Monday, August 27, 2012

The Dragulescu: A Breakdown

So... you can do a good handspring double front. Now you think you're ready for a Dragulescu. But are you really sure?

This is a Boybomb, which is different from a Dragulescu.

Just because you have a good handspring double front doesn't mean that you are ready to add an extra half twist. The Dragulescu is a whole different beast. With a Roche, you can get by on strength and speed, but with a Dragulescu, you better have good technique.

So, what makes for a good Dragulescu? And what separates it from a Boybomb? Let's start by looking at the master himself, Mr. Marian Dragulescu.

Marian Dragulescu

For whatever reason, I've always called Marian Dragulescu "Draggy Dragulescu," and since that's my nickname for him, I had to glam him up a bit.

Now that he's looking every bit as fabulous as his vault, we can look at his technique.

Believe it or not, the hurdle onto the springboard is key. It is the first sign of how the gymnast will execute his vault. If his chest is up, it is likely that the vault will be good. If his chest is down, he is probably going to rush the vault, which will prevent him from hitting the correct body positions.

As we can see in Draggy Dragulescu's vault, he keeps his chest up during his hurdle, which shows me that he is not going to crunch into the horse. Instead, Draggy allows his body to extend over the horse, giving his heels time to rise into a tight arch position. (See arrow in the 4th photo. To be fair, since his head is sticking out, it is more archy than tight-archy.)

It's impossible to over-stress the importance of this arch position. If you worked on a handspring front vault or a toe-on front off uneven bars, you know why. But if you haven't, think of it in terms of the bend and snap in Legally Blonde.

This move, if you might recall, generates enough speed and power to break a UPS man's nose.

Well, the Dragulescu requires a similar movement, which is powerful enough to put the gymnast on his feet.*

But there is a slight change in the motion. The Dragulescu requires the bend-snap-bend. The gymnast must bend into an arch and then snap and bend into a tuck as quickly as possible. When the gymnast snaps his body from a tight arch position into a tuck position, he changes body shapes, and that shape change generates the rotation needed to land on one's feet. The bigger the arch, the more the gymnast's body changes. The more the gymnast's body changes, the more rotation he has. The more rotation he has, the easier it is to land the Dragulescu.

Don't believe me? Let's take a look at what happens when you don't arch.

*I recognize that there is more to the vault than the arch. I could talk about hand placement and timing, but that would require me to talk about vectors and biomechanics. I'll pass on that. I still have nightmares that I didn't pass high school physics and now have to retake the class. Besides, there are academic papers on the subjects. Not wanting to encroach on someone else's territory, I'll stick with the arch, which seems to be a problem--even for younger vaulters who are learning handspring fronts.

Philipp Boy

Mr. Philipp Boy will be our non-example. Here's his Boybomb from team qualifications in London:

During Mr. Boy's hurdle onto the springboard (photo 1), you can see that he is already leaning forward. This tells me that he is not going to stretch his body out over the horse. He's going to kind of nose dive into the vault, which means that his heels will not have time to rise into any form of an arch.

Sure enough, his body flatlines in the third photo, and without the arch in his back, the change in his body shape is not as drastic as it needs to be. His bend-snap-bend does not generate enough rotation to get this vault to his feet. In the end, he crunches his ankles.

Unless you are Daniel Tosh, you do not enjoy seeing someone injure himself at a gymnastics competition. Unfortunately, Mr. Boy's injury comes as no surprise. He never had good handspring technique--not even when competing and landing his Roche. Look at part of his vault from the 2011 World Championships:

Mr. Boy lands his vault with plenty of height, so it would seem that he is ready to add an extra half twist. The problem, though, is that Mr. Boy was able to perform his Roche because of his strength, speed, and size. He never had a good heel drive, and adding the extra half twist requires a little extra oomph. Without the arch at the beginning, Mr. Boy's (mini)bend-snap-bend just isn't enough to rotate two flips with a half twist. Thus, the birth of the Boybomb.

Please do not think that I am trying to pick on Mr. Boy. I love him. I even made thank you cards with his face on them.
His vault simply is the most salient example of a Dragulescu fail in recent gymnastics history.

Igor Radivilov

Other gymnasts, of course, had minor problems with the Dragulescu. Igor Radivilov was one of them.

If you saw the vault finals, you would think that Mr. Radivilov is perfect in every single way. But during team finals Mr. Radivilov had a mini crunch of the ankles, and since his low landing teaches us something else about the Dragulescu, let's take a moment to study it.

Mr. Radivilov's heels rise quite nicely, and he hits an arch position. But his right foot is moving faster than his left when he hits the vault, which causes two problems. First, his crazy legs cause him to rotate at an angle. This sideways salto may have worked in his favor if he were twisting in the other direction, but because his right foot is leading off the vault, he has to do an extra eighth of a turn (or so) in the air. The Dragulescu is hard enough without having to twist more than necessary, and as you can see, Mr. Radivilov does not quite make his half twist all the way around.

Second, because his legs are askew, he cannot push off with the same amount of force with both hands. This limits his height off the table and contributes to his low landing at the end. Had his legs been synchronized, he probably would have had a much better landing.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it: the Boybomb and the Dragulescu as performed by a bunch of drag queens. The difference between the two comes down to the arch. It doesn't have to be a Jakob-from-So-You-Think-You-Can-Dance-Touch-Your-Head-to-Your-Butt-Hey-Boy-Hey arch, but there must be an arch.

Dear Elite Gymnasts,

I know that my internet voice does not reach your ears, but maybe a friend of a friend of a friend of a... can pass this message along to you: if you want to do a Dragulescu and  if you like your ankles, work on your front handspring technique, especially the arch at the beginning. 

Uncle Tim

Dear Little Gymnasts,

You should not be reading this blog, but if you are, stop doing so and use your time more wisely. Go do 5,000 tight arch rocks, and do them every day for the rest of your life.
Uncle Tim

P.S. I think that Radivilov is the best drag queen of the three.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Evolution of the Roche Vault

Unless you've been living under a rock (or at the Rock with Lo, Payson, and Kaylie), you've seen a gymnast do a handspring double front vault. In men's gymnastics, this is called a Roche, which is not the same as a roach.

These are roaches.

This is Jorge Roche, the man who can claim this vault as his own.

This is how you pronounce his name.

If you don't know who Che Guevara (gay-BAH-rah) is...

With that cleared up, we can talk about the evolution of the vault.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A letter to Mr. Alexander Tkatchev

Dear Mr. Alexander Tkatchev,

Most gymnasts hate Mr. Kip, but not I. He and I got along quite nicely. Your *!@# release move, on the other hand, was my personal nemesis. You were my Skeletor, my Gargamel, my Megatron, my Mumm-Ra, my Duke Nukem, my Pizzazz...

It caused me a lot of problems back in the day. My hands bled because of you. I bruised my face, my butt, my ribs, my feet, and my nether regions because of you. Heck, I didn't straighten my teeth because I feared that my mouth would try to catch the bar while I was learning your release move. Metal braces on a metal bar... Need I say more?

I'm happy to report that my mouth and the bar never became intimate. I'm also happy to report that I eventually learned how to make it over the bar. The result, however, wasn't very attractive. Imagine the worst 1980s-uneven-bar-Tkatchev you've ever seen and multiply that by 100. To put it mildly, I looked like a dog trying to scratch its butt on the floor.

I don't have any videos from way back when, but my gut tells me that the dog has better form.

For years, I searched and searched for a video of you. Seeing the first Tkatchev, I hoped, would either give me insight and inspiration, or at the very least, it would make me feel better about my failures as a gymnast. While I did not wish to watch you injure your family jewels per se (America's Funniest Home Videos fulfilled that need in my life), I was hoping that your form would be atrocious. You know, flexed feet, bent legs--something that would make me feel less like an incapable, pathetic loser.

Well, this week, during one of my YouTube binges, I finally found what I was seeking, and thank the gymnastics gods that I did not find this video sooner! Had I seen you perform a Tkatchev when I was an angsty teenager, I would have thrown my ever-sturdy turquoise iMac monitor out the window, thus ending my "social life" as I knew it. No AOL Instant Messenger. No Angelfire and Geocities websites dedicated to gymnastics. And certainly no porn.

Now that I'm a "mature" adult, I can admit this: You look beautiful doing your Tkatchev. Gosh, you're like the Megan Schmidt of the gymnastics world. Every high school has a Megan Schmidt. She's the babe-o-licious point guard who is homecoming queen, student council president, valedictorian, and a regular volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Everyone wants to hate Megan, but she's just too darn nice to hate.


The only thing I can hold over your head is the fact that you aren't very popular on the internet. As of right now, the video of one of your first tkatchevs has a little over 200 views on YouTube. I don't know how to break this to you, but that's pretty lousy. A little boy named David went to the dentist--that's ALL he did--and he has well over 100,000,000 views. That's roughly 500,000 times the number of views you have.

Heck, even that dog scratching its ass on the floor has more views. 8,701, to be exact. Kind of embarrassing, isn't it?

I suppose you could argue that I am comparing apples to oranges. Light-hearted humor vs. the serious matter of gymnastics. So, let me put things into perspective for you: Compared to your fellow release move innovators, you're bombing on YouTube. On one video alone, Bernd Jäger has almost 20,000. This, of course, makes me happy, as his release move never gave me problems. And gymnastics internet popularity should be inversely proportional to the amount of heartache you caused me. Duh.

Okay, to be fair, your lack of internet stardom comes from our inability to write your surname (Ткачёв) with a Roman alphabet. On YouTube, the uploader spelled your name "Tkatchyov," while the Code of Points spells it "Tkatchev." And some even spell it "Tkachev."

But can we overlook that minor fact and let me have this one little victory over your release move? Pretty please?

Thanks for your understanding.

Yours truly,

Uncle Tim

P.S. If it makes you feel any better, Eberhardt Gienger is a C-list YouTube celebrity. One of his videos has almost 18,000 views, but the video of his Gienger has only 111 views. And since I watched the clip about 99 times, that means 12 other people have seen the video. 

As you can imagine, I believe that Mr. Gienger's Gienger deserves this punishment. Do you know how easily one can confuse the tap for a Gienger and the tap for a double flyaway? Of course, you don't. You, as far as I know, never competed a Gienger. So, let's just say that Mr. Gienger is another reason why I did not have braces as a teenager.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The 1960 Olympics and My Hipster Tastes in Gymnastics

I, Uncle Tim, have the cojones to admit that I was addicted to NBC's coverage of the Olympic Games.

I woke up at the butt crack of dawn to watch the games. I occasionally obsessively glanced at my NBC feed when I should have been working. I scheduled my meals around primetime coverage. I lost sleep thinking about the competitions. I forgot how to deal with folk outside the gymternet.

According to, I was an addict.

I highly recommend using the internet to self-diagnose all your problems.

And since there isn't an expensive, ritzy Olympics Rehab Center filled with the members of the gymternet, I had to kick the addiction on my own. Unfortunately, I ended up substituting NBC's non-stop coverage with something else.

I'm kind of ashamed to admit what that "something else" is... It isn't Dance Moms. It isn't Honey Boo Boo Child. It isn't reruns of Make It or Break It. It's something much more obvious...

It's YouTube and its cache of videos from past Olympics. Yup, I gave up London 2012, only to find myself in Melbourne, Rome, Tokyo, and Mexico City.

Believe it or not, it ain't easy looking for really mid-century footage of the Olympics on YouTube, so...

Members of the Gymternet, I'm asking for your help. Please feed my latest addiction by uploading more videos. xx, Uncle Tim

For now, I'm content wiggin' out over the 1960 Olympics. I must admit that the Games in Rome were pretty bitchin'.

Can you guess why?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Meme-ing the Silver Fox

Jordan Jovtchev (or Yordan Yovchev or Iordan Iovtchev), you deserve to have your own meme.

After seeing you compete in 6 Olympic Games (and doing so in very stylish leotards throughout the years), you have given many of us hope, for you are living proof that we can be fabulous in our 30s.

You have made us believe that we, too, can grow up to become sexy, ripped silver foxes. Woof.

But I'll give you a word of warning: If Clooney finds out that there's another silver fox in town, he might get jealous.

So, you might want to sleep with one eye open--just in case Clooney decides to eliminate his competition.

In the meantime...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Best in Hair: London 2012

Hair was all the rage in London. Journalists, long-time gym fans, and four-year fans were obsessed with the gymnasts' hairdos. Not wanting to miss out on the action, I assembled a panel of sassy bloggers to give you their thoughts on the best coiffures displayed in London.

Let me introduce you to our panel of commentators:

Lauren Hopkins of The Couch Gymnast
Spanny Tampson of Spanny's Big Fake Smile
Dvora Meyers of Unorthodox Gymnastics and the author of Heresy on the High Beam
and Uncle Tim, who might as well be one of the ladies.

Dvora would like to kick things off with a preface:

Before I get started, I want to thank Uncle Tim for the opportunity to pick apart the male gymnasts’ appearances. Usually, the only commentary we get to hear is about the women. In an ideal world, we’d leave everyone’s looks alone and snark only about the stupid things people say. Alas, I think the invention of the Internet has killed that dream. (Thanks, Al Gore!) But I’ll settle for getting to analyze the men’s style. Equal opportunity objectification, folks!
That said, shall we begin?

Monday, August 13, 2012

International Gymnast Covers

Since I was a kid, I've subscribed to International Gymnast, and for me, the magazine has always been my version of People: a quick read about the humans I care most about. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.)

I never gave the magazine serious thought until I read an article on Sports Illustrated covers. The author's analysis of SI inspired me to take a closer look at IG cover photos. Since I'm a 6th grade boy at heart, I immediately noticed this.

I mean, don't you find it strange that Beth Tweddle is staring blankly at another girl's crotch? Awkward!

For the most part, though, the covers--compared to many of the photos out there--haven't been that pervy. So, I decided to do something extremely boring and break down the covers by gymnastics categories. *Yawn*

The statistics are kind of fascinating, if you're into that kind of thing.

Best OKCupid profile ever!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Arthur Zanetti vs. Chen Yibing: You Decide

China's Chen Yibing and Brazil's Arthur Zanetti gave the world quite the show on Monday. Both gymnasts boasted an impressive 6.8 difficulty score, which meant that the difference between the two would be decided based on their execution scores. At the end of the day, the judges awarded Chen Yibing a 9.0 and Arthur Zanetti a 9.1, and since coaches cannot file an inquiry about execution scores, their scores have not been changed.

Now, the gymternet is about to explode because many gym fans believe that the 2008 Olympic Champion deserved to win again. His routine has been called "flawless" by his coach. A BBC commentator called it a "perfect performance," and the AFP said that Chen Yibing "produced a faultless routine matched by a perfect landing."

I originally wrote a post responding to (and satirizing the tone of) those claims. It was perceived as being biased. So, now, I'm writing a more diplomatic post. Nonetheless, I still holdfast to my position: We no longer live in the era of the perfect 10.
Neither Chen Yibing nor Zanetti were perfect. Their execution scores tell us otherwise, and using adjectives like "faultless," I believe, is unnecessarily hyperbolic. They both performed incredible rings sets, and both should be incredibly proud of their routines. In addition, I commend Chen Yibing on his impressive sportsmanship. That said, there were mistakes in both routines, and the judges saw (at least some of) the errors.

I could sit here and be a couch judge. I could search for tenths to add or subtract from either routine, and then, I could argue that the judges made the right or wrong call. But gymnastics is a subjective sport. Even though we want it to be black and white, deep down, we know that the judges are humans who have preferences and who blink. So, writing a post in which I count, say, bent arms will not be helpful. You might see a bent arm I missed, or you might not think that the arm is really all that bent. 

Instead, what I will do is this: Give you some of the tools to decide for yourself who you think deserved to win.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

An Ode to Vault Faces

Every gymnast makes a face when he runs down the runway.

Every last one of them, and for whatever reason, NBC likes to show us their faces... mid-sprint... during slow-motion replays. It cracks me up every time, and I thought that I would share the laughs.

Jake Dalton's sprinting face is pretty standard.

Philipp Boy goes through quite the range of emotions. First, a bit of man pain. Then, giddiness akin to that of a chap after a successful first date. Finally, the look of "I'm going to dominate this vault."

Also, in the second shot, he looks a little like Austin Tucker from Make It or Break It. (I know, how dare I speak such blasphemous words?!)

I live for Wai Hung Shek's hair blowing in the wind.

Chenglong Zhang looks like he is trying to suck all the air out of the arena.
That, or he's terrified of the vault.

Why so serious, Enrique Tomás González Sepúlveda?

 Okay, it's not a sprinting face, but this shot was so good; I had to share it.

 Koji Yamamuro looks like he is praying to the gym gods on this one.

At the end of the day, I think that Flavius Koczi wins this competition. This one made me spit out my beer.

Dear Reader,

Let this be a lesson to you.
You better practice your running face in the mirror.
You don't want to be caught looking like one of these lads 
while jogging around your neighborhood.


Uncle Tim

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Believe it or not, Tim Daggett was a beefcake in 1988

I've been on a mission to figure out when the shirtless gymnastics photos started. It turns out that Sexy Alexei was not the trendsetter that I originally assumed he was. After doing some archival research, I know for certain that the shirtless gymnast photos were in existence in the 80s. In fact...

Tim Daggett was quite the beefcake.

Here he is in 1988:

The inspiration for the ESPN Body Issue? Woof.

Gym fans love to hate on him, but there's a special place in my heart for Tim Daggett. My sympathetic side recognizes that his gymnastics career did not end as he would have liked. The NYT article that accompanied the photo detailed Tim's recovery after he snapped both bones in his leg and had 5 surgeries on his leg. It also talks about him falling on his head in training and rupturing a disk in his back.

Yeah, it wasn't the most uplifting read, but it was worth it because I found that rad photo. (And I didn't do any retouching! I swear!) Even the article depicted Daggett as quite the muscle man:

"But in his West Los Angeles apartment, just back from a workout, Daggett looks the survivor. His neck and shoulders are huge, even by the standards of his sport." [Man crush?] 
"'Tim's routines were always a mixture of artistry and brute force,' said Peter Vidmar."

Once the Olympics are over, I'm going to start reading the "classics." Who needs Dickens when you can read Daggett's book Dare to Dream?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Men's Vault: What the H is a Kasamatsu?

Oh, to be a gym fan in the 70s. 

Had I been one, I probably would have made gymnasts out of Play-Doh while doing the Hustle in a nylon jogging suit. I probably would have asked my Magic 8-Ball about competition results, and I probably would have fantasized of toga parties with the likes of Mitsuo Tsukahara and Shigeru Kasamatsu.

Here's Tsukahara at the 1976 Olympics.

Here's Kasamatsu at the 1974 World Championships.

And to think that we complain about having to watch standard-definition videos nowadays... Talk about fuzzy!

Had I been a gym fan in the 1970s, I certainly would have been oblivious to the fact that Tsukahara and Kasamatsu would make our lives so stinkin' confusing.

I love the braces {} and arrows. Like those actually help us!

Sheesh! Why do the men have to be so difficult? As always, my goal is to help you understand our species a little better, and since the event finals on vault are coming up, I thought that I would explain the difference between a "Kasamatsu" and a "Tsukahara."(Or, if you want to sound cool, the difference between a "Kas" and a "Tsuk.")

Let's start with the Kas.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Adventures of Triffus and Dong Dong

I. Hate. Trampolines.

Seriously, I've always been scared of them, and I've made a concerted effort to stay far, far away from them. When I did my first double back, I did it on the floor. No foam pits and certainly no trampolines were involved. To this day, the hardest skill that I will do on a tramp is a full. Even then, I have visions of Stick It right as I'm about to take off.

And at my age, I can't afford to hurt my wenis. 

(Weenus? Weinis? Weanus? How the eff do you even spell that?)

Despite my trampophobia, I got my butt out of bed this morning to watch a sport that I really don't know much about. But I enjoyed it anyway, and here's why.

Reason 1: The names of the skills are delightful

Terms like "quadriffus" make me wonder if J.K. Rowling invented the Trampoline Code of Points. Don't the names sound like something out of Harry Potter?

It took a lot of self-control not to photoshop a dong into Hermione's hand. You'll understand why in a second.

Other great names:
  • A fliffus - Any double somersault with at least a 1/2 twist
  • A triffus - Any triple somersault with at least a 1/2 twist
  • A ball out - A front 1 1/4 starting from the athlete's back
  • A randy - A single front somersault with 2 1/2 twists (Same as artistic gymnastics)

Reason 2: There were more of these.

Reason 3: It made me nostalgic

Men's trampoline is a world where crushed velvet leotards still exist and where the athletes still wear their countries' colors. Enough said.

Reason 4: There was a competitor named Dong Dong

At 6am, with eye boogers still crusted to my face, I started watching the live stream. I was toying with the idea of going back to bed, but then, I became obsessed with one athlete in particular. When I saw him, I knew that he would be the next Olympic champion if he didn't mess up. His name just happened to be "Dong Dong." So, I tweeted:
"I'm a HUGE fan of Dong."
Then, my inner sixth-grader started giggling. Though I know that the name "Dong" can mean "child" (among other things) in Chinese, I just couldn't help myself. I mean, it's hard not to say the word "dong"--in any context--with a straight face.

And then you go on the internet and read this...

Kidding aside, Dong Dong was beautiful to watch. (No more giggling. It's time to be mature.) Which brings me to my next point...

Reason 5: Trampoline is elegant.

Would you rather see this?

Or this?

Musty, I hope that you were taking notes during the competition.


Or this?

Marcel, I hope that you were taking notes, as well.

Nota bene:

For those who like to brawl online, I am NOT saying that trampoline is better than artistic gymnastics or vice versa. Nor am I saying that one requires more strength or flexibility or talent than the other.

What I am saying is this: I enjoyed watching trampoline. It was like sitting through a Cirque du Soleil show, and it was perfect for my short attention span. (Qualifications AND finals were over in 2 hours.)

And as I said at the beginning of this post, I am ignorant about the sport. And I hate that. While I partly blame myself for my ignorance, I also blame the media. Really, there is not much network coverage of trampoline, which makes it hard to be anything but a four-year fan. And even during the Olympic year, it's not easy, as trampoline is not considered a marquee event in the U.S.

But I have a mission: during the next quadrennium, I am going to try to learn more about trampoline. (I'm also going to learn Russian so that I can be a super gym fan!) So, expect a post or two about trampoline in the future.

In the meantime, here's a look at today's winners...

 I wonder which is worse: The athletes' London photos or their driver's license photos.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Apparently Danell Leyva looks like Justin Bieber

This is how I'm entertaining myself while I wait for NBC to air the men's all-around competition.

Another look at the 2012 Olympic all-around medalists.

Gold medalist: Christina Aguilera

Silver medalist: Madeleine Albright

Bronze medalist: Justin Bieber

Clearly, Danell is the manliest of the three, and that's saying a lot since his closest doppelgänger is Justin Bieber.

Personally, I'd rather look like Justin Bieber than one of these guys...

Clearly not enough hair gel.

My mom always told me that, if you cowboy, your face will freeze that way.

 On top of his face... I see London! I see France! I see Claudio's underpants!

There are so many photo galleries of the Olympics and so little time. Someone has to go through all of them and find the doozies.