Confused by Olympic Gymnastics Scoring? Here’s a Basic Guide

gymnastics scoring

40 years ago Nadia Comăneci, then just 14 years old, stunned the world when she became the first Olympic gymnast to ever score a ‘perfect ten’ at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. But no one can score a perfect ten anymore, as such a thing no longer exists. In fact, for those watching the action unfold in Rio this summer the way the Olympic gymnastics contests are scored can be more than a little confusing these days. Here’s a little information to help you figure it all out and understand why – and how – your favorite athletes end up with the scores they do.

When Did Things Change?

After a number of scoring questions and controversies marred the gymnastics competitions a little at the 2004 Athens Games the governing bodies decided something had to change. In 2005 a new ‘open – ended’ scoring system was unveiled that is designed to provide scores that better represent an athlete’s all-around performance. The system has been in place ever since and will be again in Rio.

What’s Different Now?

There is no longer a single panel of judges; they are divided into three groups. After the nine judges are selected the panels are broken down as follows:

The D panel, who calculate the Difficulty Score (2 judges)
The E panel, who judge the Execution Score (5 judges)
The Reference panel, who correct the Execution Scores in case of any problems (2 judges)

How it works is a little more complicated as well. The Difficulty Panel begins their scoring at 0 and then adds points for meeting basic event requirements and the difficulty of various executions and connections.

In the meantime, the Execution Panel (yes, that does sound a little gruesome doesn’t it?) begins their scoring at 10 and deductions are made for errors and faults in technique, execution and artistry/composition. And this is where one of the biggest changes has been made, as athletes are now penalized more heavily for the errors they make. For example, under the old scoring system a fall would likely have cost a gymnast eight-tenths of a point, but now it automatically costs them a whole point.

Calculating the Final Score

So how do all of these different judges finally arrive at the number you see on the scoreboard after a gymnast has performed? Each judge on the Difficulty Panel offers a score of their own and then the two compare these scores and reach a consensus. Each judge on the Execution Panel also independently determines his/her own score. There is no conferring here though. Of the five scores, the highest and lowest are dropped, and the gymnast’s execution score is then taken to be average of the remaining three judges’ scores. The ‘D Score’ and the ‘E’ Score are then added together to calculate that all important final tally.

Can a Score Be Appealed?

Technically, yes. A verbal inquiry must be made – by the gymnast’s coach only – before the next competitor begins their routine. They must then complete a written request for review that must be handed in prior to the completion of the rotation. From there a video review is commissioned. It’s not something that happens a great deal but it is possible.

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