The Dominance of Simone Biles Destroyed a Historical Trend That Has Existed Since 1938

At the 2022 World Championships Jade Carey improved upon her career medal total to the position where she “crossed” the 10-point threshold. The 10-point threshold or the “10-point line” comes from the points system which is an attempt at finding a mathematical way to objectively rank gymnasts. Gymnasts are given “points” for each medal they win in an individual event. The medals are weighted with gold medals being worth more points than bronze medals.

Besides being a nice round number, the significance of the 10-point line is that it is where the data begins to separate gymnasts who are achieving historic careers from gymnasts experiencing general success. Of the 51 gymnasts who have crossed the 10-point line, 90% of them are members of the Hall of Fame.

Note: The full list of these gymnasts and what year they reached 10 points can be found here:

Of the 10% who aren’t, virtually all have had Hall of Fame careers and most likely will be inducted at some point down the road. For example, Svetlana Khorkina who at one point had the most medals at the World Championships and most named-skills in the Code of Points is part of the 10% that has not yet been inducted.

Jade Carey

Hitting the 10-point line is incredibly difficult. So difficult in fact that it may surprise readers to learn that Aly Rasiman did not reach it. Raisman who is widely viewed amongst gymnastics fans as one of the top-4 or even top-3 greatest gymnasts in the history of American gymnastics is below the 10-point line. Prior to Covid-19 the last gymnast to cross the 10-point line was Viktoria Komova at the 2015 World Championships.

But in recent times the once elusive “10-point club” has suddenly become anything but. Not only did Jade Carey reach it at the 2022 World Championships, but five more gymnasts had reached it during the 2021 season. Vanessa Ferrari and Nina Derwael reached it at the 2021 Olympics. While at the 2021 World Championships Mai Murakami, Rebeca Andrade, and Angelina Melnikova brought the 10-point club to 50 members.

Before Covid-19 the 10-point line was so difficult to obtain that it hadn’t occurred since 2015. But since Covid-19 women’s gymnastics has seen six gymnasts achieve it in just a two year stretch. Naturally, this made me curious so I decided to plot out all the dates in which a gymnast reached the 10-point line to get a better understanding of why we were seeing such an explosion of 10-point gymnasts in the past two years.

Right-click to view a larger version of this image in a separate window

The graphic lists nearly every World Championships or Olympics (Group-1 Competitions). Only the 1934 World Championships as well as the 1928, 1936, and 1948 Olympics are excluded. The reason being, it was mathematically impossible for a gymnast to reach the 10-point line at any of these competitions. The graphic tracks the number of gymnasts who crossed the 10-point line at any particular competition in gymnastics history.

The graphic reveals the incredible consistency of the 10-point line. Very rarely does gymnastics go two Group-1 competitions without a gymnast crossing the 10-point line. But also very rarely do more than two gymnasts cross it at a single time. There have only been three instances of three gymnasts doing it in a single competition. But two of these instances came in 1992 and 2021, years where an unusual scheduling quirk allowed the World Championships and Olympics to be held in the same year. Thus making it easier for gymnasts to score “points.”

Prior to the statistical anomaly that can be seen after 2015, women’s gymnastics had only two instances of two consecutive Group-1 competitions without a gymnast joining the 10-point club. Strangely enough, both instances 1981-1983 and 1997-1999 came in the immediate aftermath of a major overhaul to age eligibility rules where the minimum age was raised. Could this be merely a coincidence or a direct causation?

Rebeca Andrade: Joined the 10-Point Club at the 2021 World Championships

The period from 1979-1985 is the only era where the 10-point club becomes noticeably less common. But as was the case before, there were extenuating circumstances. Both the 1980 and 1984 Olympics suffered major boycotts. Olga Mostepanova would have broken the 10-point line with ease had she attended the 1984 Olympics, while Ma Yanhong would have been right on the bubble had she been able to compete at the 1980 Olympics.

This was also the time period where gymnasts had the shortest careers. In women’s gymnastics it was not possible to become a 3x Olympian until 1956. From 1956-present the only times where an Olympic field did not feature any 3x Olympians was 1980 and 1984. Even if you count the gymnasts who missed the Olympics because of a boycott, there was not one instance of a gymnast making three Olympic teams in this era.

The 10-point line is incredibly consistent. Hardly ever going beyond more than one or two new members at a time, but also rarely going more than one competition without a new member. But even when these two previous rules are broken, there are extenuating circumstances associated with it.

But then this trend suddenly died.

Viktoria Komova: Joined the 10-Point Club at the 2015 World Championships

The graphic is slightly misleading as it shows the 10-point club ceasing to exist starting in 2016, but the true starting point for the decline of the 10-point club was actually 2013 when Simone Biles rose to power. The data point at the 2014 World Championships is actually Biles herself. It was in Nanning-2014 where Simone crossed the 10-point threshold. As for 2015, the gymnast who joined the 10-point line was the previously mentioned Viktoria Komova.

The height of Simone Biles’ career came from 2013 to 2019. Even though she technically competed at the 2021 Olympics, Biles didn’t dominate this competition and thus didn’t skew the data during Tokyo-2021.

But why was Viktoria Komova the only gymnast to hit the 10-point line during Simone’s legendary run of dominance in the seven year period from 2013 to 2019? Komova actually scored the majority of her points in 2011 and 2012. She simply predated Biles’ career. Komova also was a standout bars worker and it just so happened that uneven bars was Simone’s lone “weak” event where she didn’t dominate and skew the data.

Angelina Melnikova: Joined the 10-Point Club at the 2021 World Championships

An overall analysis of Viktoria Komova’s career reveals that 100% of her point total came in events where she wasn’t directly competing against Simone Biles. On the two occasions where Biles and Komova were competing in the same event, Biles took gold while Komova finish in 4th place. Komova would have two more medals if one wanted to strip Simone’s results from the record book to see how the medals would have been distributed amongst other gymnasts.

Viktoria Komova’s career is a perfect representation of how difficult it was for gymnasts directly competing against Simone Biles to generate high point totals. The only gymnasts who were able to reach the 10-point milestone were gymnasts who found ways to either avoid Simone entirely, or avoid her strongest events. Take Nina Derwael who at the 2021 Olympics would become the first gymnast to cross the 10-point since Komova in 2015.

Nina Derwael’s strongest event was the uneven bars and she was more successful on this apparatus than even Viktoria Komova. All of Derwael’s point totals came on the uneven bars where Simone was either not participating, or Simone didn’t have the same strength as Nina on bars. When Nina did have to compete directly against Simone on any of the other events that were are all considered Biles “strong” events, Derwael finished 4th, 4th, and 5th respectively. If Simone’s medals were removed from the data, like Komova Nina Derwael would also gain two medals.

Nina Derwael: Joined the 10-Point Club at the 2021 Olympics

The other gymnast to join the 10-point club at the 2021 Olympics and the third and final gymnast to ever cross the 10-point line in a competition Simone Biles had attended was Vanessa Ferrari. But Ferrari was one of the oldest gymnasts in the sport whose career goes all the way back to her All-Around victory at the 2006 World Championships.

Like Komova, the majority of Vanessa Ferrari’s points predate the senior debut of Simone Biles. In Ferrari’s case, it was Simone’s removal from 5 of 6 events at the 2021 Olympics that was the key difference maker in Ferrari obtaining the 10-point milestone. Had Simone’s streak of overwhelming dominance carried into 2021 Olympics, Vanessa Ferrari would not have reached the 10-point club.

At the 2021 Olympics two gymnasts reached the 10-point threshold. In Derwael’s case it was most likely not assisted by Simone’s withdrawal from numerous events, but in Ferrari’s case it most likely was. But what Komova, Derwael, and Ferrari all have in common is they demonstrated that in order to reach the 10-point club in Simone’s era, you needed to win in events where she wasn’t competing, or be a great gymnast on the uneven bars.

Vanessa Ferrari: Joined the 10-Point Club at the 2021 Olympics

It was always obvious that Simone Biles was such a great gymnast she would skew the data. But it was staggering to see just how extreme the impact Simone Biles had on the data. The 10-point club maintained consistency even during the dominance of Larissa Latynina and Vera Caslavska from 1956 to 1968. The consistency survived the superstars of the 1970s where Nadia Comaneci, Ludmilla Turischeva, Olga Korbut, and Nellie Kim dominated the medal counts.

With very little change it got through two Olympic boycotts and the brutality of 1980s gymnastics where virtually every medal winning gymnast was unable to last more than five years in Group-1 competition. Then there was the insanity of the 1992 and 1996 Olympic cycles where FIG not only held seven Group-1 competitions in a five year stretch, but also awarded 21 ties in women’s gymnastics during those two Olympic quads. Even with all those enormous factors that could have easily influenced the data, there was only minimal change to the consistency of the way the 10-point club grew during two Olympic quads.

The 10-point club stayed firm in the 2000s even as the sport witnessed the rapid rise of specialists and the expansion of the World Championships where it would always be held in a non-Olympic year. No matter how many ways the sport changed or how dominant a gymnast was, the data always managed to resist influence from extenuating factors. It seemed nothing could stop the consistency of the 10-point club.

That was until Simone Biles came along.

Simone Biles: Joined the 10-Point Club at the 2014 World Championships

It isn’t so much that few gymnasts reached the 10-point milestone during Simone’s era that is so impressive, but how quickly it returned to being something that occurs on a routine basis once Simone’s historic streak of dominance came to an end. The data reads like an ecology study where an apex predator has been removed from the environment and now that same environment is struggling with an overpopulation of deer and rabbits.

But is it fair to attribute Simone’s departure to why the 10-point club has returned with such a vengeance? The original question that inspired this article is why are we seeing such a rapid expansion to the 10-point club? The volatility to the data in competitions where Simone is currently not competing from 2021-2022 is a testament to women’s gymnastics being in unprecedented times. Because of Covid-19, gymnastics had a “double year” in 2021 where both the World Championships and Olympics were held in the same year.

For the first time ever, the World Championships in a double year were being held after the Olympics, not before the Olympics which further impacted participation rates. In 2021 there was also two All-Around titles contested in Group-1 competition in the same year which was another “first” in women’s gymnastics. And then came the ban on Russian athletes in 2022 which removed a women’s program that typically qualified a gymnast on every event during the All-Around and Event Finals.

Aly Raisman

In the past the 10-point line remained relatively consistent even when major events posed a risk of influencing the data. But the consistency of the 10-point line could not survive three major events occurring in a 2-year span. And Simone’s status where she is currently not competing, but hasn’t formally retired has given her contemporaries a chance to dominate the medal tallies.

One of the big questions those who look at the American points rankings on this website is how Aly Raisman finished her career with “only” 9-points. While this article will certainly portray Aly Raisman as the most extreme example of Simone’s dominance blocking other gymnasts from the 10-point club, that is not all there is to the story.

Among gymnasts who competed in the 2010s Aly Raisman is in a tie for 4th place in total points. It wasn’t just that Aly Raisman was done in by having to compete directly against Simone Biles, but that she could not separate herself from other gymnasts of her era.

Simone Biles

Nor would it necessarily be fair to say Jade Carey (13 points) ranking higher than Aly Raisman (9 points) is a fluke, an example of how the points system sometimes produces bad rankings, or that the only reason Jade ranks higher than Aly is how their career timelines compared to Simone Biles.

What ultimately did Aly Raisman in was her absence from the 2013 and 2014 World Championships. Aliya Mustafina recorded 7-points in these two competitions alone and there most likely was an opportunity for Raisman to snag some of those points for herself had she competed.

Jade Carey in contrast has competed in at least one high-level FIG event each year since her senior debut in 2017. The success Carey is having in 2022 is a byproduct of a gymnast who attempts to win medals every year and has slowly allowed those medals to pile up over time. The points system is ultimately an attempt at using math to challenge popular perception and media bias. In doing so, finding gymnasts whose contributions are undervalued.

Aly Raisman

Aly Raisman is the flashy All-Arounder who made her name by winning the high-profile Team Gold in two different Olympics. Jade Carey on the other hand rarely competed All-Around, has only one Olympic appearance, and doesn’t belong to any historic gold medal winning Olympic team. It is up for readers to decide if questions regarding Jade ranking higher than Aly is proof that the points system sometimes produces flawed results, or if the lack of multiple Olympic appearances and All-Around success has made fans slower to give Jade Carey the same status as Aly Raisman in gymnastics folklore.

For Aly Raisman the 10-point club was easily obtainable for her, but on so many occasions the stars just didn’t align. Missing major events in 2013 and 2014 was costly, but so was being eliminated on country limits by Gabby Douglas at the 2015 World Championships. Raisman also had horrific luck with tiebreakers, and in the pre-Simone era Raisman recorded a 4th place finish on four different occasions. Just one of those 4th place finishes being upgraded to a bronze medal would have given Raisman entry into the 10-point club. And of course, having so much of her career overlapping with Simone Biles.

Aly Raisman is one of the most famous gymnasts the American program has ever produced. She will certainly be inducted into the Hall of Fame and will continue to be widely touted as one of the top-4 all time in American gymnastics. No 10-point club status will ever come close to changing any of these things.

But it is also interesting to look at the gap that exists in 10-point gymnasts from 2013 to 2019 and wonder about how the consistency that has held firm since 1938 suddenly appears to stop. Only then does it become obvious as to who is responsible for triggering a never before seen data anomaly and begin to appreciate how impressive her career has been.

Mai Murakami: Joined the 10-Point Club at the 2021 World Championships

3 thoughts on “The Dominance of Simone Biles Destroyed a Historical Trend That Has Existed Since 1938

  1. To clarify, the 10 point club is based only on World Championship medals? I was confused.
    Also, if Khorkina showed better sportsmanship she probably would have been in the Hall of Fame by now. The fact that she is pro Ukraine invasion probably won’t get her in any time soon either.

    Like

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