The C Score (2.0)

Archive for September 2008

After a lot of rumors flying around, it was confirmed at a Region 5 conference last night that Sam Peszek’s coach, Peter Zhao, is returning to China, according to WWGym.

Peter Zhao

Peter Zhao

This leaves Peszek at a gym with no qualified elite coach at Deveau’s in Fishers, Indiana. Rumor has it that she could go to Sharp’s, or even Chow’s.

I think Peszek’s still got some elite left in her — if she didn’t, one option would be to drop to Level 10, which Deveau’s has, and prepare for NCAA. She’s clearly keeping that option open since she hasn’t accepted any sponsors.

Of the other two gyms, I think Sharp’s seems more likely. It’s in West Indianapolis, which is clearly closer than Iowa, and Peszek is one of those few elite gymnasts who actually goes to a real school, Cathedral High. (On that subject, anyone who does elite gymnastics while attending a regular school is leaps and bounds above everyone else.) Peszek would be training there with Bridget Sloan, fellow 2008 Olympic team member. On the other hand, I think Peszek and Sloan have very different gymnastics personalities. But the gym is clearly right up there at her level.

By contrast, I think Chow’s is less likely but would be a better fit. They are clearly a gym capable of training elites without sacrificing education. Shawn Johnson and Peszek are actually incredibly similar as gymnasts, which has become increasingly clear, especially in the next year. They’re both powerful tumblers with great, big skills. I think they would do well together. On the other hand, Peszek’s reaching the end of her high school career, so I think it’s a less likely move.

ETA 9/30: It’s official on the Deveau’s Web site.

ETA 10/3: Peszek will be staying at DeVeau’s, working with an as-yet-unidentified new elite coach, according to this interview. She also gives us the clearest answer (besides Sacramone, who is clearly retiring) about what she will be doing in the future: she says she is continuing in the elite program, hopes to compete at Worlds in 2009, and is eventually aiming at NCAA.

ETA 10/6: Rumor has it that Zhao will be replaced by Luminita Miscenco-Garcy (alternatively known as Luminita Miscenco, her maiden name, and Luminita Garcy), best known as Dominique Moceanu’s coach at the 1998 Goodwill Games (where she won the gold). She is currently (at least in 2007 last I know) a coach for the national team. Interestingly, here is a picture of Peszek with Miscenco-Garcy when Miscenco-Garcy was at DeVeau’s for two weeks in 2005:

Peszek with Luminita Miscenco-Garcy, her soon-to-be coach?

Peszek with Luminita Miscenco-Garcy, her soon-to-be coach?

Steliana Nistor, the silver medalist in the all-around at the 2007 World championships, is retiring, according to this post on a Nistor fan blog. Apparently, she will be focusing on her studies at the Sports Academy in her hometown of Sibiu. Unfortunately, this is not surprising news, given that she did not accompany the team to their retreat on the Black Sea after the Olympics and, more importantly, the fact that she has been facing major back problems for over a year.

What Nistor will be remembered for, unfortunately, will probably be two things: first, that she placed the dreaded fourth in a number of all-around competitions; and, second, that she appeared to be routinely overscored despite major form problems.

Nistor's DTY at 2007 Worlds

Nistor's DTY at 2007 Worlds

Having said this, I actually really liked Nistor as a gymnast. Her vault was pretty much consistently terrible, with pretty much constant form problems (see above). But I really loved her floor. She had some good dance elements, particularly turns; was a precise tumbler (though, still, some form problems in the air); and had great floor music at the end of this quadrennium. Below is her floor from the 2007 Worlds:

Nistor was a mainstay of the Romanian gymnastics team in this quadrennium, and I’m going to miss her. I enjoyed her especially on beam and, as I mentioned, floor. For a Romanian in recent years, moreover, she had quite a good bar routine.

Nistor on bars

Nistor on bars

She had some cool skills, too, including a Ray on bars, and a handspring to back full on beam.

Here’s a short montage:

ETA 9/30: Apparently Forminte and Nistor will be having a meeting to make a final decision, at least according to Forminte. Something tells me Nistor has made up her mind … but maybe there’s still hope she’ll continue. The meeting is supposed to be held in the next few days.

ETA 10/1: According to this post — hey! I’m learning Romanian! — Forminte and Nistor talked, and he has accepted her retirement.

According to this AP article, the FIG has decided to expand its investigation of Chinese gymnasts’ age to the 2000 team, which means big trouble for the Chinese.

Recall that Yang Yun admitted last year that she was 14 at the Sydney Olympics.

It’s slow reaction time, but they are saying that information from before the Games has led them to this decision:

“If we had a look at all the articles that came before, during and after the games, there were always rumors about the ages of China’s athletes in Sydney,” Andre Gueisbuhler, secretary general of the International Gymnastics Federation, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“We did not have another choice,” he said. “If we want to remain credible, then we have to look into things.”

Here is the story where Yang Yun admits to being 14.

ETA: There are really three parts of this story to comment on, and I think it’s important to keep them separate.

The first is whether the FIG should be further investigating this matter.  Although a number of pieces of evidence point to falsification, China has supplied the FIG with proof of age as required by the organization’s bylaws.  If China were not a notoriously secretive autocracy, it is less likely that we would be having this conversation, which begs the question of whether it is within the tradition of international sport and the Olympic Games to essentially suggest that the word of a national government is not sufficient.

Second, if it is decided that the Chinese ages were in fact falsified, we must consider what actions — and sanctions, if any — are appropriate.

Finally, this issue returns us to the question of whether there should be an age limit for senior elite international competition — and therefore participation in the Olympic games.  As can be seen from the reactions of the likes of Bela Karolyi on this one, believing that the Chinese should be sanctioned for falsification does not necessarily imply agreement with the policy.

So, those are the three things to consider.  What do you think?  I’ll give my perspective in coming posts.

With thanks to TheWho of the WWGym message board.

People have been wondering why exactly Nastia Liukin didn’t get the pike to scale that she does on beam credited to her. The answer is in the 2009 Code of Points, effective January 1, 2009.

First, my brief history of this skill, to recap: in 2007, Steliana Nistor of Romania began doing a tucked front to an arabesque (sometimes credited as a scale, although a scale should be with the legs at 180 degrees, that is, with one pointed straight up). This skill was added to the CoP after the 2007 Worlds with a skill value of C. (Yulia Lozhechko did this at 2007 Worlds too, but Nistor had debuted it at a different competition earlier that year.) It was not named because the FIG was not naming skills valued at C or under. In 2008, Liukin began doing the same skill, but more or less piked. Around the same time, a whole number of gymnasts began doing an aerial to an arabesque, which is the skill we saw ten different gymnasts do in the 2008 Olympics. (I actually like this version the best; it’s the most elegant.) By then Nistor had gotten rid of her skill, and Liukin was the only one doing the pike to scale.

scale

Liukin's scale

There are two parts of the new CoP that are relevant here.

1. In the old CoP, the elements like Liukin’s or Nistor’s were credited as one skill – that is, they were not a tuck/pike connected to a scale, but a tuck/pike to scale, if you will. In the new CoP, any skills with this type of logic have been removed. That is, even elements that were previously credited as one skill that technically involved two things that are distinct skills (in this case, the acrobatic element, and then the hold), are no longer in the CoP.

So not only were Liukin/Nistor-type skills not added to the new CoP, previously credited skills were removed. This includes a skill by Shayla Worley that appeared in the 2007 version of the code. It is an Onodi to scale and was named after her after she competed it at the 2007 Worlds. It was a D-level skill. It has now been removed from the code of points because although it is a D+A, an Onodi is not a salto and so is not eligible.

2. This does not mean that athletes can no longer get credit for an acrobatic element followed by some kind of hold like an arabesque or a scale — but the acrobatic element must be a salto. With any level of skill, you can get credit, separately, for each skill. On the other hand, there is little logical reason to do this at the elite level because those holds are both A skills (worth the least amount of difficulty value), while most gymnasts want to count elements with higher point values.

The question is, when would you want to do this type of skill?

The new CoP has given gymnasts an incentive to do some variations of this skill. There is now a new category of connection value for balance beam under which gymnasts can get .1 connection value for a D salto skill connected to a scale, an A skill (it’s mixed because it’s an acrobatic element combined with a dance element).

But this does not mean we will be seeing many “Liukins” or “Nistors.” A tuck or pike front on beam is a C-value skill and therefore not eligible for this connection value. This would be .3+.1=.4, so logically only .3 because the A skill would not be counted, which means you might as well just do the tuck.

The aerial to a scale/arabesque will perhaps still see some play, because you can take the D and the .1 CV and get .5 doing one D-level skill (you don’t have to count all the skills in a series to get CV in the new CoP, although that was originally a proposed change, which actually may not have been a bad idea).

By the way, not even Liukin, who is known for her flexibility, was nevertheless cheating her scale (IMO), which should look like this:

This is a scale, as performed by Chellsie Memmel at the 2003 Worlds.  180 degree leg separation.  You obviously don't have to hold your foot, that is just a signature move for Memmel.

This is a scale, as performed by Chellsie Memmel at the 2003 Worlds. 180 degree leg separation. You obviously don't have to hold your foot, that is just a signature move for Memmel.

I tried to find a picture of Hollie Vise, who did a great scale, but couldn’t find one. But I did stumble across this:

(Grainy) picture of Dominique Moceanu scale

(Grainy) picture of Dominique Moceanu scale

This is the best I have ever seen Liukin do this skill (2008 Pacific Rim, around 1:25):

I don’t plan to make this kind of announcement a habit, but today I’m celebrating 1,000 visitors since this blog’s debut on September 3, 2008. Thanks for reading!

I have some more good stuff in the pipeline, and I’m looking forward to keeping track of retirements/skill changes/gym hops/media appearances, etc., plus thinking through the new Code of Points a little more. (Plus, in October, a live report from the Tour of Gymnastics Superstars!)

Let me know what you think. I’m having a great time!

Stay tuned!

When I posted about the provisional new elements submissions I didn’t realize that in fact the final decisions had already been made!

Contrary to my expectations, Nastia Liukin did not get credit for that pike to scale, which I maintain was not a pike nor a scale anyway, kind of like Coffee Talk from Saturday Night Live. Un Jong Hong did not get her Yurchenko 3/1 because she didn’t compete it. That means no new vaults — what a shock, what with nearly everyone doing one of two vaults (vault has gotten so boring, thank god vault finals still exist to give us some variety).

And the winners are:

  • He Kexin/Yang Yilin for the 1 1/2 in reverse grip on UB
  • Beth Tweddle for the straddle Hecht with 1/2 turn to L-grip (she does definitely own that thing, even if it isn’t always beautiful)
  • Lauren Mitchell for this silly jump to chest stand to chest roll with a 1/2 turn, but good for her anyway (it’s an A skill)
  • Anna Pavlova/Ksenia Afanasyeva for a pirouette with back attitude (I’m a dancer, so I like what the Russians are doing here)
  • Ksenia Semenova/Ksenia Afanasyeva for double pirouette with back attitude!
  • Daiane dos Santos for that Arabian double layout (a G element!)

    I’m a little bummed for Alicia Sacramone, although her request was tenuous. I’m not sure what is going on with that aerial walkover to arabesque, which is everyone’s favorite new skill (10 people did it, 11 if you count Liukin). Despite assuming it would happen, I am relieved to find out that Liukin hasn’t been credited with her skill.

A whole slew of new elements in the Provisional WAG New Elements document.

I guess the most important thing, since we’ve been discussing it for a while, is that Nastia Liukin could get credit for the Liukin/Nistor front piked to arabesque (Nistor was doing it tucked anyway, and isn’t doing it anymore) … only … she gets credited with a front piked to scale, while the front aerial to arabesque (credited to 10 different gymnasts) is not ever listed as to scale. Does anyone think this thing is a scale? (See approximately 1:26. This one is also tucked, and Liukin herself said it wasn’t as piked as she wanted. On a side note, I think it looks like a cross between a tuck and an aerial, it’s not really salto-ish enough.)

Other provisional new skills of note include:

  • Un Jong Hong’s Yurchenko 3/1, with a difficulty value of 7.2.
  • He Kexin’s 1 1/2 turn before handstand in reverse grip on bars (also credited to Yang Yilin). What happens if He’s medals get taken away?
  • Alicia Sacramone’s split jump with a 2/1 turn on floor — good for her!
  • Daiane Dos Santos’ Arabian double layout
  • Oksana Chusovitina’s double back layout with legs separated in the second salto, although it has the same number as an existing skill. Is this some kind of record for the oldest person to which a skill has been attributed in the CoP? Maybe not, given the average age of gymnasts back in the day.

You can access the new elements document from this page at USA Gymnastics. The full Code is available from the FIG Web site.

Edit: See this post to read about the confirmed skills.

I’ve done a preliminary run through the new Code of Points, which will be in effect from 2009 to 2012 (all of the next quadrennium). It’s difficult to predict the ultimate effect of a new Code, but here are some of my first thoughts:

Change That Most Inspired This Blog
A- and B-panel get their names changed to D- and E-panel. Could also have won the Most Seemingly Pointless Change superlative.

Change Most Favoring Difficulty Over Stamina
This has been discussed by others already: instead of counting the 9 highest elements plus the dismount on UB and FX, and the 8 highest elements plus turn and dismount on BB, all three events will now be scored using only the 8 highest elements including dismount. If the FIG itself is predicting accurately, this will affect scores by an average of .7 points. (In their sample final score calculation, the score is now 15.20 vs. 15.90.) Did we see the highest scores we will ever see in 2006-2008? Depends on how far gymnasts can push difficulty up. Given the 17.7 SVs in Beijing I obviously still expect to see some 17’s, and gymnasts keep upping the ante on difficulty. So the real difference is that you have fewer elements to pack in more points. Makes those looooong UB routines of this quad less likely in the future.

Change Most Likely to Decrease Risk-Taking
In less than 10 years, we have had a 100% increase in the deduction for falls. It’s up to a full point now, which is obviously an attempt to appease those who have been infuriated by Vanessa Ferrari’s win in Aarhus or Cheng Fei’s vault bronze in Beijing. The spotting assistance penalty has also increased to 1.

Changes That Will Hopefully Be Met With Corresponding Moderation from NBC Commentators
In 1996, all John Tesh, Elfi Schlegel and Tim Daggett could talk about was sticking the landing. For the last four years, Schlegel and Daggett, and their new sidekick Al Trautwig, sounds like broken records on uneven-bar routines. They are obsessed with handstand position. The new Code expands the types of deductions available to judges on handstands but should decrease the amount of deductions incurred by any specific exercise. In the old Code, a missed handstand by 10-30 degrees was worth a penalty of .1 from the B-panel (in addition to no DV credit from the A-panel — that won’t change). Now there is no E-panel (equivalent of B-panel) deduction. Similarly, the B-panel deduction for a missed handstand by greater than 30 degrees was .3, while it is now only .3 if the handstand is missed by 45 degrees (.1 for 30-45 degrees). On the other hand, on swings with turns, the deduction is now a whopping .5 for turns completed past 45 degrees from handstand position.

Changes That Most Obviously Cater to Elfie Schlegel
Anything having to do with efforts to shore up artistry, including but not limited to:

  • Article 6: Deductions for body posture in dance elements have changed from .1 for any problems in “Body posture in dance” to .1 for pointed or turned in feet and up to .3 for any body alignment issues.
  • Article 7: A number of jumps can be officially deducted to no DV instead of .1/.3 deductions. This is true for the sheep, tuck, wolf and straddle pike jumps and the cat leap.
  • 10.5: Artistry deductions on beam can now be up to .3 on “sureness of performance” and creativity/style.
  • 11.3: Dance pass on floor must now contain 3 (as opposed to 2) elements.
  • 11.5: Up to .5 deduction for “background music.”
  • 11.6: Deduction for missing a turn on one foot: .3 (from .1)

Change Most Likely to Affect Nastia Liukin
The Yurchenko 1.5 has been downgraded to a 5.3 start value (from 5.5). No way she can upgrade to a DTY.

Change Most Likely to Upset Vanessa Ferrari
It was a toss-up with the increase to 1 point for falls, but the biggest change for her will be the requirement that beam routines contain a maximum of 5 acrobatic elements and a minimum of 3 dance elements. Fewer opportunities to fall (and still become World Champion).

Change Most Likely to Affect Treasure Maps
Absolutely no markings are permitted on the FX mat in 2009. This contrasts with the old Code, in which it was still permitted to make small chalk marks of “X’s” on the floor.

Change Most Likely to Affect Spain
In the section where attire is described, leotards now “must be of elegant design” (vs “may be of elegant design” from the previous Code). I predict this will have a particular effect on the Iberian team, which has an inexplicable fondness for fluorescence.

Lenika de Simone of Spain at Aarhus

Lenika de Simone of Spain at Aarhus

Change Most Obviously Written for the Commercial Public
In the Table of deductions, the description for “Insufficient dynamics” now includes “Energy maintained through the exercise creating an impression of ease of execution” and “To make the “very difficult” look effortless.”

Some of the skills we think are recent additions to gymnasts’ repertoires actually had their debut quite a while ago. Andrew Thorton at gymnast.com has started a series of posts called “Smooth Skills,” in which he identifies innovative skills in decades’ worth of gymnastics routines, and also points out the originators of skills we still see today.

Most impressive so far has been this video (see below) of a double full-in (both twists on the first flip!) by Tatiana Groshkova, a Soviet gymnast from the 1990s (who actually never even went on to perform on an Olympic or World team!). Groshkova eventually moved to Holland, but after failing to secure papers, appears to have moved back to Russia.

Definitely check out this series. Ever seen a triple punch front?

Some of the routines from the Tour, which features Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone and Shannon Miller, have been appearing on YouTube.

I’m definitely going to the Tour once it reaches my neck of the woods. It’s not my favorite gymnastics event, but it’s still fun to watch once every four years. I’ll be more excited to see what Johnson and Liukin do after it’s over!

If it’s not yet clear, Shawn Johnson was my favorite gymnast from this quadrennium, so here’s her floor routine. Most of the passes are pretty simple (two front layouts, e.g.) but there’s also a double pike (which she is clearly capable of doing in her sleep) in there at the beginning. Cute:


About The C Score

First there was A score and B score, now D score and E score. Where is the C score? Right here. In the form of my random thoughts about women's artistic gymnastics.

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