judge in the USA, not in Canada

As an “inactive judge” (I missed the FIG course for this quadrennial) I saw things more objectively at the competition last weekend.

If you are not judging or coaching, gymnastics meets are slow and boring in Canada. The “action” is short compared with the period of time I spent sitting on my butt.

I love gymnastics — but, as a spectator, was ready to exit when the meet was half over.

Certainly some of the American competitions are much more efficiently run than are ours in Canada. Some competitions there do everything they can to shorten the meet.

Post-competition I visited (drank beer) with the judges and heard the usual concerns.

“The judging regulations are not clear. Not smart.”

“The rules are changed too often. It is confusing for judges and coaches.”

“I’m giving up my holidays / missing work to judge.”

This competition the judges were aggravated by being charged a $50 “membership fee” in my region. For some reason the Provincial Gymnastics Association does not deduct that $50 from the first honoraria judges get each season — far easier for all concerned. (I immediately offered to have my club pay that fee for the judges in my city.)

Correction – judges can have the $50 deducted from honoraria, I am informed.

Bottom line — Canada does not treat their judges well enough. When we judge in the USA we are well paid and treated with respect. That is not the case, normally, in Canada.

elite female gymnasts are small

Zhang.jpegZhang Nan, China, 147.5cm (4.8ft), 38kg (83.8lb)

Small, light athletes have a huge advantage in acrobatic sports.

This is wonderful for those kids. (They certainly aren’t getting selected for basketball at school.)

Some female World and Olympic competitors weigh as little as 70-80 pounds (31-36kg). These young women are tiny, though the average height and weight must be increasing as difficulty becomes more important relative to artistry.

A study focusing on talent selection included these points of interest:

  • Girls who are naturally small in structure and slim have a greater chance of being a good performer.

  • Although bigger gymnasts also had stronger legs, this did not help them to outperform the smaller more agile gymnasts. Hence it may be that a small structure is a better predictor to good performance than being strong.

  • Gymnasts who had a high strength to weight ratio also produced high levels of performance. Therefore, strength is only a relevant predictor of good performance if it is considered closely with body mass. This was particularly obvious in skills where there was less technique involved. The results indicate that as the skill became more technical (ie the back salto) girls with good technique could outperform those with a high strength : weight ratio.

  • …a gymnast twists she needs her body to be as narrow as possible to permit speedy (twisting).

  • Talent Identification in Elite Gymnasts: Why Body Size is so Important – Joanne Richards – Western Australian Institute of Sport Gymnastics

    Grant Golding – class of Elite Canada

    For once I was a spectator at the Canadian Men’s National Team Selection Meet, not a judge.

    AFP_060321goldinggrant_n.jpgAfter a long break from competition (training with Cirque du Soleil for some months), Grant Golding of University of Calgary never looked better, dominating the Men’s AA.

    It left me scratching my head. “How could Grant be named non-competing alternate at Worlds? He looks fantastic.”

    Canada came 6th in Denmark without Grant. What would they have done with him on the team?

    Everyone agreed Grant’s line, style, extension was much improved. (Perhaps the artistic training at Cirque.)

    ‘’The hard work and hard training has really paid off,’’ said Golding. ‘’It really feels good to come to this meet and hit all my routines. It gives me a lot of confidence for next year which is a big one for us with the worlds serving as an Olympic qualifier. All the guys know we have to keep working hard.’’

    2006 Gymnastics Canada

    luke-mug.jpgThe other big surprise for me was the excellent day 2 competition of young Luke Boyd also from U of C. He hit 6 for 6 and looked very much a Senior competitor.

    In Junor, Jayd Lukenchuk of Saskatoon was the winner despite errors. Good gymnastics. Good potential for the future. There are a few more very good prospects in the age group program.

    Addition: Thanks to hosts U of C Gymnastics Centre, Unocal Parents Association, Alberta Gymnastics and Gymnastics Canada for hosting the meet, again in Calgary. This has become almost a permanent annual home for the meet, either at U of Calgary or at Calgary Gymnastics Centre.

    Canada is strong now. But does not have much depth.

    The high performance competitive structure which has developed the excellent current team under National Coach Edouard Iarov, I feel, is too severe. Too discouraging for athletes and coaches.

    For example, having Juniors compete FIG is crazy, in my opinion. The boys have too much incentive to do long routines emphasizing difficulty over quality. Under the current international rules, our system should plan to develop difficulty over a longer number of years.

    There were many injuries and near injuries. More than in the past.

    The current code of points is excellent for deciding the rank of the best 8 in the World. But is dangerous for the vast majority of competitors.

    finally some good press – Kazakhstan wins Asiad rhythmics

    Kazakhstan won their first rhythmic gymnastics team title with a stylish display at the Doha Asian Games on Saturday.

    Japan took the silver medal with 144.750 points, failing to close the gap with Asian champions Kazakhstan, who performed in the final rotation to finish with 148.600 and earned the top combined score on three apparatuses (rope, ball and ribbon).

    China took the bronze medal with 142.775 points, ending their sweep of the team titles since rhythmic gymnastics was included in the Asian Games in 1998.

    Team leader Aliya Yussupova of Kazakhstan performed with fluid movement, artistry and expression to lift Kazakhstan’s score.

    People’s Daily Online — Kazakhstan wins first team title at Asiad rhythmic gymnastics

    photosAliya Yussupova, Longines Ambassadress of Elegance


    comedy – The Platt Brothers

    Cy, Cheetah and Boone Platt are the Platt Brothers.

    Entertainers, acrobats, dancers and “class clowns”, the brothers have a strong background in gymnastics. We coached together at Woodward West Gym Camp in California over the past two years. They are famously popular coaches.

    These guys are huge: tall and muscular. Then they put on fat suits to surprise the audience.

    They’ve just announced their new website: ThePlattBrothers.com

    It links to a video clip of Cy and Boone doing a recent school performance for children showing a wide variety of the things they do. (Cheetah is back at University at the moment.)


    diver Alexandre Despatie – now a movie star

    Girls will dig this romantic comedy, I suspect.

    The film is called À vos marques! Party!
    (On your marks! Party!)

    Aside from being a pin-up boy for the sport, Alexandre Despatie is the current World champion at the 1 and 3m springboard and the first diver to have been World champion in the three categories (1, 3, 10m platform).

    You can see a teaser video on the official movie blog. The picture itself will not be released until sometime in 2007.

    Alexandre Despatie – official website

    giant swings – Parallel Bars

    Teaching giants (Kenmotsu) on parallel bars, for me, is the same as on horizontal bar: maximize the downswing, optimize the upswing (by shortening the body).

    For athletes small enough to be able to not bend knees through the bottom, they can be very similar.

    I’ve seen kids do a series of 5 giants very much like horizontal bar. Their coach (Kelly Manjak) experimented with giants to “Tkachev” (reverse straddle cut to handstand) with one of the boys.

    There are two main differences between horizontal bar and parallel bars:

  • athlete normally will release and regrasp at the top of the swing

  • most gymnasts find it more difficult to hold on through the bottom of the swing
  • The first is the lesser problem. Start by spotting giants without releasing. (Gymnast ends up in an unusual grip.) Add the release and regrasp much later.

    The psychological barrier of fear of slipping is more likely what will stop boys from swinging aggressively.

    Two tips on parallel bars:

    Canadian National Coach Edouard Iarov taught me not to spot the hand on the bar — which was common practice where I coach. This is the giant, he told me. Once a boy feels confident he can “hang on” to the bars, learning the giant is easy.

    Secondly, introduce giants facing out on the end of the parallel bars. (The opposite direction of the photo.) If the gymnast ever slips, landing on mats off the end of the bar (flyaway) is much safer. It also requires the gymnast hang on as long as possible — to avoid travelling forwards.

    Mike Boyd training giant at Taiso. Coach Rhett Stinson.

    A study by Spiros Prassas (somewhat outdated) includes photo series and video clips: Giant Swings on the Parallel Bars