CRAIG NELSON'S COLUMN: The strictly test into deciding what actually is a sport

Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , sports writer

JUST what constitutes a sport is an argument we have time and time again on our desk.

One of my colleagues has a pretty straight-forward rule – if you can wear shoes while playing then it is a pastime, not a sport – so snooker is out right away.

I have a slightly different logic – the Strictly Test.

My theory goes that if the end result is determined by judges, as in Strictly Come Dancing, then it is not strictly a sport.

Any competition decided by who scores more points, runs or goals is a sport. If competitors are required to go faster, throw longer or jump higher, then it is a sport.

But if you have to wait for five minutes after your “performance” before some glorified pundit jumps up with a card and shouts “severrrrrn” then it is not a sport.

Of course, with every rule, there is an exception, or in this case, plenty of exceptions.

Boxing is quite a major one.

On the face of it, boxing is quite clearly a sport, albeit one that rewards competitors for being good at assault and battery.

In boxing you have to be dedicated, athletic and brave to compete and, if you happen to knock your opponent out or force them to throw in the towel, then you are a clear winner. It passes the Strictly Test. What muddies the water with boxing is that, in the event of a draw, the two men or women in the ring who have stood toe to toe for 45 minutes hitting each other in the face then have to defer to four Len Goodman-type characters to decide who is the winner.

If professional boxing is only 50-50 then the more acceptable, Olympic version of the sport, which requires judges to determine the winner, clearly fails the Strictly Test.

Sorry Amir, but you will have to give your silver medal back.

The point is that judges can never truly be impartial or neutral, whether they realise it or not, their decision-making is always going to be subjective.

When it comes to the Winter Olympics, the Strictly Test really comes into its own.

Snowboarding offers a prime example. Boarder cross – a race down an obstacle course – is a sport as it requires one snowboarder to cross the line before the other. Simple.

Snowboard slopestyle, in which judges award marks to riders for how stylishly they make their way down an obstacle course, is entertainment, not sport. So again, sorry Jenny, but you know how you won Great Britain’s first ever bronze medal on snow, well I’m afraid you will have to give it back.

The same goes for Tom Daly and his diving – falling with style – and Torvill and Dean and their ice DANCING. It may be entertaining, but if you can make a reality TV show out of it then it’s not a sport. Case closed.

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