Things Are Happening — September 23, 2016

A. So, this is a thing

Very important. Must watch. Immediately.

It’s literally just a trailer for the Alexei Nemov Russian Acid Trip Safari of Stars, but I’m still going to have to do a full recap of it. I don’t even know if this stuff happened this year, or in a previous year, or in Nikita Khrushchev’s drunken deathbed fever dream, and I care 0%.

If you’re wondering why I was so disappointed by the Sochi opening ceremony in 2014, it’s because I wanted it to be this exactly.

That video thumbnail of a man-eagle handing the Olympic torch to Alexei Nemov in a dragon leotard is only like the 13th-most insane that happens. In the trailer. Camels.


B. Vanessa Ferrari re-un-de-retires kind of

Lesson #324 never to listen to any whispers of retirement you hear in the six months surrounding the Olympics. We were definitely told during the Olympics that Vanessa Ferrari was planning to retire, but she said on instagram recently that her carriera agonistica isn’t over yet. Potentially. We’ll see. Apparently, she wants another shot at finishing fourth in an Olympic floor final. Continue reading Things Are Happening — September 23, 2016

Things Are Happening – September 16, 2016

A. The queen is dead, long live the king

Today, in an announcement and press conference that isn’t at all being used to distract everyone from that whole sex-abuse nasty, USAG finally proclaimed to the whole kingdom that Valeri of House Liukin will officially take his place upon the Iron Throne beginning this month.

I don’t think you’ll find too many people railing against this decision. It makes sense. He’s an experienced technical coach, he’s more than familiar with the system, he’s already shepherding the young ones, this continues to consolidate power among a few key ruling families a la European monarchy marriages of the 16th century, and most importantly, he’s a stone-cold Eastern Bloc ice queen. So business as usual.

The NTC has to make tough Olympic-team level decisions, so we can’t have some soft, sentimental American feelings-pudding getting in there and being like, “She’s worked so hard and improved so much and deserves blah blah blah.” I trust Valeri to make the logical choice. Just make sure someone’s there to stop him from having gymnasts with shattered Pinocchio-legs do DTYs at nationals for no reason. Then we’re fine. Is that Rhonda’s new official title? Senior Vice President of No Pinocchio DTYs Ever? Continue reading Things Are Happening – September 16, 2016

NCAA Gymnastics for Beginners

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: You can now also listen to me read this post to you on GymCastic!

NCAA Gymnastics for Beginners

Move along, haggard old jaded NCAA fans. Nothing for you to see here. Instead, take this time to write a polemic against the aerial-to-back-handspring acro series on beam.

If, however, you watch elite gymnastics and have finally become fed up with nothing interesting happening 11.975 months out of the year—or you were introduced to the WEARETHEFINALFIVEAHHH during the Olympics and thought, “This sport is a ludicrous sparkleburger that seems to be based entirely on critically assigning numerical ratings to people’s every action, so it’s my life and I’m in love now”—then settle in. NCAA gymnastics is here to soar to your rescue, here to save you from a wretched winter of non-gymnastics discontent by bringing its beautiful qualities like an actual season with weekly meets, stuck dismounts, and legitimately close and exciting team competitions. (I know, right?!?!?!)

So, welcome. Make yourself comfortable. And by that, I mean stay quiet and do exactly as you’re told.

But it’s only fair that I warn you. NCAA gymnastics will change you. By the time you’ve watched a full season, the phrase “like a jank-ass rudi dismount” will be your go-to burn, you’ll be telling toddlers that they really need to display more calm confidence, and you’ll be greeting new acquaintances with pieces of paper reading “9.825” to inform them that they’re just OK.

So, let’s begin. You’re in for a treat. Continue reading NCAA Gymnastics for Beginners

2017 versus 2016: A Beam Comparison Part Deux

Welcome to the second edition of 2017 beam treatments. Following up on the first post, here are a few more comparisons of beam D scores to see how the intended 2016 D measures up to what the routine would be given under the 2017-2020 code, featuring a few gymnasts that you asked for and a few others that I think are interesting.

Let’s start with Ragan Smith. I’ll use the Patterson version of her routine since I assume that perfecting it will be the aim for 2017.

Ragan Smith
2016 2017
Double wolf turn – D Double wolf turn – D
Switch + straddle – C+A Switch + straddle – C+A
Bhs + layout – B+E = 0.1 CV Bhs + layout – B+E = 0.1 CV
Full twisting back tuck – F Full twisting back tuck – F
Punch front + sissone – D+A = 0.1 CV Punch front + sissone – D+A
Aerial + pike jump – D+A = 0.1 CV Aerial + pike jump – D+A
Sheep – D Sheep – C
Bhs + bhs + Patterson – B+B+G = 0.1 CV Bhs + bhs + Patterson – B+B+G = 0.3 CV
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – GFEDD – 2.6 Acro – GFEDD – 2.6
Dance – DDC – 1.1 Dance – DCC – 1.0
CV – 0.4 CV – 0.4
Total D – 6.6 Total D – 6.0

The value of the Patterson combination is quite critical in making up for the lost CV from those D+A connections. With the Patterson, the only real hit Smith’s routine takes is from the downgrade of the sheep jump. Without the Patterson, however, her 2017 D score would be just 5.6, which won’t be all that competitive.

Based on what I’m seeing in these D scores, a difficulty in the lowish 6s is about what the top beam gymnasts should be aiming for in 2017. (Later in the quad, expect scores to go higher as coaches learn how to work the new CV/copy the more inventive countries.) A lot of top beamers are looking at 5.8s for their current routines, but most of those 5.8s can be reorganized with minimal pain to get another couple tenths. Continue reading 2017 versus 2016: A Beam Comparison Part Deux

Things Are Happening – September 9, 2016

A. Raisman 2020 – For a More Brestyan-Legs Tomorrow

Deviating from the mandatory “Blurp blurp, I don’t know, I want to, we’ll see…” answer regarding returning for another Olympic cycle, that rebel Aly Raisman pretty categorically told Ellen that she has already decided to try to give 2020 a shot.

Well, I should emend that. Aly wasn’t that sure, but then her Brestyan Legs went, “We wants the PRECIOUSES…” so Aly had no choice but to agree. Being immortal and indestructible, the Brestyan Legs have no problem with the idea of continuing well into Aly’s mid-20s for a third Olympic cycle, though I do fear that absolute power is beginning to corrupt them. This hubris is dangerous.

I was about to make some comment about the four-gymnast team format for 2020 making it harder for Raisman to get a spot on the main team because of bars, but…guh. Who even knows anymore? Too early. I don’t even care yet.

B. The Romania Saga: Book 9

Romanian gymnastics, seen here


has taken the first step in Operation Be Less Terrible by reappointing Forminte as head coach and relocating the primary senior training center back to Deva to be closer to the candle-cup cathedral of gymnastics prayers. Phew. Remember last time Forminte was in charge, when he was the Great Satan of Romanian gymnastics because his watch had seen them fall to disgustingly lowly positions like third and fourth? YUCK THIRD. Now he’s basically Martha + Alexandrov x Arkayev. Continue reading Things Are Happening – September 9, 2016

2017 versus 2016: A Beam Comparison

As an addendum to my flitting, meadow-based prance through the new Code of Points, it’s time to take a closer look at beam. Here, I’ve selected a few example routines from major beam players in 2016 (chosen for definitely important reasons and absolutely not just because they were the easiest to find on youtube). Below each routine is a comparison of what the intended D score was in 2016 to what the D score would be for the same routine under the 2017-2020 code.

It’s a way of starting to become comfortable with the new code (and as such, condescending and snarky corrections are most welcome), as well as an opportunity to dissect some of the significant code changes in order to see how beam composition will have to adjust in 2017 to avoid the bigger pitfalls.

Clearly, some gymnasts will have to make more changes than others.

Let’s start with Sanne Wevers’ routine at the 2016 Test Event.

Sanne Wevers
2016 2017
Bhs 1/1 mount – E Bhs 1/1 mount – E
Double L spin – E Double L spin – E
Side aerial + side aerial + aerial – D+D+D = 0.3 CV Side aerial + side aerial + aerial – D+D+D = 0.1 CV
Triple spin – E Triple spin – E
L spin + single spin + double spin – C+A+D = 0.2 CV L spin + single spin + double spin – C+A+D = 0.2 CV
Switch split + bhs 1/1 – C+D = 0.1 CV Switch split + bhs 1/1 – C+D = 0.1 CV
Gainer layout dismount – D Gainer layout dismount – C
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – EDDDD – 2.1 Acro – EDDDC – 2.0
Dance – EED – 1.4 Dance – EED – 1.4
CV – 0.6 CV – 0.4
Total D – 6.6 Total D – 5.8

The D score for this particular routine would decrease by 0.8 in 2017, with two significant obstacles emerging. The main one is the elimination of the 0.1 CV for non-rebounding D+D connections, something Wevers was taking advantage of twice in that side aerial + side aerial + aerial walkover combination. She would still receive the 0.1 series bonus, but not the extra 0.2 for connecting the individual D skills.

The other is the dismount. At the Olympics, Wevers upgraded her dismount to a gainer “layout” full, which is a D value in the new code, but her Test Event routine highlights the problem for those still performing the regular gainer layout. The gainer layout is now a C, yet in the above routine, Wevers would still have to count it among her 8 skills—in place of the D-valued bhs 1/1—because it’s the dismount. As in the previous code, the dismount must be counted.

And that, children, is how the WTC eliminates unwanted skills.

It’ll be interesting to see what those who were relying on non-rebounding combinations do in the next quad: do they give in and go for rebounding acro, or just add more spin combinations?

Speaking of non-rebounding, how’s Aliya doing?

Let’s take one of Mustafina’s good ones, where she got credit for an acro series, to see how the changes would affect her.

Aliya Mustafina
2016 2017
Double spin – D Double spin – D
Split leap + sissone + side somi – A+A+D = 0.1 CV Split leap + sissone + side somi – B+A+D
Switch 1/2 + onodi – D+D = 0.2 CV Switch 1/2 + onodi – D+D = 0.2 CV
Side aerial – D Side aerial – D
Aerial + aerial + bhs – D+D+B = 0.2 CV Aerial + aerial + bhs – D+D+B = 0.1 CV
Switch ring – E Switch ring – E
Round-off + double tuck – B+D Round-off + double tuck – B+D
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – DDDDD – 2.0 Acro – DDDDD – 2.0
Dance – EDD – 1.3 Dance – EDD – 1.3
CV – 0.5 CV – 0.3
Total D – 6.3 Total D – 5.6

Aliya would lose 0.7 overall for this routine: the 0.5 CR, 0.1 for the sissone + side somi (since D acro + A dance no longer gets connection value—all of those A dance elements will be replaced with split jumps in the next quad since that’s a B now…………….), and 0.1 for the two aerial walkovers combination, running into the same problem that Wevers does.

As far as I can tell, non-rebounding acro will still be allowed to fulfill the 0.5 CR for an “acro series,” so if Aliya does decide to keep going, the Legend of Aliya and the Acro Series might live on, and on, and on.

I actually thought the new code would be worse for Aliya’s routine composition, but she doesn’t lose all that much and could adjust around the new regulations pretty simply and comfortably.

Now, let’s address the winner of the new beam code, Simone Biles. Obviously.

Simone Biles
2016 2017
Wolf spin 2.5 – E Wolf spin 2.5 – D
Barani – a fantasy mystery Barani – probably definitely F now?
Bhs + layout stepout + layout stepout – B+C+C = 0.2 CV Bhs + layout stepout + layout stepout – B+C+C = 0.2 CV
Punch front + sissone – D+A = 0.1 CV Punch front + sissone – D+A
Switch split + switch 1/2 + back pike – C+D+C = 0.2 CV Switch split + switch 1/2 + back pike – C+D+C = 0.3 CV
Aerial + wolf – D+A = 0.1 CV Aerial + wolf – D+A
Bhs + bhs + full twisting double tuck – B+B+G = 0.1 CV Bhs + bhs + full twisting double tuck – B+B+G = 0.3 CV
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – GEDDC – 2.3 Acro – GFDDC – 2.4
Dance – EDC – 1.2 Dance – DDC – 1.1
CV – 0.7 CV – 0.8
Total D – 6.7 Total D – 6.3

In the 2017 code, the half turn into back tuck is an F skill instead of an E. Apparently, that is what Simone performs? He says with a question mark? But, then, what is the value of the half-twisting body chuck? (No, I’m literally never letting it go.)

Biles definitely has received F credit for that barani in the past too, but if you want to give her F credit for sure now instead of just sometimes-mostly-ish-in-the-US-probably, then go for it.

Simone’s current routine composition fares very well in the new code. She does drop some tenths (the wolf 2.5 downgrade and D+A elimination take her down a total of 0.3), but critically, she would make that value back in other places without any composition changes.

Switch+switch 1/2+back pike picks up an extra tenth because of the new mixed-series bonus, and the new dismount CV is basically made for her. Without any composition changes at all, her total CV would actually increase.

Laurie Hernandez’s routine is a somewhat different tale.

Note: this video is of her championships routine, but the chart below uses her updated composition from later in the summer because it’s more interesting and more current, with the bhs+bhs+double pike replaced by round-off+double pike, and the lost tenth made up with an additional wolf out of the front tuck.

Laurie Hernandez
2016 2017
Front pike – E Front pike – E
Aerial + sissone + split – D+A+A = 0.1 CV Aerial + sissone + split – D+A+A
Bhs + layout stepout + layout stepout – B+C+C = 0.2 CV Bhs + layout stepout + layout stepout – B+C+C = 0.2 CV
Sheep – D Sheep – C
Front tuck + wolf – D+A = 0.1 CV Front tuck + wolf – D+A
Side aerial – D Side aerial – D
Switch split + switch 1/2 – C+D = 0.1 CV Switch split + switch 1/2 – C+D = 0.1 CV
Switch ring – E Switch ring – E
Round-off + double pike – B+E Round-off + double pike – B+E
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – EEDDD – 2.2 Acro – EEDDD – 2.2
Dance – EDD – 1.3 Dance – EDC – 1.2
CV – 0.5 CV – 0.3
Total D – 6.5 Total D – 5.7

Laurie does not get off the hook quite as easily as Simone. She also loses D+A tenths and another tenth from the downgrade of the sheep (making that skill essentially worthless—time to learn a new D dance element everyone), but unlike Simone, Laurie’s current composition doesn’t make up those tenths anywhere else.

When Laurie returns in the next quad (when), I anticipate that learning a more difficult beam dismount will be a very high priority. Without it, she’s in danger of falling behind. Solely because she doesn’t get dismount CV, she goes from being two tenths behind Simone in 2016 to five tenths behind under the new code.

(We may have wondered about the advisability of Ragan Smith trying to add that Patterson in 2016, but it’s SOOO the 2017 code.)

Let’s talk about Aly.

Aly Raisman
2016 2017
Front pike + wolf – E+A = 0.1 CV Front pike + wolf – E+A
Bhs + layout – B+E = 0.1 CV Bhs + layout – B+E = 0.1 CV
Switch split + back tuck – C+C = 0.1 CV Switch split + back tuck – C+C
Side aerial – D Side aerial – D
Switch 1/2 – D Switch 1/2 – D
Front tuck + split – D+A = 0.1 CV Front tuck + split – D+B = 0.1
L spin + single spin – C+A = 0.1 CV L spin + single spin – C+A = 0.1 CV
Round-off + Patterson – B+G Round-off + Patterson – B+G = 0.2 CV
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – GEEDD – 2.5 Acro – GEEDD – 2.5
Dance – DCC – 1.0 Dance – DCC – 1.0
CV – 0.5 CV – 0.5
Total D – 6.5 Total D – 6.0

Parts of the new code are no friend to Raisman, but not all of it. In 2016, Raisman was using a crapload of those random 0.1 CVs to get her D score into the competitive zone and will now have to adjust for their demise in a couple places. In addition to the loss of a D acro + A dance, she won’t get CV for the switch split + back tuck either, a combination that must now include one D element to get bonus.

Like Simone, however, Raisman is saved by the dismount and the additional 0.2 that will come from connecting a round-off to a Patterson.

As alluded to in the code write-up, a Patterson is now worth four tenths more than a double pike: two tenths because of the skill value and two more tenths for the automatic connection. No one is doing a Patterson from standing.

The biggest victim of the new code may be Flavia Saraiva, as best illustrated by her attempted 6.8 difficulty from the Test Event.

Flavia Saraiva
2016 2017
Bhs + layout stepout + layout stepout – B+C+C = 0.2 CV Bhs + layout stepout + layout stepout – B+C+C = 0.2 CV
Round-off + layout – B+E = 0.1 CV Round-off + layout – B+E = 0.1 CV
Switch split + split – C+A Switch split + split – C+A
Switch ring + sheep – E+D = 0.2 CV Switch ring + sheep – E+C = 0.1 CV
Punch front + wolf – D+A = 0.1 CV Punch front + wolf – D+A
Aerial + aerial + side somi – D+D+D = 0.3 CV Aerial + aerial + side somi – D+D+D = 0.1 CV
Round-off + double pike – B+E Round-off + double pike – B+E
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – EEDDD – 2.2 Acro – EEDDD – 2.2
Dance – EDC – 1.2 Dance – ECC – 1.1
CV – 0.9 CV – 0.5
Total D – 6.8 Total D – 5.8

Saraiva’s routine would drop a full point in the new quad because she basically does every single thing that has been downgraded in the official 2017 NONE FOR FLAVIA BYE Code of Points.

She loses two tenths of non-rebounding connection, another because of D+A, and two more for the downgrade of the sheep jump (one for the skill and one for the combination since it’s no longer D+D, which is required to get two tenths).

Saraiva is fully capable of getting back up there with the top Ds, but she’ll basically want to scrap the second half of this routine and start over.

By contrast, Eythora almost gets Flavia-ed by the new code, but she is saved by her dismount and spins.

Eythora Thorsdottir
2016 2017
Sissone + side aerial + swingdown – A+D+B = 0.1 CV Sissone + side aerial + swingdown – A+D+B
Split ring + sheep – D+D = 0.2 CV Split ring + sheep – D+C = 0.1 CV
Illusion – D Illusion – D
Split leap + aerial – A+D = 0.1 CV Split leap + aerial – B+D = 0.1 CV
L spin + switch split + Y spin + single spin – C+C+C+A = 0.3 CV L spin + switch split + Y spin + single spin – C+C+C+A = 0.4 CV
Round-off + triple full – B+F Round-off + triple full – B+F = 0.2 CV
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – FDD – 1.4 Acro – FDD – 1.4
Dance – DDDCC – 1.8 Dance – DDCCC – 1.7
CV – 0.7 CV – 0.8
Total D – 6.4 Total D – 5.9

The new code is not that happy with Eythora’s composition. It’s not having this sissone + side aerial nonsense or this sheep jump nonsense, but as was pointed out in the comments, the split leap becomes a B in the new code (BECAUSE WHY), so that’s still eligible for connection tenths when paired with D acro.

And yet, the new code saves Eythora like an endangered swan because she has an F dismount, and because the code is still desperately in love with spin combinations.

By my reading of the new series bonus rules, Eythora’s L spin + switch split + Y spin combo would qualify for an additional series-bonus tenth since dance elements can be used now. But we’ll have to see. Are spins definitely part of that?

In general, the most effectively HUGE-D beam routines in the next quad will have F or G dismounts and will also take advantage of three-element mixed dance/acro combinations that can get individual CV as well as a series bonus. So basically Simone’s exact routine.

Things Are Happening – September 2, 2016

A. The Vera

Gymnastics legend, hair icon, and silent-protest hero Vera Caslavska died this week from pancreatic cancer. Taking victory in the all-around in both 1964 and 1968, she is the last female gymnast to have won two consecutive Olympic crowns, and her 1968 Olympics remains the stuff of legend, perhaps even more legendary than her competition beehive. Or at least a close second.

Forced into hiding following the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and fearing arrest for her outspoken anti-Soviet views, she trained for the 1968 Olympics in a secluded forest clearing, and various reports have her using a fallen log as a balance beam, a meadow as the floor exercise, branches as the bars, and a friendly grizzly bear as the vaulting horse (although I may have made one of those up). Continue reading Things Are Happening – September 2, 2016

2017-2020 Code of Points: A Deep Dive

The 2016 Olympics are officially behind us. I know that because I’ve already reached the point where it took me a second to remember who won men’s floor. I want to say…Herb?

Rio is old news. Our shiny new toy is the next quadrennium in all its inevitably grotesque horrors (and also beauty?). The first step in preparing for a new quad is pretending like you’re actually going to remember what all the code changes are, even though you will absolutely think the Amanar is still a 6.3 for at least 3 more years. Like a loser.

Thankfully, the 2017-2020 code has already been bestowed upon us (a couple times). The latest version will be considered up to date until such time as Her Nellieship decides that it’s garbage again.

With our new holy book in hand, let’s review the major and minor changes worth caring about and decide exactly how probably terrible they’re all going to be.


Item #1: WE ARE THE FINAL FOUR (composition requirements)

As with the Olympic teams in the 2020 quadrennium, five becomes four in the realm of composition requirements as well. Our trusted 5 CRs have been reduced to four, lowering the total composition requirement from 2.50 to 2.00.

Obviously, you say, they finally got rid of that worthless, hideous, and frankly disturbing passage-of-dance-elements requirement on floor!

Ah ha ha. Heavens no. That would make too much sense. Rigor mortis running must be protected at all costs!

Instead, the requirement for a D-level dismount has been removed for bars, beam, and floor.

Verdict: Perfectly acceptable. Ideally, it will encourage greater dismount variety (particularly on bars, where it is much needed) as there will be no real punishment for competing a C dismount other than its being worth a tenth less than a D. No double-jeopardy CR punishment as well.

This change is mostly for the benefit of the lower-level elites (and Romanian bars), allowing them to remain slightly more competitive with simpler dismounts. It will have no immediate effect on the routines of the top gymnasts, other than forcing everyone to get accustomed to D scores that are 0.5 lower.

Next quad, a D score in the high 5s will be good again, and any D score in the 6s will be top-of-the-line. Continue reading 2017-2020 Code of Points: A Deep Dive

Vampires and Nadia Comaneci: The Karolyi Story


Here, at the sunset of Martha Karolyi’s career, NBC has bestowed a wondrous gift upon your disgusting peasant life. It’s the 51-minute, totally journalismy, investigative documentary you always wanted, answering every question you ever had about the Karolyis.

As long as those questions include “How awesome are the Karolyis?” and nothing else.

It’s an extraordinary addition to the canon, a valuable prequel to recent blockbuster The Ranch. All the big superhero franchises have prequels, and the Karolyis are no different. In this installment, we learn the history of how Bela, Martha, and Howard Stark joined forces to defeat Hydra. (Actually, that would have been a lot better.)

Please note that, contrary to what you may have read, this piece is not called Karolyi. It’s called KAROLYI. It must be shouted. Like the screams that wake Kristie Phillips every full moon. I’m pretty sure that’s also Bela’s signature. KAROLYI.

Why exactly are we starting with Bela and Martha taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the snows of Transylvania while Martha is mummified in 198 layers and praying for the sweet release of death?


Because you needed a new lock screen image and this is preposterous? (JUST WHY)

No. Because this…is a love story.

But is it though?

Because I thought it was about gymnastics.

NOPE. This is the story of those two legendary star-crossed lovers, Bela and Martha, and how their love saved…scrunchies and capitalism? Or something?

Because when I think romance, I think Bela Karolyi.

Their life is basically You’ve Got Notting Love Actually. Continue reading Vampires and Nadia Comaneci: The Karolyi Story

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama