The Legend of Aliya and the Acro Series

August 11, 2016.

A Thursday.

By all accounts, a perfectly ordinary Thursday.

But for beloved defender of the kingdom Aliya Sparkle-Hair, it was the day she would become a legend. It was the day she would march into the women’s all-around final, gaze up at the glowering, blood-encrusted maw of that notorious villain Actually Doing An Acro Series, and utter those brave, immortal words, “NOT. TODAY.”

Not all heroes have swords, we learned from Aliya, and sometimes the strongest choice a hero can make in the face of a villain is to do nothing at all. (Like literally nothing. She didn’t even come close.)

No, Aliya Mustafina did not perform acrobatic series that day, or even attempt one, but if bravery, integrity, and the quest for justice  were composition requirements, she would receive All. Five. Tenths.

But how did we get here? How did we reach such depths in this epic conflict?

It wasn’t always this way. Like most hero-villain duos, Aliya and Actually Doing An Acro Series were not so different at first. Some might say, even friends.


They laughed and played, frolicking through the lush meadows of the Sparkle-Hair kingdom, blithely ignorant of the fierce battles that would await them in the coming years.

It was not until 2012 that Actually Doing An Acro Series began to reveal her true nature, to expose her jealousy and aggression through her pattern of petty efforts to take down the rightful queen.

But like any proper monarch, Aliya Sparkle-Hair simply smiled, adjusted, and endured.


Sadly, Actually Doing An Acro Series’ schemes only grew more insidious with each passing year, and our hero Aliya was left with few options.


“Whatever,” she said. “Your mom’s face doesn’t display true rebounding action.”

And then fewer options.


She only ran like two errands in between the walkover and back handspring, you guys.

And then no options.


That absolutely counts.

No you shut up.

Walkover directly into waitress-in-a-windstorm is a completely legitimate connection series.

As we all know, the world is but a corrupt cesspool and the judges, deep in the pocket of Big Acro Series, were unwilling to recognize the enduring brilliance and bravery of walkover-waitress. Or the myriad definitely real acrobatic series that Aliya Sparkle-Hair performed over the years in her campaign of resistance against the forces of darkness.

Like walkover + turned to stone by witch + walkover

Or walkover + eat a ham sandwich + call grandma + onodiprobably

Or onodi + One Hundred Years of Solitude + side aerial.thatcounts1

Or the world-famous “I’m basically still getting credit for this as a series and you know it, Love Aliya.”

Yet these were but temporary measures. A hero can only run from a villain like Actually Doing An Acro Series for so long before she must take the fight directly to her foe.

Which is when Aliya Sparkle-Hair had her most genius strategic breakthrough. She invented…The Mustafina.


And shortly thereafter, The Mustafina II.


An epic development in our shared artistic history.

Her piece “I’m sorry, this back handspring has been delayed 30 minutes, please enjoy a meal voucher” currently hangs in the Louvre.

The cultural influence of the Mustafina and Mustafina II was so pervasive and immediate that Aliya Sparkle-Hair managed to strike a near-fatal blow to Actually Doing An Acro Series earlier this year when she performed The Mustafina I and received credit for it as an acro series.



Actually Doing An Acro Series was incensed that this clever ruse had defeated her so easily. From that moment, she vowed to track Aliya Sparkle-Hair to the end of the earth and destroy her once and for all.

Which brings us to the Olympics. The boss level. The final showdown.

Would Aliya Sparkle-Hair, worn down by a quadrennium of senseless warfare, finally acquiesce to the campaign of aggression from Actually Doing An Acro Series?


In qualification, it first appeared that Aliya would return to her trusty weapon, The Mustafina I, a risky gamble because this time Actually Doing An Acro Series and her legion of yes-judges knew it was coming.

But we should have known better than to doubt Miss Sparkle-Hair. Just as it seemed she was beginning to enact the famed The Mustafina I, she did the unthinkable and courageously leaped off the beam in protest, sacrificing herself for the greater good.


Her enemies stacked against her, cornered with no way out, Aliya Sparkle-Hair still refused to give them the satisfaction of an acro series.

The townsfolk swelled with pride at the sight of their hero. A 13, yes, but a more noble 13 there has never been. They will write sonnets about this 13.

Then, for her great encore, Aliya Sparkle-Hair arrived at the all-around final with no more ruses. No more tricks. No more waitress-windstorm games. She simply refused. She simply raised her head, smiled, and said no to the acro series. Her last stand, as steely and sparkly as her first.

Because the only way villains are truly defeated is when we take the power away from them.

And that was how Aliya Sparkle-Hair triumphed over evil once and for all.


The end.

33 thoughts on “The Legend of Aliya and the Acro Series”

  1. Out of all of your posts, this is my favorite one EVER. Perhaps after Aliya’s knee injury, she didn’t like doing the layout step out anymore. I’m just speculating that it had something to do with her knee injury in 2011. Otherwise, I have no idea why Aliya suddenly developed an aversion to backwards tumbling on the beam after 2012. In 2013, she switched her acro series to the front walkover or Onodi skills. Has she ever legitimately connected anything out of the Onodi? I can see putting the Onodi second in the acro series, but it made no sense to put it first–she never connected it to anything (without majorly wobbling in between).

    Has any gymnast ever entertained us more with her beam routines? We seriously had no idea what Aliya would do every time she got on beam. I doubt she really knew what she would do, either. I wonder if she froze during her series during Rio qualifications because she couldn’t make up her mind about her next element. Do I connect the aerial front walkover into another aerial front walkover? Or do I throw the Mustafina I? Or do the back handspring now? Or maybe a side aerial? So many choices….


      1. Yeah I love Wevers’ beam & I’m glad it won, but I thought she was lucky to get credit for her series in EF. I’ve seen her do that faster than she did. I’m sure the big delay on her score was the judges trying to decide whether or not to give it to her or not because it would have killed her otherwise wonderful routine if they hadn’t. TBH, I wonder if Sanne would have gotten credit for that attempt in some of the other phases of the competition where the judges were being stricter on connections (AA for sure & I think QF too).

        Anyway, Aliya-beam is a magical adventure & I’ll miss it. Can I request an ode to The Nabieva at some point in this post-Olympic emptiness?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it has to do with back problems as well as the knee swelling, which would make sense for her to do more forward tumbling. Doesn’t explain why she hardly did BHS-LOSO after 2010.


      1. There’s a requirement on balance beam that you connect two acrobatic skills together, with a clear rebound from one to the next and without a pause between the two. That’s called an acro series. Not doing that is (basically) a 5-tenth deduction from your D-score.


  2. Bob, I’m going to try to explain it. On the balance beam in elite you get bonus for doing an acro series, I think. I dont think it’s required though. That means two or more acrobatic elements connected. “Connected” seems to mean nothing in gymnastics. Theoretically it means no break between skills but as you can see above what is the exact definition of a break? A pause, no pause, etc? This is part of the reasons for the inquiries on beam that the Americans did during the Olympics. They were disputing the difficulty judges definition of connected. This is hilarious because we are watching a variety of series appears to stretch the definition of connected to its limits.


    1. Emily Ann, An acro series is one of the main requirements. Two acro elements connected, without pauses or wobbles in between.
      They must also connect two dance elements, and an acro and dance element.
      To connect the gymnasts have to either dirextlt rebound or keep their leg held up, with minimal pause in between skills.
      A lot of these GIF weren’t credited acro series, but it’s kind of a standing joke because Aliya has gotten credit for some pretty questionable series in her career.


      1. Actually, she has gotten credit for almost none of them. In more than one occasions she has missed 0.5 in CR for not having and acro series, most notably at the 2014 Worlds (EF) and the 2016 Olympics (Q and AA).


    2. Ok, thanks. But between “Aliya Sparkle-Hair” and “Actually Doing An Acro Series”, which one is the protagonist and which is the antagonist?


  3. This. This is what sports journalism should be like. JK. I’m going to follow your blog from now on! Long live Aliya Sparkle-Hair!!!


  4. LOL… this is so funny!!!

    She gets away with it sometimes but I love her tho.
    Not the best form, not the most dificult routines but there’s something about her idk.
    Was watching videos of the 2010 World’s and kept wondering what could have happened if it wasn’t for the injury. And she still managed to come back (how many gymnasts do that successfully after an ACL?) and have a pretty decent career after that. She’s been pretty much the backbone of the Russian team for quite some time now. Kinda curious to see how they’ll do after she retiers. In fact, I was talking to a friend of hers the other day and the girl has been in severe back pain for years now. She said Aliya wanted to quit before but was asked to stay until Rio. Really happy she managed to revalidate her gold on UB. Kudos to her.


      1. Agreed. But it changed her. She plays safe now which is understandable especially if we take into account her ankle and back problems too. She has spent more time trying to recover from injuries that actually training and she still managed to stay relevant and snatch some medals along the way. That’s why I wonder what she could have been without the physical issues.

        At the America Cup (before the injury) she simply refused to downgrade her floor routine even tho her coach asked her to. She was leading the competition and just needed to not make mistakes in order to win. She ended up loosing the gold cause she was stubborn and decided to present what she had previously planned. Dumb? Maybe. But she had the guts to do it. That kind of courage is what I miss from her.


  5. You forgot the part where our heroine has inspired legions of others to be just like her in NCAA, where the front aerial/nae nae/back handspring combination is practically a requirement now.


  6. Aliya’s complicated relationship with her tumbling series reminds me of Gina Gogean’s own odyssey with her combination tumbling on beam. Both did relatively solid and increasingly elaborate attempts at tumbling combinations at first, until they stopped trying and just ditched them altogether. Both even had a traumatic event that changed their approach to beam tumbling (ACL injury for Aliya vs infamous head injury for Gina). By the end of Gina’s career, she had ditched all back tumbling (except the dismount), and her only tumbling was two separate punch fronts (one as a mount, the other a standalone). At least Aliya still has front and back tumbling even if her combination(s) are not really there.


  7. Spencer, could you do another beam article on what is causing all the falls this quad? My personal hypothesis is that too many gymnasts are trying tumbling series that are way too hard and that leads to falls. At first glance, it looks like the layout to two feet and the full twisting tuck/layout are the main culprits to blame. There are so many great but inconsistent gymnasts this quad that cannot stay on beam (like Iordache, Black, Tutkhalyan, Wang, Kharenkova, Steingruber, Yao, etc) and they seem to have one or both of these skills in the same routine. Only one gymnast that did a layout to two feet won an EF medal this quad (Bai Yawen), and I am not sure if she received full credit (E) for that skill or a downgraded (D) layout. All other medalists did LOSO(s), aerials, or no tumbling (lol) for their series. Either way, I hope gymnasts start avoiding 2-footed layouts or their twisting variants like the plague in their routines. They have been rendered very risky at best, and worthless/detrimental at worst. While they are not worth as much as last quad, they are so risky with relatively little payoff at best (E) before any execution deductions kick in, and there’s a high probability the skill is going to get downgraded in difficulty anyway. Adding two of these skills into the same routine is just asking for unnecessary heartbreaks at some point.


  8. This should win the fucking Pulitzer ! Brilliant! Actually this should be nominated for the Nobel peace prize!!! All hail Saint Aliya, please save us from code slavery


  9. I love your post !!! A moment of pure delight as well as a very clever analysis of Aliya’s gymnastics🙂 I will be back to read more from you.


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