Archive for the ‘Governing bodies’ Category
Posted December 12, 2008on:
Great news from the FIG today.
The World Cup Final will be broadcast live from Madrid on the FIG microsite for the WCF. Then you can always follow up with on-demand coverage from NBC Universal Sports.
The FIG Media Staff will also be posting live commentary.
Finally, the FIG is testing out an implementation of the IRCOS system on their Web site! IRCOS (Instant Replay and Information System) is the video system that allows for playback of routines so judges can review a controversial routine. Apparently they will post “a handful” of IRCOS clips online. If all goes well, this will become a mainstay of the FIG’s Web site during the 2009 World Championships.
As has been recently noted on a few message boards, the USAG Junior Olympic Committee recently revised the 2009-2013 Junior Olympic Code of Points (see preview of changes here) to reflect the fact that the FIG has recently changed the dance passage requirement on floor in the new CoP from 3 back to 2.
Which leads us to the obvious question: why is the FIG still making changes to the 2009 CoP when 2009 is exactly 22 days away?
Now, given the posting by USAG, it seems that the FIG has in fact made this change, although that is not reflected in the most recent edition of the 2009 CoP available for download from the FIG Web site. (That link may or may not work. It’s temperamental.)
But the real question floating around message boards is whether the FIG has decided to scrap the new eight-element requirement on bars, beam and floor to return to the 10-element requirement of the previous quad. A lot of gymnastics fans heralded this as an attempt by the FIG to reemphasize good choreography and dance. But rumor has it that because MAG didn’t want to change from 10 to 8, the FIG may have decided to keep WAG at 10 for consistency’s sake.
The first passage at hand concerns an A-panel (now D-panel) requirement on floor exercise. In the previous CoP, a dance passage was required that featured “at least two different elements one of them with 180° cross split position. The leaps or hops had to be connected directly or indirectly, without jumps or turns because these are considered stationary. The other requirement was that the first leap or hop had to land on one foot.
In the most recent CoP, the dance passage requirement is worded the same but requires “a dance passage of at least 3 different elements …” (emphasis mine). Now, both the first and second elements must land on one foot. The only other difference is that there is now .5 points specifically awarded for this element as part of the “Composition Requirements” (formerly “Element Group Requirements.”
However, if the J.O. CoP is to be trusted (note that the wording is very similar to the FIG wording), the FIG has reverted to “A dance passage of at least two (2) different leaps or hops.”
Both this and the 8 element requirement were theoretically attempts to incentivize an emphasis on good dance. Is the FIG reneging on its word?
The truth is, I care much less about that than I do about the fact that there is no official CoP despite the fact that January is just around the corner! I know running a World Cup Final is hard and all, or whatever, but come on. I assume coaches and federations have better updates than the rest of us, and it goes without saying that brevet judges definitely do, but still. But inquiring minds want to know!
USA Gymnastics has announced the election of Peter Vidmar as the chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, which as decreased in size from 48 to 20. (FYI, USAG, 20 people is still a lot of people to be running anything. It’s why most countries have one-member executives. Anyway.)
I find it a little diasappointing that USAG has chosen another man to replace outgoing chair Ron Froehlich. Generally speaking I’m pretty neutral on the normative superiority of female political representation, but it’d be nice to have someone who comes out of WAG instead of MAG. That is, if it were a WAG coach that would be fine too.
There are also now three new “public-sector members”: Mary Lou Retton, Bitsy Kelly and Jim Morris, who join Frank Marshall. The rest of the board consists of athlete and discipline representatives and some officers.
Who is Bitsy Kelly, you ask? Well, she is the president of both Outrigger Activities and Bitsy Kelley Outdoors, a multi media company. Frank Marshall is the founder of Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg; he’s a movie producer. And Jim Morris is the president of the Pacers.
Peter Vidmar, of course, was a member of the 1984 gold medal-winning Olympic Team, and is also a Famous Mormon. Do you have to wear the underwear while you do gymnastics?
USA Gymnastics Board of Directors
Chairman: Peter Vidmar, Coto De Caza, Calif.
Vice chairman: Paul Parilla, Lake Forest, Calif. (non voting position)
Secretary: Gary Anderson, Hillsboro Beach, Fla. (non-voting position)
Treasurer: Jim Morris, Indianapolis, Ind.
National Membership Directors
Tom Koll, Omaha, Neb., women
Steve Rybacki, Covina, Calif., women
Yoichi Tomita, Tucson, Ariz., men
Russ Fystrom, Minneapolis, Minn., men
Dr. George Drew, Three Rivers, Mich., trampoline and tumbling
Tonya Case, Yucaipa, Calif., acrobatic gymnastics
Brooke Bushnell Toohey, Lake Placid, N.Y., rhythmic gymnastics
Advisory Council Directors
Mike Burns, Minneapolis, Minn.
Ron Ferris, Austintown, Ohio
Mike Lorenzen, Mountain View, Calif.
Karl Heger, Rockford, Ill., trampoline and tumbling
Jessica Howard, New York, N.Y., rhythmic gymnastics
Michael Rodrigues, Livermore, Calif., acrobatic gymnastics
John Roethlisberger, Knoxville, Tenn., men
Kim Zmeskal, Lewisville, Texas, women
Public Sector Directors
Bitsy Kelley, Outrigger Activities/Bitsy Kelley Outdoors, Portland, Ore.
Frank Marshall, entertainment producer, Santa Monica, Calif.
Jim Morris, Pacers Sports and Entertainment, Indianapolis, Ind.
Mary Lou Retton, former Olympic champion and motivational speaker, Houston
We’re nearing the end of the year, so here’s some stuff that’s coming up. This includes “breaking” news coming out of the current U.S. national training camp, which ends tomorrow. The official announcement of U.S. assignments can be found here.
- The U.S. PAGU team has been named: Rebecca Bross, Olivia Courtney, Corrie Lothrop, Samantha Shapiro. The inclusion of Shapiro means she must have gotten over her elbow injury.
- Diana Bulimar and Larisa Iordache of Romania will compete at Top Gym.
- Nastia Liukin will perform an exhibition at Massilia Cup.
- Amanda Jetter will be joined at the International Artistic Gymnastics Challenge by Olivia Courtney and Corrie Lothrop. The latter two will be at both PAGU and in Brussels. Cassie Whitcomb, who was originally named for this meet back in October, is now out.
First, the U.S. team for the Pan American Gymnastics Union (PAGU) Individual Event Championships has been chosen: Rebecca Bross, Olivia Courtney, Corrie Lothrop, Samantha Shapiro.
The big news is that Jana Bieger has once again been screwed over by Marta Karolyi. This seems to be a signal that USAG is done with Bieger; they’re moving on to the younger seniors. If this is the case, I hope Karolyi will release Bieger, and then maybe she could go compete for Germany. I think she would have fun with that, and Germany’s got some other good contenders, including Oksana Chusovitina, Kim Bui, Jenny Brunner, Marie-Sophie Hindermann ….
Or maybe she’ll just move on to NCAA. (I always forget she can’t do NCAA because she randomly went elite in 2006.) Anyway, it doesn’t look good for her in U.S. elite gymnastics. The other people on the training squad who were not picked are Mackenzie Caquatto, Amanda Jetter, Bridget Sloan, and Cassie Whitcomb. News from Sloan was that she was going to train for the American Cup in 2009 and not bother with international competition before then. The weird thing is that Shapiro was not even on the shortlist, presumably because she was injured, so maybe she has gotten over that injury, bumping the other three new seniors.
Top Gym in Charleroi, Belgium, which will be attended by two strong American juniors — Jordyn Wieber and her Geddert’s teammate Kamerin Moore — adds two great Romanian juniors to its competition list: Diana Bulimar and Larisa Iordache. Bulimar was this year’s Category II champion at Romanian Nationals, with Iordache taking Category III last year, and placing second to Andreea Tufa this year. Presumably the Category I juniors, many of whom just moved to the Olympic squad at Deva, have more important things to do. In her most recent competition, at Blanc-Mesnil in France November 7-8, Bulimar took second in the AA to Ukraine’s Natalia Kononenko.
The other countries that have already released the names of their gymnasts aren’t sending any big names. However, I still haven’t heard about Russia’s gymnasts, and it’s possible it may be Anna Dementieva and Viktoria Komova, who will be in neighboring France for Massilia.
Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have announced their gymnasts. Italy will send Chiara Gandolfi and Giorgia Campana, and Holland will send Jocelynn Kraan and Yvette Moshage. A second Belgian team is yet to be named, as are the Slovenian, Slovakian, British and, as I mentioned, Russian teams.
Rumor has it that Nastia Liukin will be performing an exhibition at the Massilia Cup in France on November 21-23.
The Massilia Cup consists of the Massilia Open for teams by country or gym, the Massilia Gym Cup by country-team, and the Top Massilia, an individual final for the highest scorers from the previous competitions.
For the Massilia Gym Cup, Australia will be sending Lauren Mitchell, who is doing quite the circuit right now, Ashleigh Brennan, and top junior Emily Little. For China, Jiang Yuyuan will be competing, which is exciting because she performed only on floor at the recent Chinese Nationals. The Chinese are also sending Wei Guo and Mengsi Tan (not familiar with the latter). Russia is sending juniors: the exciting Tatiana Nabieva as well as Anna Dementieva and Viktoria Komova, who throws some amazing skills for her age. Fantastic junior Youna Dufournet will compete on one team for France with two seniors, Angeline Serre and Manon Erre; and there will also be a team of juniors only: Chloé Stanic, Aurélie Malausséna and Eva Maurin. Brazil sends Ana Silva, Khiuna Dias and Bruna Leal.
Beyond this, some exciting competitors for the Open Massilia. There are a number of them, so I’ll highlight the ones I’m happy to see: Ambre Casanova, Marine Brevet and Justin Crosato of France (Saint-Etienne); Sarah Gusmaroli, Marie Gaffino (although rumor has it she has retired?) and Julie Pennachio also of France (Marseille); Britt Greeley, Tain Molendijk (who has been injured)
and Tracey Penaluna of Australia; and three (!) WOGA teams: Briley Casanova, Sophia Lee, Rachel Holman, Alyssa Baumann, Hayley Sanders, Dana Ho, Belle MacFalane, Rachel Philipps and Charle Dembo; and a number of Canadian juniors: Caitlyn Keates, Rochelle Hurt, Dominique Pegg, Anysia Unick, Jessica Dowling, Melissa Downing, Madeline Gardiner, Anna Gamelo, Sabrina Gill, Mikaela Gerber, Briannah Tsang and Alysa Samaratunga (apparently there will be a selection after a training week in France). Léa Kemayou of France will also compete with her Toulon team, but I don’t know about the other competitors.
I’ve highlighted a number of these juniors in my Up-and-Coming Juniors series.
International Artistic Gymnastics Challenge
The Challenge, held in Woluwe Saint-Lambert near Brussels, will now feature Corrie Lothrop and Olivia Courtney in addition to Amanda Jetter
and Cassie Whitcomb. This means that Lothrop and Courtney will be both at PAGU and at Saint-Lambert.
The most recent training camp took place at the Karolyi ranch this week, with all of the Olympians absent
except for Bridget Sloan (sorry). Here’s the news I’ve gleaned, with some commentary:
Davis is apparently doing a double layout on floor! This is one of my favorite skills, and we didn’t see enough of it last quad. Apparently she also upgraded on bars, adding a Geinger and a Hindorff (for those who are unclear, a Hindorff is a free hip circle to Tkatchev, a pretty rare — and cool — skill). (ETA 10/12: Davis says that she verified the Hindorff only on the pit bar.) This is an important upgrade because she has nice lines and form on bar, but at Jesolo for instance was only competing a Jaeger release. ETA 10/12: Here is a great interview that Anne over at the great Gymnastike did with Davis about this camp.
This is Yulia Kut (USSR) doing a Hindorff (the first release in this routine), 1988:
Hong is rumored to be at the camp but without a coach or gym. It’s hard to say where Hong will go now that she has left GAGE, but reliable guesses have her going to AOGC in California, her home state. If she went there, she would be training with Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro (and Hollie Mossett). Certainly that gym would complement her style well. Honestly, it’s hard to understand why she hasn’t shown up at WOGA, since her family is clearly willing to relocate. I’d like to see her go somewhere where she would be pushed to train tougher, harder skills — she’s got the form down — and I actually think either AOGC or WOGA would be good for that.
Jetter now has a DTY and a Patterson dismount on beam, upgraded from a double back. Vault was Jetter’s lowest-scoring event at 2008 Nationals, so that is good news. And her beam is actually quite lovely, with a nice, clean standing Arabian.
Had some kind of surgery, but is there.
Apparently Whitcomb has a very nice Hindorff. What’s with all the Hindorffs? Don’t know much about Whitcomb’s bars otherwise …
The big news is that she is throwing an apparently solid Amanar. Now, one might think that the last thing a twelve-year-old junior needs is a giant vault leaps and bounds above the capacity of her competition, especially since it’s taxing and she’ll have to do it for three years before she even reaches senior age eligibility. On the other hand, her DTY was ofter over-rotated, suggesting she had extra power. Not sure what to think. Apparently she’s only training twenty-odd hours a week, so Geddert’s doesn’t seem to be breaking her, but on the other hand they seem to focus too much on skills and too little on form. Time will tell ….
Other people rumored to be at the camp but about which I have no information (besides assignments, below), sadly: Alaina Johnson, Mattie Larson, Randi Lau, Corrie Lothrop, Randy Stageberg, Shayla Worley.
Top Gym: Charleroi, BEL November 28-30
Wieber and her Geddert’s teammate Kamerin Moore. Cute that they’re going together.
Pan-American Gymnastics Union (PAGU) Individual Event Championships: Buenos Aires, ARG November 19-23
A training squad of seven girls was picked: Jana Bieger, Rebecca Bross, Mackenzie Caquatto, Olivia Courtney, Jetter, Sloan, Whitcomb. Only four will go to PAGU.
NEW 10/12: Hints About International Competitions
Interestingly, Davis said in a recent interview (see above, or Anne’s comment) that she will not be participating in any international competitions until 2009, because of the new CoP. Not sure if this is a decision made by her coach, Kim Zmeskal-Burdette, or by Marta. If it’s Zmeskal-Burdette’s decision, it might be smart, except to the extent that it would provide Davis with international experience (though she seems confident about her place on the team right now, see the interview I keep referring to). If it’s by Marta, she probably is sending out gymnasts who have pretty set, high-scoring routines under this CoP. Davis is working on a lot of upgrades, so it would make sense that she would save them for use under the new CoP. So I’m expecting gymnasts with fewer upgrade plans to compete in the last few events of the year.
My impulse is to feel terrible for Bieger. It’s clear from her (rumored) request in 2007 to be released to Germany that she has had it up to here with USAG. It’s also clear from recent events that Marta Karolyi’s reaction (um … no) was justified: they keep Bieger around in case they need her after injuries. And that has worked out for Bieger in the past. Unfortunately, she’s clearly not one of Marta’s favorites, and that has worked against her. A lot. Now, if she is still going to camps, maybe there is a bright side: maybe she still wants to be involved. Certainly going to camps and accepting a possible international assignment means she isn’t trying to wait out the two years without international competition so that USAG has no more claim over her. Perhaps Bieger is being forgiving, and is sticking with the sport because she loves it ….
Worley is at camp. Her story eerily mirrors that of Chellsie Memmel in the lead-up to ’04 — will Worley stick around? It’s hard to imagine her doing so, what with all the injuries. At this point it seems like it would be a miracle if she could hang on. I’d like to know specifically what she’s been up to.
The FIG cleared the 2008 Chinese gymnasts, including He Kexin, of age falsification today.
But the weirdest part of this whole saga is that the 2000 gymnasts Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun are still under investigation. Of course, Americans are less likely to care about this because it would not change the results for the U.S. team. Nevertheless, the fact that the 2000 gymnasts are still under investigation while the 2008 gymnasts are not says something that is questionable at best about what is considered proper evidence in these investigations.
The pieces of evidence that led the FIG to investigate Dong and Yang came from the gymnasts’ own mouths: Dong on her blog, and Yang in a 2007 interview. The FIG then later found that the documentation for Dong provided in 2008 seemed to suggest she was 14 in 2000 (not exactly sure what that says about the bureaucrats at the FIG — did they read the date of birth?!).
What is less clear is why Romania is not being similarly investigated for Gina Gogean and Alexandra Marinescu, despite the fact that the country itself admitted that the two were underage when they competed. Of course, this opens a huge can of worms, because there are undoubtedly other gymnasts, especially from centralized systems with secretive governments, who should then be subject to a once-over.
In this post I said there were a number of things to consider in this investigation, so let me address them now.
First, should the FIG have been further investigating the matter once the Chinese government had provided passports, birth certificates, and national ID cards, all “proving” the girls’ ages? On the one hand, there is plenty of evidence that many countries have falsified documents or simply lied about ages in order to get their best athletes on their teams. Given the fact that there were independently obtained documents — from the Chinese government itself (the Administration of Sport) — and from a national newspaper (less convincing) that seemed to suggest He was fourteen, there was certainly sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation, in my opinion. This is not to say that it is the job of the FIG or of the IOC to question the policies of a sovereign nation, but on the other hand we have sports governing bodies precisely because the stakes are so high — or at the very least, because people think the stakes are so high. The fact that China is an oppressive, secretive, and massively corrupt regime, however, should not play a role. Unfortunately, the FIG and IOC should deal with each country similarly, regardless of regime type. I don’t think that this “fairness” should extend to international politics, of course (!), but in the case of international sports’ governing bodies, I think there is a limit. This is apparently the view of the FIG. Once China provided documentation, that was sufficient. The exception came when the gymnasts themselves began suggesting that they were underage. I think that that justifiably reopens the investigation. To be clear, especially given what I know of the Chinese government, I sincerely doubt He was of-age for Beijing. And the matter of consistency on behalf of the FIG will be addressed when, perhaps, someday, she admits this. To go back to the original point, I think the FIG has reached the appropriate conclusion here: trust national governments unless this becomes an obvious political liability.
Second, if a nation is found to have falsified ages, what should happen to the athletes’ medals? Like many others, I have the initial knee-jerk reaction to say that once the medals have been — at least in terms of the competition — justly obtained, that it is too late. Perhaps some penalties for future competition, but no revoking of medals. However, upon further reflection, this is simply not sustainable practice. If an athlete is found to have been “cheating” in any way, the medals should be revoked — one of the main purposes of punishment is deterrence. It would naturally leave a bad taste in my mouth to collect a medal that I did not feel rightfully belong to me (as the Americans might have had they suddenly been given team gold). But that is not the important point — the important point is that medals must be won with adherence to the rules, and if they were found to have been acquired by less-than-legitimate means, they should be taken away. This, incidentally, brings up the question of Andreea Raducan. What if the FIG were to change (again) its age policy, back up to sixteen? Should Dong and Yang, imagining that their medals have been taken away, be given back their medals? Of course not! Then it would be in any country’s interest to break rules that are not pleasing to them, and then lobby for their revocation in the aftermath. It is for this reason, as much as it breaks my heart, that Raducan should not get her medal back, despite the fact that the drug has since been removed from the restricted list. The penalty for age falsification, like for any other breach of the rules — particularly given the supposed ideology of peace and international understanding that governs the Olympic Games — should be immediate forfeiture of victories.
Finally, what does all of this mean for the question of age limits? There is obvious evidence that younger girls are more flexible, have less fear, and have less wear-and-tear on their bodies. That is to say, the difference between fourteen and sixteen can make a significant difference. This suggests that using a fourteen-year-old when all the others are competing with older gymnasts could have a significant impact on the outcome. At a minimum, the Chinese picked their talent from the best they had, regardless of age (at least, that’s what I believe) and the Americans, for instance, did not — what of Rebecca Bross, for instance? So age could have made a difference.
But the real question is, should the age limit remain? The intent of the age limit was to limit overtraining of young girls and to avoid major injury to children. As it happens, I have just pointed out that younger gymnasts tend to be less broken, not more. So that argument is questionable at best. Moreover, it is hardly clear that the age change has led to less overtraining, particularly in systems like the Chinese system. (Especially if certain countries are bringing underage athletes anyway! But let’s assume for a second that they’re not.) There are some major international competitions junior international elites can attend, including Europeans and Pacific Rim/Alliance, plus other small meets. This is less than for seniors, but the juniors are training the same number of hours as the seniors. The smaller number of meets means the juniors aren’t repeatedly trying to peak — at least, not nearly as often — but they are undoubtedly training just as hard. Which means the suggestion that this lowering of the age limit has made any difference to training regimens, hours spent in the gym, or early starts to gymnastics careers, is lackluster. Probably at best we have kids peaking and then sitting around in a holding pattern — anyone worried, for instance, that Jordyn Wieber could break in, say, the four years she has before she turns sixteen? Does anyone think that she is not training as hard as a senior on a day-to-day basis? Ultimately, this artificial limit has been attempted, has failed, and has caused more trouble than it’s worth. Hopefully this denouement has proven this to the FIG.
ETA 10/9: In a big turn of events — whose meaning I have yet to interpret — the Chinese Gymnastics Association is now investigating the ages of the two 2000 Olympians who have not yet been cleared by the FIG. Spokesman Zhou Quiriu:
“The local authorities provided us with the athletes’ profiles, including age. Our job was only to select the best among them,” she said. “We are not the government and don’t have any power. We can only coordinate.”
The two gymnasts of interest are Dong Fangxiao and Yang Yun. Dong’s case is particularly troublesome since she worked for the IOC at the Olympics this year with work records suggesting she was only 14 in 2000. Oops.
Not sure what the relationship is of the CGA to the government, but I find it hard to believe that it has any truly autonomous power should the government ever become interested in its activities. Anyway, I don’t know what the CGA could get out of this — besides losing a medal and maybe gaining some respect for investigating (I wouldn’t put it past them to make that kind of calculated move) — but we’ll have to wait and see.
It’s National Gymnastics Day and clubs around the country are having free events to get more young people interested in gymnastics!
International Gymnast took the opportunity to publish a great article about Frank Bare, the first president of USA Gymnastics (then the U.S. Gymnastics Federation).
As this article points out, Bare took only seven years to get the fledgling USGF, which was formed in opposition to the AAU, which then controlled gymnastics in the United States, to replace the AAU as the official representative body of U.S. gymnastics to FIG. Pretty impressive.
With the exception of Bela Karolyi, who reformed the way Americans thought about gymnastics training, Bare has arguably had more influence on the way this sport is organized in this country than anyone. (Note that he is still the chairman of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, and was himself inducted in 1999.)