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?