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Stretching Out: Let's Talk Floor Exercise
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

As the sport continues its never-ending push forward, I've noticed a few trends that might be leading gymnastics off the most desirable path. And by desirable I mean what is good for both the gymnast and the spectator. Of course, the best path is always open to debate, which I welcome in this periodic Stretching Out column.

Stag Jumps: Every time a new rule is imposed, gymnasts and coaches figure out a way around it. Now that women are required to stick their tumbling passes on floor exercise, we're seeing stag jumps after double Arabians. These stag jumps, some of which reach an elevation of six inches, are odd because so many gymnasts are doing them in a desperate attempt to avoid a landing deduction.

I prefer the old rule, which allowed gymnasts the freedom of stepping back into a lunge or dancing out of a landing. Judges could still deduct if the landing was short or otherwise. Stag jumps should be high and show good posture and flexibility. Most of the ones I see now look like an afterthought.

Mai Murakami: The floor routine of the minuscule Murakami (she looks to be about 4-foot-4) at the Japanese championships is creating some buzz on the Internet. She can tumble and dance. Her passes are well done too: double layout; tucked double-double; punch front-full, rudi; triple twist. While it may not be a growing trend, there is one technical glitch prior to her tumbling: she takes two hurdles before each tumbling pass, which means 6-7 steps before her roundoff. If and when she grows taller, she'll have a difficult time staying within the floor area if she doesn't learn to economize her tumbling approach. But this hurdle hiccup is probably a habit she developed as a beginner, and may be hard to change. But considering how amazing she is in the air, she should be able to handle it.

Transitions: In men's floor exercise, "corner moves" were once the sweet filling between cake layers. They offered a creative breather between passes, and artistically positioned the gymnast in the direction of his next tumbling run. They served a purpose by turning four tumbling passes into a floor exercise. If you were to simply step into the corner, pivot on one foot and windmill your arms, you would have been hit with a deduction. You can't just walk into the corner and turn around!

Now you can just walk into the corner and turn around. The talented Jake Dalton did virtually the same step-turn five times in his winning floor routine at the recent Winter Cup. And since it's well within the current rules, I don't blame him. Energy is at a premium when you're doing six demanding passes.

The 10-skill requirement for men's routines has led to the six-pass routine, and inadvertently eliminated corner moves (and probably increased the number of Achilles' tendon injuries). So men's floor exercise, once an exploration of creativity, of rhythm and contrast, has become a monotony of tumbling in a confined space. For the most part, there is no "performance" aspect.

Maybe it's time to cut the 40-by-40 mat into thirds, make one long strip, and see what these guys can really do. Or, maybe it's time to reduce the number of required skills, which would lead to fewer passes — and perhaps something interesting between them.

Check out this routine from the late Yukio Endo from 1966. He's "on stage" from beginning to end. You never see him "let down" in the corner and suck air. He actually does a version of the step-turn into his first corner, but it's beautiful instead of cursory.

Lauren Mitchell: This is a bit of trivia instead of a trend. Guess who choreographed the floor routine of Aussie Lauren Mitchell, who won the gold at the 2010 Rotterdam worlds? Stacey Umeh-Lees, older sister of former Canadian Olympian Stella Umeh. By the way, Stella is back with Cirque du Soleil, performing in Asia.

As always, I welcome your views.

Comments (14)add comment

Leo Knoll said:

0
Concerned!
I'm concerned about all the famous names going down with Achilles injuries:
Severino, Hambuchen, Chusovitina, Brinker, Downie, Caranobe, Orozco, Zamarripa, Zgoba, Kupets, Rizzo, Izbasa, Cheng Fei, Ferrari, Petkovsek, Wong, Golotsutskov, Hopfner-Hibbs, Hong, Keatings, etc., etc.

It seems like every country is affected by these injuries.
Does this problem seem unusual to anybody else or is it just a normal part of gymnastics that I'm now just noticing?
 
February 17, 2011
Votes: +5

Toby Towson said:

0
former floor national champion, teacher, coach, daddy
Well, of course I'm prejudiced, but I really miss men's floor exercise that combines tumbling with creative acrobatics, balance, rhythm, grace, flexibility, and style. It hardly exists anymore. It shouldn't be a contest of mere tumblers. We have another sport for that. It's hard for me to imagine how it got to the sad state it's in now, and I don't imagine it will change without a profound evolution in the psychology of the folks who make the rules. I prefer Japanese men's synchronized gymnastics. Men's artistic gymnastics should go in that direction. Go to Youtube for an example.
 
February 17, 2011 | url
Votes: +12

triplefull368 said:

0
...
You need to re-read the current Code of Points. THERE IS A .1 BONUS FOR DOING AN "A" JUMP OUT OF A "D" OR HIGHER TUMBLING PASS. THIS is why gymnasts to stag jumps out of double Arabians, NOT in order to cover up landing mistakes. It is why Rebecca Bross added a split jump out of her double twisting front in AA finals, and why Aliya Mustafina added a stag jump after her first pass following qualification at Worlds, even though she stuck that pass in qualifications without the jump. It irks me that supposed "experts", such as television commentators and writers for gymnastics magazines, cannot even take the time to brush up on the current Code of Points before giving us all their opinions on such things.
 
February 17, 2011
Votes: -5

caly said:

0
...
There haven't been any Nationals in Japan this year. Murakami's winning routine is from December 5, 2010.
 
February 17, 2011
Votes: -1

Brianna said:

0
Stag jumps
Don't the stag jumps also give a 0.1 in CV?
 
February 17, 2011
Votes: +1

JuliaK said:

0
...
IMHO the best "performer" on men's floor today is Tomas Gonzalez Sepulveda from Chile. He manages to pack as much artistry as he possibly can into his routine (while still having the 100 tumbles needed to get a decent D score.) Here's his routine from Glasgow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MjWaH9ImaY
 
February 17, 2011
Votes: +2

Dwight said:

0
...
Appreciate all the comments. That women get a bonus for leaping after difficult tumbling is secondary. They are trying to avoid a landing deduction, too. And since double fronts and double Arabians are extremely hard to stick, they add a leap afterward. That's what I've been told in conversations with elite coaches.
 
February 18, 2011
Votes: +8

triplefull368 said:

0
...
If that is the case, then why would they add in extra jumps only when they need the bonus? Why had Rebecca Bross never performed a split leap after her second pass before? Why did Aliya Mustafina never perform a stag jump out of her double Arabian until after Worlds qualifications? Why would Beth Tweddle change which pass she performed one of her jumps out of? Your explanation makes sense only in the case of double fronts and double Arabians, but we have seen jumps (not leaps, jumps) out of full ins, triple fulls, front double fulls, and double pikes as well.
 
February 18, 2011
Votes: +0

??? said:

0
...
I agree, they are trying to avoid a landing deduction. If not, most of the leaps are hideous. Lauren Mitchell was the first women I believe to popularize this in 2009 then all of a sudden almost everyone was doing it, yuck! There are still a few ladies who are not capitalizing on this and I hope they don't. Jumps and leaps after a tumbling line should be worth 0.
 
February 18, 2011
Votes: +1

Kristin said:

0
....
I think the first time I ever saw a gymnast do a jump out of a tumbling pass was Vanessa Atler at the 1998 Goodwill Games. She performed a double layout, punch front, right into a ring leap. No one else, to my knowledge was doing jumps out of tumbling passes. I am very disheartened with the Code of Points on the mens and womens side. They are taking away the artistry from the sport and excitement out of seeing a variety of routines. To me, the majority of routines are all the same. I especially do not like the new rule for women requiring a stuck landing. It, again, takes away from the artistry in my opinion.
 
February 18, 2011
Votes: +4

Chris Hubbard said:

0
Avoiding landing mistakes
I notice that you are only mentioning the leaps women are doing to cover landing errors. I totally agree with you. Also I believe the reason that punch fronts and leaps were originally added to double layouts were because the skill had been devalued and only regained it's original value when combined with a preceding or post-ceding salto. However what has been failed to be mentioned here is all of the men 3/4ing their front skills to avoid the same landing deductions. While it was exciting to see back in the late 70s when Kurt Thomas first introduced the skill, it seems to be becoming way too common. What's happened to the double twisting double layouts of the 2000-2003 quadrennium?
 
February 18, 2011
Votes: +0

Toby Towson said:

0
grateful
Thank you JuliaK for telling us about Tomas Gonzalez Sepulveda, a terrific routine, very pleasing, but still too much tumbling for my taste. As for women sticking tumbling passes, I say "Bravo." It's about time. Anyone who has ever tumbled knows it's harder to land well in balance than to bounce around or take a step afterward. And it's perfectly artistic when done well. Now let's limit women to three steps to really see who is the best tumbler, no need to run half way across the floor or more with no tumbling. Here's a routine for JuliaK. Thanks again:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZhS-Su9ADM
 
February 18, 2011 | url
Votes: +0

Aussie_fan said:

0
...
I see your point Triplefull, but that just confirms why it's becoming such a popular practice: gymnasts can cover up/avoid a potential deduction *and* get a bonus. Who wouldn't do it?!

Mitchell has a strong, square stag leap, and for my money I think it adds to the pass. Atler's ring leap out of her layout pass was also nice (and clever) I thought.
 
February 19, 2011
Votes: +0

Robin said:

0
...
I am with you all on the women's floor issue. It seems to me that the difference between a men's version of a sport and a women's version of a sport isn't that men run faster, jump higher, do more difficult tumbling than their female counterparts. Men's sports are centered around strength. Women's sports are centered around finesse. Non-gymnastics example: Have you seen a women's ice hockey game? It's really exciting to watch (especially if you're watching a really good team) because the women don't waste time pushing each other around, they just pass, shoot and score. Contrast that with the physical nature of the men's games. One sport, two very different styles.

Gymnastics is a little bit different in that it requires strength and finesse from men AND women, but I think it's ridiculous to expect 16-year-old girls who are about 4'9" and weigh 90 pounds (Johnson) to tumble like 25-year-old guys who are 5'6" and weigh 140 pounds (Hamm brothers). And yes, the men could use a lot more artistry on floor.
 
February 20, 2011
Votes: +1

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