Blog Archive

Monday, July 11, 2016

Gymnastics News:

The five woman team heading to Rio is exactly what I hoped for and expected:

Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.  Madison Kocian posted a monster 15.9 score in tryouts on uneven bars and is the defending world champion on the event.  It's impossible to leave her out.  Aly Raisman, Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez are the best all-rounders in the world.  Gabby Douglas scored 2nd in the all-around World Championship in 2015 and got gold in 2012, so she can also excel in any event at her full potential.  The people who could replace Douglas all had their own weaknesses that made them unsteady options.  Ragan Smith is best on beam, a device that's notoriously fickle.  Ashton Locklear is physically incapable of vault, a device we needed a third person on.  McKayla Skinner isn't any good at uneven bars, so we would have lacked three participants on that device at the crucial all-around finals.  (Raisman and Biles are no good at bars.)  When you consider all the possibilities and all the combinations, this is just the strongest team.  I also think giving the most decorated seniors the benefit of the doubt is reasonable.  Douglas is battle tested at the world stage, there's been plenty of on paper good looking gymnasts who choked at the Olympics, but we know that won't happen for Gabby.

We're going to go to Rio with this team and sweep all the medals.  It's going to be a slaughterhouse out there.

A lot of my complaints with women's artistic gymnastics are going to be addressed in 2020 though, which will make the event even more exciting.  The team competition is moving from 5 people down to 4.  This makes so much sense.  Already the rule is that only 4 people compete per apparatus in qualifying and only 3 compete per apparatus in the finals, so having 5 members never made any sense.  Inevitably one of them is going to spend their whole Olympics just sitting around watching their teammates.  Now everyone on the team will be crucial to the team, and it will feel like a real team of equals rather than '4 real competitors and 1 alternate.'

At the same time, my complaint that the best gymnasts weren't being allowed to compete in the Olympics due to the quota limit to each nation is also being addressed.  Now the USA can send 6 gymnasts to the Olympics, four for the team competition and two for whatever individual events they excel in even if they aren't a good fit for the team all around style competition.  If this were 2020, Ashton Locklear could have been that 6th gymnast, or perhaps Ragan Smith for balance beam, or whatever.  The point is there would have been more room.  This is also a step in the right direction.

Another reform is to the code of points.  Athletic moves don't get as many difficulty points as before, so we're swinging back towards the model of having to look good while you do them.  Elegance is at the heart of gymnastics so raw power should not be able to just power through and win gold even when it looks like a duck out there.  Difficulty is still a huge factor, but it's no longer simply impossible for well executed moves to keep up with people who are constantly falling off the beams and bouncing out of bounds and yet still winning their difficulty points are so high.

I like all the changes to gymnastics.  This new form is probably not ideal, but it shows they're on the same wavelength as me who suggested very similar reforms just a bit ago.

I also approve of the springs that were added to floor mat exercise because it makes the moves more breathtaking and less punishing to the gymnasts, and I approve of the uneven bars being spread further apart so that girls had to actually go over and loop around the bars, not just bounce around like a pinball and expect to be awarded with a 10 for looking like a total doofus.  There were lots of crazy moves you could do with the bars close together which were fun to watch, but they weren't actually difficult and they certainly weren't graceful.  Gymnastics is elegance, and perfect still handstands at the top of the high bar with toes pointed is infinitely more graceful than slamming your stomach into the low bar, letting go of the high bar, spinning around the low bar with just your stomach and then flexing your stomach muscles to bounce your whole body back up to the high bar.  That's, just, umm. . . . no.

1996 is still the high point of the sport, but we're getting back there.  Things are looking up.  This is obviously the most talented team we've ever fielded, doing gymnastics feats that the magnificent 7 could never do.  That's got to count for something.

No comments: