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Reflections on the Code and fair judging in Artistic Gymnastics- 

- von Gert Michael Gündisch

  "Dear colleagues and interested members of the artistic gymnastics community
With regard to the ongoing discussion on the Code of Points and the judging
system, let me please call your attention to two other subjects involved in this context nobody – to my knowledge - though has brought into the general debate yet.
Simplifying the rules for the benefit of drawing the attention of more
spectators, TV broadcasting stations and general media consideration is reasonable, however gymnastics is a complicated sport an in consequence needs complicated, sometimes even meticulous, rules and regulations for the sake of “fair” judging.
The word “fair” is mentioned here and in the following not, as done so often in
today’s gymnastics laymen and expert terminology in the sense of “unbiased, impartial”, but in the word’s original meaning and denotation, hence standing for “reasonable”, “just”, and “accurately defined”.

In order to meet these criteria, a technical evaluation process of all elements should be carried out under the guidance and by order of the FIG’s Technical Committees using all currently available knowledge of physics, biomechanics and medicine, however, PERFORMED NOT ON a individual level, separated from it’s context within the routine, but taking into account also the technical BEFORE-/AFTER environment and situation, in other words also looking at the element performed prior to the element to be analyzed and the element connected right after the execution of the element under debate.

This is already partly the case in the vault exercise (by means of splitting the movement and looking at it in a conventional “3 phases model”: 1st flight phase, 2nd flight phase (also known as “phase of vault execution”) and 3rd, the phase of landing.

Besides, the COP also takes into account and includes specifications of that kind, however in a very general an basic, not to say rudimentary form, such as the recognition of an “increase in value by one category, if an element is executed from a difficult starting position” or similar formulations, These should be extended to detailed regulations: e.g: Kovacs performed after only one Giant swing, or a double salto bw. Stretched with 2/1 turns dismount (Watanabe) after only one giant swing.

I should provide some examples and stop beating around the bush:
In my opinion, the difficulty of an element in artistic gymnastics (especially when we start looking at the connection of elements) highly depends on the element(s) in the following referred to as “preparatory elements”. In most cases these elements consist of rather “simple” movements their purpose being to get impetus and impulsion (push-off momentum) in order to prepare a skill of higher difficulty or just a skill that needs a particular push-off momentum,speed, force, …)

Another simple example, taken from a balance beam exercise in women’s gymnastics: Imagine a salto backward stretched without or with 1/1 twist (Schischova). As a preparatory element, in most cases, the gymnast can choose from two possibilities to get the momentum. They are either performing a flic-flac from stand with legs together or with step-out and connect the salto backward stretched. Some however prefer to perform the skill out of an initial round-off. The element is in both cases the same. Still, one can picture that that a full twisting salto backward on balance beam is more difficult when done from a Round-Off in comparison to one done from a backhandspring, for the reasons that: in the first case you have 1: the direction change and 2: it's much harder to keep the longitudinal axis with the beam. This should be considered when rating the element. Upgrade the skill in difficulty when performed out of a round-off, for the empirical reason that based on principles of biomechanics and physics, the element is “more difficult” indeed.
Same category would be a salto frontward performed from stand.
Unfortunately all this is not considered at all in any of the COPs and discussions so far.
The second matter refers to the other apparatuses and deals with acrobatic
connections. I already presented the subject in a German technical meeting in June 2000, however, although most colleagues agreed, no discussion resulted and the problem persists more than ever a one can see when analyzing current floor exercises: I would very much like to hear your opinion on a topic dealing with the combination of acrobatic skills on floor but which could imaginably apply on other apparatuses as well. The following ideas is more or less a result from my own experiences as a former gymnast and from thoughts and observations over the last few years.
Well, how shall I start?
Let me start with an example: When I was still
competing and training gymnastics, I sometimes had problems with my landings in the floor exercise. I especially had problems with landing twists and was therefore receiving quite frequently deductions for hops on landings etc. One day I had the idea of combining the double twist I used to do at the time with an immediate straddle pike jump. From that moment on, I never received a deduction on this pass until I stopped doing it.

Now, as a spectator, observer, judge and coach, I very much dislike seeing gymnast performing direct combinations of acrobatic saltos such as double saltos bw stretched immediate punch fronts (+1/2) (“Melissannidis”-like, a gymnast who strongly initiated this “combination-mania” currently seen in men’s artistic floor exercises) or basically all twists and saltos of higher difficulty (D, E, S-E) immediately connected to rather “easy” elements such as dive rolls, tucked fronts, fronts to front support or easy leaps such as side split leaps or straddle pike leaps of any kind featured in the A and B categories of the COPs.

I don't think that the gymnast should receive the full value and full difficulty credit for a top difficulty skill of the D, E, and S-E category in the case he immediately connects it to an element rated below C and I could imagine that non-biased technicians, coaches and judges might agree.

In my opinion a salto skill on floor has to contain a clear landing phase if you want to make a proper evaluation since the controlled landing of such a skill is “per se” one of the hardest things on the whole skill.

Another problem here is that in the past and for the moment, in case the gymnast combines a higher difficulty salto or twist to an immediate other somersault (these are mostly elements currently valued B) the combination of the two is valued as one (upgraded) difficulty (D+B=E; E+B=S-E, ...) and a third salto,  even increased in difficulty one more time.

I only partly want to allude hear to the very frequent cases in recent times where gymnasts performed stretched double backs which greatly lacked in height and only could be –“saved”- by connecting those to an immediate tucked front salto. In this case the lack of height should be deducted according to the COP (up to 0.2) by the B-panel and the poor double back should moreover not be qualified for any bonus points.

The problem is quite intricate - even puzzling - and I can imagine that a solution is quite hard to find. Trying to find one, I would also separate the S-E- elements from the rest as well as the leaps from the saltos. For example: I could accept and give full credit to a combination of any S-E and B element if the B is a somersault, but not a combination of a D salto with a B salto or a combination of any salto of the D, E and even S-E-category when immediately succeeded by a leap rated B or A. 

In the last two cases I would formulate a deduction.

In my opinion the classification of elements as it is today is unjustifiable and I'm glad that this system is ready for elimination. I just hope that the new system is just and is based not on structure groups of individual elements where incomprehensibly completely different elements are basically “equaled” bygiving them same values, but on biomechanical and experimental and empirically verified data (coming from research of specialists, coaches and gymnasts) taking into account principles of biomechanics and sports science.

Gert Michael Gündisch
CSS Sibiu, Romania, Turngemeinschaft Tirschenreuth 1997 e.V., Germany

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