Monday, January 21, 2013

Update: The FIG has spoken. Yamawakis DO exist.

Things that DON'T exist:

A video of McKayla Maroney competing a triple-twisting Yurchenko.

A video of Epke Zonderland doing a gazillion releases.

Manti Te'o's girlfriend. (Leave it to Tony to go there.)

Things that DO exist:

An employee at USAG with a sense of humor
(Someone had to choose this horse-like thumbnail for the YouTube video.)

Gymnasts with too much time on their hands
(If this video is doctored, I'll be sad, but it won't change the fact that gymnasts have too much time on their hands.)

And Yamawakis

(Explanation and commentary after the jump.)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NCAA Standings Week 2

Adrian de los Angeles at the 2012 Visa Championships

Top Team Scores This Week

1. Penn State, 440.9
2. Stanford, 438.25
3. Oklahoma, 433.45
4. Michigan, 431.3
5. Illinois, 427.75
– Ohio State, 427.75
7. Cal, 425.9
8. Minnesota, 425.75
9. Iowa, 422.35
10. Nebraska, 421.9

Team Average

1. Penn State, 443.875
2. Stanford, 431.625
3. Michigan, 431.3*
4. Oklahoma, 428.475
5. Ohio State, 427.75*
6. Illinois, 426.6
7. Minnesota, 425.75*
8. Iowa, 422.35*
9. Nebraska, 420.4
10. Cal, 418.525

An asterisk (*) indicates that this team has competed in only one meet.

Top All-Around Scores This Week

1. Adrian de los Angeles, Michigan, 88.4
2. Eddie Penev, Stanford, 87.2
3. Rohan Sebastian, Michigan, 86.75
4. Trevor Howard, Penn State, 86.15
5. Yoshi Mori, Illinois, 85.7
6. Jesse Glenn, Army, 84.85
7. Matt Felleman, Penn State, 84.1
8. Kyle Zemeir, Cal, 84.05
– Kevin Wolting, Cal, 84.05
10. Joey Peters, Illinois, 83.05


(I'll add more videos throughout the week as people upload them.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

NCAA Gymnastics Bingo

Play NCAA Gymnastics Bingo as you watch the meets this weekend. (You can find a schedule here.) The GymCastic crew and I have compiled a list of things you're likely to see this weekend. Cross out the boxes as they happen, and see if the meets are as predictable as we think they'll be.

For the men's gymnastics fans, I apologize. In order to watch the meets, we actually have to go to attend them. A few rare videos have popped up this week.

The University of Nebraska: Vault and Parallel Bars
The University of Nebraska: High Bar and Floor
The University of Nebraska: Pommel Horse and Rings
Penn State: Highlights
Penn State: Mackenzie Dow on High Bar (including a stretched Kovacs)
Penn State: Mackenzie Dow on Pommel Horse
Ohio State: Preview Video
Illinois: Alex Varga on Floor

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cal vs. Stanford: The First of Many Matchups

Haas Pavilion was packed on Sunday afternoon for the first of five matchups between Stanford and Cal this season.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Yeah... the pavilion was somewhat depressing, but it should have been packed because who would want to miss the opportunity to see high-level gymnastics for FREE?


Anyway, Cal lost to Stanford: 425.000 to 411.150. As the scores indicate, it was a rather decisive victory for the Cardinal gymnasts, who basically swept the individual titles as well. (Cal's Jeffrey Langenstein tied Stanford's Eddie Penev for the floor title. That was the only first place finish for the Bears.) Generally speaking, if a college team is going to be in the hunt, it needs to score 70 or above on almost every apparatus. Cal, unfortunately, fell short of that mark on five of the six events. Their best team performance was on floor exercise, where they bested Stanford with a 72.650.

Kevin Wolting, 14.5

Even though they lost, Cal has a lot to be proud of. Their team is made up of mostly freshmen--13 of their 20 gymnasts are freshmen--and for their youth, they posted a very respectable team score. Unfortunately, I do not think that the Bears will take home the NCAA title this year, but I do think that their program is building steam again. I'm curious to see the strength of the team in about 2 years.


As for Stanford, the Cardinal did not have the meet they wanted to have. As Thom Glielmi said, "We definitely started slow. Being the first meet, that's understandable to some extent but we really have to work on our mental approach a bit more." By that, he means, "We have to stop falling." Stanford's first outing was riddled with falls. Sean Senters fell twice on floor, with another landing that ended with a questionable prone fall. Both John Martin and Gabriel Alvarado fell off pommel horse. Eddie Penev fell on his vault. Cameron Foreman fell on his straddle Tkatchev and his double-twisting double layout on high bar. (Cameron, you'll never read this, but I think that I jinx you. Whenever I watch you compete, you fall off high bar. It's like science or something.)

And those were just a few of the falls. Now, a fall does not necessarily mean disaster, if the other gymnasts can rally. That's really what's key, and at times, Stanford showed promise. For instance, Stanford frankly had a rather dismal high bar rotation. At the beginning of the fifth rotation, Jonathan Deaton and Chris Turner both fell on their Kovacs (Turner wasn't even close), which could have spelled disaster for junior Paul Hichwa, who has both a Kolman and a Kovacs in his routine. But after seeing his teammates fall, Hichwa caught both his big releases, attempting to salvage a disappointing high bar rotation for the Cardinal.

Sean Senters, 15.050

If Stanford wants to be National Champions, they need more gymnasts who do not become flustered when they see their teammates fall. This ultimately will help their team score, which suffered from a lack of scores in the 15s. Penev's 15.650 on floor, Senters's 15.050 on vault, Fosco's 15.3 on rings, and Nolff's 15.0 on rings will not be enough if they want to defeat Penn State at the end of the season. (Penn State, by the way, posted a whopping 446.85 this weekend with 17 scores of 15+. We'll see if they can remain that exceptional throughout the season.)

That said, it's still early in the season, so we will see what happens.

My biggest concern...

My biggest concern for both teams is their health. More specifically, I'm worried about the gymnasts' knees. On floor exercise, the trend is to do a lot of twisting in combination. Unfortunately, I saw a lot of gymnasts twisting right off the ground (a big no-no), as well as many who were still twisting as they're feet are hitting the ground (an even bigger no-no). Those two things, in and of themselves, are recipes for disaster, but I also saw a few gymnasts take off with their shoulders cockeyed (one shoulder lower than the other). When that happens, the gymnast no longer flips perpendicular to the ground, but at a funky angle, making for awkward landings, which increase the likelihood of knee injuries.

Eddie Penev, 15.650

No one likes to see a gymnast get hurt, and during the meet, Tanner Dowell went down on a 2 1/2 twist on floor, grabbing his knee. (So far, I haven't seen an update on his condition.) Jeffrey Langenstein already wears a knee brace, and Eddie Penev has had knee problems in the past. I'm praying to the gym gods that, with a little more conditioning, the gymnasts will be completing those twists without a problem. Please pray with me.

Team scores from the weekend

Penn State: 446.85 (HOLY MOTHER OF NADIA!)
Illinois: 425.45
Stanford: 425.00
Oklahoma: 423.5
Nebraska: 418.9
Cal: 411.150
Air Force: 405.5
Army: 404.15
Arizona State (Club): 392.3
University of Illinois-Chicago: 385.75

The top all-around scores from the weekend

Eddie Penev, Stanford: 85.200
Joey Peters, Illinois: 84.650
Jesse Glenn, Army: 82.550
Alec Robin, Oklahoma: 80.950
CJ Schaaf, Nebraska: 80.900
Sean Senters, Stanford: 80.200

(I apologize if I missed a few 80+ scores. I'm not a very good database.)

Preview of Week 2

This weekend, the majority of the teams will be competing on Saturday, January 19. We shall see if Penn State can continue to dominate, and I'm curious to see how Michigan will fare.

  • 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

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pommel Horse Primer: What the H is a Mikulak?

Pop Quiz: In 2012, which American gymnast had a pommel horse skill named after him?

A. Jake Dalton
B. Danell Leyva
C. John Orozco
D. Alex Naddour
E. Sam Mikulak

Yes, E. Sam Mikulak. (If you didn't glean that information from the title of this post, please go ahead and gently smack your forehead with the palm of your hand a couple of times.)

In September, the internet was abuzz and rightfully so. The FIG had just recognized the "Mikulak" as a skill, and since it's not every day that an American has a pommel horse skill named after him, it was kind of a big deal in the gymnastics community.

But what is the Mikulak? For the answer to that question, let us turn to the the USAG press release, which offered this explanation of the skill:
Along with a wicked animated gif:
I don't know about you, but I adore the gif and got lost during the press release. Forward leg swings? Backwards leg swings? Pendulum swings? Too many technical terms! Too many spatial reasoning skills! I just can't deal with all that jazz today... So, let's break it down. (By the way, to be fair to USAG, you can't really break down a skill in a press release.)

The Double Scissors

As the USAG press release indicated, the basis of the Mikulak is a double scissors. The only problem is this: If you don't know what a double scissors is, you're kind of el-screwed-o. JK, as the kids say. Have no fear! It's really not as complicated as you might think. In fact, it does not take a member of Mensa to figure it out. Give it a shot. I'm sure you can figure it out.

Yup, it's because the gymnast's legs scissor twice.


If you've watched Americans compete on pommel horse in the past 4 years, you've probably seen a double scissors.  In 2012, Jake Dalton did one. So did Paul Ruggeri. And before that, Sasha Artemev performed one in Beijing. The real trick, though, is being able to see both scissors while you're watching the skill. Can you do it? Take a look...

Still not seeing two scissors? Let's break it down even further:

As you can see in the first sequence, Sasha's left foot moves to the back and his right foot moves to the front. Then, he does a quarter turn so that he can scissor his legs again. During the second scissors, Sasha brings his feet back to their original position. His left foot moves over the top of his right foot, bringing his left foot closer to the camera and his right foot farther away from the camera. In addition, he does another quarter turn, which points his belly button in the opposite direction.

Voilà, a double scissors (a B skill in 2013). When you watch it in real time, it looks almost like the gymnast is doing a tour jeté on the pommel horse. Unfortunately, when gymnasts are learning a double scissors, it doesn't always look as graceful as a tour jeté. Exhibit A:
Honestly, this kid's probably hamming it up for the girls in the gym. When you really hurt your giblets, you're down for the count.

The Mikulak

Ok, now that we have an idea of what a double scissors is (and the possible injuries that one might incur while learning the skill), we can move on to the Mikulak. Basically, the Mikulak is the same thing: a double scissors, but instead of staying in the same place, the gymnast travels from one end of the pommel horse to the other by hopping. I repeat: the gymnast must hop. There must be a moment when the gymnast's hands are no longer touching the pommel horse.

Oh, yeah, and the gymnast has to keep his momentum going. (I sound like Tim Daggett when I say that, don't I?) Immediately after the hop, he needs to do another skill out of it. That ain't easy to do. Yet, despite the difficulty, I anticipate that during the 2013 competitive season, a few gymnasts might try to incorporate a Mikulak. For some, it could be an upgrade. (A double scissors is a B skill, while a Mikulak is a D skill.)

Dear Gymnasts,

If you are trying to learn a Mikulak, I recommend wearing a jockstrap and a cup. That second pommel may be hard to clear. But only take these measures if you want to sire children at some point.

As for the rest of you, knock yourself out. And make sure that you place your mishaps on YouTube. As the Michigan men's team showed us, gym fans love watching montages of crashes.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pommel Horse Primer: What the H is a Li Ning?

Well, kiddos, I tried to put together a few lists for the new year. I got as far as "Best On-Air Nose Pick,"

"Most likely to use Snapchat in 2013,"

and "Best Gymnastics Fans Ever"

before I got bored. So, I decided to continue the pommel horse primer series. (Parallel bars will be next!) Last time we checked in with the pig, we were discussing scissors. Today, we'll continue talking about scissors by discussing what the heck a Li Ning is.