The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – May 31, 2019

A. A dissertation on the nature of the mixed combination bonus on women’s floor exercise

Since the dawn of humanity, it is our curiosity that has defined us as a people. The quest to seek out new frontiers, the passion to uncover the unknown, the

OK Simone has some upgrades.

She tweeted the gymternet to the ground this week by posting a Biles + front layout and a triple-twisting double back. I know.

I mean, girl was going out of bounds all over the place last season, so she’s got to start making these passes harder on herself, I guess.

So just to clarify, Simone won the floor title at worlds last year a full point ahead of silver medalist Morgan Hurd, and with a D score 0.9 higher than anyone else in the final. Now she’s planning to add an acro combination worth 0.2 and a new element that’s presumably going to be rated at I-value.

The Biles to front layout will replace the Biles + stag, for an upgrade of a tenth over last year’s peak D score of 6.7. What the triple double would replace…we don’t know yet. Potentially it would go in place of the double double tucked to add another 0.1, but there could be all kinds of rearranging of other passes as well. You wouldn’t put it past her to ditch the front 1/1 through to full-in for being too easy (I mean, what is she, an infant?) and swap out that full-in for a harder element in combo. Many, many options.

(Yes, I know, the triple double is on a tumble track, but also it’s Simone so of course she can, and at this point she wouldn’t be posting it if she weren’t adding it for real.)

Also, because I’ve been really into named skills lately: Naming conventions are such that the triple-double would be known as the Biles II, even though it would be her third eponymous skill, because you only number them within a specific apparatus, not overall. It would be her second named floor skill.

B. Koper World Challenge Cup

Koper marks the third and final event in this little chunk of spring challenge cups (the series will pick up again in September), and qualification is already complete.

On the women’s side, the star competitor is Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary, who qualified in first position on both bars and beam and will be expected to take those titles since she enjoys a difficulty advantage over the rest of the fields. Still, watch out for her teammate and new senior Zoja Szekely on bars, who has legit difficulty as part of that club of new Hungarians that can refresh the national team’s supply. As for the rest of the bars field, it’s a little…a Romanian made the final. But that provides its own kind of fun. We’re going to see some Ds in the lower 4s in that final.

On beam, Kovacs should get a run from Ilaria Käslin, who has shown some very nice moments on beam in the last 12 months or so and has made the last two European beam finals. I was also pleased to see Ada Hautala of Finland make the beam final after she charmed the world at the YOG last year.

Coming off her victory at Osijek, Teja Belak leads the vault standings and will be expected to win again with hits in the final, though she’s not too, too far ahead of Yamilet Peña. Now that Peña isn’t doing the double front, it’s like, “Oh, your DTY is actually not bad. I never really knew you could vault before.” We have four 5.4 vaults in the final, so someone with a DTY may not actually medal.

Floor is the most tightly packed of the finals, with all eight qualifiers scoring within three tenths of each other in qualification and the surprising lead going to home hope Tjasa Kysselef, who’s like, “Um…I do vault…but sure?”

For the man-boys, a weird thing happened on floor where Shatilov didn’t make the final, so that one is cancelled, Rhys McClenaghan is well ahead on horse, Shek Wai Hung has a major advantage on vault, Ilias Georgiou is going to try to not collapse into a pool of goop on PBars this time, and Israel is like, “Our thing is high bar now. You thought it was floor? It’s high bar.”

Finals run on Saturday and Sunday at 10:00am ET/7:00am PT and will stream on the Olympic Channel.

C. LSU developments

LSU has been all over the place this week, what with proposing changes and adding co-head coaches. Administratively, we learned that Jay Clark has been bumped up to co-head coach, with a salary raise to go with the new title. My interpretation of LSU’s move here is as follows: “D-D is legit going to coach this team until she is 175 years old, and we need to keep you on board somehow even though it’s taking a lot longer for you to get this head coaching job than you thought when you started…here’s some money.”

The best part of this article is that they’re not exactly subtle about Jay’s unhappiness with the current coaching situation. YAY FOR AWKWARD.

At SEC meetings, LSU also proposed a scholarship glow up from 12 to 14, which has met with mixed response as a concept. The arguments in favor are reasonable—we all want more opportunities for more gymnasts to compete more gymnastics, great great—with counterarguments mainly centering on the idea that this will allow the top teams to snatch up more of the very best recruits, leaving fewer high-scoring athletes for the mid-range schools, and increasing the disparity in quality between the best and everyone else.

If you’re a frequent reader, you know I’m not particularly sympathetic to the “but then how will the #35 team contend for a championship?!?” style of argument because they’re not contending for championships as is, the nature of any sport is that haves and have-nots will emerge, and that artificial parity leads to an artificial product. At the same time, this number-of-scholarships issue would not have been on my top-15 list of problems we need to address in college gymnastics. My initial reaction was, “Oh, now we have to think about this too?”

D. US men’s gymnastics news

In the world of men’s elite, the US held a selection camp to determine the teams for June’s junior worlds and July’s Pan American Games. The biggest names did not participate in this selection, and based on the results it looks like everyone who tried for the Pan Ams team is either on the team or an alternate, with Bock, Breckenridge, Malone, Neff, and Suzuki named to the team and De Los Angeles and Loos serving as alternates.

Selection of the women’s team for the junior world championships will take place at the June national team camp (June 13-17), and selection of the Pan American Games team will be done in two parts. A training squad of 8 will be named following the conclusion of American Classic (June 22), and the official team of 5 will be named at the conclusion of the US Classic (July 20).

Those going for the Pan Ams team must verify full routines on hard surfaces at either the June camp or the American Classic, and then must compete at the US Classic in order to be selected.

Gymnastics at the Pan American Games runs from July 27-31.

OK, that ended up mostly being about the women’s team. Sorry.

Other US men’s gymnastics news surrounds the many proposals of rule changes to men’s college gymnastics (like women’s college gymnastics, but more urgent!), including returning to a kind-of 10.0 system with a conversion chart and switching to 4-up, 4-count to reduce meet length. Anyway, it’s basically a blood bath, and everyone is going off.

As for me…it’s so relaxing not to feel like I need to have a strong opinion about this. But also I can’t help myself. I think I’m more sympathetic toward rule changes than most because…try things? Maybe? Something? We’ll see? Will it do anything to stem the decline of men’s college gymnastics programs? Probably not. But it’s better than sitting still.

Counterpoint: That FIG-10.0 conversion chart is such a camel. They’re trying to balance the need to retain FIG routine composition because college and elite have a reciprocal feeder system and working under two separate codes would be detrimental to that, but they also want the marketing potential of a 10.0. And so they came up with a compromise that is…you guys.

You made a camel.

Although the biggest problem in men’s college gym, one not addressed by any of this, is one of accessibility.

E. GymCastic

WHERE THE 80S NEVER DIE. This week, it’s the hair Olympics of 1988. We talk the US 0.5 Rhonda-podium deduction and allllll kinds of cheating scores. Get in.


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