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 defines scissoring.

Clearly, 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?

* * * * *


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.

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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.

Uncle Tim

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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.