The Problem with “Unfair”

250038_Gold-medal-team

I think we can all agree that the new four person team rule sucks. But the arguments about why it sucks kinda suck just as much.

There’s a whole lot of U.S. perspective here, and a great deal of that comes from people who haven’t even read about the changes in detail. They see “five person team cut down to four!” because that’s all most news chooses to focus on, and then they rant and rave against how “unfair” it is that Americans have so many talented gymnasts and now even fewer will get the chance to make their dreams come true.

First of all, that’s not even true. With up to two additional spots for specialists, the Americans will more likely than not get to send six athletes to the Games in 2020, not four. It’s addition by subtraction, in that it does cut at the core of the team, but at the end of the day one gymnast who may have been left at home will now get the chance to represent her country, even if she doesn’t receive a team medal.

Okay, so you’ve grasped this, so now your argument is that these poor specialists have to suffer in agony as their teammates win a team medal while all they’re left with are individual medals, or *gasp* nothing at all.

“How unfair!” once again, and yeah, I get it. It sucks to not win a team medal when the sport is popular in your country for its team component, because people in the U.S. love team sports and watching a team come together to win.

But do you know who this argument applies to? Exactly one country. The United States.

Contrary to popular belief, the world doesn’t revolve around what the U.S. wants or doesn’t want, and frankly, this argument is nothing more than “but I don’t want this gold medal, I want that gold medal!”

Here’s the thing. The Americans have pretty much everything they could ever desire in the sport. They worked really hard to get there, and if anything, this new format favors them more than any other women’s program in the world. Martha Karolyi typically sends teams of all-arounders to major international events anyway, and they could unquestionably produce two specialist gymnasts with the ability to earn medals outside the team.

A big reason for confusion is that fans are looking at the new rule using each nation’s current situation. Yes, if the four member team format were to take effect immediately, there would be crushing problems for a few teams, but even so, it wouldn’t be much. We’ve done the calculations. China most notably will struggle under this format with their current squad, but the rest actually don’t see much of a change and many (Canada and Japan especially) actually would see a jump in their performance as a team.

But the rule doesn’t take effect now. There are five years until Tokyo 2020, which means five years for programs to adjust their training plans and to strategize how to best take advantage of the situation in order to maximize medal potential. And programs will adjust. For the U.S. it’s as simple as sending four all-arounders and two vault specialists. Blammo. The girls currently training with the hopes of making it in 2020 are currently only in the 10-13 age range. They’re not specialists yet. 90% of them aren’t even elite yet. Programs have more than enough time to recognize potential all-arounders vs potential specialists so they can plan accordingly when it comes time to send gymnasts to World Cup qualifiers.

But, okay, let’s go back to the whining about it being super “unfair” that these potential specialists won’t be able to join their teammates on the podium, or it being “unfair” that Americans really like team sports and so your wins are somehow diminished if you achieve them individually.*

Do you know what’s truly “unfair” though? Risking serious injury attempting a Produnova vault because your gym’s mats are full of holes and the international attention that comes with winning vault medals could get you better training facilities. Your country’s program not having enough funding to send a full team to World Championships so every member of the team has to pay her own way. Competing for a nation so afraid of athletes defecting, they choose to keep you at home rather than giving you a chance at becoming an Olympian. Your team narrowly missing qualifying to the Olympics cutting your nation’s spot to just one athlete when there are several who deserve to be there.

The U.S. gymnastics program has more resources – money, coaches, training facilities, doctors – at its fingertips than any other country in the world. Its depth is owed to those who use these resources to the best of their abilities, which is why they can field teams of ten athletes on which the weakest link would be the strongest contender for almost any other nation. And that’s great for them. They work hard and deserve every bit of their success.

But what makes them more “deserving” of going to the Olympics than girls who were born in countries without these resources? The Olympics are about the best athletes in the world competing at the highest level possible, but they’re also about international community and inclusiveness. It’s tough to find a balance between the “best of the best” and those who aren’t quite at that level but who work just as hard despite this (and probably could be at that level had they been born into different circumstances).

The FIG is always testing the boundaries of this balance. With 98 spots allotted to them in 2020, they had to decide if it was “fair” that they still give 60 of these spots to 12 countries with the remaining 38 set for one individual per non-team nation. Instead, they will now set aside 48 all-around spots for teams, while the remaining 50 will go to individuals who prove they are most able to contend for a final.

Of these 50 spots, 31 will include all-arounders from non-team countries (23 qualify at Worlds in 2019, 3 at World Cups in 2020, and 9 at continental championships in 2020). One spot will go to the host country, one will be a “tripartite commission invitation” spot, and then 16 will be set aside for specialists (12 of whom will qualify from Worlds in 2019 and then 4 of whom qualify from World Challenge Cups in the Olympic year).

These changes mean that countries once given just one Olympic qualification spot now have as many as three spots between the all-around and event specialists. Look at Mexico in 2012. They had two strong all-arounders (Elsa Garcia and Ana Lago) and one strong specialist (Alexa Moreno on vault). Garcia got the spot, but was injured by the time she got to London and under-performed while Lago and Moreno sat at home watching, despite being perfectly capable (and deserving) of competing. In 2020, all three would be given the shot at becoming Olympians if they reach qualification specifications.

Countries in this position – going from one qualification spot to potentially three spots – are more than happy about the changes. The Croatian federation took to the press to praise the FIG for the decision, with gymnasts weighing in on the decision with their thoughts.

“I am thrilled,” Marijo Moznik was quoted as saying. “It’s great news. Too bad it’s not applying for these Games in Rio already. I am 28 years old. I have planned on training until 2020, but with this we’ve all gained an extra motive and we will definitely not be considering retirement yet.”

His teammate Filip Ude added that “for those of us who don’t have a team at the Olympics, this is a much better qualification system. I hope it lives. I will definitely consider stop doing the all-around then, and dedicate myself only to the pommel horse.”

For gymnasts from countries who for whatever reason can’t qualify full teams to the Games – some because they only have one or two high-caliber athletes on their teams, others because they only have one or two elite gymnasts period – the change means their hard work can finally pay off.

Many U.S. fans are countering, however, that these lower-ranked gymnasts from smaller programs “don’t deserve” to be there as much as U.S. gymnasts, though, because “they’re not as good.”

Are you kidding me? I’ve entertained the whining about “only” getting to go to the Olympics as an individual, and the uninformed “fewer gymnasts will see their dreams come true” opinions, but this nonsense is about as ignorant as it gets. Not everyone is born into a country with parents who can afford to spend $30k a year on their child’s sport, where corporate sponsors make national training facilities top-notch resorts, where the lack of oppression and promise of a better life opened doors for some of the world’s best coaches from Russia, Romania, and China to emigrate and then come together to build an unstoppable force in international gymnastics.

No gymnasts have the advantages U.S. gymnasts have. And yet no one in the world is complaining in the way that the U.S. is complaining about a system that ultimately will benefit the U.S. program more than any other program in the world. It all but caters to the U.S. gymnasts, allowing them the best of both worlds – a team final that favors all-arounders, and the option to also bring specialists, not a bad deal considering they left a would-be medalist at home in 2012 and could potentially leave several medalists at home next year.

Yes, there are problems with the system. It’s not perfect. It never has been. It probably never will be. There are plenty of valid arguments against it, namely the problem of telling specialists they aren’t worthy of performing in team events.

But the arguments about how “unfair” it is that two U.S. gymnasts will get to go to the Olympics but not stand on the podium and accept medals with the four named to the actual team? They’re the most privileged, selfish, whiny, egocentric #FirstWorldProblems arguments I’ve ever heard.

The U.S. program has had more success in the past four years than most programs could expect in a lifetime, and are heading on a path that guarantees bigger and better things. Many Olympic dreams came true in 2012, five more girls will be able to make theirs come true next year, and then six more get that opportunity in 2020.

No extra dreams will be “crushed” that year, drama queens. The only thing the U.S. loses in this new deal is the chance for two gymnasts to compete with the team in team finals. THAT’S IT. In the grand scheme of things, this is a teeny tiny non-problem. It’s not “unfair.” It’s a minor concession that comes with huge benefits for non-team gymnasts. Even if they don’t have a shot in hell at winning a medal, these gymnasts work just as hard, are just as deserving, and are just as entitled to the opportunity to make their own dreams come true.

*Tennis and golf pros and even gymnastics’ own individual champions like Nastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas may disagree. And actually, the ratings in the U.S. were similar between the team and all-around finals in 2012; the team final took in just 1.9 million more viewers (38.7 to 36.8), while Douglas’ all-around win was the most DVR’d event of the Games.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

87 thoughts on “The Problem with “Unfair”

  1. Great article! I hope now, since the 2019 world championships are going to be playing an even larger role in qualifying to the Olympics, they allow the girls who will turn 16 in 2020 to compete as a senior in 2019.

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    • Yes, that would be ideal! I would hope that has to be the case. If not, it’s definitely a problem, considering that’s where the majority of AAers will come from.

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  2. Thank you for writing this! When trying to figure out what this new rule meant all i could find was people from the US complaining about how ‘dream crushing’ it will be. But after reading this, i understand it a lot more. Thanks for writing such an informative article!

    I know a lot of people complained after it went from 7 to 5, but the US still did great and they will continue to do great with this 4 + 2 rule. I can’t wait to see more gymnasts from other countries getting to shine and represent their country as they work just as hard as the gymnasts from the more dominant countries.

    Love this site. 🙂

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  3. Thank u so much for this article. I’ve read lots of the whiny articles and seen the petition. They all sat a bit uncomfortably with me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. You’ve just hit the nail on the head. Thanks!

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  4. For me, I’ve seen swedish, british, and american gymnasts complain about it publicly. Recall that most intl gymnasts just aren’t on social media to begin with (or are not prodigious users) but someone like Aliya Mustafina, who’s already said last year that she never sees the point with FIG changing things drastically every quad, is probably not a fan of the changes even if she’s not been given the opportunity to say it right now (just remember how much she lambasted the downgrading of UB transitions and her conspiracies about it helping the Americans…). And the Rods have publicly condemned the rule as well so i wouldn’t pin this all on USA (though i agree with the overall sentiment). The gymternet is very intl , so in terms of fans complaining its not just US stans, It’s just that everyone speaks in english (#BLESS EM)! But honestly, half the tumblr’s i follow in english are non americans who support a multitude of teams… or just Russia lol… and they too make up the crux of ppl skeptical about this rule change.

    I think that when big change happens it requires big voices and big opinions because atleast if we’re looking back one day, with the perspective of knowing how it affected our sport for better or worse, we can have a documented record of how ppl felt at a moment in time about something before they were sure if it would work. And if nothing else, i like that the voices are genuine and ppl don’t mean to be bratty or whiny, but it’s an accurate representation of the gymternet’s alarm.

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  5. The issue with changing the rules to enable countries with less deep teams to qualify is that it penalizes teams who have worked hard to gain depth. Yes, success depends on money. Yes, the US has more money than many other countries. However, the program has put in the work over 2 decades to build depth. The rules should not be changed because the US has gotten so good.

    This is the Olympics!!!! This is the showcase for the best of the best. Does anyone want to see less talented gymnasts compete when we know there are more talented gymnasts kept at home. Seriously, does anyone want that? I want top competitors rewarded by being included in the most meaningful event of their careers.

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    • But you’re not SEEING less talented gymnasts compete. You’re seeing MORE. The U.S. and equally good teams will get 6 gymnasts instead of 5…if they were being punished, the specialist rule wouldn’t exist! It’d be 4 per team and then the remaining 50 from 50 different countries. It’s barely going to benefit many weak countries because the top countries are going to eat up those spots anyway. The weakest countries lose out entirely because their spots are going to go to the middling teams who now get 3 chances, so it will ultimately limit the number of countries participating but will allow the ‘middle of the road’ gymnasts like those from teams that *just* missed out in 2012 (Mexico, the Netherlands, Belgium) more opportunities. Like, say two Jessica Lopezes existed in Venezuela instead of just one. How is it fair to either of them if one is left at home? You could say the same about okay, so how is it fair if a US gymnast is left at home with a similar score, but HER TEAM ALREADY HAS SIX SPOTS. How many spots do you want for the U.S.? 20? Realistically there will only be 6 or 7 girls who can legitimately push for an individual medal in the U.S., so pretty much anyone with a legit shot is going to be there, unlike in 2012 when the one other gymnast with a realistic shot was left behind. There is a WIDEEEE middle ground between “best of the best” and “the Olympics aren’t here so people can get middle school participation trophies!!!!” Like, no. Alexa Moreno made World vault finals and could make an Olympic final, and she didn’t get to go because her country only had one spot for its athletes. That’s not “participation trophy” level. That’s someone at an unfair disadvantage due to what was ACTUALLY a ridiculous qualification rule. This? The US being allowed to qualify 6 gymnasts? UNFAIR? Nope. 100% nope.

      The Olympics are about more than “the best of the best” and always have been. The Olympic creed states “the most important thing is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle” – cheesy, but it’s the POINT of the Olympics. You’re never going to get 98 gymnasts at the same exact level all vying for the prize together. As long as all of the VERY top people who can actually challenge are there, the rest should be spread out to maximize international inclusion. In 2012 and under the 5 per team format, this is not possible. As I’ve said, Alicia Sacramone could have realistically medaled in 2012 and yet wasn’t included on the team and this will NOT be the case in 2020, thus creating opportunity for MORE of the “best of the best” to be there. I don’t see how people don’t GET this?! And how people think this is unfair to the U.S.?

      Every single sport has qualification specifications that require the participation of a diverse mix of countries whether or not these countries are at the top of the sport internationally, thus the “at least two athletes from each continent” rules and other similar inclusive measures taken to ensure that Olympic events aren’t made up of 75% athletes from four countries, and then the remaining 25% from 50 countries. The REAL limitation in the sport is the two-per-country rule, not the qualifying rules. That actually takes away legit medal contenders, not the new qualification process.

      Also…ahem, but LIFE ISN’T FAIR!!!! Sometimes you want things and you’re qualified for them and you work really hard for them but you don’t get them. End of story. Too bad for you. Disappointments happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this excellent article! I understand the premise for the FIG change much better now.
    The Gymternet’s quality thoughtfulness and balance is so valuable to the sport. This is the best gymnastics site EVER!

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  7. I honestly like the new qualification rules, using the World Cups and Continental Championships to qualify gymnasts in addition to the pre-Olympic Worlds and the Test Event. It promises to give us a slightly more diverse group at the Olympics in terms of origin, and as long as the number of actual medal contenders left at home is kept to a minimum, I’m alright with that. If they wanna let countries that qualified a team have a shot at qualifying one specialist as well, that’s cool too. I just don’t see why it had to come at the cost of a team member for everyone as well.

    The thing is, IMO the 5-4-3/3-3 format strikes a good balance between responsibly using space allotted to the gymnastics event, and giving countries enough freedom in choosing a team to maximize their results. I’m not one of the people who thinks we should go back to 7 member teams, but with five, a country can take a number of different combinations- three all arounders and two two-event specialists, two all-arounders, two three event specialists and a two event specialist, one all-arounder and four three-event specialists, et cetera. The list isn’t endless, but there are a lot of them that allow a country to use what it has to put up the best possible scores on each event.

    Meanwhile, the 4-4-3/3-3 + 2 format is a lot more restrictive. It requires countries to have four solid, consistent all-arounders just to have a shot at team finals (I’d like to see Jyosef’s math on where teams would place if it were implemented now redone using average scores for all of 2014 like you did for Worlds predictions!) and the difference between this and the six member format presumably still in use for Worlds will require a program to be able to completely restructure its strategy in the ten months between the 2019 Worlds and the 2020 Olympics.

    In addition, there will be specialists who are capable of making finals and medaling on two or three events, but only qualify to the Olympics on one because of inconsistencies, injuries or whatever. If they were going in a fifth spot with their team, the co-ordinator/coach could put them up on whatever events they wished in QF, but in a specialist spot, they will only be seen in the one. Can you imagine, for example, if Beth Tweddle had only qualified to the London Olympics on floor because she missed the bar final at Worlds and was coming back from an injury in the spring of 2012!? That would be ridiculous.

    Finally, there’s the sentimental-ish argument that this move discredits specialists by saying they don’t deserve to work with a team at the Olympics, and honestly, I agree. These girls (and guys- don’t even get me started on how difficult it will be to structure a men’s team under this code) produce some of the best, most exciting gymnastics in the sport- why shouldn’t we be able to see that at the premier event of the competition? Why shouldn’t they be able to help their teams with the high scores they can earn? There is a poisonous attitude in this sport, penetrating even the highest levels, that a gymnast is somehow less of an athlete if they choose to focus on where their talents are. No one discounts a football player for not being able to play all positions on both sides of the ball. No one dismisses a runner for focusing on distance events or sprinting. Why, then, do we feel the need to Other the event specialists in our sport instead of celebrating the exciting spectacle they create for us as fans?

    I’ve practically written another article here, lol. If you want to publish it as a counteropinion/editorial, please be my guest. (This is Danelle, btw.)

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    • Oh and: I am glad that they chose not to make the specialist spots nominative, that way if a gymnast gets injured or a girl that qualifies as a specialist is needed for the team the appropriate adjustments can be made.

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    • I think you hit the main disadvantage of this new format. It’s a lot less flexibility and a lot less strategizing in putting together a team. Maybe what they should do is allow some crossovers between the specialists and team , i.e. you are allowed one score on team score to be filled by a specialist or something to that effect.

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      • Thnx Joe. Yr # always helpful. Keep up the good work!
        China really get done in! What happens to Romania? They got a 0 bc they don’t have enough AAers?

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        • The only all-around scores I have for Romania are Laura Jurca and Diana Bulimar. So yeah, not enough AAers in a major national or international competition yet. Depending on who they are sending to Euro games, there may be enough then.

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      • Like I said, I’d kinda like to see that math redone with an average (rather than best) score over all of 2014 (or 2015 when we get to that point) to get a better idea of how this “everyone on the team has to be a consistent all-arounder” format is going to work out for countries who don’t have four consistently strong all-arounders (i.e. everyone except the US).

        As a rather lengthy aside: yes I am a US fan and I recognize that this strategy actually benefits us but honestly, where’s the fun in that? In 2011 when we won TF by 4+ points it was great; the 5+ points with two falls from Russia in the last rotation in 2012 was a bit anticlimactic; and the 6+ points last year? It’s getting to be just plain boring. I don’t want another Soviet-esque era where one team has a death grip on the gold for four decades, I want an environment- ideally- where even the teams that don’t make finals could have realistically contended for a medal. I want a ton of strong programs all around the world, because if we have more gymnasts doing great gymnastics, the sport will be far more exciting and interesting to watch than if the US all have 6.8+ D and 9.0+ E and everyone else is chucking a 6.0 or less. Honestly, I think this is really the core of what appealed to people about the 7 member teams in Atlanta: between the four or five top programs, which were all pretty closely matched in strength, there were some 30 gymnasts who had a finals-worthy routine on at least one event. It made for a close competition in every final and a lot of interesting gymnastics to watch.

        But this change isn’t going to allow the TF to make a strong case for itself. The IOC just changed its format to where from 2020 onwards sports will be added to and removed from the Games by individual medal event, not by discipline. Artistic gymnastics has just about the highest number of medal events (14!) of any discipline in any sport at the Games, and there is little doubt in my mind that if this fails, the TF weakens, and ratings decline, the IOC won’t hesitate to ax it and leave just AA and EF. Seeing as RG was specifically called out by the IOC as a sport that they want an excuse to get rid of with the new system (alongside synchronized swimming), Olympic gymnastics could in short order become a solely individual sport. I really don’t want that, and I don’t think any other fans do either, but it seems to have been Grandi’s goal from the get-go, so I hope he’s happy with what he’s done.

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        • I don’t what I did last year, but I must have collected data differently or half of my data was on my old computer and not backed up. I can do the averages for this year, but that would have to be a project for another day. Maybe tomorrow.

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      • well US is dominant but its not as dominant as the old soviet machine were at their peak. you can still count on Chinese bars and Romanian beam and Russian team in a few routines. the most important of course is funding and program structure… then of course the COP… hopefully this renewed emphasis on AAers will get other NOC closer to what US doing?

        I hope TF won’t ever get axed…. post Game yr Worlds never fun to watch due to lack of team..

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  8. You have this spot on. I’ve been following it closely and the more whiney American mothers complain that little Suzy won’t get her Olympic dream now makes me favor the rule even more (I’m form the US, btw). It should be a balance between the best in the world and inclusion of all of the world.

    Thank you for your wise words. There’s a maturity and thoughtfulness behind them. Very inspiring.

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  9. This new rule will allow big4s to bring more gymnasts so at the end of the day, I think they should all feel better than sad. US still have a healthy advantage right now bc their program has always been more geared toward AAs (even regarding training of specialists). Aside from now being able to bring 6 instead of just 5 gymnasts, they can now bring the 4th best AA (possibly 2012 Ebee) instead of leaving her off the team or just being an alternate.

    I think one of the point FIG may be making is that they think that a lot of other big4s (aside from US) has not tried or geared toward AA, explained by the fact that the other 3 big4s only have 1 or at most 2 that can score 58+, whether as right now US can put up 5 or 6 58+ AAers. So maybe this will hopefully put the emphasis back a well rounded gymnast?

    It is sad to see the demise of specialists on team as the strategy is a lot less varied now and it’s a lot more cut and dry strategy. I wish there is some sort of a scheme or hybrid scheme to allows some cross-overs. It also makes the TF into sort of just another AA competition. Then I guess the AA final is just so that you can have the additional AAers that didn’t come with a team?

    But in the ends I guess the new rule does serve some good purpose.

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  10. I don’t like the rule change, but not for the reasons cited above.This article left a bad taste in my mouth. While your overall point is well-taken, I feel like it was buried under an awful lot of fingerpointing and whininess toward the U.S. Basically, you are blaming the U.S. girls for being born into a wealthier country than say, Romania or Slovenia. This is something they cannot control. I feel very badly for the girls who suffer with poor equipment or a lack of equipment. I do. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of the “everyone gets a trophy” mantra. Just because someone has had a hard life or faced challenging circumstances doesn’t necessarily make them Olympic material. I fear that the Olympics are being severely diluted in an attempt to push “fairness” and “inclusion.” We are seeing more and more Olympians in a variety of sports who CLEARLY do not belong and risk potential injury as a result. It is embarrassing and sad to see a swimmer who takes an additional five to 10 minutes to finish a race, or a girl who is clearly not elite level attempt to do acrobatic skills that she is not properly trained to do. As for the individuals who compete but are not part of a team: The accolades and opportunities gained from an Olympic medal tend to be from the TEAM or AA competition, not individual events. Sadly, those medalists for the most part are ignored when it comes to capitalizing on their success. Also, while those girls will be able to call themselves Olympians, I do think that they could potentially feel “left out” or “forgotten” when it comes to team camaraderie, bonding, etc. They’re kind of the third wheel, so to speak. And this goes for all gymnasts, regardless of nationality.

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    • I’m not blaming the U.S. girls for being born into a wealthy country, but I’m saying that a sport can’t exist if the standards favor only athletes who come from these wealthier countries so you HAVE to make inclusions for other gymnasts. Otherwise the Olympics or Worlds would just be U.S. Championships Part 2. There is a wide chasm between “best of the best” and “participation trophy.” Girls like Alexa Moreno consistently make vault finals at World Cup, World Championships, continental championships, and other major international events and yet can’t have a spot at the Games because only one per non-team country is allowed. I’m not saying girls who are the equivalent of level 5s from the Marshall Islands should get to compete solely because their country needs a representative. This format actually doesn’t favor these gymnasts AT ALL. It favors the middle of the road gymnasts like Moreno, the Dutch girls, the Belgians, the North Koreans – many of whom will NOT qualify a full team but have multiple athletes capable of reaching individual finals. If the U.S. ‘deserves’ 6+ spots, then countries like these ABSOLUTELY deserve more than one.

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  11. This is an important article to write, so thank you for doing that. However, I think it is equally important that you consider writing the opposite point of view with real, justifiable concerns. Your first article on this topic didn’t really address this (as your goal was to play devil’s advocate), and in this article you say it’s a given at the beginning that this rule “sucks,” but don’t give indication as to why.

    One example that I’m seriously concerned about is what happens in quals if there’s a gymnast who gets injured mid-competition, but all 4 gymnasts in the team competition are required to compete the AA. Will that mean in the end that it might disqualify a team from making the Team Final since they won’t be able to put up the necessary number of routines? How does it work? If so, I do think (to use your word) that’s wildly unfair, not to mention dangerous. My understanding is that FIG has not announced anything on this issue other than it’s 4 up 3 count, so we don’t have an answer yet, but it’s a very serious concern of mine. Since gymnastics is a sport that has such high rates and risk of injury compared to most other sports, I think it does have to be treated with some flexibility as to who is competing, and this new system doesn’t allow for that in TQ.

    I personally believe it’s more important to give a balanced view of things than just refute the “whiners.” Like I say, this is an important article. I just hope you will do another with a real analysis of the negatives as we currently know (or speculate) them to be.

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    • Yes, we have something coming with what the actual valid complaints against the system are (or, more so about what the rules are and then what the pros and cons for each are). This was more an opinion piece on the reactions we’ve seen on Twitter, which have all been arguing the wrong thing.

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    • 4 up 3 count so if you do have 1 injured gymnasts in a team of 4 AAer’s you still can finish with the other 3 AAers.

      So there’s still a back up. That is if you have 4 AAers on your team. If you have 2 or 3 AAers and 1 or 2 specialists, then you have no back up at all. Hence, all team members of any top4 team will be AAers as they don’t want to face the possibility of not placing at all.

      However, I could see some teams not from the top 4 gambling on putting in a specialist or possibly 2 to try to increase their chance of breaking into the top 4 on an all or nothing risk strategy since they have nothing to lose otherwise and especially if they have strong specialists to capitalize on. This could be an interesting strategy…

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      • Maybe, but not necessarily true. FIG has not clarified this. They wouldn’t be able to put up the 4 routines per apparatus, which is the only thing FIG has said thus far. What if they can’t put up 4 routines? I’m not talking about what counts towards the score here–only what is required, which is 4 routines per apparatus.

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      • If it says 4 up 3 counts, I don’t think it means that you have to put up 4 routines. It just means that you are allow to have up to 4 routines (which would be the max you can anyway with 4 gymnasts) and whatever you number of routines you put up (3 or 4 or 2 or 1 or 0 routines for that event) we will count 3 scores regardless.

        Look at the 2014 Worlds as an example. Qual format is 5 up 4 count. Romania team due to their lack of depth could only put up 4 routines for vt and ub.

        So 4 up 3 count doesn’t mean mandatory 4 routines or you are disqualified,

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      • At least in the past, X up/Y count just meant that a team could show a maximum of X routines — not that X was a requirement. For example, the 2000 Olympic TF had a 6-5-4 format and China elected not to us their 5th routine in a couple cases. I think they had their weakest option in the final spot and she just touched the apparatus once the other four routines went well.

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  12. I want to also add that I haven’t a chance to sit down and completely try to calculate the scenarios as the qualification rules are still pending, But is there any chance that this new format would somehow allow Chuso to have a better chance making it and hopefully try out for 2020? If it does, then all the better!!

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  13. Also, I feel that much of the angst toward the U.S. is a result of tall-poppy syndrome and general anti-American sentiment. When the Soviets and East Germans were DOMINATING the world in the 60s, 70s, 80s and part of the 90s, the gymnastics community never complained about their success or that others should “have a chance.” Yet as soon as the U.S. began getting stronger and stronger (around 2003 Worlds, people have been complaining that they are undeserving of their success, either as a result of suspect judging, or because they have advantages not available in other parts of the world. Other people complained that their body type or dance is lacking. People certainly have a right to their opinions. However, I believe that if the Russians were still running the gymnastics world, no one would have a negative word to say about it.

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    • I mean, I’m an American and the U.S. team is my favorite team. I don’t think in the least that they are undeserving of their success, and absolutely mentioned that in the article. I know how hard they work. I know how they have to fight for spots. I defend their artistry all the time and think they are the only team currently competing that actually should be anywhere near gold medals because they have the talent and ability required to do it. Which is why I’m THRILLED about these rule changes for them. Because if they strategize correctly, it means MORE MEDALS FOR THE USA. Again, how are people not getting this?

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      • I definitely didn’t get that vibe from your article. It sounded like you were saying that the U.S. Team was spoiled and all whiners and taking over the sport too much. Thanks for clearing up that you don’t think the U.S. Is undeserving

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    • Also, this has nothing to do with the USA and their team. It has to do with the fan reaction, saying that this rule change is “the end of gymnastics as we know it,” and that “dreams will be crushed,” and that the rule is “clearly made to screw the USA.” Like, do you even know what’s happening, because NONE of that is true?

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  14. I personally don’t like the new rule. I think it makes it so much harder for the gymnasts because they HAVE to be an all arounder. I understand that the specialist spot will be an option for them but I don’t know, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Like you may be great on 3 events like an Aly raisman, or Guila Steingruber. But they really aren’t great on bars. So, do they bust their behind to have a crazy high D score on one or 2 events? Or do they spend a lot of time working bars to try to get better but because of that they don’t have as much time to finess their other 3 events? Also, it’s gonna make it REALLY hard for men’s gymnastics since they have 6 events.

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    • Yes, the new rule does dichotomize gymnasts into two distinct categories very much: you need to be one of the best four AAers or you need to be the best or 2nd best in 1 event.

      I kind of wonder how if the rule would have changed the 2012 teams. It’s obvious for US, Wieber, Douglas, Raisman and Mckayla would still be selected but would that mean Ebee would ‘ve been on the team and Asac taking the other specialist spot? I guess Kyla could unfortunately not get selected?

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      • I am sad about how there will be less of a strategy during the selection of the team members. I don’t know about you, but I found that part very interesting.

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      • Yes, a lot more cut and dry strategy for Big4 as in we will just use our top 4 AAers and that’s it..

        Taking a look at 2012 team, as I said I wonder if Ebee would have replaced Kyla. In a 5 member team, the Kyla/Mac combo is a no brainer as they complement each other very well. A Kyla/Ebee or Ebee/Mac combo doesn’t make as much sense in a 5 member team. So unfortunately for Ebee in 2012 even though she did have a better amanar and slightly better fx than Kyla (but lower bb and ub) and actually did placed 4th at Trial slightly higher than Kyla.

        But if the 4 member team were in place in 2012, it’s not as clear cut anymore. Now Mac can’t contribute her amanar to the the team anymore. Now Ebee’s amanar becomes much more valuable esp during 4 up qual as well as her slightly better potential also on fx. That has to be balanced also against the fact that Kyla has higher potential on ub and bb, esp in 3 up/3count in TF. It’s not as clear cut.

        What do you think? Would Kyla still make it to a 4 member 2012 team over Ebee? Maybe Joe can help us out with this question by using the 2012 Trial data in combination with the 2012 TF actual data for a Kyla vs Ebee scenario?

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      • Nice!. Thanks Joe. Nice to see that taking Kyla is still the better decision even with a 4 member team. I kept going back and forth in my mind as I didn’t know if Ebee’s amanar and better fx would make up for better ub and bb by Kyla….. This actually should show once again what a strong gymnast Kyla is for the particulars that she can fulfill (and of course no disrespect for Ebee as she was after all even beat Kyla slightly)….

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  15. What sucks is that when the FIG is asked about why gymnastics is limited to 196 athletes at the game, they respond that it is out of their hands. They need to promise to lobby for more spots.

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    • Completely agreed!! There is no reason why they shouldn’t tried! If they really made an earnest attempt, they should’ve said we tried but was not successful but we will surely try again.

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  16. Good article and I agree that the whining needs to end. My main concern is the dynamic that will arise between the all arounders and the specialists. It will just take some adjusting but I imagine it will be weird to have designated girls that will only be competing for themselves and not the team. I don’t think I’m really explaining this in the way I want to but hopefully you get my gist!

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    • Yes, it is weird. And it does suck that just because you are a specialist you won’t likely able to to compete with a team. If it were up to me I would’ve done a hybrid by having the 5+1 with the 1 specialist can still compete with team but specialists have to qualify through cup events.

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  17. Thanks for publishing this, it was a great point of view to see. I’m particularly excited to see how this new rule might affect the depth in the AA competition. I know that in the past teams (not generally the US) have chosen to take a series of event specialists, and leave talented AA gymnasts at home. This format will hopefully give those gymnasts better opportunity to make teams and achieve goals, whilst still allowing for specialists to qualify and compete.
    It really annoys me that people are so up in arms about this issue without even seeing how it will play out yet. After all, this is gymnastics, anyone can fall and anyone can win on the day.

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    • I wouldn’t actually say other past teams “leaving” talented AAers at home. Most other NOC don’t actually have more than 1 or 2 AAers that can score 58+. A lot of the ones they do have score in 55-57 range and with old 5/per team 3 up 3 count it did not make sense to bring those AAers when you can have good specialsts on the team. But now with this new format, AAers are pretty much the only ones that should be on team. This will of course emphasize and produce more and better AAers in all teams. Hopefully we we see more NOC with more than 2 58+ AAers aside from US. IMO, this is probably a good thing.

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        • I’m not being rude, just letting you know that this is a WAG blog so what do you expect? We tried doing MAG but I couldn’t cover it single-handedly and our MAG writer wasn’t consistent enough so we dropped it until we can get someone who can cover it consistently because I am one single human being and can’t possibly cover absolutely everything known to man.

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      • I didn’t mean that you had to be the one covering it, I know you’re only one person and we all love the coverage that this blog gives us. I never heard that the site decided to drop MAG, but it makes sense. I just didn’t like your phrasing perhaps. But to each his own

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  18. I agree with some of the basic points of this article, but it took me reading it twice along with the other comments to get there because I found the overall tone of the article very off-putting. I don’t think you are being very fair to the voices that complained about the rule on twitter, tumblr, or the blogs. Most of those comments were made prior to the FIG issuing their Q&A, and therefore based on assumptions of how the qualification process would work. So half of the information in this article wasn’t known to gymfans to influence their remarks. All that was known was that the team was cut down to four and that gymnasts might have to run the gauntlet of world cup events to qualify as a specialist. And given the time that this article was published, you haven’t really given fans the opportunity to alter their stance given this new information before lambasting them for being rude and self-entitled.

    I’m personally someone who was completely against the new rule. But since the Q&A, while not completely happy with the 4 person team, I would have preferred cutting the qualifying teams down to 10, I do like the new qualification structure, a lot.

    I really like that teams don’t have to qualify at the test event, and that two years before the Olympics the podium teams are automatically qualified. That can really be an advantage for a team like GB or Canada since their team depth and skill is really up and down, so theoretically they could have an amazing year and make the podium like they’ve teased us with so much this quad. But it could also work well for Romania who came so close to not making the finals in Nanning, and if it had been any other year, they wouldn’t have had that problem. Either way, my point is, opinions change, and it really wasn’t fair to frame those old comments against new information.

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    • My intention isn’t to ridicule those who have changed their minds or otherwise thought rationally about this, and there are plenty of people who were bummed about the whole thing but who are still acknowledging that it’s not the end of the world if specialists have to watch TFs from the stand. But there are absolutely people who still have no idea what’s really going on, and refuse to accept any explanation besides the “four per team” aspect. Even in the comments here people are saying that the “U.S. loses out on a spot” but like, no. They don’t.

      I actually published this about 36 hours after the qualification rules came out and also after the Q&A came out. But no matter, because the problem isn’t the people who read these things rationally and adjust accordingly. The problem is those who see the one “anti-U.S.” aspect (in that the USA likes big teams and now can’t have one) and can’t see past this and make everything all about the USA.

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  19. While I don’t disagree with many of the arguments made in this post… I just want to point out that your tone is rather unprofessional, here. There are plenty of reasons why people disagree with this change. I’m a big fan of yours, but this post does a pretty incomplete job of discussing some of the major issues many fans have with this change. For example, the INTENSE politics it would exacerbate in WAG gymnastics (because FIG interview yesterday shows that *individuals* are not awarded spots, but rather individuals EARN spots for countries to then decide how to use!) You’re an excellent blogger… and this very preachy “BE GREATFUL YOU RICH AMERICAN” guilt post is just kind of… below your quality.

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    • Honestly, this wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a light opinion piece. There’s no “be grateful you rich American” preaching, but I do think it’s ridiculous that U.S. fans always have to be the ones to find something to complain about when this team has more advantages than any other gym program on earth, so it’s more a tongue-in-cheek look at that entitlement attitude many fans have when discussing the sport. I think entitlement in general is funny (and gross) so when I come across it, it amazes and baffles me that people can think this way. Like the people who think U.S. gymnasts deserve 20 spots while saying “ew, gymnasts from [insert developing country here] have level 8 form, they don’t deserve to go to the Olympics” like…guess what? They have roughly 1% of the resources the U.S. program has. That doesn’t mean they work any less. In fact, it can be argued that they work *harder* to get those level 8 skills considering they sometimes have almost nothing to work with.

      But that’s all that is – my opinion. We often do opinion pieces on this site, some of which I don’t expect people to agree with and that’s fine. But nowhere did I say “here is an article with pros and cons of the new format.” That’s forthcoming, once we actually have all of the rules under scrutiny. They just came out days ago and still beg many questions, so it’s hard to write an accurate fact-based article when the facts aren’t there yet. In the meantime, we’ve written this about the general attitude that has been negatively permeating the general gymternet since the announcement, and then one other piece giving a devil’s advocate sort of view to counter the initial shock and concern many gym fans felt. Again, once everything is a bit more confirmed and we understand the rules a bit better, we’ll do a non-opinionated fact post. But this isn’t that.

      So that’s why it’s “incomplete” in discussing the major issues. It says straight up at the beginning of the piece that we’re only talking about the fact that fans are calling this “unfair” because 2/6 Americans won’t get to compete with their team. That was the entire and sole basis for this piece, the general use of the word “unfair” from gym fans who support a team that has more advantages than anyone else in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Anyway, that’s what we love about Laureen: Her being “unprofessional” (no offense meant) at times 😉 In a world being pc 24/7, I consider her outbursts refreshing and, much more than that, extremely helpful. Because they help in developing opinion (at first) and sorting out facts (next). So, when she writes “But that’s all that is – my opinion.” it should rather read as “But that’s all that is – my opinion – NOW!” Which can change to the opposite within a nanosecond 🙂 (I mean – she signed the petition against the new FIG ruling only a few hours earlier…) I find it courageous to take an exposed position on a topic (does one say so?- Sorry, English is not my mother tongue…) because, again, the resulting discussion helps to develop knowledge and well-founded opinion. In a nutshell: Rather, than waiting weeklong for a well concerted article I have this clear and informative piece of opinion already today. Even if it means that amabassador is not amongst Lauren’s future job opportunities… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. You just voiced my main point about the problem with this article. It was VERY preachy. It did not read as a “light” opinion piece at all. It was very in your face and not what I expected.

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      • Things can be “in your face” and still be light. And I’m certainly no more “in your face” than the many U.S. fans who blogged about how girls from weaker countries don’t deserve to go to the Olympics.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Anyone that claims that someone doesn’t deserve to go to the Olympics is completely missing the entire point of the Olympics. Its for countries to get together and compete in the good spirit of competition. Its for people to come together and compete in the sport that they love with others. The only time I would say that someone doesn’t deserve to go the olympics is if they discriminated against someone or that they cheated.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Fair enough! I certainly agree with your point. I’d love to hear a real breakdown of the pros and cons from several perspectives!

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  21. In addition to my comment above, now something on the topic itself: What I find cruel is that if you are an US (or RussianRomanianChinese…) specialist and 2019 world champion you still won’t earn one of those nominative spots granted at 2019 world’s. Because your country will have already qualified a team, “their place at the Olympics will go to the gymnast who finished next on the list”. And any spot you may earn in 2020 is not nominative.

    I know, also now only very few spots are nominative. But simplifyingly said, currently you know you may or may not be finally selected for Olympics. But in 2020 you may be a 2019 World’s medallist and personally earn your country a spot in 2020 and may still not be selected. I know, gymnastics has lot of cruelty to deal with and to survive every day (and ya-hah – I know, life isn’t fair anyway) but I really find this brutal. Not being selected is hard enough but not being selected after having earned the spot – whew.

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    • Understandable. But what happens if you are injured in 2020 or if you have a new better specialist in your own country? Generally, if you are healthy and at the top of your game, it’s illogical for your NOC not to send you in 2020 as they do want to win another one for the nation if possible. I guess FIG can put down fine prints for various scenario but that might just confuses more and makes things worse…

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  22. I am pretty selective about where I go for gymnastics news and opinions, so I definitely avoid the overly whiny areas and I don’t use Twitter and haven’t even checked Tumblr since the new system was revealed, so I know I don’t have the full picture of what the response was like. However, the majority of the complaints I have seen have not been in any way “But the US!” Yes, some of the arguments are no longer valid, or at least less valid, after the full qualification procedures were released. But FIG (and bloggers) can’t be too upset that people made complaints based on the information they were given. I saw several people complaining that this wasn’t actually creating diversity because of the “addition by subtraction” aspect, which is not at all “But fewer US gymnasts”-centric. Plenty of people were worried about burnout because of the World Cup circuit. I saw complaints about a less competitive team final and how the US will only have a stronger competitive advantage. Again, I know that I didn’t get the full perspective of those complaints you address in the article, but those were still the responses I witnessed. Also, the people upset about the new structure were not US only either. Catherine B of Beautiful Gymnastics even said that she thought a reduction of spots should have been from the bottom despite not being from a strong nation who could qualify a team.
    I will say that I do love some aspects of the new qualification process. Firstly, any nation may send a full team to the pre-Olympic Worlds, thank goodness! I also like the “move down the line” aspect of the specialist qualification. However, all the good aspects of the new system could easily have been applied without changing the number of members of the team and there is still no excuse for ruining the team final.

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  23. Also, I have a question about the qualification for specialists- at Worlds 2011 there were no gymnasts in the bars, beam, and floor finals who were from nations who didn’t qualify a team, so what would happen to those nine spots which weren’t awarded? Would they go to the nations who placed the highest in those finals even though they already qualified a team? Would they be shifted to the World Cup spots? Would those nine specialist spots still have to be for gymnasts who don’t compete for a nation which qualified a team? Or has FIG not thought of that yet?

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    • That’s a very interesting question, actually! I don’t think that respective information was made already available by FIG. VERY interesting. Hope, someone posts here as soon as more information becomes available.

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    • I’m not 100% positive, but I THINK we would see the spots this opened up filled by committee as part of the Wildcard/Tripartite spots. Alternately, they may choose to just take the three gymnasts not from a team country with the highest event score in quals. But they definitely said that team country specialists may only qualify through the World Cup, not Worlds.

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  24. Interesting perspective. I haven’t thought of it that way and you bring up some valid points. Simply from a spectator’s point of view, though, it just won’t be the same watching 4-person teams.

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  25. Actually, I have a question as well. Do you think this will drive international gymnasts to focus more on becoming event specialists than AAs?

    Also, a somewhat unrelated question: Do you think that as gymnastics continues to increase in difficulty, it will eventually reach the point where being an AA will be unrealistic for the majority of gymnasts (for example, it ends up where gymnasts will need to focus all of their training on only one or two events to be competitive), and most will focus on on or two events? Or there will a large gap between the skills of AAs and specialists?

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    • Not likely, If anything the new 4 member team format will emphasize more NOC to train more AAers. it wont necessarily see a stop increase in SV. More AAers will try harder routines since there will hopefully be more overall numbers of AAers and more competitions among the increased number of AAers.

      Event specialists will more likely be able to just focus more on their events so SV will go up there as well…

      It is possible due to the dicotomization of AAers and EF that we will see greater gap of skill between AAers and specialists…

      Like

  26. Guys, I would like you to remember, whenever you get patriotic feelings, that an important part of your elite coaches is not US born, they were in fact trained in China, Russia, Romania, etc…
    So you might win medals, and they might all wear US tracksuits, but you get the glory only because you buy foreign coaches.
    And it’s exactly the same thing in science for example : yes the USA is extremely active in publishing articles, but most of your scientists come from Europe or Asia.
    The fact is that your educational system sucks to produce excellent high level coaches or scientists.
    Just think about that next time you think the USA is the strongest, the best, the lead country on this planet…

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    • Maybe, but also consider this: how are you able to attract such a diverse set of talents? Not that easily done or else everyone would have done it. We can say lot of it might be money but there’s also a lot of other factors.

      At the end of the days also a lot of credit has to go to the gymnasts that actually want to spend the time and efforts or else all that great coaching is just wasted.

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    • That’s always been a characteristic of the US, though: people have always come to the US from other countries, sometimes in large waves (the Irish, Italians, Chinese, Germans, etc). That’s a trend that continues. People immigrate to the US, become Americans, and their children are part of the US’s next generation.

      This is getting a bit off topic, though.

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  27. Check out this latest crappy piece from Grandi. He needs to go. hopefully his replacement can convey the right msg to IOC? or maybe IOC also need to have their head checked?

    http://www.ginnasticaartisticaitaliana.it/2015/06/11/bruno-grandi-fig-president-the-new-qualification-system-i-made-it-to-save-the-gymnastics/

    Many biased unfounded comments and blatant attack on US and their success with many of the comments illogical…. i.e. #7: IOC doesn’t want to give more spots to gymnastics bc too many medals can be won by one person or one group? Give me a break…. So in swimming or track and field you don’t really have one person or one group that had won a lot of medals?? What about the dominant days of the Soviets when they won more than 50% of the medals at each worlds or Olympics gymnastic meet? So you penalize everyone due to one group or one person’s excellence above the rest? It’s like there is no subtlety on the attack anymore….SO Blatant….

    Also #8. So now he’s going to limit Worlds team to 5? is that 5 total or 5 + 2?.. why not just leave it alone at 6? “This is a small advantage I gave to “strong” countries, compared with all I gave to the “weaker” ones.” What kind of crappy comment is that?

    Arggg……

    Like

  28. Actually, it applies to far more than one country. Women’s Artistic Gymnastics is not the only thing that exists. This will definitely effect many MAG teams.

    Like

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