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Looking for that perfect score in snowboarding?
It does not exist.
With apologies to Nadia, Mary Lou and, yes, even Shaun White, the scoring system in snowboarding and freestyle skiing does not have a mark for perfection.
The halfpipe and slopestyle riders are not given specific marks based on what elements they try or how well they land any specific trick. Rather, the marks are based on overall impression, considering a combination of excecution, difficulty, varieties of tricks, amplitude and progression. A number of judges score different parts of the course. Their marks are combined and, thus, a score is produced.
But the judges are ranking the riders in comparison to one another and assigning points based on where each run relates to the others. The points scale goes from 0 to 100. And unlike the old days in gymnastics, where a perfect 10 was a sign the athlete had executed all the elements flawlessly, the only person who can get a 100 in freeskiing or snowboarding would be the last to go. To award that score before the end of the contest would be to leave no room to place a superior run at the end.
``We remind them all the time that the score doesn't matter,'' says Steele Spence, the judging coordinator for the freestyle events.
White made a splash last month when he received a maximum score of 100 in an Olympic qualifier in Snowmass, Colorado. It was a score only seen a handful of times, though no official records are kept.
''If Shaun had put down that run and he wasn't the last one to go, they couldn't have given him that score,'' Spence said. ``It was great PR. But it was the last run and it was the best run of the day.''
Still, Spence conceded, there is a certain message sent by giving that last rider a 100, as opposed to a 98 or 99.
``I don't think I'd ever give a 100 because of that message. But I've given 98s,'' Spence said.
Australian Scotty James finished second to White's 100 in Snowmass, then came in second with a mark of 98 -- to Ayumu Hirano's 99 -- two weeks later at the Winter X Games.
He was annoyed both times, espeically after the first one.
``Not because of getting second place, I'm not a sore loser,'' James said. ``Just curious as to the 100s and things like that. I think it's pretty tough to get a perfect score.''
Impossible, in fact.
Canada's slopestyle bronze medalist, Mark McMorris, says he gets it.
''I guess they could give out 100s if they want to but that's just media stunting,'' he said. ``There's no such thing as a perfect run.''
Has he ever thought he deserved a 100?
``Yeah, but why would you give a 100?'' he said. ``Somebody can always do something crazier.''