Earlier in October, the FINA Technical Congress embraced the revamping of the Artistic Swimming scoring system – a decision that will have a dramatic impact on the sport for many years to come.

Meeting virtually, the proposal received an astounding 98% yes vote from the 70+ delegates present to move forward. Canada Artistic Swimming (CAS) recognizes the chair of the FINA Technical Committee, Lisa Schott, for her dedicated leadership on this project, which included laying the groundwork to get such strong support for its approval and subsequent implementation.

“Lisa’s initial vision, when she became the chair in 2017, was to see this come to fruition,” said Jackie Buckingham, CEO of CAS. “We’re so proud of her devotion to the project, which will fundamentally change the future of the sport.”

Canada played a significant role in the development of the new system. The initial impetus came from discussions that started here over five years ago as CAS was looking to adapt the scoring system to current technology to keep up with the increasing complexity of performances being demonstrated by athletes and to bring the sport into alignment with such other artistic sports as figure skating and gymnastics.

As the new system was being developed, Buckingham, along with Kara Heald, Senior Manager Sport Development for CAS, worked on the FINA Innovation Committee alongside sport experts in mathematics, biomechanics, and sports science, initially, and including athletes, coaches, and judges as the development progressed. The result is measurement-based, objective scoring rules, that has now garnered the approval of the international artistic swimming community.

Highlights of the changes to the scoring system

  • Simplifies the process, define roles and divides tasks among technical officials to allow for more specific assessment
  • Calculates the difficulty using specific mathematical values and formulas
  • Allows objective and detailed measurement to be done using advanced technology
  • Introduces well-balanced routines: set number of hybrids and acrobatics for each routine according to discipline and age group
  • Athletes and coaches will make strategic decisions about program composition based on targeted technical scores
  • Provides athletes and coaches with more specific feedback about all aspects of their performances
  • Removes the technical score cap of 10 which will allow the tracking of personal best and world record scores
  • As athletes develop, coaches and athletes can make the routine content decisions to balance the trade-off between higher difficulty and better execution to give them their best chance for success.

FINA’s goal is to make the outcomes of competitions less predictable, the scoring more quantifiable and objective and to bring strategy into play in a more significant way. For example, coaches can make changes to routines between preliminary and final rounds, adding or removing difficulty, so long as they declare their intended program in advance on the newly created Coach Card.

According to Jackie Buckingham, “the new structure puts the athletes at the centre, giving them much more information to understand their competitive outcomes. We know we will see the sport grow and evolve, as the athletes and coaches push the technical and creative boundaries of the sport more than was ever possible with the constraints of the previous system.  Even more impactful will be the empowering affect this new system will have on athletes’ ability to know what they need to do to win.  This will have a huge positive influence on the culture of the sport world-wide.”

The rollout of the new system will begin in Canada very soon. Training is already underway, and CAS expects to implement a test of the system in March of 2023 at its National Qualifier with a full application of the new structure anticipated at its National Championships in May, 2023.