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!

Virtuosity and Originality

As we have discussed, virtuosity and originality were the two cornerstones of artistry in men's gymnastics, but it was hard for gymnasts, judges, and coaches to understand what the heck the Men's Technical Committee meant by the terms "virtuosity" and "originality." The fellows at the FIG used a lot of flowery language such as:

The virtuoso exhibits an unusual talent for artistic execution. A musician becomes a virtuoso when his brilliance rises above the level of technical accomplishment and so deeply impresses us that our very souls are moved.

In 1979, the Code still waxed rhapsodic, but the FIG also decided to simplify things a bit. In addition to their flowery definitions of "virtuosity" and "originality," the Men's Technical Committee distilled the definitions into slightly more comprehensible chunks. Like this one:

Recognizing Originality factors
Originality is recognized and awarded when the following requirements have been fulfilled:

1. for all flawless new exercise parts

2. Exercise parts, demonstrated by only one or a few gymnasts, as the Magyar spindle. They must be confirmed by the Men's Technical Committee however, taking into consideration the validity point.

I mean, you have to give them an A for effort. They tried their best. They wanted to offer simple, clear definitions of the term "originality," and to a certain degree, they did. My guess is that the judges had a slightly more unified definition of the term "originality."

Nevertheless, the Men's Technical Committee still left us with several questions. For instance, What does "flawless" mean? Also, how many gymnasts are "a few"? Would a skill still be original if 3 gymnasts performed it? What about 4? Or 5?

As far as virtuosity is concerned, this is how they defined the essence of the term…

Recognizing Virtuosity factors
Virtuosity is recognized and awarded when the following requirements have been fulfilled:

1. Flawless technical execution, using a new movement technique, higher than the present level of achievement, for example: Felge to handstand with extreme swing and straight arms during the entire movement on parallel bars.

2. A presentation with personal style, rich in movement rhythm and swing, executed in a precise and flawless manner, also showing advancement in  the development, as well as precise body form and regarded as above average.

And again, we are left with many of the same questions: What does flawless mean? Does every landing have to be stuck? Does every toe have to be exceptionally pointed? Is there any leeway? It seems like that would be up to each individual judges' discretion.

Please note: In these distilled definitions of "originality" and "virtuosity," the word "artistry" did not appear once. Already in 1979, the FIG was trying to make gymnastics more objective by taking away any room for interpretation, and when they did that, they began eliminating the artistic foundation of the sport. You can blame the open-ended Code all you want, but the erasure of artistry began long before 2006.

Believe it or not, that's not why I hate the 1979 Code of Points. Here's why…

Clothing is NOT optional…

In the 1979 Code of Points, this little line appeared:

Wearing of a shirt (jersey) is compulsory during all competitions.

CURSE YOU, FIG, for implementing this rule! Why, gym gods!? Why!? 

Now, it's time to look at how the Code of Points manifested itself in routines from that time period. As usual, there aren't too many floor routines from this era on YouTube, but I did find a routine by Li Yuejui (AKA Anna Li's dad).

+0.5 bonus points for those meaty quadriceps.

In terms of virtuosity, I'm tempted to give him virtuosity bonus at the beginning of the routine. I mean, when he sticks his double-double, you're all like, "YES! MARRY ME, YUEJUI!" And then, on his full-in, you notice that he has the toe point of Fred Flintstone, and you're kind of like, "Meh. No virtuosity bonus."

In terms of originality, since Yuejui had his second pass named after him, I'm guessing he was credited for being original.

I'm guessing the judges had similar feelings about Yuri Korolev's floor routine from 1983:

The double layout is lovely. But then, you see him do a double front to a squatting position that should be seen only in a bathroom, and you think, "Yeah, no virtuosity bonus for you."

That said, double fronts weren't all that common at the time, so I'm guessing that the judges recognized the originality of that skill. I doubt that he received originality points for that awkward Sissoney split jump, though.

Ugly as that jump may be, it does raise an interesting question:

Which jumps would you like to see the men include in their routines?

Back in my days of J.O. compulsories, we learned how to chassé like drag queens. But what other jumps would you like to see the men do? Ferraris?

Leave a comment below.

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