The scoring system in synchronized swimming can get a bit confusing, even to us regular synchro watchers. It used to be fairly straightforward back in the day with two categories to judge: technical merit and artistic impression. Each routine was scored out of a 10.0, and the totals of these two categories were added together to get the final score.
A few swimmers and teams were able to achieve these 10.0 perfect scores, such as sport’s icon Virginie Dedieu scoring a ‘perfect’ 50.0 in artistic impression during her solo at the 2005 World Championships in Montreal, Quebec.
However, the sport has evolved very fast, becoming harder, quicker, and more difficult than ever before. As a result, the scoring system has had to be reworked, now making it nearly impossible to get one of those “perfect scores.” Keep that in mind when you watch the most recent meets and do not be surprised if you don’t see the Russians get 10.0s all over. It does not mean the sport has gotten easier or that the level has dropped, but rather that it has gotten harder and the judging had to become stricter.
Each score is still on a 0-10.0 point scale, but there are now three categories and each are weighted differently: execution, artistic impression and difficulty. Each routine is usually judged by a panel of five judges.
- Execution Score
The execution score counts for 30% of the final score. Execution judges will look at synchronization (whether with the music in solo or amongst the swimmers), and at how well each movement in the routine is done (i.e. leg extension, control, power, accuracy in each position, etc.) What is considered here is the level of excellence in performing highly specialized skills.
- Artistic Impression Score
The artistic impression score accounts for 40% of the final score. Artistic Impression will focus on the variety and creativity in the choreography, music interpretation and manner of presentation.
- Difficulty Score
Finally, the difficulty score weighs 30% in the final result.
For example, a hybrid with high difficulty would include long and fast movements with both legs out of the water, complex angle and rotation work, and sharp and precise changes in positions and patterns. It is also important that athletes swim very close to each other, move fast within the hybrids and in the pool, and spend a long time underwater. All of these elements increase the difficulty score.
It will also be higher if the routine includes a lot of hybrids where all eight swimmers are synchronized. Finally, when each movement is placed in the routine is also important. Naturally, it is harder to do a long and complex hybrid at the very end, as athletes are very tired by then. That said, the best routines will include actions of high-level difficulty distributed throughout the routine from beginning to end.
For each panel, the highest and lowest scores are cancelled.
The Execution score is the sum of the three (3) remaining awards in the category. The Artistic Impression score is the sum of the three (3) remaining awards in the category, divided by 3 and multiplied by 4. The Difficulty score is the sum of the three (3) remaining awards in the category.
The total routine score will then be the sum of the Execution score (30%), Artistic Impression Score (40%) and Difficulty Score (30%), less any penalty deductions if incurred (such as overtime, or touching the bottom of the pool for example).
Technical routines are a bit different from free routines as they have mandatory technical elements . However, the scoring breakdown is essentially the same. The execution score is 30%, impression score is 30%, and the elements score is 40% of the final result.
- Execution and Impression Scores
The highest and the lowest are cancelled in each category, and the three remaining are added in each. Judges in the Execution panel look at the synchronization and the execution (extension, sharpness, stability, control, strength, propulsion, transitions…) of each movement that does not have an assigned degree of difficulty. Impression incorporates the difficulty of all movements that are not the required elements, choreography, manner of presentation, and music interpretation.
- Elements Score
Each routine has five required elements. These elements all have an assigned degree of difficulty (DD). If it is not done exactly as described in the Code of Points, the country may receive a zero.
In addition to these five elements, there are a few more specifications. Duets will also have to do a lift or throw at any point in the routine. Team routines must contain two acrobatic moves: one using all team members, and another with two simultaneous and identical movements. Finally, the team routine must also contain a cadence action, and at least one circle or one straight line. These all may be placed anywhere in the choreography.
In this panel, the judges will truly only focus on the required elements with an assigned DD. For each of the required elements with an assigned degree of difficulty, the highest and the lowest awards are cancelled. The remaining three are added, and the sum divided by three. The result is multiplied by the degree of difficulty for that element.
The sum of the element scores is then divided by the total degree of difficulty for the required elements and multiplied by 10. This result is multiplied by .4.
Fun, right? Here is an example from the FINA Rulebook: