Subjectively Judged Sports Stress Athletes

KNOXVILLE – A University of Tennessee sports psychologist says subjectively judged sports can produce different stresses than sports outcomes that are determined objectively.

“Figure skating, gymnastics, those sports are subjectively scored,” Dr. Craig Wrisberg said, unlike a track meet where everyone competes against the clock. “You’re always going to have subjectivity in those sports, but I think the history of these events suggests a very heavy political influence,” Wrisberg said.

A controversy arose during the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City when a pair of Russian figure skaters was awarded the gold medal over the objections of fans and commentators, who favored the silver medal-winning Canadian skating pair.

Wrisberg says athletes aren’t the only ones feeling the heat in subjectively judged sports.

“The Russians have a history of winning figure skating competitions, so I think Russian judges are under extreme pressure to privilege Russian skaters,” Wrisberg said.

Wrisberg says athletes in sports like figure skating have to put themselves in a special frame of mind in order to deal with the stress of competition.

“As an athlete, I would say to myself ‘How a judge might evaluate me represents a potential distraction which, if I let it, can take my focus off what I need to do in order to skate my best,'” Wrisberg said. “I was very impressed, in that regard, with how the Canadian skaters handled it.”

Wrisberg says the Canadian figure skaters, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, turned in one of the greatest performances in Olympic history, and that’s what will be remembered.