Monday, October 17, 2011

This lack of Sportsmanship needs to stop!

I have mentioned a few things that I do not like about gymnastics. One is the way that people criticise the weight of gymnasts and former gymnasts when it is absolutely none of their business. But I think in general, some fans are very hard on certain gymnasts and attack them for simply... doing gymnastics their way, or winning a competition they feel another gymnast should win. I am not going to name the blogs or message boards that I am thinking of. I do not want to encourage traffic to go to these sites.

Jordyn Wieber won the All Around. In my opinion, she deserved it, but to use a cliche, it could have gone either way.

Vika Komova was not performing all the difficulty she was capable of. Her Amanar was MIA and it is possible that she is still recovering from her ankle injury. I few months ago, some bloggers were hinting that she would not be at worlds, which was thankfully wrong. Considering this, I think silver is an excellent result.

Jordyn has crazy difficulty. Her own coach mentioned that she did not have an ideal competition. I think that she will only get better and better, as she has been doing ever since I became aware of her gymnastics. Maybe she does not have ballerina moves, but she has a certain attitude and pizzazz about her which I enjoy watching. I LOVE her floor routine. Her beam is also lovely, and you can say that bars is her weakest event but you cannot say that her routine lacks uniqueness. She was the only all arounder with an Amanar vault. Nuff said. Maybe she does not wave about like a mad thing as some of the others do, but if she has asthma, she might need to save her energy for... um... tumbles. It makes sense, since tumbles give her points and waving of arms, while pretty, gives little discernible advantage under the current code.

So I do not think that pouring scorn on her is classy at all. In the other finals, there has been less scorn, but still some controversy. It is the opposite of classy. Some people just need to get a life.

Also, this expression "code whoring." I have mentioned before that I hate it. If you put rules out there, people are bound to work out ways to make those rules help them win. What gymnast is going to do a pretty routine for the fans when they know that it gives them zero chance of a medal? If that is their goal, cirque or gymnastics tours make more sense than elite gymnastics.

I mean, in other sports, is working out a technique that makes you run a race faster (without drug taking/blood doping) cheating or I dunno, race-whoring? At the last rugby world cup, the winner, England, won most games by kicking goals rather than running across the line with a ball in their hands as rugby players generally do. Lots of rugby commentators hated that they could win games like this, but they directed their scorn at the rules. Not the players or the team. Gymnastics people need to take a leaf out of their book, seriously!

I really hope that Jordyn is patting herself on the back right now (she is definitely flexible enough to do that!). She has a lot more maturity and class than the haters. I hope people are wrapping support around her, and sheltering her from the ugliness. Unfortunately, I am sure she is smart enough to be aware of what is happening. It's not fair. You can argue all you can over unfairness of results, but attacking people who have nothing to do with the results is creating two wrongs. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Rant over.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Musings On The Past Month's Happenings

Sorry I have been away so long. I am back now, although I don't really feel like I have much to add to the commentary around the internet about all that has happened.

I could talk about what a massive splatfest Visas was. But plenty of other bloggers have done that better than I could ever hope to. I have already talked about the fact that the code of points means gymnasts chuck their skills rather than perfecting them. I have already talked about how stupid this is.

There is the matter of poor Becca Bross and her poor knee. You could blame Liukin has Blythe did. I think that Bross, as a 18 year old, would have had a lot of say in what she did. You can always look back and say coulda shoulda woulda. Hindsight is 20:20 or maybe even better. Liukin played a high stakes game in his gymnastics, pushing the envelope with difficulty. He was the ultimate trickster of his time. His daughter did an insane bars set. Bross also does insane difficulty, and so does Ohashi. Difficulty has won Liukin a number of battles - and he lost this one.

Yet these gambles are encouraged by the way that modern elite gymnastics is done. As I have said many times.

I feel excited about all of the talent that is emerging. The Russians look amazing. The USA looks like the team to beat for me. The Worlds look like they will be a wonderful competition. But I know they will be tinged with regret for me, because a number of the best gymnasts in the world will be too injured to be there. This is not good for the sport in my opinion.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gymnastics and the Weight Issue

There is one thing about being a gymnastics fan that makes me feel conflicted. When I am reading the fan sites, I hate reading about how some gymnast is fat, or needs to lose weight. If a blogger or commenter wants to insult a gymnast, the word fat is likely to be used, which is rather silly, since very few gymnasts are fat.

In general, I hate hearing people being called fat because in my mind, fat is a noun that is used to describe lipids or body fat. As an adjective, I think that it has mutated into an insulting word which has nothing to do with how much body fat someone carries around. Fat can mean lazy, or disliked for some reason. In general, I do not believe that any gymnasts are fat, even in the sense of the adjective.

I think that this is a reflection of society as a whole. As a society, we are obsessed with how we look. Models almost look like bags of bones at times. Growing up in a society which recommends thinness is not easy for anyone except the minority of people who have that body type.

I can imagine that it would be even more difficult for gymnasts. A leotard is not a very forgiving piece of clothing, and if I were having a 'fat day,' I would not really want to wear one. I would feel naked. No one has a perfect body and a leotard would leave every imperfection for the world to see. I guess that gymnasts are used to it though.

I find it funny that male gymnasts seldom find their bodies under scrutiny. Yet the bodies of female gymnasts, who are often younger and less able to deal with criticism, are often fair game. One example is the Bama gymnasts in 2010, another the criticism of Shawn and Nastia. In my opinion, body scrutiny should only be acceptable when someone is coaching or offering nutritional advice to a gymnast. Other people are unlikely to have the full story, so why should they be expressing opinions and giving advice? When people don't know the full story, their advice is bound to be wrong.

I have heard stories of gymnasts being weighted. The stereotype of gymnasts being weighted often comes up in gymnastics shows. I think taking the weight of a gymnast could be very misleading. There are many routes to losing weight which would not benefit a gymnast: losing a limb, or an organ, losing muscle. Not all weight is created equal.

Fat - as in the noun - can sometimes be seen as dead weight. It is weight that gymnasts need to carry which does not have a function in the many skills that they perform, yet at the same time, some fat is needed in the body. The barrier between the brain and blood needs lipids in order to perform its function of keeping dangerous chemicals out of the brain. Many other cells need fat, and women need to carry a certain percentage of fat around to maintain a good bone density mass. Having good bones helps with gymnastics because broken bones mean time out.

I do wonder about claims regarding gymnasts having eating disorders. I know that many gymnasts would have a specific diet as any athlete would. Keeping the balance would take a lot of skill and work. I think that the lifestyle of an athlete could be very stressful, which could case overeating or under-eating. I am going through a lot of stress and for me, finishing a meal is hard work. My good friend finds that she eats without effort when she is stressed. Both reactions are recognised by the medical profession. This does not mean an eating disorder. I know people who have had eating disorders and I think that it would be very difficult for someone in the acute stage of one to be able to continue gymnastics. Eating disorders can take over your life to the extent where there is no room for anything else.

Weight will always be a big deal in the gravity-defying tricks during gymnastics, but I wish that people would let up on criticising bodies of female gymnasts. To me criticism of form, lack of artistry or skill difficulty is ok, but weight is the business of the gymnast, and their coach and their support team only. Putting down gymnasts based on their weight is rude, misguided and often ignorant.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The age debate - my take

Hi all

I am very sorry about my absence. I have been working about 45 hours a week and studying 20+ which leaves me little time for blogging. On top of that, the hard drive of my faithful yellow laptop is goners. So I did not have the means to blog either. I could use my partner's computer, but I could never be on it long...

I have been inspired by Gymnastics Coaching regarding the age limit in gymnastics and what should be done with it. I am torn. I would like to protect gymnasts from the worst aspects of the sport, yet I can see merit in the argument that a rule that cannot be enforced is useless.

Protection of young gymnasts, especially the ones from totalitarian countries, appeals to me. Stories about the Karolyis, and many other accusations have flown around over the years. This is not all sour grapes by failed gymnasts. Olga Korbut made accusations of rape about her own coach, even though she had a very successful career. But let's not pretend that coaches are unique in being able to abuse and exploit children. Some parents do that as well.

The pressure of competing on a large world stage is massive whatever your age is. Well, I think. Truth is, I don't know. I have never competed on the world stage.

My take is that gymnastics training, like any training can be positive or negative. When I learned ballet, I had a teacher who screamed at her students, belittled them and generally played power games with them. I remember her telling us that we would be in big trouble if we made mistakes during performances. I was scared to go to ballet. I gave up ballet. My singing teacher gave constant praise as well as constructive criticism, and worked to the personalities of each student in terms of teaching performing. I would always go off stage thinking of what I had done wrong (which my teachers would often fail to spot), and what I could work on. She would build me up. My friend was the opposite, and so my teacher had very different ways of motivating her. I sang for several years.

I am guessing that it is the same with gymnastics. I think that mentally, doing high level sports or other hobbies can be a positive or negative experience depending on how it is done. Kids who are competing in high level competition need support wrapped around them. They need to know that their self worth is not dependent on their results. How does that get policed? - well, parents are the first line of defence. If a kid is unhappy, most parents will withdraw them from gymnastics or that particular coach. The second line of defence needs to be the sport itself. If a coach is harming their athletes, they should not be coaching, because they are giving the sport a bad name. Many of the worst potential coaches may be prevented from coaching by criminal and reference checks. Thirdly, the police may sometimes need to get involved when serious harm is done.

I can see that the risks of young people being involved in high level sports is high, but if it is done properly, I do not think it is a reason in itself to stop young people from competing at a high level. I think that being older, athletes in a worse position since they would understand the long-term consequences of falling off the equipment, but they would have the skills to deal better with competition, and they would have had time to develop mental toughness, and experience that may enable them to do better in competition.

But maybe I am the wrong person to be making assumptions about young people performing at a high level. What do gymnasts who have competed in the Olympics at 13 or 14 have to say? What was positive? What was negative? I think we need to hear some of their opinions.

One question that I do want to ask is whether any of the skills that gymnasts do are harmful when they are introduced too early. I was inspired by Katrina bringing up the example of a ballerina dancing Swan Lake at age 8. She was dancing en pointe, which is dangerous for foot growth when training begins before age 12 according to the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. I wonder if many skills that gymnasts do fit into this category, or even a category of slightly higher risk when skills are introduced to early.

I am aware of assertions that older gymnasts are more likely to get injured - but how can you prove that this is solely about age? Is this about age or the body saying "enough is enough" after years of doing the same movements? Is it simply the case that some gymnasts are doing movements that they should not do to increase start values? Is it bad training methods? Again, I am not sure. I am asking these questions, but I should not be the person answering them, because I do not feel qualified.

I hear the pragmatic "cannot be enforced so why do it" argument, and to some extent, I agree with it. But I do think that the issue is much more complicated than that. One thing is for sure. I want older gymnasts to stay on the scene, because they add a lot to the sport. I do not want another 'pixie only' era in gymnastics.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Of scoring and injury

I have seen the video of Ms. Mustafina. Like everyone else in the gymnastics community, I am not happy about it. There is a lot of debate on the gymnastics coaching website and many other places about who is to blame for her injury. I see it as a combination of things. Yes, her twisting form is similar to a pretzel. Yes, her coaches should have corrected it. Yes, she should have stayed with the DTY and less twisting elements. Yes, gymnastics is a dangerous sport.

But I have to say that the Code of Points is partially to blame here.

On paper, it looks great.

In reality, one part works: the difficulty score. Start values are based on skills and are open-ended. If a gymnast gets the skills, they get the start value. If anything, some of the time, gymnasts are given gifts in start value when they are unable to get skills completely around. This happens a lot with Amanars. Why is this? I think one thing is the fact that these scores are able to be reviewed. Appeals can happen, and judges have to be very sure before taking points away from gymnasts. Maybe judges look bad when appeals are successful as well.

The bit that does not work is the execution score. As I have said before, execution scores need to be open and challenge-able. They also need to be enforced. Having differences between awesome routines and wobbly ones is important. This means that winners are predictable as Bridget was saying.

We have a code. We put gymnasts in the mix.

These gymnasts want to win. They are used to sacrificing their time, putting their bodies through pain and sometimes even moving away from their families. They have to work very hard to become elites, let alone successful elites.

Naturally, they and their coaches will compose routines that ensure the highest scores. If they can add an extra difficult skill to ensure that they make the podium, they will. Even if they hit 50% of the time, having more difficult elements may be preferable because some hits and some misses may be better than sitting in the middle of the pack all the time. If built in deductions are smaller than the value of the skill, it is worth keeping it there. With the way that execution scores are currently enforced, built in deductions are only greater when there is a fall, or another major error.

Some bloggers have called people who use the code to get high scoring routines "code whores," but I do not think this is fair. They are just gymnasts and coaches who are cleverly using the code to get the best possible results.

Sometimes gymnasts/coaches may put in do-able but imperfect skills to up a start value. You can call this bad coaching. You can also call it using the reality of the current system to best advantage. But the question is, should the code protect gymnasts from themselves or their coaches? Should we tolerate and even encourage risky, high difficulty skills with sub-par execution as the current code does?

The sport has changed rules where difficult skills have hurt gymnasts before. You only have to look at the sport's hall of shame to see that: Mukhina, Gomez, Sang... In Mukhina's case, the fall meant a change in code. The skill she fell on, along with some others, is now illegal. But injuries like Mustafina's, though serious, are not in the same league. I still think that they are bad for the sport. I respect hard skills. I really like what the new code has done for the uneven bars, but I would prefer good skills that gymnasts can do cleanly and safely to lots of injuries and wobbles.

I agree with the commenter on my last post that we need a happy medium between perfection and difficulty. Right now, I think that we have gone too far one way. I wish that we could bring back good execution.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scams and Execution

I am sorry about the lack of posts. I started a new job about a month ago, and it has already taken over my life in that I have not been able to leave work before 10pm for two nights in a row. So much for the nine to five job I was offered.


The scam cup came and went. Like Spanny and Lauren Hopkins, I think the right decision was made. Many have said that Wieber did not earn her score in floor, but I agree with many others who say that Mustafina did not earn her scores in beam and vault.

However, if the code of points punished crap execution more, there would be no debate.

Consider this, exhibit A:

Look at the last pass. In that pass, in case you did not notice, Zmeskal did not control her power sufficiently and she stepped out. That was the competition done for her right there. In that moment, the commentators could confidently say she would not take home a medal. They were right.

Now, there is exhibit B:

It is hard to miss her fall, which is a much bigger mistake that Zmeskal's. The commentators thought the gold medal was gone for her. They were wrong. In the American cup, the ladies in first and second both had falls, as did most of the competitors.

Why? The bottom line is that Zmeskal and her competitors knew that they could not step out, let alone fall. Now, competitors chuck all the difficulty they can, and hope the will stay on.

Even if they don't, winning is still possible.

Once the new COP revision comes up, FIG is going to have to work out what it really wants. Does it want ever-increasing difficulty with people chucking skills to get a few tenths whilst knowing that crappy form is a-o-kay. Or do they want some cleaner gymnastics.

If we have to stay open ended, falls need to be docked at least two points. Small deductions need to be 0.3 or more. 0.1 is not enough. A huge bobble needs to be 1.0.

Right now, chucking fugly skills is worth it. This risks falls, injury and sore eyes for spectators. When a Patterson is well done, like Patterson herself did it, I want to watch. Ditto Tweedle on bars, ditto Rosu's Amanar. But I prefer a well done layout full over any of those skills done with ugly form.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Past gymnastics with present scoring

Many gymnastics fans crave the return of the perfect ten and the old scoring system. But I can imagine that some past gymnasts watching the current scoring a rewarding of difficulty, and wishing that the present system had been around when they were competing.

The first gymnast that comes to mind when thinking about this topic is Yelena Produnova. Produnova had amazing skills, and she was not rewarded for them at the time. On vault, she did a handspring double, which is usually a vault done by men. I have not heard of any other women doing this vault. Some commentators mentioned that this vault should be biomechanically impossible for a women. Apparently, the judges did not like it because it they feared for her safety.

I can see why this vault was not well liked. She consistently landed it in a squat, but if Produnova were doing this vault today, she would be well rewarded for doing this vault. Even if she fell over, she would beat a lot of DTY-ers.

Her floor was also pretty amazing.

Double arabian into a front tuck... then a layout into a double front. Those are two amazingly difficult passes! How many people do those now? Now, they would be rewarded for them. Not so much then. I know that Produnova was partly doing lots of forward tumbling to cope with an injury, but still, her skill-set is pretty much unmatched, even now.

The next gymnast I think of is Maloney. Maloney has been criticised for her lack of form and style, but could she ever tumble! Her passes included a double layout, a full twisting double layout and a whip to triple twist. Again, I think she would have done better had the current scoring system been in place when she was an elite.

I know that the open ended scoring system is not liked by everyone. When I see people chucking big bad skills, (cough, Nabieva, cough) I yearn for beautiful execution to come into play over difficulty.

But some good things have came out of the open-ended system. Bars has become much more spectacular. And if any people like Produnova and Maloney turn up, they will be recognised for their difficulty.

Yes, I am a bit of a Pollyanna with this, but the fact is that the old scoring system had problems too. That is why they changed it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gymnastics Therapy: Part two

A few days late, but here are a few more all-time favourites that I watch to cheer myself up.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gymnastics Therapy: Part one

Some of you may have heard that my country has been hit by a massive disaster. Everyone I know knows someone from Christchurch, or someone who knows someone who was or is trapped in those buildings. There are over 100 dead already and that number is expected to rise.

My sister lives in Christchurch. Thankfully, she was in the part which was not hit badly. Now, she is back with my parents. The aftershocks were keeping her nerves on edge, so she is glad to be back home. My friend's father was one of the people rescued in this article. I was standing under the cathedral waiting for my sister last year. Now bodies are being recovered from it and its surrounds. Luck, bad or good, determined who died. I have had very good luck. Not everyone has. New Zealand is a small country. Right now, all of us are wondering around thinking that we are in a bad dream.

On one level, thinking about gymnastics seems very silly. People are dead. Gymnastics news does not seem like important news at all.

On another level, I need access to gymnastics videos now more than ever. They take me into another place - a place of beauty and amazing feats.

Now I will share my favourite videos. I planned to do this in another post, but what the hell, now seems like the best moment. I need comfort.

Part two tomorrow.

I will be back to my analystical self soon. I have several posts half completed, but right now, it is hard to write.

I hope that my readers and their people are ok.

To help quake sufferers, you may want to read the media articles I linked, which have places to send donations.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Commentating Cliches

I watch a lot of gymnastics. There are a lot of different commentators with different styles, but there are some quotes that crop up quite a lot. Commentators always want to have something to say, since they are pretty much paid to talk. There seem to be some sayings that they feel that they always need to say.

If I actually drank alcohol, I think I could make a drinking game about for each gymnastics meet.

I list some of these below.

On events...
  • On floor, you can let your personality shine out.
  • Beam is the most difficult event to start on, because the adrenaline means that it is hard to stay on.
  • Vault is a great event to start on, because it lets you get some of your energy out of the way.
  • In bars, it is important to hit all those handstands.
On elite gymnastics
  • Three up and three count. That is a lot of pressure.
  • Yuchenko double. We are going to see a lot of those today.
On college gymnastics
  • In college gymnastics, it is all about the team.
  • When you make a mistake, you know that your team is behind you.
  • Yuchenko full. We are going to see a lot of those today.
Just generally
  • On all events: It is important to stick that landing (you could argue that in elite, sticking the landing is less important than it used to be).
  • Right now, this gymnast is probably mentally visualizing their routine.
  • Both/all the teams in this meet want to win (well, obviously).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Random Mutterings and Music Suggestions

A few months ago, I got very excited. The reason why?

I had a follower. It was Rick Charles, a guy who runs Gymnastics Coaching, one of the web's biggest Gym blogs.

Today, I got even more excited because he mentioned me on his website!

And I now have another follower. And a comment.

I had a look at my stats and realised that Full Twist has also told people about my website. Full Twist, which is also, just randomly, another regularly visited site, was talking about looking for music.

I have always intended to post a blog on music that I think would be perfect for gymnastics. When I watch lots of gymnastics, I always seem to imagine the music I listen to with gymnastics moves. How this would work on a practical level, I am not sure, but these are just a few ideas. Full Twist was talking about looking for music, and since they have kindly told others about my blog, this is my attempt to do a favour in return.

1. Theme and Variations by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lloyd Webber is an amazing composer, and there are plenty of themes to play with here. I have heard the first one used as floor music ( with a change to the beat, which I was not sure about). There are better versions than this one, but this was the only one on Youtube.

2. Precipice is a part of the soundtrack to Battlestar Galactica, which has an intense and awesome theme. I can imagine it being used by a 'power gymnast.' Someone like Becca Bross could do this with intensity and make the intensity seem like part of the choreo.

3. I loved Riverdance when it came out. I still like it quite a lot. Dominique Moceanu (Slip into Spring) used this music in 1999, and Raducan used Reel Around the Sun. There are many other tunes, all composed by Bill Wheelan. Not all of them are Irish. This is one of my favourite tunes. I think that an energetic, happy gymnast could pull this off.

4. Jean Butler and Colin Dunne, who used to star in Riverdance, tried to market this show. It did not quite work out, but some awesome music came out of it. This is an attempt to marry Irish dancing and tango, which some hate and some love. The music is intriguing. Someone like Hollie Vise would do this tune justice.

Just a few ideas. I am not sure how well they will work, but I thought I would put them out there. There will be more of these blogs. I like lots of different types of music.

My Reflections on last year: Part 3



Oh the poise! Oh the elegance! Oh the skills! The Couch Gymnast has detailed why this routine is so awesome. I know I am desperately unoriginal, but this is my absolute favourite routine of 2010.


I love the fact that someone "across the ditch" is having so much international success. I like the original skills, and the mount. I like her tumbling. I know she won the floor, but for me, Mitchell is beam worker, first and foremost.


World's Bar final: Tweddle getting gold. I have posted her routine twice already. I love the complete madness of her routine. Heaps of difficulty! Heaps of releases. This lady, along with Nastia and He, has set a new standard for uneven bars. I don't think the event will ever be the same again.


World's vault final: Sacramone's win, Mustafina's silver and Barbosa getting bronze. Two stories of redemption from tricky times in 2008, and a story of a young lady's potential being realised. See part 1.

Mental Win

I am borrowing this phase from Aunt Joyce, because there is really no better way of saying this concept. I believe it deserves a category of its very own because no matter how hardworking, polished or talented a gymnast is, if they cannot get their game together in the important meets, what they can do means little.

For me, Mustafina showed heaps of mental win. She was not intimidated by the pressure. She hit her routines in team finals when her team mates did not. This was her first senior international competition. With the look in her eyes, you would never have known it. Her face is young, but her eyes look much older.

If I have to pick one person out for competing on an injury, it would have to be Natasha Kelley, who competed most of a college gymnastics season on a torn Achilles Tendon. Of course, I was amazed by Rebecca Bross competing on a strained ankle, which then became a fractured ankle. The amount of work ethic these gymnasts have astounds me.

All Around

Mustafina - who else? What a class act!

Unsung Gymnasts

At the moment, the examiner discussion centres around the most under-rated female gymnast. I have always planned to base the third part of 2011 reflections on a number of gymnasts who I think were under-rated or unsung this year. Only the gymnasts who find their way onto the podium are given glory, but for every gymnast who gets to the podium, there are several hard working gymnasts who lack luck, training, talent, or mental smarts. But this does not take away from the good work that these gymnasts do, or the beauty that they bring to the world through their gymnastics.

Amy Regan (Scotland)

Regan, who is fifteen, is the Scottish all around champion. She just missed the Commonwealth medal stand for her floor routine, behind Cairns, Mitchell and Brennan.

Regan was the only person in the Commonwealths to compete a double layout. It was beautiful. Even through a few of the other skills were not quite 'on,' I really enjoyed watching her routine. It is great to see someone from a non-gymnastics nation attempting difficult skills, doing some of them well, and pleasing the crowd while she was at it.

Her routine was good entertainment. The audience adored it. This girl is tailor-made for NCCA. (Gosh, I have nominated two people for NCCA in two posts!)

Anna Dementyeva(Russia)

If Anna were in a team other than the talent-packed Russian team, more attention would be given to her. As it is now, Mustafina, Nabieva, Komova, and Grishina seem to take up most of the attention when it comes to the Russians.

Dementyeva is as inconsistent as Nabieva, but her execution is much better. Her beam is lovely to watch. I especially like her illusion turn (but then again, I have a general love of illusion turns). I wanted to post her hitting beam (she falls quite a lot) but embedding was disabled.

I also like her floor. Her twisting is beautiful, and her flexibility is evident in her leaps. She actually dances to the music.

Overall, I think Demetyeva has been overshadowed by bigger gymnasts this year, in both personality in skills. But she is still beautiful to watch. I hope that she learns to manage her nerves and keep improving her gymnastics.

Kytra Hunter (USA)

Kytra Hunter has not had the best year, After putting lots of effort into making the Worlds team she did not quite make the cut, and it turned out that she did not have the high school credits to go to Florida either.

Kytra is not a ballerina. Her form is not as good as some gymnasts. But man is she powerfu! Her floor would give Newton a heart attack. Many have said that if Kytra were from another country, she would be a sho-in to their gymnastics team. This is true. She is a victim of being from a strong gymnastics country.

Gymnastics is by and large an individual sport, but whether you make it to a team or not depends on the others around you, and the rules governing the sport. Hollie Vise did not make the Olympics because she was a bar/beam specialist when the team needed a vaulter. Kytra did not make the Worlds because the team needed a bar worker. Despite being a Hills girl, Kytra is not one of those. She is amazing on everything else, but her talents could be covered by other gymnasts.

Hopefully, Kytra will get her high school credits and go to Florida next year. It will be good to see what they do with her.

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Reflections on last year: Part 2 - Judging Confusion

Many people have put forward various parts of the Worlds as the greatest judging stuff ups and while I agree with them I think I will highlight some crazy judging that took place in another championship. The vault of the Commonwealth games had some fairly funky judging which changed the results between the end of the competition and the podium ceremony.

Jennifer Khwela is the first South African to win a world cup. She has an amazing story. Being involved in the Commonwealth games must have been a thrill for her. Here are her vaults:

Khwela's landing positions were caught in the pictures below:

According to the judges in that particular meet, both vaults warranted a 0.10 neutral deduction.

The FIG rules, which are from the Gymnastics Coaching website, are shown below:

I would assume from the rules stated above that this meant the Khwela's vaults were deducted for being too close to the corridor.

Imogen Cairns did two rather awesome vaults which are in the video below.

Pictures of the landings are below. The first landing also originally had a 0.10 neutral deduction. The second did not. I do not see why this is the case. The first and second landings are roughly the same distance from the corridor. Cairns pulled her second vault in faster, but the rules say the initial contact is decisive, so if the first was penalised, the second should have been as well.

Gabby May did a great job of her vaults as well, but a number of steps on the second vault probably cost her a higher placing.

Here are the screen shots of May's landings, none of which got a neutral deduction. I think that if any of these vaults deserved a neutral deduction, the one on the right did. In fact, I am pretty sure her toe touches the line in the photo. To me, the judging in this meet was very inconsistent. I am not sure if the judges knew when to take neutral deductions.

Kristin Klarenbach did not get any neutral deductions, and I don't think she should have. Her vaults are in the video below. They are high, with beautiful form and good distance. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them. Unfortunately, her difficulty scores were not as high as the three ladies shown above.

Originally, the scores looked roughly like this:

Name Rank Country Vault D score E score Penalty Total score Overall score
CAIRNS Imogen 1 ENG 1 5.3 8.85 0.1 14.05 13.73

2 4.8 8.6
MAY G. 2 CAN 1 5 8.78
13.78 13.71

2 5.2 8.45
KLARENBACH K. 3 CAN 1 5 8.83
13.83 13.64

2 4.7 8.75
KHWELA J. 4 RSA 1 5 8.7 0.1 13.6 13.64

2 5 8.78 0.1 13.68

Obviously, Khwela and Klarenbach had the same score, but since Klarenbach had a better execution score, I guess the tie went her way.

But Khwela contested the scores, and they were changed. In the end, no-one in the top four had any neutral deductions, which implies that the judges made mistakes with Cairns as well as Khwela in the first instance. Yet Tracie Ang whose first landing was almost the same as Khwela, continued to have a neutral deduction of 0.1. I guess the figured that keeping her neutral deduction would not affect the final outcome, so they kept it.

Name Rank Country Vault D score E score Penalty Total score Overall score
CAIRNS Imogen 1 ENG 1 5.3 8.85
14.15 13.78

2 4.8 8.6
KHWELA J. 2 RSA 1 5 8.7
13.7 13.74

2 5 8.78
MAY G. 3 CAN 1 5 8.78
13.78 13.71

2 5.2 8.45
KLARENBACH K. 4 CAN 1 5 8.83
13.83 13.64

2 4.7 8.75

I cannot help feeling sorry for Klarenbach. She thought she had won a medal, and then suddenly, she was in the dreaded position of 4th place. Klarenbach did not participate in the floor later that day. Was it related to the vault drama? Possibly. I hope that Klarenbach does NCCA. I think any team would be lucky to have her.

Obviously, the confusion around these deductions was an issue at the Commonwealths, and at the Worlds as well. I am not sure that it is fair to blame the judges. They had different interpretations of the rule, but I can see why this confusion exists. I think that it is up to FIG to provide pictures and examples to make sure the judges make the right decisions first time without any of this confusion. Or even change the wording to "on the line" as Rick suggests. This is more fair on the gymnasts, and coaches and the fans.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Reflections on last year: Part 1

This year was much more exciting than last year. A lot of commentators have already put together ____ of the year awards. I am not going to try to compete with these people. They have done a fantastic job. I am just going to try adding to this. This may mean that I neglect the main stories, but many others have written about them. I am going to try doing something slightly different. It will be in three parts.

Some Surprises

She went to the Commonwealths, took out gold medals on floor (over Lauren Mitchell) and vault, and then cliched a world team spot after a team-mate's untimely injury. Then she became vault finalist in the world championships. I have featured her floor above because I really enjoyed it. Apparently, she borrowed the choreo from Miss Val, and she did a great job with it.

After reading about Jade's injury misfortunes, I got the impression that I would not see her again. I am very happy to be wrong. She came into the world vault final "out of nowhere" as Mr. Brestyan said and won a bronze medal. I love a story of a gymnast facing challenges and coming back to fight another day. I love that someone who is not from a major gymnastics nation was able to do this.

'Older' Gymnasts

I get so sick of commentators saying that anyone over sixteen is old and/or the wrong age. Making 20 year olds sound like geriatrics is fairly silly. Physically, a woman has to carry more body fat around to maintain health, which can adversely affect the gymnastics. Mentally, the part of the brain about long term consequences is developed, which can make the older athlete a bit more scared, especially if they have to learn scary new tricks.

Yet when a female athlete knows what it is like when things go massively wrong, they know how not to do things. They know what it is to go through tough times and/or "the worst", so they are less likely to be scared of "the worst". They know that while injury and/or a sub-par performance at a critical moment can be painful, it is survivable. They know how to make things work. Gymnastics is a mental sport, so this must give them advantage.

Both Beth Tweddle and Alicia Sacramone showed that age can be an asset which can improve performance when they beat the other young guns from around the world with excellent performances.

Many other gymnasts seem to improve with age as well. Lauren Mitchell and Imogen Cairns seem to be getting better results as they get older. Vanessa Zamarripa, and Casey-Jo Magee are opting to do elite gymnastics during/after college. This year, we will see more athletes come into gymnastics who do not have the so-called 'perfect age'. They could make a similar or equal impact to the sixteen year olds. This is one thing that I cannot wait to see.

I am back...

Well, it has been an interesting few months with summer holidays, seeing family that I have not seen for ten years and I spent lots of time on the beach. Body surfing involved a number of somersaults and twists. The trick with it is to go with the direction of the surf rather than against, and then you can do skills that would never be possible in reality, at least for me.

But anyway, from now I on, I will attempt to write at least one blog every week.

Now I have a twitter... @Gymadmirer so I can be followed.

A very overdue take on the last year of gymnastics will come soon.