The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Simone Biles Got a Negative Zero at Gumnerstics. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The starting gun fires, and a kaleidoscope of sparkles shoots across Rat-Breath Arena as an army of little robot-babies, each clad in her own shiny leopardtard, marches onto the gymnastic court.

On this day, when the U.S. Olympic Team of Gymnastic Girls would be named at the U.S. Classical, one sparkle seemed to shine brighter than the rest: the sparkle coming off the left hoof of a shiny goat emblazoned on the lower back of the Greatest Of All Time. That’s right. Simone Biles was back in the building.

At 24, Biles is the oldest person ever to have tried a gymnastics. Her teammates, most of them 6 or 11, affectionately call her, “Nana” and “That old hag-witch.” But while most gymnasts would have long since been required to hang up their gymnastics gloves and start popping out babies, Biles’ accomplishments earn her special consideration.

The star of the Rio Olympics, who bounced into houses all across America in the summer of 2016 because her bouncing, is widely considered the best to have ever done flips, having won world championships (it’s impossible to know how many) and long since eclipsing the records set by Soviet star Svetlana Khokrina or some Chinese girl probably.

And she’s not done yet. With just hours to go until the Olympics, Biles is shocking the world and pushing the boundaries of her sport yet again, this time unveiling what is called a “brand new Yurchenko double pike,” a somersault trick that requires a gymnast to heave herself off of a leather horse and into the air, performing two entire rolling flippies in a boomerang position before landing. The vault is named after Gerta “Doubles” Pike, a German-American war gymnast who never tried it.

In fact, the vault is considered so difficult, so complicated, requiring so much “amplitude” (insider gymnastics jargon meaning “amplitude”) that even groundbreaking flying ace Amelia Earhart never considered attempting it.

But since she started in 2016, Biles (seen performing the flip trick above) has never cared about what can and can’t be done. On this day, she performed the jump better than perfectly, rising into the rafters, screwing in a loose bulb from one of the arena lights, and somersaulting like a somersault who somersaults, landing with a perfect stick: lunging backward twice.

The audience burst into supernovas, and those in the area, the most esteemed gymnastics aficionados in the country, expected the flip to receive a 38, or perhaps even 154.625. Instead, a hush fell over the crowd when Biles’s score was posted: A negative zero.

How the judges arrived at a negative zero requires a complex series of math figurings at which I am an expect and will now explain.

Every 16 months, the International Gymnastics Club—or FIG—publishes a napkin that gives every jump a number between 3 and Orange, depending on its difficulty, flair, and cool points. In this case, the club gave the flip a value of 6.6, which is zero, which is banned.

This is not the first time that Biles has been banned by the gymnastics. In 2019, she attempted a flipper off the uneven parallel beams that was also banned for just 8 tenths of a point.

It seems that a pattern has emerged. Rather than embrace the world famous, groundbreaking, and undeniable nature of Simone Biles [check spelling] accomplishments as the rest of us have, the powers in the power positions of power have intervened to ensure that she can’t possibly win.

Biles went on to win the competition easily, an achievement that garners her six Olympics, and leaves us asking one simple question: Now that Biles has been banned by gymnastics, what will she gymnastic next?

%d bloggers like this: