Uh……one of those…E pirouettes. Like the Chinese do.
Lin Li (CHN)
OK. Deep breath. Let’s get into it. It’s the bane of any person attempting to identify skills in women’s gymnastics—including judges—a one-armed E pirouette on uneven bars. The first thing you need to know about these E pirouettes is that you don’t actually need to know the difference between them. It’s fine. No one is judging you. Everyone agrees that it is hard.
There are three variations on the one-armed pirouette (Healy, Ono, and Ling), and on this page, I’ll address the Healy.
Of the three E pirouettes, the Healy is the lone option that begins in reverse grip. Here’s an example of Fan Yilin working into a Healy. She starts with a piked stalder 1/2 to get herself into reverse grip, and then performs the pirouette on one arm, ending in L-grip.
Oh. Right. Grips. For the differences in grips, forward grip is grabbing the bar straight in front of you and reverse grip is grabbing the bar from behind. Easy peasy. If you’ve never done L-grip, imagine starting in forward grip and then rotating the wrist outward away from the body (instead of inward for reverse grip) and then grabbing the bar from behind. You probably can’t do it, because it’s super hard and painful and terrible, but that’s what it is. It’s often known as eagle grip because your hand grabbing the bar should kind of look like an eagle’s talon in flight. It’s one of the very few animal names in gymnastics that makes any sense.
The toughest part of all in identifying these pirouettes is differentiating between the Healy and the Ling, because they look almost identical. No doubt you will have seen Chinese bars routines where you think, “You totally just did the same skill twice in a row, and no one can convince me otherwise.” What you probably saw was a Healy followed by a Ling.
The Healy starts in reverse grip and finishes in L-grip. The Ling, meanwhile, starts in L grip, contains a quick hop grip change to reverse grip, and from that point is identical to a Healy, also finishing in L-grip. Here’s the extended version (like a producer’s cut) of Fan Yilin’s combination above, now including the Ling directly following the Healy.
Totally reasonable if those two one-arm pirouettes look identical because they mostly are, especially in a GIF from far away, but the difference comes in her left hand. In the Healy, she pirouettes directly from reverse grip, but in the subsequent Ling, there’s a momentary grip change once she reaches vertical again to switch from L-grip to reverse grip. If you focus only on her left hand, you’ll see it.
In the case of the Healy, that left arm stays in contact with the bar.
In the case of the Ling, however, there is a momentary grip change at the same moment in the swing, and you see the left arm leave the bar.
That’s how subtle the difference is between the two, but it does render them different skills.
By contrast the Ono (which for the purposes of the code is considered the same skill as the Ling and cannot be done in the same routine as the Ling) begins in L-grip and finishes in reverse grip. It is the easiest of the three to identify because of the characteristic flourish of the outside arm as it passes around the body and over the bar. Think Nastia. Homegirl really sold that flourish.
So, to review:
HEALY – begins in reverse grip, finishes in L-grip
ONO – begins in L-grip, finishes in reverse grip
LING – begins in L-grip, hops to reverse grip, finishes in L-grip
In conclusion, if you just want to call them all E pirouettes, that’s cool.
Each of these pirouettes can also be accompanied by a half turn at the end of the pirouette, but that changes neither the value of the element or the skill designation.
Each of the female names of these skills (Lin, Bi, and Ling) were formerly credited in the code of points but disappeared along the way, probably because of conspiracies against the Chinese, but you will commonly hear Lin, Bi, and Ling all used in women’s gymnastics.