American Elements 2016: The Hottest (and Frostiest) Skills in the US

It’s that time of year. Put on your gymnerd hat, your spreadsheet suspenders, and your white orthopedic percentage-comparison socks because oops, I made some charts again.

As is annual and traditional, I have taken all the skills performed by US senior gymnasts this summer and ranked them based on the percentage of total routines in which they appeared, comparing that data to the same information from the previous four years. Which skills are wildly popular? Which skills are horrible losers? How has it changed over time? Let’s find out.

I have highlighted a few of the significant trends in bluish and reddish as a way of COLORS.

Also the usual disclaimer that I didn’t include skills like giants and back handsprings because meh. Everyone, obviously.

So, like an NCAA away team, we’ll begin on uneven bars and let everything go downhill from there.



  • The rise of original-recipe Tkatchev. I didn’t expect this. Compared to 2015, the regular Tkatchev is more popular this year, while E releases like the piked Tkatchev and Stalder Tkatchev are less popular. It should be the other way around considering the extreme value of E releases for connection bonus. Then again, the US gymnasts racking up the D score on bars right now like Locklear and Kocian are not same-bar releasies by any means.

  • Hooray for Lexy Ramler’s Comaneci and Jazmyn Foberg’s Gienger, saving the say for release variety! Maggie Musselman was the lone gymnast flying the piked Jaeger flag this year, but with that skill becoming an E next year, I expect that number to get very bluish in 2017.


  • Toe-ons. Toe-on has been the chosen entry for US gymnasts for a while now, but the trend of random non-counting toe-on circles slowed this year, accompanied by the sudden unpopularity of toe-on 1/2s. That’s somewhat odd because the toe-on 1/2 is so useful for working into a Jaeger. Jaegers have not become any less popular this year, but gymnasts are working into them in different ways.
  • STALDERS? The general trend has been away from pirouetting elements on bars this quad because of how harshly they are deducted, but this year saw a slight reversal of that trend with more gymnasts performing Stalder fulls, Stalder 1/2s, and forward Stalder 1/2s. Perhaps it’s simply a symptom of more lower-tier seniors who feel comfortable with Stalders (like Navarro, Gaskins, and DeGuzman), but I’ll take the increased variety whatever the cause. Love a good Stalder.
  • There’s no questioning the usefulness of piked Stalders in the current code because they’re worth more than any other entry, so it’s interesting to see the non-turning piked Stalder appear in just 7.69% of routines. It would seem that if you can do a piked Stalder full, why not do the regular version too (free D skill!), but the unpopularity is likely down to the need for skills to include turning to be eligible for CV. It’s just not valuable enough because throwing it in the middle of a routine is a total bonus-shrinker.
  • Guh. The Weiler 1/2, the wolf turn of bars, continues to expand its reign of terror. It has already reached nearly a quarter of routines with no end in sight.
  • Cast 1/2. For whatever reason, I didn’t count cast 1/2s in the past (stupidity?), so they’re not on the chart. I wish I had because they appeared in 42.31% of senior routines this year, and I hate them. Not only are orphan cast 1/2s the sign of inefficient composition, they’re also deduction traps since it’s so easy to get docked for finishing past handstand, which is extra frustrating on a skill that isn’t even counting.


  • Toe-on Shaposh. It continues to be the skill of choice. For everyone. Ever. (In the US.) What’s interesting to me these days is that even the weakest bars workers, the ones who just want to get off as quickly as possible with a 2.266, have a toe-on Shaposhnikova. It’s as close as we get to compulsory on bars, when 8 years ago the Shaposh was the domain of only the most proficient bars workers. Even in 2012, no US gymnasts performed any Stalder Shaposhes at all.
  • Ragan Smith, Olivia Trautman, and Kaitlin DeGuzman are the only US seniors who don’t perform a Shaposhnikova of some description.
  • Let’s talk shoots. The predictable decline of the Stalder shoot has continued in the wake of the elimination of the D+C connection bonus and the simultaneous rise of the Shaposh. EVERYONE used to have a Stalder shoot. Now it’s rather rare. The toe shoot, however, did get a little boost this year. A lot of those come from the weaker bars gymnasts just trying to get through with whatever skills, even if they don’t maximize D. But then there are also gymnasts like Simone, who has a frustrating interlude on the low bar with a non-counting cast 1/2+toe shoot simply because she needs it to get herself facing the right direction to dismount. Hence Simone’s irritation at not being able to get a shap 1/2. It would make her bars composition infinitely smoother and more efficient. (And worth more.)


  • Two. Literally two. Last year at least we had Kyla doing a Bhardwaj and Brenna doing a Yezhova to add some variety, but no. This year, we’re back to two.
  • Obviously, the Pak is the transition of choice for maximizing D score because it gets gymnasts facing the right way for the Shaposh. E-release + Pak + Shaposh 1/2 was the man-bun of the 2016 quad.
  • Last year, it was only Aly Raisman not doing a variation on a Pak (Kyla had no regular Pak but she had a Bhardwaj), but this year Aly was joined in the No Paks Allowed Club by Desiderio, DeGuzman, and Clapper. You know, the bars queens. They still favor the bail, the transition of choice for those desperately hoping to get through bars somehow and never think about it again. I’m actually surprised the bail is still kicking to the degree it is, but a number of people perform it along with the Pak just to shove another D skill in there.


  • The double layout made a comeback this year! We were heading toward one-dismount land for a moment there. It will be interesting to watch next quad to see if more C dismounts come out from hiding now that the dismount composition requirement is gone.



  • …It’s getting better…?


  • It’s a tie! In the great war between the worlds of beam acro skills, this year finished in a three-way tie for the most popular. It looks like last year’s dip in side aerials and front tucks may have been just a one-season blip.
  • The big news for me is the evisceration of the side somi (HOORAY). I’d like to think it’s because people are finally seeing what a wretch of a skill it is, but I’m guessing it’s mostly because of the D+A-dance combination. You can’t really dance-element your way out of a side somi the way you can an aerial walkover, side aerial, or punch front. Even though D+A goes away in 2017, let’s hope that doesn’t somehow revive the side somi. Just let it go.
  • The back pike is also way down, while the back tuck is back up (RHYMING). Because why do a back pike when you can do a back tuck…? I guess…?
  • The two-foot layout has been on a frequency roller-coaster this quad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets increasingly unpopular because of what petrified lemons the judges are about giving credit. (That’s good in theory, but so inconsistent. They are very lenient on certain skills, and then super harsh on the two-foot layout.)


  • We’ve been saved! The tyranny of the switch split reached unimaginable levels last year when it appeared in every single US senior beam routine, but this year we were saved by Olivia Trautman, who does not perform a switch split in her routine. Sadly, she automatically loses all those bonus points because she performs two consecutive wolf turns instead.
  • The other news this year was the complete obliteration of non-switch leaps. There’s just not enough value in them, and if you can get away with a sucky switch 1/2 anyway, why not go for it?
  • In terms of random A dance elements, the basic split leap keeps falling (because, like, you have to hit 180, and that’s like yuck), while lame pike jumps, wolf jumps, and sissones are on the rise. I only wish their leg positions were on the rise too. This will change next year with the upgrade of the split jump to a B.
  • Also changing will be sheep jumps. Sheep jumps are at a 5-year high right now, but that skill will plummet into the negative numbers once it becomes a C.
  • The switch ring has also been falling throughout the quad. It’s another skill that is very strictly evaluated and has been discouraged because of that, in spite of being an E.


  • Unsurprisingly, WOLF WOLF WOLF WOLF WOLF. The total number of wolfing gymnasts has continued to rise because they hate us.
  • Also note the precipitous drop in basic full turns since last year. It comes largely from gymnasts realizing they can actually get value from a turn and deciding to take a hit of the wolf instead, but there are also far fewer gymnasts attempting the L turn + full turn combo for CV than before.
  • Two US gymnasts went for a double turn on beam this year, previously the realm of internationals with the US program deeming it too risky.


  • The double tuck is OUT, and the back 2.5 is IN. The seniors were quite a twisty group this year, which we’ll see in the floor skills as well. Plus, if you can do a double tuck, you probably try to learn a double pike for the extra tenth.
  • (I counted Ragan Smith in the double pikes, not the double arabians, because the double pike was her final dismount choice.)



  • We saw WAY fewer double pikes this year than the last couple seasons. Far fewer gymnasts elected to perform both the double pike and the double tuck in the same routine (PRAISE BE), and if that trend is going, I’m all for it. Those who chose just one of the two chose to perform the double tuck. Obviously.
  • Several gymnasts have taken out the double pike and upgraded to a full-in, a skill that did see a spike this year.
  • Like the back 2.5 beam dismount, the triple full and front double full rose, not because they have become more valuable in the last year but because twisting was the preferred tumbling style of many of the lower-tier US seniors this season, which is unusual for a crop of US gymnasts.
  • We also saw the introduction of front tucks and back tucks and layout stepouts out of difficult tumbling elements to try to squeeze CV out of combination passes, and it was horrible.
  • Many gymnasts are still throwing an awful front or side aerial in the middle of the routine to meet the forward-tumbling composition requirement. Mwahahaha, not for long!


  • Dance elements on floor were…very different this year. And mostly for the better. Many, many more gymnasts opted for the switch 1/2 instead of trying to wrench around a frumpy switch full or a Ferrari. (That, or their switch fulls were so bad I couldn’t even tell what skill they were trying to do, but for the sake of optimism, we’ll assume that’s not the case.)
  • Fewer people also decided to throw random stags and sissones out of their dance elements to cover up that they were under-rotated. 87.5% last year compared to 50% this year. The rule dictating that connected leaps can’t get downgraded is going away after 2016 anyway, so they’re ahead of the game.
  • I don’t know why all these things happened, necessarily. I’m just pleased.


  • Even the wolf turns decreased on floor! What is this life?!?
  • There was an uptick in the number of double L turns, but overall the number of turns fell, running counter to the international trend of more turns and more turn combos (few US gymnasts attempted turn combos this year, hence the lack of single L turns). Presumably, the US is working under the belief that turns are not a reliable way to build difficulty because of the potential for downgrade, as Russia keeps learning. Or not learning.



  • Vaults have stayed more-or-less constant this quad, ever since it became offensive and unacceptable to perform anything less than a DTY. It’s odd to think that even in 2012 we had the same number of DTYs and 1.5s on vault, and now the 1.5 is such a rare species in elite.

5 thoughts on “American Elements 2016: The Hottest (and Frostiest) Skills in the US”

  1. Hopefully after Deanne Soza’s move to TD she’ll still keep the Ezhova in her routine… doubt it tho. It’ll probably be replaced with a jaeger or something.


  2. Great painstaking work :)… I wonder if we will ever see the cheng becomes more popular than amanar now that the amanar is devalued even more relative to dty… simone seems to do her cheng better than amanar

    Liked by 1 person

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