The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

I Don’t Like Sheep – The Downgraded Elements

Taking a break from the fraught system of naming elements (for a second…), today let’s dive into elements that have been downgraded in value over the last couple quads. Was there a reason? Or did they just not come to Nellie’s birthday party?

(I’m not including vaults here because they’ve all been downgraded in value.)

Sheep jump

Value change: D to C
Date: 2017

The recent downgrade of the sheep jump on beam seems to be an instance of the Women’s Technical Committee exercising the “it v ugly” clause. Because it’s v ugly, and there doesn’t really seem to be any other justification (like a difficulty-based justification) for this downgrade.

Doing a proper sheep jump on beam, one that doesn’t incur loads of deductions for lack of closure and lack of head release and presence of a hip angle (it already had some of the most persnickety execution standards) is quite difficult and worthy of D value. But at the same time…blech. Unless you’re among a select few perfect Chinese beamers or Viktoria Komovas, the thing is probably awful looking.

It’s an obvious “I just don’t like this skill, and that’s all there is to it” scenario, emphasized by the downgrade not being backed up with much consistency across the rest of the code. The sheep jump on floor wasn’t bumped down accordingly. Other head-release, ring-shape elements on beam weren’t bumped down either. Just this one. So it doesn’t make that much sense logistically, but no one’s that outraged about it because…ugh sheep jumps.

So if you’ve noticed a dearth of sheep jumps this quadrennium, this is why. The sheep jump still can have some value as part of a dance combination or a mixed series, but it’s no more valuable than a switch leap as one of your counting dance elements or a back tuck as part of a mixed series,so…why ever?


Value change: G to E
Date: 2013

The downgrade of the Shushunova caused a bit of a stir because it’s quite rare to see a skill downgraded multiple tenths. This is also unusual for the WTC because it’s a case where the change was actually based on reality and not on some nonsensical whim of aesthetics. Like, this one…makes sense…? I barely know what to do with that information.

The original G value seems to have been based on the “full-twisting Tkatchev” misnomer, but this is not a full-twisting Tkatchev by any means. The Shushunova—as it has always been performed—is best characterized as a 1/2 turn on the bar into a Khorkina/Markelov.

Since the Khorkina is a D, it makes sense that a Shushunova would be an E because you’re adding a half turn to that D-value skill.

As much as it might pain me to say it, the WTC got this one right.

Shoots to high bar (clear hip, Stalder, piked-Stalder)

Value change: C to B
Date: 2017

The most drastic downgrade to shoots to high bar actually came in the 2013 code update when the D+C combination bonus for a bail connected to a Stalder shoot was eliminated. In 2013, we went immediately from everyone and her ill third-cousin doing bail + Stalder shoot, to nobody doing that because they don’t want to look like a loser.

That’s what started to make these skills semi-pointless and usher in The Age of the Shaposh. Still, the dwindling frequency of shoots to high bar was confirmed in the 2017 update when they were all brought down to B-value (to match the toe shoot, which had already been a B). We’ll still see shoots here and there, but solely as compositional pieces to try to find a way to get back to the high bar, never as counting elements because they’re no more valuable than a giant.

That’s why I take issue with so many bars skills being rated B or downgraded to B. You’re telling me that a piked-Stalder shoot to the high bar is the same difficulty and risk as a giant swing? No.

So I don’t understand this downgrade too much. It’s not like they were being overdone, either. They had basically died four years before. And there is already precedent for toe-on skills being rated lower than their counterparts. Kind of. On that note…

Ray and Church

Ray value change: E to D
Church value change: F to E
Date: 2013

Prior to 2013, the regular Tkatchev was a D skill and all other variations on Tkatchevs were rated at least E. The WTC then decided that toe-on variations should be the same value as regular Tkatchevs, leaving the Stalder and piked-Stalder variations a tenth higher.

Once again, however, we have some issue with consistency here because this lower valuing of the toe-on Tkatchevs only applies to the straddle and piked versions. As we increase difficulty, the consistency is lost. The Tweddle (toe-on Tkatchev 1/2) is an F, which is the same value as the Derwael-Fenton (Stalder Tkatchev 1/2), while the Kononenko (regular Tkatchev 1/2) is an E.

Meanwhile, the Nabieva is a G, and presumably when a Stalder layout Tkatchev is originated (only a matter of time, right?) it will also be a G. So at a certain point, the toe-on Tkatchevs regain their elevated status over the regulars.

I will say that it kind of makes sense that the toe-on versions would be downgraded to the same level as the regular Tkatchevs because toe-on seems to be the root skill of choice for best gaining the momentum and amplitude necessary to get some height over that bar. Even with the downgrade, the Ray and Church are still the preference over the Tkatchev and piked Tkatchev, which would only be the case because you find it easier.

Gainer dismounts

Gainer pike value change: C to B
Gainer layout value change: D to C
Gainer layout full value change: E to D
Date: 2017

The gainer dismount off the end of the beam has grown in popularity over recent years and is among those newly popular skills that the WTC elected to bump down to try to quash the peasant uprising of this simpler-seeming dismount.

At least they were all bumped down as a group. We have some consistency there. I go back and forth about gainers off the end of the beam because while it can be a visually non-stunning way to conclude a routine…it also seems terrifying and is something a little different.

But then again, we were getting layout full attempts with aggressive piking that nonetheless had to be credited as layout for E value and…no. Also, having that gainer layout dismount at the same value as a double tuck or a back 2.5 seemed off. So this one makes some sense.

Wolf turn 2.5

Value change: E to D
Date: 2017

Obviously, any downgrade of a wolf turn is met with grand cheers from the populace due to the vanquishing of a nemesis.

There’s also some solid justification here because I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say wolf turns are overvalued as a group. The blatant reason they’ve become so popular is not because of their inherent beauty and gracefulness but because the wolf double on beam and floor is the easiest way to get a D dance element counting for your score. Not that it’s without risk on beam, as we know. But compared to other D dance elements on beam, like the switch 1/2 or double turn in straight position, you’re going to opt for the wolf double every time.

My issue here is once again one of consistency. If you felt like wolf turns as a group were overvalued (justifiable position) and therefore over-performed (definitely true), then they all needed to be bumped down, not just one instance on one event. I would be totally down with a full family downgrade.

But even if you felt like only select wolf turns were overvalued and the others were fine, then the worst offender is obviously the D value given to the wolf double on floor, and there was no change made there.

I would like to see that double wolf turn on floor become a C next quad because the safety net provided by being on floor and being able to overturn it or save a bad one is not worthy of D value. It’s not an equivalent skill to the double L or double Y and shouldn’t be treated the same way.

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