Gymnastics scoring

The definition of Perfection

Not only is 10 no longer perfect, it's actually a lousy score these days.

Jordyn Wieber

The definition of Perfection

Difficulty “D score”

+

Execution “E score”

=

Total

Olympic gymnasts are now looking for high-15s and 16s, and perhaps (gasp!) an elusive 17 or higher.

Getting the D score Every skill has a set point value — .01 (easiest) to .07 (hardest). Judges add up points for a routine's eight toughest skills (10 for men) plus “connection” points for stringing top skills together.

Getting the E score Each judge starts at 10 and subtracts points for errors. (A tiny goof is -0.1; a fall is -1 point.) The highest and lowest scores are thrown out; the average of the other four is the E score.

Tiebreakers In all-around, each athlete's lowest apparatus score is dropped. The gymnast who has the highest remaining total wins. In apparatus, the athlete with the highest execution score wins.

U.S. team member Jordyn Wieber.

Floor exercise

Men's and women's

Men's routines consist mostly of tumbling elements — the higher the better — plus balance and strength moves. The women's routine combines graceful dance with raw power. Both men and women must use the entire floor.

Case study: Shawn Johnson's routine at the 2008 Visa Championships.

To get an idea of what judges look for, we asked Amanda Borden, gold medalist on
the 1996 U.S. women's team, to take a look
at a routine by Beijing silver medalist
Shawn Johnson.

6.60 “D score”

+

9.45 “E score”

=

16.05 Total

Woman to watch

Aly Raisman, United States

World bronze medalist Raisman's first tumbling pass is among the world's most difficult, because it combines so many different elements in a single, diagonal run.

World championships score:

6.1

+

8.9

=

15.000

Aly Raisman
Kohei Uchimura
Man to watch

Kohei Uchimura, Japan

The three-time defending world champion Uchimura, is the favorite to win the all-around gold medal. Expect to see astonishing height on his tumbling passes and precisely stuck landings.

World championships score:

6.7

+

8.933

=

15.633

Uneven bars

Women's

Flow is key, with no random pauses. Handstands should be almost perfectly vertical. Look for gymnasts to pirouette on their hands into release moves to try to gain more difficulty points.

Case study: Nastia Liukin's routine at the 2008 Visa Championships.

Borden also analyzed a bars routine by Nastia Liukin, the Beijing all-around gold medalist and the gymnast widely considered to be America's best ever on parallel bars.

7.70 “D score”

+

9.35 “E score”

=

17.05 Total

Athlete to watch

Viktoria Komova, Russia

Komova is Russia's best gymnast and a likely contender for the all-around title. She dominates the bars with graceful yet difficult transitions much like Liukin did in 2008.

World championships score:

6.7

+

8.8

=

15.5

Viktoria Komova

Vault

Men's and women's

Judges watch for speed, height off the vault, perfect body alignment and, as always, a stuck landing. The more flips and twists in a vault, the higher the difficulty score. The vault often has the highest D score among men's events.

Woman to watch

McKayla Maroney, U.S.

Two other U.S. gymnasts (Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas) do the tricky, twisting Amanar vault, but world champion Maroney's has speed and height that rival the men's.

World championships score:

6.5

+

9.3

=

15.8

McKayla Maroney
Hak Seon Yang
Man to watch

Hak Seon Yang, Korea

Yang (nickname: "God of Vault," according to London organizers) won worlds despite a step on his landing because his handspring front layout triple twist earned such a high difficulty score.

World championships score:

7.4

+

9.466

=

16.866

Balance beam

Women's

Beam routines are supposed to look as if the gymnast is tumbling on the floor rather than on a four-inch ledge. Gymnasts try to string together moves without pauses for maximum connection points.

Athlete to watch

Sui Lu, China

Not only was Lu's routine more difficult than her world championships competitors', but her execution was also better. She reportedly may attempt an even tougher routine in London.

World championships score:

6.6

+

9.266

=

15.866

Sui Lu

Pommel horse

Men's

This apparatus requires unique skills and strength because only the hands can touch the horse. Pauses are not allowed, so lots of connection points are up for grabs, but a single loss of control can sabotage an entire routine.

Athlete to watch

Louis Smith, Britain

World champion Krisztian Berki of Hungary says Smith's routine is the world's toughest, covering the entire spectrum of skills. However, Smith has been prone to falls and big errors in high-profile competitions.

World championships score:

7.0

+

8.066

=

15.066

Louis Smith

Still rings

Men's

Control is the key. They're called still rings for a reason — the less they move, the better. Strength elements must be held for two seconds with no shaking.

Athlete to watch

Chen Yibing, China

Two hallmarks of the Beijing gold medalist are the nearly motionless rings and his perfect iron cross, in which his body hangs in a “T” with arms at 90-degree angles.

World Championships score:

6.8

+

9.0

=

15.8

Chen Yibing

Parallel bars

Men's

You'll see lots of swinging and flinging here, but gymnasts can pause with up to three holds. The toughest moves require momentarily losing sight of the bars.

Athlete to watch

Dannell Leyva, United States

Leyva's mount is one of the most complicated and difficult in the world. He has mastered complex under-the-bar elements and risky one-arm moves.

World Championships score:

6.4

+

9.233

=

15.633

Dannell Leyva

Horizontal bar

Men's

The world's best routines will have several big release moves in which the gymnast soars 12 to 15 feet over the bar. Big points go to athletes who can connect other skills to release moves.

Athlete to watch

Zou Kai, China

Kai, defending Olympic champion in high bar, upped the difficulty on his already tough routine to a record 7.9 at this year's Doha World Cup.

World Championships score:

7.7

+

8.741

=

16.441

Zou Kai

SOURCES: USA Gymnastics, FIG, BBC. GRAPHIC: Wilson Andrews, Bonnie Berkowitz and Kat Downs - The Washington Post. Published July 26, 2012.

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