Monday, October 31, 2011

Rewind: A problem with ARTISTIC Gymnastics

With the current code of points demanding crazy amounts of difficulty, the gymnasts on floor exercise are now packing in 6 tumbling passes in 1:10 and they have no time (or energy for that matter) to show any sort of artistry or style. 

Thomas Gonzales from Chile is an exception. At the recent 2011 Pan Am Games, his floor routine really caught my eye (the moustache should probably go though…):

I loved this routine because he pays attention to the little details. He holds his chin up, his arms moves purposefully, there are little subtleties in his routine that make you want to press rewind. In fact, I did rewind this video multiple times after every pass because I felt compelled to analyze it more closely. This routine is awesome and I strongly believe that there needs to be some sort of way to reward a gymnast for their style other than just with youtube hits ;) 

Now, for a comparison, take a look at this routine from the 2008 Olympic Champion, Zou Kai:

Sure, he can tumble like the wind, but a cardboard box has more style. His head is down, his arms are lazy and he looks like he's going for a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon in between passes. There is no ownership of innovation and no attempt to be eye catching - it's a stock routine that gets great results because he has a higher difficulty score than everyone else (of note, Zou was 2nd at Worlds and Thomas was 6th). And, to me, it's boring and I have no desire to watch it again after it's done. Don't get me wrong, I think Zou is an amazing athlete, but I'm also a purest who believes that style should be equally, if not more important, than the big tricks. His gymnastics is not the gymnastics that I fell in love with. I wouldn't want to go back into the gym after watching Worlds on TV and pretend that I was Zou Kai - I would want to learn the cool corner part that Thomas Gonzales did and add it into MY routine.

I am becoming very frustrated with the lack of artistry in gymnastics these days! It's not called Extreme Gymnastics…it's called ARTISTIC gymnastics and the art of the sport is being lost.

A while back, I made a proposal to one of the FIG men's technical committee members to restrict the number of passes on men's floor exercise to 5 and to add 10 extra seconds to the length of a routine in order to encourage time for a little bit of artistry. I believe that this could make a huge difference in preserving the "artistic" part of the sport. Unfortunately, I'm still waiting to hear back…

All I know is that something needs to change and it needs to change fast. Routines like the one from Thomas Gonzales should become the norm and not the other way around. Artistic Gymnastics needs to start encouraging artistry again. It's a core value in the sport (it's in the NAME for goodness sake!) and having fans wanting to press rewind is how we keep the sport alive and vibrant. We have to think of the next generation who are watching at home and we have the responsibility to show them that attention to detail, artistry, innovation and uniqueness are as important as learning the big skills. A jump full turn with elegance and control is much more impressive than a full-twisting 1 3/4 roll out (and the former is something you can try to do in your living room - a place where many gymnastic dreams are initially discovered!)

So, what's your thoughts? Do you have any suggestions on how to bring back the "artistic" in artistic gymnastics? Which routine do you feel more compelled to watch and which one would you rewind and watch again? 


Erika said...

Yesterday Blythe Lawrence brought our attention to the difference between Tomas and Diego Hypolito. It seemed unfathomable to me how Hypolito could have won Pan Ams compared to the stunning routine of Tomas. You know me Kyle, as a rhythmic gymnast and an artist I definitely appreciate style! That's what separates the gymnasts from the apes ;) SERIOUSLY. Gymnastics is a challenging sport because we're asking athletes to do super-human skills and make it look effortless. I find the last few years have been damaging to gymnastics - both artistic and rhythmic. By emphasizing difficulty the sport has seen a lack of creativity, originality and an increase in injuries. If suggestions like yours aren't taken seriously the repercussions are dangerous for athletes and fans alike.

Queen Elizabeth said...

I'm really pleased to read someone else who feels the same way I do! Thank you for this post - at least I'm not completely alone ...

Val said...

Great post as always Kyle! I feel that the same could be said in women's beam routines. It is skill after skill or jump, with very little choreography or artistry in between. Little arm motions here and there just don't cut it!

Anonymous said...

I was recently watching the highlights from World's and was incredibly disappointed. I was bored watching (even women's floor)! I've never been bored watching gymnastics. The only reason I continued watching was that I grew up training with Brandon & Jackson's sister, and wanted to see how those two were doing. It definitely wasn't the gymnastics I fell in love with. I've been watching more & more US College gymnastics as it resembles the gymnastics I loved. I would love to see a limit on the tumbling passes for both men & women to bring back some artistry. I would also love to see more of an emphasis on bringing back more of the dance elements to beam and encouraging some of the unique mounts we used to see.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kyle, I totally agree. I think Both MAG and WAG officials need to stop and think.

Tokyo was a disastrous championships for me. I was never as board as this time. I couldn't finish watching some routines. It was a circus. Rotterdam was better.

I have left a proposal on Rewriting Russian Gymnastics because I think this blog listens and thinks Artistic Gymnastics not Acrobatic Gymnastics. I think may be you could help, if you are convinced with my proposal, deliver the word. May be you could also help fine tune it. I am just a big Artistic Gymnastics fan. You are pro and established in this field. You know and meet FIG guys. Here is my proposal (I have modified some points more than my previous post) :

1) This is Artistic Gymnastics not Acrobatic Gymnastics. (Fact to agree on)

2) Add an "A" Panel to the code to stand for Artistry and contributes to the score with equivalent weight as Panels E & D.

3) In case of scandalous situations like WAG AA in Tokyo, there should be an Auditor Judge to double check the scores.

4) Judges making mistakes get suspended or disciplined

5) Review of judging after each competition and make case studies and training for the judges.

6) Classify Judges into CATEGORIES, A, B, C and D. They have to grow in these categories vertically from D - A by time and experience and mistake free record. Only Category A Judges go to Worlds and Olympics.'

Thanks Kyle


Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I don’t care whether Gonzales does the hardest tumbling passes, I don’t think I’ve seen a men’s FX I enjoyed since the 90s! Not only is he super clean, but the routine flows and forms some kind of single composition, which seems unique these days, men stopped trying to achieve that at least 10 yrs ago. I don’t understand why this isn’t rewarded.

I don't have an easy solution, though I like your suggestion of a time increase and pass limits could help. However, despite pass limits, women's FX is equally broken, with a proliferation of crazy turning leaps and spins that no one can do without breaking the flow of the routine. But maybe women's beam is a better analogy to men's FX in terms of its problems and solutions. Slightly longer sets with fewer tricks would seem to be what is needed to encourage style, flow, original composition -- the things that are utterly gone from "artisitc" gymnastics these days.

Kyle Shewfelt said...

Thanks for your comments and suggestions everyone!

I must disagree with you, Alfi, about the scandalous WAG AA though - I felt that, according to the rules, Jordyn won. I definitely prefer Vika's style, but I felt like she made too many minor mistakes. She was lacking her usual oomph and beam and floor and I didn't see much fight from her. She looked a bit lazy to me. I think it will be a good thing for her though - it will make her more hungry and aggressive for London!

Dellah Redshire said...

There is a difference between extreme and artistic gymnastics. I prefer extreme gymnastics too because it’s more fun and entertaining to watch.

toddler gymnastics