s or 6s?"

Since Amalya would've ranked 5th based on her Sunday scores, it means she is pretty darn good. Perhaps next year, this can be addressed. "If there were enough time, I can't see them saying no," Turner commented.


Alex deShazo said...

Seems like everyone's doing the best they can, given the situation. Maybe Assemblyman Gary Schaer had dreams of his own as a kid that were squelched under similar circumstances?

Dvora Meyers said...

Or perhaps he's making a big deal about it to curry favor with Teaneck's Jewish voters?

Ben said...

Why is the cynical answer usually the right one?