The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are (Still) Happening – August 19, 2016

A. RIP Olympics

The first step is saying the words out loud. The Olympics are over. While no one is expecting you to be emotionally prepared to move on quite yet, the end of the Olympics doesn’t have to mean the end of joy. There are still a number of Olympic postmortem issues we’ll need to work through (remember Seda?), a 2017-2020 code to have a lot of deep feelings about, and sooner than you think, the NCAA season.

If you’re new to the site as of this year’s Olympic process, welcome! I’m delighted to have you. Now be advised that NCAA gymnastics is the cool jam around here, and I’m going to force you to become obsessed with it whether you like it or not. It’s the best. A wonderful complement to modern elite. It’s like if gymnastics still used the 1992 code and the Unified Team and Romania competed against each other every weekend, except with a lot more temp tattoos and erratic and unprompted screaming to make fun of. And if you enjoy melting into a pool of sludge about crack-a-doo judging, NCAA gym is more than here for you. You’ll have a blast.

The thing I love most about NCAA when compared to modern elite is the increased stakes on every single skill. In elite, difficulty is decisive enough that whether Laurie Hernandez nails her layout stepout on beam or has a one-tenth check is sort of incidental. As long as there are no major errors, her score is going to be fine. In NCAA, a one-tenth wobble is the difference between an amazing routine and a disastrous one. The stakes on every single landing are gigantic, not just to hit it but to hit it ideally, resurrecting that feeling of constant tension and urgency through every movement that has been lost in the era of US elite dominance.

So, if you haven’t been drinking the NCAA Kool-Aid, pull up a chair and grab a glass. Let me be your guide. You’ll never be the same. In a good way. Mostly.

B. Ding Dong the Yurchenko Arabian Is Dead

Our long national nightmare is finally over. The NCAA Committee decided to release its adjustments to the 2016-2017 rules right in the middle of the Olympics so that exactly no one would be paying attention (solid work as usual), but it redeemed itself by doing the sensible thing (WHAT?!?!?!?!?!) and bringing all variations of the Yurchenko 1/2, arabian or otherwise, down to a 9.950 start value.

PHEW. No more “Was that an arabian? IT WASN’T!” for us next season!!


The other development on vault is the removal of all “back pike 1/1” vaults from the code, presumably operating on the belief that a twisting pike shape just ends up looking like a sucky layout. Exactly no one was doing back pike 1/1 vaults before now anyway.

In further news, of all the problems with the NCAA postseason format (see: everything about it), the committee got together and finally decided to address the…geographical seeding of the 19-36 teams? Because that was the part that needed fixing?

Reverting to pre-2011 rules, the 19-36 teams will no longer be seeded into pots and will simply be distributed to the closest possible regional site regardless of ranking.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.41.19 PM

Also more fun with participation trophies…

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.43.08 PM

Important work.


In the second part of NBC’s genuflection to Bela and Martha— following the glorious epic The Ranch—we go back in time (it’s like a prequel, you guys) to learn the origin story of how Bela and Martha came to be. It will obviously need a full recap at some point, but you should watch it now because of A) Bela and Martha carriage ride through the snow, and B) “Romania had Nadia Comaneci and vampires.”

D. What even is Bruno Grandi?

Bruno has decided to open his spew-hole again and release the insane ramblings of a dementia patient.

“The only thing with which I don’t agree with the judges, and it’s a personal opinion and not a criticism — for me the gymnastics of the second American (Raisman) is more artistic than the first (Simone Biles). The first, it’s acrobatics,” International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) president Grandi, 82, told AFP.

“Artistic sense is related to personality but also to the morphology of the body. She (Biles) is almost like a bomb, with amazing height. Whenever she tries to make artistic movements, they seem a bit forced. But she won, and she didn’t steal it.”

Yeah, Simone Biles is just acrobatic tricks. Not a true artist…like Aly Raisman.

I don’t….I can’t even…like what….I….is…

Muuuuuuuhghghgh. If you want to argue that Simone isn’t made of all the artistries, that’s fine, but use Thorsdottir as your counterexample, or Millousi or Yilmaz or Hernandez or someone. Picking Raisman as a COUNTEREXAMPLE TO ACROBATIC POWER GYMNASTICS, a gymnast that even her most fervent admirers will note is made special because of her intense acrobatic skill, is insane. You totally just picked the highest-ranked white girl and said, “She’s the one I like.” Just like always.

E. 65 and Counting

The US dominance is often expressed in terms of the margin of victory over the other teams, but the part of it I find the most impressive is not the fact that the other teams are way worse than the US but the fact that the US doesn’t miss. Even if the other teams came into the meet with routines at the same level, the US would still have won every single one of these team finals.

Since the Mattie Larson 2010 floor fall, the US women have hit 65 consecutive team-final routines. They haven’t missed a team-final beam routine since Sacramone.

F. Retirements

We’re now entering the traditional period of post-Olympics “retirements,” but at this point…grain of salt. Sure, some of them might actually be done, but gymnasts have spoiled the concept of “retiring” for everyone forever because they all come back anyway.

You say you’re done now, but tell that to your March 2018 instagram of a double layout.

G. Fetus Verbals

We’re also getting a lot of NCAA verbal commitments for the 2020-2021 season rolling in right now, which…SHUT UP. Go to Life Science or a boy-girl pool party and talk to me in two-and-a-half years.

My new rule is that I’m no longer acknowledging college verbals coming from junior gymnasts. Because I’m totally fighting the power. Like a hero.

H. Gabby’s reactions to things

Oh wait. That’s nothing. So I don’t have anything to say about that.

%d bloggers like this: