Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beijing Gymnastics Cliff Notes

Beijing cliff notes
…The 411 on the best sport in the universe, brought to you by Stacey Nash. A true gymnastics nut.

Where you'll find me:

NBC tv schedule
Opening Ceremonies 8.8.08 at 8:08pm china time. They like the number 8, can you tell?
8/9 Saturday 7:00-11 Men's Qualification
8/10 Sunday 6:00-10 Women's Qualification (if you only watch one night, watch this one. You'll see the most gymnastics this night)
8/11 Monday 7-11:30 Men's Team Final
8/12 Tuesday 7-11 Women's Team Final
8/13 Wednesday 7-12 Men's All-Around Final
8/14 Thursday 7-12 Women's All-Around Final
8/17 Sunday 7-12 Men's and Women's Individual Event Finals: men's and women's floor, women's vault, men's pommel horse
8/18 Monday 7-11 Event Finals: men's rings and vault, women's uneven bars
8/19 Tuesday 7-11 Event Finals: men's p-bars and high bar, women's beam

Other sites sites for news, pics and blogs

What’s the deal with this sport called gymnastics?
Gymnastics is broken into 3 categories: Artistic, Rhythmic and Trampoline. Artistic gymnastics is the marquee sport where you find the vault, the bars, the huge flips, the Wheatie boxes and lots of broken body parts. Rhythmic is where you find the hoops, ribbons, balls, judging scandals, a coach who marries off her girls to the mafia and laxatives. Trampoline, eh, who cares, they jump high.

Artistic gymnastics: Men's and Women's
The men compete in six events: Floor, Pommel Horse, Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars, High Bar
The women compete in four events: Vault, Uneven Bars, Beam and Floor

The Competition Format
Team Prelims: 6 on a team, 5 compete, 4 scores count
Team Finals: 3 compete, 3 scores count. (called 3-up, 3 count, LOTS of pressure and basically anything can happen)

All-Around: The top 24 qualifiers from Team prelims (but only 2 per country) advance to the all around finals

Event Finals: The top 8 qualifiers in each event from Team prelims (but only 2 per country) advance to the individual event finals

Why 3 up, 3 count changes everything for the Team medals.....
(3-up, 3-count is for Team Finals only)

Last year at Worlds, the women's Russian team had basically locked up the team bronze medal when Kramarenko balked her vault - ran down the runway, literally had a brain fart and stopped herself on the vaulting horse. If you touch the equipment, it counts as a 'go' - she received a zero and her team didn't medal. Under the old rules, she would have had the chance to go again or her score simply would have been dropped. But with 3-up, 3-count, the Russians had to count a zero. Also under old rules, Kramarenko would have been shipped off to Siberia, never to be heard from again. Shockingly, she still competes for the Russian team although has not yet made the Olympic team.
THE vault: (her teammate Zamo goes right after and you can see the devastation on her face as she runs down the runway knowing that her teammate just cost her a medal)

The American Women’s Team
Shawn Johnson, Des Moines IA

Nastia Liukin, Plano, TX

Alicia Sacramone, Boston, MA

Chellsie Memmel, Milwuakee, WI

Sam Peszek, IN

Bridget Sloan, IN

Marta Karolyi, wife of Bela Karolyi, is the National Team Coordinator. She’s responsible for hand picking the Olympic team. You'll hear a lot of references to Marta throughout broadcasts. She is responsible for a lot of success that the US women's team has enjoyed lately - she is also responsible for the increased number of injuries due to over-training in order to constantly impress her and keep her attention. Personally, I’m torn about if her influence is positive or not.

Expect Shawn Johnson, the all-American girl next door from Iowa, to challenge Nastia Liukin, the daughter of former Soviet gymnastics legends, in the women’s All Around competition. They are as different as can be and it will be a tight contest. Shawn has higher scoring potential than Nastia, but Nastia is fierce and I expect an epic battle.

A possible spoiler for the Nastia/Shawn show-down is Chellsie Memmel who has quietly and solidly worked her way back to her 2003 gold medal winning form. She has had terrible luck with injuries in the past, actually tearing her shoulder DURING a routine at worlds in 06 – she jumped back up on the uneven bars, completed her routine and then went on to compete beam with a broken shoulder, leading the American team to a silver medal behind China. She is the toughest, most solid competitor out there and might sneak in to that second All Around spot (each country is only allowed two all arounders)

Alicia Sacramone is a Miss Sassy Pants. Watch for her team leadership and spunky style.

Sam Pezesk and Bridget Sloan are awesome, but on this team, they’re basically background players whose main role will be to set up the marquee girls (Shawn, Nastia, Alicia and Chellsie) for the big scores.

Shawn Johnson: On her way to winning the World All-Around title in 07
Nastia Liukin: Uneven bars, one of her best events
Alicia Sacramone: One of the top vaulters in the world
Chellsie Memmel: In the midst of a HUGE comeback from a horrible shoulder injury in 06, totally electric performer on floor
Sam Pezsek: A consistent performer, not the star of the team, but a solid contributor

The Chinese Women

The controversy of the games will surround He Kexin and her age. Yes, it is totally falsified. Will anyone ever prove it? Heck no. Also – the age restrictions suck and therefore I’m totally fine with her competing. What happened is that HE Kexin showed up at a Pan-Asian competition early last year. She was phenomenal and there was a ton of buzz that surrounded her – all framed with “Man, it’s so sad that she’s not age eligible for Beijing!”. She disappears for about 9 months, shows up at the Chinese Nationals and poof! She’s now 16. Interesting, eh?

Watch for Cheng Fei. She is one of the most phenomenal athletes to ever compete in gymnastics. Very powerful, but also very graceful and artistic - a rare combination for a gymnast to have. She has been the reigning vault champion for the past 4 years and it’s fully expected that she will maintain that crown in the Event Finals in Beijing. However, she’s someone who has had the weight of a nation on her shoulders since Athens and it will be interesting to see how she handles the pressure.

Another one to watch is Jiang Yuan Yuan (JYY). She is also caught up in the age controversy, but that’s a bit of a shock to me. If they did falsify her age, they did it years and years ago because there’s never been any inconsistency since she’s been on the international scene. She is a joy to watch – great difficulty but also loads of personality. She could sneak in for an All Around medal.

Who else to watch

Jade Barbosa from Brazil. One of the few vaulters performing the 2 ½ twisting Yurchenko which gives her a ton of extra points on vault. She needs it to make up for her slightly crappy bars. She’s not exactly the most stable competitor and a fun drinking game is to see who can predict when Jade will cry first. She’s very engaging, but toughness isn’t her forte.

Sandra Izbasa from Romania. Oh Romania…. Their program has gone down the tubes lately. They lost their head coach after Athens and they haven’t been able to maintain the same level of difficulty and consistency since. Sandra is great on floor and has a ton of potential to be a star for her country. She just hasn’t been able to break into the top in the All Around yet. This might be her year.

Ksenia Semyonova from Russia. She’ll give Nastia Liukin the most competition on the uneven bars. She’s the reigning bars champ and Nastia wants that title back BAD. Nastia upped her difficulty this year in order to compete with her and they’ll battle it out in event finals. She’s also the size of a small teapot.

Paul Hamm from USA. He broke his hand at the US Nationals back in June but was named to the team anyway based on the fact that he’s oodles better than any other American man right now. His brother Morgan also made the team – barely. Paul will try and defend his Olympic All-Around title but he’s going to have to get past Yang Wei from China and that is going to be one tough fight. Yang is incredible with huge difficulty levels. If Paul wins, it will be a bit of a miracle.

The scoring

Ugh – the scoring is so complicated that I actually can’t even explain it succinctly. This really points to it being a HUGE issue with the new code of points more than it being an issue with my non-knowledge. Because by now you have probably figured out that I know far too much about this sport.

In a nutshell….

There are two scores that they combine for a total score. An A score and a B score.

A-score – think of it as a tally of elements. Each skill that a gymnast performs in a routine has a value. At the end of the routine, the element values are added together to create the A score. An A-score of 5-6 is great. An A-score of 7 is outrageous.

B-score – This is where they get to take deductions for form, wobbles and general non-prettiness. So where the A-score is an addition, the B-score is a subtraction. You start with a score of 10 and then points are taken every time you do something wrong.

Unfortunately, the system is way more complicated, but those are the basics and they’ll at least get you (and me) through!

I should have access to gmail while in China and my email is

Email me with any other questions! I’m all about the education of gym fans in this world!!



awrobel said...

I hope you are having the time of your life! Milwaukee misses you but we are graciously sacrificing for the greater good of the universe. By the way, Michael Dillon's distant cousin is Chellsie Memmel. What a champ!!

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