It’s almost inevitable that judges’ decisions will be debated after contests – especially when Olympic glory is on the line. But it’s hard to remember a judging call that stirred up quite as much chatter – or as much vitriol – as the decision to award the slopestyle gold to Max Parrot on Monday.
As Ed Leigh said on the BBC commentary, it was fairly obvious that a mistake had been made. And the internet – which rarely sees things in shades of gray – quickly decided who was to blame. But as I listened to the rants and scrolled past the inevitable memes about the evils of judges and judging, something didn’t seem to add up.
“It’s hard to remember a judging call that stirred up quite as much chatter – or as much vitriol – as the decision to award the slopestyle gold to Max Parrot on Monday”
I first spoke to Iztok Sumatic, the head judge in Beijing, after Sochi 2014, when anyone who worked with the FIS was still considered, in some corners of the snowboarding world, to be the spawn of the devil. We’ve met at a couple of contests – and shared more than a couple of beers – in the years since, and I’ve consistently found myself impressed by his deep knowledge of the sport, his awareness of judges’ role in shaping its direction, and his unimpeachable integrity. He’s a skateboarder first, a style-conscious snowboarder second, and a man who takes his position at the pinnacle of professional snowboarding’s refereeing structure extremely seriously.
The idea that he and his team would either be careless enough to let something that big slip, or worse still, be deliberately conspiring to bring snowboarding down, just didn’t make sense. So after a bit of back and forth on WhatsApp, I called him up, to get his side of the story.