Friday, July 27, 2012

The Evolution of the Kovács

What's a Kovács?

Unfortunately, Google won't help you answer that question.

Nor will Wikipedia

Nor will Twitter

Football players are so eloquent.

But I will!

In case you cared to know, Uncle Tim has not one, but two pairs of footy pajamas.

So, with no further ado, I present to you...

A visual history of the high bar release called a Kovács, as told by Uncle Tim

(Long titles always make you sound smarter.)


I suppose that we should start with the originator of the skill: Péter "Cowboy" Kovács. Here's his routine from the 1979 European Championships:

The Kovács is a double back over the bar.

If you can't tell why I call him "Péter 'Cowboy' Kovács," look again.

For the record: In order for a skill to be named after you, you don't have to look good doing it.

1992: The Kolman

Some lunatic decided that doing a double back over the bar was not difficult enough, so he started doing a full-twisting double back. That lunatic was the Slovenian gymnast Alojz Kolman. Here's his routine from the 1992 Worlds:

Unfortunately, Kolman fell in the only video I could find of him performing his signature move.

If you're too young to remember the Uh-Oh SpaghettiO's commercial, you might be too young to read this blog.

Mid-1990s: Kovács in Combination

The legacy of lunacy continued throughout the 90s. Whereas Kolman decided to add an extra twist to his Kovács, the men of the mid-90s had to show the world how macho they were by doing the release in combination. 

For example, in 1996, Sexy Alexei performed his beautiful Kovács in combination with a Gienger.

In case you were too young to remember, Sexy Alexei got his nickname because his gymnastics was sexy...

I'm not sure if Alexei Nemov knew how to cowboy. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)

...and his body was sexy.

Does anyone else remember Elfi swooning over Alexei during the 1996 Gala?

Sexy Alexei wasn't alone in his craziness. At the 1997 World Championships, Ivan Ivankov successfully competed chucked back-to-back Kovács.

If you thought that his second (chucked) Kovács was too close to the bar, wait until you see his piked Kovács, which he caught with his ribs.

I have nothing funny to say about this screenshot. Let this be a reminder that this sport is dangerous.

2004: The Cassina

At the beginning of the 21st century, tucked, piked, and laid-out Kovács became routine, so Igor Cassina came along and made things even more difficult. He invented a freakin' laid-out Kolman. Let your jaw drop as you watch his gold-medal-winning performance from Athens:

With your jaw firmly planted on the ground, let the drool slide out of your mouth 'cause Cassina continued the (gratuitous) tradition of posing shirtless.

After the Olympics, I must research this trend. When did gymnasts start posing half-naked? Was Sexy Alexei the originator? Thoughts?

2005: The Shaham

The Cassina is a G, which means that the skill is "God-Awfully-Hard."

And it's not the only Kovács-variation that is a G!

There's another one: the Shaham. It is a one-and-a-half-twisting Kovács. Unfortunately, I could not find footage of the 2005 Maccabi Games when Noam Shaham caught the skill in competition. So, a training video will have to do.

Notice that he is shirtless in this video.

So... What's Next?

A few years back, the gymnastics world was flipping its shit because Kohei Uchimura was training a triple-back Kovács.

As far as I know, we won't be seeing a triple-back Kovács in the Olympics. If we were, the Twitterverse would be going crazy. But who knows what the next quad will bring?

Speaking of the Olympics...

I come from the Midwest where fans tailgate for sporting events. Unfortunately, I don't particularly enjoy baseball or football, and unless you're a student at UCLA, no one really tailgates before gymnastics meets... BUT I plan to!

Oh, yes, on Saturday, I will wake up at a terribly early hour, crack open a beer, fire up the grill, watch 3 rounds of team qualifications, and provide many, many hours of snarky commentary. It shall be fun for all involved.

Let's just hope that my day ends better than the Make It or Break It kegger episode. I don't think that I would survive a ménage à trois with Carter Anderson and Lauren Tanner.


  1. I found this blog post very informative. I also want to say that I want to come over and tailgate with you. I follow both you and spanny on twitter and I have to say that your conversations are hilarious. I feel like I'm back in high school-the shy kid sitting behind the popular kids and silently agreeing with them but not chiming in.

  2. Awesome post, I never knew where the names of these skills originated from. The craziest combination I've seen with these skills is Epke Zonderland, who connects a cassina to a kovacs to a kolman, which will hopefully put him in medal contention.

    As for the shirtless gymnasts, as long as that trend continues, I'm not complaining :)

  3. i'm watching the olympics right now and i was wondering what is the optimal time to relesase for a laid out kovacs? i just watch the american men do a whole bunch (and all the variations that you provided us) and i couldn't help but think that horton and leyva let go quite late. they both flip quite fast so i know they will get around but it just seems so late. am i right?

  4. The Flying Dutchman evolves the Kovacs-Connections further:

  5. nice write-up

    Wikipedia has caught up, sort of.

    It doesn't have an article in Hungarian for some odd reason, and the English one doesn't mention the element named after him. Nor does the French one, but it lists his team-members from the 1980 Olympics. One of them was Zoltan Magyar, another Hungarian gymnast with an element named after him (Magyar travel on pommel horse).

  6. Just found your post and it was great! Not sure where you are in the Midwest, but the NCAA season allows for some pre-competition "tail-gaits." Though they're not usually outside in January. The Windy City Invitational in Chicago (hosted by UIC) is always the Saturday of the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. Maybe we'll see you there!

  7. Hi there. I was just wondering if anyone has done a reverse kovacs (double front) yet? I found this entertaining post when searching for reverse kovacs, I thought maybe you would know.

  8. You should add the Bretschneider which is a double twisting kovacs and valued at an H for 0.8. It was first performed at the DTB Team Challenge in Germany and was just added to the code of points