Health

Here’s How Gymnastics Scoring Actually Works

What the judges see that we don't.

If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you know how ridiculous gymnastics scoring seems. When Simone Biles executes a seemingly flawless stunt that makes you want to hide under the couch in fear and doesn’t receive a perfect 10, it really makes you wonder who is controlling this scoring and why they hate everyone. Well, we’re here to break down exacty how gymnastics point deductions work.

Wobbles or shakiness

This is a pretty basic category, and arguably the most understandable of all of them. The gymnastics scoring rulebook, called The Code of Points calls these wobbles “additional movements to maintain balance.” Judges will detract anywhere between .10 points (for tiny ones) to .50 points for big ones even the average viewer can see.

Mistakes in form

Also a relatively easy category to understand: form errors. This could be leg separations (when they’re supposed to be tight and together), bringing knees towards the ears in a tuck (instead of tight to the chest) and bent knees at pretty much any point in the routine in anticipation of a landing. On top of all that, you can be penalized for not separating your legs widely enough. Split leaps and jumps are supposed to be a full 180 degrees – if not, the deduction can be 0.10 or 0.30, depending on how serious the error is.

Landing errors

Landing errors can happen at almost every turn in gymnastics scoring, and in every single event. They could be extra steps during a dismount or small hops (minus .10 points for each hop or step), landing with legs or feet apart (another .10 deduction each time) or landing bent over (.10 or .30 points deducted, depending on how far the gymnast is bent).

Long pauses

There’s no time to wait in gymnastics, especially before attempting a trick. If you wait too long at any point during a routine, you get a deduction of .10 points. For floor routines, it’s even stricter: if you stand on two feet too many times or take steps to adjust your position before tumbling, that’s another .10 points each time. Let a gymnast live, am I right?

Insufficient Height

Although the uneven bars are arguably the best (and scariest) part of gymnastics, they’re also incredibly heavily penalized. And although we may all be sitting agape on our couches as gymnasts fly through the air, sometimes judges are less impressed – if they don’t think a gymnast got enough air, that could be a deduction of anywhere between .10 and .30 points, depending on how close to the bar she is.

Although this list is far from exhaustive, it does help explain why every gymnast doesn’t get a perfect score (even though most of us think they should for sheer bravery). And now, next time you watch a gymnastics event, you can wow everyone else with your insider smarts.