September 14, 2014

Let's Discuss Your Skill Set - 2014 Edition

(Before we begin, Bailie Key has verbally committed to Florida. For the moment, let's put this in the "we'll see" category along with Biles and UCLA. We have some big years to get through first.)  

Now to the business at hand. I've gone and done it again. The elite season is all a-flurry. Classic and US Championships are behind us and Mrs. Karolyi's Wild Ride begins tomorrow, which means we have a brand new batch of American routines to dissect to find out which skills are becoming more popular, which skills are becoming less popular, and how that relates to our expectations for the current code of points. Numbers! Thoughts! Squinting!

Below are tables listing the skills performed by US senior gymnasts this summer (with the exception of skills like giants and back handsprings because obviously), broken down by event and skill type. The percentages indicate the proportion of gymnasts who chose to perform each skill, and the info from 2013 and 2012 is included as well for comparison.

Notes: The colors indicate an increase/decrease of at least 10 percentage points in a single year. As with the past two years, I counted the skill attempted—even if it shouldn't receive credit—because this is about evaluating intended composition. This year, I also included the seniors who competed at Classic but not Championships just to give us a few more people to work with. There weren't exactly a lot of seniors this year. And as such, keep in mind that it doesn't take that many gymnasts performing a skill to create a large change in the %s.


-Can we talk about these toe-ons? And why? Everyone and her coach's elderly aunt who always needs to be picked up from the dry cleaners for some reason is doing a toe circle with no pirouetting this year. That skill is booming, up from just 14% in 2012. Now it's in almost half of routines. The stalders are getting in on the action as well with 20% doing stalders compared to none last year. 

A couple people need these C elements to count as part of their 8, but many who perform the toe-on aren't using it as a counting skill. Is it a rhythm thing? Is everyone systematically being forced to put toe-ons that don't count into their routines because of a yet-to-be-determined evil plan involving bees and world domination? It could be a backup skill in case something else gets downgraded, but that's what B giants before the dismount are for. And why suddenly now? What has changed to make this skill more useful than before? Anything?

-We're also seeing slight decreases in the numbers of toe-on fulls and stalder fulls being performed. These decreases are not too large or significant, but they make sense since D pirouettes are less valuable now that skills must have flight to earn significant CV.

-Overall, the routines this season contain more pirouetting skills than last season, which runs slightly counter to the expectation that flight would progressively take over for pirouetting in the 2013-2016 quad because of the changes in CV. It's something to keep an eye on in 2015 and 2016.  

-The Weiler kip moment appears to be passing. Good.

-JAEGERS! Everyone needs a Jaeger! THERE ARE NO OTHER RELEASES! We can call this the tyranny of the grip-change requirement, but it's getting worse.

-The tkatchev is not as popular this year for some reason. It's not really a code issue, since E tkatchev variations connected into paks are extremely valuable for CV. This may just be a year with fewer gymnasts capable/comfortable with that type of skill. This is the year of Ashton Locklear and Madison Kocian on bars, and they're more of the Russian style than the Tweddle style.

-Bye, gienger. We'll always have NCAA.

-All the shaposh 1/2s. Obviously. It's one of the very best ways to get 0.2 CV on bars, and it's the best way if you don't have an E tkatchev to rely on. The US gymnasts are getting more savvy about it these days, finally. Everyone who is capable of a shaposh 1/2 should be doing one, and they mostly are.

-The stalder shoot is also continuing its slow march to the grave, from 2/3 of routines in 2012 to just over 1/4 of routines now. The obvious reason is that the bail+stalder shoot D+C combo no longer gets CV, which is very refreshing. This year, the toe shoot is equal to the stalder shoot in frequency, which makes me happy for some irrational reason. I feel like the toe shoot has always been the black sheep of the transition family (rated a B even though the stalder shoot is a C), and now it's getting its moment to shine. Good for you, toe shoot. 

-The bail is dying too. The bail and the stalder shoot. Like an elderly couple who can't stand to live without each other. This just got weirdly morbid. 

-Look at this sad little table. We used to complain that we had only two high-to-low transitions. We're on the way to having only one. There's just so much less potential for CV out of the bail, while the pak allows for direct connection into those juicy shaposh variations. You can't do very much of value out of the bail, and I expect the number of bails to continue to dwindle in the coming years. But we need something other than the pak. Brenna, you need to start talking up the Yezhova and get everyone learning it. Because that's what gymnasts do in their spare time. Talk about bars combinations.

-Two. We have two dismounts this year. Just in case you were wondering, there are 29 dismounts of D value or greater in the code. Two. Sigh. Could we at least get some variation in the full twisting double backs? It's all half-in, half-outs. And what happened to the double front? Come on. Pick it up, double front! I would even take a BS Nastia double front half at this point.


-The number of layout stepouts on beam in 2014 is significantly higher than it was in 2013, which is slightly weird. The layout stepout is even more popular this year than it was in 2012 during the Age of Darkness when all the land was ruled over by an oppressive tyrant called walkover+bhs+loso. I suspect this is because the bhs+loso is still a sure way to get an acro combination into the routine and not risk losing the 0.5 CR that a riskier combo might. It's sort of odd, but across all the events, we have a number of skills returning to their 2012 levels after a change in 2013. You would think composition would continue to adjust to the new code and get farther away from 2012 levels for skills that have become less valuable, but no. 

-I'm not surprised that punch fronts are continuing to become more popular because of the D acro + A dance combination, which was always screaming out for the return of the punch+wolf.

-It's also interesting how many people are suddenly doing side aerials. It's almost everyone. Sure, it's a solid D acro, which is always useful, but the side aerial overtaking the aerial walkover is quite a coup.

-The back tuck isn't a popular choice right now, and it continues to fall out of favor along with the back pike. C acro skills aren't being done nearly as much now (far fewer of those C+C acro combinations) as people are electing to do more acro+dance combinations (like walkover+sheep) and take advantage of that instead of acro+acro.

-Two people this year are doing two layout stepouts in combination. It's a start.

-The split jump almost ran the table. I was really rooting for it. Nica Hults broke the streak by doing a wolf and straddle to fulfill her dance combo requirement. I should applaud the variety, but come on Nica! We were so close!

-There are just so many options for the split jump, with all the D+A combos going around, plus the fact that even when people perform more difficult dance combos, they also always include an A+A just to be safe and fulfill the requirement. 

-These switch 1/2s.

-Overall, people are performing more dance elements on beam than they used to because of increased options for combinations involving simple dance skills. Gymnasts needs more A dance elements in their repertoires, in addition to the counting dance, to exploit the code as much as possible.

-The L turn is making a little bit of an unexpected comeback this year. Is it 2008 already? A few people who aren't so much with the leaps are doing L turns instead to get a counting C in there.

-Interesting stuff happening with beam dismounts this year. The double tuck is steady at 1/3 of routines, but the double pike is suddenly much less common than it has been. Getting rid of the B+B+E dismount CV has made the double pike dismount less valuable than it used to be, so if you can land the double tuck more securely, it makes sense to perform it, which may be why it's the most popular beam dismount in the US this year for the first time in a while. That, or everyone is just getting worse at dismounts. No Pattersons this year.


-In addition to the listed skills, 40% of competitors are also performing a fake forward acro skill (walkover or side aerial) outside of their tumbling runs in order to fulfill the forward requirement as cheaply and feebly as possible. Boo. It's a cop out. I didn't count that up in previous years so I don't know how it compares, but a ton of people are doing it now because there is no combo pass requirement anymore. That means fewer people are tacking front layouts onto the end of tumbling passes. It's also why we see fewer back 1.5s now, which I don't really get because the possibility for indirect connections for 0.2 CV out of the 1.5 is still there.

-This is a weaker crop of floor routines in general for the US this year. That's a big reason for the significant increase in double pikes and double tucks, with fewer double arabians and the like. A bunch of people did double fulls this year, which, come on. It indicates a lower level overall. We can potentially draw the same conclusion about the lower-difficulty beam dismounts and the lack of two-footed layouts on beam as well. A lot of injuries, not a deep field, and a weaker skill level overall.

-To counter that, I am pleased that the DLO is coming back. A stuck DLO is my favorite pass.

-The biggest increase in dance elements on floor this year comes in the switch full department, with several more people electing to try to wrench around the switch and hope to get credit for it rather than opting for the split version.

-Whereas the trend on beam is more dance elements because of valuable connection options, gymnasts are doing fewer dance elements on floor this year, with most electing to do a bare minimum of leaps.

-It's interesting that the Ferrari had a brief spell of popularity last year as everyone jumped on the bandwagon, but it's immediately less common this year. It's like the macarena of skills. I just referenced the macarena.

-There's not a lot of risk going into the turns this year, with fewer competitors trying to get a double L in there as a counting skill. The US gymnasts aren't adopting the Russian strategy of getting significant value from the turns, and more and more of them are just pausing for a million seconds, doing a rigor mortis full turn, and then calling it a day.

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