I mentioned in a previous blog that the men’s international field has been much deeper than the women’s in the last couple of years. While that is certainly true, I’ve also noticed that we’re probably seeing more original skills on the women’s side, particularly on bars and beam. As much as we all often criticize the new code of points, you have to admit that we have seen the absolutely coolest combinations on those two events in the last few years.

The men, on the other hand, have tended to throw very long and difficult routines, but we still do often see many of the same skills and combinations done by the top athletes. Floor is certainly an event that has advanced astronomically recently on men’s side, with guys now putting sequences of skills together that were completely unheard of just a few years ago, not to mention doing more tumbling passes than ever before. Another event that does lend itself to some originality is high bar, where we’ve been seeing some interesting new connections between release skills on long-hanging skills. In our first Smooth Skills feature, let’s take a look at a few of the cool high bar combinations from this year that you may not have seen:
Aljaz Pegan HB 2009 Moscow
Not only is he one of only two gymnasts whom I’ve seen perform the “Pegan,” but he connects it beautifully into a Rybalko.  He did perform this combination last year, but I’ve been so excited to see him stick around after he was tragically denied a wild card spot at the Olympic Games last year. He is 35 years old, and despite being one of the world’s best high bar workers for as long as most of us can remember, he has never been to an Olympic Games. I think he’s way underappreciated internationally. That combination is out-of-this world difficult. I long for the day when he connects his Pegan into a Covacs!
And check out this one…
Marijo Maznik HB 2009 Gymnix

Cool! I’ve actually never even seen anyone connect a laid-out Tcatchev into a Rybalko – very difficult because of the turnover required in a laid-out position in order to get enough swing out of the release. And then the laid-out Tcatchev with a half turn – very original! That requires a lot of turnover as well to be able to swing a front giant out of it.

Ryosuke Baba HB 2009 Gymnix
Never seen that one either! A Takamoto-half immediately into a Kolman – and he made it look easy! We’ve been seeing a lot of Tak-halfs into a laid-out Tcatchev, but Ryosuke is definitely raising the bar with that combo.
I’ll be bringing you more Smooth Skills episodes periodically, along with my regular “Andy’s Angle” so be sure to check back frequently!