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Proposed Selection Points System!

Is it possible to select our national, world, and Olympic teams using STRICTLY objective criteria?  That’s been the million dollar question for the last ten years or so, and despite occasional “hybrid” selection procedures that allow some athletes to be guaranteed spots, the answer to that question has always been “no.”  As selection committees and selection camps have begun to take over the fate of our athletes over the last ten years, national competitions have almost been demoted to “exhbitions.”  Many fans – myself included – sorely miss the good old days when the athletes themselves were in control of their own destinies…when actual competition scores determined the fate of each gymnast.

First, I do have to applaud the Men’s Program Committee.  In an age where team selections have become more strategic and complex than ever before, they have at least tried to make the process more objective.  For the last few years, they have used a “points sytem” that basically assigns points to each gymnast at a national competition based on his placement on individual events (and sometimes in the all-around).  They’ve begun to rely on the points system more and more for recent team selections, and in fact occasionally the points system results are included with the actual results, at least on the USAG website.

The current men’s points system gives points to the top ten finishers on each individual event, with the most points being given to 1st place (10 points I believe) and the lowest number to 10th place (1 point I believe).  They do give points to all-arounders as well (I believe the top 6), which I think is wonderful in this specialist-heavy gymnastics era.  The committee primarily uses the points system results to determine the national team, but its selection of our world and Olympic teams is based much more on the committee members’ opinions, discussions, and votes. In general, the top ten finishers under the points system are automatically given national team spots, while four additional spots are typically selected by the committee.  The last four spots sometimes still correspond with the points system results, but not always.  They use those last four spots to allow for the placement of athletes who may not have ended up in the top 14 under the points system, but who the committee feels could potentially be strong assets to the national team.

I was so relieved when the MPC created this points system because it reintroduced at least SOME objectivity and fairness into this whole selection process, which unfortunately has become extremely ostracizing to fans over the last ten years (note to self: please don’t get started on “selection camps”…).  The return of concrete criteria for choosing our national, world, and Olympic teams is EXACTLY what our sport needs on both the men’s and women’s sides…a way for gymnasts to actually compete for their own destinies again.  Gymnasts and coaches are extremely goal-oriented, and knowing that numbers are behind the qualification to a team – the way it used to be – is a refreshing return to what gymnastics should be all about – fairness and competition. The points system has done an excellent job of at least putting everyone on the men’s side on the same page, and emphasizing the fact that the USA Championships and the Olympic Trials are more than just exhibitions as they were unfortunately starting to become…that they do mean something and they do provide a basis for placing the gymnasts onto these teams.  I don’t believe any similar system is in place on the women’s side, but I definitely think it’s high time they follow suit.

The current men’s points system, while a huge step in the right direction, fails to really capture the real value that each gymnast potentially brings to the team.  In the current system, winning an event by 3.2 doesn’t give you any more points than winning an event by 0.05.  On some events, the scores tend to be very clustered (men’s vault comes to mind), and differences between the athletes simply aren’t very significant.  On other events, like men’s pommel horse and high bar, there can be a huge dropoff between our top three athletes or so and the ones below them.  But in the current points system, these extremely valuable gymnasts who bring LOTS OF POINTS to the team aren’t separated out.  The committee members are very smart, and thus begin to discuss these differences among the athletes with each other for hours on end, but they understandably have a difficult time coming to a consensus…often right up until the very final decision is made.  Is it possible for all of this subjectivity, disagreement, and hypothesizing to be tossed out the window once and for all, and for the results to TRULY speak for themselves?  I believe so, and you’ll soon see how.

I would like to propose a new points system that I feel could be a tremendous asset to the selection of our national as well as world and Olympic teams on both the men’s and women’s sides.  I would describe it as essentially an extension of the current men’s points system because it utilizes the same principles, but I feel it gives a MUCH more accurate representation of the value that each gymnast brings to the table.  Most importantly, it RANKS THE ATHLETES ACCORDING TO HOW MANY ACTUAL POINTS THEY BRING TO THE TEAM.

Here is a summary of the major general points, which will be followed by more specific points for men and women:


Proposed Selection Points System

  • The points system will be applicable to both men and women
  • One version is used for the selection of the national team, while slightly adjusted versions are used for the selection of world and Olympic teams.  Gymnasts will thus have a “national team points total” as well as a “world/Olympic team points total.”  The gymnasts will be ranked accordingly for each.
  • The points awarded to each gymnast are based on how high he or she scores above a “target spot” on each event, as well as in the all-around.  The targets spots are dependent upon what type of competition or team the gymnasts are being selected for (specifics will follow below).  For example, if the target spot for individual events is 11th place, gymnasts are given points based on how much higher they score than the gymnast in 11th place on that event.  Gymnasts below the target spot are given zero points.
  • Points are awarded only at competitions.  Although the concept of “petitions” probably isn’t in the scope of this proposal, I believe that petitions directly onto world/Olympic teams should be avoided.  I would suggest that, for the selection of world and Olympic teams, two selection competitions should be held whenever possible (USA’s + Olympic Trials or USA’s + World Trials).  A gymnast must compete on at least two out of the four days of competition in order to be included in the final points rankings.   Holding the final Trials as close as possible to the worlds or Olympics would also help ensure that any athlete healthy enough to compete in the worlds or Olympics should be healthy enough to compete in the final Trials.  Any athlete who doesn’t compete in at least two out of the four days of selection competition would be ineligible for that world or Olympic team.
  • A gymnast could potentially petition into the World/Olympic Trials if he or she was unable to compete in the USA Championships due to documented illness or injury.  In this case, the gymnast’s scores from the Trials would be doubled to count for both competitions, but his or her scores WOULD NOT DISPLACE athletes who competed all four days from the event or all-around rankings.  In other words, the athlete would still be eligible to receive points based on the same “target spots” as the other competitors, but the scores themselves would not be included in the event and all-around rankings.  This allows injured athletes to have an equal chance of qualifying to the team without affecting the point totals of gymnasts who did compete in all the competitions.
  • A gymnast who competes at the USA Championships and qualifies for the Trials but is unable to compete at the Trials due to injury or illness will have his or her scores from the USA Championships doubled to count for both competitions.  Once again, his or her scores WILL be considered for points when they are higher than the target scores, but these scores WILL NOT DISPLACE athletes who competed all four days from the event and or all-around rankings.
  • Alternate spots to world and Olympic teams will also be based strictly upon the points system, but the replacement of an athlete on the team by an alternate will be decided by a vote of the selection committee.  This is to allow for the most appropriate replacement athlete to be selected, which is dependent upon the specific strengths and weaknesses of the team member who must be replaced.

Here’s a more specific look at my proposed system on both the men’s and women’s sides:

Proposed Selection Points System: Men

  • For the selection of the national team, the top 10 finishers on each event receive points based on how high they score above the gymnast in 11th place, and the top 6 all-arounders receive points based on how they score above the gymnast in 7th place.

Example: Men’s Floor Results


Rank Score Difference From 11th Place Points Awarded
1 15.7 1.5 1.5
2 15.45 1.25 1.25
3 15.4 1.2 1.2
4 15.1 0.9 0.9
5 14.9 0.7 0.7
6 14.75 0.55 0.55
7 14.65 0.45 0.45
8 14.6 0.4 0.4
9 14.4 0.2 0.2
10 14.35 0.15 0.15
11 14.2 0 0

Example: Men’s All-Around Results

Rank Score Difference From 7th Place Points Awarded
1 90.4 3.1 3.1
2 89.65 2.35 2.35
3 89.2 1.9 1.9
4 88.7 1.4 1.4
5 88.4 1.1 1.1
6 87.85 0.55 0.55
7 87.3 0 0
  • For the selection of a six-member team for an individual event/all-around world championships (such as in 2009), the top 3 finishers on each event receive points based on high they score above the gymnast in 4th place, and the top 3 all-arounders receive points based on how high they score above the gymnast in 4th place.

Example: Men’s Pommel Horse Results

Rank Score Difference From 4th Place Points Awarded
1 15.3 0.75 0.75
2 14.85 0.3 0.3
3 14.7 0.15 0.15
4 14.55 0 0

Example: Men’s All-Around Results

(using same results as above)

Rank Score Difference From 4th Place Points Awarded
1 90.4 1.7 1.7
2 89.65 0.95 0.95
3 89.2 0.5 0.5
4 88.7 0 0
  • For the selection of a six-member team for a full world championships or Olympic Games (all-around with max of 2 per country, individual event finals with max of 2 per country, and team finals with 3-up-3-count format), the top 4 finishers on each event receive points based on how high they score above the gymnast in 5th place, and the top 3 all-arounders receive points based on how high they score above the gymnast in 4th place.

Example: Men’s Rings Results

Rank Score Difference From 5th Place Points Awarded
1 15.8 0.55 0.55
2 15.7 0.45 0.45
3 15.55 0.3 0.3
4 15.4 0.15 0.15
5 15.25 0 0

*All-Around Example would be same as above


Proposed Selection Points System: Women

  • For the selection of the national team, the top 8 finishers on each event receive points based on how high they score above the gymnast in 9th place, and the top 6 all-arounders receive points based on how they score above the gymnast in 7th place.

Example: Women’s Bars Results


Rank Score Difference From 9th Place Points Awarded
1 15.4 1.2 1.2
2 15.15 0.95 0.95
3 14.9 0.7 0.7
4 14.7 0.5 0.5
5 14.45 0.25 0.25
6 14.35 0.15 0.15
7 14.3 0.1 0.1
8 14.25 0.05 0.05
9 14.2 0 0

Example: Women’s All-Around Results

Rank Score Difference From 7th Place Points Awarded
1 59.35 1.95 1.95
2 59.0 1.6 1.6
3 58.55 1.15 1.15
4 58.4 1.0 1.0
5 58.25 0.85 0.85
6 57.85 0.45 0.45
7 57.4 0 0
  • For the selection of a six-member team for an individual event/all-around world championships (such as in 2009), the top 3 finishers on each event receive points based on high they score above the gymnast in 4th place, and the top 3 all-arounders receive points based on how high they score above the gymnast in 4th place.

Example: Women’s Balance Beam Results

Rank Score Difference From 4th Place Points Awarded
1 15.2 0.5 0.5
2 15.05 0.35 0.35
3 14.75 0.05 0.05
4 14.7 0 0

Example: Women’s All-Around Results

(using same results as above)

Rank Score Difference From 4th Place Points Awarded
1 59.35 0.95 0.95
2 59.0 0.6 0.6
3 58.55 0.15 0.15
4 58.4 0 0
  • For the selection of a six-member team for a full world championships or Olympic Games (all-around with max of 2 per country, individual event finals with max of 2 per country, and team finals with 3-up-3-count format), the top 4 finishers on each event receive points based on how high they score above the gymnast in 5th place, and the top 3 all-arounders receive points based on how high they score above the gymnast in 4th place.

Example: Women’s Floor Results

Rank Score Difference From 5th Place Points Awarded
1 15.0 0.8 0.8
2 14.75 0.55 0.55
3 14.7 0.5 0.5
4 14.5 0.3 0.3
5 14.2 0 0

*All-Around Example would be same as above

Additional Comments

  • Although I didn’t show any ties in the above example, gymnasts with identical scores would receive identical points.  In the event that there is a tie just above the target spot (for example, a tie for 10th when the target spot is 11th), the target spot would drop down one spot (to 12th place in this example) to allow both gymnasts in 10th to receive the appropriate points.
  • Although I just used single scores in my above examples for simplicity, this system could also be applied to multiple days of competition added together, or even to weighted scores from different competitions.  For example, two-day totals for each event and the all-around could be used to determine the appropriate number of points for each competition, or a weighted final average of scores from several days of competition could be used.
  • The system is designed to determine exactly HOW MUCH value a gymnast brings to the team on each individual event as well as in the all-around.  As stated above, the current men’s points system doesn’t distinguish between events like men’s vault, where the scores are all bunched together and differences are often arbitrary, and men’s pommel horse, where our top gymnasts can often be quite far ahead of the gymnasts behind them and thus should be valued much more.  This proposed system essentially assigns a “worth” to each gymnast on each event based on how many points they are effectively bringing to the team.
  • I do realize that it is possible for a gymnast who could potentially fill a perceived “hole” on the team to still not place among the top six finishers in these world or Olympic team point rankings.  However, I STILL believe the objectivity and fairness of this system outweighs any benefit that this possibility could bring.  Furthermore, if a gymnast cannot score high enough on his or her specialty or specialties to truly place in the top 6 in this points system, I feel it’s doubtful that he or she is truly bringing enough to the team to justify such an exception anyway.
  • Note that although current competition formats highly favor event specialists over all-arounders, there ARE still all-around competitions at both a national and international level.  Thus, it is still very important that the selection of our national team members does still emphasize all-around results to some extent.  Awarding points to the top 6 all-arounders for national team selection not only keeps our top all-around gymnasts eligible for international competition, but it provides an excellent incentive for our best gymnasts to still train and compete all the events.
  • I chose 8 finishers on each event to receive points for the women vs. 10 finishers on each event for the men because of the difference in total number of participants at the national championships in recent years.  If the women’s field were to grow larger, it’s possible that extending the points to the top 10 finishers per event for the women would be justified.
  • Note that for the selection of the world and Olympic teams, points are awarded to exactly ONE PLACE BEYOND the number permitted to compete at the actual competition.  For example, since 3 gymnasts compete per event in a world/Olympic team final, points are given to the top 4 per event, and since 2 all-arounders are permitted to compete in a world/Olympic all-around final, points are given to the top 3 all-arounders.

Next, I will ACTUALLY APPLY THIS SELECTION POINTS SYSTEM to some of our recent national competitions – including the 2008 Olympic Trials – to see how it would actually work!

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this.  I think it has a lot of potential and at the very least introduces some very important principles involved in the selection of our teams under today’s competition rules.