Posted on 29 July 2008 by admin
The era of the Perfect 10 is now officially over. Many gymnastics fans will soon experience the International Gymnastics Federation’s (FIG) new scoring system for the first time when they tune into the 2008 Beijing Olympic gymnastics coverage.
The new system is based on two separate panels of scores. The A panel judges the requirements, difficulty, and connections of a routine. The scoring starts at zero and then adds points accordingly. The B panel judges the execution of a routine, and the scoring starts at 10 with points deducted accordingly for execution and for any applicable violations such as stepping out of bounds or being over the time limit. The two panels are then added together for the final score. Fans will soon see good scores such as 15.75 instead of 9.5. A very good score will range in the 15s and 16s.
What’s to make of this change? FIG decided after the 2004 Athens Olympics to make the change to allow greater separation of gymnastics scores. Now gymnasts will be rewarded and not punished for having more difficult routines, provided they are executed well. We may well remember Alexei Nemov’s beautiful swan song high bar routine at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and the judges’ score that displeased the crowd enough for many minutes of booing. Perhaps incidents like that triggered the need to reward the exciting and the new in gymnastics.
Yet a gymnast with less difficult routines can benefit by having higher B panel scores to make up for his lower A panel ones. A clean, sharp routine, excellently executed, can beat out a show-stopping routine with many deductions in it. Some of the best routines are the ones that make gymnastics look easy.
Do the gymnasts like the new scoring? Actually, Paul Hamm and his twin Morgan used the new scoring system to determine whether or not to return to the sport after taking a couple of years off to get their college degrees. Paul felt that the new system would indeed help him, because he always has a good deal of difficulty built into his routines. Many young club level gymnasts and their coaches have felt the need to add difficulty to their routines to get higher scores. There is definitely a payoff for taking on risk and successfully executing harder routines.
Do the fans like it? Overall, once they get used to the new numbers, fans seem to find the scoring now to be less subjective and the numbers more meaningful than before.
The new scoring system has been in place since 2006. The 2007/2008 club season was the inaugural season for using the new system, but only for Levels 8, 9, and 10. The system will be expanded for the 2008/2009 season to include Levels 5 through 7 as well.
Initially, it will be frustrating to make historical comparisons in performance, but soon perhaps there will emerge a consensus conversion from the old score references to the new. The biggest benefit to the Olympic gymnastics audience will be to finally know why one guy scores far less than another.