Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Terrible Tuesday - The Horrific Plague in Elite Gymnastics

Initially, I didn't want to have a reoccurring negative feature, but come on, I had a find a reason to use this Marta picture over and over again.

Anyway, I wanted to address a terrible disease that is affecting some of the world's best gymnasts. It makes their difficult tumbling irrelevant in my eyes and automatically portrays them in a negative light. It's a disease that just a little bit of childhood prevention could change, yet, the disease continues to attack gymnasts young and old.

That disease is the "I Can't Land Turns Syndrome"

Coming from a dance background, I just don't get it! I haven't been in a studio for several years now, and I can still turn a decent double pirouette. In the code, your pirouettes don't even have to be in passé (with the non-working foot at the knee). Chelsea Davis's turns are lower, and she executes them beautifully! Why is it then, that these fantastic gymnasts can throw Amanars, Double Arabians and other skills that defy what the human body should do, but continue to fall out of their turns?

Some culprits include:

Elsa Garcia (at :33)

Amelia Hundley (at 1:08) 

Sam Peszek (at 1:23)

And there are many others as well! 

What makes me sad is that ALL of these gymnasts are insanely talented! They're all just so good and they're losing tenths on something that, in my opinion, is 100 times easier than their tumbling passes.

I'm not saying every gymnast needs to be a prima ballerina, but it seems that if you can train a gymnast to do a gymnast to do 2 flips and 2 twists at the end of a tumbling pass, or to leap, lose sight of the beam and still land perfectly, you should be able to teach your gymnast how to execute a double turn well and land it cleanly.


  1. Agreed. Falling out of turns and leaps makes me cringe.
    If an athlete has worked long & hard enough to reach the elite level, then wouldn't it be wise to take the time to incorporate at least some basic dance training into the mix? Having some knowledge of proper turn out, body lines, toe point, spotting etc. would be tremendously helpful on ALL events. I think it would likely result in far less "little" deductions and we all know how quickly those add up.

  2. I would imagine that most often the girls practice these turns out of context and can perform them well. By the time they get to the turn in the routine they are tired, may be worried about keeping time with the music, or just have a little uncharacteristic bobble.
    It does make you wonder, is the triple with a stumble worth more than a double with a beautiful landing?

  3. That's a good point, Anonymous. I didn't think about the fact that they've lost some stamina. I've noticed that some of the WOGA girls start with turns before their first pass.

    A double turn on floor is a B, while a triple turn is a C. That's only a tenth difference, which is, at the very least, what you'd get for falling out of the turn.

  4. Tommy Stark11/2/11, 5:59 PM

    I've got something I think should be addressed: the ugliness that is the "1 leg at a time" toe-on moves on bars. Almost EVERYONE at Pan Ams did this...heck, the bars Champ, Bridgette Caquatto, one and did this disgusting move. How is in NOT a deduction yet?

  5. @Tommy Stark
    It's probably because they think some NCAA recruiters might be in the stands.

  6. One issue w/ turns in WAG is the carpet. Turns are actually really hard to execute barefoot on carpet, there's just too much friction. So that's why we see these crazy windups and then falling out to try to overcome the friction of the carpet. But wearing socks, or ballet/rhythmic slippers is too slippery to tumble with for most people. Anyway, as someone who was both a gymnast and a dancer, it's a bit different. Not that proper technique wouldn't help a number of gymnasts. Actually, I really think that turns on carpet had a lot to do with my degenerative joint disease in my foot (basically the one injury with lasting impact on my life, and never even a real acute injury at that)!

  7. Bekah, I couldn't agree more! And the problem isn't just on floor, it's on beam too! I was able to do a full turn on beam NO problem when I was in gymnastics as a kid, and I never went beyond level 5! I don't remember seeing gymnasts struggle with full turns on beam more than this last quadrennium. It boggles the mind how some gymnasts can throw a standing full with nary a wobble, but when the full turn comes they're almost falling off the beam.

  8. What I find almost as annoying as the stumbles out of the turns are the long set-ups to get started. Most gymnasts spend at least a few seconds staring at the floor, squaring their shoulders and then winding up their upper body. During this time, the energy has drained from the routine. But on the plus, side it does give you time to leave the room and make a sandwich.

  9. As a gymnast who couldn't to a double turn to save her life I believe it has to do a lot with the nerves of competition. I can't explain why exacly but personally I could do that turn perfectly in practice but almost always had trouble in competitions

  10. You can't compare dance to gymnastics. In gymnastics, the direction of the turn is the opposite side of your upraised leg. So if you're right leg is raised you have to turn to the left. In dance, the direction of the turn is the same as the upraised leg, and you're allowed to bend your legs at the start to get the right momentum.
    This isn't allowed in gymnastics. So your horrible turns are caused by no momentum. This is not seen in the tumbling as before you do your salto you go into a run and round-off.
    True, if you train for 40 hours a week you should be able to do nice turns. But they're already exhausted by the time they start their turns because it's usually after two tumbling passes and a few leaps.