Olympian and British celebrity personality Louis Smith has had a rough time at the Olympics. The 27-year-old gymnast fell off the pommel horse during the team final in Rio, but he has a chance to redeem himself as he tries to win an individual gold medal in the same event. The top award has been within his grasp before, but Smith lost the gold medal in London 2012 for pommel horse despite tying with Hungary's Krisztian Berki for first. How could a tie have ended with Smith taking home silver instead of gold for England? It was all due to a quirk in the scoring.
The scoring for gymnastics went through an overhaul in 2004 that drastically changed the system from the previously held perfect 10 scoring fans were familiar with. Under the new scoring methods, a number of factors went into calculating a gymnasts final score — which no longer had a maximum number, a development that encouraged gymnasts to push themselves to add new degrees of difficulty and originality to their routines. The system has led to even more amazing work at the Olympic level, but it can also mean a tie is not really a tie.
When it came time to hand out the medals, Smith and Berki's identical score of 16.066 was broken down into its component parts. While Smith's routine was technically more difficult overall, Berki scored higher under the tie break rules thanks to his execution score. Smith was not happy with the results and was not shy sharing his feelings about the new scoring.
"I think I should have won the gold and he should have won the silver," Smith told The London Telegraph in 2012. "I don't care about sharing medals. My routine was harder and there was more risk involved so I think it should have gone in my favor. When the code changed from being scored out of 10 to being scored higher it was supposed to encourage more difficult and more flamboyant routines, so to be penalized for that in the end doesn't make sense."
At the time, Smith was unsure whether or not he would return for the Rio Olympics, but after becoming a celebrity in England, appearing on programs like Strictly Come Dancing, Smith did choose to return for Rio. And while his recent fall in the team finals was certainly a blow, the athlete now appears more mature and confident than ever. In an interview with The Guardian after his fall, Smith admitted to being disappointed in himself, but he was also ready to compete again.
Smith has one more shot at winning gold during the Men's Gymnastics Finals where he will return to the pommel horse again. Hopefully, this time a tie won't stand between the athlete and his dreams of gold.