Olympic Gymnastics 2012: How the Scoring System Works

Mike Shiekman@TheRealShiekFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2012

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 01:  McKayla Maroney competes on the balance beam during day 4 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on July 1, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The perfect 10 has been gone for quite a while now, but when gymnastics returns to the spotlight every four years, it still seems weird for balance beam routines to be getting scores like 15.750.

For fans unfamiliar with the new scoring system, it can be hard to tell from the posted numbers whether a routine was judged favorably or unfavorably, so here's a quick primer on the how gymnastics is scored.

The scoring system, implemented after the 2004 Games, placed extra emphasis on converting difficult maneuvers and is tougher on gymnasts whose execution is flawed. 

The new scoring system features:

• Eight judges total, distributed onto two panels.

• Panel A grades for requirements and execution, starting at 0

• Panel B deducts for falls and misses, starting at 10

• The scores are combined and usually fall between 13 and 16. A score of 17 would be considered exceptional

• Coaches can request an explanation of the score and can file a inquiry, verbally and through video review

To read more, check out a simplified explanation and FAQ of the gymnastics scoring system here.

Besides hurting fans' understanding of the sport, the scoring system upset some of gymnastics’ greatest ambassadors. Mary Lou Retton, the famous U.S. gymnast who snagged gold in 1984, is no exception. Her former coach Bela Karolyi was even more vocal in his comments in that same 2008 New York Times article:

It’s crazy, terrible, the stupidest thing that ever happened to the sport of gymnastics. How could they take away this beautiful, this most perfect thing from us, the one thing that separated our sport from the others?

Nevertheless, Olympic gymnastics still sports some of the greatest athletes in Olympic competition, certainly the most flexible. No doubt they've adjusted to the new scoring system as well.


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