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Fourth-Place Medal

Kayaker gets penalty from tough judge — his mother

Maggie Hendricks
Fourth-Place Medal

(Getty)

New Zealand kayaker Mike Dawson cannot go home and complain about the judge who gave him a two-second penalty at the kayak slalom on Tuesday. Chances are he won't get many sympathetic ears, as the judge is his mother, Kay.

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When he touched gate five, she gave him the penalty without hesitation. Just like we all must do with our mothers, he admitted she was right.

"Fortunately it was definitely a genuine touch, and of course she called it right, as I'd expect her to ... though I'll be trying my hardest to keep mum unoccupied in my semifinal run," he said.

But that brings up the bigger question -- how does a mother end up judging her son in the Olympics?

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Kay Dawson was described by the New Zealand kayaking federation as an experienced international judge. She was the only New Zealander chosen to serve as a gate judge at the Olympics, and she talked about how her responsibility to all the competitors means she will play fair.

"I've been officiating for a number of years now and know a lot of the athletes, so it is easy to put aside any personal emotions when I'm on the course," Kay Dawson said before the competition. "Several of the top men's slalom paddlers have stayed with us in New Zealand while they've been training with Mike and I owe it to all of them to do the most professional job possible."

Judges in kayak have a system that while not foolproof, does create a system of accountability. Each judge oversees a gate, but also looks at the two gates next to them and then reports to a chief judge, who oversees all judging and can overturn any call. This means every gate is being checked out by three people plus the chief judge.

And doesn't the fact that she penalized her son discount any idea of bias?

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