Olympic Slopestyle - Sage Kotsenburg is the Man for Winning, But What the Hell Was Up With the Judging?

Russia Winter Olympics February 8, during the 2014 Winter Olympics Slopestyle semi finals SnowboardeR Seppe Smits  on the rails on top section of course
Sage Kotsenburg mid way through his undeniably sick front ten double nosegrab. Photo: Nick Atkins

Well, I’m sure we all share similar feelings after what were probably some of the most influential hours of snowboarding of the past decade.

I don’t think my heart has raced that much at 6AM since my first girlfriend stayed over for the night and there was probably around the same amount of groaning (mostly in disappointment) as well…

So Sage Kotsenberg took out the gold in the Olympic Slopestyle with young Norselad Ståle Sandbech taking home the silverwear and McMorris junior taking home a rare bronze to show MTV next season. If there’s a rider that is going to be the best spokesperson for snowboarding in the next coming weeks and months it has to be Sage. A rider that has proved again and again that he’ll speak out about the issues that are facing snowboarding. A rider that embodies the fun that we all have when we ride. But do I think he deserved the medal for his run? Probably not.

Russia Winter Olympics February 6 ,during the 2014 Winter Olympics Slopestyle Snowboarding qualifications
Did Seppe deserve to make it to the finals with his semi final run? Photo: Nick Atkins

Whilst I’m incredibly stoked to see a rider breaking out against the ‘robotic’ competition style that many people point out as being the death of snowboarding, we have to remember that style is only one of the 5 overall judging criteria. These criteria were sculpted with input from people like Terje Haakonsen, Daniel Franck and Greg Johnson (founder of the IJF) and whilst the FIS probably have some weird criteria they picked up reading a French pre-medieval newspaper, the criteria are more or less the same.

So where in the name of Mary Magdalene did the criteria we just see come from? As I said, I’m stoked for Sage, but riders like Staale, Sven, Seppe and Max need to file a police report, because they’ve just been robbed.

I think a lot of people will agree that this is the biggest shake up that we’ve seen in judging criteria in at least my memory

Yes, Sage was creative and his time spent in an Indian yoga retreat definitely paid dividends to his grabbing, but did you see Max’s run? How can the judges reward Sage’s varied run but score Max’s so low? I love seeing creativity in the run, but when technical riders like Sven and Seppe are falling by the wayside, you’ve got to ask yourself the question whether or not the judging went down the right way.

Watching a competition without the World Snowboard Tour Snowboard Live Scoring makes it a lot harder for us to analyse the rider’s runs. It also makes it harder for the riders to work out where they need that improvement from in their runs. It honestly felt like the judges were working off a different criteria list for each heat, round and rider.

Mark McMorris / Photo: Nick Atkins
Mark McMorris was judged unusually harshly in qualis, semis and finals. Photo: Nick Atkins

I’m going to need some feedback from the people here, but was the rest of the FIS judging like this? Were the Grand Prix’s and World Cups judged to the same hymn sheet as we saw today? I don’t think so and the frustrating thing is, I don’t think we’ll ever hear anything from the judges again. (By the way, does anyone know who Brandon Wong is?)

If we’re looking at a varied run, does Sage’s layback/tripod backside 180 out really justify the score he got when he threw it in every run he’s done? The Mona Lisa is great, but when you bang out five of them, it begins to lose its edge as such.

I think a lot of people will agree that this is the biggest shake up that we’ve seen in judging criteria in at least my memory. How have we got to the point where the biggest competition, with the most exposure to the outside world is working from a completely different set of rules than any other competition of this size we’ve seen?

What today has highlighted for me is the need for one tour, one set of rules and one set of organisers

I’m sure there will be some raging debates taking place in the East right now and what all of this highlights to me is the lack of clarity in the judging we’ve seen throughout the last few days. To be a fly on the wall in the WST offices in Munich would be an interesting place to be right now and I for one am interested in hearing what they had to say on the whole thing.

What today has highlighted for me is the need for one tour, one set of rules and one set of organisers. We need the clarity that one tour provides and until we as snowboarders can agree on judging, how the hell is the BBC and Joe Bloggs meant to understand what’s going on?

Max Parrot / Photo: Nick Atkins
Max Parrot / Photo: Nick Atkins

Nonetheless, congrats to Sage and in no way do I mean to diminish your achievements. To Sven, Seppe, Ståle and Max….well….I’d spend some time at a yoga retreat this summer lads.

Once again, this isn’t meant to demean Sage’s win, it was an incredible run and it is amazing to see in competitive snowboarding. I just think the lack of consistency in this judging, compared to judging we’ve seen before, was too vast and left incredible riders out in the cold.

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