Alec Yoder and Stephen Nedoroscik are in a battle for a potential individual spot on the U.S. Team in the individual slot that has been earned for the Tokyo Olympics. Both have stellar sets that boast a whopping 6.5 D value and similar execution, yet Nedoroscik edged Yoder for the lead at the recent U.S. Championships. Some felt that Yoder had cleaner execution, particularly on night one of Championships, so we asked three-time Olympian John Roethlisberger to break down it down and share some insight on what the judges may have been thinking….
Roethlisberger: For those that are diehard fans of pommel horse, two of the best routines in the world are on display at USA Championships this weekend; Alec Yoder and Stephen Nedoroscik. If you watched them both on Day 1 of Championships, you’ll notice they had the same start value, a 16.5, but Nedoroscik outscored Yoder by .1.  I’ve heard some say that they feel Yoder should have had the highest score. Nedoroscik had one visible form break, Yoder did not, and otherwise the routines looked very similar in execution.  
 
Here’s my take on what the difference was. Both gymnasts have similar stretch in their circle (Very good!), they both swing very square to the horse (skew), but there was one area where I think the difference could have come from the judges. Yoder starts his routine with a scissor ½ to handstand. It’s very tough to do this skill without deduction and it’s relatively easy for a judge to see an error. I quite frankly, think judges may even sometimes assume there’s a deduction on this skill even if there really isn’t (since few can do it perfectly), and automatically take one.
 
Let’s look at Yoder’s. There is an ever so slight bend in the hips as he goes to a handstand, which is a deduction, and he doesn’t quite get all the way to a handstand, which is also a deduction. So how much? They are both either a .1 or .3 deduction. Judges love to take .3. Let’s assume half the judges took .3 for both (total of .6) and half the judges took .1 for both (total of .2), for an average of .4 on that one skill. [Both are ever so slight.]
 
Nedoroscik had one visible form break. I am pretty confident that was a .3 deduction. Let’s assume the rest of the routine for both athletes were pretty comparable, they certainly looked that way. When it’s all said and done this one skill from Yoder (scissor ½ to handstand) looks to me like the difference of one tenth.
 
So tonight in the finals, keep an eye on that first skill from Yoder. It’s relatively easy to see if he makes it to a vertical handstand. If he does and performs the rest of the routine like day one, he should score higher. Nedoroscik needs to do the same thing as well, just without his form break.  If both happen, it will be very close again.
 
Both are in contention for the +1 spot, which Brett McClure, High Performance Director, said would likely go to a specialist who could contend for an Olympic medal. Olympic Trials is sure to be interesting…
 

Photo by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics

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