Playing Devil’s Advocate

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You’re a world champion on vault with the ability to win a medal this summer, and you have a beam routine that could possibly make event finals.

Too bad, because vault and beam are your team’s strongest events, and even though your scores are comparable or better than some of your countrymates’, they’re more highly valued as all-arounders who can go up in the team final in a pinch if needed. Basically, you’re screwed.

Not in 2020.

It really sucks to not get to be there with your team as they have gold medals placed around their necks. But what sucks more is not making it to the Olympics, period.

Hey, Alicia Sacramone! You can go to your second Olympic Games and get the chance to finally win an Olympic medal on your beloved event after narrowly – and unfairly – missing the podium in 2008. Here’s the catch – you can’t compete with the team.

What do you think her response would be? “Nah, I’d rather not go to the Olympic Games at all if I can’t be in the team final?” I highly doubt it.

The fact is that some gymnasts who are capable of winning Olympic medals simply do not fit their team’s puzzle, especially in the U.S. where even the weakest gymnast at Olympic Trials would be a superstar for any other nation in the world. Teams have to decide to leave potential medalists at home. The U.S. left a potential medalist at home in not being able to select Sacramone, who had the difficulty and execution to land on the vault podium but whose best events happened to be the team’s strongest events, making her irrelevant to their ultimate goal.

With the new system allowing specialists like Sacramone being able to qualify to the Olympics whether or not they’re a good fit for the team, it creates several more medal opportunities, especially for the deep U.S. program.

If you haven’t heard, the FIG decided at their council in Melbourne today to change the format of competition at the Olympic Games beginning in 2020. Teams will now consist of four members who are allowed to compete in team finals as well as fight for all-around and event final spots in qualifications. Nations also have the opportunity to qualify up to two individuals (all-around or event specialists) to the Games through world cup and continental championship events.

Yes, I agree with popular opinion. It absolutely sucks that the FIG is taking arguably the best part of the Olympics – the team final – and shredding the team into just four members, four who will have to do the all-around in qualifications, a veritable disaster if someone is injured mid-meet, potentially turning a would-be gold medal team into one without a chance to make finals.

It also totally sucks for those who qualify as individuals and are there representing their country but don’t get to share in the team experience. It won’t be so bad…they’ll still travel together, train together, stay together in the Olympic Village, but when their team wins gold and they’re watching from the stands, the feeling will definitely be bittersweet, even if they do go on to win medals of their own.

Again, I’d be shocked if most would rather have the alternative, however, which is to stay home. I think anyone would much rather be at the Games, period, even if it means some moments of quiet desperation during the team events. But that’s exactly the plight of an alternate now, and the alternate doesn’t get the consolation prize of potentially winning an individual medal at the Olympic Freaking Games.

The qualification process on the way to the Games isn’t ideal, requiring multiple world cup or continental championships appearances to earn spots. In a way, this is exciting, as the world cups are sorely lacking in attendance from top female gymnasts, but this is only because they happen at an inopportune time in the year. Most gymnasts prefer to rest in the spring so they can upgrade and stay healthy for the more important meets down the line. However, the U.S. does attend several off-season events, including the American Cup, Jesolo, and Pac Rims in an Olympic year. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to have a gymnast prepare to compete a few times in the spring in order to earn a qualification spot.

We don’t know the qualification rules just yet, either, so it’s not really possible to get angry about the process when it likely won’t involve much more competitive activity than the majority of gymnasts are already doing, especially if continental meets like Euros and the Asian Games serve as qualifiers.

At the end of the day, the format will open up an additional spot in the Games for top countries, which is a great thing. But is this worth the cost of reducing the team final to what will now essentially be an all-around competition? I don’t think so. The FIG is trying here, trying to make sense of the 90 or so spots they’re given by the IOC for WAG athletes, trying to make sure the best of the best all get to be in finals, trying to play along with the spirit of the Olympics, which are as much about inclusiveness as it is about being the best.

No one is going to be happy with any outcome. No matter how they divvy up those 90 spots, something is going to be sacrificed. Sacrificing the team final definitely isn’t the way to go, and the benefits of additional specialist athletes on the roster do not outweigh the costs. Period. The overall health of a country’s program is determined by how well they perform cohesively and if you eliminate specialist gymnasts who play a very important role in the team format, you’re basically saying that specialists aren’t worth anything to a team and don’t deserve to be in that final.

You could argue that gymnastics at its core gymnastics is an individual sport, but part of the fun of the major international competitions is getting to see how these individuals come together for a common goal. Was there anything better than watching the U.S. women in 2012 grasping hands and staring up at the scoreboard, knowing they’ve won gold but waiting for it to be official before screaming and hugging and sobbing on live (ahem, tape-delayed) television?

People tune in for the spectacle of a team performance, and while the spectacle isn’t necessarily gone just because the team has one less member (honestly, will casual fans who tune in every four years even know?), it’s definitely not as exciting, especially when teams who rely heavily on specialists (notably Russia at the moment, currently relying on several specialists aside from Aliya Mustafina) fall out of contention when they don’t have four all-arounders to put up in a final. If you think it’s boring watching the U.S. win by seven points now? Just wait until 2020 when powerhouse Big 4 countries disappear from the map because they don’t have four athletes who can do all four events without imploding.

For fun, I took the 2012 Olympic team finalists, scratched their least-contributing member (in terms of number of events, not scores) and redid the results, substituting a fourth score from qualifications if needed. Because the teams were pretty far spread out as it was, it changed nothing in terms of the standings, though I did notice something important.

Each team in 2012 had four athletes who contributed on two or more events, and then just one athlete per team had a single event in team finals – McKayla Maroney for the U.S., Maria Paseka for Russia, Diana Chelaru for Romania, and He Kexin for China.

Again, because there was such a wide spread between teams due to falls, and other errors, the podium doesn’t change. But we do see how much a team relies on a specialist. With just one event, Maroney added 0.433 to the U.S. total, Paseka added 0.967 for Russia, Chelaru added 1.267 for Romania, and He added a whopping 1.6 points for China.

If the finals situation is close, coming down to tenths instead of points, specialists could have made all the difference in the outcome. Ridding teams of their specialists could be detrimental to a program’s success, and only the U.S. right now has the depth to truly succeed in a format of this nature.

Another foreseeable problem is that gymnasts will begin to train for themselves, not for a team. If strong vaulters or bar workers know they lack in other areas but have potential on their pet events, why bother training all-around? You don’t have to worry about fitting onto a team, but rather just about yourself and your own medal potential. This isn’t inherently bad, but it’s going to be problematic when everyone begins neglecting the team in order to focus on personal gain.

I know change is a tricky topic in the gym world. Personally, I’m open to it, if the changes made create more opportunities for gymnasts who have the talent to succeed. In the case of the U.S., I feel that this format could lead to greater medal success (as it would have in 2012), and so fans of this program should take it and run.

Also, things get boring when they stay the same, and a new format really has potential to spice things up and hopefully, someday, make the sport even better. I mean, really, gymnastics with no progress would still mean preschool-level routines on wooden beams, DTYs defeating Amanars, and belly beats on bars, so I’m open for whatever the FIG wants to throw at us. And if it fails miserably, things will go back to normal and we’ll always remember 2020 as the perfect 20th anniversary of Sydney, the sport’s last major disaster. No big deal.

But at the same time, I’m furious about the FIG’s blatant disrespect for the role of the specialist in team competition and absolutely do not think this is for the good of the sport. There are pros and cons to every system, with the current system being that potential Olympic medalists are left at home, as Sacramone was in 2012.

This new system fixes that, but in the process creates a litany of additional problems that don’t come close to outweighing the benefits. I won’t take the dramatic route and say “it’s the beginning of the end of the sport,” because it’s not. Someday down the line fans will forget this was even a debate, and gymnasts will adapt, as they always do.

For now, I choose look at the bright side, hope for the best, and pray there’s a very happy eleven-year-old vault prodigy out there who sucks at bars but now has a reason to believe she can be an Olympic medalist, even if it’s not with a team.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

45 thoughts on “Playing Devil’s Advocate

  1. There’s also the additional problem of event final qualifications. If two members of “team”China qualifies into the bars final, and two “individual” Chinese gymnast qualify as well, will all four be able to compete since the two individuals qualified separate from the team in world cup events, and again at the Olympics, or will there still be a two per country limit.

    Because either way causes problems. The top countries with a lot of gymnasts on a particular event will saturate the field by qualifying them through the team and individual process. This would result in less diversity in a final something the fig claims this format is meant to solve.

    But if the limit is still in place, then it totally defeats the purpose of having individuals do more competitions through the world cup process, because at the end of the day while the gymnast may have had to work harder then their countrymen to actually make it to the Olympics as an individual,of their score is top 8 in qualifications but third for their country, isn’t that kind of a slap in the face.

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    • The event finals aspect is going to be like it is in Jesolo, from what I’ve read. It’s still two per country whether you’re on your country’s “team” or not. So if a team gymnast gets a 15, an individual gets a 14.9, and a team gymnast gets a 14.8, then one team and one individual gymnast would go. So the two per country diversity is still there, and you’re right – it does defeat the purpose. Looking at the US, I can see them just sending their top 4 all-arounders and then two vault specialists, since you don’t need vault specialists with two vaults on a team. So in 2012, they could have sent their 4 AAers as planned, and then McKayla and Alicia as specialists. Same outcome, plus one additional medal for Alicia basically. That makes the most sense and is probably how things will work out, because vault medals are basically a sure thing for the U.S. more often than not (since it’s a smaller field), whereas it’s a bit trickier to get on the podium for the others.

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      • I’m wondering if there are only two outcomes to this, either the event finals become less diverse because the top countries eat up most of the spots or if it will only be viable for vaulters in the top countries to qualify outside their team.
        How many non-vaulters specialists are often left off a team. Looking at the 2012 team final (not a perfect analysis for what I’m looking for but lets use it), there was only one gymnast that was used on a single event that wasn’t vault and made it into the event finals, He Kexin. If you look at the US trials, only one gymnast was in the top two spots of a non-vault event and not in the top 4 spots of the all-around, Alicia on beam. For the Russian Cup in 2012, same thing, there was one gymnast who qualified top 2 on bars, and only 8 in the all-around. (I think it may be Grishana, so even that isn’t someone who would have been brought to the olympics as an event specialist). Although, if the latter does happen, maybe we will stop seeing unsafe produnova’s making it into the final, because now vault quals will be overly saturated.

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  2. But it doesn’t necessarily sound like someone like Alicia would be able to qualify on their own–because she was recovering from injury for most of 2012, she wouldn’t have been able to attend however many competitions to accumulate points. To qualify as an event specialist, the athlete will have to be constantly peaking and have the funds to travel to a wide range of international competitions.

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    • Yeah, in that scenario it wouldn’t have truly worked because she wouldn’t have been ready to compete, but if there is an Alicia Sacramone-esque person out there in the world in the same situation where she doesn’t quite fit the team but still has a medal-worthy routine, it opens doors for that athlete. Also, the travel to the World Cups will be funded by the program. The national program will be the ones to submit athletes as individuals even if they’re considered ‘individuals.’ It is not an expense incurred by the gymnast, and the national coordinator will likely decide who attends World Cup events, just as they do now. It’s not like anyone in the country can be like “I’m going to a World Cup!” and just show up on their own. The federation will determine who to send as individuals to these qualifiers and who to send to the more team-oriented competitions in preparation.

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      • Do you think USAG will basically attempt to qualify as many specialists as possible and then select the top two during the Trials process? Or will they maybe have two picked out early in the season and focus on those? I’d probably go for the first option just to maximize my options. (I’m basically wondering whether the selection process will look more like the one for Athletics — ie: you need the “A” standard, but so many athletes have it that the US can still have its pick.)

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        • I think they’ll have some picked out, because in this sense you kind of have to strategize. Like, maybe they’ll have multiple try to qualify, but there are probably going to be a few who they consider more likely for specialists roles than team roles, and then a few who will do it just in case with the hopes of making the team and going that route instead.

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      • So if they did this is 2012, for asac to go as an individual, would she herself have to compete in world cups to qualify or could the U.S. send another gymnast to earn those spots at the world cup and then send Alicia? Or would they have to send the gymnast that earned the spots? Hopefully that’s not too much of a confusing question

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  3. Okay, so allow teams that have qualified to also qualify one specialist if they want, but keep the five member team. That way, they take up the same 6 spots, but the team isn’t left in the lurch trying to make a finals lineup absent what may be their best scores on two or three events that they can’t use because the gymnast isn’t an all arounder or doesn’t fit into a 4-4-3 (or 4-3-2, I have no idea what the fuck Grandi wants) picture. Not hard. Doesn’t require completely restructuring the competition.

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    • That’s what I’d like to see. It’s still 6 per team for the top teams, but 5+1 instead of 4+2 and I think people would like it much better. No idea why that wasn’t considered.

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  4. Wait, wait so – only 4 members get to to form a team for team finals? Yet two additional athletes from the same country can also qualify? So technically each nation can bring two additional athletes if they qualify? If this is so the two additional athletes would then still compete for the their country? I don’t see exactly why this should change the two per country rule? If a non team competing member from say the Chinese team beat her team final members for a spot in a final, then why would that mean only only one additional spot should be available to a Chinese gymnast in the same event? It seems to me if six members of a nation can compete albeit some out of the team finals it could increase each nations chance of medal could it not?

    I’m not saying I like this format, but I don’t get why it changes the two per country rule if the gymnasts are still competing for the country? I think I might not just understand.

    If they were going to change any rules I’d like to see 3 per team compete all round and keep the two per individual final but I am going off on a tangent.

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    • It’s two per country for event finals…that rule doesn’t change. It’s technically six athletes from an individual nation, four ‘team’ athletes and two ‘individual’ athletes. If four of those six attempt a final, only two would get in whether they were on the ‘team’ or competing ‘individually.’ Kind of like Jesolo, where there were a million Italian teams but only two Italians total – from all teams combined – could make it in.

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      • So there can only be at most 6 total gymnasts from any single NOC no matter what’s the combinations? That would be incredibly sucked…!!!!

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  5. I don’t see how this new format will lessen the gap for team final between US and the rest of the other teams. If anything now, the US would win team final by even bigger margin because this format basically favor the team with the most depth and most AAers, which right now is no doubt US.

    As said, with max of 6 gymnasts, US will most likely capitalize on vt. So if this were in place in 2016, is this how it would play out below?

    Skinner is a virtual lock as long as she can bring her Cheng and amanars). Maybe Locklear will also be able to go?

    Team: Top 4 AA (Biles, Key, Aly, Gabby, or Ross with 1 of these 5 won’t make the cut)

    So then EF final for US could be:

    vt: Biles, Skinner;
    ub: Locklear, (Ross or Key or Gabby?);
    bb: Biles, (Aly, Gabby, or Key or possibly Kyla?)
    fx: Biles, Aly

    Am I sorta applying the new rules correctly?

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    • I think you are applying it correctly and that’s a good example of a possible scenario if this were actually happening in 2016. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong).

      And you’re right, it will not lessen the gap for USA at all, as some of the other big 4 nations could really struggle to put out 4 solid all arounders. I guess they can drop a score in team final now though so it’s still only 3 count. But still… For these nations to have to potentially compete a hot mess routine in finals will be interesting to see how they handle that.

      Will there still be a team qualifying night which is also 4 up, 3 count or would it be like Jesolo where some teams can already be qualified? Or do we not know that yet?

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  6. If these rules had been in place in 2012 than we wouldn’t have have been able to watch McKayla maroney do what we thought was a perfect vault in the team finals. some gymnasts have injuries throughout the year and wouldn’t be able to attend other meets like the world cups. If they were top specialists for a country like the U.S. They would be medal contenders. They couldn’t qualify to the Olympics because they missed a couple competitions. They wouldn’t have been able to experience the joy of winning an Olympic medal!
    I can’t believe the FIG would do this

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  7. So what will happen at 2017 Worlds? It will be the new format? Or will it still be 6 gymnasts and old format? It’s all getting very confusing!

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    • The Olympic games already have a different format than Worlds, so I suppose Worlds won’t be affected by the Olympic change 🙂

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      • Yeah but at least the only difference is 5 vs 6 on team, not a much different format of 4 (only AA) + 2 vs 6 (any combination) on team. If this is discussed with a non gym fan, they would be totally confused even more than talking about new vs old 10.0 COP.

        Personally, I actually favor the new COP over the 10.0 COP as it allows me to more objectively distinguish the difficulty of each gymnast’s routine relative to each other. With the 10.0, I couldn’t as easily tell how the SV of 9.4 vs 9.9 is figured out. And also not enough separation and reward for more difficult routine with 10.0 COP.

        This new team format is however way worse overall compared to new vs old COP. I really hope that this will be a fail experiment!!!!

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  8. After re-reading the proposal that was approved, I’ve realized that the purpose of the change really has nothing to do with increasing diversity at the games by including less represented nations, it’s really only about increasing participation at World Cups, challenges, and Continental Championships. The rule as reported by the FIG states: “Up to two gymnasts from countries already qualified for the team competition would be eligible to compete as All-arounders or on their specialities…”

    I interpret this to mean that only the top 12 countries that manage to qualify a full team to the Olympics are eligible to send two additional gymnasts. So the countries with one or two Olympic gymnasts are in the same position they were in, in 2008. The top 12 teams will have 6 gymnast representing their country, and the rest are stuck with the same amount of individuals as before.

    And if my interpretation of the rule is true, that’s a really horrible way to increase participation in the smaller meets. The FIG is going to end up breaking gymnasts as they force them to do more competitions and to be constantly peaking, risking injury and fatigue, and it may not even result in a medal at the Games because they’ll be facing off against well rested gymnasts.

    There’s a reason the US is so dominate right now. By only competiting at a select few meets, they are able to rest their gymnasts so they can prepare for the major championships. And if you compare Simone Biles to Larisa Irodache you can really see the difference. Simone was given the opportunity to rest, heal, and prevent injuries from becoming even worse. While Larisa was competing at many meets, constantly having to be at the top of her game, so by the time World’s came around she’d already competed in five separate competitions.

    They should have just increased team size back up to 6, it would have saved everyone a lot of aggravation.

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    • I think I agree with this point also. Having to compete more does risk more injury. Lets just hope that its only the specialist that have to do that since someone like Simone would be “protected” by being on the 4 person team and just have to do qual at the Games and not having to do the cup circuit to qualify.

      Also, I think this point is also made: Why bother then to have another separate AA competition? They should just adopt the Jesolo format of combining TF and AA. Doing 3 X (qual, TF, AA) all four events put a lot of physical stress so by the last day of event final all the AA will be real tired. Going against well rested specialists, it could be a splatterfest for those AA also trying to do EF…

      I suppose if you have another day of AA it could be like US national in which you maybe ought to count both days….

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    • I was thinking that too: they’re trying to increase the profile of events that aren’t Worlds. Simplest way to do that? Make World Cups a path to Olympic qualification. I don’t think this will hurt the US though, re: over-exerting specialists. USAG will just plan around it like they do, say, with years that include Pac Rims. (In 2012, they simply sent different groups to Jesolo and Pac Rims. I think only Kyla did both.) Maybe in an Olympic year, specialists will be told to load up on World Cups and skip Jesolo and Classics? I’d be more worried about nations that tend to be less careful about overuse injuries … The downside for the US is that there aren’t as many events in close proximity. European gymnasts, for example, can often hop a train to events in other countries. The US and Canadian teams basically have to fly across multiple time zones.

      Here’s a question: could specialists qualify at a World Cup that didn’t have event finals? Say, you get the top beam score at American Cup. Does that count? I know that they used to award event placement, but wasn’t that phased out?

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      • Agree. The “diversity” this creates is pretty easily cancelled out and could have been much more effectively achieved by reducing the number of nations who qualify whole teams. It’s focus is pretty obviously on raising the profile of World Cups. Wouldn’t the logical way to do that just be to make them part of the Olympic qualification process? That probably wasn’t accepted because the top nations qualify a team through Worlds, but the teams trying to qualify would still bring a lot of extra competition.

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      • Do Canadian and American gymnasts compete in other countries in the Americas like Mexico? Do they compete in South America or Central America or the Caribbean? The time zones are not very different.

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      • Other than Pac Rims, the US does go to Pan-Ams and sometimes the Mexican Open. But recently, they haven’t sent their top athletes to Pan-Ams because it’s is so darn close to Worlds. The US theoretically could compete more in the Americas (say, at Gymnix), but comparatively speaking, there aren’t as many opportunities. If you look at the World Cup and Challenge Cups from 2015, there was one in the US and one in Brazil. The other eight were all in Europe or Asia.

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  9. I can in my mind understand how every single gymnast, gymnastics fan, commentators, reporters, bloggers, ect. can see how this is such a bad idea that degrades the team event ( that brings huge audiences) and creates so much stress on these athletes that are already in a pressure cooker. but a room full of FIG members who job is to lead and grow the sports don’t see a problem. what happens to people who get elected to governing bodies is like their brain cells stop functioning properly. not to mention the dilemma that Lauren pointed out in which a team can actually not be a team if 2 gymnast get hurt. take for example the 2008 team, if it was down to only 4 per team it will be Nastia, Shawn, Sacramone, and Memmel who got hurt. that means Sacramone had to do bars. is just crazy, you basically have no safety net. you have to pray that the team remains healthy. They have basically created convoluted and complicated rules just like the CoP. and they have also made it harder for smaller countries to even have athletes qualify since they have to compete with the stronger more develop gymnastics federations athletes who are going to make sure they take those qualifications spots in drives to have more options for their countries.
    And to close you will have Gymnast like Louis Smith, Maria Paseka, He Kexin, Mackayla Maroney, Cheng Yibin who will have no chance to win a medal because it makes no sense to send a one apparatus gymnast even if they can qualify on their own because is too much money and time invested for just one shot. if they have a bad day in qualifications that’s it Olympics dream are over with no team medal as a option either.

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  10. I still think there’s opportunity to send an event specialist with the team, for instance, what if I send Simone, Bailie, Gabby + Locklear. And in a 3 up 3 scores count format, I make Simone/Gabby/Bailie compete on every apparatus -BUT- I replace Simone with Locklear for UB?

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    • not worth it. if either of yr 3 AA is injured, the team has no chance of winning at all. Locklear does not do vt. it becomes a real dangerous situation to force an injured member to do all 4 events. as the result there is no nation in their right mind who wouldn’t send or trying to come up w 4 AAers to fill the team rather than risk putting in a one or two event specialist.

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  11. This is crazy. First of all the most teams usually have 2 good all-arounders and event specialists so basically 2+4 or 2+3. Now they want to make it more complex 2+2+2? That just doesnt make sense. For the US it is just wasting a team medal for event specialists who are better than the rest of the real team. Also, if people will be qualifying from the world cup events then all the spots will be filled by gymnasts from the top 8, so it will be completely useless. This rule is basically preventing a gymnast from gaining a medal, a memory, a precious item that is so rare. Is that really their goal? Because it seems like it. Heck, why not have a one person team. Then there could be 5 that qualify from world cup events and the AA will be gone as only 8 gymnasts compete in team final. Oh! I found an even better idea: let’s have a team of 0.5 gymnast. That will be good. Surely it will give opportunities to other countries.
    I feel better now that I got that off my chest.
    Hope they change it…
    Seriously

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  12. I like the emphasis on all-around gymnast in team competition to be honest. Gymnastics is a sport of multiple apparatuses, each requiring a complex and different set of skills, to be a great gymnast is to have achieved mastery of each and every event. I believe every team member should be required to perform on every event. I’m looking forward to having 4 routines per team in the Olympic Team Finals.

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    • they should then do away with the redundant separate AA final and combine that w TF like jesolo… I guess you could say this is FIG veiled attempt at saying that nearly everyone aside from US sucks since they can at most only put up 1 or 2 AA ? So maybe FIG is trying to emphasize in their own bizarre way the importance of AA?

      one of the big reasons why TF was always exciting is the strategy of combining AA and specialists to produce the best combination for team as well as also for EF…. its always interesting to see where a specialist can help make a team even stronger. Now that element is eliminated bc no team in their right mind would gamble the risk of slightly higher score on 1 or 2 events vs not winning at all bc one of the AA is injured.

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      • it wasnt that long ago that a team member was expected to perform on all events. and what does that matter in regards in having a separate individual AA final? i understand you largely prefer one trick ponies, but what does that say about about the embodiment of the sport itself? i think we are talking about a concise team (the weakness and strengths combined) 4 up, all events, all count. that sounds like collective team event to me.

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      • an dear WP, you can shit talk the US all you want.. but the fact is, we are likely going to be dominating under any set of rules presented merely because we have a system that is currently flourishing and producing an unyielding amount of prospects. the current benchmark has been set. and yeas, we respected and chased the soviets for years… there is no reason on earth why another country, any country, cant produce to 4 four all-around athletes to compete. look at the Netherlands for say… i suspect they are the sleeping giant of gymnastics.

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      • Hmm, not understanding how my responses above are putting down US team as I stated above that currently US is the only team seems to be able to put up 5+ AAers right now that can score 58+ while other NOC can put up at most 1 or 2 58+ AAers. And yes, this new format actually will now let the 4th best US AAer be able to compete in the Games instead of only able to be named as an alternate or stay home.

        I never say that trying to be well rounded wasn’t important. Even those we consider more of specialists like Skinner and Maroney had done AA and put up some fairly decent scores. Never say that no other countries cannot try to produce at least 4AAers. Maybe they should all rightly emphasize more on producing AAers as most of them are not right now…

        The reality is that for small NOCs, producing a really good event specialist is easier than producing the equivalently good AA. The new team rules at the end of the day will favor the US even more right now unless other NOC adapt which I am sure they will try to.

        The main reason why the old 5 or 6 member team was good is that event specialists does make TF much more interesting bc it brings another element in on the strategizing needed to create the best combination of AA and specialists to take advantages of strength and minimizes weakness of the team. This applies to every single team, not just US. Having specialists actually makes TF more competitive for other of the Big4 going against the US.

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  13. this is actually better. the bottom line is 6 gymnasts can go to the olympics. An olympian is an olympian. this is the highest goal to reach in gymnastics.

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  14. I find it amusing that you guys are only worried about the US. Artistic Gymnastics is not a sport created to suit the wishes and dreams of the American gymnasts. I understand when you say that Team Finals is the most exciting part of the Olympics. It may be, for you; it certainly is not for me. Still, we will now be able to see six gymnasts from the US competing at the Olympics once again. This is great for a country in which 30 or so girls could challege for medals at the Olympics. Not so much for a small country that will potentially struggle to qualify even one gymnast. And it’s baffling that there are people doing nothing but complaining about this whole thing.

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    • I don’t think anyone is solely thinking about the American gymnasts – I think they’re just a good example because they have so much depth, it doesn’t matter *what* the rules are. They’re still going to qualify a max number of gymnasts and receive a top number of medals.

      The big talk is about the team final because the rule changes more for the team aspect than it does for the individual countries who can qualify gymnasts. Individuals from nations that typically don’t qualify full teams (Jessica Lopez, for example) aren’t really affected by this rule at all. The additional specialist spots for nations with full teams will take probably between 6-12 spots away from individual athletes, which sucks, but you have to look at it in two ways. In 2012, Alicia Sacramone – who could have won a vault medal as an individual – was left at home, while girls who scored 49s in the all-around received spots. It’s great for girls from smaller countries to get the opportunity, because the Olympics are partly about international inclusiveness, but the Olympics are *also* about letting the best of the best vie for medals. Does it hurt the sport more if a girl with a 49 AA from Malaysia doesn’t get in or if a potential vault medalist doesn’t get in? It’s hard to say one ‘deserves’ it more, so I try to refrain from using that word, because both clearly deserves the opportunity. Both put in the effort, both deserve to be there. But in the long run, it’s better for the sport to have the absolute best of the best getting in, especially if a medal is on the line.

      I agree with you and think it is absolutely great for a team like the U.S. who has the depth to field four all-arounders and then bring an additional two gymnasts with big individual medal potential. It’s probably better-suited to the U.S. model than anyone else because of said depth. But that’s why I brought up other top countries who have team final potential, and how this format really limits them from being able to produce a strong finish. I agree that the Olympics are the Olympics whether you’re there as an individual or on a team, so I don’t really follow the argument that people will be ‘sad’ if they can’t win a medal with their team and have to win one on their own…boo hoo, cry me a river, it’s still an Olympic medal, and they’d much rather be winning that medal individually than be sitting at home watching on TV. That aspect, I don’t care about as much. But I *do* think the team final is one of the most attractive parts of the games for many audiences, not just U.S. audiences. It’s why it’s usually the primetime event, the first final event for artistic gymnastics, and the one with all of the hype. Part of that hype is the drama over who will win, especially if it’s close…and because other countries rely so heavily on specialists, it will really hurt their chances at medaling if they have to use all-arounders. My complaint is less about the U.S. team and more about teams like Russia and Romania and other non-U.S. teams who could benefit from an extra 1.5 points from their specialists in order to give them a shot. In the end, they’ll finish weaker on the podium with 4 all-arounders than with teams of a mix of AAers and specialists, which will cause them to miss out on podium chances, which will cause them to lose funding, which ultimately hurts the sport overall. Look at countries like the Ukraine…they used to be a big gym country and now their program is so whittled down, most people don’t even connect them to the sport. What happened to them could happen to pretty much any other power country (aside from the U.S. again thanks to their depth) which could have really bad effects for the sport as a whole. So that was my take on everything. Yes, there will be problems for individuals not making it in from smaller programs, but that’s *always* been a problem. The FIG tries to find a healthy balance between allowing a good number of the strongest athletes to come and then quite a few athletes from the weaker programs as well, and they’ve made big strides over the years in terms of making things more inclusive. As someone who follows every gym event from the Olympics all the way down to, like, South African Championships, I enjoy seeing athletes at all levels compete, but I do tend to edge on the side of “best of the best” in the debate over who should get to go. Again, not who ‘deserves’ to go because they all deserve that shot. But at the end of the day, I think it’s more important that gymnasts with medal potential be allowed to attend.

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      • I totally get your point and I was aiming my criticism at other people who still can’t see how this rule is especially good for American gymnasts, above everything else. There are many different ways to qualify gymnasts for the Olympics, so the whole process of conceding quotas for different countries will become a lot more balanced from 2020 on, I believe. This is nice and respectful to athletes with different abilities,

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        • Yeah, the Croatians just had a really nice response to it, and they’re excited to get more than one shot at an Olympic placement. Even if they don’t end up qualifying through that extra spot, at least they have the chance to do so. I don’t know why the Americans are so against it, aside from the whole “but we like competing as a team” aspect.

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    • Thiago, you really don’t like TF at all? I guess everyone has their own opinions, but what is it about TF that you don’t like currently?

      The new format really dichotomize gymnasts into 2 categories: either you become really good well rounded AA or you better be a darn good specialist.

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