Sunday, 6 November 2011

Top Scores

When we consider favourites and least favourites, we generally refer to routines, skills or medals. Perhaps even entire meets. However, is there something about a particular SCORE that could make us like it more than another?

Scores are numbers, and have no meaning except in the context of the routine they grade. Therefore ones liking of a score can never be (and has no reason to ever be) considered separate from the routine it scores. I do however find it interesting that the connotations attached to a score change completely depending on the quad: Kim Zmeskal’s 9.775 on FX in the 1992 AA locked her out of the medals and was considered a disastrously low score, but the same score by Produnova at the 2000 BB EF landed her an individual Olympic medal.

So with this in mind, here are a couple of my favourite (and least favourite) scores.



The significance of this number is twofold. Two different stories, two different Olympics but two fantastic outcomes.

The first is Shannon Miller. Having made it to the Olympics a second time, she was a completely different gymnast to her former self. Having dominated the world for the two years after the Barcelona Olympics (where, in my opinion, she should have taken the all around gold, but more of that below), Shannon had experienced a rocky year prior to the Olympics, looking worn out, too tall for her skills and dogged with injury.

But, she made it to Atlanta and put in a valiant performance to help take the historic team gold. She also managed to qualify second into the AA behind favourite and eventual champ Lilia Podkopayeva. But there were problems. Her vault wasn’t up to scratch and she suffered for the whole Olympics on her floor mount: a double layout that fell out of the air every time she performed it.

The  low floor score shut the door on the AA medals for Shannon, a huge disappointment all things considered: her domination of the quad, her qualification, her success in 1992 and the home crowd disappointment (whenever I watch the Atlanta AA it always shocks me how silent and moody the crowd sounds after the third rotation).

But there was salvation: her beam. From qualifications right through to the end she was consistent and stunningly beautiful to watch. Watching the beam final today, it is as though everyone in the arena knows that medal is Shannon’s. There is a certain quiet expectation that does not sound tense, but rather waits without fear for her perfection and the fulfilment of something that is already hers. The final stamping out of that full in dismount and the roaring of the crowd: Shannon Miller wins the 1996 beam final with a 9.862, a hugely well deserved title and a fantastic end to a shining Olympic career.

The second is gymnastics superstar Svetlana Khorkina, a gymnast whose spectacular decade long career was fuelled by disappointment on multiple occasions. The 2000 Olympics were her party, and I know some people don’t like her (and I must respect that), but I think she was fantastic. Never before or since has a gymnast had that much presence, that much attitude and that much fame.

Sveta was already a bars gold medallist. A MULTIPLE gold medallist. She won her first world title on the bars in 1995, and by the time of the Sydney Olympics she had four world titles on the apparatus and 1 Olympic title. So you could hardly say she was the underdog.

However, the ridiculousness of the vault scandal had stripped her of an AA chance. The bars final was her last chance for gold (her last legitimate chance anyway, had Zamo fallen and Sveta taken floor gold people would have been angry and rightfully so). She pulled out what I think to be the performance of her life, and her Ricna-pak-stalder combination is one of my favourites of all time.

9.862: Khorkina repeats as the Olympic champion on bars, a salvaged win from a terrible Olympics.

Two apparatus, two golds, two women, one score.


I hated Lilia’s floor routine. I thought the music was appalling, the choreography terrible. But I thought the tumbling was incredible. Never before have I seen a better front tumbler, and that first pass, unique to this day, remained among the most impressive feats ever attempted on the floor exercise.

Lilia was one of the few true all around gymnasts, and the huge favourite for the win in Atlanta. Even in such a deep field, she was the only one who could convincingly have worn the gold medal (in my opinion).

Her floor routine, one of the last routines of the competition, was an absolute showstopper. I have already said that I hated most of its aspects, but it didn’t matter. The tumbling and her impeccable form is good enough for me.

Her score of 9.887, the highest of the night, gave her a deadlock on first place.


In the first departure from the 10 system, we have the score that currently holds the title of the highest score ever recorded in WAG at the world championship/Olympic level. It is of course the score posted for Nastia Liukin’s bar set at the 2008 Olympic WAG team final.

Nastia’s bar set was, and is, breathtaking. By far the most fluently composed and well executed bar set of the quad, Nastia really stamped herself as a legendary uneven bar worker and was hence rightfully rewarded with the highest score of the meet for her TF effort.

Sadly, things didn’t go the same way in the EF, and we all know how that ended. Still, with changes to the code it is feasible that this score may hold its record for a long time to come. Further, with Nastia back in training she may get a second shot at gold.

Least Favourites


This is an odd one to list as a least favourite, because it is a fantastic score. But I hate it at the same time. Why? Because I think instantly of Shannon Miller on vault at the 1992 Olympics AA.

The vault was one of the most perfect things I have ever seen. It was high, beautifully flighted, a nice tight twist, perfect form and an absolutely planted landing. I really think it should have been a 10.

Shannon was absolutely robbed in this final. It would potentially be more agreeable to say that Gutsu should have scored lower on vault and far lower on floor, but I hate this score because it was one of the best things Shannon ever produced and it didn’t get her the gold.


The more astute of you may notice that this has appeared on both my favourite and least favourite lists. Here it is with respect to Svetlana Boginskaya’s bars at the 1992 Olympics AA.

Yes, her bars were not as difficult as some. But the code didn’t seem to demand difficultly to the same level it does now. She performed her set the absolute best it could be performed, with not a form error in sight. I understand that those with more difficult routines should be rewarded more, but this score was way too low and prevented her from a medal that she definitely deserved. How did Kim, an appalling bar worker, outscore Bogi here? Scandal.


Poor, poor Pavlova. 


  1. Sac's face in the background of the Pavlova shot really says it all.

  2. It so does! Bafflement. I know that rules are rules but this was such a terrible shame.

  3. I can see why the rules say you can't score if the red light is on in case the judges were not ready for you, but if they were, if they all saw it, the video recording equipment was all ready, every required element was all ready to go and only the redness of the red light was a problem I don't see why they can't give it to her - the story seems to run that she was signalled ready by the panel. If, however, you vault on red and it's red for a reason, there's someone or something not ready for you to run then you can't have it the required elements for you to score are not in place. Shocker, though.

    I've another one for your list, though: 9.762, Alexei Nemov's High Bar score 2004. One of the most unpopular posted scores of the modern era, surely?

  4. Great shout on the score, I actually did think about it when I was writing it (which I appreciate sounds like a daft claim but I actually did!), but I in gerenal avoid examples from MAG because I know far less about it and run the risk of being very unbalanced.

    But I am definitely with you, especially because (as far as I know) it was arguably a large motivator for the new code.

    As far as the Pavs shocker goes I am undecided. I think it is a dreadful shame and whilst it might seems petty rules ARE rules and everyone has to follow them. Having said that though I think its funny how they pick and choose. In 2004 with Nemov, the judges seemed to give in so easily to the crowd, it makes you wonder whether in 2008 if the crowd had gone as insane they would have counted the vault.But the home crowd was probably very subdued with Cheng having already fallen. It does seem strange to me how they honour some rules and not others - isn't there also a rule about displays of emotion on the podium? Because that is broken on many occasions as far as I am concerned