On the 7th Day of Christmas, Gym Santa Gave To Me…


7 Skills Counting For Difficulty


One aspect of the current rules that is often criticized is the increased length of routines compared to years past.  While this might intuitively sound like it equates with more impressive gymnastics, the result has been an overall shift in emphasis from quality to quantity – a trend that is destructive to the beauty of the sport.  Currently, the men are required to count the ten highest rated elements in their routines for difficulty, while the women are required to count the eight highest.  However, it isn’t the number of required skills itself that has caused the shift towards longer routines; after all, many past codes of points have typically required ten skills to be counted for difficulty.  The real difference stems from the fact that, because there is no maximum amount of difficulty that can be earned, the gymnasts are encouraged to make all ten (or eight) of those skills as difficult as they possibly can to earn the maximum possible difficulty points.  This “no-ceiling” concept also encourages the gymnast to avoid counting any of their lower-level transition elements that are done in between their more difficult skills, and thus they have simply begun adding on more skills to replace these less valuable elements.  The result is that routines nowadays not only contain more high-rated skills with more room for errors than ever before, but they also contain many more total elements than the required amount and are much longer than they’ve ever been.  To further detract from quality, the time requirements of routines like men’s floor and women’s beam haven’t changed, and thus we often see gymnasts rushing through routines that are packed full of elements or simply ignoring artistic aspects of the routine like stylish transitions and creative choreography.  For this Christmas, I wish that we could lower the number of elements counting for difficulty to seven for both the men and women (even if the total required elements remains 8-10), and increase the allotted time slightly on the events that require timing.  The goal is to rediscover that balance between difficulty and aesthetic value and to reemphasize all that in-between stuff that often makes a routine truly special.



On the 8th Day of Christmas, Gym Santa Gave To Me…


8-Member Teams


Gymnastics has always been a sport of “even” numbers…the perfect 10…6 events for the men… 4 events for the women…36 all-arounders in the old days… 24 all-arounders nowadays…6 teams in the team final in the old days…8 teams in the final nowadays…8 gymnasts in the event finals…2 gymnasts per country…and 6 members on a world or Olympic team.  Perhaps this is just one of the reasons why the reduction in Olympic team sizes from 6 to 5 five just feels a bit awkward and a bit “empty” to gymnastics fans.  Another, of course, is that it means one well-deserving Olympian from every represented nation will be denied his or her Olympic dream, and we’ll be denied the opportunity to watch it unfold.  If anything, it has always seemed as though six spots is never enough to capture the true talent of most of the world’s top teams, and now we’ll be making those chosen few even fewer.  For this Christmas, I’m asking for an 8-member world and Olympic squad from each country in the future…and if we insist on continuing with the specialist-theme of the last decade, how about having four required all-arounders and four permitted specialists on each team?



On the 9th Day of Christmas, Gym Santa Gave To Me…


9+ E-Scores


Once upon a time, I could predict gymnastics scores quite well.  There was a sense of harmony and pleasure in knowing that what I saw on my television screen or at a live competition usually equated fairly nicely with the evaluations of the judges.  Sure, there were always some controversial moments, but for the most part, I could at least guess at where the judges’ deductions were coming from.  The complexity of today’s rules and today’s gymnastics has progressed to the point that judges often don’t know what to do with their own numbers, and thus they end up throwing them into a “waste basket” between 8.5 and 9.0.  I’m tired of seeing great routines being given an 8.6 in execution, and flawless ones being given an 8.933.  And it’s not just the perfect 10.0’s that I miss…This Christmas, I wish for a return of the 9.9’s, 9.825’s, and even the 9.65’s…and that genuine feeling of reward shared by athlete, coach, and fan when perfect execution and stuck landings under pressure determine the outcomes of competitions.




Stay tuned for Days 10-12!