Friday, 30 December 2011

New Years Resolutions

Gymnasts are busy people. This year I thought I would do their NY resolutions for them.


Should resolve to.....


Aly is great and has really shown how much she is worth to the USA. She is the kind of performer you just watch: you never expect her to fall, step out or even wobble (most of the time). 2011 has been a good year for her. She has solidified her status as a reliable team performer, particularly given Alicia’s unfortunate departure from Tokyo leaving Aly as last minute team captain. Plenty of people thought the USA were toast with Alicia gone, and without Anna Li’s bars, but the whole team smashed QFs and finals and that can only look good for young captain Raisman.

However, Aly is not without her problems. Artistry and graceful expression really are her downfalls. Sadly, these problems show up the most on her best apparatus: floor and the beam. Her beam acro skills are great, but her general presentation leaves a lot to be desired. A key example of this is her paltry, perfunctory low to beam work: the most pathetic of nods to the requirement in a clunking, awkward and ugly fall to the horizontal.

So the general resolution could be a more general “pay more attention to artistry”, but that is a very broad ask. I really think that a simple, classic toe point would make all the difference. Particularly on bars, where her feet would actually look more appropriate on a cartoon duck.


2 years. 2 botches.

I don’t even mean good. I just mean simply: learn to stay on there when it counts. To be honest (as I have mentioned in a previous post) I am dubious of the likelihood of Aly actually landing the second AA spot at the Olympics, with the potential of a back up to scratch Bross (amongst others). However, if she does, and misses bars, it would be the 3rd time in a row that her AA hopes were botched by a bad bars set. Even if she doesn’t have the need for a bars set beyond QFs at the Olympics, and carries on her career beyond them, she could be a real hope for an AA shot in the depleted field of the fresh quad, a la Sloan in 2009. So learn to stay on!


Should resolve to.....


In my extremely biased opinion, I think Beth’s current routine is by far the best in the world at this moment. It is clean (not on the level of Komova, admittedly) but extraordinarily difficult, with difficultly built up by not just a series of big tricks, but a series of big tricks smoothly connected. I think her performance in the team finals of this year’s worlds was the best of her career by far - something very exciting to see at this point in her career with the prospect of a home turf Olympics looming.

But this is not 2008. The new code will not let her qualify to finals with a fall, or even a mistake. Beth needs to have those connections ready to do in any circumstance.


Over the years, various American competitors have proven that a gymnast doesn’t have to be from a balletic background with classic long lines, or even a particularly good dancer, to put together a bloody good floor routine.

Look at Jordyn Wieber. Although her current floor routine does to some degree split opinion, I think it is one of the most expressive and original floor routines around at the moment. Wieber (like Beth) is a tumbler, not a dancer. But her current choreography shows excellent detail to the music and plays to her strengths rather than exposing her weaknesses. Similarly, the show stopper at the 2008 VISA championships was totally Chellsie Memmel’s floor routine on night two. Again, definitely a tumbler and not a dancer, but that routine was perfect for Chellsie and it brought the house down.

I have no real idea why Beth’s coaches don’t try for something similar. It would be so easy! Go for more modern music with a stronger beat, get some expressive but not balletic moves that Beth isn’t visibly cringed-out by and get confident with it! I am still (perhaps naively) hoping for her to have trained up that Arabian full out by the time of London. That, with some choreography that matches her, would be fantastic.
 If she wants any chance of factoring in on the floor again, something has to change.


Should resolve to......


Jordyn was the star of 2011. She saw of challenged for Mustafina early on, Komova later on, and will now forever be able to say that she was the best gymnast in the world.

But it isn’t going to get any easier. She had a lot of help from Komova at this year’s worlds: no amanar, car crash beam, steps on floor. Jordyn cannot count on such luck in the coming year. She is going to need to raise her game wherever she possibly can (I am thinking at least something on everything except vault). I think some real progress could be made on bars, considering how far she came in a relatively short amount of time on this apparatus. Not long ago she was labouring through staggered toe-ons and now she has some pretty impressive combination work at the top of her routine (which she did mess up at worlds, but it is there nonetheless).

I think Jordyn is a great gymnast and deserving of this year’s accolades. But it is going to take a lot of work indeed to break the curse of the world champion going into the Olympics.


Should resolve to....


She was once quoted as saying that she would “keep going until she won a medal”, but has been showing signs of slowing down a bit recently. Not that I blame her, constant exhaustion and little reward and recognition has got to be disheartening. This is especially true when the judges slam her as much as they did at this worlds (as was brought to my attention by a recent thread on intlgymnast). The below routine was qualifications received a score lower than that of Alexandra Raisman. There are no words.

I think Jessica is a great presence and fan favourite in the sport, and it would be a shame to see her give up now.


Should resolve to....


Not to slam her as much as many have, but by God does that girl need a “graceful loser face”. Someone should send her a copy of Miss Congeniality on DVD.


Should resolve to....


The biggest chucker in chucktown watered down, polished up, and won a medal. More of this please.


Should resolve to....


1.       We all understand, from the gymnasts themselves to the seasoned fans to the people that happen to turn on a gymnastics live feed for the first time in their lives
2.       Rewards in a balanced fashion the difficulty, execution, originality and artistry of the routines
3.       Doesn’t create silly loopholes that come to characterise an entire apparatus (such as the rebound jumps on floor)
4.       Doesn’t create an unfair scoring imbalance across apparatus (such as Lauren Mitchell). 

      Happy New Year everyone!
      I know this is early - but I am going away tomorrow. Would love to hear any other suggestions!


  1. I've said many times that I believe the difference between 4th place and gold for Aly Raisman lies in her presentation. Focusing on her toe point and tightening up her dance would elevate her from good to great. I have always been Team Aly, and I'm sorry that she won't be competing at Florida, after all. I think a few years in the NCAA would have really done wonders for her presentation.

  2. I cant believe how amazing Lopez's routine is. Boo to the judges for not rewarding her good form and uniqueness on this event. She was robbed of a spot in the finals.

  3. I hate skill chucking... but without an Amanar/really epic bars, Nabieva's spot on the team is very iffy, especially if everyone is healthy. But with the way Grishina/Sidorova is looking these days... who knows. Russia should aim for 3 amanars in TF, so it will be helpful for her. BAH but her Amanar scares me. Super happy for her (and HQS), but this year's UB EF is a rather weak field... not that we will see HKX again.

    But yes to Aly pointing her damn feet. Actually even when her toes are somewhat "pointed", her feet are still flexed it it just breaks the lines. Hopefully change her floor choreo a bit, it is a catchy piece of music to distract from her lack of dance, but some of her dance is rather awkward. Hire Jordyn's choreographer! Get her a new bars coach!

    Komova needs to upgrade, and she probably will. Quite amazing that she competed all around so soon after surgery, but her current D scores is not good enough. Amanar, combination on low bars, upgrade beam dismount, better floor tumbling... She should be super motivated and I can't wait to see her in Europeans.

    As a rather random end note: I want FIG to make 2 different vaults compulsory. All the other apparatus have requirements, reduce the % of DTY, and it is rather strange that most gymnasts just "give up" on vault EF.

  4. I would be all for a renewal of the 2 vaults requirement. It would make EF all the more interesting and might actually bring back some decent presentation and execution on this event. Whilst Nabieva and Mustafina proved that you can just as easily chuck 2 vaults as you can 1, I can't halp but feel that a compulsory second vault might make gymnasts go for execution and stuck landings as opposed to huge difficulty. Who knows, though.

    ashlyn: exactly. It really is a travesty that she received this score. As someone very rightly pointed out on the intlgymnast thread, this kind of score can only really be explained by the kind of score building that used to exist in quads gone by. The fact that her Venezuelan teammates will have most likely had poor bars work means they were not set up to give a large (or even a fair) score. This kind of marking is the exact kind of bias that the new code was made to get rid of (it was never fair in the first place - I always think of Boginskaya's 10 on bars in 1989). The mark given to this routine is pretty indefensible I think, I should hope that Jessica and her coach are pressing the FIG for some pretty decent explanations.

  5. I am not really sure about the intricacies of team line-ups nowadays, but it seems countries are still arranging athletes to set-up their scores. Either by putting their strongest athlete last, or a messier athlete like Nabieva last and hope the judges would be more lenient then. Reading Geddert's blogs, it seems that coaches/athletes still want the last spot to booster their scores, particularly to advance into EFs.

    And in EFs, when D scores are similar (floor), it seems like going up last makes a lot of difference. Jordyn didn't really stand a chance this year going up first, and both years the last athlete won.

    Though in this case, it is not really valid because I think for USA, Raisman was actually up first in prelims. So its mostly the "reputation" of a gymnastics powerhouse country.

  6. There have been several references to Komova’s “bad sportsmanship” at worlds and I feel she is being unfairly treated. I appreciated your comment about not wanting to go on about it, so I have chosen your blog (which I enjoy and respect) to vent my query. Of course I think she could have handled it better, year after year we see silver medallists plaster a smile on their face. I mean if Shannon Miller could do it in 1992 than anyone can. I do believe that she is being unfairly chastised for letting her emotions get to her, we have all seen our fair share of tears over the years. My issue is that Komova is getting the fury of everyone in the blogverse, while other gymnastics are let slide. My main example is of course Alicia Sacramone during the 2007 floor final. She was visible upset and understandable so, but in the same camera frame she is being comforted by her coach as Shawn Johnson waited for a hug that she doesn’t get. Again, of course I understand she is upset, but as someone who is hailed as the “heart” of the US team this was very poor behavior. In contrast to a 16 year old Komova Alicia is a season veteran and an adult, who let her emotions get the better of her and yet everyone just let it slide. Also, there was no huge controversy about Alicia and Rebecca Bross having a good eye-roll during the 2010 beam finals or Carly Pattersons very unsportsmanlike comment to another gymnasts fall. In the end, yes I do understand why people had issues with Komova’s reaction, but too make this big hateful issue of it is ridiculous. As I said if you are going to judge one so harshly you have to judge them all.
    Thank you.


  7. Thanks for such a detailed comment!

    You make an excellent point and I totally agree with you. There is a big problem in the perception of these events and one that I tried to touch on a bit in my "back to reality" article - when American gymnasts behave this way it is often interpreted as "sassy", confident and part of a drive to win; whereas with Russians and other Europeans it can be portrayed as a cruel and cold attitude.

    All those examples are as bad or worse than Komova, and as you say who can really blame a 16 year old for struggling with that kind of emotion? I think the problem was that it was such a close fight and also the AA competition which is rarely as tight at the top. Also I think a lot of people didn't see "disappointment" but "expectation". It was like they thought they had it in the bag.

    I was actually going to write an article about this a few weeks ago but I was worried it would be too "bitchy" and controversial. I could have a proper go at it if it is something you would enjoy reading and you wouldn't feel like I had ripped ideas from you?

    1. Thank you so much! I would be very interested in reading your article and I do think it is something that needs to be properly addressed. I started off in gymnastics as a huge Shannon Miller fan and as I was so young I was influenced by the fluff pieces and commentators remarks against great gymnasts from other nations. As I have gotten older I have really grown to appreciate the beauty of all nations and have become a more well rounded gymnastic fan. I think an article addresssing the perception of certain gymnastic behaviour could really open younger fans eyes and help people enjoy the sport even more. At the end of the day, its hard to say who "deserves" to win as haven't all these girls sacrificed and worked so hard for all their lives.