September 27, 2015

2004 Olympic Trials Part 2: Courtney McCool's Comedy Oil Change

On to day 2 of the 2004 Olympic Trials competition. And by competition, I mean blathering for two hours while people warm up, with four routines thrown in as a treat. Also a treat, the live team announcement and ceremonial awarding of the emotional trauma and resentment. 

-The TJ MAXX TOUR OF CHAMPIONS is coming to your home town!!!!!!!!! What if you called that number right now and tried to get tickets? "I just want to see Carly Patterson!"
-The "TJ Maxx tour of champions" is also what I call the grocery store on a Sunday morning.

-"You will marvel as these gymnasts deliver gymnastics." TWIST.
-Oh, your senses will be kick-started all right. Particularly your senses of shame and regret.

-Interpretive ode to the red-light district?

-And now, let's begin.
-Ooooh, a flashback episode! "Previously, on the manipulative nightmare that is the Olympic Trials broadcast history, everyone's life was garbage..."

-It's really important to start with an "it'll end in tears" montage. Just to set the tone of the proceedings. Ladies, learn from this. Blubbering is the only goal. 
-Elise Ray is crying. Shannon Miller is crying. Alyssa Beckerman is crying. Beth Rybacki is crying. Obviously. Beth Rybacki is a Native American origin story of how the Great Lakes came to be. Which one's happy? Which one's sad? It doesn't matter. TEARS!

-Al is doing a pretty good job reminiscing about how traumatic that 2000 team announcement debacle was (raw, disorganized, abrupt, and unnecessary public and painful), but it's hard to tell whether that's supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing. Given the forthcoming 2004 announcement, I'm thinking it's supposed to be a good thing. "Imagine your worst nightmare. I can't wait to watch all of it."

-Yes, Bela decided to step down after 2000. Everyone else was going, "Please continue, Bela! It went so well! We love and need you!" That's what happened. 

-Turn back the clock to when Martha was also appearing as Sister Margaretta/Understudy Maria in Bucharest's longest-running production of The Sound of Music.
-When I was in elementary school, my haircut of choice was The Martha. #styleicon

-"Are they able to hold up, or not?" Well, that pretty much sums up the Martha era, doesn't it? Spoiler alert: mostly not.

-Did Al just refer to Martha as a "girl"? Yes, little Martha the schoolgirl. She's really excited to start second grade.

-"This is the real O.C." Oh. This era. I forgot. Al, please stop making me want to go back and watch The O.C. to make fun of Mischa Barton's horrible enunciation and "putting your hair behind your left ear counts as acting" performance strategy. Kristen Stewart owes her so much.
-(Marisa should have died in Tijuana in season one. I said it.)

-Wait, we missed the first rotation??? Of trials??? Scandal! Outrage! You're lucky Twitter wasn't a thing then. I feel like we need to put together an army of retroactive poop emojis just to make up for it now.
-They really listened to all those gym fans who said, "I'd like the broadcast to stay the same length, just with 25% less gymnastics. Fill that time with talking, please." 

September 10, 2015

2004 Olympic Trials Part 1: Schwikert Family Gold

Back to the grindstone. My soul-destroying retrospective of US Olympic Trials broadcasts continues with 2004. This was actually a fantastic year for the US Team, and Trials featured few falls and even fewer coaches being made to wear mics, which is a real shame. But still, we always have mercilessly making fun of Trautwig, right? Oh boy do we. He was in rare form this year. Let's begin.

(Note on that intro: Misty Hyman is still the worst name ever given to a human person. Hi, this is my daughter, Sweaty Vulva.)

Prologue: Kim Jong Martha
-"This is Texas."
-Yep, that's it. We've got a church, abandoned railroad tracks, some horrible dirt road from the 30s, and Martha eagle-eyeing the hell out of physical abilities testing. Or as Texans call them, the big four.

-This training montage music is called "Essence of North Korean Military." 
-The US gymnastics renaissance is being crafted at a cost. OK? The cost of...stretching in unison? SUCH TERRIBLE LIVES. THE COST IS TOO GREAT. THEY MIGHT MISS PROM.
-I forgot that we were still in the "how dare you put them through this hell" era of Martha camp narrative. Before the US started winning every year and camps became the glorious revelation of a soothsaying genius.

-If you're going for the "Remember how happy everyone used to be in 1996?" angle, maybe clips of Dominique Moceanu aren't the strongest choice. Old Dominique "Smiles" Moceanu, that's what we call her. She had a grand time. Totally loving life. (Have you forgotten the sadness forest so quickly?)

-Misty water-colored meeeemmmmmmories, of the way we were...

-Bela won the team gold medal in 1996. Live and learn.

-"And then that trash heap 2000 team fucked it up for everyone and finished 4th, like losers. You brought shame on a nation, and we hate you. I mean GO TEAM USA. As long as you hit. Otherwise, get out. What was your name again? Lizzie or something?"

-But it's OK because in 2003 Bela high-fived everyone, spontaneously creating Carly Patterson and saving gymnastics from the worthless failures of 2000. BYE LIZZIE.

-I love that this intro is basically a superhero origin story for the Martha camps. Martha pops out at the end to go, "And that's how I became...THE FLASH!"

-"16 survivors who have been put through the ringer." #inspiringquotes 

-Oh, we're still talking about how McCool's name has the word "cool" in it? What a treat for everyone.
-And the Fakest Laugh Award goes to Timothy Daggett.

-This year, Martha has tapped Elaine Stritch and Moaning Myrtle for the selection committee.

-My, how things change. Four years ago, having a selection committee was an unfair, manipulative nightmare. Now, it provides wonderful flexibility. "There's absolutely no confusion out on the floor exercise." Clearly Elfi hasn't seen the Kupets choreography. I have some confusion.

-Ah, Al's veiled pissiness about the Trials format. A national tradition. Count how many times he grits his teeth and tells us that nothing is guaranteed. Because it's exactly a thousand.

September 4, 2015

American Skills – 2015 Edition

It's that time of year again. A brand new batch of fresh summer routines has once again been bestowed upon us by Mrs. Karolyi's Traveling Circus, which means it's now my turn to break these routines down into their constituent skills to see what trends in routine composition emerge. Which skills have become the coolest kids in school and are totally dating Brett Bretterson? Which loser skills are eating lunch by themselves in a bathroom stall like Stephanie Tanner before Gia teaches her about smoking and Ace of Base (and meth, probably)? And does any of it make sense? Or are all these routines stupid?

Let's get into it. On each event, the skills are broken down by category, with the corresponding numbers indicating the percentage of US senior elites who performed that skill at the national championship in the given year. I have included all skills of C value or greater (so none of this bhs or giant nonsense), as well as the A dance elements on beam as a way of keeping tabs on how people are choosing to fulfill the dance combination requirement. As always, I counted the skill attempted rather than the skill that would actually receive credit because this is about evaluating intended composition choices. Though let me tell you, that was a rough game this year on floor. We'll get there in a second.

Some of the notable rises, falls, and year-to-year comparisons are highlighted. Because people like things with colors on them. Apparently. 


  • The tkatchev made a nice little comeback this year in most of its flavors (stalder, piked, and plain). Only the toe-on variation saw a fall in 2015 as more people have started performing a greater variety of entries, which is always a good thing. It also makes sense to Shayla up these bars routine since tkatchev variations are so valuable for CV right now. Last year, I was a little surprised by how few we saw, but they're coming into line now. Overall, the gymnasts are stepping up the difficulty with their bars releases. Although some of that is just Brenna making the whole group look like daredevils.   
  • The straddled jaeger remains the gold standard of non-tkatchev releases. As in, the only one. No piked versions this year, and no giengers again. Poor gienger. The gienger is a leg-separation deduction trap (hi Sophina!) while the straddled jaeger isn't, so if you're choosing one, it makes sense to choose the jaeger. But seriously, you're telling me no one out there can throw us a nice little Peszek-level gienger?

  • Everyone remains all about the toe-on. And by everyone, I mean 52.63% of people. I'm still not really clear on why this trend has come on so forcefully in the last couple years. Sure, many people do need an 8th skill to count and the toe-on is the easiest C element on bars, but that was also true in the last quad, when relatively few people were doing toe-ons with no pirouetting (14% in 2012).  
  • We also saw a bit of an upswing in the toe-on 1/2s this year, though not a terribly significant one. This is understandable as a result of the popularity of jaegers. Got to do something to get facing the right direction.  
  • The stalder full continues to be the big loser among bars turns after having enjoyed greater popularity in the last quad when D pirouettes were more valuable for CV. Now, not so much. The relatively strict deductions for late pirouettes (compared to releases) have also contributed to this decline since the value of the skill just isn't worth the potential for a large late-finish deduction. Now, the gymnasts shove their one D pirouette into the routine (toe-on full) for a necessary D skill, but they're loath to put in another one if they don't have to.  
  • Sadly, the weiler 1/2 (aka, the wolf turn of bars) has returned to its previous levels after a refreshing dip last year.