Looks like the cat's outta the bag, Shaun - earlier this week, the venerable Wall Street Journal weighed in on the difficulty of judging the ever changing sport of competitive snowboarding. After Red Bull recently released footage of Shaun White training in a super-secret backcountry superpipe, the mainstream media seems to have figured out what snowboarding insiders have known for years: accurately judging never before seen tricks can be really hard.
Wednesday's Wall Street Journal article follows a pair of 2010 Olympic Snowboarding judges as they try to wrap their heads around White's new moves. As head Olympic Snowboarding judge Ola Sundequist explains, "it usually takes seeing a new trick at least three or four times to understand its mechanics and "identify all the small details." Although judges do their best to watch the riders in practice beforehand, it's not uncommon for the athletes to keep their best tricks under wraps until their competition run, denying the judges a glimpse at what's to come. Judges then have just moments to apply a score to a given rider's run, opening the door for controversy and armchair quarterbacking.
Unfortunately, there's a precedent in the snowsports world for unseen tricks being penalized. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, freestyle skier Jonny Moseley unveiled his "Dinner Roll" for the first time in Olympic competition. Despite the trick being more difficult and more technical than anything else that was being done at the time, Moseley failed to medal; he attributed his low score to the fact that the judges had never seen the trick before.
Shaun White and his (awesome) corporate masters at Red Bull have likely taken note of what happened to Moseley. White said he could have saved his surprise moves for Vancouver to increase the "wow" factor and prevent copycats from stealing his thunder, but he decided it was more important "to educate the judges."
One thing's for certain: The upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics are going to showcase some epic snowboarding talent.