Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Evolution of Artistry in Men's Gymnastics: 1981-1984

Sorry, friends, I needed time away from the topic of artistry. But now, I'm back and ready to discuss the 1979 Code of Points with y'all. Let's cut to the chase, shall we?

I simultaneously love and hate the 1979 Code of Points. In a nutshell, I love it mostly because the Men's Technical Committee stopped being so darn pretentious. For the first time, you could actually understand what they were saying!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On Artistry: An Open Letter to the Women's Technical Committee

After reading The All Around's post about the artistry course at the World Championships, I had to write this letter…

Dear Ms Kim and Fellow Members of the Women's Technical Committee:

This moment in gymnastics history has been coming for quite some time.

Over the years, there has been a steady push to reduce subjectivity and to promote objectivity in the sport of gymnastics. I don't mean to give an exhaustive history here, but to cite one example, in the late 90s, the objectivity debate centered on judges' scores. The big question was, What is the best way to determine a gymnast's average score and to evaluate the judges?

Some pundits pooh-poohed the Swiss Timing system. Developed in the early 80s, the system penalized judges for their variance from the average score. (To refresh your memories, the tolerance for average scores between 9.5-10 was 0.1. Thus, if the average score for a gymnast was a 9.7 and a judge scored a gymnast 9.55 or 9.85, that judge would be out of tolerance.) The detractors thought that a system developed by Jackie Fie and Lance Crowley in the 80s (i.e. the Judges Objectivity Evaluation system) was more effective.

Many gymnastics fans have forgotten about this battle, but in the 90s, it was a big deal in the gymnastics community--much in the same way that artistry is a big deal in the gymnastics community today. In fact, two articles appeared in International Gymnast on the matter--one in the November 1998 issue and another in the January 1999 issue.

Of course, all the late 90s chitter chatter was silenced when this happened
and then this happened

I recognize that the open-ended system was conceived of prior to Hamm-Gate 2004, but it's indisputable that the events of the Athens Olympics pushed the FIG to completely overhaul the way gymnasts were judged. In order to prevent another Hamm-Gate, the Technical Committees decided to take action to ensure that the sport would be as objective as possible. The Swiss Timing system was left in place, and the open-ended scoring system was implemented.

Perfecting the System

We've now spent a full quad with the new system, and the undying question seems to be, How can we perfect the open-ended system? For Bruno Grandi, perfecting the Code means examining skills in light of physics so that we can know whether a triple back is harder than a double-twisting double layout on floor.

For you, the Women's Technical Committee, perfecting the Code means reviving artistry while still operating under the objectivity of the new system. We gymnastics fans have watched you try to break floor routines into their basic components so that you could determine what constitutes a "good" floor routine and so that you could assign artistry deductions accordingly.

I certainly do not envy the task, and I have to say, I have to tip my hat to you. In a short amount of time, you identified several problem areas with the women's floor exercise. (I, for one, do not want to watch women stand in a corner for 5 seconds before a tumbling pass!) Furthermore, I commend you for educating your judges. I think it's terrific that you used music theory to educate your judges. (Theory was one of my least favorite parts of my music education, so props to the judges who sat through that lecture!)

All that said, in your haste to uncover the nuts and bolts of artistry and what constitutes a "good" floor routine, you have failed to address a crucial part of the equation. No matter what you do, artistry is subjective. You can make 100 rules about artistry, but at the end of the day, artistry is a question of personal taste.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Evolution of Artistry in Women's Gymnastics: 1977-1980

As I said last week, there are many opinions about artistry, but no one on the gymternet has looked at how the Code of Points has defined the term "artistry" over the years. So, that's what I'm doing. Our next victim is the 1975 Code of Points.

Heh. Well, we have a bit of a problem. My copy of the 1975 Code of Points is missing 4 pages, and those 4 pages are dedicated to the floor requirements. So, I can't say too much about artistry. Nevertheless, I did find a few noteworthy tidbits here and there in the Code.

For instance, in Valerie Nagy's introduction to the Code of Points, she wrote:

It is the judge's duty to solely use the Code of Points as a guideline when evaluating difficulty, composition of the exercise, movements and on floor exercise--harmony in music, i.e. the exercise as a whole.
Besides technical execution, harmony and expression as well as female grace must be considered.

We'll have some fun with the phrase "female grace" when we get to routines.

Before that, I'd like to mention one more thing about the 1975 Code. The difficulty values were based on the skills presented at the 1974 World Championships. At the time, there were three categories of difficulty: low difficulty, medium difficulty, and superior difficulty. Obviously, superior difficulty was the hardest categories, but you'll never guess what was considered "hard" in 1975…

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Evolution of Artistry in Men's Gymnastics: 1977-1980

As I said last week, there are many opinions about artistry, but no one on the gymternet has looked at how the Code of Points has defined the term "artistry" over the years. So, that's what I'm doing, and the victim of the week is the 1975 Code of Points.

Last week, we saw that the 1968 Code of Points had long, confusing definitions of words like "harmony" and "rhythm" and "virtuosity." Yeah, well, those definitions didn't go anywhere. They were still printed in the 1975 Code of Points, and they were just as pedantic as ever.

I did leave out one term last week, though…


Sorry that I didn't mention originality sooner, but I'm trying to not to keep these posts on the shorter side. Anyway, originality was also tethered to the question of artistry. Here's how the Men's Technical Committee defined it:

For originality the following definitions are available: "A thing is original if it can serve as an example without having had one itself." "A thought which was formulated or conceived of for the first time." "A work of art formed by the artist in a manner peculiar to himself."