Categorized | Featured, Men's Gymnastics, Olympics

Explaining the New Olympic Gymnastics Scoring System

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.

Read More:

New Olympic Gymnastics Scoring and Judging:  Discussion

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18 Comments For This Post

  1. Kelsey Stone Says:

    I have always been an avid gymnastics viewer throughout the Olympics. I have never participated in any gymnastics myself, but thoroughly enjoy the beauty of the sport. I completely understand the new complexity of the scoring system. The fairness of the scores will ease the conflict that has happened with scoring in the past. I believe that the average person may at first retract the absence of the perfect 10, but over time they will begin to see the beauty of the new scoring system. The combination of two panels can make a gymnast focus on raking up skill points, even if you lose from your 10. Or focus on performing the cleanest with a less technical performance. Overall, I am not at all upset with the loss of a perfect ten.


    Kelsey Stone

  2. Nessie Says:

    2004 Olympics were in Athens not Sydney

  3. admin Says:

    Duly corrected! Thanks.

  4. PommelHorse Says:

    I dislike the new scoring system; quality, experienced judges should be able to appropriately score routines given any scoring system. Instant replay/excrutiating scrutiny of routines on computer screens post routine doesn’t belong in football nor does it belong in gymnastics. I also think that the final score should reflect all of the judges equally, but with the separation of different areas of scoring for different teams of judges, I believe there is an imbalance in the scoring. I have been watching the application of this scoring on the olympics and am querelous about some of the difficulty scores. Also, maybe I have just a little love reserved for the perfect 10.

  5. admin Says:

    PommelHorse – I think most people have a little love reserved for the perfect 10. Let’s see how it all plays out.

  6. Zimm Delnara Says:

    The thing that I find so odd is that it seems like you could land on your face and it would be a .1 deduction to your score. I seem to remember sticking the landing being one of the important elements to a routine and now it seems guys are still getting pretty good scores despite taking huge steps or completely missing a landing.

  7. Scoring sucks Says:

    The new scoring still seems to favor good execution of simple routines. The difficulty scores seemed all over the place and hardly worthwhile to try riskier skills, e.g. more difficult skills get a miniscule bonus to difficult rating but suffer lower execution scores.

    Also, anyone notice the number of falls by all the gymnysts? I don’t remember seeing so much falling in previous games.

  8. LadyCove Says:

    Can I ask a silly question?

    WHy is it that I alwasys see the men performing in long pants while the women are in “bathing suits”?

  9. admin Says:

    The men wear shorts (VERY short!) for their events that use a lot of ground work, floor and vault. The long pants, with the stirrup under the heel, accentuate the long, straight legs on all of the off-the-ground moves in the other events: pommel horse, rings, high bar, and parallel bars.

    Why do female gymnasts wear only that butt-riding little leotard on every event?? Hmmm. Why do beach volleyballers wear bikinis? Hmm. We just don’t know the answers to these.

  10. GymDad Says:

    I like the new scoring methodology (and beach volleyball). It rewards both innovation and tradition. Figure skating, with its similar fashion standards, made comparable changes and the levels of competition and excitement skyrocketed. IMHO “professional sports” need to make use technologies (e.g. instant replay) to better level the playing field where observation, judgment and human fallibility are involved. I know that my positions lack the flair of romance, but with 7 digit endorsement contracts at stake, those judging really ought to be able to use everything available that helps to make the right call.

  11. admin Says:

    GymDad, you’ve got to check out our new discussion post about the scoring, and tell us how you feel. The more people who get out there in the blogosphere and share their passions about how this sport is to be scored and judged, the better.

    We love tech too here at SIM, but we are torn because sitting and reviewing slo-mo video at sports events from gymnastics to football could be rather tedious. Yet we appreciate that when Michael Phelps touches the end of his pool lane, that there is no striped referee to make a possibly bribed call. Sadly, how can we get anything like Swiss timing tech into a judged sport?

    It’s good to hear that figure skating has already invented this wheel and it seems to be rolling, though. Maybe one day there will be high-tech interactive cameras shooting video of the athlete doing his routine, and the video will be the judge itself, as in the current fast-paced video games like NHL hockey. It’s already a fairly brave new world.

  12. Erin C Says:

    I was wondering…for the men’s individual pommel the other night, two men ended up with exactly the same score, yet one was given the silver over the other. Is it because he had a higher execution score (but a lower difficulty level)?

  13. Erin C Says:

    Oh…just found this, in regards to a different event, but totally explains the answer to my question!

  14. sinatra12 Says:

    I love to watch gymnastics but was totally thrown off after the 1st event when I saw the score. It was very odd having scores higher than 10 but I tried to move pass that and just enjoy the events. That lasted about 10 minutes. The judging seemed to take a very long time and the worst thing I saw was Instant Replay Judging. Those two things started making me feel that the judging is tainted.

    So now gymnastics is over and it took a lot for me to actually watch all of the events. I don’t think I will be watching gymnastics anymore. It is like I have been lied to.

    Yes I was rooting for the American gymnasts and although Liukin did win the all around, I still do not understand her scores in that competition. There were severel gymnast from different countries who got scored too high or too low in my opinion.

    So in situations when you feel like you have been wronged… pull away and move on. That is just what I will do with gymnastics.

    Swimming and track and field never seem to let me down.

  15. Lise Says:

    Actually, I remember seeing a few ‘fall on their faces’ moments during gymnastics this year…. and a few medaled! I’m not a certain Chinese vault was that much higher in difficulty, to make up for falling on her face, yet silver it was :( Some of the men’s Pommel Horse was questionably judged too. And what’s with a score of 0 entirely for a vaulter going before the light was green? The difficulty and execution were both zeroed for that (why?!) Gymnastics scoring is still crap, or at least the judges are.

  16. dilroy Says:

    I second the prior post. The split scoring just makes more sense. And now we are seeing adjustments to put more penalty on falls (as is happening this year in men’s NCAA scoring, and I guess FIG). And I don’t see the extra emphasis on daring and difficulty de-emphasizing artistry, but instead emphasizing athleticism over perfection. Which is right for sport! Also, reducing those two facets into one as the limited 10.0 system did, just made the official judgement of performances unnecessarily obscure.

  17. Sabrina Says:

    I was just wondering. Now that the new scoring is in application, what about local level gymnastics? Do they hold to the Olympic scoring systems or do they stick to the old scoring? I ask because requiring two teams of judges for every event for something like a YMCA meet seems a little excessive considering how little money some gyms have. My sisters used to be in gymnastics, but they left before the scoring system changed. Thanks to anyone who can answer!

  18. admin Says:

    Sabrina – All USAG men’s club programs are utilizing the new scoring system. Levels 8, 9 and 10 started the new system last season. Levels 4-7 started using the system this season. Typically, the meets have one judge for each event.

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