The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Pro Gymnastics Challenge Night 2 Recap: A Work in Progress

After another brief introduction with competitors looking determined and assuring us that this is an event unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, we arrive in the arena for the second section of the action from the Professional Gymnastics Challenge, and guess who’s dancing (apart from Zam the Ham, constantly)? It’s all the boys. Since forfeiting seems to be the theme of this competition, I hereby declare than any boy dancing for the audience at this event or any other event has forfeited any claim that the men can’t dance to music on the floor exercise. You seemed to be enjoying yourselves quite a bit there, gentlemen.

Before the start of the vaulting round, Suri interviews Zam and Josh Dixon. Zam the Ham uses her UCLA training well and does the best job of anyone in the competition at committing to the performance both on and off the apparatuses. Interviews are fundamentally weird and ridiculous and have to be just as much of a performance as the routines. Zam does a good job at committing to the cheese here. Suri recognizes this and does her best Tyra Banks impression by publicly complimenting Zam for having a personality.  

As we get ready to vault, everyone is (and by “everyone is” I mean “I am”) shocked that Alyssa Pritchett is in the vault lineup. Oh, is it last January already?

In the first head-to-head affair, yesterday’s theme of no-contest contests continues with Josh Dixon performing a far better handspring layout 1/2 than Chusovitina was able to manage. Don’t worry, Chuso’s vault form is the same as it has been for the last 55 years. Especially when landing control doesn’t matter as much, it makes the men’s obviously bigger amplitude the sole deciding factor, which makes the event less interesting to watch.

Zam follows by performing a Lopez that was far from her best, piked and lacking her usual flair, but it was clearly stronger than the attempt from Pavlova, who obviously has not done this vault in a while. It doesn’t really matter because the whole world is just pleased she’s here. Never leave us.

Bonnie Bernstein loses a few tenths for not pronouncing Zamarripa correctly (though John loses more because he absolutely should know better), but she gains them back immediately by putting the emphasis on the correct syllable of Pavlova. PAV-lo-va, not Pav-LO-va. You’ve redressed the balance, Bonnie, and we’re fine now.

Overall, the vaulting round impresses by featuring a few more fair contests where, even if it’s not that close, at least the two competitors are capable of performing the same skill. That makes it the most entertaining round so far because it’s not decided solely by who is performing first. Sorry, we’re not allowed to say, “performing first.” We have to say, “on offense” because of “SPORTS!”  

Next we get a feature about Zam where she tells about her torn Achilles tendon from 2010 and vaguely discusses elite aspirations. As we return, Ashanee vaults a Yfull (shock!). It’s the same, but worse. The World team brings in a wildcard because it’s such a hard vault that no one in the lineup could imagine doing it. His version is far better in every respect, but there’s a tie and the audience is coerced into texting in a vote. (Circus!) Hmm, I wonder who’s going to win. Spoiler alert: it’s Ashanee. Good thing this isn’t real life and we’re not taking it seriously because . . . hilarious.

Next, Alyssa Pritchett vaults, and we see her 9.650 of a Tsuk that was deemed unfit for competition, causing her to learn the Yfull this season. She’s no match for Marissa King, certainly. John R is really unhappy with this lineup choice and is the only one committing to taking this seriously.

As we begin to round out the rotation, Nathan Gafuik performs a Manmanar. I know I should call this a Shewfelt, especially for a Canadian, but why do that when a wonderful word like Manmanar exists? Paul Ruggeri does a mostly equivalent version with a weaker landing, but apparently we don’t care about that. Yesterday, I complained about how there was not enough comparison between the skills to make it interesting to watch, but when there is a legitimate comparison between similar quality, it calls Dominique Moceanu’s obviously expert and completely serious judging skills into question. You mean they’re not using a code of points? My world is shattered. 

We then learn that Jake Dalton and Kayla Nowak are engaged but no one can pay attention to that because the collective viewership is too busy having a disagreeability seizure after John says, “Dalton equals mc2” about his Tsuk triple. Never forget what happened here. Kosmidis can’t do it, then Ruggeri performs an uncontested ro 1/2-on layout 2/1 to win the rotation for the US.

The next round features the beam and the rings. This round is notable not so much for the gymnastics performed but for the reinforcement that this event is still a work in progress with some crashing and burning involved. One of the unnecessary rules added to the competition is the “call out.” Don’t worry about how it works because it doesn’t. It happens twice in the round and is declined both times, so . . . that mattered. I’ll say this for the event: it’s definitely not completely overscripted because that was like an accordion falling down the stairs. I’m surprised they didn’t cut that out of the broadcast or reshoot the scene to make it smoother.

This round is also noteworthy for delivering us the moment of Bogi and Nastia distractedly shouting at each other about double stag jumps and head release, which was worth the whole three days right there. When looking for ways to improve the event, put a gold star next to that. That should be the whole show, just the two of them arguing about stag jumps.

In the actual action, there’s a lot less legitimate competition in this round. Wynn does some muscle-y maltese pushups that no one else can do, Dalton’s planche and double double tuck is unmatched, and Petrounais and Ramos both go unchallenged. Good individual displays but not a competition.

On beam, we finally get to Ponor time, and she performs a walkover + bhs 1/1 + bhs 1/4 to split and it’s wonderful. Obviously, no one else does it. Shayla’s the only one with the potential skill set, but they save her to try to match Pavlova’s double stag + rulfova. This provoked the brilliant Bogi/Nastia moment. Pavlova’s version was poorly performed, but Shayla can’t do a rulfova. She tries to do a bhs 1/1 and swing it down, but it goes awry and looks painful. Speaking of painful, Brie Olson is also called upon to do something she doesn’t do to match Marissa King, ending the round in an oof-worthy stomach plant on the beam.

As things wrap up, the teams are tied after four events after another day featuring a couple enjoyable highs and some tweak-necessitating lows. We finish with the words of Catalina Ponor: “For me, it’s easy.”

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