Monday, July 9, 2012

Chasing Superman - Part 2: High Bar

Today's edition is called "Danell and John Keep Me Up At Night." But before I begin, please do not get your hopes up. I will not be talking about this:

Sorry to disappoint. Don't get me wrong; had Danell been alive in the early 16th century, I am sure that Michelangelo would have chiseled him out of marble.

But, for the time being, I have more important things to discuss. Like, how men's gymnastics has made a mockery of one of my favorite skills: the hop full. Leave it to the men to eff up a thing of beauty. (Am I right, ladies?) In fact, their hop fulls bother me so much that I lie awake at night, wondering, "Why, men? Why can't you do a good hop full? And if you struggle with the hop full, why do you even attempt a Rybalko?"

This is my attempt to make sense of it all.

Learning from Lilia Podkopayeva

Truth be told, the men just don't understand the hop full in the same way that Lilia Podkopayeva understood it. So, men, until you learn how to execute this skill, I must rename it. Henceforth, the hop full shall be referred to as the "Pod Full." 

Dear FIG, please rewrite the Code of Points accordingly. xx, Uncle Tim

Oh, hell, I'll just do it myself.

I know, I know. I can hear the whining: "But, but, but this is a blog about men's gymnastics. Why should we care about Lilia Pogo-sticky-foreva?" You'll see.

Pardon the fuzziness. In case you weren't alive in 1996, we didn't have HDTV back in the day.

Men, take note of two things. First, Miss Pod Full actually hops. Some of you do; some of you don't. Second, she keeps her shoulders open the entire time. Let me repeat that: the entire time. Pretty much none of you does that.

John Orozco: Pod Full Attempt

With that introduction, let us turn to our first victim, John Orozco. As I said in my previous post, I love Mr. Orozco, especially his clean form. But, I must admit, his Pod Full is not a thing of beauty. In fact, I don't know if it even deserves to be called a Pod Full...

Men have very specific rules about their hopping skills. Humor me while I get all pretentious and quote the Code of Points:

"Elements with hops to handstands, which include turns, must initiate turns during the hop..."

Err... John is turning, whilst one hand is still on the bar. It pretty much looks like he's about to do a blind change... WITH HIS HEAD OUT!

"Turtle, turtle, turtle."
But wait! He surprises us by "hopping!"

Do you remember when you were a kid, trying to learn to ride your bike without hands? You let go of the handlebars for maybe a tenth of a second, and you were so proud of yourself for riding your bike "without hands." Yeah, that's what John is doing on the high bar when he "hops." With his head out, mind you. GAH! Moving on...

I can hear the women's gymnastics fans shouting, "HE DIDN'T FINISH IN A HANDSTAND! Well, guess what... The men don't have to finish in a handstand. Most skills have to finish within 15° of vertical, and the hopping elements have to finish within 30° of vertical. Turns finished between 31 and 45° of vertical result in a 0.1 deduction, and turns finished between 46 and 90° of vertical result in a 0.3 deduction.

Get out your protractors 'cause life ain't fair, folks. Technically, John's re-grasp is deduction-free. (Look at those pointed toes!) The bigger question is, What do we call this skill? In my book, it is not a Pod Full because he executed over half the turn with one hand still on the bar. What John did was a blind full with a brief "Look, Mom! No hands" moment. As far as I know, that skill is not in the code of points. Anywhere.

And that upsets me. No, I am not upset because I believe that there should be a skill named the "blind full with a brief 'Look, Mom! No hands!' hop." That would be stupid. I am upset because no coach, no commentator, no judge--no one has taken the time to point this out to John, and if someone has, John has not taken the time to fix it.

Now, John has but a few days to work on this skill, and in order to compete a true Pod Full at the Olympics, he must relearn it. I don't know if that's possible, but let's hope it is.

Dear Gym Gods, what's your going rate for overtime work? What forms of payment do you accept? I don't have a lot of cash, but I'm really good at baking cookies and French braiding hair. Perhaps we can barter. xx, Uncle Tim

Danell Leyva: The Rybalko

Ah, the Rybalko. It's the latest fad on men's high bar--much in the same way that pet rocks were a fad, mustaches were a fad, slap bracelets were a fad, the Macarena was a fad, long front tumbling passes were a fad, Sexy Alexei was a fad...

Right now, everyone's who's anyone's competing a Rybalko. I'm sure you've seen it, but you might not know the skill by name because certain commentators rarely mention the names of men's skills. Basically, it's a hop 3/2 that finishes in a double el-grip.

For those of you who don't know what el-grip is, why are you reading my blog?

Just kidding. Again, the commentators don't explain these things, so let me do so on their behalf. Place your hands in front of you with your palms facing your face. Now rotate your thumbs inward so that they are facing each other. Now keep rotating your hands in the same direction until your palms are facing you again. Now imagine grabbing a bar.

Ouch? Yeah, this is the gymnastics equivalent of watching a sex scene with your parents. It's not supposed to be comfortable.

Anyway, on to Danell...

Danell starts turning his body a bit prematurely. He's completed roughly a quarter turn before he lets go of the bar. As we saw in John's Pod Full, this can be a problem because the gymnast is supposed to initiate the turn as he hops. Unlike John, though, Danell does let go of the bar, and he does so prior to completing a half turn.  Comparatively speaking, this makes Uncle Tim very very happy.

But hopping is only half the battle. The other half of the battle involves keeping the shoulder angle open, which Danell does not do. This makes Uncle Tim cry like James Van Der Beek.

Would you rather watch Dawson cry or watch a sex scene with your parents? Both are pretty darn uncomfortable.

Because Danell sticks his head out like a turtle and closes his shoulder angle, he launches his body too far over the bar.

At this point, Danell's toe point is lovely, but his shoulders are past vertical. In an attempt to right his wrong, he arches his back, which makes for a sloppy finish. Anyone who has been remotely sober at closing time knows that sloppy isn't a good look on anyone. Not even on Michelangelo's Second David.

It's an insidious sloppiness. You don't see it right away because his toe point and straight legs are so delightfully distracting. According to the Code of Points, "a hop element is considered finished at the moment that both hands re-grasp the bar." When Danell re-grasps the bar, he still has about a quarter turn to do, which is a rather sizable deduction. It could be as much as 0.5. 

That's not all. In addition to the incomplete turn, he is further penalized because he has passed the 30°-from-vertical mark. It's hard to tell from this camera angle, but he looks to be about 45° from vertical, which is another 0.1. (If it's more than 45°, then, it's a 0.3 deduction.)

Dear Danell, Please don't do that at the Olympics. xx, Uncle Tim

Again, I can hear the complaints: "But, but, but, Uncle Tim, you're just nitpicking."

Simma down na! It's true. I am nitpicking, but it's because I want to see one of these boys--if not both--on the podium in London. Bear in mind that 0.323 separated third and fourth place at the 2011 World Championships, and 0.591 separated third and fifth place. That's roughly the difference between a good Rybalko and a bad one.

Dear Internet Gods, Please leak new training videos of these boys. Otherwise, I will lose a lot of sleep worrying about them. xx, Uncle Tim


  1. Shannon does a beautiful hop full:

  2. ...and so did Elise Ray...and she did two in a row.