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It was so interesting to read Bruno Grandi’s recent article, which is posted on International Gymnastics.  I agreed wholeheartedly with his overall point – that our code of points has become overly complex to the point of being a burden to the sport, and that it has effectively removed the subjectivity that, despite the controversy it is destined to create by its very nature, we all genuinely love.  The ironic part is, isn’t he the one who got us into this mess to begin with?

You can’t judge a piece of art with a microscope, and that’s exactly what our current code of points tries to do.  Today’s code is so left-brained, paper-heavy, number-happy, and calculation-obsessed that it wouldn’t recognize a beautiful thing if it fell from the sky with a big red sign on it that said “Valuable Artwork, Please Don’t Attempt To Dissect.”  Our code is so busy chopping down the little branches from the trees of the routines that it often misses the beautiful forest.  It’s like taking a judging panel to an art show and asking them to analyze every stroke made on every painting, to feel every ridge and crevice, to count every presumed flaw and add up how many things they think are wrong with it – while never once having them actually step back to LOOK at an entire picture and discover its beauty and uniqueness.  Not only will all the judges never agree on their calculations, they’ll miss the entire point.  Today’s gymnastics rules have trained our judges to be the same way – with pens, paper, and calculators in their hands and blindfolds over their eyes.

After five years under this revamped system, I think practically everyone has sensed that something major is missing, and the man who started it all has finally come aboard with the rest of us.  Having the most powerful man in the sport make such a radical statement is probably the best step we could have hoped for.  It means that the sentiments we’ve all felt have spread to all corners of the globe, and up all chains of command.  His message was one of desperation – a call for yet another drastic change.  The details were left uncertain, as it seems that even Grandi himself isn’t certain exactly which direction we should take next, only that some new direction is clearly in order.

The following is just an idea, and a work in progress.  It’s an attempt to blend together the aspects of our rules that are working with some newer – albeit quite different – concepts that place more emphasis on freedom and subjective evaluation of routines rather than rules, restrictions, and microscopic analysis, which have effectively transformed a beautiful, artistic sport into a confusing mathematical mess.

Day 1: Modified Compulsories

  • Specific required skills on every event that include all element groups (except vault)
  • No skills higher than C value
  • Very technical scoring with specific deductions
  • Maximum 10.0
  • Skills can be done in any order the gymnast chooses
  • Additional A and B elements of the gymnast’s choice can be added for aesthetic purposes
  • Music and choreography (women), and transitional floor skills (men) are completely optional
  • On vault, 3 different options are available for the gymnast to choose from (a front-handspring entry, a sideways entry, and a round-off entry)

Day 2: Optionals

  • No element groups
  • No skill requirements
  • Routines are subjectively judged by a panel in 5 categories
  • Categories include difficulty (out of 10), artistry (out of 10), execution (out of 10), originality (out of 5), and virtuosity (out of 5)
  • Subjective scores are given in increments of 0.5 in each category
  • High and low in each category are thrown out
  • Final score is an average of all categories, based out of a perfect 10

Total score for each event = (Day 1 score + Day 2 score)/2

Many traditionalists will likely view this proposal as too much of a radical change and will thus oppose it, perhaps citing that “compulsories” are a thing of the past, or that these optional rules are simply too subjective.  But a closer look reveals that this combination might very well entail everything that both Bruno Grandi and the gymnastics world at large have been searching for, and that it’s about as simple as we can possibly make it, just short of having the audience vote on the winner like American Idol.  This proposal encourages technical precision, execution, and objectivity through modified compulsory routines that would allow for some freedom of expression and would lack the monotony of the compulsories of years past.  It would once again emphasize basics and the development of a proper foundation of skills and technique, which many feel have been missing in the sport since compulsories were discontinued in 1997.  Through the optional format, it would also encourage a blend of difficulty, artistry, originality, and virtuosity – while still emphasizing execution – without becoming so bogged down with minute, irrelevant, inconsistent, and often imperceptible deductions that overly complicate our sport today.  It would allow for incredible variety in routines, doing away with repetitive combinations and skills that are done only for specifically assigned points rather than aesthetic purposes, and encouraging gymnasts to use their own strengths in whatever ways they so choose – freed from the constraints of element groups, point values, and often silly deductions.  It would allow for the return of subjectivity that countless fans – and now admittedly Bruno Grandi himself – have been missing in today’s over-objectified code of points.

And best of all, it would bring back the 10.0.