The head of world gymnastics, who helped devise an open-ended scoring system, is pushing for a rule change to bring artistry back to the sport now increasingly laden with acrobatics to gain high points.
"Gymnastics is artistic gymnastics, the definition I don`t want to lose," said Bruno Grandi, president of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), making the distinction between other disciplines as rhythmic gymnastics, trampolining and tumbling.
Gymnastics was increasingly characterised by "too much of its acrobatic part and not too much artistry," he said Sunday on the final day of the world artistic gymnastics championships in Nanning, China.
In the wake of a gymnastics judging scandal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, FIG discarded the "perfect-10" scoring scale and created a scoring system known as the "code of points."
The final score for routine combines a "D-score" which evaluates the technical difficulty of elements and an "E-score" which is judged on the execution and artistry of the routine.
The D-score starts at a base of zero and adds points for each element dependent on its degree of difficulty. The D-score is open-ended so a gymnast can theoretically obtain unlimited points by stacking up high-scoring skills - elite gymnasts typically score high sixes to sevens for routines.
The E-score starts with a base of 10.0 and judges deduct points for errors, such as 0.1 for not sticking perfectly on landing to 1.0 for falling off a piece of apparatus.
The code has been criticised for pushing gymnasts to throw in one skill after another to pad up their D-score. It has also made it hard for casual fans to follow what is going on.
"At this moment, we have noted that the difficulty increased too much. Very very much. And the execution of the athlete doesn`t follow the same criteria. We need to change the mentality," Grandi said.
"We need to try one mathematic solution," he said, suggesting that the points for the D-score be halved.
The Italian supremo, 80, who has headed the FIG since 1996, also proposed "strong penalisation" for failure to perform planned skills well.Grandi said he would propose the change to the FIG executive committee for approval while the technical committee works out a rulebook for the next four-year Olympic cycle starting in January 2017 and leading to the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Grandi`s top lieutenant, FIG secretary general Andre Gueisbuhler, said coaches and competitors tend to "do difficult exercises in order to win" under the current system.
"The weight should be, as the president said, on artistry and beauty and perfect execution as you have in diving," the Swiss official said.
The FIG adopted the current code to separate difficulty from execution after the 2004 judging controversy.
At the Athens Games, American Paul Hamm won the men`s all-around title. But FIG ruled that South Korean bronze medallist Yang Tae-Young was incorrectly given a start value of 9.9 instead of 10.0 on the perfect-10 scale by judges in one apparatus. Yang would have won the gold with additional 0.1 points but his appeal for a score change was rejected.
Chinese men`s coach Wang Hongwei admitted his team beat arch-rivals Japan by 0.1 point in the team final because "we had a higher D-score.
"When it comes to the execution score, we are not as good as the Japanese gymnasts," he conceded.
Kyla Ross, who finished third in the all-around in Nanning and helped the United States retain the women`s team title, said that Grandi`s proposed change "might help some of my routines, especially on floor and beam.
"But I think I still really need to improve on some of my acrobatic skills on those events to raise my difficulty."
US team coordinator Martha Karolyi, who has produced a host of Olympic and world champions along with her husband Bela, said: "Artistry is nice. We always like artistry."