The C Score (2.0)

Posts Tagged ‘Code of Points

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):

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.”

Since the Olympics ended, there has been some grumbling in the gymnastics community — and in the New York Times — about the possibility that U.S. gymnasts were overtrained by national-team coaches. There are obviously two questions here: 1) Were these gymnasts overtrained? and 2) If so, is overtraining responsible for our second-place finish?

Was the U.S. team overtrained?

Let’s try to answer the first question first. There is certainly a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing in this direction, but we have no direct evidence. I think it is slightly irresponsible (if understandable) of people like Paul Ziert to state the case of overtraining as fact, given that we don’t have access to the training sessions for confirmation, and such a charge hasn’t been leveled at Marta Karolyi by any of her (current) athletes. There are two main pieces of evidence that have been used in recent opinion pieces on this issue: first, that the American gymnasts looked tired and unenthusiastic during team finals; and second, that the number of injuries in the days leading up to the Olympics was too high. In his International Gymnast op-ed, Ziert claimed that the team looked overtrained:

[On floor] Shawn has yet to show the joy that made her not only a champion but a crowd favorite. Of course, her difficulty will impress most, but the fact that she can be overtrained and still hit routines is what impresses me, although I don’t think it’s smart or fair. What was painful was to watch Alicia Sacramone’s routine. Everything about her performance indicated overtraining. When both mind and/or body are tired, they don’t work well together. Why else would she go out of the area on her 2½ twist punch front full both at podium training and here in the qualifying. I contend that with both the injuries and overtraining, she ran harder and hurdled bigger to make sure she made the pass.

Then he continues, with reference to mistakes made on bars and vault:

I believe that these types of mistakes cry out with overtraining. When the mind and body are not in sync because one or both are exhausted, this is what can happen.

Susan Yoculan, director of Georgia’s amazing gymnasts program until 2008, said similar things in her blog commentary for the New York Times (though she ultimately attributed the loss to the difference in overall A-scores, which I’ll get back to):

Shawn in last up and once again the U.S. goes out of bounds. It is shocking that Shawn, too, is distracted. She looks great but there is definitely a spark missing.

Honestly, though, I don’t think we are at a point where we can say that a demonstration of distraction or lack of enthusiasm is a clear sign of overtraining. That’s a really hard case to make.

On the other hand, as this New York Times article points out, underperformance is a symptom of overtraining. (Note that the article isn’t specifically about gymnastics.) I think that the better argument is the one based on injury.

Even before these Olympics, I thought that Shawn Johnson’s coaches had it right. Four hours of practice a day, public school. Not only does she not risk overtraining, but she has a normal life and does not discount academics entirely in favor of athletics. The way she has described it, her time in the gym is more intense, with no real breaks to speak of. On the other hand, she was the only member of the team without a major injury to speak of from somewhere in her career.

The best argument Ziert makes that the women’s team was overtrained is based on the high prevalence of injuries. Sam Peszek’s sprained ankle, Chellsie Memmel’s break. (Recall that Alicia Sacramone was also injured earlier this year.) It’s possible, as Marta Karolyi suggested in this Time article that we might have performed better with Memmel on beam. Who knows? I think more important, however, is the fact that this article purports to be about overtraining but is really about whether the Code of Points pushes gymnasts to compete harder skills. If that’s the case, it’s not really relevant to this debate, because all gymnasts from all countries are competing with the same Code.

Overall, I think the main problem with the overtraining argument is that we don’t have proof. There’s some circumstantial evidence, and there’s Karolyis’ history (we know there’s a definite tradition of overtraining there). Definitely we had some errors that seemed uncharacteristic, and we seemed to lack charisma that we had at Worlds in 2007. Still, before we blame this whole thing on overtraining, we should think about other possible explanations — see the next post.

 

Pictures: Alicia Sacramone, the emotional face of the U.S. team

 

Alicia Sacramone with Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson at 2007 Worlds

Alicia Sacramone with Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson at 2007 Worlds

 

Alicia Sacramone at the 2008 Olympics

Alicia Sacramone at the 2008 Olympics

 

Next up: Is overtraining responsible for the loss to the Chinese?


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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