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To my knowledge, no gymnast has scored a 16 on beam since the 2008 Olympics – partly due to the fact that the number of “counting” elements for the women was reduced from 10 down to 8 after Beijing.  With two fewer skills to add points to the difficulty scores, it’s obviously harder to score as high.  Most of the best scores in the world on this event have been in the low-15 range this quadrennium, and the very highest I can recall seeing is Sui Lu’s 15.866 in the 2011 world event finals.  This monstrous tally included a D-score of 6.6 and an E-score of 9.266 – both of which are absolutely top-notch by today’s standards.

 

Sarah Finnegan, who has improved remarkably this year and is now on practically everyone’s list of serious contenders for at least an alternate spot on the Olympic team, has one of the highest D-scores in the world – perhaps THE highest.  The first few times I saw this routine, I was a bit surprised to see the final D-score was in the upper-6 range – several tenths higher than most of the other top beam workers in the world, who typically have D-scores somewhere between 6.0 and 6.5.  I was also a bit perplexed when she would sometimes suffer a major error or several medium-sized errors and still score around a 15.  The routine seemed difficult, but it certainly wasn’t immediately obvious where all those points were coming from.

 

That’s kind of the way today’s complex rules are.  We can all tell the difference between beautiful gymnastics and sloppy gymnastics, and we usually have a pretty good intuitive sense about the approximate difficulty level of a routine or the approximate range of execution deductions, but in terms of catching all the little details and calculating the EXACT start value of a routine…we typically leave that to the judges.  Most of us would rather sit back and simply enjoy the gymnastics from the same type of perspective we did back when rules were simpler and nearly every routine started from a 10.0…but yet still feel compelled to bark out criticisms of the judges or even the rules themselves when the gymnasts who most impress us aren’t the most appreciated mathematically.

 

But as the Olympics Trials and the Games themselves approach, I decided it is extremely important that we all brush up on today’s codes of points on both the men’s and women’s sides.  If we’re really going to make educated statements about which gymnasts belong on these Olympic teams and which teams and gymnasts are worthy of Olympic medals, it’s essential that we are just as up to date on the rules as the judges are.  Otherwise, we really have no right to complain about the scores.

 

After working through Sarah Finnegan’s beam routine, I’ve come to realize how brilliantly this routine is designed for this code of points.  Not only does she have multiple highly rated skills in both the acrobatics department and the dance department, but she takes full advantage of the connection rules – incorporating several “built-in” connections (2 back handsprings into E-elements) and several that actually award two tenths rather than just one tenth.  And best of all, she shows innovation as well as exquisite beauty and form in her work – qualities that are certainly underappreciated in the rules but which make this routine truly special.

 

Below, I’ve summarized how Sarah Finnegan could actually receive a gargantuan 7.1 D-Score for this routine, if she hit all the connections she has shown between the recent Secret U.S. Classic and Visa U.S. Championships.  We have typically seen her receive a D-Score between 6.7 and 6.9 this year, as she has had some minor errors and broken connections that have prevented her from getting credited with everything.  But there’s no question that her confidence and execution of all of these intricate skills and combinations have improved throughout the year, and I’m hoping that by next weekend, she may be able to put all of this together and post something HUGE.

 

If Finnegan rocked this routine like she’s obviously capable of and received a 7.0 or 7.1 D-Score, could she be the first to hit a 16.0 on beam this quadrennium?  I think she absolutely could, and if she did so, I think it could certainly make things quite interesting.  Right now I see Finnegan as an alternate, with Wieber, Raisman, Douglas, Ross, and Maroney as the likely team members.  The fact that this team already has three solid beam workers – Wieber, Raisman, and Ross – makes it difficult for Finnegan to factor in on this event for a team finals scenario.  But would a 16 change that?  After all, that would likely be about a full point higher than our very best beam scores, and that’s difficult to throw out.  She might have to prove that on both days of Trials, though, and certainly Maroney’s status as she is still recovering from a concussion will be a huge factor in this equation as well.  After all, I don’t see Finnegan being able to replace Ross because we need Ross for bars, but if Maroney isn’t ready, that spot is up for grabs.

 

 

Here’s a look at how to calculate Sarah Finnegan’s beam D-Score:

Step 1: Calculate the Element Group Total

Here’s a look at the five element group requirements for beam:

Element Groups For Beam:

  1. Connection of at least 2 different dance elements, with at least one showing a 180 degree cross split (0.5)
  2. Turn (0.5)
  3. Acro series with a minimum of 2 flight elements, at least one being a salto (0.5)
  4. Acro elements in different directions (fwd/swd and bwd) (0.5)
  5. Dismount (0.3 for a C, 0.5 for a D or higher)

Sarah Finnegan’s Element Group Total: 2.5

Step 2: Calculate the Skill Value and Connection Points

Here’s a look at Sarah Finnegan’s skill value and connection points:

 

Skill

Value

Points Awarded

Triple wolf turn

E

0.5

Standing Arabian

F

0.6

+

Connection

0.2

Korbut

B

Not needed for value

Sissone, Split jump

A, A

Not needed for value

2 back handsprings

B, B

Not needed for value

+

Connection

0.2

Layout to two feet

E

0.5

Switch ring leap

E

0.5

Front aerial

D

0.4

+

Connection

0.1

Back pike

C

Not needed for value

Switch leap half turn

D

0.4

+

Connection

0.1

Back tuck

C

Not needed for value

Side somi

D

0.4

2 back handsprings

B, B

Not needed for value

+

Connection

0.2

Double pike

E

0.5

Total Skill Value and Connection Points

 

4.6

 

*Note that the 8 most valuable elements are counted for difficulty (dismount must be included), and that an unlimited number of skills can be added for “connection points” only that don’t need to count among the best 8 elements (Finnegan has several of these)

**Note that a minimum of 3 dance elements and maximum of 5 acro elements can be counted

***Sarah Finnegan’s 3 dance elements are the triple wolf turn, the switch ring leap, and the switch leap half turn

****Her 5 acro elements are the standing Arabian, the layout to two feet, the front aerial, the side somi, and the double pike dismount

 

Step 3: Add Steps 1 and 2 to Calculate the Total D-Score

 

Sarah Finnegan’s Total D-Score = 2.5 + 4.6 = 7.1

 

 

Any questions?