Reflections from the First World Cup with the New Scoring System

by Shari Darst, Andrea Fuentes, Irene Hawes and Bill May

Several influential members of our community visited Canada for the first World Aquatics artistic swimming event with the new scoring system. Our national team demonstrated tremendous growth and utilized the new system brilliantly thanks to many people in our country who have worked hard to study, and in some cases help develop, the new system of scoring that will decrease subjectivity in judging and make the sport more exciting. By declaring elements of a routine beforehand, athletes are rewarded for correctly executing their routine the way it was choreographed, and risk losing points by not completely achieving movements or lifts. Balancing difficulty with execution capability is critical to the new system and Shari Darst, Irene Hawes, Andrea Fuentes and Bill May were able to see it play out for the first time live. Read what they learned from the first competition with the innovative system below.


Shari Darst - Judge

It was an honor and a pleasure to be able to be a part of the historic 2023 World Cup Competition in Markham, Canada. It was a big unknown going into this competition under the new system how everything would turn out, but I will say that from a judging standpoint it was terrifying and exciting at the same time. The judges were allowed to sit in on a practice session to become familiar with the new type of choreography we would be seeing, this was something that was new to any competition I have ever been a part of. There were thorough discussions before and after every event.All in all, besides the time in between routines for technical review, the competition ran very smoothly. The Canadians were great hosts and it was very special to be a part of this experience.

Irene Hawes – Evaluator

From the perspective of the Evaluator, some of the judges were very nervous about using the new system. Having the first World Cup without an actual Evaluating system was very nerve-racking as well. I have been working with four other individuals on getting the report card up and running, but the raw data has not been converted by the scoring system for use by the evaluatorsThis will add many hours to the evaluation process that normally was more efficient.

Most of the judges did express that they liked the new "quarter point" systemThey will adapt to utilize the system more effectively than what I observedCurrently, it appears that difficulty has an overwhelming effect on the final placement. Artistic and synchronization have little effect on the final resultsMany are working hard behind the scenes to evaluate a fix to keep the artistic element in our sport at the forefront.

Andrea Fuentes – Coach 

Coaching in the first competition of the new scoring system and being part of this historic moment felt brave and exciting! It takes courage to show your work when all is new and there are so many possible interpretations, that’s why only some countries sent their entire teams! We have seen that now it's going to be way more exciting - our sport is finally like others where anything can happen, and it was so needed. I feel so much gratitude for the innovation committee and the leadership in our sport as they made this change happen. It brings hope and desire to push harder, to find bigger ways to evolve, to play the new game of artistic swimming.

To see that the difficulty is finally an objective number and not a guessing game feels like I'm no longer jealous of other sports like speed swimming where there is no subjectivity. It is so refreshing. We still have a long way to go, like defining the execution more and really following the new rules that dictate height as starting point. This will take more determination, education, and adaptation, but definitely a huge step forward!

Bill May – Technical Controller

The first World Aquatics Artistic Swimming World Cup of 2023 definitely lived up to the excitement and anticipation as a groundbreaking and historical event. It was the first time the new rules had been used at a World Aquatics Event. We are in the growing and evolving stages of the new rules, but these new rules provide a more objective platform for the athletes to compete. Each country had their own strategy that they believed would bring them the highest scores and the greatest successThis was all done, while equally knowing what aspects of the new rules could, potentially, give them the highest scores through difficulty, but completely unaware of what other competitors would do. There were many shifts and surprises in the placements on the podium, due to the fact that if an athlete or routine didn't do something they said they would do, they would get a much lower score, or base mark. This basically means they would receive almost zero credit for what they tried to do. This allowed Israel to win their first gold medal at a World Aquatics competition!

The competition also gave judges and controllers an opportunity to try their hand in the new scoring. It was a huge advantage and benefit for the controllers to watch practices to familiarize themselves with the routines. They were also able to give feedback to the athletes which was very beneficial as we were all adjusting to the new scoring system.

Beyond the scoring, this was also the first world competition that we have had new routines, such as the acrobatic routine, that requires no hybrids or elements and is focused on lifts. Also, we had men competing in just as many events as the women, truly showing the growth of men in our sport as well as the overall growth of artistic swimming.  

While there will be adjustments made, seeing the new scoring system in action shows our sport moving into more modern, fair and progressive times

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