Apologies, I hate when life gets majorly in the way of blogging.
First things first, Bruno Grandi's post-worlds interview. The code undoubtedly has problems. His code that is, it is through his efforts that difficulty soars higher all the time and is rewarded in scoring and ranking. Or, as a top FIG official puts it, 8 years on from the open-ended code introduction, "Gymnasts do difficult exercises in order to win under the current system". Well, colour me shocked. The fact is, this was always happening. It didn't always work out, gymnasts such as Daniela Silivas, Yelena Produnova and Tatiana Lysenko were penalised for low/dodgy landings on massive skills ahead of the rest of their competitors, which certainly would not happen these days as gymnasts with a cushion of difficulty can afford execution errors.
And yet, gymnastics history shows consistently that the winners tend to have the more difficult, more exciting, more original routines. It nudged, I feel, Tatiana Gutsu just ahead of Shannon Miller, and there are several other examples in the same vein. The girl with the bigger tricks getting rewarded is NOT a new theme. Gymnasts constantly sought to get the full 10.0 start value, as they seek these days to have 6.0+ d-scores. In fact, slashing the number of counting skills to 8 from 10 has not helped at all, all it has done is force the gymnast to compete even more difficult skills to get ahead. Plenty of d-scores today with 8 counting skills are above the top d-scores seen in Beijing in 2008. The only exception is bars, and even then, d-scores are climbing there, and that's without the benefit of the pirouette bonus the top bar workers relied on back then.
So, since gymnasts are facing more pounding than ever to keep up, what is the solution being offered? Cut d-scores in half, to decrease the emphasis on difficulty, and create greater disparity in e-scores by having a new 0.2 deduction. I fail to see the benefit in the first idea. The girls with the highest d-scores will still have the advantage, scores will just look a bit bleak with winners having scores in the 12's and 13's. It COULD be a good idea, if execution scores had more fluctuation. Having the top 3 win with 8.966-8.933 execution with their d-scores in the 6's as they are now, and then in the 3's...not exactly going to do much really to make the code any fairer. Of course, they are proposing having greater distinction in deductions with the 0.2 yet I feel this would make little impact since scores are just so boxed together anyway.
Beam is a particular problem for me. Up (generally with as little artistic thought and effort as possible), skill, skill, skill, leap, leap, arm wave, skill, skill, leap, arm wave, cursory and dull low to beam, skill, dismount series (is it...wait for it...a double pike??) YAWN. They've no time to waste, lovely movements that were all over routines in the 80's like a glorious rash are precious connection bonuses being lost. I'd really like to see counting skills go down to 5-6, with strict penalties if your routine doesn't flow and/or is essentially skillfest with no real thought to it other than 'get d score above 6, don't fall'. It's no wonder the last 2 beam finals have been abysmal. I wouldn't mind seeing counted skills go down on the other apparatus', but it's really beam that is screaming out for it.
Another idea which I think would be well worth investigating, and which along with decreasing counting skills is a popular one, is the reintroduction of ROV, which was part of the scoring in the last 1980's. This stood for Risk, Originality and Virtuosity and did exactly what it said on the tin, gymnasts got bonuses for displaying these qualities. Unfortunately, I am too young and don't know much about how it was implemented and how easy it was to define. What would make the most sense nowadays is allotting 0.5 or possibly more for each of these conditions satisfied in a routine. The biggest objection is that this is subjective, yet gymnastics judging is and always has been so I don't really buy that. Risk is self explanatory and virtuosity is fairly straightforward...would be an interesting and fair way to further penalise sloppy/chucked routine by withholding it. Originality though would need to be clearly laid out. Your own skill, tick. A very rare series such as aerial-loso-loso, tick (in my view). Very different dance, tick.
We need to talk about dance skills. Capping them at E is silly. The race for d-scores is what's causing horrific non-180 leaps, and that would be lessened by implementing other measures already mentioned. I'd like to see girls who throw full-twisting Shaposhnikovas and other very difficult transitions rewarded, likewise there should be more incentive to do skills like Memmel's on beam. The triple-Y on floor is a LOT less dangerous than for instance, a splatty Produnova, and if girls who go outside the box with difficulty are rewarded, why aren't those who do the same with dance skills? It makes no sense at all than I can figure out.
My final suggestion would be an 0.2-3 bonus for doing a mount above A/B in difficulty on bars and beam. I would call it the 'Non glide kip bonus'. This would need to be in conjunction with lowering counting skills (so gymnasts would not need to conserve their energy as much and would have more time). I cannot blame gymnasts for doing easy, quick mounts...it makes perfect sense. But, it's very boring to watch.
As for the artistry comments, they have already put strict penalties into the code for poor/lacking artistry. The issue with it is time, time that could be going into skill-skill-connection bonus. I have the uncomfortable feeling that part of the motivation behind these comments is motivated by body type, which is another discussion entirely. I know that I, for one, saw plenty of artistry on display at worlds. Not always in the most obvious places, and not always of the elegant variety, but, present.
How can the problems with the code be fixed, what are other possible realistic solutions? Would you rather see the perfect 10 brought back? How many prizes should the FIG man get for his quote about difficulty winning?