The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Why Does the Code Hate Nastia So Much?

Interested in a pointless exercise? SAMESIES! Hey, what else are we going to do?

I decided to take the US 2008 Olympic team and calculate their D-scores as if they were competing now—under the 2020 code—to see how things might change.

And they sort of do!

(Save all comments about comparing a 10-skill code to an 8-skill code and composition choices and all that. No one is pretending this is real or means anything.)

Here’s what the D-Score hierarchy would be for that team under the 2020 code.

VTUBBBFXTOTAL
Shawn Johnson5.85.36.25.723.0
Nastia Liukin5.06.05.55.221.7
Chellsie Memmel5.05.75.55.521.7
Sam Peszek5.45.25.65.521.7
Bridget Sloan5.45.25.25.221.0
Alicia Sacramone5.85.75.416.9
Routines from 2008 Olympic Trials

Compared to the actual actual D-Scores (A-Scores) awarded at the time.

VTUBBBFXTOTAL
Shawn Johnson6.56.46.96.626.4
Nastia Liukin5.57.76.76.226.1
Chellsie Memmel5.57.06.96.225.6
Sam Peszek 5.86.26.66.425.0
Bridget Sloan5.86.76.16.124.7
Alicia Sacramone6.36.56.219.0
D-Scores from 2008 Olympic Trials, best of 2 days

So it brings up some questions. Mostly one question. That question is, why does the current code of points hate Nastia so much?

Because it sure does. Liukin goes from being quite close to Johnson on difficulty in 2008 to living among the peasants in the 2020 code, not at all separated from Memmel and even Peszek, someone who really benefits under the 2020 code compared to 2008.

The biggest blow to Liukin is bars, where changes in connection value over the years have turned routines like Liukins’s in fairly pedestrian-valued affairs instead of being the YOU COULD NEVER routines they were at the time.

2008 code2020 code
Stalder shoot
C
Stalder shoot
B
Piked Stalder 1/2 + Stalder forward (L grip) + Ono + Healy + Ono 1/2 + Layout Gienger
D + D + E + E + E + D = 0.8 CV
Piked Stalder 1/2 + Stalder forward (L grip) + Ono + Healy + Ono 1/2 + Layout Gienger
D + D + E + E + E + E = 0.3 CV
Piked Stalder + Tkatchev
D + D = 0.1 CV
Piked Stalder + Tkatchev
D + D
Pak
D
Pak
D
Cast 1/2 + Toe shoot
B + B
Cast 1/2 + Toe shoot
B + B
Blind change + Double front 1/2
B + D
Blind change + Double front 1/2
B + E
EEEDDDDDDD = 4.3 EEEEEDDD = 3.7
Composition = 2.5Composition = 2.0
Connection bonus = 0.9Connection bonus = 0.3
TOTAL = 7.7TOTAL = 6.0

It’s interesting that two of the skills in Liukin’s routine have since been upgraded by a tenth (the layout Gienger and the double front 1/2 out), and yet the routine is still obliterated because of the loss of CV in her mega-series.

Much of that comes from pirouetting elements no longer being eligible to get 0.2 CV in combos, but nearly as significant is a D element without flight or turn not being eligible for CV, which takes away almost as many combination tenths. That’s also the culprit for Sloan’s routine, which loses nearly as much as Nastia’s does in the 2020 code.

Meanwhile, an unconnected Pak salto. What an extinct bird.

Liukin’s loss on beam is also fairly large, but in this case her routine isn’t truly destroyed by changes in the current code (the evaluation of her eponymous skill doesn’t help, but that’s not a huge deal overall).

2008 code2020 code
Front aerial + Bhs + Layout stepout
D + B + C = 0.2 CV
Front aerial + Bhs + Layout stepout
D + B + C = 0.1 SB
L turn
C
L turn
C
Switch 1/2
D
Switch 1/2
D
Split jump + Sheep jump
A + D
Split jump + Sheep jump
B + C
Side somi
D
Side somi
D
Onodi + Wolf jump 1/1
D + C = 0.1
Onodi + Wolf jump 1/1
D + D = 0.2
Kickover front to scale
D
Kickover front + Scale
C + A
Switch ring
E
Switch ring
E
Back 2.5
D
Back 2.5
D
Acro – DDDDDC = 2.3Acro – DDDDC = 1.9
Dance – EDDC = 1.6Dance – EDD = 1.3
Composition = 2.5Composition = 2.0
Connection bonus = 0.3Connection bonus = 0.3
TOTAL = 6.7TOTAL = 5.5

The issue here is more that, compared to the 1.2 Liukin loses for this routine, someone like Johnson fares much better and loses only 0.8 because the current code rewards routines like Johnson’s in more ways than they were rewarded, even at the time.

2008 code2020 code
Bhs + Bhs + layout
B + B + E = 0.2 CV
Bhs + Bhs + layout
B + B + E = 0.1 CV, 0.1 SB
Front pike
E
Front pike
E
Back tuck 1/1
F
Back tuck 1/1
F
Switch leap + Layout stepout + Back pike
C + C + C = 0.2 CV
Switch leap + Layout stepout + Back pike
C + C + C = 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Switch side
C
Switch side
C
Split jump + Pike jump + Back tuck
A + A + C
Split jump + Pike jump + Back tuck
B + A + C
L turn
C
L turn
C
Round-off + Full-in
B + G
Round-off + Full-in
B + G = 0.2 CV
Acro – GFEECCC = 3.2Acro – GFEEC = 2.6
Dance – CCC = 0.9Dance – CCC = 0.9
Composition = 2.5Composition = 2.0
Connection bonus = 0.4Connection bonus = 0.7
TOTAL = 7.0TOTAL = 6.2

Johnson was typically given 6.9 for this beam routine in 2008 (which is why you’ll see 6.9 in the chart at the top), though the intended was 7.0.

In the 2020 code, Johnson makes up a lot of that potentially lost ground through CV since her dismount combination, as well as that three-series of C elements, have since become prototypes for how to compose a beam routine. She was doing a mixed series of C elements way before it was cool. She’s basically a split jump 1/2 from side position away from a present-day routine.

On floor, Sam Peszek is the one who fares the best compared to the 2008 code for similar reasons. Take out a couple of those random extra dance elements you had to do to get up to 10 skills, and this is routine composition you’d want right now.

2008 code2020 code
Double double tucked
G
Double double tucked
H
Back 2.5 + Front 1/1
D + C = 0.2 CV
Back 2.5 + Front 1/1
D + C = 0.2 CV
Triple turn
C
Triple turn
C
Switch ring
C
Switch ring
C
Cat leap 1.5
B
Cat leap 1.5
B
Double Arabian
E
Double Arabian
E
Split leap 1/1
C
Split leap 1/1
C
Back 1.5
C
Back 1.5
C
Double pike
D
Double pike
D
Acro – GEDDC = 2.3Acro – HEDDC = 2.4
Dance – CCCCB = 1.4Dance – CCC = 0.9
Composition = 2.5Composition = 2.0
Connection bonus = 0.2Connection bonus = 0.2
TOTAL = 6.4TOTAL = 5.5

Peszek gains a tenth from the upgrade of the Silivas, but overall across beam and floor she fares so much better in the 2020 code because she’s mostly reliant on skill value rather than the lamer connection bonuses that have been weaned from the code in the intervening years. And when she is reliant on connection bonus, like her back full + back pike on beam, that series would still be a big deal today.

For all of Nellie Kim’s “Nastia was the last one I liked” subtext whenever she talks about the current state of gymnastics, the evolution of the code in the last 12 years—predominately under her watch—has clearly said that Johnson and Peszek’s gymnastics is the composition that should be rewarded.

That 23.0 D-score for Shawn Johnson under the 2020 code would have been tied for second-best in the all-around final at worlds in 2019, while the rest of the US 2008 Olympians would be well back of medal pace in terms of difficulty.

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