Category Archives: Fun with Numbers

The Balance Beam Situation for 2013

Given the name of this blog, I would be remiss if I did not perform my annual analysis of the balance beam situation from the past NCAA season. It’s a tradition now. (2012, 2011)

Rather than simply using the beam rankings to evaluate beam quality, I always find it quite telling to limit the sample specifically to beam routines performed in high-leverage situations, the must-hit routines. Because a score can be dropped, a single beam fall along the way is not a huge deal. Just drop the score and move on. The much bigger deal is the quality of the routines that come after the fall because now they have to count. There is no longer any margin. This could be an opportunity for lots of metaphors about falling off the horse and getting back on, but ugh. I’ll spare you. We don’t do that here.    

To assess the quality of the must-hit routines in 2013, I took the teams that qualified to championships (along with the two highly ranked schools that missed out, Nebraska and Oregon State) and averaged the scores of all beam routines performed at any point after a fall or fall-equivalent performance (a score of 9.500 or lower) to find out how the team fared in those situations.

Average score for must-hit beam routines – 2013
1. Oklahoma – 9.835
2. Alabama – 9.833
3. Michigan – 9.815
4. UCLA – 9.805
5. Nebraska – 9.800
6. Stanford – 9.797
7. LSU – 9.795
8. Oregon State – 9.782
9. Florida – 9.781
9. Minnesota – 9.781
11. Georgia – 9.766
12. Illinois – 9.729
13. Utah – 9.721
14. Arkansas – 9.708

That Oklahoma won is hardly a surprise. This will only serve to feed the Sooners’ credentials as a beam team, but there are some other interesting issues to pick out here.

Let’s begin with Florida’s low ranking because I think it’s the most significant. Florida finished the regular season tied with Oklahoma as the nation’s top beam team, but these numbers tell a different story. The Gators were not as strong on beam in 2013 as in 2012 overall (having to perform four times as many beam routines after falls in 2013 as in 2012), but they were still excellent when allowed a margin for mistakes. Performing after a low score in a must-hit routine, however, they struggled more. Florida recorded scores under 9.700 in 20% of their post-fall beam routines in 2013, compared to 7% for Alabama and 5% for both Oklahoma and UCLA. We all know how crucial this issue became once Super Six rolled around. It almost cost Florida a title.

The surprisingly high rankings for Michigan and Nebraska also warrant discussion. Both teams were actually pretty strong in terms of avoiding counting falls, with Nebraska counting just one all season and Michigan counting none (a feat which largely accounts for both teams’ rankings here), but that does not provide a complete picture. Both teams had a problem with 9.6s and low 9.7s, but routines coming after 9.6s are not included here because they don’t reflect falls. Several non-fall low scores on beam served to usher Nebraska out at Regionals, and Michigan’s epic struggle of a 48.775 on beam in national semifinals included no scores of 9.500 or less (and therefore had no effect on these fall-based statistics), but the rotation was still a horror film full of 9.6s and 9.7s. 

Success on beam can also be subject to the sheer number of routines being performed after falls.

Number of must-hit beam routines – 2013
1. Stanford – 9
2. Alabama – 15
3. Michigan – 17
3. Utah – 17
5. UCLA – 19
6. Florida – 20
6. Arkansas – 20
8. Oklahoma – 21
8. Minnesota – 21
10. Illinois – 23
11. Nebraska – 26
12. Oregon State – 27
13. LSU – 33
14. Georgia – 34

Interestingly, these two lists don’t match up particularly well. Oklahoma actually had to perform quite a few high-leverage routines, which makes the team’s strong average that much more impressive.

Stanford performed the fewest beam routines after falls by a pretty wide margin, much of which is the result of lineup organization. The Cardinal certainly faced issues with beam consistency in 2013 but had five pretty solid members of the rotation throughout the year. They put the sixth question-mark routine last in the order at most meets, so that even if there was a fall, no one performed after that fall. There’s something to be said for that strategy of putting the least certain routine last. The fewer times you put yourself in a position to compete after a beam fall, the fewer falls you will have. The risk, of course, is losing out on the potential for that big end-of-rotation score.

Now, let’s address the individuals. I eliminated anyone who performed under three routines after falls because that’s not enough routines to be significant.

Best individual average for must-hit beam routines – 2013 (minimum 3 routines)
1. Taylor Spears (Oklahoma) – 9.882
2. Kim Jacob (Alabama) – 9.880
3. Rheagan Courville (LSU) – 9.878
4. Ashanee Dickerson (Florida) – 9.856
5. Emily Wong (Nebraska) – 9.854
6. Danusia Francis (UCLA) – 9.850
7. Katie Zurales (Michigan) – 9.845
7. Madison Mooring (Oklahoma) – 9.845
9. Vanessa Zamarripa (UCLA) – 9.842
9. Katherine Grable (Arkansas) – 9.842

Taylor Spears wins the award for being the best at performing after a fall, recording a score of 9.9+ in over half her efforts. Kim Jacob and Rheagan Courville came in right behind her, and Jacob should certainly be the heir to Ashley Priess at the back of that beam lineup. I’m most surprised by Dickerson’s appearance here because she has not always been great in this situation and had the fall in Super Six (the first fall of the two, so she wasn’t performing after a fall), but she was a 9.850 machine competing after falls throughout the season.

I usually do a worst list as well, but this year there were only a handful of people who performed at least three routines after falls and recorded an average under 9.700. Most of the weaker people were in the 9.725-9.750 range, which is not that bad. Plus, a couple of people who would have made the list were a bit misleading, like Marissa King. She had an average of 9.683 because her post-fall beam scores were 9.925, 9.900, and 9.225, so that average is not really representative of quality. It’s just one fall.

This year’s Ironwoman Team Savior Award goes to Rheagan Courville in a landslide because she performed nine routines after falls and fell on none of them, posting four scores in the 9.9s and nothing below a 9.825. She had to perform after a fall in the majority of meets and was a rock. Where would LSU have been without her?

There are a few other notables for the ironwoman award who performed many must-hit routines without recording any scores under 9.750: Taylor Spears (Oklahoma), 7 routines; Danusia Francis (UCLA), 7 routines; Emily Wong (Nebraska), 7 routines; Sydnie Dillard (Arkansas), 6 routines; Chelsea Tang (Oregon State), 6 routines; Alina Weinstein (Illinois), 6 routines; and Vanessa Zamarripa (UCLA), 6 routines.

So there we have it. What stands out to you about these lists?

Tenths above Average 2013

You may very well have spent this weekend watching NBC’s broadcast of Worlds, not because you hadn’t seen the competition already but as a kind of anthropological experiment. It’s extraordinarily important for us to see how other cultures like NBC behave in their natural habitats so that we may begin to understand their seemingly bizarre choices and value systems.

The broadcast also helped us add “circumspect” and “contingency” to the list of words to which Tim Daggett does not know the meaning. In addition, please remember the moment Al saw Simone’s tuck turn on beam and said, “Now that’s a connection!” Nope. F-. That is an individual skill. It frustrates some people, but it makes me exceptionally happy every time. 

Now that’s a connection!

Of course, this residual Worlds coverage is just a distraction from the real issue at hand, beginning to prepare for the NCAA season, but the NBC broadcasts always do raise the important issue of the power of narrative and truth through repetition. So many times in gymnastics, a statement will be put forth, and then either because it makes for a good story or simply because it is repeated so many times, it becomes “common knowledge” regardless of its basis in truth. We need look no further than “Aliya Mustafina is a diva,” which came up again this year. It’s an easy Russia narrative, repeated until it becomes fact through exposure rather than fact through evidence. 
This happens all the time. “The Worlds judges love that international look.” Do they? What is the international look–tall, thin, and Russian or multiracial? And is there any evidence that the Worlds judges love that? I’ve never seen numbers backing that up, and certainly not from any recent competitions. Chellsie Memmel, Vanessa Ferrari, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Bridget Sloan, Aliya Mustafina, Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles. What standard of international look do they all meet, exactly? And yet, “international look” remains a thing solely because people say that the judges love it, even though there is no evidence that they do.   
Admittedly, this has nothing to do with the completely inoffensive and value-neutral NCAA statistics I’m about to present, but it’s an issue that has been on my mind lately, and in a broader sense, it’s the reason for my overall emphasis on numerical analysis of gymnastics. A deep look at scores and statistics is so important to gymnastics, especially right now when we have access to more information and more perspectives than ever before, because numerical truth is the antidote to antiquated thinking and inherited nonsense beliefs. The more numbers and evidence we get out there, the less likely the conversation is to be dominated by uninformed claims and irresponsible storytelling. Numbers work to give credit to the ones who deserve it rather than the ones who fit a preconceived story or expectation.
NCAA women’s gymnastics is certainly not immune to the supremacy of narrative, and we often see dominance of stories and impressions over reality. We often hear “she’s improving so much,” or “she’s working so hard,” or “she’s a veteran leader,” rather than “her scoring and hit rate merit inclusion in this lineup.” The truth is in the scores. They help clarify everything and separate out the noise and chatter.
So, without further ado, some numbers that have absolutely nothing to do with anything I just said.
As a way of transitioning between the 2013 NCAA season and the 2014 season, I’m looking at how much scoring value each team is losing from the gymnasts that left after last year. Sure, we can say, “this team is losing 12 routines” or “this team is losing 4 routines,” but that doesn’t adequately reflect the individual importance of each of those lost routines. The better way to assess the overall value of those routines is by comparing those lost scores to what we would expect from an average replacement gymnast.  
A 9.800 is the basic, normal score. It’s the unremarkable, fine performance, the baseline score from which contending teams will look to improve throughout the season. A 9.800 is akin to meeting but not exceeding expectations. No top team wants to be counting 9.800s at Championships, but they’re never the end of the world. Once scores go into the 9.7s, they become problems.
If we assume 9.800 as the baseline score, we can gauge how much value each of the teams is losing from gymnasts who graduated or left after 2013 by replacing those graduated scores (as measured by season RQS) with 9.800s and seeing how much the team score differs. The tenths above average score is how much the team score would decrease this year if all lost routines were replaced by 9.800s. For example, the UCLA Bruins would see their team score decrease by 0.868 if the Zamarripa, Wong, Pritchett, Baer, and De La Torre scores from last year all became 9.800s this year, from a 197.200 team RQS to a 196.332. The 0.868 represents how much value over 9.800 the injury returners and newbies for UCLA will have to contribute to maintain the level from last season.
-The rankings include the current top teams in the country, except Utah is not included because no gymnasts left. The Utes’ score is 0 because they have nothing to replace.
-Gymnasts are included if they made the final postseason lineup for the team. The exceptions to that are Randy Stageberg and Marissa Gutierrez, who obviously would have been in the postseason lineups had they been healthy and whose absences will have to be dealt with this season.
-In cases where a gymnast competed an event in the postseason but her RQS was below 9.800, I excluded that routine because the score is not significant enough to be viewed as a routine that needs to be replaced. For the most part, we expect teams of this level to be able to come up with a 9.800 to slot into a lineup.
-If a gymnast competed in the postseason but did not have an RQS, I used the postseason average instead to get the best view of contribution to the team. 
Tenths above Average:
1. UCLA – 0.868
Vault – 0.275 (Zamarripa 9.970, Baer 9.890, Wong 9.815)
Bars – 0.253 (Zamarripa 9.843, Wong 9.875, De La Torre 9.843)
Beam – 0.105 (Zamarripa 9.880, Wong 9.825)
Floor – 0.235 (Zamarrpa 9.925, Pritchett 9.910)
Losing Zamarripa was always going to be a massive blow, but the savior for UCLA this year is that Peszek, Lee, and Larson can come back into the lineups. Otherwise, replacing all those scores from last year would be an exceptional challenge for a class of freshmen to do alone. Throw in the potential scores for the three injury returners, and maintaining that quality becomes a realistic expectation. Beam is the area of least loss for UCLA and should be a prime spot for improvement over last year given the quality of the group coming in. 

2. Florida – 0.835
Vault – 0.195 (Dickerson 9.920, King 9.875) – Your trauma at the disparity in these scores is warranted.
Bars – 0.085 (King 9.885)
Beam – 0.265 (King 9.925, Dickerson 9.875, Stageberg 9.875)
Floor – 0.290 (King 9.920, Dickerson 9.905, Stageberg 9.865)
I’m still going with Florida this year (at least right now), but this number represents the best argument for anyone wanting to make the claim that Florida is not the title favorite this year. That’s a lot of scoring loss, but like UCLA, Florida will have Alaina Johnson coming back and quite likely Caquatto 2 making a larger contribution, which should mitigate the amount that Boyce and Colussi-Pelaez have to do. It’s a talented freshmen duo, but it’s not as large a group as Alabama, UCLA, and Oklahoma have coming in. 
Note that King is included on beam since she competed in the postseason, but Stageberg is also included because she would have competed if healthy. However, it’s unlikely that both would have been in the lineup together (for whatever reason), so the beam number is artificially high.
3. Alabama – 0.678
Vault – 0.212 (Gutierrez 9.905, Sledge 9.865, Priess 9.842)
Bars – 0.210 (Priess 9.890. Sledge 9.875, Alexin 9.845)
Beam – 0.090 (Priess 9.890)
Floor – 0.166 (Gutierrez 9.906, Priess 9.860)
It’s a major loss that Alabama is facing with some exceptionally strong contributors leaving, but Sarah Patterson hopes to make up for it by bringing in a small army of new gymnasts. Even though the vault number is the highest, there are people currently on the team who weren’t making the lineup last year who can easily score over 9.800 and replace some of that right away, so the more significant number to me is on bars. There were not replacement gymnasts on the team last year who could come anywhere close to Sledge’s and Priess’s scoring, so the freshmen will be significantly relied upon on that event to ensure there is no net loss.
4. Oregon State – 0.645
Vault – 0.170 (Stambaugh 9.880, Gaspar 9.865, Jones 9.825)
Bars – 0.180 (Stambaugh 9.930, McGregor 9.850)
Beam – 0.075 (Jones 9.875)
Floor – 0.220 (Stambaugh 9.915, Jones 9.905)
This is a big concern for the Beavs, coming off a disappointing result last year and losing so much talent. The incoming class is a bit more heralded than we’ve seen for the last couple years, including the likes of Maddie Gardiner and Kaytianna McMillan, but they will have to be on point from the beginning.
5. Michigan – 0.470
Vault – 0.110 (Zurales 9.910)
Bars – 0.165 (Zurales 9.885, Martinez 9.880)
Beam – 0.130 (Zurales 9.880, Martinez 9.850)
Floor – 0.065 (Zurales 9.865)
Zurales was a significant contributor, so it will be a bit rough for Michigan to maintain last year’s level, but the X-factor will be Brooke Parker’s transfer. We saw so little of her at Alabama that we really don’t know what she’s capable of, but expect her to help on several events for this team that is still a little slim in the numbers. 

6. Georgia – 0.448
Vault – 0
Bars – 0.125 (Worley 9.865, Tanella 9.860)
Beam – 0.145 (Worley 9.920, Couch 9.825)
Floor – 0.178 (Tanella 9.875, Couch 9.863, Worley 9.840)
Did anyone else think Georgia would be higher on this list? Just me? Couch’s injury and lack of relative contribution last year depressed their scoring a little bit. They’ve already gotten by without her, and their scores last year reflect a primarily Couch-less state, so her absence is not costing as much as it might have otherwise. Still, 0.448 is not insignificant, and a few of these routines will be rough blows.
7. Illinois – 0.360 
Vault – 0.095 (Weinstein 9.895)
Bars – 0.080 (Weinstein 9.870, Kantecki 9.810)
Beam – 0.045 (Weinstein 9.845)
Floor – 0.140 (Weinstein 9.940)
Speaking of rough blows, Alina Weinstein was the MVP of this whole group, and it’s very hard to imagine a repeat performance in 2014 without her. Plus, for a team like Illinois, the 9.800 is worth a little more than it is for the teams placing higher on this list, and they’re less likely to be able to pull a 9.800 out of the crop and slot it in. Weinstein’s relative contribution with respect to her team is probably the most significant. 
8. Stanford – 0.350
Vault – 0.155 (Dayton 9.910, Morgan 9.845)
Bars – 0.070 (Morgan 9.870)
Beam – 0.010 (Morgan 9.810)
Floor – 0.115 (Morgan 9.915)
This is not too bad for Stanford. Morgan’s floor and Dayton’s vault are the big losses, but Stanford’s incoming class is big and full of potential. Of course, we’ve heard that story before.
9. Nebraska – 0.335
Vault – 0.180 (Skinner 9.910, Giblin 9.870)
Bars – 0.140 (Giblin 9.905, Skinner 9.820, Nathe 9.815)
Beam – 0.030 (Giblin 9.830)
Floor – 0
This will be a harder job for Nebraska because, while Giblin is the only beamer to break 9.800 in RQS, they are losing a couple other high 9.7s from Skinner and Nathe that will be a challenge to make up for in 2014. It has been a tiny group for several seasons now at Nebraska, but those freshmen and sophomores must give them more routines to work with next year to be competitive. 
10. Oklahoma – 0.325
Vault – 0.090 (Olson 9.890)
Bars – 0.125 (Olson 9.925)
Beam – 0
Floor – 0.110 (Olson 9.910)
Brie Olson is certainly a loss, but for an incoming class this big and talented, making up three tenths in scoring over 9.800 is child’s play. Oklahoma has a crop of freshmen on par with what Alabama and UCLA are bringing in, yet is losing much less from last year. If Florida’s number here is the best argument against a repeat of last year, Oklahoma’s number is the best argument for at least a repeat of last year’s results. 
11. Auburn – 0.275
Vault – 0.065 (Garcia 9.855, Yokay 9.810)
Bars – 0.075 (Yokay 9.875)
Beam – 0.050 (Yokay 9.835, Habicht 9.815)
Floor – 0.085 (Garcia 9.865, Yokay 9.820)
12. Arkansas – 0.255
Vault – 0.065 (Lewis 9.850, Borsellino 9.815)
Bars – 0.040 (Borsellino 9.840)
Beam – 0
Floor – 0.150 (Borsellino 9.880, Lewis 9.870)
13. Minnesota – 0.175
Vault – 0
Bars – 0.050 (Campbell 9.850)
Beam – 0.070 (Golich 9.870)
Floor – 0.055 (Campbell 9.855)
14. LSU – 0.080
Vault – 0.066 (Taylor 9.866)
Bars – 0
Beam – 0.014 (Taylor (9.814)
Floor – 0
Also note the significance of this minute number. LSU is losing so little. However, this does include a beam routine from Taylor and another from Garcia that was under 9.800 in RQS. Because beam has been a weakness, those losses may pose a challenge even though the scores were not huge.

Individual rankings – Tenths above Average:
1. Vanessa Zamarripa – 0.510
2. Marissa King – 0.405
3. Alina Weinstein – 0.350
4. Katie Zurales – 0.340
5. Brie Olson – 0.325
5. Makayla Stambaugh – 0.325
7. Ashanee Dickerson – 0.295
8. Ashley Priess – 0.282
9. Ashley Morgan – 0.240
10. Shayla Worley – 0.225

Zamarripa alone would have placed fifth on this list. That’s how much above average she was.

Skill Frequency 2013

A few months back, I began looking at the frequency with which skills appeared in US WAG routines in 2012 with the idea that I would then do the same thing for 2013 and compare the numbers to see how the code change was affecting routine composition. Then, I never did that. Fortunately, Uncle Tim tweeted me saying, “If you don’t do those goddamn skill frequencies for 2013, I will stab you in the eye with a grapefruit spoon.” (It may not have been exactly that. Who can remember?)

So, here we go. While you take a break from speculating about McKayla Maroney’s bars capabilities and Aliya Mustafina’s floor endurance, enjoy some charts. With colors! The colors are supposed to be red and blue, but you never know with me, so if they’re actually purple and orange, just deal with it.

As before, the percentages next to the skills indicate the proportion of gymnasts who performed each skill at National Championships, and skills are sorted by the frequency of their appearances in 2013 senior routines. Some basic skills like giant swings and back handsprings are not included because, obviously 100%. Numbers from 2013 and 2012 are listed side-by-side for easy comparison. Cells highlighted in blue reflect an increase in frequency of at least 10 percentage points over 2012, while cells highlighted in red reflect a decrease of at least the same amount. For the most part, any change less than that is statistically insignificant given the small number of routines we’re working with (especially for the seniors). Even some of the larger changes may be attributable to normal variation in routine construction rather than code influence, but I’ll talk through some of the larger changes as we go.

NOTES: Because there were so many more juniors, the junior routines have a much larger bearing on the total frequency column. Also, the charts include only skills performed during 2013 Nationals. Many skills dropped off the charts from 2012, but none that were performed more than one or two times last year. I didn’t do vault because it’s fairly straightforward. Yurchenko land. I classified the skills by what was attempted rather than what would actually be credited because this is about intended composition.


The toe-on full continues to reign as the D pirouetting skill of choice. Even though this code emphasizes release+release combinations, the toe-on full is still a valuable tool connected to a tkatchev or transition for .1 CV.

What’s interesting is that the trend favoring toe-on skills over stalder skills seems to be increasing for the seniors, but the opposite is taking place for the juniors. There is a marked increase in the frequency of several of the stalder skills for the juniors. I’m not sure if there is a tangible reason for that, but it’s happening. It should be noted that the large majority of those junior stalder fulls might be finishing their turns sometime by the end of the year. Maybe.

So, the Gienger died. That’s weird, right? Very abrupt and very dead. The Jaeger just consumed it, apparently. Natural selection. We saw tons of toe-on Tkatchevs this year from the seniors. There are still fewer E releases being performed than I would expect given the new code, but it’s early days, and this was not a particularly astounding bars group. They were just happy to get their jaegers in and get out of there.

It’s working! Well, a little bit. The much-needed removal of the D+C bail handstand+stalder shoot connection bonus has had a distinct and measurable influence in decreasing the amount of stalder shoots we’re seeing, but there were still far too many bail+stalders for my liking. STOP IT! You’re not even getting CV. Many of the seniors are still doing the combo because they need the bail in their routine, and they’ve always done the stalder shoot out of it, so why not continue?

Unfortunately, the people who have dropped the stalder shoot are just doing the toe shoot instead, which can hardly be heralded as a victory for creativity or variety. The stalder Shaposh also made a brief cameo after not existing in 2012.

A couple randoms helped expand this section from the two transitions we had in 2012, but the pak and bail still run this town. For the seniors, we had the same frequency of bails but many more paks. Because of the importance of release elements now, it pays to throw in as many D elements with flight as possible, so we’re seeing more routines with both. For the juniors, it has been the opposite story of decreasing the number transitions as a whole. In 2012, many of the juniors were doing both a stalder shoot and toe shoot, but most have cut it down to just one, so they need to do only either the pak or the bail, not both.

The seniors are upping the difficulty with the DLO fulls, which is interesting. I’ve been of the opinion that the DLO full is often not worth it because the challenges of sticking and body form almost always negate the advantage of the .1 gained over the DLO.


Now, here’s where things start to get fancy. Beam saw the biggest changes in the code, and that has been reflected in routine composition already. We all needed the walkover+bhs+layout stepout to go away for our sanity, and the results have been somewhat pleasing. The seniors are doing far fewer layout stepouts and electing to go either with a two-footed layout or to match that CV with a different method. Many of the juniors are still doing the bhs+loso as their series because it is still the safest option.

Interestingly, there’s a lot of red in that senior column, and that reflects a decrease in the overall number of acro skills in senior routines. The average senior is now doing a minimum of acro elements, four on the beam plus the dismount. I attribute this to the greater options for CV in the new code. Gymnasts are able to get bonus in so many ways, that they can do so using all of their counting skills. They don’t have to throw in extra, non-counting acro elements to get a specific connection bonus. This is reflected in the sharp decrease in back tucks and back pikes. In the past, senior elites rarely counted those skills among their 8 for D score but often performed them, usually connected to a switch split or something, to squeeze another tenth in connection out of the routine.

They are also focusing less on getting value from acro skills and more on getting it from dance skills.

We’re seeing a lot more switch rings (for the seniors) and sheep jumps (for the juniors), and I expect that to continue. I actually thought we would see a sharper increase in sheep jumps for seniors because of the mixed D+D connection for two tenths, but I expect that to come in time. Some of the variations in composition choices for 2013 are more the result of a lower skill level across the board rather than adjustments from the new code, which is usually the case in the first year of a quad.

One of the real positives I noticed on beam is the decrease in the number of people pathetically trying to pull around a full twisting leap that will never get credit. They are electing to do the half twist they can actually perform instead of the full, which is a happy revelation.

There has been a large increase in the number of straddle jumps on account of the new, expanded usefulness of A dance elements. They aren’t just for your sad little A+A combination requirement anymore because they can be used to get CV out of D acro skills. Gymnasts have use for a wider repertoire of A dance elements now, so the straddle is popping up more.

I also noticed that the proportion of sissones in the junior competition skyrocketed while the split jumps fell. It seems as though they are being encouraged to perform sissones and straddles instead of splits because the trend was complete across the competition. Is there a perception that missed 180 on sissones is not punished as severely as missed 180 on a split jump? I could see that being the case.

What happened to that L turn + full turn combo we were getting so sick of last year? It has been pretty nonexistent in the US so far this quad. More gymnasts are favoring being squatty little whirligigs with their tuck turns instead.

It’s a bit weird that the 2.5 went away in the seniors, but as also seen on floor, this year’s elite crop is not a particularly comfortable group of twisters. They would rather do a double salto. 

Overall the trend in beam dismounts this year was simplicity, with more seniors favoring the double tuck and more juniors favoring the double full. Once again, this seems like an issue of prevailing lower skill level with gymnasts at an earlier phase in development than they would be during an Olympic year.


It’s the behemoth chart of floor tumbling, and the first thing that stands out is the major decrease in the frequency of the back 1.5, which is both obvious and unexpected at the same time. It’s an enigma that 1.5.

On the one hand, the 1.5 was the favored skill in fulfilling the combination pass requirement. Now that a combination pass is no longer required, of course the 1.5 would begin to fall away. Still, it remains a great way to get .2 CV by indirectly connecting it to an E skill, so I thought the 1.5 would stick around in larger numbers than it has.

However, many gymnasts have taken this opportunity to get rid of their combo passes. For several, this has been an excellent idea. Instead of the combos, we’re seeing a renaissance of the BIG skill with many more DLOs, the double double layout from Skinner, Dowell’s big tumbling choices, etc. The difficulty is coming from single elements rather than from connections, which we didn’t see as much last quad. Also, every junior in the entire world is doing a double pike. It’s the only pass that exists.

The double L remains the turn of choice, and the triple turn has gone bye bye for the seniors. That’s not too surprising. It’s only a C, and it’s ripe for downgrade if the turn is not fully around. There are many more safer C dance elements. There’s too much risk and not enough reward.    

Dance elements on floor were all over the place compared to last year. We saw a bit of a continuation of the trend from beam toward more attainable dance elements where the turns might actually be completed, but at the same time nearly every senior was trying to wrench around a split 1.5, which is not my favorite skill. There’s too much turning. It can’t be elegant and always interrupts any fluidity to the routine. The influence of Vanessa Ferrari’s split ring full was also significant, with a bunch of seniors performing it already. It’s rare that a skill catches on that quickly, but so many recognize the value in it over a switch full or a switch split.

So, that’s what I see. We’ll have to revisit this every year and adjust some of the conclusions.

That Was Good? The Execution of All Things

Everyone’s favorite avuncular analyst and UTRS expert (so, gymnecologist?) recently recalled a post comparing execution scores between the US and international judges that I wrote in June and then promptly forgot about. What, am I supposed to remember everything I say?

Basically, it amounts to the idea that we often think that international judging is some paragon of strictness that would never be as lax and charitable as the US judges, but over the last few years the international judges have been within a believable range with the national judges in execution scores. So, I began to wonder if that will continue this year and if the World judges will mimic what we have seen so far in 2013, which brings us to an analysis of execution scores at this year’s Nationals.

You probably had a lot of thoughts during last weekend’s P&G Championships, ranging from “Hey, fewer of these hairstyles look like shanty towns” to “Hey, that’s not a switch 1/2” to “Hey, so did Nastia kill Elfi?” and all of them are completely understandable. I bet you weren’t thinking, “Hey, this is some historically excellent execution.” But you know who was thinking that? The judges. Yeah. Deal with it.

The average execution score across the whole senior competition was an 8.515 this year. Guess what that’s higher than? 2012 Nationals. And 2011 Nationals. And 2010 Nationals. And 2009 Nationals. In fact, the only recent competition that beats that number is 2012 Olympic Trials, which is to be expected. Trials should contain only the very best athletes at the peak of their Olympic preparation and not these barely qualified, happy to be there types who are getting 8.1s for hit routines. 

Let’s also take a deeper look by event. (Numbers in parentheses indicate rank)

Aside from sucking the light fantastic on bars (and being the worst bars year in the United States is quite an accomplishment), 2013 Nationals saw remarkably high execution scores compared to recent competitions. The vault scores in particular are interesting. The vaults this year were okay, but two and three tenths better than recent years? Really? Would the new code alone justify such a bump?

It should be noted that I included all routines in these averages, even calamities in the 6s, which occurred at least a few times in every competition. But lest you think the other years are being dragged down misleadingly by falls, the differences exist quite clearly at the top of the scoring range. Let’s take beam as an example. In 2013, 18% of beam routines received an execution score in the 9s. Compare that to 9.5% in 2012 (Nationals), 10% in 2011, 5% in 2010, and 16% in 2009 (the only really comparable year). Is this truly the best beam group we’ve seen in the last five years? I don’t think so.

So, what’s up? Why are these execution scores significantly higher than in other years, since I think we can all agree that the standard of performance was not necessarily higher than in, say, 2011 when the average execution was over .250 lower. This is normally the part where I would provide conclusions, but I don’t have an answer to the question. I’m just compiling the data and inviting analysis. I’m all Tycho Brahe up in this piece. I’m legitimately curious as to why this is.

As mentioned, we have a new code, so we can certainly expect the evaluation of routines to change, as it always does. However, the major changes to the code came in the D-Score department. Were there enough significant changes to execution evaluation to account for these multiple-tenth increases in execution average? Have the judges been instructed to make a point of going softer this year across the events, or did it just happen?

And how will this increase affect the comparison between US and World evaluation that has become rather consistent?

Clearly, I have a lot of questions.