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 :)