Saturday, July 13, 2013

2013 Universiades Qualifications Recapped: Where Do We Send Our Hate Mail?

What's that? You didn't have time to watch over 10 hours of gymnastics last week? And you call yourself a gymnastics fan? Hmm…

Just kidding. Let's put a dent in our ignorance, shall we? Here's a quick recap of the Team Finals. Since they showed only the fifth subdivision, that's what we'll be discussing below. If you'd like to follow along, you can find a replay here.

Rotation 1

The broadcast of the University Games opens with some spiffy graphics that include the judges' names. NBC, take note. A normal viewer wouldn't give two Makuts about this, but we gym nerds love it because now we know where to direct our hate mail when we don't like a score. (By the way, I'm kidding.)

The first gymnast up is Nikita Ignatyev, and he does a meh routine. I believe the announcer called it "safe." The opening pass is the show piece: a back 1.5 to front double. But after that, it's kind of standard fare: front double full to front full, etc. 15.100

Well, hello there, Cristian Bataga! Now, THAT's a face you should remember.

Unfortunately, our memory of his routine might not be so favorable. He kind of has cray cray legs on his double-double dismount. 13.550

After Bataga's wacky dismount, they cut away to this portrait. Honestly, I was so distracted that I missed Nikita's score when it flashed across the screen.

Then, it's over to Zhang Leyang, whose parallel bars routine makes us question whether L-sits are appropriate in elite gymnastics. (That's a sincere question. Feel free to sound off in the comments section.) It's a nice routine; Zhang has lovely lines on the event. But I associate L-sits with beginning gymnasts. 14.300

Ryohei Kato of Japan does a lovely Kasamatsu 1.5, but by this point of the competition--a whopping 7 minutes in--this girl is just over it. 14.900

Denis Ablyazin is next up on floor, and he's up to his usual shenanigans: doing 7 tumbling passes. He has bumped up his D score from a 7.0 to a 7.1, which gave him a 15.650.

This routine makes us thank the gym gods that the corner rule does not apply to the men, because Denis would look silly standing on one foot so many times.

1. Russia, 46.050; 2. Ukraine, 45.150; 3. China, 45.000; 4. Japan, 44.150; 5. Brazil, 43.950

Rotation 2

We're back to Zhang Leyang. Execution snobs are still scarred from Zou Kai's "toe point," so comparatively speaking, everything Zhang does on the high bar looks stunning. Except for his "Tkatchev 1/2." This skill is just plain dumb. Most gymnasts, Zhang included, do a Tkatchev 1/4 and then finish the twist with both hands on the bar. Whenever I see that skill, I'm tempted to fast forward. But I didn't this time. Because TOE POINT!

It's back to Cristian Bataga. Woof. His passes are standard for a routine from the late 90s--back 2.5 to Rudi, Back 1.5 to front full, Double full, Thomas, full-in. Where he really makes an impression is on his corner jumps. (Look left.) What are these? They're like a sideways sissone starfish. 14.250

On the sidelines, we are treated to a shot of a gymnast's worst nightmare: farmer's tan. That's at least a 0.025 deduction if you have a gay judge.

Shogo Nonomura is up on parallel bars for Japan. His routine is elegant, but it's bordering on compulsory. It has a lot of the standard skills: a Tippelt, a Belle, a giant, a healy, a stutz, double pike, etc. 14.550

Pommel horse. Roughly 92% of the world hates this event, and David Belyavskiy is one of them. The entire week, he struggled on his scissors to handstand, walking down off the pommel. On top of that, he botched his dismount during qualifications. It wasn't of Uchimura proportions, but it was evident that he wanted to do more pirouetting. Oops. 14.900

Then, it's over to Shogo Nonomura, who is blowing his bangs in the air. If my memory serves me correctly, I haven't seen someone do that since Kim Zmeskal did it in '92 in Barcelona.

<3 A diehard fan. <3

Igor Radivilov has a small hop on his Tsuk double pike, and he immediately goes into a victory dance, which ends with him picking a wedgie right in front of the judges. No joke.

NFL players, take note. This is how a victory dance should end.

Chen Xuezhang's high bar routine is noteworthy because he does something very rare for a Chinese gymnast. A Kovacs! and not just a Kovacs, but one in combination (out of a Adler 1/2).

Seriously, off the top of your head, how many Kovacs-throwing Chinese gymnasts can you think of?

A gym nerd item of note: The Chinese gymnasts seem to favor a Stalder full pirouette, but instead of going over in their handstands, they do a front giant out of it in L-grip. (We need a name for this, so I'm going to call it the "Chinese Twirly" for now.) The skill's got a vintage vibe to it, which I dig, but the Chinese are struggling to get their stalders to handstand before reversing their direction, which I don't dig. 14.600

1. Russia, 91.400; 2. Japan, 90.350; 3. Ukraine, 89.850; 4. Brazil, 88.050; 5. China, 88.000

Rotation 3

Maksym Semiankiv is on parallel bars. He's a good leadoff man, but like most leadoff men, he doesn't do anything that will make you kiss your computer screen out of pure joy. (Read: He's no Oleg Verniaiev.) The highlight of his routine was his stuck double pike. Unlike some double-pikers, he's not at risk of blackening and bluing his eyes with his knees. 14.800

It has been a strange year for gymnastics wardrobe malfunctions. First, Marcel Nguyen lost his shorts at the American Cup. Now, Lu Wentian had a problem in the opposite direction. I guess they don't make men's shorts like they used to.

Luckily, a light jog into his second pass fixes Lu Wentian's fashion disaster, and there are no major flubs until the very end when he starts huffing and puffing and man-wiping (crossing his arms in front of his knees) in the corner before his final pass. A bad sign. Either he's going to be tired or over-think his next skill, and sure enough, he over-rotates his triple twist, doing a safety roll out.

On the bright side, his shorts remain in a respectable position even during the roll. 13.200

David Belyavskiy is up on rings. It's a good routine for an all-arounder. His strength elements are not overly difficult--Azarian roll to cross, whip-it cross, uprise to straddle planche--but he makes up for it with a big dismount--a double-twisting double layout. 14.800.

Then, it's over to Bataga on pommel horse. I don't even let out a woof because I'm so over this broadcast. In case you haven't been keeping track, we've seen 3 routines from a gymnast (i.e. Bataga) whose team isn't in the top 5, and we've seen NO routines from Oleg Verniaiev, the gymnast who won the all-around in qualifications and whose team finished second.

Bataga does some circles and stuff. 14.750.

Yusuke Tanaka on high bar. Finally! A routine I can get excited about! Sometimes when you watch high bar, you feel bad for a gymnast's shoulders and neck because he moves like a spastic hula-hooper on the bar.

That's not the case with Yusuke! He's so patient and so calm on high bar, especially on his Kolman. Even his little victory dance is subdued. No arms in the air. Or dramatic wedgie picking in front of the judges. Just a simple clap of the hands. 15.200.

1. Russia, 137.500; 2. Ukraine, 136.350; 3. Japan, 135.350; 4. Germany, 130.850; 5. China, 130.300.

Rotation 4

Nikita Ignatyev does a huge handspring double front with a huge cowboy, flexed feet, and a small hop on the landing. Afterwards, he goes over to pose for pictures on the sidelines.

And they say that the Russia's female gymnasts are divas… 14.900

From there, we head over to rings, where, you guessed it, Bataga is performing. He struggles to hold handstands. 14.200.

We then head over to vault for two HUGE vaults from Denis Ablyazin: Tsuk double pike (Lu Yu Fu) and a handspring Randi (Yeo 2). Small landing deductions, and this woman can't believe her eyes.

Yusuke Tanaka on floor. He one-ups Ablyazin by opening with a front full to a Randi. (Ablyazin only did a Randi. Slacker.) Generally speaking, though, Yusuke infuriates me on floor because he cheats his twists. Believe it or not, in the screenshot to the left, Yusuke is not tumbling on the straight away. That's supposed to be a 2.5 into the corner. Game over, pal. 15.050.

Finally! The man we've all been waiting for! Oleg Verniaiev! Unfortunately, of all the events in men's artistic gymnastics, they decide to show Oleg on high bar. That's like introducing spectators to Jake Dalton via pommel horse. That's just cruel.

Unfortunately, Oleg's routine was… well, as you can see from the photo, Oleg's routine from qualifications was quite… special. We should never, ever see a straddle planche on high bar. Never. Especially not after a Yamawaki 1/2. But that's what Oleg did. Ick. 14.400. I still love you, though, Oleg!

Then it's the other Oleg--Oleg Stepko. Again, high bar is not the event we want to see Stepko on. Where were the cameras when the Olegs were on parallel bars? THAT's what we want to see.

Stepko's routine doesn't have the obvious problems that Verniaiev's routine had. Then again, Stepko hardly lets go of the bar. He does a Quast (hop full), which kind of, sort of involves letting go of the bar, and a Yamawaki. Lacking in the release department, Oleg has to get creative. So, he does the German giants--Paul Ruggeri, you've got competition!--and his triple back dismount. If only the Code still rewarded originality… 14.300.

1. Russia, 182.950; 2. Japan, 180.450; 3. Ukraine, 180.050; 4. Brazil, 173.000; 5. Germany, 172.900

Rotation 5

Why does Vlad Bogdan Cotuna have a mischievous look on his face? Well, it's because he feels like he just got away with something big. On vault, he did his Kasamatsu double, landed short, circled his arms, and then borrowed a move from the women's NCAA playbook: he took a step while turning to the judges. Tsk, tsk, tsk. The judges still gave him a 9.0 in execution for a 14.2 total.

Then it's over to floor for Petro Pakhnyuk, the man whose surname should be in a gymnastics spelling bee. The routine is pretty typical for this competition. A tucked Thomas. A double full side pass. Back 1.5 to a loosey goosey tuck position. (That's just all kinds of no. Either be a tuck or a layout.) And a back 2.5 to finish. Besides the lay-uck, it's a decent routine. 14.150

 Side note: I'm beginning to wish that I had vowed to drink for every double full side pass…

An hour and 15 minutes into the competition, this women is just done. She's so over it all.

But maybe David Belyavskiy can cheer her up. He's next on p-bars.

David Belyavskiy on p-bars is an acquired taste. If you like the aggressive, snappy swing of Rebecca Bross on uneven bars, you'll like David Belyavskiy on this event. He approaches the rails with the same "I'm going to make you my biotch" attitude. I think it works quite well on his Bhavsar. (Think of it as a swinging Shushunova on p-bars.) And of course, he performs his namesake, his double pike dismount, spectacularly. Just a small hop on the landing. 15.550.

Next up: Zhang Yang on rings. The announcer sums it up best, "He's certainly lacking in strength." His words--not mine.

If you've ever wondered what a piked planche would look like, look a few pixels to your left. 14.200.

They almost show us a Canadian on high bar, but no. Instead, they show us an audience member with a lot of tats and a lovely view of the vault runway--woof--before cutting over to Nikolai Kuksenkov. His routine starts off shaky. He looked a little tentative, which resulted in form breaks on his peach 1/2 and a peach to handstand that never really made it to handstand. But he got it together in time to cowboy the heck out of his double front dismount and stick it cold. Props. 15.350.

Bee tee double u, remember that Canadian they didn't show? Well, after Kuksenkov's routine, they decide to flash his score while he's changing out of his stirrups into his booty shorts for floor. They really have a knack for picking the most awkward moment to show the guys on the sidelines, don't they?

1. Russia, 229.300; 2. Japan, 224.900; 3. Ukraine, 224.000; 4. Germany, 216.650; 5. Brazil, 216.350

Rotation 6

Rotation 6 opens with an artsy shot. If you've never face planted a tumbling pass, this is what it looks like. Glorious, isn't it?

Accustomed to the NBC trio, I'm not usually on the same wavelength as the announcers, but I kind of like the guy doing the commentary for this. That is, until he decided to call Nikita Ignatyev's Kolman "beautiful." Are we watching the same frog-legged skill?

After the Kolman, there are some form deductions, especially on his Adler full into his Yamawaki, but he gets through the routine without a major fall. Just a small hop to the right on the double-double straight dismount. A 14.200 for him.

Then it's over to floor for Cory Paterson of Canada. The difficulty is lacking. (He opens with a double full). But I do have to give this kid a compliment: every male gymnast should aspire to have a split like Cory's. <3 A 13.700 for him.

Then, it's amateur hour on vault. Lu Wentian of China does a handspring Randi with a bit of form, and when he lands, he starts walking backwards into his celebratory fist pump BEFORE he salutes the judges.

Nota bene: No wedgie pick. That's Radivilov's special treat for the judges. 15.300.

David Belyavskiy is on high bar, and like Oleg Verniaiev, he seems to think that high bar is a strength event. After his Tkatchev 1/2, a term I use extremely loosely (look left), he did a planche press to handstand. He dismounts with only a full-twisting double layout, but you know what? I'm okay with that. There's something gorgeous about a dismount that just floats in the air and that's unencumbered by multiple twists. 14.000

Finally, another look at Oleg Stepko, who teases us with a glimpses of his chest tattoo. (It reads, "Only God Can Judge Me.") Oleg's quite good on pommel horse. Sure, his hips are not as open as they could be, and his belly button is a little askew on his one-pommel work. But he stayed on, and more importantly, he likes it. Thankfully, he, unlike Lu Wentian, knows to keep his feet in place during his celebration. Oleg Stepko needs to dole out some pro-tips to his fellow competitors. 15.500.

Marius Daniel Berbecar is on parallel bars. His long lines will make you melt in chair. His peach to single-rail handstand is fully erect. He zips down the bars on his Bhavsar. All is going well, and then, we arrive at his dismount, which will make you fall off your chair and drown yourself in a puddle of your own tears. After that lovely routine, he sits down his double pike. BRB. Sobbing forever. 14.600.

And I'm back--just in time to see the final standings…

1. Russia, 273.150; 2. Ukraine, 269.950; 3. Japan, 269.700; 4. Germany, 260.500; 5. Brazil, 260.250

Well, there you have it. The Team Finals, or what we saw of the Team Finals. Welp, I'm off to drink until I erase the memory of all those Tkatchev-halves. Good night, Gymternet!


  1. Can you explain I absolutely do not understand how Belyavsky got 15.00 score on pommels in the All-Around when he twice went down off pommel on his scissors to handstand?

  2. I'm not sure if you guys in the USA got American commentators, but if you were listening to the British ones I'm pretty sure one of them was Paul Hall? The sound had been mixed weird so the commentators were really quiet, but the other guy kept asking him questions about Louis Smith in dull moments so I'm fairly certain it was Hall. Also he got very excited about good pommel workers, which I think is a strong sign ...

    1. I had the British ones and in amongst their discussion it was revealed that one answering the questions was Louis Smith's coach.

  3. Ha. I love this! The 400 crowd reaction shots were hilarious!