At the gymnastics competition at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Nadia Comăneci achieved what many thought impossible: She scored a perfect ten (in fact she did that six times during that competition). Interesting as it is, at that time gymnastics was split into compulsories and freestyle events, just like vaulting, and Nadia’s first ten came as a reward for her compulsory test at the uneven bars.
Well, I have recently learned that a score of 10.0 in vaulting terminology would actually stand for “excellent”, not “perfect” so that was lesson number one of the day (thank you Mary McCormick).
Now, I was thinking the other day: We have seen vaulters score higher and higher every year, would it be possible for someone to actually score the “excellent” ten?
We asked on Facebook and retired judge Adrienne Stang told us that she has in fact given 10.0 scores to many vaulters, but not to an overall performance (meaning someone scored a ten for mill, but not for the whole compulsory set). And whenever she gave a ten it was very rare for the judge on the other side of the ring to give the same score: Due to different points of view scores tend to differ. Another interesting input brought to us by Adrienne is that since the horse scores were first established she has never seen a horse score over 9. So, this makes things a little bit harder.
Out of curiosity, I have decided to do some digging on the highest scores of the past 3 editions of the World Equestrian Games (they are all available on FEI History Hub) and they showed some interesting data to illustrate our analysis:
The 2nd round is the best round:
It seems, if we ever get to see the perfect ten odds are that we’ll do so in the second round of a major competition because, apart from Nicolas Andreani’s amazing 8.9 in 2010, and the Austrian PDD’s 9,083 in 2014, all the other highest scores were awarded in the second round.
Gold medal performances:
Another interesting thing is that the perfect ten is probably going to come from a gold medal winner because again, apart from Nicolas (who finished the competition in third place) and the USA squad in 2006, all the highest scores came from the winners in each category.
As usual: Compulsories are getting in our way:
One other thing is: If the USA had the highest score in the team competition in 2006, why didn’t they win the competition? And another question related to the first one is: Apart from the Austrian PDD no one managed to score an overall score above 9, although everyone scored high above 8.0. The answer to that is pretty simple: Compulsories.
In 2006 the USA did a not so great job with compulsories (they fixed that for 2010) and PDDs don’t have to do compulsories, so their final score is not brought down by them not reaching the handstands in their scissors.
The highest score of all:
Now, I don’t really know if these are the highest scores from every vaulting competition in history – although logic would tell us that it might be, since they seem to be getting higher and higher after every edition of the WEGs, and the WEGs are the most important competition in the vaulting calendar. We have not looked at the scores from World Championships though.
The highest score of all was awarded to Jacques Ferrari in 2014.
See all the scores right here:
Small reminder: next to the winner is the final overall score, meaning the score after freestyle and compulsories. The top scorer is the highest score for each isolated event.
Now, this was all food for thought, I sent out a few questions to Bettina de Rham, FEI’s director for Vaulting, Driving and Reigning, and she has already answered me but we’ll see what she told us next week only.
In the meantime: Tell us what you think! What’s your opinion?