Breaking Down The 2022-24 Code with Elena Davydova
“I wouldn’t say it’s a significant difference from the previous code and doesn’t drastically change what the routines will look like.” – Elena Davydova
By Ashlee Buhler for Inside Gymnastics
Every four years the rulebook for the sport of gymnastics, aka the Code of Points, receives an in-depth review—resulting in changes to composition requirements and skill values to reflect the evolution of the sport.
The newly released 2022-24 Code of Points strives to encourage more originality by decreasing the value of skills or combinations we see in nearly every routine and raising the difficulty of skills that have almost become extinct in modern day elite gymnastics. Whether it will, of course, remains to be seen.
For example, the Yurchenko loop, a back handspring to hip circle from the side of the beam (which was first performed by Natalia Yurchenko in the early 80s), has been upgraded from a C to a D. Fans may also see more Teza transitions on bars (German giant to Pak or bail) or even a clear hip hecht 1/2 (transition from low to high) as both skills were upgraded in the new code.
The new code officially goes into effect on January 1, 2022 and will remain for the next three years leading up to the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Inside Gymnastics spoke with 1980 Olympic All-Around Champion Elena Davydova, who has been an international Brevet judge since the late 80s and served as head floor judge for Canada at the Rio Olympics, to get her thoughts on the new code.
When you first looked through the new code, was there anything that surprised you?
I wouldn’t say it’s a significant difference from the previous code and doesn’t drastically change what the routines will look like. It’s just a lot of adjustments like the squat turns (wolf turn). For example, a gymnast would do a triple turn in squat and then do a double turn in squat. If a gymnast can’t do a triple, why would they repeat it with a double? They do it to get more difficulty value, but they are also getting deductions and it’s not making the routine look more beautiful, so that’s why it was decided to only count one. So, now if they do a triple, they cannot count a double as well.
A lot of vaults were devalued, which a lot of people in the gymnastics community are upset with because they feel the judges should be taking larger deductions, rather than having the vault devalued. What is your perspective on that as a judge, as well as from a coach’s standpoint?
The vault difficulty values are going down just to make them aligned with the other events. From a judge’s standpoint, there’s not much to change in that aspect because the judges are basically evaluating the performance. The difficulty doesn’t really affect any judging. From a coaches’ point of view, sometimes it feels like all the vaults are being downgraded, but when all the vaults are decreased in similar increments… like they are all basically down four tenths, it makes no difference. Everyone is being judged the same way. There is no difference—it’s just how you perceive the scores in the end.
It has been a very long time since we have seen a clear hip hecht ½ in competition, but it was upgraded from a C to a D which may encourage more gymnasts to try it now. With that skill, must the gymnast directly connect it to another element? It’s hard to imagine what skills a gymnast could do out of that skill!
Yes. The problem with that skill is that it would be an empty swing. If they do a kip on the swing forward, it would be a deduction. As a coach, maybe I would teach my girls to catch with the hands in mixed grip so they do a half turn under the bar and can kip and continue in the same direction. Coaches are always thinking about how to use skills; some skills are not possible to execute without extra swings, but coaches are always experimenting. I go to sleep and I think about what I can do and how I can modify routines. For this skill, I think catching in mixed grip would be helpful to get into the next element.
What changes in the new code do you like the most?
I think every coach wants a beam dismount to be recognized as more difficult. Before it was .5 if you do a D or higher for the dismount but with this current code there were no requirements for the dismounts to be difficult. Of course, the dismount goes into the contents of the routine, but it’s not given any advantage. Now with the new code, any dismount that is a D or higher gets rewarded .2 in bonus as long as there is no fall. I also think only allowing one squat turn was a good fix. Overall, I think there will be a little more variety on bars and beam; routines will have less repetition of the same skill.
If you could add something to the code, what would you add?
That’s a good question! [Laughs] It’s hard to say because as a coach, you are working with the talents of each individual gymnast. Maybe I would add a little more on how to promote the individuality of each gymnast. It’s a hard thing to promote in the code but when you look at some of the performers—there are still ways to put very unique skills in the routines. Say they do a press handstand sideways on the beam to a front walkover on one or two feet—that is original. Those skills are still there, but not many gymnasts do them. Some of them love to do those skills and put them in their routines and it’s nice to see.
How do you feel about allowing the lunge back on the landings of tumbling passes? A lot of gymnastics fans were hoping that would come back with this code. Back in your days as a gymnast, you could take that step back and it was no deduction. Is that something you would like to be brought back?
They were thinking about allowing lunges again. It’s not that I don’t want it, but at the same time, as a coach, it’s not really something that prevents gymnasts from doing something. I think it’s ok what we have now. Kids are doing steps and lunges anyways, but when a gymnast over rotates or has that step, it’s just not a perfect landing.
As a judge, how hard is it for you to adapt to new changes in the code every four years? Especially since you’ve been doing it since the 80s!
Sometimes it’s difficult but with this code… probably not as much because it’s just adjusting routines. It was hard in the 90s, that was a big adjustment and then after that everything changed regarding moving away from the 10.0 scoring system. That was a hard transition and there was a lot of education and adjustments made back then. I’m not really complaining though—it’s what we have to do! You have to find ways to complement each athlete with each code or hide certain things they aren’t good at.
Do you think being a judge helps you to be a better coach?
It helps in certain ways because I don’t have to wonder or ask anybody questions. Coaches always have questions about the Code of Points, but judges already know. As a judge, I can pass the information right along to my athletes.
Photo credit: Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics
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