The Legend of Aliya and the Acro Series

August 11, 2016.

A Thursday.

By all accounts, a perfectly ordinary Thursday.

But for beloved defender of the kingdom Aliya Sparkle-Hair, it was the day she would become a legend. It was the day she would march into the women’s all-around final, gaze up at the glowering, blood-encrusted maw of that notorious villain Actually Doing An Acro Series, and utter those brave, immortal words, “NOT. TODAY.”

Not all heroes have swords, we learned from Aliya, and sometimes the strongest choice a hero can make in the face of a villain is to do nothing at all. (Like literally nothing. She didn’t even come close.)

No, Aliya Mustafina did not perform acrobatic series that day, or even attempt one, but if bravery, integrity, and the quest for justice  were composition requirements, she would receive All. Five. Tenths.

But how did we get here? How did we reach such depths in this epic conflict?

It wasn’t always this way. Like most hero-villain duos, Aliya and Actually Doing An Acro Series were not so different at first. Some might say, even friends.

2010

They laughed and played, frolicking through the lush meadows of the Sparkle-Hair kingdom, blithely ignorant of the fierce battles that would await them in the coming years.

It was not until 2012 that Actually Doing An Acro Series began to reveal her true nature, to expose her jealousy and aggression through her pattern of petty efforts to take down the rightful queen.

But like any proper monarch, Aliya Sparkle-Hair simply smiled, adjusted, and endured.

2012

Sadly, Actually Doing An Acro Series’ schemes only grew more insidious with each passing year, and our hero Aliya was left with few options.

eurofinal

“Whatever,” she said. “Your mom’s face doesn’t display true rebounding action.” Continue reading The Legend of Aliya and the Acro Series

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Bars Scores: Pretty Cracky, Right?

Right. Let’s get into it.

If, upon subjecting yourself to some of the bars execution scores from the Olympics, you began formulating questions like, “Huh?” “What?” and “How’s your crack addiction?” you were not alone.

To me, the most unexpected scoring-related development at the Olympics was those massive bars scores (high vault scores and beam taking forever were both way too predictable), especially compared to previous years.

This table lists the average execution scores awarded this quad during all world/Olympic finals (team, AA, and event) on each apparatus.

Year VT Execution UB Execution BB Execution FX Execution
2016 9.027 8.549 8.267 8.324
2015 9.097 8.259 7.906 8.338
2014 8.933 8.150 8.179 8.058
2013 8.962 7.848 7.716 8.117

We have some degree of Land of the Rising Scores happening on all the events compared to 2013, which is consistent with the 2012 quad when the execution scores were alarmingly low in 2009 and rose progressively from there. Continue reading Bars Scores: Pretty Cracky, Right?

Things Are (Still) Happening – August 19, 2016

A. RIP Olympics

The first step is saying the words out loud. The Olympics are over. While no one is expecting you to be emotionally prepared to move on quite yet, the end of the Olympics doesn’t have to mean the end of joy. There are still a number of Olympic postmortem issues we’ll need to work through (remember Seda?), a 2017-2020 code to have a lot of deep feelings about, and sooner than you think, the NCAA season.

If you’re new to the site as of this year’s Olympic process, welcome! I’m delighted to have you. Now be advised that NCAA gymnastics is the cool jam around here, and I’m going to force you to become obsessed with it whether you like it or not. It’s the best. A wonderful complement to modern elite. It’s like if gymnastics still used the 1992 code and the Unified Team and Romania competed against each other every weekend, except with a lot more temp tattoos and erratic and unprompted screaming to make fun of. And if you enjoy melting into a pool of sludge about crack-a-doo judging, NCAA gym is more than here for you. You’ll have a blast.

The thing I love most about NCAA when compared to modern elite is the increased stakes on every single skill. In elite, difficulty is decisive enough that whether Laurie Hernandez nails her layout stepout on beam or has a one-tenth check is sort of incidental. As long as there are no major errors, her score is going to be fine. In NCAA, a one-tenth wobble is the difference between an amazing routine and a disastrous one. The stakes on every single landing are gigantic, not just to hit it but to hit it ideally, resurrecting that feeling of constant tension and urgency through every movement that has been lost in the era of US elite dominance.

So, if you haven’t been drinking the NCAA Kool-Aid, pull up a chair and grab a glass. Let me be your guide. You’ll never be the same. In a good way. Mostly.

B. Ding Dong the Yurchenko Arabian Is Dead

Our long national nightmare is finally over. The NCAA Committee decided to release its adjustments to the 2016-2017 rules right in the middle of the Olympics so that exactly no one would be paying attention (solid work as usual), but it redeemed itself by doing the sensible thing (WHAT?!?!?!?!?!) and bringing all variations of the Yurchenko 1/2, arabian or otherwise, down to a 9.950 start value. Continue reading Things Are (Still) Happening – August 19, 2016

That Damn Gala

You know that thing where you’re watching gymnastics and think, “I wish this were boring and worse”?

Welcome to the Olympic Gala. The opportunity for 3 and a half people to drip into the Rio Olympic Arena to see some of the brightest male stars of the games be intensely proud of themselves for acting like insufferable hams while the brightest female stars give zero fucks and leave immediately.

If you didn’t watch it, well played.

I did. (The first one. Not the second one too. I don’t hate myself.)

So…probably sainthood, right?

It was basically one of those Gymnastics and Figure Skating Craptaculars, except without Nastia scarf-prancing to the tune of butt-shelves for thirty seconds, or some 9-year-old America’s Got Saddest glob country-twanging about hitting the open road. (And we’re all like, “You’re 9, the only thing you’re hitting is lunch recess.”)

This is how it started. (It didn’t get better.)

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 7.07.51 AM

Continue reading That Damn Gala

Event Finals Day 3 Live Blog

Today’s action features the event finals on Bicep Crash, Competitive Lowering Your Arms Slowing In The Corner, and Man Plummet, some of the most anticipated action of the whole Olympics.

And we’re all just going to pretend like this isn’t the last day of the Olympics so that we don’t have to deal with that emotionally. Agreed. Done.

Starting order
PBars – Leyva, Muntean, Deng, You, Belyavskiy, Verniaiev, Larduet, Kato
Floor – Murakami, Wang, Fasana, Tinkler, Biles, Steingruber, Raisman, Ferrari
HBar – Hambuechen, Zonderland, Wilson, Mikulak, Verniaiev, Barretto, Larduet, Leyva Continue reading Event Finals Day 3 Live Blog

Event Finals Day 2 Live Blog

Part 2! Out of 3 for some reason! Today, our responsibility is to stay awake through rings somehow (not apologizing) and then try to maintain a respectable amount of life skills during the fall terror of the beam final and the leg-explosion terror of the men’s vault final. Three really challenging tasks. We can earn medals with our performances today.

Starting order
Rings – You, Petrounias, Goossens, Abliazin, Liu, Pinheiro Rodrigues, Radivilov, Zanetti
Vault – Nagornyy, Radivilov, Shirai, Dragulescu, Ri, Gonzalez, Verniaiev, Abliazin
Beam – Fan, Onyshko, Biles, Wevers, Ponor, Hernandez, Boyer, Saraiva

Why exactly have we changed the event order to put the two men’s events back-to-back? That sounds fun for Radivilov. But does it make sense? It doesn’t? Great.

Rings final

Ugggggggghhhh.

We’ll get through it together.

“There was also a withdrawal.” That’s all you’re going to say about Van Gelder?

The difference with making Abliazin and Radivilov going back-to-back events versus a team competition is that they don’t get a touch for EF.

You – Opens with a strongily-boo – hangs out for a while at the mall – bicep rips open and a potato falls out – clangity-flop in a layout position – chest down lunge on layout double double. 15.400

Petrounias – deltoid transforms into watermelon – smashes a skyscraper while laughing at it – smiles while eating jar of nails – floats directly into the sky on the back of Zeus – sticks double double. 16.000

Goossens – not even level like a loser – opens with popped cranial artery – directly connects double back to red skin to purple skin for .3 CV – too Belgian for this – DLO 1/1 dismount. 14.933.

“Courtney, it’s not an event you compete on.” WHAT???

Jon just agreed with me that rings workers are muscly little potatoes.

Abliazin – Accidentally crushes his own head with his giant arms while waiting to begin his routine and has to withdraw because of not having a head. Real shame there as he could have medaled in this final. Finds new head to compete dismount, layout double double step. 15.700 into second.

Liu – pulls your face off with his fingers – tries to open a pickle jar and accidentally destroys the universe – spleen does come out through his lips, accidentally, which will be a deduction if the judges saw it. Lunge back. 15.600.

Pinheiro-Rodrigues – falls asleep in mid-air – uses the sun as a bed – decided mid-routine that he actually wants to pursue a career in the fine arts – retires from gymnastics in order to create more beauty in the world. DLO 1/1 step. 15.233.

Courtney’s like, “I’ve got nothing.” Courtney and I get each other.

Radivilov – flexes so hard he spontaneously sprouts a second neck tattoo, this one dedicated to Oleg – sheds a single tear for the environment – his back explodes into a series of roman candles – sticks double double. 15.466. In behind Liu.

Zanetti – sheds off potato costume to become a real boy – eats caribou skull – spontaneously fires bullet out of own shoulder – eyes pop out and shoot across the arena killing a spectator. Hop back on dismount. 15.766. Into second.

Gold: Petrounias
Silver: Zanetti
Bronze: Abliazin

Potato hugs! Mad potato respect!

Men’s vault final

Let’s just hope everyone stays a person.

Nagornyy 1 – Dragulescu, larger bound back, good chest position on landing 15.233.

Nagornyy 2 – Kas 2/1, very strong landing, small hop, also chest up. Two safe vaults!

15.316 average for Nagornyy.

Radivilov 1 – NO WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO US PLEASE STOP – he actually almost did it – he basically Karmakared it – but did he land feet first? Do we think it’s a zero? To my eye, that was not feet-first.

14.933. Gets a score for it.

Tsuk double pike second vault with a large lunge back. LOL, almost fell on the Tsuk double pike. I love that it was almost worse than the triple front. Not really, but you know.

Kenzo – EXCELLENT 3.5 Yurchenko – so much better than we’ve seen in training – pretty much all the way around with a Shawn Johnson step – crossed legs, just a tad under but will get credit. 15.833.

Kenzo 2 – easy peasy Kas 1.5 with a step – 15.066 for that.

Kenzo still into first with 15.449 average.

Dragulescu – Dragulescu – step back, pretty big step, great execution, chest up, comfortable landing. 15.266.

Dragulescu 2 – ro half on 2.5. Very strong, small hop, but his average will be the same as Kenzo!

FINISHES WITH AIRPLANE ARM SPIN!

Kenzo remains in first over Dragulescu with tiebreak! Higher single vault score is the tiebreak.

Ri – Piked Dragulescu – excellent height, larger lunge back, completely loses piked form in the air into a straddle tucked, but successfully didn’t look like he was going to die. 15.616.

Ri 2 – Tsuk double back full and nearly stuck it – what a preposterous human – obviously into first. Steel-reinforced angles –

Gonzalez does a Tsuk double pike and everyone’s like, that’s cute.

Gonzalez 2 – Shewfelt with a lunge forward. Just OK. Won’t challenge for medals.

Verniaiev – NEARLY sticks Dragulescu – just the smallest quiver with one of his feet – very strong. 15.400.

Verniaiev 2 – Kas 2/1, large hop back. 15.233 for that one.

Oleg will be level with Nagornyy, and actually level by all the tiebreaks because they received identical execution for identical difficulty. So they’ll stay tied, though it won’t matter because they’re fourth.

Abliazin – Tsuk full in, large step forward, a little lower landing than Ri. 15.600. Too close to Ri?

Abliazin 2 – half on 2.5 – chest down landing and a few larger steps back. 15.516. Gets some Paseka E scoring on those vaults, but also vault scoring.

That means Abliazin is into 2nd behind Ri.

It’s Shirai in third, Dragulescu down to 4th on the tiebreak.

I’m sure there will be anger for that but LONG LIVE TIEBREAKS! The point of an event final is to separate the best gymnasts. Ties are not separating the best gymnasts.

Still a real shame for Dragulescu not to medal though. I think he has a very good argument that he should have been ahead of Kenzo outright.

And we still have to do beam!

Beam final

Oh dear. Dear dear dear. Here we go.

Flavia Saraiva is actually half the height of the other competitors.

Fan – Very un-Chinese leo. Trying to trick the judges into thinking she’s Dutch. Opening check on her layout series – clean walkover, otherwise calm and pretty – larger bend at the hips on that side somi – just a few too many checks here – 3/1 with a lunge back. 14.500. 6.3/8.2

Oh yes. Beam judging. I forgot that this thing is going to take forever.

Onyshko – layout series is good, small check but smaller than Fan – good side aerial – large pause before tuck full series and then a fall on it, no chance to save – check on switch ring – double back with step. 13.400.

Sea-Money – 2.5 wolf solid this time – good leap connections – barani YES, one of her best baranis, that was for me I think – very secure loso loso series – NOOOOOOOO, huge break on punch front, grasps the beam. No point to continue living – check on walkover – hop back on dismount.

It. Just. Got. Interesting.

LOL. Still into first for the moment with 14.733. Oh, Simone.

Wevers – round off bhs mount – closeup of her face during her double L because no one knows anything – two side aerials combo – a couple tiny checks – insane triple turn – single L to full turn to double spin – switch to bhs full –  gainer “layout” full with a hop.

Sanne doing her own D score is my favorite thing in the world. Stars they’re just like us.

“BUT WHAT’S A SPIN,” say the judges.

15.466 for Sanne! There is justice in the world!

Ponor. Oh Cata, what is this leo? Cirque de Dominatrix?

Ponor – two-part switch ring – onodi and breaks combo out of it with wobbles – front aerial to bhs layout – large break on switch 1/2 with leg up – bhs 1/1 – too many wobbles here, also struggled to get her leg to split on bhs 3/4 – double pike large bounce back. Just a 14.000 for Ponor. 5.8 D, 8.2 E.

Aimee is on “mood boost” duty overdrive.

Hernandez – front pike is solid – aerial to sissone to split – two loso series, whips her arms back to avoid a wobble – full turn is not her best skill – good sheep – high front tuck to wolf – side aerial – switch to a tight switch 1/2 with a small check – solid switch ring – double pike just small hop. Good one. Into second. 15.333.

Hernandez had the higher execution, but Wevers got her on difficulty.

Boyer – round of layout, so floaty and wonderful – switch to switch 1/2, switch half is not 180 with a check – some bent knees in the walkover and other skills – bend at the waist on aerial – small check on side somi – double pike with small step and NCAA salute.

US submitting inquiry for Laurie’s beam.  Are they hoping she’s getting a magical 6.6 to pass Wevers now?

14.600 for Boyer, into 4th.

Saraiva – two loso series, small slide back – large break on layout two feet – does well not to grasp the beam but a huge wobble, bend at the waist and steps – large pause before switch ring, very pretty – small check on sheep – hop back on tuck full – aerial to aerial to side somi – bend at the waist again – double pike. Too many errors in there.

SANNNNNNNEEEE!

Long wait on the score because obviously. Also apparently an inquiry for Boyer.

Let’s make sure this takes forever, please and thank you.

14.533 for Saraiva. Into 5th. Too many wobbles.

Tears or eye glitter? No one can ever tell.

Scores still not official because of the Boyer inquiry for bronze.

Is this a final now? I’m going to assume it’s a final.

Gold: Weversssssssss
Silver: Hernandez
Bronze: Biles

LOL at Simone grabbing the beam and still getting bronze. Simone things.

Note: Give Simone her 6.7 D from qualification and .5 back for grabbing the beam, and she’s still behind Wevers. Not saying Simone wouldn’t have won with a hit, but it wouldn’t have exactly been a foregone conclusion.

There’s only one more day left. Try not to think about it.

Event Finals Day 1 Live Blog

And we’re back. Rested. Calm. Ready to pretend that the Olympics aren’t going to be over in a few days. What? How dare you. Shut your filthy mouth.

Today’s life experience will feature men’s floor, followed by women’s vault, followed by pommel horse, followed by uneven bars. Be warned that the (original) schedule has a break after each event for the medal ceremony rather than bunching the way they do at worlds. So sit back and take your patience pills.

Starting order
Floor –  Uchimura, Hypolito, Whitlock, Thomas, Nory, Dalton, Shirai, Mikulak
Vault – Hong, Olsen, Chusovitina, Wang, Steingruber, Karmakar, Paseka, Biles
Horse – Tommasone, Belyavskiy, Naddour, Verniaiev, Smith, Merdinyan, Whitlock, Kuksenkov
Bars – Lopez, Douglas, Mustafina, Kocian, Scheder, Shang, Spiridonova, Seitz

In spite of Mikulak’s alarming #1 qualifying position on floor, the heavy favorite will be Dear Sweet Kenzo. As always on horse, the favorites are the Brits + whoever doesn’t fall into the lava.

On vault, Biles is only aided by the fact that she gets to go last (in spite of the length of time since warming up) while her biggest competition, Hong, must go first. Paseka is right back in the medal hunt after showing her full difficulty again, though her landings have been the least consistent of the three so far. The pressing question heading into the final will be upgrades. Will Chuso throw a hail-mary Prod, and will Hong finally decide to chuck a TTY out there? My instinct is no since she’s basically guaranteed a medal with her normal Amanar. We shall see. Continue reading Event Finals Day 1 Live Blog

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama