Where Have All the Straddle Splits Gone?

3:17 PM Arabian Punch Front 2 Comments


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This post was sparked back at the end of last school year. After watching NCAA gymnastics and some of Shawn Johnson and Alicia Sacramone's old routines, I started to wonder where all the straddle splits have gone. The nice thing about NCAA is that there's a pretty wide variety in moves. Not the same can be said for elite gymnastics even at the Olympic level where different countries come together to perform... essentially the same thing. All this data is from the 2012 Olympics Balance Beam Event Finals.

Dismounts were surprisingly more varied that I expected although the same cannot be said for mounts. Three gymnasts performed the jump on mount which is exactly what it sounds like. Sui Lu, Deng Linlin and Aly Raisman all jumped from the spring board onto the beam. It was very exciting! Three gymnasts performed a squat or stoop through to rear support - Larisa Iordache, Gabby Douglas, and Viktoria Komova. The nice thing about this mount is that they all had to stand up and did so in different ways. One point for variety! The other two gymnasts did different mounts. Catalina Ponor did a straddle mount and Ksenia Afanasyeva did a roll on mount. Ponor and Afanasyeva were also the only two athletes to compete an Onodi. For dismounts, Ksenia Afansyeva did a double tuck dismount. Sui, Deng, and Douglas all performed a double pike dismount. Catalina Ponor one upped them with a full-in pike dismount. Raisman and Komova both did Patterson dismounts (double arabian). Iordache wins originality points for doing a triple twist dismount, the only one to twist off the beam.

The current code requires that 2 dance skills are done in combination. Guess what skill every athlete used? A split jump! And they only did it in two different ways. Sui, Ponor, Deng, and Iordache all did wolf jump-split jump. Actually, Iordache decided to be a little interesting and do split jump-wolf jump. The other 4 athletes (Douglas, Komova, Raisman, Afanasyeva) all did split jump-sissones. It's understandable. Why do something difficult when all you need to do is fill a requirement? Do 2 A-level jumps and that's all! I watched the 1996 Balance Beam Event Final to see if this rule was always in place. It might have been but the gymnasts did different things like switch split to wolf jump, switch to straddle, and switch to straddle 1/2. These jumps and leaps are more difficult than the A combination we're seeing now and they used straddle jumps. Also, all athletes competed a switch split.

The dreaded and often overused front handspring - back handspring - layout wasn't used as often as you might think. Only Ponor, Douglas, and Afanasyeva used the skill and Douglas was the only one to do the layout step out. Aly Raisman was the only athlete not to have a front aerial in her routine. Our sport is making some progress! Five athletes competed a side somi with mixed results - some looked pretty, some looked like they were getting ready to sit down. Afanasyeva, who performed an Onodi - side somi, was the only one to connect it.


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To leave things on a positive note, there was some creativity. Deng Linlin must be acknowledged for her amazing pass back handspring - back handspring to 2 feet - layout to 2 feet - Korbut. It's amazing everytime (above gif)! Catalina Ponor connected a switch split to a Kotchketkova or a full twisting back handspring. Ksenia Afanasyeva was the only athlete to compete a tour jete skill - she performed a tour jete half. I have a soft spot for sheep jumps. Deng, Sui, and Komova all performed sheep jumps while Deng and Komova used it in combination. Deng did a sheep to back tuck and Komova did a front aerial - back tuck - sheep jump.


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In the end, I'm still back where I started, confused about the lack of variety on beam. Where have all the straddle splits gone? Sadly, if Diana Bulimar of Romania had been allowed to compete in the event finals, she would've added a little variety with the lone straddle split of event finals. From what I understand of the 2012 Code of Points, the maximum element value for a straddle split variation was a D. There are 2 Johnson skills in the Code of Points. Valued at a C level is "a leap fwd with leg change and 1⁄4 turn (90°) to side split (180°) or straddle pike position". The "D" Johnson adds another half turn onto that. In comparison, a switch leap is worth a C while a switch split 1/2, which Raisman performed, and a sheep jump are both worth D's. The only leap valued at an E was a switch ring.

So, why the preference for front splits when straddle splits have similar values?


2 comments :

  1. It's not even just where have the straddle splits gone- no one does pike jumps/tuck/cat leaps anymore. Granted, the cat leap and tuck jump have been removed from the code... (FIG: Please bring them back...) We also probably see fewer since they seem harder to connect.

    Obviously, one of the reasons for so many split jumps is the CR. Hopefully, the current draft for the next quad stands and allows dance element connections to have straddle pike or side splits as well. From my read, it looks that C+C dance element connections will get 0.1 CV (instead of just being the mixed combo), so maybe we will see more. I'd love to see a leg up turn connected to a switch leap or a switch leap connected to a switch side.

    I wish there was a restriction on the number of elements the gymnasts can perform in their routines (across the board)

    I'd like to make another observation about how everyone does the A/A jump connection. Everyone complains about how they have "no time to do choreography." But almost all of the athletes do at least 2 (if not 3) that do NOTHING but meet composition requirements (No CV, no counting element), in 16-18 element routines. (Just a few sample finalists: Iordache-15, Raisman-17, Sui Lu-16...) You know, perhaps if you would perfrom 13-14 elements, you'd actually have time! The lack of interesting beam skills also affects this- almost all the ones done are As, not counting. If I ran the FIG, the mount would become a must count element, on both beam and bars. I'm also tired of the athletes simply kipping on.

    Amelia Racea at last years worlds had a turn to split leap combo. While they are both As, and not counting elements, she at least got 2 CRs out of the way with it!

    If I ran the FIG, I'd amend CR 1 on beam to require either two different shapes or at least one B element. Wouldn't get rid of the split to wolf, but at least would remove split to split.

    Also regarding the split jump-scissone combo: the US Elite compulsory for beam has a scissone to scissone connection. Any surprise that over half the US elites perform split to scissone?

    That the only E leap performed was the switch ring isn't a surprise- the only other E jump on BB is the Yang Bo from side stand. (The only other E dance elements are 2.5 and triple turns...) So in that case, it's more a lack of actually having anything!

    However, IMO, the variety isn't just the beam now, though. In 2000, front tucks to tuck jumps and wolf to Rulfovas were used- often in the same routine. In 2004, we see our favorite combo (aerial, bhs, loso; or at least a close variant of it), being used by several gymnasts. In the finals, every gymnast had at least either an aerial or onodi, sometimes both! It's also not just beam- on bars it's the D dismounts and the inbar stalder elements, on floor, the leaping out of passes, the switch ring, and variant of run run run split leap run run run split leap. On vault, it's the millions of Yurchenkos, which is not a new phenomenon.

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  2. McKayla Maroney has a type of straddle jump. Apologies, I can't name it but it definitely stood out at Trials/Nationals. As an aside, her beam is great as she really connects everything so confidently. A pity her LOSO's are so soft in the legs.

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