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Seventeen is the new perfect 10.
The iconic score in menâ€™s and womenâ€™s artistic gymnastics has been altered by a new scoring system that rewards gymnasts who perform more difficult routines. Now, the common range of scores for the top gymnasts will fall in the 15s, 16s and possibly 17s.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) decided to incorporate a new scoring system a year after the controversy involving Paul Hamm at the 2004 Olympic Games, where a deduction error in South Korean Yang Tae-Youngâ€™s parallel bars routine led to Hamm winning the all-around gold medal.
This new system encourages gymnasts to aim for tougher routines, but the increase in difficulty brings increased risk. Olympic hopeful Justin Spring noted, â€œThe new scoring system adds to the increase in injuries.â€
Itâ€™s easy to agree with that statement. Leading up to this weekendâ€™s Olympic trials, Paul Hamm, David Sender and Sean Townsend, all strong hopefuls for the Beijing Games, suffered major injuries that have prohibited them from competing.
Unlike the old scoring system where there was only one panel of judges, the new scoring system has two different panels with separate responsibilities. Panel A, consisting of two people, calculates the â€œdifficulty scoreâ€ (previously known as the start value), while a six-person Panel B deducts all errors to compute the â€œexecution score.â€
The Code of Points determines the value for all skills as well as the combinations of skills. For women, the difficulty values range from A to G (lowest to highest), while the menâ€™s skills range from A to F. Every element has a numerical value; for example, a B element is worth .2, a C element is .3 and so on.
Panel A uses this Code of Points to determine the gymnastsâ€™ difficulty score, which starts at zero and is tallied up by skill values, combinations of skills and required elements. The 10 most difficult skills throughout the routine are calculated to determine the difficulty score.
To better explain the how the difficulty score is reached, below is a breakdown of Shawn Johnsonâ€™s floor routine at the 2008 U.S. national championships.
If she receives credit for all the skills performed. Her difficulty score totals a 6.6.
Panel B determines the execution score, which starts from 10, by making deductions for errors on the elements, execution and artistry. Common deductions are falls off the apparatus, form breaks (bent knees or arms), or steps and imperfect landings. The scoring penalties depend on the error.
At the national championships, Johnsonâ€™s floor routine had an execution score of a 9.6. There were small form breaks on her double double as well as her whip to triple, and her largest deduction came from the landing of her whip to triple. Her total deductions totaled .4, which would be deducted from a 10.0, resulting in the 9.6 execution score.
Johnsonâ€™s total score was determined by adding her difficulty score of 6.6 and her execution score of 9.6 for a 16.2. Her high difficulty skills and solid performance allowed her to capture another national title on the floor.
â€œ(The new scoring system) helps more powerful athletes like me,â€ Johnson said.
Nastia Liukin, who won silver at the national championships, believes the new system is â€œharder for (the fans) to understand.â€ However, I felt the fans enjoyed every moment of the competition. And I think the high difficulty performances and charismatic personalities overshadow any confusion with the new scoring, making these gymnastsâ€™ feats even more impressive.
When we think about the most memorable moments in gymnastics, we remember the ones where perfection was achieved. Who can forget the historic moment in 1976 when Nadia Comaneci delighted the world with Olympic gymnasticsâ€™ first-ever perfect 10? Or Mary Lou Rettonâ€™s perfect 10 on the vault at the 1984 Olympics to clinch the first all-around gold for an American woman?
Those moments went down in history not only because of the amazing individual performances but also because of the ultimate scores. Perfection was possible then and it is still possible now.
The only difference is that 17 is the new perfect number.