Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Evolution of High Bar Dismounts

The horizontal bar, a term that no one uses, is always a crowd favorite and for obvious reasons…

"Swing Some Pipe" would be a great name for a salacious gay bar, wouldn't it?


No, not those reasons! Contrary to what the Pro Gymnastics Challenge would have you believe, gymnasts do not have to be shirtless in order to titillate an audience. Even with his singlet on, Epke Zonderland brought the entire O2 Arena to its feet in 2012:

(Though I wouldn't complain if Epke did that routine shirtless.)

But I have one itty, bitty, Jonathan-Horton-sized Shang-Chunsong-sized bone to pick with Epke Zonderland. It's about that dismount. Why can't the Flying Dutchman and his fiery mane do a different dismount? Heck, why can't all the guys do a different dismount?

I mean, can you remember a time when the men didn't do a double-twisting double layout?

You'd have to be pretty old to remember that…


If Epke Zonderland were alive during the 1960s.

The 1960s were a time when dismounts were as varied as the flavors of Jello. In a single meet, you could see a guy do a back full (1960).

A front layout half (1960).

And a double tuck (1960).

During the 1960s, you might even see a guy do a full-twisting hecht dismount (1964).

CODE NERD ALERT! In the 1964 Code of Points, there were 3 classifications of skills: A was used for low difficulty skills, B for medium difficulty, and C for high difficulty. All four of the dismounts above were C parts in 1964. Today, these dismounts are among the easiest skills in the Code. The back full and the front half are A elements, while the double back and the hecht full are B elements. (The hardest dismount is an F.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Overcoming America's Culture of Bellyaching

It's hard to say when the U.S. male gymnasts and their coaches started whining.

At one point, the U.S. men were among the best in the world. Heading into the 1932 Olympics, the New York Times thought that the U.S. men had a "good" chance of winning medals. That sounds like a rather favorable prediction, but the newspaper's metric ranged from dubious to good to very good to excellent, which meant that the New York Times were rather cautious with its predictions when it came to American gymnastics. As it turned out, though, the U.S. men won the lion's share of the medals in Los Angeles, taking home silver in the team all-around in addition to Dallas Bixler's, George Roth's, George Gulack's, Raymond Bass's, and Rowland Wolfe's individual gold medals.

By 1970, however, the tone had changed. A culture of success had turned into a culture of insufferable and embarrassing bellyaching–usually misdirected at the victors. For many years, as the Americans spewed their complaints to the U.S. media, their comments were mixed with a heavy dose of jealousy, and sometimes, an extra layer of xenophobia and racism was added to the bile.

(And y'all think that a bunch of teenage girls sulking is bad…)

Let's take a look at some of the brilliant remarks over the years…