Friday, 21 November 2014

'The code was made for the US'

The code gives the US an unfair advantage. Etc etc. I am just a little tired of seeing such statements thrown around with abandon.

The code suits the US, for sure. Because they have adapted and made it so. I see no evidence that anyone in FIG really loves the US, in fact both Nellie Kim and Bruno Grandi have taken pot shots at them in the last year. Not to mention that when the new code was introduced, it actually most benefited China at the time. The fact is, there are a number of reasons why the code suits the Americans, which boil down to one overriding one.

They are awesome. And no other country is.

Which is sad by the way, it's not an ideal situation for a team to be 7 points ahead of their rivals. MAG has truly embraced the code and it's really working for them, with so many contenders for titles from all over the world.

The US has carefully developed their entire system over the years, beginning before the new code was born. The camps and developmental programmes have been of enormous benefit, as has the rise in popularity of gym. Consequently, they have depth. Oh, no McKayla Maroney, Brenna Dowell, Peyton Ernst, Maggie Nichols? No problem. There are always more, with the only real effect being a slightly lower margin of victory perhaps.

Russia, Romania and China are suffering badly from lack of depth. Russia cannot afford to lose long-term saviour Aliya Mustafina who has carried her team many times over. They have nobody rising through the ranks who looks able to emulate her in any way. Several of their juniors look to have fizzled out already. Romania are nothing without Larisa Iordache. Yes they have other strong routines, such as Andreea Munteanu on beam when she gets it together, but nobody anywhere near her league. Didi Bulimar is unlikely to be able to regain her former routines due to her chronic knee issues, and even then her difficulty was never that great. China have depth on two events, and barely anything on the others.

Notwithstanding depth, they have other problems too. Inconsistency plagues them all, particularly Russia and China. The US by contrast are extremely consistent. No falls in Nanning, London or Tokyo team finals. No falls in Nanning or Antwerp AA, quals (Goddamnit Maroney, why did you have to ruin that? Okay so one fall) and event finals. No falls in London quals and AA. No other team can boast half such an impressive record. Russia have issues with endurance and conditioning, Romania still have deplorable bars dragging down their scores all the time and China cannot balance out magnificent bars and beam scores with anaemic vaults and super-weak floors.

It's not as if the US are ravening beasts who bust out 7.0 floors and vaults and win by brute animalistic strength the whole time. You'd certainly get this impression from some people's comments. Simone Biles is at the top as regards power on floor and vault, but also displays fantastic execution, is THE top all-arounder and our reigning (albeit controversial) beam champion. Kyla Ross could never be described as particularly powerful, instead she contributes steadily on beam and bars, and the all-around, rather than racking up impressive d-scores. Ashton Locklear was a vital part of the team, and only did bars. I could go on. They essentially have depth to put up strong routines on each event, some with more depth and/or difficulty than other events, but nevertheless strong. It also needs to be mentioned that the US quite obviously does not filter for body type. Certainly Russia looks more relaxed with this these days than they have in the past, but China and Romania are sticking to it and it is beyond all comprehension. This code needs diverse body types, not just pixies.

And THAT is why the code works for them. Depth and versatility. They've got it in spades, and the others don't. Statements like the title of this rant have as much validity as saying the old code gave an unfair advantage to the Soviets, simply for just being outstanding. The code has problems for sure, but it is not up to the FIG to adapt it to make it 'fairer' for the other teams. It is up to them to change it for the better, and for everyone else to match the US.

26 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you Catherine. especially statements like Mustafina saying that bars rules was change to help American, when the reality is that to me the World has gotten lazy and the US has simply upgraded each time they are beaten in a particular apparatus. in my opinion Russia, China, and Romania should not be struggling for depth because they should fix their recruiting process to catch better athletes . they are too attach to a certain kind of body type and weight. they also must adapt their training methods to be specific to a certain athletes in how to motive different personalities.
    The head of their programs also seem to lack the ability to use the code to maximize their strong points. you don't have to do Amanars and Chengs. why not focus on other 6.0 vaults to minimize the amount of tenths they give up from 5 to 3 or lower. why is Mustafina not doing her own Vault. or why not do some Rudis, double Tsku, or a Khorkinas in pike which is 6.1. To me is plain laziness.
    How is it that coach cannot sit and develop a good bar, beam, and floor routine with elements that maximize their strength and take advantage of connection values instead of high diifficulty. no Russian should be doing a bar routines lower than 6.5.
    They also need to create some competitions among these girls by rewarding them with incentives, money, or something. The US girls are warriors in competition because they are always competing at camps for their spots in a team.
    And finally lets improve conditioning and body strength especially for the Chinese and Russians. I want to see floor routines in which I don't have to worry if they are going to decapitate themselves on the floor because they cannot complete their last pass.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Catherine for stating the obvious. I am so tired of reading about how the code was MADE for the US. Let's face it, I don't think Nellie Kim is an ardent US supporter. The reason why the US has done so well in the last decade is because they have learned to adapt to the code, every time it has changed. They work hard on conditioning and consistency. Let's face it, world competition seems to be a piece of cake when these girls are competing every month at camp against each other AND in front of Marta.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I also agree with your statements. There are no room for excuses that countries seem to make. I feel as though the code benefits no one. You MUST make the code benefit you. Every top country has some strength and more often than not feel slighted when the code changes. Pirouette elements favor the Chinese, transition elements favor the Russians,Romania's event has traditionally been beam, and the American are good on vault and lately better on floor. The new code reduced something for everyone. The US just doesn't complain about the code because it's pointless. Everyone always seem to claim favoritism but ignore there on benefits and their failures. For instance in Aliya's interview she claims they changed the bar rules to bring the other nations down to the Americans level. However if that is to be true wasn't the same done on vault where the Amanar was down graded although there were not a lot of gymnasts doing it outside the US. Is that not questionable? However they did not complain about sabotage and favorites. They did what every nation should do. They trained, worked harder, and used what they had to find a way to win. There is no room for petty statements, arguements, or complaints. I wish everyone would just use the time that takes to be better because I believe everyone has it in them to win. I want to see some type of competition at events. Not nations showing up just happy for a silver or bronze as if that's the ultimate goal or to be expected. The biggest difference between these nations that gives the US the advantage is not the code but their attitudes. They come willing to fight and always believe they have what it takes to win and I'm just not seeing that in a lot of nations. Favoritism in the code is an excuse

    ReplyDelete
  4. Seriously! Thank you! The US has made the code work for them. Instead of bitching and moaning about how it's unfair (cough, Aliya) get your ass in the gym and start getting in better shape. Adapt to the code changes, rearrange your routines so that you can maximize the code.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Amen.

    And I agree on the vault comment Ayana.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi -- I really like this blog post and agree with the points made in both the column and f/up comments. I'm in the US, and there are two "facts" about Marta K. that are understood and accepted. First Marta has stated publicly that she likes all-arounders, so everyone tries (or stretches) to be an all-around gymnast. Second (and unstated but understood by gymnasts and their coaches), Marta only has use for you in the year after a world championship only if you made the event final in your specialty. Otherwise best to be off to college gymnastics. These two "facts" give US gymnasts strong motivation and the US program lots of depth.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Sometimes I wonder if I am a masochist for being a part of the gymternet. Hateful myths and toxic attitudes often prevail over our collective love of the sport. The conspiracy theories are the worst. I'm tired of seeing the US and the FIG being treated as if they're the freakin Illuminati. It certainly doesn't help that this line of thinking has been taken up by certain influential figures in gymnastics and even some gymnasts themselves, thus legitimizing such views, at the possible detriment to their respective program.

    The US is successful not because it has the FIG in its pocket, but because they take the Code they are given and run with it. Is that really so hard to believe? That they're just better than the other countries and smarter in their strategy? Some people are forgetting that the US ascent began under the old scoring system; that it continues under this CoP is a testament to the cleverness, strength and elasticity of their program, not evidence of some sort of corruption. But even if this gets recognized it will be put down by detractors as simple "code-whoring" and nothing more, certainly not worth their respect.

    And I second your notion that this is a sad reality, that no country can come close to matching the US. While some traditionally non-entity countries are experiencing exciting new surges in gymnastics, the old powers, where you almost always find the best quality are faltering. Russian gymnastics is so badly managed it's almost cannibalistic. The lack of depth may not be something they can entirely help, but there are ways to work around those problems and strengthen the team regardless, but no; they'd rather play victim, and act high and mighty about their quality of gymnastics, a quality that has actually worsened. China has always been weak and underprepared on floor and vault since forever, yet have inexplicably taken no steps towards permanently correcting the problem. Why? This has been going on for decades and during all that time they weren't able to come up with one good plan to implement? So far they've only produced one true all around gymnast and that is Mo Huilan. The rest have played to their strengths on UB/BB and just try not to totally suck at floor and vault. Romania, I don't even know what's happening with them, but they've been in decline for years now.

    And that leaves the US. That is the reality of the situation, not this under-the-table shit that certain fans pull out of their asses to dismiss American gymnasts' achievements. It pains me most of all to see this delusional ideology extend to the gymnasts themselves. Simone did not win because she's the best, she won because she's American! Or so the thinking goes. What a load of bull.

    In regards to your comment on body type, you can add another dimension to this that has come to my attention: class. I've encountered this attitude just as much and often in conjunction with body bias. According to this trend of thought, the Americans always use "hype" music, and claims that this is their style i.e. Hip-hop, contemporary, is just a cover for their lack of artistry. To me this stinks of the whole high art vs low art. High art being characterized by the graceful, balletic Europeans and low art being characterized as loud, middle brow Americans. In other words it's a modern extension of the ancient perception of "sophisticated and classy Old World vs. a crasser, brasher New World," so to speak, a perception that still holds surprising sway. I see it all the time in the comments of detractors and it is just as odious and unconsciously perpetuated as body bias.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great post, and such apt points- we're claiming the FIG hands the US rules specifically so they can succeed despite the fact that the leaders of the sport are always criticizing the Americans? I once saw a video on YouTube complaining about Grandi and it said something about how he has done a lot to damage the sport and then blames America. I also found your point about the men embracing the change interesting- it does seem the men, frankly, sucked it up and got to work, while the women's side just complained.

    Romania's problems, from my understanding, go far beyond internal ones within the program. From what I understand, their economy is quite broken and many simply don't have the resources for gymnastics. I actually think they do the best with the resources they have, aside from the US. Russia just has awful management. Condition your gymnasts, work routines to their strengths, and invest time in gymnasts other than the chosen few! China didn't bother to plan for what happened once Cheng Fei retired. It seems they are only JUST beginning to focus on the vault and floor problem. I also absolutely agree that body type sifting is just stupid and needs to be ended.

    Power is certainly helpful under the current code, but it is the job of coaches and members of team management to craft routines that work the code to the gymnast's strengths. Kyla has proven that a relatively unpowerful gymnast can still experience good international success because her coaches have been smart! Jessica Lopez placed in the top 8 at Worlds despite not being overly powerful and, in fact, even embodying the style (and body type) many of those crying foul about the code always claim to desire. And she doesn't even have the advantage of coming from a strong program. Programs need to stop trying to fight the code and mold it to fit theit gymnasts. Aliya dropping the triple full and going to three passes and lots of high difficulty dance elements was a good example of this.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think the USA performs well because the current feeder programs are clubs with Chinese, Romanian, Russian and American coaches so the girls who have the best routines/conditioning/performance per competition rise to the top. The other countries have the same coaching staff and the same biases/preconceptions as to what kind of gymnast they want to display to the world. Additionally, the USA has the largest talent pool to select from since the USAG pretty much has over 100,000 gymnasts (female) to select from (per USAG's statistics of JO gymnasts). I am not saying that all 100,000 gymnasts are Elite but they all start with elite aspirations. I don't know if any other country has so many girls starting in gymnastics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is true. That is one thing I will give the Russians and the Romanians but not the Chinese. They are a nation with a HUGE population. They have girls but turn them away by body typing which hinders them

      Delete
    2. i will add the Russian also for having no reason other than selective participation. the Romanians definitely have a funding and a political problem. but my issue is that their training needs to improve in the area of vaulting and UB. they have had issues with those two apparatus since 2005 with no fix in sight. The Russians have many gymnastics clubs with a good amount of participation just like in the US, but they lack the organize system the US has and also making it to national training means nothing because there is too much pettiness going in terms of the coaching staff and those in charge of the gymnastics program. Funding is not a issue at all they have a national bank who provides the funding. Russia is just plain dysfunctional.

      Delete
    3. I agree with almost everything except that Romania is not doing anything to change the bar scores. To be honest, they are! Look at Larissa's recent bar scores, she got over 14.5 consistently. Not to mention that next year, they will get Irideon and Jurca which will help them.

      Delete
  11. All these teams are in a whole that needs to be fixed. They have to combat Seven points +.Imagine if Rachel alone was at worlds. She would take The last floor and vault spots, She would be on beam besides Baumann. Because she can potentially out score Ross on 3of4 events I believe she would have made the all-around and potentially grab a bronze. I think she could have also grabbed a medal on beam too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For sure Rachel had a shot at the team, but we don't know how she would have performed under so much pressure. That being said, I love her gymnastics and am so glad she's back training and on the national team!

      Delete
    2. Its very rare that we get gymnasts of her caliber who crack tremendously under pressure. That's something martha works on and definitely chow does..I mean look what he did to gabby in as little as two years.

      Delete
    3. Rachel has to some problems for me in terms of her doing skills that she is not ready or capable of doing. the 3.5 on floor needs to go, she has tried for almost a year to hit it and it always looks like she is going to break her ankles. same with the triple twist dismount on her beam, and the amanar vault. she also has her issues on bars in which she is not a natural swinger. but she is a beautiful gymnast in the mold of Ivana hong, luikin, Mccool

      Delete
  12. Maybe my thought belongs in the “so what?” category, but here goes. I looked at the women’s team results from the 2014 World Championships. Kyla Ross was the only US gymnast who did AA in team, and she scored 58.132. Also she was the lowest individual scorer in each event for the US. But if you take her total result and multiply by 3X, US still wins team competition by almost 2 points. I guess my observation is just another way of saying what we know about depth of the US program. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  13. anyone knows who writes rewritingrussian gymnastics blog. I am sorry but that person has a serious Russian gymnast obsession. i usually ignore some things written in various blogs that tend to be hateful, spiteful, and sometimes borderline racist. but I usually like reading what she says even knowing that she is over bias and tend to disagree most of the time. but the Mustafina piece that she wrote had me almost in tears because of how moronic and obsessive she sounds. some of her points are ridiculous and completely nonsensical. I just had to vent somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just read that post a few minutes ago and was thinking the same thing. It did sound quite obsessive and over the top.

      Delete
    2. She has an about page. Her blog does exactly what it says on the tin, Russia only. I appreciate her dedication to news and translations. Her opinion pieces are not my style as she is, by definition, biased and I hold very different views.

      I understand how and why Mustafina inspires such love also. It is a very good blog, just some aspects not for me. She doesn't hide what she is about.

      Delete
    3. I agree with Cat on this. As much criticism as I have leveled at them myself, at least RRG does not pretend to be anything but lovingly biased for Russian gymnastics. Which isn't so much a bad thing in and of itself, as we all have biases, but it does lead to lots of fallacious arguments, incomplete analysis, one-sided perspectives and a general lack of self-awareness. Some of her points are excellent - for example, she nails what the inherent flaws of the Code are - but since they are being filtered through such a biased conduit, they are woefully incomplete and lack the broadness that a well-rounded argument should have, and this can only feed (unwittingly, I'm sure) to the toxicity of hard line Russian sans.

      In short, RRG is a pretty mixed bag, with lots of cool info and helpful dissections of the inner turmoil of the Russian program, but the breathless worship of Russian gymnasts and the blatantly wrong or skewed conclusions negate a lot of the good qualities. She seems to be mellowing out just a bit as of late, but I think that is only because of how many figures in Russia itself have been criticizing the direction of their program.

      Delete
    4. Love your point of view and opinion I think you hit it on the head nicely. is just frustrating that at times she refuses to give praise or acknowledgement to what other gymnastics programs do well. and when she does is comes off as passive aggressive or a snide remarks, add to that how blind she is to point out the Russian gymnast inadequacies or lack of technique in certain apparatus is just at times frustrating .

      Delete
  14. The gymnastic world is stubborn,simply put. They say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Gymnastics changes all the time and it's changed pretty obviously so why the hell do they think they can simply go on doing what they were doing and end up on top. Please give me a break,

    ReplyDelete
  15. I had great intentions of commenting and more blogging but totally sidelined by health scares in my family, now very much resolved or on the way thankfully. I did read comments! Thank you all for lovely remarks and great opinions.

    ReplyDelete