By Gina Pongetti

We’re getting more and more excited for the women’s competition at P&Gs, which begins today with the junior session at 1 p.m. PT, followed by the senior session at 7:30 p.m. PT. Here’s a quick update on some huge skills from podium training, plus fun facts about coaches, the Code of Points, and more!

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Athletes and Tricks:

  • Ragan Smith (SR, Texas Dreams)—Balance Beam: Double Arabian dismount… and her Arabian double front on floor!
  • Jordan Chiles (SR, Naydenov) and Trinity Thomas (SR, Prestige)—Double layout on floor
  • Morgan Hurd (SR, First State)—Double-double on floor
  • Smith—1.5 to a triple full—wow!
  • Jay Jay Marshall (JR, TIGAR)—four HUGE passes! (Full-twisting double layout, piked Arabian double, full-twisting double back tucked, and a 1.5 to a triple)
  • Gabby Perea (JR, Legacy Elite)—a Code of Points lesson on uneven bars! Technique, handstand position, and release moves.
  • Chiles—2.5 Yurchenko, Biles style!

Coaches and Staff:

  • Olympian Kim Zmeskal and her husband Chris Burdette (Co-owners of Texas Dreams) have six athletes present (three juniors and three seniors!)
  • Valeri Liukin, Women’s National Team Coordinator (and former Olympian, Coach, and dad to Nastia, to name just a few!) is sitting on the panel, watching especially the seniors and their readiness for World Championships
  • Mary Lee Tracy. With 25 years on the national scene, almost 30 National team members since 1992 that she has coached, she is still on the scene and going strong.
  • The Parkettes! They had an Olympic alternate, Jodi Yokum, in 1976… 41 years ago! Too numerous to count, their presence on the National scene just keeps going with over 100 National Team members and two Olympians!

Code Changes!

  • Every four years, after the Olympic Games, changes are made to the Code of Points, which is essentially the “rules” of the game, including the name and value of all skills on all events, combinations to create bonus values, and minimum requirements and rules for routines.
  • Stepping out: small steps are still 0.10, and large steps are still 0.30. What used to be shoulder-width guideline has been changed to allow for 1 meter (3 feet), which is much more generous for the athlete before that 0.10 turns to 0.30!
  • Connections: having coffee between skills on beam was never allowed. But, bouncing from one skill to the next is often not possible, given the difficulty. The new code allows for a slight pause and the athlete can still get credit. One just cannot “stop between elements.”
  • Dismounts: Don’t take the risk! In the new code, there is no need to push for the D dismount (on floor, beam, and bars) when you are already tired or coming off an injury (or just haven’t learned one yet!) Without going into FIG judging details, the summary is this: they may sacrifice a tenth for a C instead of a D, but they are not penalized anymore. No elite wants to count a C element—ever, out of the eight that count anyway. So, the better athletes, who land on the podium, represent the U.S., and more, will keep on the D or E train anyway. Along with this comes the score shift. Since the D dismount is not required, base scores for the difficulty (D-score) category are automatically shifted.
  • Vault: Because people weren’t doing enough crazy things on vault already…vaults have been devalued. Because of the scoring issues on the other three events, it evens things out per se, making sure that of the four events, vault isn’t weighted heavier, so to speak. Comparing historical “high scores,” making a mark in history and ranking which athlete over the last 50 years is the best on an event, is hard…again. First the change from the 10.0 to the D and E value combination, and now another switch. Whew.
  • Risk for injury? Allowing more of a pause may make an athlete go for a skill they really shouldn’t attempt yet, or at that time, if they are off balance. Allowing for greater stepping (i.e. trying an Amanar knowing that you always fall to the left) may encourage bigger things rather than better things.
  • What’s worth what? Giengers went up (pike from D to E, Layout from E to F). Jaegers increased as well (D up to an E) for piked position. Split full went from a D to an E on Beam, and the Wolf 2.5 turn was devalued from an E to a D (finally, maybe people won’t actually try to spin and flail around!) Sheep jump turned down to a C. Like springboard mounts? You can get an F now for a punch front half-on.
Judges: From Athlete to Brevet, Who is Here?

  • Chelle Stack (Olympian, 1988)
  • Kristie Phillips (Olympic alternate, 1988)
  • Chellsie Memmel (Olympian, 2008)
  • Jana Bieger (Olympic alternate, 2008)
  • Jenny Ester Rowland (Worlds alternate, 1989)
  • Anna Li (Olympic alternate, 2012
  • Ashley Priess (Worlds team, 2006)
  • Samantha Brown (National Team, 1993-1995)
Enjoy the new group of women, their young smiles and colorful leos!
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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: