The Perfect 17.0
Gymnastics is one of the most popular sports at the Summer Olympics. Some of the people watching are doing so just because they like to the see the gymnasts flip and do cool tricks. However, most people watch gymnastics not only because it’s “cool” but also because they can understand why the routines are getting the scores that they do. They know that if the routine is really good, it’ll get close to the coveted “perfect 10”, and if it has some mistakes, it will get a lower score.
What if you turned on the TV and the gymnasts weren’t scoring 9.95s but 15.5s? You would probably start to lose interest because you couldn’t understand why someone got the score that they did. You’re watching a routine one-minute thinking, “wow, this routine is perfect”, and the next minute you’re confused as to why they got a score in the 14s when someone with a routine that wasn’t as good got a score in the 15s. Imagine if college gymnastics were this way. One of the main reasons that people go to college gymnastics meets is to see great, exciting routines that make them want to chant “TEN! TEN! TEN!”
After the 2004 Olympics scoring scandal where a Korean gymnast says he was cheated out of the gold medal because his score wasn’t high enough, the International Federation of Gymnastics, FIG, went into a whole rebuilding process and came up with a completely different scoring system. This new system would add up the 8 hardest skills in a routine to make the difficulty score. The difficulty score was then added to the execution score, which is the gymnast’s errors deducted from a 10.0. The perfect 10 was still hidden within the new system, but it was only one half of the total score. Everyone was confused because gymnasts were now scoring 14s and 15s instead of 9s and 9.5s.
It took gymnastics fans years to fully understand the new scoring system. Gone were the days of beautifully executed artistic floor routines. The trend for routines was slowly moving towards more difficult but messy routines. Sure, these big skills are crowd pleasers, but these routines with the big skills were scoring higher than the perfectly executed routines because they had higher difficulty scores. Suddenly, the norm was switching from beautiful gymnastics to messy gymnastics, which causes more gymnasts to take more risks with skills and put themselves in a position where they could potentially suffer career-ending injuries.
The “perfect 10” wasn’t just something used in gymnastics; it made its way into everyday use as well. Blythe Lawrence, who writes for Universal Sports and the Gymnastics Examiner, said, “The ‘perfect 10’ was so well-known that it had filtered into the collective public consciousness as a way to describe something that was, well, perfect.” With the current scoring system, you don’t hear people going around and saying things like “That was a perfect 17!” The new scoring system doesn’t even have a perfect score. Each individual routine has a maximum score, but there no longer is a perfect 10 equivalent.
Imagine if the open-ended scoring system weeded its way into college gymnastics. When asked in a poll on Facebook “If college gymnastics switched to the open-ended scoring system (no more perfect 10), would you lose interest in the sport?”. Sixty six percent of the people that answered said, “Yes.”
The University of Georgia gymnastics team gets an average of 10,000 fans attending every meet. Imagine if 66% of those fans just stopped coming to the meets because they didn’t understand what was going on. The sport would suffer a huge loss and the gymnasts would probably not perform as well because of the loss of support.
I believe that gymnastics should return to the perfect 10. It would bring back fan’s interest in the sport as well as cut down on injuries that result in gymnasts trying to continuously push the barrier of what is humanly possible just to beat someone else. Lawrence came up with a great solution to the scoring system dilemma. “I would bring back the perfect 10, which would make it much easier for fans to understand the scoring system. Right now, when a gymnast is awarded a 14.2 for a routine, it’s very hard to tell whether that’s a good score or not. I do like the idea of having one score for difficulty and one score for execution and adding the two together to make a total score. The top score for difficulty could be 5.0, which a gymnast would only attain if he or she met certain criteria, and execution could be judged out of 5.0 as well. Then the two scores could be added together to form the total score, which would be something close to 10 for a great routine. It would be so much easier to gauge scores that way.” This is an excellent solution because it would not only bring back the prefect 10, but it would encompass some of the better elements of the current system as well.
Gymnastics is something that everyone used to love to watch. Many people stopped watching because it was just too confusing. If the FIG can come up with a solution that would not only be easy to understand, but tie in the artistic and difficult side of gymnastics, there would be more interest in the sport. This would result in a larger fan base to support the all of the world’s gymnasts. Don’t tell me you don’t perform better when you have someone cheering you on!
Below are some pictures that I took while my team was practicing. Gymnastics takes dedication and hard work to get at the highest level. The new scoring system forces gymnasts to train even more just to be up to speed with everyone else.