We have just returned from the Australian National Clubs Gymnastics Carnival where my youngest daughter competed over the weekend. No perfect 10 scores. But it was once again fantastic to see all the amazing young girls across the country perform and do their best. Last year after national clubs, we reviewed “Grace, Gold & Glory – My Leap of Faith” by Gabby Douglas. This time, we are taking a look at “The End of the Perfect 10 – The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’ Top Score” by Dvora Meyers. This an incredibly informative read about the history and development of gymnastics. In particular, it looks at the evolution of the scoring system.
There is actually so much information in this extensively researched book. I am sure anyone who reads it will learn something new about gymnastics!
The title itself, “The End of the Perfect 10 – The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’ Top Score” is a precursor to the major motivation behind the book’s intentions. But in reaching it, the author discusses many other interesting facets about gymnastics along the way.
Through the journey to follow the change in the scoring system in gymnastics, from the Nadia Comaneci era of the perfect 10 through to the new Code of open ended points, the author takes us through the history of the sport, including how men’s gymnastics was key to triggering the change.
Part 1: New Ways to Score
In Part 1 of her book, Meyer looks at the change in scoring. She starts with the exemplary execution performed by Nadia Comaneci, the world’s first recipient of the Perfect 10. Click on the video below to see the routine that scored Nadia her first perfect 10 score. This was performed on bars at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.
Source: Marcelo Kronberg
With the move to the new Code from 2006, Meyers also addresses the change in the sport itself. The new system has encouraged gymnasts to push athletic boundaries. New skills are continually developing to take advantage of the extra points awarded for added difficulty. As a result, typical gymnast physiques have also transformed. Bodies have changed from slim and slight, to strong and powerful, in order to perform these harder skills.
To highlight differences in both difficulty in skill and change in gymnast physique, click on the video below to view the current World Champion and Olympic Champion, Simone Biles. This is her floor routine from these recent 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she won gold. However, even though difficulty has increased significantly over the past 40 years, there are no longer perfect scores for execution.
Part 2: New Ways to Train
In Part 2 of “The End of the Perfect 10”, the author looks at how this new system has transformed the way gymnastics is coached. It discovers new training systems established to fully maximise the new Code. There is explanation around the shift of dominance from European countries to Asia and the Americas over the last decade. It looks at change in the US gymnastics elite system and how it has evolved over the years. There is also a contrasting comparison with the US college system. It maintains a different scoring system but successfully supports the sport of gymnastics in America.
Review of “The End of the Perfect 10”
The discussion around the Perfect 10
This book successfully promotes interest and discussion around the Perfect 10 in gymnastics.
- Does it mean the errorless routine?
- Or does it mean the perfect routine?
- Otherwise, does it mean, no it wasn’t perfect but it was better than the rest?
I love the fact that this book stimulates such great discussion around the Perfect 10 as there are obviously differing views.
One of the main benefits of the 10 scoring system was its appeal to the lay spectator’s understanding. The public understands what the term of reference 10 means for execution, that is, how well the routine is done. I believe the system of scoring in diving may help overcome this issue. Divers are still awarded scores for difficulty. But it is only the judges’ execution scores out of 10 that are held up to the spectators. Myers touches on this point, somewhat only briefly though.
Another key argument against the new system is that “a gymnast could simply load up on difficulty, fall off the apparatus, and still win.” Did you know Simone Biles won two National championships, 2014 and 2015 with a fall each time? And by 4 and almost 5 points respectively too!
The author suggests that this new scoring system is meaningless if no one can match the difficulty levels of Simone, unlike chasing the 10 score of Nadia. I have to disagree. Why should it be flawed just because one athlete can push its boundaries? Shouldn’t she be rewarded accordingly for her talents? 10, after all, is just an arbitrary number anyway. This is also, one point in time. Who says there will not be up and coming gymnasts able to match Simone and even extend beyond. There does not seem to be a history of athletes in any sport not progressing over time. In fact, time and time again we have proven the question “Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?”
Other topics of interest
Here are some other highlights in the book for me:
- An interesting conspiracy theory around how Nadia’s perfect 10 score may have come about as a result of a backfired strategy by the Soviets at the time.
- How judging impacted to shift to the new code of scoring.
- Judging issues in human error and the ability to “evaluate a performance accurately in the short moment of time.” There is also discussion of the pressure of keeping in line with other judges.
- In a side step, the book takes a look at the success of Biles and her coach, Boorman. How refreshing is this comment from Boorman, “I guess my whole philosophy with her from kind of raising and nurturing her was I always knew that it had to be fun. It had to remain fun in order to keep her in the sport.” I wish more coaches were as insightful as this! Perhaps we wouldn’t see so many talented young girls leave the sport before their time. Boorman also understood the need to innovate and extend Biles in order to prevent boredom with the sport.
- How China was stripped of its 2000 Olympics All Round team medals. Find out why. The USA team was awarded their bronze medals 10 years later!
- In addition to the history gymnastics from the 1970’s, an in depth look at the development of gymnastics in the USA was interesting. Particularly so, the impact of the Karolyi’s and the reasons why the US team has dominated the sport since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
- Interesting to hear that Liang Chow, who coached Gabby Douglas and Shawn Johnson, both gold medal Olympians, only trains his gymnasts a maximum of 4-5 hours per day. “I believe the intensity and the efficiency is the key”. Once again, a unique approach to the typical coaching of elite gymnasts. Would love to see it translated into the world of club gymnastics too.
The book covers the history of gymnastics, the story behind how the “out of 10” scoring became redundant and the reasons why it was replaced with the current system. The evolution of the sport from the artistic style and ballet like gymnasts, to the ever increasing difficulty and power athletes like Simone Biles, is highly engaging.
If you are interested in gymnastics for whatever reason (previous gymnast, parent to gymnasts, coach or judge) you should enjoy the wealth of information and discussion provided in this book. It appears to be extensively researched and interviews with key stakeholders provide unique insights.
It is in my view, however, suited more to the adult or older teen though. Younger gymnasts may not appreciate or understand the significance of the historic details.
For readers with an interest in sport, this book may also be of interest to you. Gymnastics is a popular spectator sport it may offer a greater understanding of the new scoring system and an interesting historic run down.
You can purchase a copy of “The End of the Perfect 10 – The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’ Top Score” by Dvora Meyers from Simon & Schuster*.
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*Active + Nourished was provided with a copy of the transcript by Simon & Schuster to review. Reviews are however our own opinions. For more information please refer to our Disclosure Policy.