Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Year in Louis Smith

(You can buy his calendar here.)

I've written a lot about my love for Krisztián Berki, which has made some people wonder whether I like Louis Smith. That, my friends, is a false assumption. I do like Mr. Smith. In fact, I like him so much that I have taken the time to detail the happenings in his life during 2012. Let's take a look...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas, Gymternet!

Between botched travel plans and loved ones passing away, this Christmas season has been a rough one. I needed something to help me muddle through, so I decided to turn to the internet for a good laugh. (Video after the jump.)


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Has anyone seen a split lately?

Women's gymnastics fans gripe about the lack of split in leaps. Well, I'm here to tell them that those leaps look quite good in comparison to the splits that male gymnasts perform. After watching pretty much every floor routine from 2012, I'm left wondering whether male gymnasts know how to do a proper split.

Let's take a look...


When performing the middle splits, the gymnast's legs should be at 180 degrees. We should not see space between his butt and the ground. AND his heels should be in front of his toes.


When performing a right or left split, the gymnast's hips should be squared, meaning his belly button should be pointed directly over his front foot. His back leg should not be hanging off to the side, and his knee cap and the top of his foot should be resting on the ground.



Well, Kazuhito Tanaka might not be able to do a split, but surely, Kohei Freakin' Uchimura knows how to do a proper split. I mean, he's Kohei Freakin' Uchimura. What can't he do?


The answer: a split. Kohei's split is quite atrocious, which makes me wonder whether splits are Superman's kryptonite.


Those are only 4 examples of the abomination that is men's splits. There are more. Trust me, there are more. But rather than create a depressing photo album of crappy splits from 2012, I'd like to hear your thoughts. Why aren't more people complaining about the splits? I know that some might seem like I'm nitpicking, but if the women performed splits like this, the gymternet would have exploded with rage. So, why aren't men's gymnastics fans irate?

Do we let the men off easy because they are men and have certain anatomical parts? (That, by the way, is a lame excuse used by ignorant, inflexible men who want to generate hype about their supposedly large man areas.) Or are we more lenient because we're just so happy to see someone attempt a split? Are we so sick of seeing tumbling pass after tumbling pass that we appreciate the effort (albeit a crappy one) to do something different? Or is it something else?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, my dearest reader.

Pommel Horse Primer: What the H is a scissors?

No more spinny thingies! It's time to start discuss scissoring. Don't know what that is? Let's take a look at how Dictionary.com defines scissoring.


Clearly, Dictionary.com needs the help of the gymternet when it comes to discussing gymnastics terminology. I haven't really seen too many people scissor a bar, but I have seen scissors on the pommel horse. They look like this:


As Boris Shakhlin picks up his hand, the leg in front goes to the back, and the leg in the back goes to the front. Both legs have to switch places at the same time. Otherwise, it's called a leg cut, which we already discussed.

Speaking of leg cuts, as you may have noticed, the very first skill in the gif loop is a leg cut forward. (His right leg goes from the front to the back.) Because he initiates his scissors sequence with a leg cut forward, we say that he is doing his scissors forward, as well.

As you can imagine, you can do a leg cut backward into a scissor backward. 


It didn't take a genius to figure that one out. There are a few small differences between a scissor forward and a scissor backward. For instance, when performing the latter, the gymnast's front leg goes over the top of the back leg. On a scissor forward, the opposite is true. The gymnast's front leg goes underneath the back leg...

Yadda yadda yadda. I could enumerate more differences, but they are not extremely pressing. As long as you can identify a scissors, I'll be happy. Let's see if you can...



Scissors 101: The Final Exam



The test is simple. Look at each gif and decide what skill the gymnast is doing.

Gif #1:

A) Scissors
B) Leg Cuts
Extra Credit: Backward or Forward?


Gif #2:

A) Scissors
B) Leg Cuts
Extra Credit: Backward or Forward?




Gif #3:

A) Scissors
B) Leg Cuts
Extra Credit: Backward or Forward?


* * * * *

Answers

1) A. Scissors Forward
2) B. Leg cuts. He does one forward and then one backward.
3) Trick question: B + A. He does a leg cut forward, then a leg cut backward into a scissor backward.


Did you pass?


If you did, I have a little gift for you. It's this gif.

If you like women, just imagine it's Ponor or Khorkina or Sacramone or Liukin or... or... or...

May you have sweet dreams of Sexy Alexei tonight and every night. If you did not pass, may you have nightmares of creepy Carter macking on Lo from the Rock.


Excuse me while I hurl...



By the way...

In case you don't know who Boris Shakhlin is, he was the 1960 Olympic all-around champion. He also had CRAZY amounts of chest hair.




Related Posts:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pommel Horse Primer: What the H is a leg cut?

That's a very good question. It doesn't appear in the Code of Points because it's considered too elementary. If you Google "leg cuts," you'll find images that'll make you feel squirmish. So, what the heck is a leg cut anyway?

Uncle Tim to the rescue! Even though a leg cut has no value in the eyes of the judges, you'll see leg cuts in almost every man's pommel horse routine. Even 2012 Olympic Champion Krisztián Berki does them, and anything Berki does we must talk about, right?

Right. So, let's take a looksy.

I swear that there would be world peace if only there were more gymnastics gifs in the world.

Berki starts off with a leg cut backward. (His right leg goes from the front to the back. Hence 'backward') Then, he does two leg cuts forward. (His legs go from the back to the front--one leg at a time. Hence 'forward')

This is one of the first skills that little boys learn on the pommel horse. So, I'm operating under the assumption that, if a 4 year-old boy can grasp this concept, so can you. Let's see if I'm right. Watch this animated gif of Kurt Thomas and try to provide narration for the gif.

I'd like to see Louis Smith rock the old school suspenders look on pommel horse.

He does one leg cut forward. Another leg cut forward. And then a leg cut backward.

What's that? You got every answer right?

Yay! I hope that you can find a hot man in spandex to give you a big ol' hug and jump up and down with you!



Dear Reader,

I realize that this blog post seems utterly inane, but we must discuss leg cuts before our next tutorial.

xx,
Uncle Tim


Related Posts:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Raining in San Francisco, and I Need Something to Cheer Me up.

In the 1990s, the FIG abolished its system of rewarding bonus points for originality, risk, and virtuosity. Now, there's very little incentive to include unique skills or unique combinations. A few gymnasts, however, continue to do so. Kazuhito Tanaka is one of them. While watching the Glasgow World Cup this past weekend, I fell in love with his swinging combination on rings. Take a look.


At the 1:08 mark, he does a piked double back between the rings (a D) into a tucked double back between the rings (called a Guczoghy--a C). In an era when everyone seems to be doing forward combinations, this sequence is unique in and of itself. But what makes it even cooler is the fact that he takes the first part and then reverses it, doing a tucked double front (called a Yamawaki--a C) into a piked double front (called a Jonasson--a D). It's like someone hit the rewind button, and you get to see the combination in reverse.

Nota bene: Gymnasts do not receive connection bonus on rings, so he has no reason to do these skills in a sequence. It just looks effin' cool.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Hanukkah, Dvora Meyers!

If you thought that Bela Karolyi broke Kim Zmeskal, you're wrong. Dvora Meyers did.

Funny, I don't remember She-Ra looking this much like a drag queen.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, I suggest that you stop whatever it is that you're doing and read Dvora Meyers's book Heresy on the High Beam. It's funny. It's witty. It's breezy. It's cheap, just like her (her joke, not mine). And the end result is a book that readers can relate to.

Keep in mind that I say that as both a man and a gentile. Throughout her far-too-short collection of essays, Dvora combs through her life, weaving together her musings on her identity as a former gymnast, a woman, and a member of the tribe of Israel. As she patches together these themes, her seams rarely show, and we, as readers, do not get distracted by the patchwork. On a single page, we read about her parents' bitter divorce, psalms, and Kim Zmeskal without questioning their relationship.

Even if your parents were not divorced, even if you have never read a psalm, and even if you hated Kim Zmeskal, gymnastics fans will feel that Dvora's life story is their life story. As Dvora recalls her childhood memories of bedroom gymnastics (not that kind, perv), VHS tapes of gymnastics meets, and idolizing certain gymnasts, we are taken back to a simpler time, when we hadn't thought about the word "artistry" or were unfamiliar with Bruno Grandi. At the same time, she walks us through those painful moments in our lives, and she leaves us feeling like we were not alone during the dark night of our gymnastics souls. For me, it was refreshing to hear a less-than-elite gymnast describe the pain of retiring one's identity as a gymnast:

"The longer I stayed with the sport, the more my identity became wrapped up in it. I didn’t merely do gymnastics; I was a gymnast. I could not distinguish the activity from the person. If I stopped, what would I be?"

And perhaps that is Dvora's greatest achievement. She has charted new territory for the world of books about gymnastics. No longer do memoirs about the sport have to be written from the perspective of an elite. She proves that they can and should be written from the perspective of an ordinary gymnast and super fan. This book, she dedicates to you, Gymternet:

"And of course, I cannot forget my fellow gymnastics fans, especially the ones who've digitized their entire tape collections, which daily keep me from working and acting like a functional, productive adult."


In short, Heresy on the High Beam kept me from working and acting like a functional, productive adult. (People stared at me as I laughed out loud reading the book during my daily commute on the train. Hash-Tag-Awkward.) And I hope that it does the same for you or a beloved gymnastics superfan this holiday season. (Not sure how to gift an ebook? Slate has a series of suggestions for you.)

P.S. You can purchase the very first book written by a platinum card member of the gymternet on Amazon. It's only $3.99. That's cheaper than a pair of grips, a leotard, a pack of scrunchies, a box of condoms, a six pack of PBR, a McDonald's value meal, the first season of Make It or Break It on DVD, and pretty much anything else you might have on your wish list from Santa Claus.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Evolution of Dismounts on Parallel Bars

Dismounts on parallel bars (or p-bars, as the insiders say) have given us some of the best facial expressions of all times. For example...


(Unfortunately, the gymnasts do not receive bonus points for making me laugh. Though, they should.)

I wonder if gymnasts made those faces back when they used to do this...


Back in the 1960s, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Bruno Grandi was in his 30s, gymnasts did not do double somersaults off the parallel bars. Some like Shuji Tsurumi (above) did bitchin' dismounts like pike-open-halves. Others, like Franco Menichelli, did a simple layout.


Nowadays, you'll never see those skills because they are too simple. (A back layout is an A, and a pike-open-half is a B.) Which is a shame because there's something so beautiful about a tight arch position.

The 1970s


In the 1970s the tucked double back became increasingly more common. Here's an animated gif of Sawao Kato performing one at the 1976 Olympics:


Nowadays, tucked doubles are considered a C, which does not fulfill the D dismount requirement. At the time, however, in both the 1968 and 1975 Codes, this was considered one of the most difficult dismounts. (It was a C. A was low difficulty, B was medium difficulty, and C was high difficulty.)

Believe it or not, even though double somersaults are the norm in the twenty-first century, they, unlike platform shoes or perms for men, were not an instant fad in the '70s.

Bart Conner never looked better.

In fact, during that decade, gymnasts competed a large variety of dismounts. For instance, in 1975, Jack Laurie, a gymnast for Southern Illinois, competed a front 1 1/2. 

1975: C-High Difficulty
2013: C

In that same year, Stephen Bizal, a gymnast for Penn State, competed a straddle vault with a momentary one-armed side-handstand.
1975: B-Medium Difficulty 
2013: Not in the Code of Points

In 1976, Alexander Ditiatin competed a full off the side...

1975: C-High Difficulty
2013: C

1980s


Sorry, once I started yearbooking Bart Conner, I couldn't stop.


The early 80s was an interesting time in men's gymnastics. The Code of Points still required gymnasts to be original, meaning the gymnasts were supposed to show new movements or new combinations. Yet, the tucked double back had become pedestrian. It felt like everyone was doing it. If you've ever watched the 1984 Olympics, you know what I'm talking about. In Los Angeles, that dismount was used more than Phantom of the Opera floor music at a Level 8 state meet.

That said, there still were men who performed unusual dismounts. For instance, here's Koji Sotomura's bail to a double tuck off the end (1983):

In 1985, there were A, B, C, and D skills. This dismount was a C.
In 2013, it will be a B.

Others, like Alexander Kolyvanov, would take that dismount and add a full twist (1986):

1985: D
2013: D
At the time, this was called a Kajitani, named after Nobuyuki Kajitani who performed only a double back in 1984. While the skill still appears in the Code of Points, his name is no longer attached to it.

It probably helped that Kolyvanov was, I believe, 14 and 4'5". That ain't an easy dismount to put to your feet if you're tall.

If you weren't 4'5", you had other options. For instance, you could do a double front off the end like Sven Tippelt did in 1986:
1989: D
2013: C

While all those dismounts were super duper neat-o, they aren't what will make the 1980s stand out in gymnastics history. That task was reserved for the double pike dismount. Yup, the 1980s ushered in the infamous era of the double pike dismount. I'm not entirely sure who competed this dismount first, but the earliest video I found on YouTube features Bogdan Makuts. Take a look at his double pike from 1980:

1985: D
1989: D
2013: D

In the late 80s, the double pike became the new double tuck, and 

it would stay that way for over 20 fraggly years!

As they said in the 80s, "Barf me out!"

Seriously, I would hate the 80s "to the max," if it weren't for Hiroyuki Kato, the man who gave us the full-twisting double back in 1989. Yes, you read that correctly. The gnarly dismount that Marcel Nguyen did in London was performed for the first time in 1989. That goes to show how much of a badass Kato was.

Unfortunately, I could not find a video of Kato performing his dismount, so here's Akash Modi at the Pac-Rims in 2012:

This dismount was listed in the 1985 Code, even though it was not performed until 1989. In 1985, it was listed as a D. In 1989, it was a D. In 2013, it will be a G, which will be the hardest dismount on parallel bars.

1990s



In the 1990s, we saw a lot of double pikes. A lot of them. But we also saw people try to incorporate unique dismounts. Some, like Zoltan Supola, failed. Check out the dismount he tried to perform at the 1993 McDonald's American Cup. 
This was called a Kwon, and in 1989, it was a D.
In the 1997, the Code changed. It went from having A, B, C, and D elements to having A, B, C, D, E, and Super E skills. The Kwon was a C.
Thankfully, this skill is no longer in the Code of Points.

Side note #1: If you need two spotters, you probably should not be competing that skill.
Side note #2: What elite gymnast eats at McDonald's? That's like having Weight Watchers sponsor a sumo wrestling tournament.

Not everyone failed, though. Some, like Jair Lynch, had success. Jair competed a tucked double front with a half, which was unique dismount in an era of double pikes, and I'm guessing that performing something unusual helped him win a silver medal at the 1996 Olympics.
1997-2000: E
2013: F


John Roethlisberger invented a completely original skill and had it named after him. Take a look at the Roethlisberger:
1997-2000: D
2013: D

It's kind of an ugly skill, but I'm sure people think the same about Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.

The 2000s



Anyway, at the turn of the millennium, we saw, you guessed it, more double pikes. FML. The good news is that, in recent years, we have started to see a wider variety of dismounts. For instance, 2008 bronze medalist Anton Fokin performed a tucked double front, a skill that Daniel Corral would perform in the 2012 parallel bar final. And of course Marcel Nguyen performed his Kato in 2012, which probably helped him earn a silver medal, seeing as the dismount was both difficult and unique.

(Moral of the story: Compete a Kato. Otherwise, you are dead to me. Just kidding.)

As I look ahead to the future, I have faith that the days of unique dismounts have not passed us by. David Belyavskiy is proof of that. In 2011, when most men were doing backwards double pikes, he decided that he would take that skill and reverse it. Now, a front double pike is named after him.

This dismount appeared in the 1997-2000 Code, even though it was not named until 2011. In the 90s, it was an E. In 2013, it will be an F.


Before I conclude this mini history lesson, I should mention that a few borderline insane men have been working on triple backs, which, as far as I know, have yet to be performed in competition.

Daisuke Nakano, you are one crazy dude.

Yes, that's real. This isn't Make It or Break It or American Anthem. You did not just watch a double tuck-switch-camera-angles-extra-flip. Like I said, you have to be a little bit crazy to train one of those.

Anyway, so there you have it: the evolution of p-bar dismounts, as told by Uncle Tim with the help of many YouTube users. Personally, I'm looking forward to a new quad with fewer double pikes. A boy can dream, can't he?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Do Yamawakis exist?

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I'm an absolute pleasure to be around. My friends and family can attest to this. In order to feign gratefulness for an entire 24-hour period, I have to unleash all my crabbiness beforehand, and you, Gymternet, get to experience a little bit of my holiday cheer.

There's one high bar combination that I cannot stand:

Stoop (sometimes called an Adler) to a full pirouette on one arm

+

Yamawaki

If this combination were a dude, I'd kick it in the junk. I hate it that much.

I hate it for two reasons. First, almost every male gymnast competed this combination. (For women's gymnastics fans: it was the aerial front walkover + back handspring stepout + layout stepout of the last quad.) Second, I'm not convinced that anyone really does a Yamawaki.

What is a Yamawaki? you ask. That's a darn good question. I have a feeling they might be mythical creatures like unicorns or centaurs because they seem to exist only in books. Like this one:


Normally, I find these drawings confusing, but this one actually clarifies a lot for me. First, it shows that a Yamawaki should be done with a straight body. Second, it shows that the Yamawaki should be executed as if it were a laid-out Markelov. This means that the half twist should happen before the gymnast's body crosses the bar. In other words, when he flies over the bar, he should not be able to see the bar for a brief moment because he is doing something like a laid-out reverse hecht over the bar.

Now, let's take a look at a few stills from the high bar finals in London. Do any of these men fit those criteria?

I'm sorry, but 

NO.

Just No.

Is anyone stretched? No. Did anyone turn before his feet crossed the bar? No. Yet, somehow, all of these gymnasts received credit for a Yamawaki (a D), when some of them probably should have received credit for a Voronin (a B).


A Voronin is similar to the Yamawaki in that the release comes from a back uprise. But instead of being stretched like the Yamawaki, the Voronin is piked. Furthermore, the twist does not have to be completed before the gymnast crosses over the bar, meaning the gymnast can see the bar the entire time during a Voronin.

Above, all of the offenders were looking at the bar the entire freakin' time, and honestly, on a frame to frame basis, I see more similarities between the Imaginary-Yamawakis-Being-Performed and a Voronin. I mean, just look at the beginning of Garibov's "Yamawaki"!


His butt screams, "Voronin!!!!" 

I mean, c'mon! That butt position does not appear anywhere in the diagram of the Yamawaki! It does, however, show up in the diagram of a Voronin...

Dear Mr. Judge,

I get it. These gymnasts are putting you in a very hard position. A Voronin is not considered a very flighty release, and these gymnasts are getting a lot of hang time. Plus, their chests are in an in-between position--not really a Voronin and not really a Yamawaki. So, it is hard to decide what the gymnasts are doing, but in my mind, what I'm seeing is clearly not a Yamawaki.

I mean, you have to ask yourself whether the gymnasts are really doing Yamawakis. Like, really? Do their "Yamawakis" look anything like the picture in the Code of Points? Is what they're doing really a D skill?

The gymnasts, I'm sure, thank you for your generosity during the last quadrennium. But I don't. I'm tired of watching this crap. It's time to put on your mean face, Mr. Judge, (GRR!) and stop giving credit to pseudo-Yamawakis.

xx,
Uncle Tim

Thankfully, the new Code of Points disincentivized the Adler-Yamawaki combination a bit. Whereas in the past the gymnasts received two tenths for the connection of the two skills, they will receive only an extra tenth during the upcoming quad. So, maybe--if the gym gods do exist--we will see fewer of these so-called Yamawakis.

By the way...

I'm not the only one who thinks that a Yamawaki's turn should happen before the gymnast crosses the bar. Carlos Vazquez said the same thing in a high bar clinic video.

Further Reading:

Rick at Gymnasticscoaching.com also talks about the Yamawaki in his open letter to Steve Butcher.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pommel Horse Primer: Dismounting with a Russian

Zoltan Magyar was a boss.

Ohmahgrrrrrrrd! 
That was, like, a terrible dismount, right?
He just, like, botched his dismount, right? 
He was supposed to go to, like, a handstand or something, right? 

News Flash!

Gymnasts do not have to do a handstand when they dismount the pommel horse.


I know, right? It's hard to wrap your mind around. It's like the 4th dimension of gymnastics or something. Everyone who is anyone seems to do handstand dismounts, especially at major international meets. But believe it or not, you can dismount with a Russian. Let's take a look...

Russians 301: Russian Dismounts


A Russian dismounting with a Russian. So matchy-matchy. Totes cutsies!

That's an old video of Nikolai Andrianov on pommel horse. Believe it or not, his dismount is not a failed attempt at a handstand, but rather, a Russian circle into his dismount. He does one complete Russian (360º) and then pushes off the side as his feet travel over the horse. This is a dismount! (It's the gymnastics equivalent of riding a mechanical bull: the gymnast spins 'round and 'round and then throws himself off the side onto the mat.) 

In order to determine the difficulty value of the dismount, you just have to count the number of Russians the gymnast does.
1 (360º) to 1 1/2 (540º) is a B.
2 (720º) to 2 1/2 (900º) is a C.
3 (1080º) or more is a D.
It's that simple. In the animated gif above, Nikolai Andrianov did 1 Russian before dismounting. So... that's a B dismount. BAM! You are on your way to becoming a pommel horse sensei.

Senior international elites (all those guys at major competitions) need to dismount with a D in order to fulfill their routine requirements. Bearing that in mind, do you think that Axel Elias fulfilled his dismount requirement at the 2012 Mexican Open?


He sure did! He performed a D dismount.

His execution, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. In the 2013-16 Code of Points, Russian dismounts need to hit 30º above a gymnast's shoulders. (In the past, it had to reach 45º above a gymnast's shoulders.)

3º is being generous.

Unfortunately, Axl Rose Elias does not come close to 30º, which is a deduction. Major womp womp.

Russians 301: The Final Exam


So, there you have it. The Russian dismount. It's easy to notice and easy to determine its difficulty. Simply count the number of times the gymnast spins around before he throws himself off the side. That's it.

Think you're ready for your final exam? Well, let's find out. What do you notice in the following video?


You hopefully noticed his dismount. He did 3 1/2 (1,260º) Russians into his dismount, which is a D. Did you notice something else? What's that you say? A Tong Fei at the 0:32 mark? Yes! Yes! Yes! You, my friend, are ready for Russians 401.

Print this and put it on your wall. It's better than a degree from Yale.


Unfortunately, I have bad news: Russians 401 will have to wait. It involves doing Russians on a single pommel horse, which is pretty complicated. Before we can tackle the next lesson, there are other skills we must discuss first. Like loops. So, look for a lesson on loops sometime after Thanksgiving.