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.)


By the time 1970 rolled around, the double back had become somewhat yagalistic (to use the slang of the 70s). It was the dismount du jour, but thankfully, originality and risk were rewarded at the time. So, a few gymnasts tried to avoid carbon copy routines by doing unusual dismounts. Eberhard Gienger, for instance, used to do a double full (1972).

2013: B

In the name of originality and risk, Mitsuo Tsukahara unveiled a spiffy new dismount in the 1970s: the full-twisting double back. Here it is at the 1972 Olympics:

2013: C

Two years later at the 1974 World Championships, Nikolai Andrianov went bananas and threw the first triple back dismount. At least that's what I've been told over the years. I was not alive when that happened, and I have yet to see a video of Andrianov's triple. So, we'll just have to make do with Shinji Morisue's dismount from the 1980 Olympics.
2013: E


CODE NERD ALERT! When all three of these dismounts were unveiled, the Men's Technical Committee did not know how to handle them. Even though the skills were performed prior to the publication of the 1975 Code of Points, they were not included in that edition of the Code. It wasn't until the 1979 Code that these elements would appear. Like the 1964 Code of Points, the 1979 Code was built on A, B, and C parts. Both the double twist and the full-twisting double back were considered C parts, and any gymnast performing those dismount received bonus points for risk. The triple back was considered so hard that gymnasts received credit for 2-C parts, and the gymnast received risk bonus points on top of that.

/End Code Nerd Nonsense

As the 1970s carried on, the double full dismount more or less disappeared. The full-twisting double tuck, on the other hand, became the foxy mama of high bar dismounts in the 70s. It seemed like everyone was doing one until 1980 or so. 

Not everyone, though. A few brave and creative men continued to push the envelope. One Mr. Péter Kóvacs, for instance, threw a double front with a half twist out à la Nastia Liukin (but without the cowgirling):
1979: C–The same as a back double
2013: C

And Alexander Tkatchev threw a double layout.
1979: 2 Cs + Risk Bonus
2013: C


The 1980s were a time of wicked badassery as far as high bar dismounts went. As we'll see, some gymnasts were more successful than others when it came to performing their eponymous skills. Read: Some gymnasts did not perform pee-inducing dismounts, while others just chucked the skills and prayed to the gymnastics gods that they would land on their feet--much in the same way Fadwa Mohamed performs a handspring double front nowadays. Let's take a look at some of the developments from the 1980s…

By 1981, gymnasts like Noritoshi Hirata were performing full-twisting double layouts.

2013: D

It wasn't long, though, until a double-twisting double layout was attempted. If I'm not mistaken, Mitsuaki Watanabe debuted his eponymous skill at the 1983 World Championships.

2013: E

To be fair, it was more like a double-twisting double layout-ish, but the current Code of Points still calls it the Watanabe nonetheless.

Code Nerd Alert! What's interesting about both of these dismounts is the reaction of the Men's Technical Committee. Once again, the FIG did not know how to handle these dismounts. Even though both skills were performed prior to the 1984 Olympics, neither dismount appeared in the 1985 Code of Points. It wasn't until the 1989 Code of Points that both dismounts made an appearance, and even then, the Code didn't really accommodate for such a high level of difficulty. In the 1989-1992 Code, skills were divided into A, B, C, and D parts, and both the full-twisting AND the double-twisting double layout were considered D elements.

Which totally made sense.

'Cause a full-twisting double layout and a double-twisting double layout are equally as difficult… Duh.

/Mini Code Nerd Rant

In the second half of the decade, the more startling chucking. For instance, Ulf Hoffman decided that it would be fun to perform a triple back over the bar, and as you can see in this video from 1986, he did so with the form of a squatting sumo wrestler.

1989: D, which was the hardest at the time
2013: E, the same as a triple back and a triple pike

The look on his face says it all; he was just happy to make it to his feet. And that, my friends, is really what gymnastics is all about--being happy to make it to one's feet.

During the second half of the 80s, Maik Belle decided to throw what American Anthem called a "Triffus," which is a full-twisting triple back. Like I said before, there was some chucking going on in the late 80s, so watch this video from 1987 at your own risk.

1989: D, which was the hardest at the time
2013: F, one of the hardest dismounts in the Code

You know your dismount is pretty awesome when your coach cringes as you land.


I can't decide if I like 1980s Epke or 1990s Epke more. I'm strangely attracted to mullets.

When the 1990s began, the double-twisting double layout fad had not taken over men's gymnastics. Sure, a few men like Vitaly Scherbo, for instance, threw a Watanabe, but Trent Dimas and Grigori Misutin were doing Andrianovs. And John Roethlisberger was doing his unorthodox 1.5-twisting double front over the bar.

And then there was Sergei Rumbutis, who was in a league of his own. Rumbutis decided that he would take a triple back and reverse it. As you can see in the video below, his effort was reminiscent of the chuckers of the late 1980s.

CODE NERD ALERT! Once upon a time, the Code of Points listed potential skills in addition to skills that had already been performed. So, When Rumbutis performed a triple front, the skill had been listed in the Code of Points for quite some time. In 1985, for instance, it was a D skill. But it wasn't until the 1992 World Championships that someone actually performed the skill, and that man, of course, was Rumbutis. As a result, it was named after Rumbutis. Today, it's an F, which is one of the hardest dismounts being performed.

Speaking of F-ing hard dismounts… In the 90s, we also saw the triple-twisting double layout for the first time. Here's Sergei Fedorchenko performing it at the 1997 World Championships:
In the 1997-2000 Code, it was deemed one of the hardest skills. It was a Super E. (At the time, there were A through E elements, and then there were Super E elements.) Today, it is still one of the hardest high bar dismounts being performed. It, along with the Rumbutis and the Belle, is an F.


Nothing new happened during the 2000s. I just wanted to see Epke Zonderland in dreadlocks.

Have high bar dismounts maxed out?

As you may have gleaned from this brief history, today's dismounts have been around for quite some time. The triple back has been around since the 1970s. The double-twisting double layout has been around since the 1980s. The triple-twisting double layout has been around since the 1990s. And, well, we haven't really seen anything new for the past 15+ years.

But that doesn't mean risk and innovation are dead when it comes to dismounts. I have faith that I'll see a quadruple-twisting double layout in my lifetime. Here's Kyle Bunthuwong of the University of California attempting one into a pit.

A Note to Future Daredevils

Please don't make us fear for our lives when you do it. 


Gymnastics Fans Everywhere


  1. Don't know if you've seen it yet but speaking of HB, Koji Uematsu just did a Kolman-Kovacs- 1 1/2 Kovacs (Kolman 1/2?)

  2. Jason Furr did a tuck like kolman ... Btw no one does a kovacs like JASON FURR!!! Hands down higher and more elegant than any other gymnast out there!!!!