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Monday, August 13, 2012

Keep It, Toss It, Bring it On: Balance Beam edition

I mentioned the other day how much I miss the standard 3-skill back tumbling pass on balance beam. But that's not all.

Beam used to showcase a variety of elements. Strength, balance, and flexibility were important--and even required. At one point there was a requirement of a 2-second balance hold--that could be a scale, a handstand, or a v-hold, for instance. But most folks went beyond that requirement anyway. You'd see a beautiful flexibility pose as well as an impressive press handstand to a planche. Because it's what any routine needs--variety. Dynamics. Risk. Proof of mastery of ALL beam elements.

The routines we saw in the Olympics were stock, unimaginative, graceless. Shown here is Sui Lu of China performing the routine which would later win her a silver in London.

Run, punch, flip. Run, punch, flip.

Here's what needs to be changed:

  • Instead of a two-element acro series, an elite gymnast should be required to do a three-element pass--or at least have motivation in the form of bonus points. 
  • Require a mount that is on par with the difficulty seen in the rest of the routine. No swing-a-leg-over mounts. Those are for preschoolers. 
  • Eliminate front/back tumbling connections. In other words, calling a front aerial-[armswing]-backhandspring a connection is a total cop-out. 
  • Require a handstand of any kind, not necessarily held. It IS the basis for most of what we do in gymnastics, after all. Handstands are beautiful, synonymous with the sport, and come in endless variations. 
  • Deduct for plain walking steps in between elements. 
  • Discourage side somis, because they're ugly. 
  • Reward artistry--the code has a section on how to deduct for insufficient artistry. I'm just not sure they actually apply it. 

Shannon Miller's routine in 1996 had a much greater variety of skills and was in many ways, more difficult than Sui's routine of today. 

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree with you more!! Your list of beam requirements is perfect, especially the one about side somis (which should be banned with roll out skills on floor just because they are ugly as hell).

    I know a LOT of people Sui was robbed of gold on beam, but I actually would have given it to Deng solely based on her tumbling sequence (FF-FF-LO-Korbut). Yes there's a very slight pause between the LO and Korbut, but it's nowhere near as horrible as the pauses that occur after 99% of the FA-BH-LOSO sequences you see nowadays. And she connected four skills...FOUR skills people! I don't think there's many gymnasts that still attempt this today, and it really should be rewarded and encouraged.

    I just watched Shannon's gold medal routine from '96, and it's so sad to watch because beam routines look nothing like that anymore. Her opening sequence of Switch Leap-Omelianchik-2 handstand rolls is so beautiful and original. I miss this type of gymnastics.