COMMENTARY | One of the more popular events at the Winter Olympics, snowboard halfpipe, also has one of the most intriguing and controversial scoring systems. We'll break down the rules and scoring here and try to make sense of the madness.
The governing body for this event is the F.I.S. (International Ski Federation). To find the rules and scoring system, we reference the 2013/2014 FIS Judges Manual: Snowboarding, found on the federation's website. In the following sections, I'll break down the words in the manual to make it more digestible for the fan that isn't an FIS judge.
To start, we'll go over the number of judges and how the criteria differs when that number changes. There are anywhere from three to six judges independently judging the event, plus a head judge. In the case that there are six, the highest and lowest score will be thrown out. If there are five, then all of the scores will be factored together.
The judges will give a score to a competitor based on a 100-point scale. When all the judges have submitted a score, they will be averaged together and the average, out of a possible 100, will be the competitors score for that run.
The Overall Impression
Riders will be judged on what's called an "overall impression." Essentially, it's the run itself and how it looks to the judge. The judge takes into account many different things when analyzing the overall impression. For instance, individual tricks will score differently than tricks that are put in sequential order, or one right after the other with no pause in between.
The factors that play into overall impression include amplitude, difficulty, execution, variety, pipe use, progression, risk taking and combinations. Having a good mix of flips and twists, along with technical tricks, will give the rider the best score.
There are numerous things that a rider can get points deducted for and deductions range from one point to 25 points. Small mistakes like flat landings and hand touches will usually cost 1-10 points. Mistakes such as extended hand drags and heavy hand touches will warrant an 11-20 point deduction. Heavy butt checks, complete bails and body checks will warrant a 21-25 point deduction.
It's also important to note in this section that a rider that comes to a complete stop in their run for at least ten seconds will be scored only up until that point. Should they continue on with their run, the rest of it will not count.
On February 11th, the men will take to the halfpipe for their competition. On the following day, the women will do the same. Three rounds will take place, each competitor getting two runs per round. First is a quarterfinal, followed by a semifinal and then, like always, the finals will be last and will determine the winner.
The controversy in this scoring system is that it can be hard for judges to truly determine what to judge. A rider doesn't have to submit a program, like what figure skaters have to do, so the judges don't necessarily know what's coming. They have to quickly determine and judge the run as it happens.
There you have it. When the snowboarding halfpipe competition takes place on February 11th and 12th, you'll have everything you need to know about the scoring and rules locked away in your memory bank thanks to this guide.
Enjoy the Games.
Brian Skinnell is a contributor for RantSports.com and Yahoo Sports covering the Washington Redskins, Wizards and NASCAR among others. He's been closely following the Olympics since he was a young boy and has contributed to the Olympics coverage at Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brian_Skinnell.
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