Jordan Ellenberg in Slate:
Olympic gymnastics has a new scoring system, and not everyone’s happy with the departure of the famous 10-point scale. “It’s crazy, terrible, the stupidest thing that ever happened to the sport of gymnastics,” wailed excitable supercoach Bela Karolyi in the New York Times. “How could they take away this beautiful, this most perfect thing from us, the one thing that separated our sport from the others?”
What exactly is Karolyi kvetching about? This year, competitors get two scores, each from its own panel of judges. The “A” score measures the difficulty of the routine. A relatively easy move like a one-handed cartwheel on the balance beam adds 0.1 to your A score, while bringing off the astonishing Arabian double front layout rakes in 0.7. (And no, you can’t inflate your score by doing 10 cartwheels in a row; only the 10 most difficult elements are counted, and repeated elements don’t count at all.) Performing two or more elements in close succession tacks on “connection value” of up to 0.2 points per transition. The way to max out your A score, then, is to cram the toughest possible moves into your routine and pack them as tightly together as you can manage.