CERTAIN trends become evident at ev- ery major competition, and the 2009 World Championships had its share.
Where the rules are concerned, it’s not too late
to fix some of the flaws that continue to hamper
the sport’s development. Whether the FIG takes
action remains to be seen, however.
The decrease in team size from six to five will
increase the importance of all-around gymnasts
for the 12 qualifying teams to London 2012,
particularly for the men, who compete on 50
percent more events than women. Ironically,
the 12 vacated berths will allow more specialists
to qualify to London, since all individual medalists—not just gold medalists—from the 2011
worlds will receive an invite. The Olympic Test
Event the year before will also serve as a qualifier, but I am not sure if the details have been
finalized as to how.
I like that all the world medalists will get to
compete in the Olympics, but perhaps the FIG
should have considered leaving team size at six
and qualifying 10 instead of 12 teams to accommodate these talented individuals.
The “continental representation” criterium,
which adds three gymnasts to the Olympic field,
is a noble concept that really does nothing to
elevate the level of the games. Since when were
the Olympics an Equal Opportunity Employer?
High Bar Travesty
DAVE BLACK (UCHIMURA); THOMAS SCHRE YER (ZOU)
Zou Kai was credited with a 7. 5 D-score to win
high bar, but he did approximately 30 skills
to accomplish that feat. His routine was 57
seconds long. Actually, it wasn’t a routine as
much as a three-act play. I wonder how long it
took him to simply remember it, let alone learn
it. And this is not a knock against Zou, whose
combinations on high bar were extremely difficult. They just weren’t performed with any sort
of virtuosity. And you could tell he was gassed
near the end, when he dumped a pirouette over
the bar and caught at about horizontal. But if
the Code permits such excess, who can blame
Dmitry Bilozerchev won the 1983 world high
bar title in 36 seconds, about the same time
it took Trent Dimas to win the 1988 Olympic
gold. Did we think their routines were too short?
If the Code can objectively prove why the
most beautiful high
bar routine in the final
deserved sixth place,
then it is evaluating the
International GYMNAST January/February 2010
Worlds in Review
Fact and fallacy from the 2009 World Championships
By Dwight Normile
How did gymnastics come to this? If a high
bar routine can go on and on, why does floor
exercise still have a time limit? Why is there no
skill limit in the first place?
Zou’s E-score was 8.65, which means his
final score of 16.150 was 54% execution, 46%
difficulty. Kohei Uchimura had a 6. 4 D-score on
high bar and placed sixth, but I’d argue that he
was at least 1.10 cleaner than Zou. He looked
flawless, gave a Kovacs clinic and stuck his
dismount, but somehow scored only 8.775 for
execution. He would have scored between 9.90-
10.0 in the 1980s.
Go to You Tube and compare Zou and
Uchimura yourself. You don’t need an international Brevet rating to understand my point. If
the current Code of Points can objectively prove
why the most beautiful high bar routine in the final deserved sixth place, then it is evaluating the
wrong criteria and truly flawed beyond repair.
This Code was supposed to separate the wheat
from the chaff, but the chaff is often winning
The trio of high bar medalists in London had
arguably the worst form of the finalists. Seven-teen-year-old Danell Leyva, who placed fourth,
.025 behind third-place Igor Cassina, was
victimized by being a newcomer. Silly, isn’t it?
Leyva had . 30 more difficulty than Cassina but
was given .325 lower in execution, even though
he was cleaner and technically better.
Perhaps the worst part about all of this is
that virtually every gymnast who was in London
will go home and try to add more difficulty to
his/her routines—or get hurt trying—in an attempt to catch the winners. Obviously, the FIG’s
mandate of curbing risky, dangerous gymnastics
by strict execution judging has backfired. Or
perhaps it wasn’t implemented accurately in
London. Because if Uchimura scored 8.775
for execution, Zou should have received about
a 7. 50. Here’s a thought: Maybe the E-score
should be open-ended too, leaving room to
reward originality and virtuosity.
If you didn’t read our interview with Dr. Larry
Nassar, long-time trainer to the U.S. team, in
the November IG, here is his response to my
question about whether men’s routines are getting too long: “Overall, gymnastics is an anaerobic sport. Male gymnasts perform such highly
strength- and power-driven skills that if their
muscles and/or minds fatigue, their techniques
become flawed, which then increases the forces
on their bodies. This, in turn, creates injury.”
It was encouraging to see the Women’s Tech-
nical Committee lower the counting skills from
10 to eight a year ago, but surprising that the
Men’s Technical Committee stuck with 10. Even
more confounding is that the FIG Executive
Committee would allow the WTC and MTC to
operate under different sets of rules.
As stated in my blog from London, the
handspring-rudi (front with 1½ twists) seems
over-valued for women at 6. 3, compared with
a Yurchenko-double twist ( 5. 8). Is it really . 50
harder? Is it a full point harder than a 1½-twist-
ing Yurchenko ( 5. 3)?
For men, the handspring-rudi and double-twisting Yurchenko carry the same value of 6.2,
and a 1½-twisting Yurchenko is worth 5. 8.
I realize the men’s vault table is higher and men
are more powerful, but I don’t think women are
that acrobatically inferior to men. This is just
another example of how the MTC and WTC
don’t see eye to eye.
Also, if the MTC is going to view a Lopez
(Kasamatsu-double twist) and a Yeo 2 (
hand-spring-front with 2½ twists) as two different
vaults, it needs to abolish its rule that both vaults
in finals must show different pre- and post-flights. A better rule would be to require either
pre- or post-flight be different. This would allow
guys to show a Dragulescu (handspring-double
front-half) and a Yeo 2, or a Yurchenko-2½
twist and a Melissanidis (Yurchenko-double
Gymnasts are smart. The Code should be as