Monday, 21 April 2014

What makes me a fan of a gymnast

Hi there! I should be able to resume more frequent posting shortly. Here's a few thoughts that have been bursting for a while.

As you might have noticed, I don't really cling to one particular team or other. I really enjoy aspects of each of the big 4, and other teams. My gymnastics obsession is based much more individually, which means I'm not in a frenzy during major team competitions :p

So, what makes me root for a particular gymnast? I have a mental checklist of sorts, more than one of which must be present.

Form Is it exceptional? That's a huge plus right off the bat and is exactly what attracts me to Soviet and other past gymnastic greats, and current gymnasts such as Eythora Thorsdottir, Noemi Makra, Noel Van Klaveren and to the sheer precision and technical brilliance of the majority of the Chinese girls. I may still really enjoy those who leave a lot to be desired IF they have other positive attributes. On the other side of the coin, it's not enough to just be clean if it's not standout amazing 'wow'.

Skill selection Oh they're bringing something retro back? Awesome. Throwing an old rare skill and doing it well, or inventing one is always going to make me sit up and take notice. Preferably done well. It doesn't have to be rare or new though, but if routines contain some really pretty skills, always a bonus too - for instance on beam I have a lot of love for Onodis, Kotchetkovas, Rulfovas, BHS/aerial-LOSO-LOSO series and straddle leaps. If a routine has good composition and isn't totally stock, the gymnast immediately has my attention.

Difficulty Gymnasts capable of throwing immense difficulty are super exciting to follow and always have been. Pushing the boundaries is a great thing for the sport, although it is a major pity that the code demands it as of course, the injury rate is shocking and many are just not built for it. But for those that are, it's so enjoyable to see what they can do. However, I am appalled by skill chucking. Failed Produnovas and any skill where the gymnast just doesn't have it down and is risking her knees/ankles or worse are absolutely horrifying to watch and I hate the fact that nothing is really being done to discourage this.

Artistry Can they capture the crowd during a floor routine? I don't suscribe to the idea that only elegant routines can be artistic or that artistry is dead. We see a lot of it, particularly from those with low difficulty..they have more time to really put a lot into the non-acro side of things. Gymnasts must SELL their routine, connect to the crowd, be in time with their music, and have interesting choreography. I don't want floppy hand waving that 'looks' elegant but the gymnast may as well be yawning with all of the spirit and thought behind the actions. And I'm not blinded by toepoint either, there are gymnasts who look the part but are out of sync with their music completely. I find artistry in unexpected places, sometimes you get power gymnasts lambasted for their leaps and build but they come out onto the floor and light up the arena. Fabulous to watch.

Dance skills We don't see enough gymnasts excelling at dance skills unfortunately, which means that those who do gain automatic brownie points before I even consider what else they have to offer. Textbook switch rings, oversplit on switch halves/fulls...what's seldom truly is wonderful. Not to mention the rise of turn combinations on floor and the number who can do triples and quads. So exciting.

Spark This ties in with artistry somewhat. Some gymnasts just have 'it'. I think it's personality combining with other factors, I may only have been introduced to their routines and I already love them. It can just be a huge joyful grin during a salute. A real connection to what they're feeling and BOOM I am sucked in. However, if their attitude doesn't come across well in some situations or even while competing..I'll find it tough to watch their routines.

Competitiveness If their work is lovely but needs to be watched from behind a couch due to a phenomenal headcase rate, I'm not really going to be able to sustain being a fan. Likewise if tears are oft to be seen. There's absolutely nothing wrong with reacting emotionally to the results of a huge competition, but when it happens more often than not..that's a different story and will put me off. If a gymnast walks out onto the floor and exudes confidence, even if a mistake happens, that's really attractive to this fan. If they nail routines like a machine and anchor your team around them, it's just wonderful to watch.

So, a little from column A...a little from column B. Some of my favourites like Simone Biles, Eythora Thorsdottir and Mai Murakami are fairly easy to 'diagnose' from my criteria. I'm sure most people have something similar to this at work when they become a fan of a gymnast, but it's not really something you hear much about, so I thought it would be interesting to discuss.

So, what makes YOU a fan? Other than patriotism that is. That's not allowed in this topic :)

18 comments:

  1. Hi Catherine,

    I think you picked really good qualities that would make most people fans of gymnasts, I also appreciate your examples - I'm fans Murakami, Makra, Klaveren (she has a neat story on 'The hard way to success' - which you've probably seen, but just in case not, I threw it out there) and I am totally amazed by Biles. I don't know much about Thorsdottir except for things you've said about her, I hope to see her soon.

    As an all-around gymnast, Moors is the most complete gymnast for me, hitting just enough of the qualities which you mentioned. Great skill selection on all pieces, great dance skills, great choreography. For vault, I'm amazed by Maroney, Biles, and Steingruber. On Bars, I am impressed most by Mustafina and the British girls - Tunney, Downie, Harrold and (previously) Tweddle - who developed such amazing and unique and exciting combinations. On beam - so hard to distinguish amazing sets with such different styles - Luo Huan, Huang Huidan and Sui Liu are probably my stand out favorites in recent times, although Vasileva is growing on me considerably and I do love Wevers (still crushed about her fall in Antwerp) work too. I miss Porgras's beam quite a bit. On Floor, queen Afan is the only gymnast to put out an amazing floor routine year after year so she's my number one, but I like Moors and Biles close behind her - and I miss Porgras here as well but I'm also a sucker for a waltz - and it was Shostakovich! I'm sorry this doesn't quite answer your question, and was long per usual.

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    1. I love the hard way to success! Unfortunately, Thorsdottir is injured and her status is completely in question. Heartbreaking :(

      I go back and forward about Moors, some of her work is slightly messy I think. I really like your other choices though, and do enjoy Moors.

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  2. I'd add gymnasts overcoming obstacles, whether they're personal or whether that means having success coming from a non-gymnastics country. Incredible recovery from injury like Kieran Behan, or knowing that a gymnast comes from a difficult family background like Shang Chunsong makes me really root for that person regardless of how I might feel about their actual gymnastics. Equally I can't wait to see India McPeak in NCAA after she was dumped by WMU only to get a gorgeous standing full and waltz into Michigan, and I love watching the New Zealand girls improving leaps and bounds.

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    1. Nothing like a reason to root for someone. Yes, he's had a very hard road. Interesting you picked two Irish gymnasts there - although I'm not sure if India identifies personally as Irish or British :) Yes, thrilled for her!

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  3. If u think about it Mustafina is a huge all around gymnast world vault silver medalist bars Olympic champion beam world champion Olympic bronze medalist on floor if she can hit all four routines on one day she is the one to beat it's just her consistency

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    1. In theory yes, in current reality, no. Those titles were won at different times meaning at different years, she was stronger on certain events which has nothing to do with her now. I won't argue about the controversial virtue of her olympic fx title that many believe was overscored but in 2010 she had a very competitive d-score for that time period, making a medal possible. In 2010, her UB was the highest d-score along with komova, something not true today as many others have equal or higher. In 2010 she had an amanar and an original second vault worth 6.1. Neither of those things are true anymore; the amanar is gone and the second vault is little practiced and made worse every year by inconsistency and the same form issues that always gets it downgraded. As for beam, honestly her d-score this year is quite nice but others have similar d-scores, and with better consistency and confidence, can even afford to upgrade further for world's. In 2013, she won because the top 3 BB'ers failed, simple as that, no matter what anyone says. The execution of the Romanians and Chinese combined with their difficulty wouldve surpassed her...so, yeah. As for floor, she was over-scored at nationals and in general not enough stamina and bad form catch up with her at extended intl meets (despite the status bonus she gets). So i think her consistency is only part of it but she is still not the one to beat. Simone is. She has widened her collective d-score gap between her and everyone else even more! When you can win with a fall, you're the front-runner. Aliya is relevant and a medal contender, i'm not so dismissive of her as others are.

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    2. My money is on Biles too. However, I think Mustafina can get very close with a DTY, her 6.7 antwerp bar set, her 6.4 beam - and (if she gets her spins and adds the whip series back in to her current routine - 6.3). She could have 25.2 to Biles current 25.3.

      Biles of course has the upgrades for 25.7 already shown, but she's nursing her shoulder injury currently - so who knows. There are no guarantees in gymnastics, not even for Biles or Mustafina.

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    3. Mustafina is very hard to pin down. On the one hand, her bars improved, and then disimproved, some dance skills like the Memmel have gotten noticeably better...she lost the amanar but really improved vault execution. She can be great, or she can be tired, inconsistent and just not ready.

      You can't count her out but I do think a healthy Biles and a healthy Price (yes, not elite any longer) would both beat her if all 3 hit.

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    4. I'm the original reply poster. I just want to clarify a mistake. i meant to say that in 2012 she had the highest UB d-core along with Komova, not 2010. sorry.

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    5. He Kexin had the highest UB dscore in 2012 not Aliya.

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  4. I also have a question do u see Mustafina, Komova,Jordache,Jinnan in Rio and do u see any members of fierce five

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    1. I suppose I do see Mustafina. She is just so valuable to the Russian team still and obviously has immense passion for the sport and drive to continue. Komova..no. Iordache yes and Yao Jinnan no. It's pretty hard to qualify those answers, just gut feelings really. And the fierce 5..possibly Gabby. Jordyn and Aly would be outclassed, but Gabby UB/BB is still very valuable. Maroney is just too injured and Kyla will I think retire next year.

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  5. Off Topic: Price announced she's leaving the US national team to attend college.

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    1. It's very surprising but then when you think that Stanford don't allow January enrolling..makes a lot more sense. Lovely to see such passion for education, wish her the best.

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  6. For me currently ; I'm going with baillie key. This girl has the fire, poise, and just keeps getting better. I've heard she's working on an armarar . Which would be great. But she has difficulty and artistry ; with efficiency. As a jr scoring in the. 59's is unbelievable. If I'm not mistaken; only kyla, Jordan, and kaitlyn have done that as a jr. If she stays healthy and works on the ub; I feel she can be a aa world and Olympic champion. With terms of justly text book gym and efficiency I'm going with kyla. It took a injury this yr to show signs of mistakes .?plus prior to her problems with her growth she had an armarar and still had a week floor two yrs ago and beat jordan and kaitylin to bring her floor up to a a 14.6 in a yr or so is great. She is the efficient gym I've seen in terms of a three event gym I feel she's the best. Finally looking like a robot and difficult I got to go with Shawn and jordyn at their pk and healthy especially Shawn : annyday over gabby or Simone in terms of dif. Dif with artistry I'm going with naticia lukin nastia and Shawn my two favorite gym of all time

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    1. Bailie is very much the full package. Especially now she has a half decent floor routine and can show off and dance a bit more. I would like to see a tiny bit more expression shine through but really, she is phenomenal. I'd love her to do BHS-LOSO-LOSO on beam though and dump the layout, it would be gorgeous with her lines and she'll never get E credit for the layout anyway.

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    2. Catherine, isn't the layout about the shape position, not the height? because on the FIG examples that were shown as a credited version of a layout, none of them got similar height to each other but they all had the same shape in the air, much like shawn johnson, who i wish they would've used as an example to show that not only the chinese are doing it properly.

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    3. Anonymous - it's actually both. The layout to two feet can be downgraded for any pike (flexion at hips) in the salto. Similarly, there must be an appreciated change of center of gravity, which essentially means "change in amplitude/height." The opposite occurs In a whip, where the gymnast's lower body rotates around the torso at a fixed amplitude (center of gravity).

      I agree with Catherine - B+E (CV 0.1) is worth 0.6 total, but when downgraded to D it loses it's connection credit and gets only 0.4 total (D). The bhs+LOSO+LOSO series gets 0.2 CV and could be worth 0.5 total if Key counts a C element to her score. It's a little more economical and an absolutely stunning series.

      Also, an interesting code point: if any gymnast does stretched full but pikes down, it will still receive G credit (like Ohashi's). This is because the code is much more generous in terms of E and D deductions on twisting elements.

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