The Most Difficult (Attempted) Beam Routines in the World

In today’s edition, I’m working through the highest D scores that have been attempted on beam in 2019 (and we’ll get to the issue of getting credit for them in a moment).

As such, there may be other gymnasts who have attempted 6.4+ routines this year, but since they got awarded a 0.6 or something, they didn’t make the radar.

Kara Eaker – 6.8

KARA EAKER
Switch split mount (D) + Split ring leap (D)
= 0.2 CV
Y spin (C)
Front aerial (D) + Split ring jump (D) + Back handspring (B)
= 0.3 CV, 0.1 SB
Side aerial (D) + Layout stepout (C) + Layout stepout (C)
= 0.3 CV, 0.1 SB
Split leap (B) + Side somi (D)
= 0.1 CV
Switch ring (E) + Back handspring (B) + Korbut (B)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch leap (C) + Switch side (C)
= 0.1 CV
Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Back 2.5 (D)
– 0.1 SB
Acro – DDDD – 1.6
Dance – EDDD – 1.7
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 1.1
Series bonus – 0.4
Total D – 6.8

Eaker received credit for the full difficulty she attemped at Classic this year with her 6.8 en route to that 15.400 total.

Her basic value—that is, if she got credit for no connections in her routine and just the skills—is 5.3, which is on the lower side in this company and means she is exceptionally reliant on hitting connections with appropriate rhythm in her routine. Kind of her thing.

Eaker’s 1.5 intention of 7 separate combinations of skills earning bonus is the highest in the world, with even the Chinese connection queens typically going for five.


Ou Yushan – 6.8

OU YUSHAN
Back dive candle mount (D)
Front handspring (B) + Front tuck (D)
= 0.2 CV
Switch leap (C) + Switch leap 1/2 (D) + Korbut (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Front aerial (D) + Split jump (B) + Straddle jump (B) +
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch ring (E) + Split ring (D) + Back handspring (B)
= 0.3 CV, 0.1 SB
Full turn (A)
Side somi (D) + Split jump 1/2 from side (D) + Straddle jump 1/2 from side (D)
= 0.4 CV, 0.1 SB
Round-off (B) + Back 2/1 (C)
Acro – DDC – 1.1
Dance – EDDDD – 2.1
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 1.2
Series bonus – 0.4
Total D – 6.8

Ou has to count her dismount, which is a C, and that takes her difficulty down by a tenth because it means she cannot count her side somi (D) as one of the acro skills. Otherwise she would be at 6.9, the highest being attempted in the world.

Ou has the two single most valuable combination being done by anyone in her routine, the side somi to two side leaps, connecting three D elements for 0.2 for each connection and a tenth for series bonus. It’s a tough one to get credit for, but she did in this case.

In this routine, Ou has the highest connection value being attempted in the world at 1.6. Her base difficulty without connections is just 3.2, so she’s even more reliant than others on getting that combo credit.


Guan Chenchen – 6.7

GUAN CHENCHEN
Switch split mount (D) + Switch leap 1/2 (D) + Back handspring (B)
= 0.3 CV, 0.1 SB
Round-off (B) + Layout (E) + Split jump (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch leap (C) + Sissone (A)
Korbut (B)
Front handspring (B) + Front tuck (D)
= 0.2 CV
Front aerial (D) + Straddle jump (B) + Back handspring (B)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Split jump 1/2 from side (D) + Straddle jump 1/2 from side (D)
= 0.2 CV
Full turn (A)
Round-off (B) + Double pike (E)
Acro – EEDD – 1.8
Dance – DDDD – 1.6
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 1.0
Series bonus – 0.3
Total D – 6.7

Guan has a number of different routine options, and we’ve seen this particular 6.7 routine pop up only at Chinese nationals. The routine she attempted this month at junior nationals moves that initial switch 1/2 combination series and eliminates that orphan Korbut, which brings her down a tenth in intended D but seems a more comfortable arrangement overall.

Compared to Eaker’s routine or Ou’s routine, Guan has a bit more skill difficulty and is going for a bit less in connection value, with 1.3 total in connections instead of 1.5 and 5 distinct bonus sequences instead of 7.


Simone Biles – 6.6

SIMONE BILES
Squat through mount (A)
Wolf turn triple (E)
Front aerial (D) + Split jump (B) + Straddle jump (B)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Back handspring (B) + Layout stepout (C) + Layout stepout (C)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch leap (C) + Switch leap 1/2 (D) + Back pike (C)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Side aerial (D)
Split jump 1/2 from side position (D)
Sissone (A) + Wolf jump (A)
Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Double-twisting double tuck (I)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Acro – IDDC = 2.0
Dance – EDDC = 1.6
Composition requirements = 2.0
Connection Value = 0.6
Series Bonus = 0.4
D-SCORE = 6.6

The double double routine puts Biles up at 6.6, with composition that’s quite different from the two above since Biles doesn’t rely as much on connections. Her basic score with no connection bonus for this routine would 5.6, and even that would never happen because quite a bit of Biles’ connection bonus is from series like the 2 losos and the dismount, where it’s a true rebounding series and therefore not really a subjective rhythm thing in the same way. If she doesn’t fall on those series, she’s getting the bonus.

Five tenths of Biles’ difficulty here is what I’d consider “whatever the rhythm happens to be on the day” difficulty, whereas a full point of the difficulty in Eaker and Guan’s routine could be lost if it’s a pause-y kind of day, even in an overall hit routine, and 1.4 could be lost in Ou’s routine.

Biles has removed some of the highest value acro skills from her routine this year like That Damn Barani and the front pike, though especially when the new dismount is in, you don’t really notice.

Interestingly, even with the new dismount in, Biles is not showing the highest total skill difficulty on beam this year. At 3.6, her value from elements is close to the highest, but not the highest.


Jade Carey (yes that Jade Carey) – 6.6

Jade Carey – Beam
Forward roll mount (B)
Front aerial (D) + Split jump (B) + Straddle jump (B)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Back handspring (B) + Layout stepout (C) + Layout (E) –
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Split leap (B) + Side aerial (D) –
= 0.1 CV
Switch side 1/2? (E)
Switch leap (C) + Switch leap 1/2 (D) + Back tuck (C)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Full turn (A)
Gainer back handspring (B) + Switch side (C) + Split jump 1/2 from side (D)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Double pike (E)
= 0.1 SB
Acro – EEDD – 1.8
Dance – EDDC – 1.6
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 0.7
Series bonus – 0.5
Attempted D – 6.6

I’m kind of obsessed with this hilarious “throw it all against the wall and hope half of it sticks” composition strategy. I don’t think anyone, even Jade or Papa Carey, expects this routine ever to receive close to 6.6 in competition, but they’re like, “well let’s see…” The most awarded so far this summer for this routine has been 5.8 from Classic.

To me, Carey is doing a switch 3/4, which is not a skill in the code, so I’m guessing the idea is that this is a switch side 1/2?


Tang Xijing – 6.5

TANG XIJING
Round-off layout stepout mount (E)
Round-off (B) + Layout (E)
= 0.1 CV
Switch leap (C) + Split ring jump (D) + Korbut (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch ring (E) + Back handspring (B)
= 0.1 CV
Front aerial (D) + Split jump (B) + Double stag (B)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Split ring leap (D)
Full turn (A)
Round-off (B) + Back 3/1 (F)
= 0.2 CV
Acro – FEED – 2.0
Dance – EDDC – 1.6
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 0.7
Series bonus – 0.2
Attempted D – 6.5

The most we’ve seen Tang receive this year is a 6.4—for the above routine—but she’s going for 6.5. In the embedded routine, she wouldn’t have received connection for the double stag, which takes away a tenth in series bonus.

Tang’s routine is somewhat different from many of the other Chinese gymnasts in this post because she’s getting more from skill value (3.6, the same as Simone) and less from connections (“just” 0.9). I mean, she only has one back handspring tacked onto the end of a combination to get series bonus. Was that a try?


Qi Qi – 6.5

QI QI
Side split mount (A)
Back tuck full (F)
Switch ring (E)
Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Layout (E)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch leap (C) + Split ring jump (D) + Korbut (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Front aerial (D)
Split ring leap (D)
Full turn (A)
Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Back 3/1 (F)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Acro – FFED – 2.1
Dance – EDDC – 1.6
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 0.5
Series bonus – 0.3
Attempted D – 6.5

Qi Qi is also going for a 6.5 in this routine (which she hasn’t received this year), but she is reigning triumphant in skill value with 3.7 coming from elements, the most of any gymnast in this list. She’s the only one here going for two F skills.

It’s worth remarking upon that the majority of gymnasts with big beam difficulty are not going for a bunch of individually difficult elements. Most of them are maxing out at E and not doing back fulls or Arabians or G dismounts. It’s all about connection value.


Li Shijia – 6.4

LI SHIJIA
Side split mount (A)
Switch leap (C) + Split ring leap (D) + Back handspring (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Side aerial (D)
Front handspring (B) + Front tuck (D)
= 0.2 CV
Switch ring (E) + Back handspring (B)
= 0.1 CV
Front aerial (D) + Split ring jump (D) + Korbut (B)
= 0.3 CV, 0.1 SB
Split jump 1/2 from side position (D)
Full turn (A)
Round-off (B) + Double pike (E)
Acro – EDDD – 1.7
Dance – EDDD – 1.7
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 0.8
Series bonus – 0.2
Total D – 6.4

Can we talk about China’s categorical “no wolf turns” philosophy and how that should be given more praise? Always remember, you don’t need to do wolf turns as long as you tack some pretty back handsprings onto the end of whatever skill you’re doing. It’s the better cynical option.

Li is one of just four gymnasts in this group that isn’t counting any C elements in her routine, which keeps the difficulty up even though more of her connections tend to be a bit suspect.


Liu Tingting – 6.4

LIU TINGTING
Back dive candle mount (D)
Front handspring (B) + Front tuck (D)
= 0.2 CV
Switch leap (C) + Split ring leap (D) + Back handspring (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch ring (E)
Front aerial (D) + Split ring jump (D) + Korbut (B)
= 0.3 CV, 0.1 SB
Full turn (A)
Split leap (B) + Side aerial (D) + Split jump (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Round-off (B) +  Back 2/1 (C)
Acro – DDDDC – 1.9
Dance – EDD – 1.3
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 0.9
Series bonus – 0.3
Total D – 6.4

With that 2/1 at the end, Liu Tingting also has to count a C dismount, but her composition has only 7 elements of D+ value anyway, so she would have to count a C regardless. There’s not a better skill that has to be dropped because of the dismount-counting rule.


Riley McCusker – 6.4

RILEY MCCUSKER
Jump to side split  (A)
Wolf turn triple (E)
Wolf turn double (D)
Split leap (B) + Front aerial (D) + Straddle jump (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Layout (E)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch leap (C) + Switch leap 1/2 (D) + Korbut (B)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Side aerial (D) + Split jump (B) + Back tuck (C)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Double tuck (D)
= 0.1 SB
Acro – EDDD – 1.7
Dance – EDDC – 1.6
Composition – 2.0
Connection value 0.6
Series bonus – 0.5
Total D – 6.4

McCusker is going for a 6.4 and received her full difficulty at Classic. She has a series ending in a Korbut, which is very Chinese of her, but she also has a series ending in a back tuck, which is very American of her. The Americans tend to put back tucks and back pikes that they don’t intend to count for difficulty on the end of their combinations for series bonus, while Chinese and GAGE gymnasts tend to favor back handsprings and Korbuts.

It’s often not possible for the US gymnasts to put back handsprings on the end of their series in the same way because they’re already using up all of their allotted back handsprings in mid-routine acro series and dismount combinations.


Sunisa Lee – 6.4

SUNISA LEE
Side split mount (A)
Wolf turn triple (E)
Split jump (B) + Sissone (A)
Front aerial (D)
Back handspring (B) + Back handspring (B) + Layout (E)
= 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch leap (C) + Switch leap 1/2 (D) + Back tuck (C)
= 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Side aerial (D) + Layout stepout (C) + Layout stepout (C)
= 0.3 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch ring (E)
Split ring jump (D)
Round-off (B) + Double tuck (D)
Acro – EDDD – 1.7
Dance – EEDD – 1.8
Composition – 2.0
Connection value – 0.6
Series bonus – 0.3
Attempted D – 6.4

Lee’s routine could be as high as 6.4. In this particular instance, she received 6.2—I imagine she wouldn’t have received the back tuck out of the switch 1/2, accounting for the loss of 2 tenths—and 6.2 is the highest we’ve seen her get so far this year.

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