The scoring in an Olympics gymnastics competition was never accused of being easy to understand, but at least everyone knew that a 10.0 rewarded perfection. That paragon of scoring no longer exists though, as the 10.0 scoring system was replaced two years ago in favor of a more complex system that places no ceiling on scores.
Nadia Comaneci became world-famous after scoring the first ever Olympic 10.0 in the 1976 Montreal Games. Mary Lou Retton still gets sponsorship deals 24 years after posting her own 10.0 in Los Angeles. The 10.0 defined gymnastics. Nobody remembers who got a 9.95 or which score won the balance beam in Athens, but everyone remembers when a 10.0 was awarded. Apparently, that wasn't good enough for the international gymnastics federation.
Due in large part to controversy in 2004, gymnastics scores will now be divided into two parts: degree of difficulty and execution. Top scores will range from 14 to 17, numbers with none of the panache of a 10.
Judged sports can't afford to make their scoring systems more confusing for fans. Two sets of numbers only serves to remind fans that the competition they're watching is being decided by an imperfect method prone to human error.
Mary Lou Retton told The New York Times that she "hates" the new scoring and "doesn't understand it." If Mary Lou can't get a handle on it, what chance do the rest of us have?
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- Mary Lou Retton