Luck Of The Draw

According to International Gymnast magazine, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) conducted the draw for the 2012 London Olympic Games this past Friday. The draw determines the time that different teams (or, in the case of athletes that qualified to the Olympic Games without a full team, mixed groups of athletes) will compete during the qualification round at the Olympic Games. The selection was completely random, just as it is every four years.

the 2012 draw, via International Gymnast.

Although this news might seem relatively unimportant, for years, there have been unwritten rules about the way that the draw affects a gymnastics competition. Gymnasts that compete last tend to receive higher scores, which is why countries usually try to ensure that their best gymnast performs last. The same applies to the entire team: The team that is first to compete tends to score lower. In addition, each subdivision is judged by different judges, so the qualification round does not exactly provide an even playing field.

Out of the teams that are expected to challenge for a medal, the United States is competing in the third subdivision, followed by China and Russia in the fourth subdivision, and Romania in the fifth subdivision. The home team, Great Britain, is competing in the third subdivision.

2012 Season Has Started

The 2012 gymnastics competitive season is finally underway. In order to prove that they are deserving of one of the five coveted spots on their country’s Olympic team later this summer (a change that was recently implemented – prior to 2012, gymnastics Olympic teams have always included at least six members), gymnasts from around the world are trying to impress the coaches and judges at national and international meets.

This February, the members of the Russian team, a favorite to win the 2012 Olympic team title, participated in the Moscow Championships. This event marked 2010 world all around champion Aliya Mustafina’s return to elite competition after tearing her ACL last spring. Although she did not compete to her full capacity, she is still very much a threat for other gymnasts at the Olympic Games. Other gymnasts also unveiled new elements in their routines. First-year senior gymnast Anastasia Grishina impressed numerous fans worldwide with her increased difficulty and grace. Viktoria Komova, the 2011 World Championships all around silver medalist, showed significant improvement for the first time in about a year, when she broke her foot. She even brought back her Arabian double front dismount off the balance beam, one of the hardest skills in competition today.

Meanwhile, in Plano, Texas, gymnasts from various different countries competed at the 2012 WOGA Classic. American Olympic hopeful Rebecca Bross returned to competition after dislocating her knee cap at last year’s National Championships. Although she struggled throughout the meet, it seems that she is on the right track with her recovery.

Although this is it for February, March will be a packed month for gymnastics, with athletes competing in the American Cup, International Gymnix, and the French International.

a more complete list of events is available at InternationalGymnast.com

Who Will Set Records In 2012?

In nearly every Olympic sport, it is when athletes set new records that the competition becomes truly memorable for years to come. In gymnastics, it is no different: in 1976, Romanian newcomer Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to ever score a perfect 10.00 in competition. Today, she is a celebrity in the gymnastics and sports worlds. In 1984, American Mary Lou Retton became the first woman from the United States to win the all around Olympic gold medal. Since then, she has become a media star and was even the first woman whose photo appeared on a Wheaties cereal box, a tradition that before then only included male Olympic champions. In 1988, Romanian Daniela Silivas failed to win the all around gold medal against Soviet gymnast Yelena Shushunova, but she redeemed herself in the event finals, winning four gold medals – one for each apparatus. Today, avid gymnastics fans consider Silivas – not Shushunova – the star of the 1988 Seoul Games.

Nadia Comaneci changed the sport of gymnastics in 1976 (photo via Sarah Gregg Millman’s blog)

The message is loud and clear: medals are great, but setting records is even better.

International Gymnast fans are eagerly awaiting the 2012 London Olympic Games and trying to predict possible new records. These include:

“If Daiane dos Santos makes floor finals, she’d become the first woman to ever make three Olympic floor finals.” – IG reader Penguin888

“If Russia wins team, finals, it would be the first Olympic title for Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union.” – IG reader Penguin888

“If Romania doesn’t win a team medal (it is realistic), it will be the first time they won’t be up on the podium since 1976.” – IG reader Judith

“If Beth Tweddle wins gold on the bars, she would be Britain’s first ever Olympic champion in the sport.” – IG reader mckenna

New Skills For 2012

Since the development of the modern sport of gymnastics, it has become a tradition for the International Gymnastics Federation (also known as the FIG) to name new skills after the gymnasts that have unveiled them. For example, the most popular style of vault performed in elite competition today, the Yurchenko vault, was named after Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko, who first performed it in the early 1980s.

The protocol to submit a new skill is quite simple: at a world championship or Olympic competition, the gymnast must announce prior to the start of the event that she plans on completing a new skill, which must then be described in detail. If the gymnast is able to perform it successfully, the FIG will name the new element after her last name.

List of new elements named after the 2011 World Championships, via the FIG’s website

Naturally, gymnastics fans are excitedly anticipating the new skills that will possibly be unveiled at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Although everything in gymnastics is unpredictable, it can be interesting to predict what new elements gymnasts may have up their sleeve.

Makayla Maroney, USA. Photo by Adam Pretty.

For example, some expect American Makayla Maroney to unveil the impossibly difficult triple twisting Yurchenko. For several years, Alicia Sacramone, also from the United States, has been hinting at working toward a front handspring double full on the vault: a front flip with two twists in the air. Unfortunately, Sacramone recently tore her right Achilles’ tendon, which significantly lowers her chances of ever successfully completing this skill.

One positive aspect of the FIG’s skill naming process is that it is a great way for gymnasts from less powerful gymnastics nations to gain recognition. Perhaps a gymnast with no real chance to win a medal will still earn her way into the FIG’s Code of Points in 2012.