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.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pommel Horse Primer: Traveling Russians


Russians 201: Traveling Russians


If you've ever watched a pommel horse routine, you know that the gymnasts do not stay in one spot. (If you've never seen a pommel horse routine, you might want to watch a couple before reading this blog. Just a suggestion.) This is called traveling, and what you have to understand is that there are many ways to travel on a pommel horse.

Unfortunately, I cannot explain every single type of travel in a single post. If I did, you would probably find the nearest corner, curl up in a fetal position, and start rocking back and forth as you sing Rebecca Black's "Friday." So, today, I'm just going to explain two types of travels, both of which involve Russians and leather. Pay attention because there will be a quiz at the end.

The first is called a Tong Fei.

Originally performed in the early 80s, this skill is still being competed by elite gymnasts, and it's still a rather difficult move (a D).  Basically, the gymnast starts a Russian, and as he does so, he travels from one end of the pommel horse to the other. What sets the Tong Fei apart is that the gymnast does not touch the center of the pommel horse, but rather reaches from one end to the other end. That ain't easy.

The second traveling Russian I want to mention is called a Wu Guonian.

In order to do a Wu Guonian, the gymnast must touch all 3 leather parts of the horse. (In the Code of Points, this is written as 3/3), and as the gymnast travels down the horse, he must do 2 Russians (720º). Typically, the gymnast will initiate the first Russian as he reaches over the first pommel, finish the first Russian in the middle, and then initiate the second Russian as he reaches over the second pommel, finishing on the opposite end with both hands on the leather.

The Wu is slightly harder than the Tong Fei, so it's an E.

Russians 201: Final Exam


All right, these moves are pretty easy to see in an animated gif, but can you see them in a routine? (I feel like a first grade teacher right now. Afterwards, I promise that you can have a snack and nap time.) Watch Andrey Likhovitskiy's routine from the 2012 Swiss Cup and see if he does any of the traveling Russians.


Did you see them? Yes, "them." He does both a Tong Fei and a Wu. The Tong Fei appears at the 0:16 mark, and the Wu, at the 0:22 mark.


Okay, let's try another one. Here's Luis Sosa's routine from the 2012 Mexican Open. What do you notice?


Did you see his Wu at the 0:12 mark? No? Maybe watch again?

Hmm... Still not seeing it? Well, did you notice anything else? Maybe from Russians 101? (I'd be a terrible teacher if I didn't review.) Immediately after his Wu, he did a Russian 1080º (triple Russian), and at the 0:32 mark he did a Russian 720º (or double Russian).

So many spinny thingies!

Dear Reader,

I hope that I have not lost you. Traveling Russians are more difficult to spot than stationary Russians. (Hence, the label Russians 201 vs. Russians 101.) But I have faith in you, even if you do not have faith in yourself.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry! I promise there will be more "What the H" posts, which outline the basics. In the meantime, stay tuned for Russians 301!

xx,

Uncle Tim

I'm surprised bloggers haven't created Alexei Nemov "Hey Girl" memes.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pommel Horse Primer: What the H is a Russian?

Yes, yes, these are Russians:



But so are these:

Russians are basically the pommel horse equivalent of a dog chasing its tale. Woof. Because Russians look so funny, they are pretty easy to spot. (Even a men's gymnastics neophyte can pick out a Russian in a pommel routine.) So, I have chosen to start my pommel horse primer with the Russians.

Yes, you read that correctly. I plan to write several posts that break down the most boring event on earth, which means...

You'll no longer have an excuse to call every skill on pommel horse a "spinny thingy."

Don't worry. I understand how boring pommel horse is, so on my honor, I pledge to make this process as easy and painless as possible. Meaning: There will be many tacky animated gifs as well as many poorly Photoshopped images.

I should also note that I will not be able to cover every single move in the Code of Points. (Believe it or not, the Gymternet is not a real employer! If it were, I might try to be more thorough.) But I will try to mention skills that many elite gymnasts are performing, and well, many gymnasts are performing Russians. So, let's get started by discussing Russians on the leather.

Yes, yes, this is a Russian in leather, but tell me that your mind didn't go there. Mine certainly did.

Russians 101: Stationary Russians


A Russian can be done almost anywhere on the horse. You can do a Russian on the pommels. You can do a Russian on one pommel. You can do a Russian on the leather on the end. You can do a Russian on the leather between the pommels. Some places are considered more difficult than others. For instance, a Russian on the end is considered one of the easier places to do a Russian.

Besides location, the difficulty of a Russian is based on the number of times a gymnast spins around. The more you spin, the more difficult the Russian is. In the animated gif below, Anderson Loran goes around 3 times (1080º), and since he does it on the end of the pommel horse, his Russians sequence is considered a D. (Had he done 2 revolutions, it would have been a C. Had he done 1 revolution, it would have been a B.)


Now, let's take a look at a training video that John Orozco put together.


John spins around 3 times, and he does it between the pommels (in the "saddle" of the horse), which makes it slightly harder than Anderson Loran's sequence. A 1080º Russian between the pommels is an E. (Had he done 2 revolutions, it would have been a D. Had he done 1 revolution, it would have been a C.)

But, Uncle Tim, why are Russians between the pommels considered more difficult?

Good question, Tiny Tim. Well, for two reasons. First, when doing the skill on the end, the gymnast has to clear the pommels only once during a revolution. However, when a gymnast performs a Russian between the pommels, he has to lift his legs over the pommels twice per revolution, which gives him more opportunities to whack his legs on a pommel.

Second, when working between the pommels, a gymnast typically has less surface area to work with.

Because of the smaller surface area, the gymnast's hand placements need to be more precise. On the end of the pommel horse, where there is more space, a gymnast has a little more wiggle room in terms of hand placement, making things a little bit more comfortable. It's like the difference between wearing sweat pants (end of the pommel horse), relaxed fit jeans (saddle), and hipster-tight skinny jeans (working on one pommel, which we did not discuss today).

Dear Reader,

I know that you were hoping to find a Photoshopped image of Alexei Nemov in skinny jeans. Admit it. Unfortunately for you, I believe that skinny jeans are cruel and unusual punishment. No human being deserves that torture--not even if it is doctored.
xx,
Uncle Tim

Well, kiddos, there you have it: your first pommel horse lesson. It wasn't that bad, was it? Now, go out and celebrate! Just try not to look like this clown, will ya?


No offense, Mr. Colbert, but if I ever see a woman do this dance move in her floor routine, I might stop watching women's gymnastics.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The 2012-13 NCAA Schedule

I-L-L! I-N-I! Still jazzed about the fact that my alma mater won last year!

Do you live near one of these cities?

  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Annapolis, MD
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Brockport, NY
  • Champaign, IL
  • Chicago, IL
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Columbus, OH
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Iowa City, IA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Lincoln, NE
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Norman, OK
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Seattle, WA
  • Springfield, MA
  • Stanford, CA
  • Tucson, AZ
  • University Park, PA
  • West Point, NY
  • Williamsburg, VA

If you do, you should go to an NCAA meet! I myself am hoping to make it to a few meets at Stanford and Cal (and maybe the Winter Cup), so expect a few craptastic videos taken from the stands.

Below, you'll find a list of NCAA meets. As of today (November 14), the University of Illinois at Chicago has yet to confirm its schedule, so there might be a few meets added here and there. Please note: The team listed first and printed in bold for each meet is the host team. Also, I placed an asterisk (*) by a few meets where the scheduling seemed dubious.

December 1
  • Air Force Intrasquad

December 2
  • Iowa Intrasquad

December 7
  • Michigan Intrasquad
  • William & Mary Intrasquad

December 8
  • OSU Intrasquad

December 9
  • Illinois Intrasquad

December 14
  • PSU Gymnastics Showcase
  • ASU Intrasquad

January 11
  • Minnesota Alumni Meet

January 12
  • Air Force | ASU | Oklahoma | Nebraska (Rocky Mountain Open, Colorado Springs, CO)
  • UIC | Illinois
  • OSU Alumni Exhibition
  • Penn State | Army

January 13
  • Cal | Stanford
  • State Open, William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA

January 19
  • Stanford | Cal | Nebraska | Oklahoma (Stanford Open, Stanford, CA)
  • UIC | Illinois | Iowa | Michigan | Minnesota | OSU (Windy City Invitational, Chicago, IL)
  • Navy | Penn State | Springfield | William & Mary (Navy Open, Annapolis, MD)
  • Air Force | Army

January 25
  • Illinois | Iowa | Oklahoma | OSU (Metroplex Challenge, Fort Worth, TX)

January 26
  • Minnesota | Air Force
  • Michigan | Stanford

January 27
  • Nebraska | UIC
  • Springfield | Temple
  • Navy | William & Mary

February 1-2
  • Army | ASU | Temple | Navy | William & Mary  (West Point Open, West Point, NY)

February 1
  • Washington | Air Force

February 2
  • Michigan | Cal
  • Minnesota | Nebraska | UIC
  • Iowa | Oklahoma
  • Penn State | OSU

February 7-9
  • Winter Cup, Las Vegas, NV

February 8
  • Iowa | Minnesota

February 16
  • Oklahoma | Minnesota
  • Illinois | Iowa
  • OSU | Michigan
  • Temple | William & Mary | Penn State
  • Army | Air Force | Navy (All-Academy Championships, Atlanta, GA)

February 17
  • Stanford | Cal
  • New England Invitational Championships, Springfield, MA

February 23
  • Stanford | Cal
  • Oklahoma | Air Force
  • Iowa | Nebraska
  • OSU | Illinois
  • ASU | Michigan
  • Army | Navy
  • Penn State | Springfield

February 24
  • UIC | Minnesota

March 1
  • UIC | Air Force*

March 2
  • Stanford | Japanese National Collegiate Team | Cal | Washington | ASU
  • Minnesota | Iowa
  • Illinois | Penn State
  • Army | William & Mary

March 3
  • Nebraska | Oklahoma
  • SUNY-Brockport | Temple
  • UIC | Air Force*
  • Springfield | William & Mary

March 8
  • Illinois | Minnesota
  • ASU | Air Force | Washington
  • Puerto Rico | Penn State, San Juan, PR

March 9
  • Michigan | Oklahoma
  • OSU | UIC
  • Army | Springfield | Stanford
  • Navy | William & Mary

March 10
  • Cal | Temple

March 14
  • Air Force | Temple

March 16
  • Cal | Illinois
  • Nebraska | Iowa | Minnesota
  • Penn State | Michigan
  • Air Force | Washington
  • Springfield | Army
  • William & Mary | Navy

March 17
  • UIC | Temple
  • Springfield | Army

March 23
  • Minnesota | Penn State
  • Oklahoma | OSU
  • Illinois | Nebraska
  • Michigan | UIC | SUNY-Brockport
  • Temple | Army | Navy

March 29-30
  • College Nationals, Williamsburg, VA

March 30
  • Iowa | UIC

April 5-6
  • Big 10 Championships, Sports Pavilion, Minneapolis, MN
  • ECAC Championships, Springfield, MA

April 6
  • MPSF Conference Championships, Air Force, Colorado Springs, CO

April 19-21
  • NCAA Championships, Rec Hall, Penn State, University Park, PA

By the way, I totally stole this idea from The Couch Gymnast. For a master list of women's NCAA meets, click here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

American Anthem - Part 5

Last time we checked in with the talented gymnasts-turned-actors, Mitchy and Barbie had a big fight, which resulted in some serious leaning on Mitchy's part. But you know what? I believe that things can change. After all, it's a new day in Arizona.
Oh, geez, that's deeper than a Bob Ross painting.

Unfortunately, before Mitchy can start anew, he has to take care of a few things at home. Like showing his dad who's boss. After getting all muddy and then striking out with Barbie, he comes home the next morning only to see MILF the Mom driving away and to find his little brother Mikey crying outside. Not sure what's up, Mitchy runs inside and finds broken vases on the floor. His dad is stewing in the kitchen, and Mitchy is FED. UP. He pushes his dad against the wall and tells him to get the hell out of there. He then turns around and tells his little brother to "GET THE FUCK OUT."



I'm not sure if we are supposed to applaud Mitch for his valor or if we are supposed to notice that the cycle of violence and abuse has been passed onto the next generation. In either case, we are supposed to feel something during this scene, and I did--just not what I was supposed to feel. Being the irreverent asshole that I am, I laughed during the entire scene because Mitch Gaylord shows anger by making chipmunk faces OVER...


...and OVER

...and OVER
I don't know if we should call him Mitchmunk or Chip-n-Mitch or what.

Anyway, Mikey, Mitch's little brother, really does get the fuck out of the house. (They're so literal at that age.) And he decides to go joyriding on his three-wheeler ATV. Yes, that's right. The lad's like 8 and has an ATV. (Oh, and did I mention that his family's poor? Yet, somehow, they can afford an ATV, several large, gas-guzzling vehicles, and, as we'll see in a bit, a dirt bike.) In all honesty, the little guy should probably stick to the tricycles because after spending all of 2 seconds on the machine, he crashes. But since stubbornness runs in the family, Mikey gets up and presses on.

Mitch, thinking he's Jackie Joyner Kersee, decides to run to catch up to his brother. But he quickly realizes that he ain't no track star. So, he sprints back to the house. Of course, he can't just sprint back to the house. Oh, no, he's got to whip off his jacket, unveiling his back muscles--WOOF!--and his tank top, which, last time I checked, was covered in mud from doing high bar in the rain.

Now, it's white as snow. When did he have time to clean up and change?

At the house, a dirt bike just happens to be awaiting him...
...along with a motorcycle jacket. (If there's one thing Mitch Gaylord can do, it's a quick costume change.) Since he's Mitch Fuckin' Gaylord, he, of course, catches up to his little brother, but he can't stop little Mikey. However, once Mikey realizes that he's running out of terrain, he bails. This sends his bike careening off a cliff, and after a few log rolls into a backwards roll, Mikey goes flying off the cliff too.

Mitchmunk reappears...
His face is clean here.

...and he runs to see if his brother is still alive.

His face is clean here.
Mikey is. (This film, after all, was made in the 80s, when movie directors were supposed to inculcate morals--not kill off characters with adorable mullety hair.) Mini Mullet Mitch is hanging onto a stick that happens to be jutting out the side of the cliff, and Mitch, of course, has to pull Mikey up from the cliff. 'Cause that's what badass protagonists do.

You know what else badass protagonists do? They listen to their little brothers. While straddling his little brother (Yes, you read that correctly), Mitch pulls off the little guy's helmet, and Mini Mullet Mitch says, "You shouldn't have told Dad to leave." And in that moment, the heavens open; the angels begin to sing; and Mitch sees the light. All of his animosity towards his father just disappears. He, like Mikey, realizes that he just wants things to be like they once were.

Folks, I hope you're taking notes because American Anthem just taught us some important family values. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on expensive family therapy. You don't need to sit on a couch and talk to some quack. Just do a backwards roll off a cliff, and all your family turmoil will disappear!

By the way, if I have to watch another scene in which Mitch Gaylord attempts to cry, I might do a backwards roll off a cliff.
His face is super dirty here. How the eff did that happen?
Directors, you should know this: you never, ever give an inexperienced actor a crying scene. It's 99.9% of the time painful to watch, and to make matters worse, apparently only Mitch's right tear duct works.

While Mitch is having an epiphany, the Tops gymnasts are getting ready to hop on a bus and head to Phoenix, and Mitch is nowhere in sight. Oh noes! Will Mitch make it to the meet? Maybe Coach Man Boobs and Cowboy Kirk are "driving separately," and they can "give him a ride."
Who the eff staged this scene? When is squatting appropriate?

Oh, that's right. Mitch has his own wheels, which miraculously reappear. As you might recall, Mitch rode a dirt bike to the edge of the cliff, but when we next see him, he's driving his windowless, doorless, American-made P.O.S. How that I happened, I don't know. I really get the sense that the directors just stopped giving a shit at the end of this movie.

By another stroke of luck, Mitch and MILF the Mom just happen to cross paths. Mikey runs over to his mom, who reveals that she's going back to her abusive husband. (Hip hip hooray! This movie teaches us so many great lessons about family values!) No longer worried about his mother's safety, Mitch reveals his own great news: he's going to Phoenix to compete.

Then, Oedipus winks at his mom.

His face is clean here.

Until this point in the movie, there have been several "WTF" moments--the wink being one of them--but the biggest WTF moment happens in the next scene. We find ourselves in Phoenix where the gymnasts are getting ready for competition, and Bitchface Becky wanders away from the group. As we know, she has been putting in long hours at the gym, and her training looked really good. So, we would never expect that

Becky's pregnant with Mitch's baby!

Just kidding. Becky isn't Emily Kmetko, and this isn't Make It or Break It. Becky, it turns out, has had a knee injury all along.
Say what!? Where did THAT come from!?

Mitch, of course, makes it to Phoenix in time for the meet, and Barbie, of course, happens to bump into him in the hallway. They start making out while Kirk watches them from afar.

Mitch tries to apologize to Julie, but she shushes him, which, of course, teaches girls a very valuable lesson: Men do not have to apologize when they are complete assholes.

Next, we get some awesome shots of the audience members. The entire biker gang has made the trek to Phoenix.
And so has Ginger Friction, whose hair is looking rather poodle-y.

And then the competition begins. Danny Squire, who shall be renamed Chewbacca because of his abnormal amount of body hair, does a whoosh-whoosh-giant into a whoosh-whoosh full-twisting double back, which is stuck with an UHHHH grunt. (You gotta love the sound effects in gymnastics movies.) He's awarded a 9.85 on rings.

Next up: Mitch Fuckin' Gaylord, but before he can be hoisted up on the rings, the directors decide to fill time with some gratuitous, wanton homoerotic glances from Kirk.
Since Kirk saw Steve and Julie making out, he knows that Steve is off the market, but hey! It's okay to look, right?

I'm curious about the fashion choice for the final competition. Why all white? Sure, it shows off your abs, but it also shows off the fact that it's cold in the gym and you're nipping out as a result. Plus, I feel like you should be allowed to wear all white if and only if you are a virgin, which Mitch is not.

During Steve's routine, there's a lot of whoosh-whooshing, some really shitty strength holds, and a full-twisting double "layout," which is really piked. He has a slight hop back and a HUUUUGE grunt on his dismount. He gets a 9.80. OH NO! He's 0.05 behind!



Over on the balance beam, Becky Cameron scores a 9.80 after performing a routine with no whoosh-whooshing, but a grunt on the dismount. The Hoff seems to be happy with that.

Then, we get our first glance at "The Flash." (That's movie's nickname for her--not mine.) She's the number one gymnast in the United States, and she's up on balance beam. Even though she has a nickname that's just about as crappy as the names of the female American Gladiators (Ice, Storm, Blaze, Zap...), I still like her--mostly because she does one of those old school, cockeyed salutes.
Like Becky, The Flash is not privvy to the whoosh-whooshing sound effects, but The Flash does grunt when she lands. Afterwards, Barbie says, "That was beautiful," and then gives Becky a huge bitch face.

Lesson learned: You should forgive your abusive asshole of a boyfriend, but you should not forgive your female friend who calls you out when you flake on her. Barbie clearly has great priorities.

Over on floor exercise, Anna Li's dad is competing.
And instead of commentators, we once again are treated to Kirk's facial expressions.

Kirk is the Lauren Tanner of the show. He'll kill you if he has to.

Of course, Kirky Boo Boo Child doesn't give Mitch the same dirty looks. Oh, no. Before Mitch performs on floor, Kirk stares at Mitch's crotch in the same way that a hungover frat boy stares at a greasy, juicy, plump breakfast sausage. 'Cause that's what male gymnasts do. 'Cause every male gymnast ever known to man is gay. Just ask Google.


Google search never, ever lies. *Eye Roll*

Unfortunately for Steve, the homoerotic glances aren't good luck charms 'cause he definitely does his backhandsprings with bent knees.

A 9.75 for him, which, I guess, is good. At least, Kirk thinks so, and he gives Steve a high five before leaning in to kiss him.
So handsy!
 Just kidding. But doesn't it look like Kirk is about to kiss him?

From there, we head to the balance beam where Barbie is performing. She does a round-off backhandspring stepout mount. Later on, she does a backhandspring stepout into a layout stepout, and she ends with a double full. Just like Mitch, she gets a 9.75. OMG! TWINSIES! They were meant to be together!


I realize that this is inappropriate, but I'm making a point: the writers, editors, and director went out of their way to sexualize Barbie. No other female character spreads her legs as much as Barbie does. Seriously. Just wait until floor exercise!

After balance beam, Julie finds herself in third place, and after floor exercise, Mitch finds himself in 7th place. Kind of. You see, the movie is trying to be tricky. It wants you to believe that Mitch is in 7th place overall, but we gym fans know better. Mitch had the 7th highest floor score, which doesn't necessarily mean that he is 7th in the all-around after 2 rotations.

At this point in the meet, things start to drag on. So, instead of recapping every routine for you, I'll just summarize what we learn. First, we learn that improper matting was not just a problem on the 2012 Kellogg's Tour; it was also a problem at the 1987 U.S. National Championships. Look at Becky using the men's landing mats as a runway.

We also learn that the women in this movie really suck at vaulting.
 Like, really suck.

 Is she an ostrich with her head buried in the mat?

Even though their vaulting is less than stellar, the gymnasts are super good at other things... like cowboying.

 Daaaaaang, they're good, aren't they?

Oh, and one more thing: we learn that Anna Li's dad started the men's gymnastics towel tradition.

Eventually it's time for Becky to take to the floor, but before she does, Barbie, of course, has to make her presence known. (Are you surprised? I mean, the world revolves around Barbie and her vagina in this movie.) Barbie puts one hand on Becky's shoulder, and without saying a word, she heals their relationship. Just like Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, Barbie knows how to make bitches get along.

Feeling freed of any lingering animosity between Barbie and her, Becky goes out there and does her floor routine. It appears that the directors did not understand much about gymnastics. You see, on Becky's hurt knee, she's able to do a front through to a double back, another double back, and a double full--without falling on her head. But she collapses to her knees after doing a jump double turn. (And when she does, she pounds her fists on the floor, throwing the biggest temper tantrum ever seen in gymnastics history, which is saying a lot, given recent temper tantrums in gymnastics...)

After her routine, the Hoff carries her off the floor. (Keep in mind that this was written long before Kerri Strug's iconic vault.) Of course, Barbie is there to comfort her BFF by checking to see if Becky has a fever.
Let's keep in mind that Becky has a knee injury. She's not dying of Malaria. So, why is Barbie checking her temperature?

Anyway, Barbie is next on floor, and she is set to do her old floor routine--the unforgettable one with the booty shake to the little-kid-circus music.

But all of a sudden, Ginger Friction, Julie's cousin, yells from the stands, and upon hearing his voice, Barbie is all like, "I'm taking my gymnastics career into my own hands. I know what's better for me than you do." And so she pulls Ginger Friction's 80s synthesizer music out of her bag and hands it to the lady standing by the boombox.

In case you can't tell, American Anthem is one of many 80s flicks that laud youths who dare to defy authority, but, unlike The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Footloose, etc., American Anthem has a secret weapon: Julie's high-cut leotards. They're the ultimate act of defiance. 

As I watched Julie's floor routine, I noticed something. I think that they gave her two leotards: one for tumbling, which actually fits her, and another for dancing, which makes her vagina play peek-a-boo with the camera. Look for yourself.

Peek-a-boo.

No peek-a-boo.


To make matters worse, whoever choreographed Barbie's routine decided that Janet Jones should spread her legs every 2 seconds.


That's only a fraction of the leg-spreading, which Ginger Friction is LOVIN' in the stands.

By the way, I LOVE that this meet is sponsored by Dunkin' Donuts.

Barbie has scored a 9.95, and she has won the meet, beating the Flash, who was ranked number 1 going into the meet!

OMG! I think that I just threw my shoulder out from cheering so hard!

Next up: Mitch Gaylord on high bar! Right before he goes, Coach Man Boobs tells him that he can't catch the leaders, but if scores a 9.85 or better, he'll finish third in the all-around. Last night, on his outdoor high bar, in the rain, he was really sucking. OMG OMG! Can he do it? OMG OMG!

Of course, Kirk thinks he can.

Despite Kirk's confidence in him, Mitch still has his doubts, but then, wonder of wonders! Miracles of miracles! Mitch's dad shows up out of no where to support his son. Once again, this is supposed to be a touching moment, but in my head, I'm doing the math. Could Mitch's dad made it to Phoenix in time? At the beginning of the meet, when the National Anthem was playing, Mitch's dad was still at home. And a trip between Flagstaff and Phoenix would take about 2 hours and 15 minutes by car, and we all saw the condition of the family's cars; they weren't exactly racing machines... So, maybe this is plausible?

Happy to see his dad, Mitch mounts the high bar, and he immediately starts grunting. (As gymnasts do.) And the crowd starts chanting, "10! 10! 10! 10!" (As crowds do during routines.) Amped, Mitchy does like 200,000 giants in preparation for his dismount, which is a clear sign that he's going to throw something big. But whatever could it be?

A triffus!
If your triffus looks like this, you're probably going to die.

And by triffus, I clearly mean a "full-twisting double back with an extra salto edited in." Of course, Mitch sticks the dismount cold, which results in a 10.0, the only one of the meet.

Mitch is in third and Chewbacca is in fourth!

The crowd goes wild! And so does Kirk, who comes from behind and awkwardly congratulates Mitch's left nipple while squealing in ecstasy.

Becky and Barbie go wild, as well! In fact, Mitch's routine brings Becky and Barbie even closer, teaching young girls that a man should be at the heart of every strong female friendship.


If this were the 2012 Olympics, there would be some judging inquiry, resulting in one final moment of suspense. But there isn't. Instead, the end of the movie is rather rushed. There's some hugging. There's zero dialogue, and before you know it, the gymnasts are on top of the podium, saluting because they made the National Team.
Half of these gymnasts we've never seen before.

The camera zooms in on the faces of a few of the gymnasts, and the very last frame of the film is an unflattering shot of Mitch Gaylord's double chin. Where the eff did that come from?

The End.

Well, it's kind of the end. You see, the depth of this movie is never-ending. The credits screen is a poop-brownish color, which makes me wonder, Was the symbolism intended?


Well, there you have it--American Anthem, as told by Uncle Tim. Let's cross our fingers and hope that some Hollywood movie producer decides to remake this gem. Even though it would probably bomb worse than Footloose 2011, I'd go and see it several times. In fact, depending on who's in it, I might even see it daily.


Gym gods, make this happen! In the name of Mitch and his Gaylord (AKA Kirk), Amen.