Olympic scoring systems

A couple of changes on 2/20/10.

I have been having a lot of fun watching the Olympics.  Part of the fun is learning about the scoring systems for the various sports.  There is a lot of variation in scoring, and I have been particularly interested in the objective scoring systems.  It seems that many of the sports require athletes to be consistent over several attempts, either through qualifying rounds or through multiple runs.  A single bad attempt takes an athlete out of the competition. In some of the summer Olympic sports, athletes can toss out low scores, keeping only the best score (such as the longest shot put or javelin throw). So far, this is what I have come up with.

Objective scoring

1. Fastest overall time in one attempt, no qualifying rounds (one great performance is needed for a medal)

Speed skating, downhill skiing, Nordic

2.  Best overall time/score after qualifying rounds in which an athlete must finish in the top two of four to advance (one bad attempt takes the athlete out of medal contention)

Short track skating, snowboard cross,

3.  Best total (average) time/score in multiple attempts (one bad attempt takes the athlete out of medal contention)

Luge, Skeleton

4.  Best overall score over a set of attempts (thus throwing out all but the best score)

Are there any winter Olympic events for this score?  I can only think of summer events, such as shot put.

Halfpipe (see below) uses the best of two scores, although it is subjective.

Subjective scoring

The subjective scoring systems get a lot of attention, particularly for ice skating.  Most of the subjective scores are based on multiple attempts, which means that the athletes must be consistent.  However, extreme judge scores are discarded.  Figure skating is scored as follows:

A panel of twelve judges then award a mark for grade of execution (GOE) that is an integer from -3 to +3. The GOE mark is then translated into a value by using the table of values in ISU rule 322. The GOE value from the twelve judges is then averaged by randomly selecting nine judges, discarding the high and low value, and averaging the remaining seven. This average value is then added to (or subtracted from) the base value to get the value for the element.

The halfpipe uses five judges who each give a score from 0-10, resulting in a total of 50 points (all scores are used). However, only the best score (of two) is used for the score. There is a qualifying round in which only the top twelve athletes move to the final. On a related note, students at Westminster college used simulation to predict that Shaun White would win the halfpipe (he did!).

Olympic gymnastics is scored differently.  The scoring system was changed in 2004, but they keep the tradition of the judges scoring a gymnast separately, and then working together to find consensus.   I always liked that system, since it is like an instant peer-review, in which a gymnast is not penalized or rewarded if a judge misses something.  Gymnastics scoring works as follows:

The new system is heavy on math and employs two sets of judges, an A panel and a B panel, to do the computations. Two A-panel judges determine the difficulty and technical content of each routine. Six B-panel judges score routines for execution, artistry, composition and technique.

The A-panel judges’ scorecards start at zero, and points are added to give credit for requirements, individual skills and skills performed in succession.

The A panel counts only the gymnast’s 10 most difficult skills, which are ranked from easiest to most difficult (from A to G for women and from A to F for men). An A-level skill, like a back handspring in the floor exercise, is worth one-tenth of a point. The value increases by one-tenth of a point for each subsequent level, meaning a B-level skill is worth two-tenths and an F-level is worth six-tenths.

Required elements add a maximum 2.5 points to the score. Extra points, either one-tenth or two-tenths, are given for stringing skills together.

Each judge adds the marks, then the two reach a consensus.

There are many Olympic sports, so I’m missing a lot here.  What has been your favorite Olympic scoring system?  Which is the most fair (or unfair)?

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6 responses to “Olympic scoring systems

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