The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening — August 20, 2021

A. Touch Warmup

The FIG House of Burgesses met this week in its fortress at the bottom of the ocean to come to several conclusions, the most important of which was the restoration of a touch warmup for event finals after everyone pointed out again during the Olympics how stupid not having one was. Hooray for pointing out stupid things!

It’s honestly a shockingly prompt reaction. I mean, sure, we’ve been complaining about this for 20 years, but 20 years is also pretty prompt for the FIG. I expected a working committee to be created to discuss the possibility of discussing restoring a touch warmup for the 2028 quad.

The absence of a touch warmup for EF was an unsafe dumbsie that also curtailed innovation with no real purpose, advantage, or explanation that withstood even the most basic logic test. It was just one of those weird things gymnastics did where everyone was like, “Bwelp, that’s how we do it.” Like straddling each other’s butts in height order to receive awards, or the concept of pommel horse.

B. Qualification Complication: Part Deux

The FIG meeting also approved some meet locations. The 2022 Apparatus World Cups for February and March will be in Cottbus, Baku, Cairo, and Doha, with Challenge Cups in Varna, Mersin. Osijek, Paris, and Szombathely.

The Challenge Cups are just for getting prize money for doing gymnastics, but starting in 2022 the four Apparatus World Cups will have additional world championships qualification implications for individuals. The 8 best gymnasts on each apparatus who don’t ultimately qualify to the world championship through another means will get a spot at worlds based on their performances at those four Apparatus World Cups.

Re: qualifying to the world championship through another means. In 2022, teams and all-arounders will have to qualify to worlds via the continental championships. Each continent is allocated a specific number of teams and all-around individuals that can qualify to worlds based on the gymnastics strength of that particular continent. Gymnasts who don’t end up qualifying through the continental championships with a team or as all-arounders can lean on their Apparatus World Cup performances to try to get a spot at worlds. Because just when you thought we were done with that Olympic qualification process…

These are the qualification quotas for 2022:

Women’s TeamWomen’s AAMen’s TeamMen’s AA
Asia4856
Oceania1212
Americas51146
Africa1412
Europe13231323
Host Country0101
Total24492440

There are plenty of issues that will crop up with this system in terms of stronger teams not qualifying while weaker teams do because of the continent they’re from, so just…get ready to have a Twitter argument about that next year. But the idea here is to make the continental championships matter a bit more, which is a solid aim, especially in the Americas where the US has always treated Pan-American competitions as a real afterthought.

Ostensibly, having a qualification system is supposed to shorten worlds to make it a little more manageable, as well as establish a minimum standard in order to qualify. It’s unusual that current gymnastics world championships have no official qualification standard, which means I—me—would legitimately be allowed to enter as long as I had enough money to hoodwink a poor unsuspecting country with no gymnastics program to let me represent them. You should at least need to have…maybe done a scored routine before, right?

That’s why I like the idea of a qualification pipeline. You have fully open events like continental championships and world cups that serve the purpose of giving competition experience and opportunities to gymnasts from a whole variety of countries, and then the gymnasts who come out of this crucible qualify to the world championship. But I have my doubts about how all of this will actually work.

There are just so many quota places available that…how much would this even change? If you’re just shoving the same number of gymnasts into fewer days of qualification because you want the event to be shorter…is that better? Or is that worse? Because it seems like it might be worse?

C. Speaking of World Cups

Just after I said last time that no rosters had been released for the Koper and Mersin Challenge Cups even though the registration deadline had long since passed…rosters were released for Koper and Mersin!

The fields are actually pretty hearty, especially in Koper, with even some Olympians already planning to check back in—including Larisa Iordache, who is on the list for Mersin. There’s also a nice mix of gymnasts I’ve never heard of on these lists, as it should be for an event right after the Olympics. Let the next quad begin! Koper event finals begin on September 4th, which should be the next closest gymnastics-watching opportunity.

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