Can y’all imagine if a homerun’s worth was suddenly based on how many feet the ball flew instead of simply whether or not it soars over the outfield fence? If a touchdown was all of the sudden valued on how many yards you traveled on the previous play to end up in the endzone? What if a point guard heaved up a shot from behind half court and it put up 6 points on the board. If a hole-in-one was no longer feasible? Let me answer these questions for you. NO! Actually let me throw out a HELL NO! No one could imagine their favorite sports’ scoring systems (baseball, football, basketball, golf, etc.) being abruptly and unexpectedly changed to something that their fan base didn’t understand.
With the Olympics coming up I thought I would dive into one of what I think has been one of the most controversial decisions within the sport that I love and participated in for nearly 20 years… The scoring changes within gymnastics over the past decade. Discussions within the International Gymnastics Federation, or FIG, (the worldwide governing body for the sport) about the fashion in which gymnastics was scored, were ignited by a disturbing scoring debacle at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, particularly within the men’s competition. And in 2005 the Code of Points (the rulebook of gymnastics, if you will) changed to an open-ended type of scoring and has continued to spark debate within the world of gymnastics over the last six or seven years. With this new open-ended scoring system the reward for a perfect routine is no longer the elusive and glorified score of a PERFECT 10.0. Since the creation of the sport, essentially, the goal was always to perform to the absolute best of your capabilities in order to have your score climb as close to a perfect 10.0 as possible.
Let me give you some background on gymnastics scoring and it’s development over the past 30 years before I move on. Try to stay with me on this…
1970s-1992: The perfect 10.0 system is firmly in place. Elite-level routines that meet all difficulty requirements start from a 10.0 and are devalued from there.
1992-2000: Routines start at a base value of a 9.4 for women and a 9.0 for men. The gymnasts have to earn bonus points by performing difficult skills and combinations in order to reach a start value of 10.0.
2000-2004: The revised Code of Points forces more difficult combinations to attain greater bonus.
2004-2008: The FIG abandons the perfect 10 in favor of a more open-ended code that in theory is supposed to reward execution as much as difficulty. Gymnasts are required to perform a certain number of elements in each routine, and bonus is given.
- There are now two scores given to each performance. A D-SCORE which is the Difficulty Score. This is now theoretically exponential. The more skills and combinations an athlete has in their routine, the higher their starting D-Score.
- A gymnast is also scored on her E-SCORE, or the Execution Score. Mistakes are deducted from a starting score of 10.0.
- The Difficulty Score and the Execution Score are now added together to give a gymnast his or her final score. A score resulting in a 15+ score is now seen as an excellent score and a 16+ score is almost guaranteed to be a top score.
Are y’all still with me? Basically what I am trying to say is that there is no longer such thing as a “perfect” score. Before 2005 everyone knew that the closer your score was to a 10.0 the closer you were to a flawless performance. That dream that every little girl had to look up at the scoreboard with hopeful eyes and see a perfect 10 flash just like Nadia Comaneci first did in 1976 or Mary Lou Retton did in 1984, was gone.