United States v. Russia v. China

Following up on my exploration of which skills are the most popular in US elite routines, I decided it would be interesting (to me exclusively) to compare US composition to routine composition in Russia and China to illustrate the very different approaches taken by the three countries and where they can learn from each other.

And by each other, I mean the US. Because, let’s be real, the US won by 8 points.

The US numbers are based on routines from the three major domestic competitions this summer, Russia’s are based on Russian Cup (and occasionally Russian Champs if the gymnast didn’t compete at Russian Cup), and China’s are based on the Chinese Championships. I did not include all of the seniors from Russia and China at those meets because…well, they’re not on Youtube. But also because many gymnasts attend those meets to compete for their region/province but aren’t international elites and don’t have a comparable skill level.**

So, here we go. The “winner” for each skill is highlighted.



  • Russia and China have been much more diligent about getting rid of those trash-shoots that do nothing to boost the D score than the US has, though the toe shoot does remain popular among the bad Chinese bars workers—the non-L-grippy ones who aren’t allowed to be seen in public and have long since been given up for dead because they’re not Fan Yilin. (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Liu Jinru.)
  • The toe-on Shaposh 1/2 is Russia’s compulsory bars skill, while China is more comfortable with Stalder Shaposhes than either the US or Russia. It is interesting to note how few Chinese gymnasts do any variety of Shaposh 1/2 considering how valuable it is and how high their D scores are nonetheless. The toe-on Shaposh 1/2 is absolutely essential to Russia’s high bars Ds.


  • And we thought the lack of transition variety in the US was bad. While the Pak is “compulsory” in the US, it is LITERALLY COMPULSORY in Russia and China. (Which also explains the lack of shoots since the Russians and Chinese never even face that direction on the low bar.) The US is the only nation crass enough to still use outdated and obsolete bail handstands.


  • It’s worth noting not only how few same-bar releases are being done, especially by Russia and China, but also how different each country’s choices are. Every US gymnast does a straddled Jaeger, every Russian does a piked Jaeger (which will suit them very well in the next code), and every Chinese gymnast does a Gienger.

Continue reading United States v. Russia v. China


How To Gymnastics Exhibition, Starring Russia

Step 1:

And we’re off…

…our meds, apparently.

Just to clarify, that’s a big-horned lion (animal?) joining the cast of Stomp to provide a trash-can tribute to the marriage of Leonardo da Vinci and smoke inhalation.

Like you do.


A lion, a fish, and an eagle walk into a sexual nightmare…

But it’s not just about half-naked, strobe-light, fauna-percussion seizures dedicated to the legacy of Alexei Nemov (is it my birthday already?), there’s also this happening.


Continue reading How To Gymnastics Exhibition, Starring Russia

Things Are Happening — September 23, 2016

A. So, this is a thing

Very important. Must watch. Immediately.

It’s literally just a trailer for the Alexei Nemov Russian Acid Trip Safari of Stars, but I’m still going to have to do a full recap of it. I don’t even know if this stuff happened this year, or in a previous year, or in Nikita Khrushchev’s drunken deathbed fever dream, and I care 0%.

If you’re wondering why I was so disappointed by the Sochi opening ceremony in 2014, it’s because I wanted it to be this exactly.

That video thumbnail of a man-eagle handing the Olympic torch to Alexei Nemov in a dragon leotard is only like the 13th-most insane that happens. In the trailer. Camels.


B. Vanessa Ferrari re-un-de-retires kind of

Lesson #324 never to listen to any whispers of retirement you hear in the six months surrounding the Olympics. We were definitely told during the Olympics that Vanessa Ferrari was planning to retire, but she said on instagram recently that her carriera agonistica isn’t over yet. Potentially. We’ll see. Apparently, she wants another shot at finishing fourth in an Olympic floor final. Continue reading Things Are Happening — September 23, 2016

American Elements 2016: The Hottest (and Frostiest) Skills in the US

It’s that time of year. Put on your gymnerd hat, your spreadsheet suspenders, and your white orthopedic percentage-comparison socks because oops, I made some charts again.

As is annual and traditional, I have taken all the skills performed by US senior gymnasts this summer and ranked them based on the percentage of total routines in which they appeared, comparing that data to the same information from the previous four years. Which skills are wildly popular? Which skills are horrible losers? How has it changed over time? Let’s find out.

I have highlighted a few of the significant trends in bluish and reddish as a way of COLORS.

Also the usual disclaimer that I didn’t include skills like giants and back handsprings because meh. Everyone, obviously.

So, like an NCAA away team, we’ll begin on uneven bars and let everything go downhill from there.



  • The rise of original-recipe Tkatchev. I didn’t expect this. Compared to 2015, the regular Tkatchev is more popular this year, while E releases like the piked Tkatchev and Stalder Tkatchev are less popular. It should be the other way around considering the extreme value of E releases for connection bonus. Then again, the US gymnasts racking up the D score on bars right now like Locklear and Kocian are not same-bar releasies by any means.

Continue reading American Elements 2016: The Hottest (and Frostiest) Skills in the US

Things Are Happening – September 16, 2016

A. The queen is dead, long live the king

Today, in an announcement and press conference that isn’t at all being used to distract everyone from that whole sex-abuse nasty, USAG finally proclaimed to the whole kingdom that Valeri of House Liukin will officially take his place upon the Iron Throne beginning this month.

I don’t think you’ll find too many people railing against this decision. It makes sense. He’s an experienced technical coach, he’s more than familiar with the system, he’s already shepherding the young ones, this continues to consolidate power among a few key ruling families a la European monarchy marriages of the 16th century, and most importantly, he’s a stone-cold Eastern Bloc ice queen. So business as usual.

The NTC has to make tough Olympic-team level decisions, so we can’t have some soft, sentimental American feelings-pudding getting in there and being like, “She’s worked so hard and improved so much and deserves blah blah blah.” I trust Valeri to make the logical choice. Just make sure someone’s there to stop him from having gymnasts with shattered Pinocchio-legs do DTYs at nationals for no reason. Then we’re fine. Is that Rhonda’s new official title? Senior Vice President of No Pinocchio DTYs Ever? Continue reading Things Are Happening – September 16, 2016

NCAA Gymnastics for Beginners

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NCAA Gymnastics for Beginners

Move along, haggard old jaded NCAA fans. Nothing for you to see here. Instead, take this time to write a polemic against the aerial-to-back-handspring acro series on beam.

If, however, you watch elite gymnastics and have finally become fed up with nothing interesting happening 11.975 months out of the year—or you were introduced to the WEARETHEFINALFIVEAHHH during the Olympics and thought, “This sport is a ludicrous sparkleburger that seems to be based entirely on critically assigning numerical ratings to people’s every action, so it’s my life and I’m in love now”—then settle in. NCAA gymnastics is here to soar to your rescue, here to save you from a wretched winter of non-gymnastics discontent by bringing its beautiful qualities like an actual season with weekly meets, stuck dismounts, and legitimately close and exciting team competitions. (I know, right?!?!?!)

So, welcome. Make yourself comfortable. And by that, I mean stay quiet and do exactly as you’re told.

But it’s only fair that I warn you. NCAA gymnastics will change you. By the time you’ve watched a full season, the phrase “like a jank-ass rudi dismount” will be your go-to burn, you’ll be telling toddlers that they really need to display more calm confidence, and you’ll be greeting new acquaintances with pieces of paper reading “9.825” to inform them that they’re just OK.

So, let’s begin. You’re in for a treat. Continue reading NCAA Gymnastics for Beginners

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama