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Four Year Fan: How is Elite Gymnastics Scored?

At the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci landed her uneven bars dismount with a smile and a confident salute to the judges. She was awarded a 10.0, the first perfect score given out to a woman in gymnastics history. Nadia’s name became synonymous with “the perfect 10,” and casual gymnastics viewers used the 10.0 as a benchmark to contextualize the quality of a routine. Flash forward to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and Simone Biles received a 15.933 on floor to secure the Olympic all-around title. For gymnastics viewers who watched the sport in the perfect 10.0 era, what does a 15.933 mean?

There are two major components to elite scoring: the difficulty score (D-score) and the execution score (E-score). 

Part 1: Difficulty Score

The difficulty score is a numerical value to assess how hard a gymnast’s routine was and is broken down into three components. 

The first component of the difficulty score is the compositional requirements. These are specific elements that a gymnast must do in their routine. For example on floor, a gymnast must do a dance series, a salto (where the gymnast rotates at their waist and their feet come up over their head, like a flip) with a minimum of a full-twist, a double-flipping salto, and saltos in forwards and backward directions. For each requirement fulfilled the gymnast will earn +0.5, adding up to a total of +2.0. 

The second component of the difficulty score is to add up the difficulty values of the top 8 elements in a routine. Each element has an assigned difficulty rating from A to J, A being the simplest, earning 0.1, and J being the most difficult, earning 0.9. A basic back tuck salto on floor will earn 0.1 for being an A-skill. On the other end of the spectrum, Simone Biles’ triple-twisting double tuck, also known as the Biles II, is a J-rated element and earns Simone 0.9 in difficulty. 

The final component of the difficulty score is the connection bonus, awarded when elements are linked together. Most connections earn +0.1 in bonus, but more difficult elements linked together can earn +0.2. For example, Shilese Jones competes a difficult F-rated release, called a Downie, connected into a D-rated release, a Pak-salto, earning 0.2 bonus on bars.

Combined, these three components make up a gymnasts’ D-score. The D-score is open-ended, meaning the harder the routine, the higher the D-score. Each event has a different standard of D-score competitiveness. Vault, being just a single skill, has a predetermined difficulty score. Most gymnasts are going to be doing a double-twisting Yurchenko which starts from a 5.0 difficulty score. When Simone Biles competes her eponymous Yurchenko double-pike, it starts from a 6.4 difficulty score, an astounding 1.4 higher than most other gymnasts. On bars, beam, and floor the most competitive gymnasts in the world will have a difficulty score hovering around 6.0.

Part 2: Execution Score

Now moving onto the second component of a gymnasts’ score, the execution score (E-score). The E-score starts out of a 10.0 and indicates how cleanly a gymnast has completed their routine. Think of it like your high school calculus exam: if you answered every question correctly you would score a 100% but if you forgot to study and made mistakes, your score will drop. If the judges think a gymnast has completed their routine flawlessly, they will award a 10.0 execution score, although this has never been achieved in the history of the open-ended scoring system. Any issues with body positions, landings, or wobbles result in the judges putting pen to paper. Deductions range from 0.1 and 0.3 for small things like small steps and bent knees, while 1.0 is taken off if a gymnast falls on or off the apparatus.  

Artistry deductions are an important part of the E-score and have recently been given more emphasis. Basically all you should know is the judges have a checklist to assess a gymnasts’ artistry of performance, composition, and musicality. There are issues with it and there is still very little transparency regarding how the deductions are applied, but it’s supposed to differentiate gymnasts who can perform like Eythora and gymnasts who can’t.

Going back to the high school calculus exam analogy, a good execution score may differ by event and by gymnast. Some gymnasts may be targeting the 8.8-9.2 range for vault, but the 7.6-8.0 area on beam. But to use qualifications at the 2023 World Championships as a benchmark, the vault execution scores for the finalists fell between 8.733 to 9.366; for bars that range was 7.9-8.4; for beam was 7.9 – 8.266; and for floor it was 7.666 – 8.266.  

Part 3: Neutral Deductions

One other component of the final score is neutral deductions or penalties. The most common neutral deductions occur when a gymnast goes out of bounds on floor or exceeds the maximum amount of time they’re allowed to complete a routine. Other neutral deductions can result from attire violations, unsportsmanlike conduct, and misuse of the equipment, although these types of deductions are less frequent.

What is a good score?

It depends. A good score is dependent upon the apparatus, the competition, and the goals of the athlete. The final score is determined by adding together the D and E score. Every gymnast aims to maximize their Difficulty and Execution score, but if you forsake one for the other the gymnasts’ final score won’t come out too high. Gymnastics is a sport about strategy, and coaches are responsible for helping athletes find routine constructions that strike the perfect balance between difficulty and execution.

REFERENCE:

TOP SCORES THIS QUAD
(These are the top scores achieved from major elite competitions this Olympic cycle. Note: after each Olympic cycle the skill values are reassessed.)

Vault – Simone Biles – 15.800

Uneven Bars – Qiu Qiyuan – 15.450

Balance Beam – Qiu Qiyuan – 15.500

Floor Exercise – Simone Biles – 15.400

Sources: TheGymter.net
The Best Scores 2023
The Best Scores 2022

 

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