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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Make It Or Break It--Triple the tucks, triple the layouts, triple the awesomeness!

"Make It Or Break It is so terribly delightful. And delightfully terrible. No need to recap the whole thing, but I enjoyed meeting one Ms. Regina Turner, the new head of the NGO. Not only did she show up at the gym in business attire (snicker), but she doesn't know the difference between a tuck and a layout. The whole episode talked up Jordan's triple back bars dismount (and showed lots of double tuck dismounts edited to look like triples), but suddenly Regina was "looking forward to seeing that triple layout." Hey, I was too.

I'm sure MIOBI has at least one gymnastics consultant in addition to all the knowledgable stunt doubles, so I just figure they don't listen very well. So on that note, here is a brief primer of gymnastics lingo.

Saying simply "double back" (or triple, or whatever) usually indicates a tuck position. Otherwise we'd say double pike (hips bent, legs straight), or double layout (body fully extended and straight).  
Using the word double or triple always indicates the number of rotations WITHIN a single skill. I've heard a kid say in cheer-speak: "I can do a triple backhandspring." No kid, you can't, because there's no such thing. You can do three back handsprings in a row. (And the third is probably a headspring in which you will eventually break your arm, but I digress. Slapping my own wrist for gymnastics snobbery).  
"Flip flop" is short for back handspring, and it's actually a term that's used. "Flic flac" is an antiquated short form of back handspring and we laugh when commentators on old videos say it. 
"Flip" is slang, and a broad term; it doesn't indicate a specific skill. For instance you tell me you're gonna do a flip, but that could be a back tuck or a whipback (also called whipover--a back handspring with no hands). A coach wouldn't ever simply tell a gymnast, "Today we're working on flips." 
"Salto" is the technical term for flip. All skills involving a rotation (flip) in the air with no hands, from a two-foot take off, are referred to as saltos. However, no would ever say (as a gymnast in MIOBI did one episode), "I'm working on my back salto." It's just too formal.

Disclaimer: there's always going to be some variation when it comes to regional vernacular. Heck, maybe everyone in Wyoming DOES use the term salto. But I've never met a coach from Wyoming.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Your Daily Dose of Gymnastics-- Elena Shushunova

The last routine I posted featured an original namesake skill from Lori Strong that I would love to see more of today.

You can't browse videos from 1987 without seeing Elena Shushunova, and the "Shushunova" on floor--a straddle jump to a prone position--is one of the most OVERutilized skills. I was even surprised to see the term used in a televised cheerleading competition. Sometimes gymnastics skills get lost in translation on the way to cheerleading. Sticking a Shushunova in your floor routine was an easy way to get a difficult dance skill credit; I believe it used to be a C-rated skill but can't imagine that it still is. (Is the Code of Points online? I need that.) What was an impressive, high-flying jump from the originator later became a commonly-seen lackluster bellyflop from the lower-level masses. 

Here's Elena in 1988, finishing up with her Shushunova skill, but also competing one of the few roll-out tumbling passes ever done by a woman (now prohibited). I do like her original transition for back-to-back tumbling passes: a backhandspring step out onto the wrong leg directly into a round-off. Then off course a fabulous 80's trend (besides that lovely hairdo, off course): knee-handspring!

Make It or Break It--The most accurate teen gymnastics soap ever to depict national training camp

Just caught up on this week's Make It or Break It. It was hilariously awesome as usual. The girls have been at "training camp" the entire season, and coincidentally, I just happened upon this description of national team training camp  by Shawn Johnson.

So in fictional Gymnasticsland, the girls are pairing up to make up short routines for each other (huh?), making chicken parmesan in their tricked-out apartment for their parents who are visiting for an exhibition (I bet that's Karolyi-approved), and struggling with full-twisting back handsprings (snicker). Meanwhile, coach is flipping through photos of gymnastics greats in the middle of practice. Don't worry girls, he knows exactly what he's doing!

I did sort of dig the concept of the throwback leotards--in grayscale!

Shawn tells us that she's usually eating salmon or chicken with salad or fruit, and she's probably not making it for a visiting parent in between workouts. She'd be a little more comfortable in a nicely furnished apartment, but it IS actually a camp facility, so the cabins probably aren't quite as stylish as the accommodations in Gymnasticsland. But really, the funniest thing about MIOBI is that every workout involves some sort of fun activity, rather than intense training.

OK, that's probably not the funniest thing.

Maybe the funniest thing is how, when there's a wide shot of all the athletes hanging outside on the training center campus, they're all in the middle of very vague, half-hearted twisting and stretching.

But in spite of all that, I HAVE to watch MIOBI. I'll take corny gymnastics over no gymnastics.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Your daily dose of gymnastics: Lori Strong

Lori Strong was a very successful Canadian gymnast who became a very successful University of Georgia gymnast. She's got a skill named after her on bars: a Strong is a 1 1/2 twisting shoot over from high to low bar. It's time for some folks to take a look at this skill: with bar sets spread so far, there's a limited supply of interesting transitions. It also provides a change of direction, which is a requirement. So why aren't we seeing it more now?

Maybe it's because even Strong herself, had trouble controlling her form in that crazy fast twist. She as competing it as early as 1987--maybe earlier?-- and 5 years later, you can see how wild it is in the replay. But very cool.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Make It or Break It is the best teen soap ever set in the cutthroat world of gymnastics.

Confession time.

I LOVE Make It or Break It.

I also don't want to admit that I love boxed macaroni or Kris Kross or approximately six teaspoons of sugar in my coffee, but I might as well come clean for all that too.

When it first came out I watched an episode, and I felt exactly the same way that Dwight Normile of International Gymnast did: "aimless," implausible," "cliche," "unbelievable," and finally, "simply too bad to be true." (Chuckle at the full review here.)

But last summer when I had a rare spate of time to myself, I turned on Netflix for a little background noise while sewing. I rolled my eyes. I laughed out loud. The melodramatic competitions! The corny teen romance! The obvious stunt double editing! The ridiculous inaccuracies!

Over the course of the next few weeks, I watched all forty episodes. Like you do with a really bad show.

Or a really AWESOME show.

So it asks you to suspend reality a little. But doesn't all TV programming ask you to suspend reality? (Heck, even reality shows aren't realistic.) There's probably not a doctor or attorney out there who will tell you that they've seen an accurate medical or legal show.

Frankly, I think MIOBI strove for a bit of realism in the beginning, and now it's just embracing the campiness of it all. Compare it to Glee, which started out campy (and was good); then it started taking itself very seriously, and now it pretty much sucks. Intentionally campy shows are often pretty fabulous--Ugly Betty comes to mind--as long as you can keep them a little interesting. Toward the end of its run, Ugly Betty got a little stale, so it remains to be seen whether MIOBI can endure much longer. That the Fug Girls heartily endorse the show gives me hope.

So now I embrace it for what it is, a campy soap opera set in a gym, and as a gymnastics enthusiast, I'm just happy for ANY gymnastics to be on TV. And if that involves rebellious pregnant gymnasts working at pizza joints, backstabbing world champions with cruel stage mothers, 6" wide balance beams, DJ Tanner, this dude, and confused bisexual teens with eating disorders--because teen soaps have to include AWARENESS--then I'm there.