The C Score (2.0)

Posts Tagged ‘FIG

Well, I have survived the MCAT (score pending) and my dissertation proposal (passed!). And I’m back!

A top ten of things I’ve missed, ’cause I’m not going back to talk about all of it. Looking forward now, folks! (And, no, I do not care that Shannon Miller is preggers.)

Oksana Chusovitina

Oksana Chusovitina

8. Oksana Chusovitina retires: I’ve never been the biggest fan, but she’s pretty amazing. Sad to see her go.

7. Jordyn Wieber wins the American Cup: Honestly, I enjoy her, and I think that her gymnastics is maturing quite well. I thought the most ridiculous thing about the American Cup was listening to Tim Daggett go on and on about Wieber’s toe-on on bars, and how she doesn’t put both feet on at the same time, and how it’s an eyesore. News flash: people used to do this all the time.

6. Shawn Johnson wins DWTS, insults everyone in US Weekly: I was happy with Johnson’s win; I thought she was quite good. And I really do think she is an amazing gymnast. But I am disappointed that she appears to have left gymnastics behind …. And then she said that she was an outcast on the national team, which seems plausible and might explain her less-than-ferocious desire to return to gymnastics. Still, by contrast, it was nice to see that Nastia Liukin (not always my favorite) is, by contrast, sticking with it. UPDATE: Apparently Johnson’s mirrorball is broken.

5. The FIG sucks: A KISS AND CRY CORNER? What a mockery of any sport. On the other hand, the suggested revamping of judging that should have scores coming faster is good.

4. Semenova is a world-class gymnast, remember? Ksenia Semenova and Ksenia Afanasyeva went 1-2 at Europeans. Semenova was 4th in Beijing. She is a stupendous gymnast, and not just on bars. Her floor is much more mature (as is her body.) And Ariella Kaeslin in third!

Youna Dufournet

Youna Dufournet

3. Youna Dufournet scares the crap out of everyone: At SCAM and Europeans, Dufournet totally falls apart on floor, scaring everyone. But then at French nationals this past week, she pulls out an awesome Def (apparently only French women are allowed to do that skill?)! (Interestingly, Dufournet still lost to Marine Petit and Rose Bellemare.)

2. Jade Barbosa wants to compete at Nationals: Somehow, Jade Barbosa, who has necrosis in her hand is training again. There are no words.

1. Nicolae Forminte has cancer: Skin cancer is very treatable, but if it is true that his wife noticed this spot a long time ago, well, that’s not so great. Prosport has the story. I like Forminte. A lot.

The WTC has posted a new update to the 2009 Code of Points, which goes into effect officially in nine days, making this tremendous timing for people studying for brevet exams and gymnasts tweaking routines. Anyway.

Some of the changes are ones that were rumored a while ago (including reducing the dance passage on floor from three elements back down to two, sigh). Some others are pretty stunning though.

Potential game-changers:

  • The back double tuck has been upgraded to a D from a C. This is a big deal. The CoP specifies that the dismount is considered the last salto performed that is rated D or above. This means that gymnasts will likely now be performing double tucks as dismounts much more often. The double tuck (or pike, as it is now worth the same as a tuck) will probably be found more often inside routines, especially in combination.
  • The composition requirement for a turn on beam (worth .5) no longer requires the turn to be performed on one foot. This had been rumored. It also means that turns can be performed in handstand or on any other part of the body.

Reversions to previous CoP:

  • Root limitations on bars elements have been deleted. This new rule would have prohibited gymnasts from performing more than two elements from the same “root” skill (e.g. Stadler).
  • The requirement that dance passages on floor consist of three elements has been removed. We’re back down to two.

CV and deduction changes:

  • The formula for direct connection on bars that required that the D skill contain flight for the D+C connection has been changed. Now both the D skill and the C skill can contain flight or a minimum 1/2 turn, allowing for CV for turn combinations. (Note: some people have suggested that this means that suddenly a D+C CV requires flight or turn. In fact, it makes the original requirement easier. The previous edition required the D element to be flight, while the C element could be either. Now, both can be either.)
  • Many deductions added for pre-flight form problems on vault, including a maximum of .5 for bent knees or arms; and for second flight phase problems, including bent knees or arms (also maximum .5).
  • The maximum deduction for a deep squat or body-posture problem on vault has been reduced to .3 (from .5).

Skills removed:

  • Varga dismount on bars, though note that a double back with 1/1 twist (considerd the same skill by the FIG) remains. I think this has to do with the difficulty of performing this skill correctly.
  • Turns with leg at 45 degrees on beam (e.g. 3.203), meaning that if a turn is not performed at horizontal, it is devalued to a turn without leg up (at all)
  • 2/1 turn in scale on floor (leg behind). (My guess is that this is the same reason as for the Varga dismount.) Note, however, that the Ksenias’ 2/1 pirouette with back attitude has recently been added to the CoP.

Difficulty-value changes:

  • 4/1 turn on floor: D to E
  • 2/1 turn with leg in scale (Memmel) on floor: C to D
  • 2/1 turn with leg at horizontal on floor: C to D
  • 2/1 Wolf jump on floor: C to D

Those appear to be the big changes. I’ll update as I go through the document more. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out the July CoP changes, and what they’ll really mean. It’ll be hard to know before they are used in competition.

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!

The FIG has released a list of the qualifiers for the World Cup Final who have confirmed their participation plus the next gymnasts down the list who will be invited. The lists are prettty much as predicted.

The World Cup Final will take place December 12-14 in Madrid

The World Cup Final will take place December 12-14 in Madrid

Vault:

Participants are Cheng Fei, Elena Zamolodchikova, Jana Komrskova, Ariella Kaeslin and Dorina Boczogo.

The next three down the list are Hong Su Jong, Aagje Vanwalleghem and Olga Sherbatykh I’m thinking we can count out Hong (Hong Un Jong has already said she would not participate, and while I realize they are not the same person, it seems like a good predictor). Sherbatykh is also out. Vanwalleghem is likely to compete, which moves Hong Mi Kang (ranked 18th) into the last qualifying position. She recently took first on vault at the 2008 Asian Games.

Uneven bars:

According to the FIG, Dariya Zgoba has confirmed her participation, which makes Zgoba, He Kexin, Jana Sikulova, Yang Yilin and Anastasia Koval the qualifiers.

The next invitees are Jiang Yuyuan, Vanessa Ferrari and Iryna Krasnianska. Jiang will almost definitely participate, Ferrari is definitely out, and I’ve heard that Krasnianska is probably out too. The first replacement would be He Ning (17th) and the second is … Koko Tsurumi (18th)!

Beam:

Fei qualified first onto beam (as well as vault and floor) and is followed by Sandra Izbasa, Li Shanshan, Yulia Lozhecko and Daniele Hypolito. Hypolito has already confirmed her participation, though Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs is actually ranked above her.

Although Hopfner-Hibbs curiously declined her invitation on bars, she has expressed a desire to compete on beam if qualified, but rumor has it that she has already decided against participating because of final exams, etc. The next two invitees are Lauren Mitchell and Deng Linlin. I am curious about the Li confirmation, because she had been sent back to train with her provincial team. I presume, though, that the FIG did not get this wrong (though stranger things have happened). Even if Hopfner-Hibbs competes, we probably still have one place left because Deng is rumoerd to be injured. Next on the list is Lenika de Simone (18th), whose participation (if I’m not mistaken) would put Naomi Ruiz out of contention on floor, because Spain is only allowed to nominate a competitor if they have no other qualifiers. Should de Simone decline, next up would be Zgoba (19th), qualified and confirmed on bars, and Alina Kozich (21st), who is qualified and confirmed on floor too.

Floor:

Koko Tsurumi could be in on two WCF events

Koko Tsurumi could be in on two WCF events

Fei is first, followed by Izbasa — just like beam (which is exciting!). They are followed by Jiang, Kozich, Suzanne Harmes and Hypolito.

Zamolodchikova is first on the next list of invitees, and will undoubtedly participate. Patricia Moreno is next and retired, so that’s not happening. That leaves one spot to fill on floor, which could theoretically go to Daria Joura (16th), but the most likely competitor is Tsurumi, who is now likely qualified for two events!

It’s shaping up to be a good final, presuming everyone makes it to Madrid with no further injuries. I’m predicting Cheng on vault and beam and Izbasa on floor, but I don’t put much stock in my own predictions. I’m still calling He on bars. I’m doubting will see any major upsets.

It would be nice to see Zamolodchikova on the podium, but I think it’s a long-shot. Kaeslin has a decent shot at a medal on vault. The bars final could easily go Chinese 1-2-3 with He Kexin, Yang and Jiang. I have no idea about what kind of shape Li is in, but she could definitely compete on beam, as could Mitchell, though I have them competing for bronze with Cheng and Izbasa in the top two spots. On floor, Kozich could squeeze in for a medal, but I would expect Jiang to take third.

As promised, here is a good database of some older abuse allegations, from a Web site (that I think is no longer updated) that has been trying to get the abuse investigated by the FIG, IOC and the Romanian Gymnastics Federation. The allegations are from articles in such periodicals such as Pro Sport going back to the early 2000’s.

There are interviews with: Lavinia Agache, Simona Amanar, Alexandra Barac, Sabina Cojocar, Florin Gheorghe, Adriana Giurca, Rodica Dunca, Alexandra Marinescu, Florenta Oancea. Oana Petrovschi, Claudia Presecan, Andreea Raducan, Melita Ruhn, Daniela Silivas, Mihaela Stanulet, Siliva Stroescu, Ecaterina Szabo, Andreea Ulmeanu, and Corina Ungureanu. There’s also at least one interview with Mariana Bitang.

Anyway, point is, this is not new. The only new part is anyone in America paying attention.

In shocking news, Nastia Liukin was named FIG Athlete of the Year. The FIG, with their ever stellar Web presence, has so far only posted a press release, but USA Gymnastics has a little blurb about it too.

Liukin won the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year award earlier this fall. According to this USAG press release, she’s the first U.S. gymnast to do so since Mary Lou Retton, which leaves Carly Patterson the odd woman out. She was also named USOC’s Athlete of the Month in August.

She hasn’t won USAG’s Athlete of the Year award yet, but of course she will. She already won it once, in 2005, and tied with Chellsie Memmel for the award in 2006. Shawn Johnson, naturally, won the award last year.

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?!).

Dong and Yang in 2000

Dong and Yang in 2000

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.