If you’re puzzled by the Olympic figure skating scoring system, rest assured everyone else is, too. It seems that the scoring system changes every few years, making it difficult to keep up with what it all means. And the 2022 Winter Olympic Games are no different.
At the 2018 PyeongChang Games, figure skating scores were represented by a score box filled with little gray boxes that turned either green, red, or yellow as the skater went about their routine. Green was good, red was bad, and yellow meant the judges were still deciding how to score a certain move. The old score box made for a nice visual for fans watching at home, especially since it can be tough to tell whether a skater is doing well as they spin and twirl across the ice.
At the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing, the system has been updated again. According to NBC Sports, figure skating scoring goes a little something like this: In each figure skating event, there are nine judges who watch as the skater performs. Each judge then gives two scores, a Total Elements Score (TES) and a Program Component Score (PCS). These two numbers combine to give the Total Segment Score (TSS), which is used to figure out who has the highest score. Confused yet?
As noted on NBC Sports, the TES evaluates the technicality of the skater’s routine. Judges look at their moves — all those triple salchows, loops, and lutzes — and how well they were executed. Did the skater complete their intended three turns, or fall out of the spin early? Did they land that complicated jump, or did they fall down? Some mistakes are more obvious to viewers at home, but the judges have a keen eye that allows them to see each little wobble and missing move.
As the skater continues on with their routine, you’ll notice that numbers in the score box located on the top left-hand side of your screen go up in increments. That’s because nine judges are assessing each move before awarding a Grade of Execution (GoE) between -5 and +5 points.
According to NBC Sports, seven of the nine scores are then randomly selected, and of the seven, the highest and lowest scores are excluded before the remaining five scores are averaged. This number is then added to or subtracted from the base value score. It happens for each and every technical routine, with all these numbers added together. And just like that, you get the TES.
Then there’s the Program Component Score, or PCS, which evaluates five elements of the skater’s routine. The judges look at their skating skills, transitions, performance, composition, and their interpretation of the music — aka, whether or not their skating routine went well with their choice of song.
The nine judges then give a mark out of 10 for each of the five categories, scoring in 0.25 increments. Again, the highest and lower scores are dropped, and the remaining scores are averaged.
According to NBC Sports, once the judges record the TES and the PCS, the two numbers are then added together to give you the Total Segment Score, or TSS. They deduct penalty points from this score, too.
Not everyone’s happy with the new scoring system. The little green boxes from the 2018 Winter Olympics were easier to digest. And prior to 2004, figure skaters were awarded a simple score out of 6.0. The new figure skating scoring system will definitely take some getting used to, but it certainly doesn’t detract from all the amazing talent out there on the ice.
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