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.