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The final score: Gymnastics Judging

August 12, 2008

Since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when Kim Zemeskal was slotted to take home the entire all around competition and lead the Americans the the podium for a medal of sorts began my love for the amazing sport.  When my hero Kim Zmeskal didn’t live up to her expectations but a new shinning star Shannon Miller helped not only lead the team to a bronze medal, but also gained her own silver in the all around competition and more silver and bronze in the induvidual competitions.  With the Russians and Romanians led by Tatiana Gutsu, Svetlana Boginskaya, and Lavinia Molosovich, all creatures seemingly above real human ability, was a time where judges occassionally gave out the score of PERFECT TEN.  The score was mostly and still today remembered by one of the all time greats in the sport: Nadia Comaneci, the great Romanian back in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.  Never had so many tens been awarded, and never had such perfect gymnastics ever been performed.

Prior to Barcelona there were gymnasts like Nadia, Olga Korbut, and Svetlana that’s focus on the beauty and perfecton was balanced with attempts to do bigger and better tumbling and skills, but sometimes shortly after those 1992 summer games that balance has and is still since lost in array of strange scoring and a ridiculous standard for “stunts” rather than skills performed.

Now, 16 years later, the gymnasts have TWO scores: Difficulty and Execution.  So far I have seen no gymnast with difficult above  7.000 (it still goes up to ten I think-someone correct me if I’m mistaken) and the execution is rated up to a 10.000 as well, though I’ve seen nothing better than a 9.500.  So for the most part scores that are executed well are somewhere in the fifteens and brilliant in the sixteens when scores are combined.  Let’s discuss what this does to the sport exactly.

It means a gymnast can actually have a fall off of the balance beam or high bar and still win the all around competition if the skills they do are that much more difficult than another gymnast.  They may not have the most flawless best performance, but they have the most difficult so are allowed more errors as their score becomes higher from the difficulty category.  This doesn’t encourage perfection or beauty, it encourages bigger tricks and less mastery of those skills.  It’s become more important in the sport to try bigger things that to actually master them, and in it’s essence that completely destroys the art of gymnastics.

So many of the routines I watch now are empty and souless.  Just element after element being repeated and attempted to get done wih as few errors as possible.  There is no real dance to most of the floor exercise routines, it’s more of jump to jump, step to step, move to move, no personality, nothing that defines one gymnast from another other than the color of their leotard and the difficulty to which they perform.  The balance beam has completely lost it’s flow and it’s enigmatic essence. 

My young heart still loves the sport and what it once was and what it stood for.  In womens specifically there was such beauty, elegance, and a real definition from country to country.  Even Atlanta’s Olympics still gave that vibe off, but since then things have not been the same.  There are no Mary Lou Rettens, Keri Strugs, Dominic Dawes, Svetlana’s, and Shannon Miller’s for girls to dream of being.  There are these machines out there doing moves and elements, but not being something more.  I wish I could get back the magic of Barcelona, and feel it again, but for now I will just have to live with it’s memories and the idolisms of youth and hope.

I will forever remember the amazing dance and technique of Svetlana.  Kim Zmeskals amazing tumbling on floor exercise with a bubbly hopeful personality.  Nadia and Olga’s ability to make everything beautiful and perfect.  Keri Strug’s heart and determination.  Mary Lou’s ground breaking success and inspiration for American gymastics.  And though Kim Zmeskal will always be my favorite we all have Shannon Miller to thank for 8 years of amazing gymnastics for the United States.  From Barcelona to Atlanta, she was the best gymnast this country has ever had and always an exciting pleasure to watch compete.  Today the sport truly misses her quiet elegance but explosive performing technique.  She was one of the most exciting gymnasts to ever watch, and I had the pleasure of actually seeing her perform live at an exhibition show a year after Barcelona.  Her, Svetlana, Keri Strug, Mary Lou, and my all time favorite male gymnast: Vitali Sherbo of Belarus. 

Tonight is the womens team competition, and the U.S.A. is in close competition with China for Gold Medal contention.  With injuries plaging the Americans it will be interesting to see how they pull together!  See you all there!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rich Garrett permalink
    August 20, 2008 9:56 am

    I wonder what kind of score Nadia’s 1976 Balance Beam would get under today’s scoring rules. assuming she got a 10 on execution, what kind of difficulty score would she get, today?

    would she get even a 14? no one was doing the things the girls are doing, today.


  2. khawla nasser el-deen permalink
    August 12, 2009 12:59 pm

    u guys r really awsum i also practice gymnastics i will oneday be i ur place (i wish)

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