Tips and advice from those who know
A native of Aiud, Romania, Stoica was a competitive gymnast
from 1961-73; national team champion with “Steaua” Club
been president of the FIG Men’s Technical Committee since
2000. He recently answered questions from IG Editor Dwight
Normile about the current state of men’s gymnastics.
Some men’s routines are getting extremely long—more than 30
skills on high bar, for example. Why not impose a skill limit?
I personally believe it is not necessary! Exercises that are too long are
backfiring against the gymnasts! From the execution point of view, all
elements are subject to penalty. I consider it a natural process where the
gymnasts will limit the number of elements in their own interests, and
therefore there is no need to impose a limit. In fact, in my opinion, one
of the keys to high performance is that, besides the exercise content
value, the D-score, developed with great effort in many years of preparation, the gymnasts should concentrate on yielding as little as possible
out of the 10 points for execution.
How would you grade the open-ended Code
after its first four years? Indeed [it has] been a
long enough period to asses both the positive [and
negative] effects. Without doubt, we can substantiate a greater stability concerning the values attributed to the elements in the difficulty tables, [and
eliminate the need] to devalue elements every
Olympic cycle. It is unquestionably a matter that
helps the long-term preparation for gymnasts.
Also, this new system has brought changes in
exercise structure. If we look at the evolution of
the average difficulty of exercises from the perspective of difficult elements “density,” the growth
[from the 2005 worlds, under the old Code, and
the 2008 Olympics, under the new Code] is enormous considering the period of time of less than
three years (see table here).
This inclination towards difficulty was somewhat limited only through
the increase of deductions for execution mistakes. It was the only way to
discourage a self-assumed overcharge of difficulty, which is dangerous
both for the gymnasts’ safety as well as for the entire evolution of gymnastics towards an “extreme” sport.
To summarize, among the achievements of the new Code: an easier
and more stable long-term planning for gymnasts’ preparation; a clearer
ranking in competitions among gymnasts; and a larger scale of evaluation concerning execution juries.
In the end, we all aim for more unquestionable and fair results.
At the 2009 worlds, Kohei Uchimura showed exemplary amplitude
and technique in the high bar final. A routine like that would have
scored between 9. 5-9. 8, maybe higher, years ago. Did you think
the 8.775 he received for execution was fair? Well, sometimes I get
the feeling myself that some judges made a
title of glory out of being overly severe in
applying deductions. It is, of course, neces-
sary to respect the provisions of the Code,
[but] it is equally important that judges know
modern techniques, are familiar with bio-
mechanics, ‘feel’ gymnastics. This way they
will be safe from the dangerous temptation
of making up mistakes and sometimes over-
loading penalties without reason.
Concerning [Uchimura’s routine], two
very important requirements of the Code
must be regarded. First, the execution
penalty scale is different from the old Code
of Points, and I briefly explained why in a
previous answer. Second, the horizontal bar
includes some severe specific deductions for
elements with turns concerning angular
deviations in the moment of re-grasping the bar. I myself had a superior
[score] than the group of judges during the competition, but we must
respect judges’ [authority] as long as there are no intentional mistakes in
However, it is difficult for me to accept the idea that during the 2009
world championships on horizontal bar, no gymnast—including the
world champion—was able to reach at least a 9.0 score for execution!
Therefore, I assure you that the MTC is looking very seriously into the
deduction provisions of the Code for horizontal bar.
D E F/G
Average Difficulty of Exercises (by skill value)
The Women’s Technical Committee lowered the required skills
from 10 to eight. Did you consider doing the same? No, we did not!
Merely from a mathematical perspective, the higher number of elements,
the more diversity of exercise combination. Moreover, if of the eight elements … half are special requirements in a certain direction (i.e. artistry),
then the other half will most likely be … high difficulty elements to maximize [the chance of] winning, even at the risk of [not] having them well
learned. And since at the E, F, G levels of difficulty the choice of elements gets smaller, the risk that more gymnasts choose the same elements increases, leading towards a monotony of exercise composition.
On the other hand, though, we must keep in mind the obvious differences between women’s and men’s gymnastics, and try to best emphasize the specifics of each.
The 10.0 was once a powerful score in terms of public interest,
but then it became commonplace. Would you like to see at least a
few 10.0s for execution under the current Code? Of course, I would
like to see 10.0 points for execution, but I’m afraid the present Code
paradigm does not allow for this dream. To me, maybe this is one of the
weakest points of the present Code.
To be world or Olympic champion means to be close to perfection,
and an execution score [under] 9.0 from the maximum of 10.0 sometimes leaves the [general] public with a bitter taste. In most cultures, perfection—also in gymnastics—is [achieved] with the mark of 10.0.
Have the E-panel judges become too severe? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t place the blame only on the judges. I believe both judges and gymnasts are responsible. The competition itself, the rush for results, makes