Gymnastics point system easy as ABC

By Arlie Rahn

Arizona Daily Wildcat

From Olympian Mary Lou Retton to Wildcat Tenli Poggemeyer, there is a time when every gymnast finds themselves gritting their teeth while awaiting the official critique of their routine the score.

"A scoring system was made many years ago based on a series of difficulties, deductions and execution errors," said UA gymnastics coach Jim Gault.

At first glance, this scoring system might resemble the chemical equation for photosynthesis. But it is not that confusing when taken apart.

"The original system had three levels of difficulty for each movement: A (easiest), B and C (most difficult). In the past couple of years, we have moved on to D and E moves," Gault said.

But Gault said the problem with this grading system is that it is constantly changing.

"For instance," he said, "one movement that one of our gymnasts is getting D credit for on bars is suddenly being done by everyone and their cousin. So it gets dropped from a D to a C."

This sort of thing happens on a regular basis every year and can cause gymnasts a lot of hardships. They can spend months on a skill just to have it devalued halfway through the season.

But the bulk of confusion comes in mid

when the judges give their score. Sometimes an apparently flawless routine can receive far-from-perfect marks.

"All judges start from a 9.6. What this means is that if the gymnast does her base routine without any mistakes, she will get a 9.6," Gault said. "But in order to end at a 10, the gymnast has to earn four bonus points for difficult movements.

All judges have certain things they look for when handing out these points. But they all follow the same "Code of Points."

"Judging is very subjective, but we all have rules and guidelines to follow," collegiate judge Kim Bird said.

Each event has its own areas that judges consider when scoring.

"In vaulting, a judge is looking for flight, the distance and time in the air," Gault said. "If a girl has a long flight and takes an extra step on her landing, she probably won't get marked off as much."

This is why two performers with apparently similar performances can receive vastly different marks.

"There are many areas in gymnastics that a spectator might not notice the difference in. For instance, two girls might give similar routines but get different scores," Gault said. "A judge might notice that she just did a full instead of a one and one-half turn. It may still look nice, but the judge was looking for something else."

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