Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Side Somi - a rant.

I like to think of myself as a level headed person, i.e. pretty chilled out about most things. And mostly this is true. Sadly it is a part of the human condition that we all must for some reason be riled by particular people and experiences.

Very few things annoy me as much as the side somersault (for those that are interested, the other few things include excessive hugging, the smell of Britney Spears Fantasy and Tyra Banks’ dress sense).  It is just horrible. I remember when I first saw one I thought something had gone horribly wrong. I thought innocently to myself, why would there ever be a coded skill that rewards an ugly takeoff, flight with flexed feet, knees a metre apart and a deep landing? I know more these days, but the question still holds. Why?

Well, as commentators over the years have been keen to point out (such as Christine Still who I believe once said the following: “always a difficult skill to spot”), it is a quite tricky move. I don’t doubt this. It takes a gymnast out of line with the beam and involves what is basically a blind landing: similar issues to a standing Arabian but made easier by less of a twist and the ability for stepout. It is D rated for a reason.
 Alexandra Eremia shows us all how its done. Breathtaking.
But what on earth is the point of doing something if it looks so heinous? As is so often forgotten these days, the sport is called “artistic gymnastics”. I would love to know what is artistic about a skill that involves flipping in a position more suitable for giving birth than a beam exercise. In a similar vein to my thoughts on the handspring double front the other day, this is a skill that is by definition ugly, because even textbook execution results in something abysmal looking (a statement which holds at least for the tucked variation). 

Essentially, it would make no difference to me if it were rated a G: it still has no place in an otherwise good beam routine. I hate the code for doing things like this because it almost encourages gymnasts and coaches to pay no attention to the flow of the routine in favour of  shoehorning another D in there. Difficulty is one thing but something as offensive to the eyes as this skill is another thing entirely. For example, say some girl could do a triple somersault on floor in a LOVELY position like in the following video, would you want it?

I'm alright for now, thanks.

In a brief visit to a less bitter and more fair attitude, however, props to those few who manage to make it look somewhere near presentable. I am thinking mainly of Koko Tsurumi here. But there are not nearly enough like her to outweigh the onslaught of John  Waynes just dying to get gun happy. I am looking at you, Nastia. Leave it out next year, yeah? 

Nastia Liukin holds up the 2011 qualifications with a special announcement.


  1. I am SO with you on this. My sister and I were both into gymnastics when we were younger, but stopped following intently until we went to Visa's this summer. We were horrified by all the side somis. It's the most hideous skill and I wish it would be banned.

  2. Glad you agree! I just wish there were more deductions for the landing positions, and for that matter the flight. I just don't get it! That position is NOT a tuck.

  3. Oh man, I'm so happy to see this! I used to kind of like side somis back when they were a rarity. Okay, they were still fugly, but when you only saw them once in a blue moon it was much less annoying. Now that you see them all the frigging time, though, all I can think about is how these girls are getting a zillion points for doing a 360 crotch flash. Heinous.

  4. Definitely with you there. As a novelty the mechanics were quite interesting because it is so different to all other skills.

    "360 crotch flash" - brilliant description

  5. Actually, how is a side somi different from an aerial cartwheel... with all the form thrown out of the window?

  6. Yeah they are similar. What a difference a quarter turn makes

  7. You twist the opposite way in a side somi. Ariels turn "out", somis turn "in" to your bad side.

    I posted a response to this on my own blog...

  8. Thats interesting, always good to hear what actual gymnasts think because I don't have much technical knowledge or any personal experience.

    You make a good point about what I said about deep landing: the front tuck IS often much lower and hence it wasn't really fair to use that against the skill.

    To be honest I think you hit the nail on the head when you say "if you are doing it correctly" - not everyone does do it correctly. Same for the toe point issue: plenty of time there may be, but this is irrelevant because most people don't (and I did go some way to credit those that manage to do them well because it IS a difficult skill.

    In the end it all comes down to personal taste, which is the best thing about gymnastics: it can be so subjective. I hate this skill and plenty of others do too but I am glad that YOU don't, it makes it more interesting.

    And the picture is just a bit of fun!

  9. Nastia made it look decent. It seemed out of place in her routine with her long straight legs and then they were bent in that one skill.