Thursday, February 14, 2013

What's Hot: The American Floor Edition

Since it's New York Fashion Week, I thought that I would share some of the trends that you'll be seeing in 2013. Here's what's hot on floor this winter:

1. Double Arabians

Back in the 90s, double Arabians were a "girly skill," in that guys weren't really doing them, but many of the women were. Fast forward two decades, and Arabian double fronts are like the Furbies of the gymnastics world–they're so hot right now.

And it makes sense. If you want to include an F tumbling pass in your routine, which would you rather do: a Tamayo (a stretched double Arabian), double-twisting double pike (with both twists on the first flip) or a double-twisting double layout? Personally, I'd go with the first one; it seems easier because it has fewer twists.

Of course, as gymnasts work up to a Tamayo, they learn the entire progression of double Arabians–tuck, pike, and then stretched. And since all three skills have rather high values–a tucked double Arabian is a D, a piked double Arabian is an E, and a Tamayo is an F–gymnasts put different variations of the skill in their routines.

2. Twisting in connection

Truth be told, it's hard to do a routine full of Es and Fs. As a result, the men are trying to get as much combination bonus as possible. In order to do that, they have to connect a D salto to another salto. If both saltos are Ds or above, the gymnast gets +0.2. If only one of the saltos is a D+, he just gets +0.1.

So, you're going to see a few backward 3 1/2s (E) connected to another salto.
You're going to see a lot of front double fulls (D) connected to another salto.
You're going to see a lot of backward 2 1/2s (D) connected to another salto.
You're going to see a lot of triple twists (D) connected to a whip back.

There is one small problem with this... The judges are cracking that whip! (Finally!) If you don't get that twist all the way around, deduction! If your second salto is ass-height, deduction! If your second salto travels sideways across the floor, deduction!

So... How do you set yourself apart? You have a few options. You could wear some gaudy, bedazzled leotard designed by Vera Wang, which could work in figure skating, but since this is gymnastics, designer leos will not help your difficulty score. A more plausible option: you could get connection bonus through combinations that have not become hackneyed.

Here are a few ideas: most double salto combinations are relatively fresh. For instance, someone like Kristofer Done will connect a double front (D) to another skill. Someone like Chandler Eggleston will connect an Arabian double front (D) to another skill. Someone like Ioannis Melissanidis (Old school!) will connect a double layout (D) to a punch front. Someone slightly crazier like Stacey Ervin will connect a front double pike (E) to another skill. And someone completely mad like Steve Legendre will connect a front double full (D) to a double front (D) for two tenths of bonus.

I wonder whether... someone even more nutso than Legendre will come along and try to do, say, a double layout (D) into a punch double front (D) for an extra two tenths. (My achilles tore just thinking about it.)

3. Japanese handstands

On floor, the men have to perform a "non-acrobatic" element. This can include a press handstand. This can inclue flairs on floor. This can include Russians on floor. This can include a Maltese on floor. Right now (in America at least), almost everyone is performing a press to a Japanese handstand (or a wide-arm handstand). Like, seriously, everyone.

But it doesn't have to be this way. There are a lot of non-acrobatic skills in the Code of Points. Just watch a few Canadian routines. Exhibit A: Kyle Shewfelt...

His full-twisting backhandspring is a B. His jump full-turn to a prone fall is an A. Now that's HOT!

I know, I know. I can hear the nostalgists saying, "But Kyle was competing during a different era of gymnastics–the golden age when the perfect 10 existed and when gymnasts farted and rainbows and butterflies and unicorns came flying out. During those good, ol' days, gymnasts like Kyle could afford to include As and Bs in their routines."

Well, believe it or not, even under this terrible, no good, very bad scoring system, gymnasts like Canada's Joel Gagnon continue to hold onto those unique skills. Exhibit B:
His backwards 1.5 to a prone fall is a B.

These non-acrobatic skills are, I imagine, a hairy issue for the Men's Technical Committee. They are the vestiges of a more artistic era, so some want to hold onto them. Moreover, they help separate men's floor exercise from power tumbling. However, these elements are worth next to nothing, and in turn, they have become a requirement that most gymnasts do not want to include as part of their start value.

Personally, I'd love to see more of these non-acrobatic skills. The big question is, How do we encourage them to perform more of these elements?

Sidenote: Back in the late '90s, when car phones looked like giant bricks and I was putting together my first optional routines, gymnasts received C credit for a jump triple turn or a triple turn on one foot. This is no longer in the Code of Points. Should it be resurrected? Do you want to see men do that? I mean, it could be hilarious. Personally, I had many a Kim Kelly blooper while I was trying the skill.

4. A Thomas salto

I wonder how Kurt Thomas feels about his skill being used 30+ years later. Here's a look at Thomas performing the Thomas.
Nowadays, gymnasts are allowed only one roll-out skill, and since they are (thankfully) no longer allowed to perform the roll-out skills in combination, they are trying to maximize the difficulty by performing the hardest roll-out possible. Since there is only one E roll-out skill, men are drawn to the Korobchynski (a stretched Thomas). A few will be performing the easier version–a Thomas (tucked), which is a D.

5. Triple twist dismount

I do not have hard statistics, but I would guess that about 90% of the U.S. senior elites end with a triple twist. The element is a D, which fulfills the dismount requirement. But you know what?  There are other Ds in the Code. For instance... a double front, a front double twist, a full-twisting double back... And for those who want to get crazy, I recommend an E: a Randy (front 2 1/2). It's a highly under-utilized skill, and it'll probably feel good on the ankles.

Your take: Which skills would you like to see trending by summer 2013?


  1. Steven Lacombe of California does an Alvarino. He did it at Winter Cup (the rest of the routine was, well, you can see for yourself).

    A triple turn on foot is fine. Put it in the MAG code. I don't know what form of bizarro endocrinology some people have learned to convince themselves this is "for girls." I have two X chromosomes - I could not do one of those to save my life. If women can shoot guns in combat for the US army, men should have the balls to do triple turns on FX.

    I'm guessing guys don't do more non acrobatic elements because they take to long to perform relative to the score the gymnast gains from doing them. Extending the time limit could help there.

    The other problem is that some of the skills are probably overvalued (Japanese handstands) and others are just so not worth it (Alvarino).

    Whatever gets people the most points with the least difficulty will end up trending. That's just the way it is.

  2. Love floor exercise. Love everything on floor as long as it's done with beautiful execution. Love this post. But I hope to see more D+D combos though they might look like rushing through the railroad crossing.

  3. My recommendations:

    1. Some mechanism to reduce the amount of combination tumbling (perhaps no more than a single pass with single salto to single salto connection, double saltos to punches are exciting).

    2. Definitely get rid of the connected leap crap. and tighten up on the fast turn to prone fall which has been an issue for 30 years.

    3. Require two separate non acrobatic elements (only one of which may be any type of press handstand).

    4. More radical ideas: expand number of skills to higher than 10. (a way to allow more cool transitions).

    5. I agrea with you the some of the more pretty skills (e.g. Suter's full twisting dive roll are stunning and we miss them). Not sure how to bring them all back other than with compulsories. Some of them are maybe not even As, but are very cool looking (things like back roll to handstand piro)

    6. I'm not sure that I agree with getting rid of or devaluing the rollouts is so smart. there is so much creativity with some of them. They are easier in that there is less stick penalty danger...but they are inherently dangerous and thus exciting...and they are more fun to watch than the connected double full front to single full front crap.

    7. I would bring back the single arm handstand and give it a very high difficulty rating (probably have two versions, one legs apart and one not). It is BOTH inherently hard and LOOKS hard (thus is exciting).

    8. Total segue, but I would allow strength moves, pommel horse crap, Comanecis, side giants and all that on PBs (why stifle diversity?)

    9. Back to FX, I am OK with standing piros if they are manly Barishnokov 7 rubles. None of that Greek FX guy though.

  4. What's the value for Max Whitlock's flairs with a hop (are they called 'air flairs' or something?).

  5. I find ironic that, since the abolishing the compulsories in gymnastics, all the routines look a like.
    It seems like Ioannis Melissanidis' comeback never happened, uh?

  6. uncle tim sorry to post that in your blog becuase it's out of topic but I don't have a twitter or a tumblr so I can't post a comment on the GymCastics account. Just wanted to say that I love your prodcast and I was wondering if you could try to have Victoria Moors on the show. She seems to be a funny and down to earth girl who could give a very interesting interview, plus she's coached be Elvira Saadi.
    I'd also LOVE it if you could get Boginskaya but that's propalby a long shot

  7. I would like to the FIG change the requirements so we don't have to see 6 bloody tumbling rows.

  8. Don't you think that Jake Dalton's Tamayo is not really double arabian but half-in double back layout !? He twists very late.

    1. (Cross-posted at Coach Rick's GymnasticsCoaching Blog:)

      I agree. Under Appendix A.3(i) to the 2013-2016 Code:

      “Certain dynamic elements when poorly performed can be confused with other elements. Some typical examples include:
      i. On floor exercise, a double salto backward with 1/2 turn in each salto (Element Group III) versus a backward takeoff with 1/2 turn and then double salto forward with 1/2 turn (Element Group IV).
      . . .
      In such cases, the gymnast is obligated to demonstrate the element he wishes to show in a distinct and unmistakable manner. Failure to do so will always result in a large deduction from the E-jury and non-recognition by the D-jury (or . . . recognition as the lement and Group with the lower value and, in the [Floor] example above, as Element Group III).”

      Arabian skills (including the Tamayo) are described in the Code as beginning with a “[j]ump backward with 1/2 turn to” whatever saltos follow. And consistent with that description, the illustrations (which I know are not dispositive) for all of the Arabian skills in the Code show the 1/2 twist being completed before the first half of the following salto is completed. Dalton does not complete the 1/2 twist until his first salto is nearly completed. Whatever the line between an Arabian and an Element Group III skill, Dalton’s first pass at the American Cup falls within the core definition of a stretched back half in front out.

      Going forward, FIG would do well to clearly define the line between an Arabian and an Element Group III skill. (I’ve offered one possibility — the 1/2 twist must be completed before the first half of the salto is completed.) Or better yet, FIG should take Rick’s, Abie Grossfeld’s, and others’ advice to recategorize the Element Groups on Floor by take-off rather than by timing of the twist. Experience shows that gymnasts who can do a double-double stretched could learn a Tamayo with much less difficulty than the other way around (i.e., gymnasts who can do a Tamayo would have much greater difficulty learning a double-double stretched). There is much less time to prepare for landing in a double-double than in a Tamayo, and the “blind landing” aspect of a Tamayo is weak — research shows that over 90% (if not more at the higher levels of difficulty) of aerial awareness is through kinesthetic sense, not sight. (Credit for this point goes to Abie Grossfeld.)

      Having spoken to other USA FIG judges about it, the most likely explanation why Dalton got credit [for a Tamayo at the American Cup] is a common phenomenon that occurs on many international judging panels: at least at meets other than OG and WC, when a gymnast from the host country competes, non-host-country judges on the panel are reluctant to take away credit for a skill. (If there’s a host-country judge on the panel, the non-host-country judges often wait to see what the host-country judge does: if the host-country judge takes away credit, then the other judges will go along with that decision. But if the host-country judge does not take away credit, there’s pressure — whether real or imagined — for the other judges not to take away credit.) That is a sad state of affairs and certainly does not reflect my approach to judging.

    2. I don't know who you are, Mr. Judge, but I like you. Thanks for taking the time to type all this out!