Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Interview with Amelia Hundley

Amelia Hundley is the newest senior gymnast from Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy.  After standing out in the first two Nastia Liukin Cups as a energetic, talented young gymnast.  Now at sixteen, Hundley is entering her first year as a senior with an impressive junior resume.  In 2013 alone, Hundley became the National Champion on bars, and brought the bronze in the All Around and on floor, won second place All Around at Classics, as well as taking home medals on bars and floor.  After an ankle injury sidelined her for the early season meets, Hundley is ready to compete as a senior in 2014. 
Property of Melissa Perenson
1. You were in the first two Nastia Liukin Cups, did those competitions help prepare you for elite competitions? If so, how?
Being in the first two Nastia cups I think did help me prepare for elite. Just because it's a big arena with a huge crowd on podium. It feels like you are competing at Classics or Championships almost. So I definitely feel like that helped prepare me for competing as an elite!

2. Over the past few decades, Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy has established itself as one of the most powerful gyms in the country.  Do you feel there is a lot of pressure on you and the current CGA gymnasts to keep the legacy alive?
 I have never really felt pressure from trying to keep the legacy alive. I just grew up at CGA always wanting to be an elite gymnast and now that I am there I just want to be the best I can.
3. Last year, Gymnastike came to your gym to film a Beyond the Routine documentary.  What was that experience like?
When Gymnastike came in to film it was really fun. It's cool for other people to see what training is like and our daily routine is.
4. What was your the 2009 Junior Japan Meet like, and how does it compare to other International Competitions you've competed in?
Gymnastics Wiki
When I went to Japan in 2009 it was probably one of my favorite international assignments. It was my first assignment so I didn't really know what to expect. But once we got there we had so much fun!

5. The friendship between you and Lexie Preissman is well publicized in the gymnastics world.  What is it like to compete and train with and without Lexie?
Lexie and I have been so close ever since we started the sport when we were about 4 years old. We have been best friends ever since. We have always helped each other in workouts. Like if we need a pick me up or some encouraging words we can always help each other. We are competitive but in a healthy way like if we see one of us taking steps forward then that pushes the other person to work hard. Were always happy for each other no matter what the outcome is. 
6. You have committed to the University of Florida.  How did you make that decision and did you visit any other colleges? 
Yes I am so excited to go to The University of Florida! I visited Georgia and Alabama before visiting Florida. I love the coaches and all the girls there. I just felt like I fit in the best at Florida.
7. Last year was your last year as a junior, which ended with a third place All Around and a National title on bars.  Do you think those results will help you this year at the senior level? 
Doing so well and getting the placement that I did at Championships last year as a junior, I think will help me going into the senior division. Just having that title is such an honor and having that little extra confidence is a plus.
8. Can you describe your current injury?
I am coming back from an ankle surgery right now. Over the last year I have sprained this ankle a few times and every time it would just get a little worse. It would get really swollen and would hurt. The last time I did it we decided that if we need to get something done then now is the time. So it all happened so fast I got called in to an ankle specialist do to a cancelation and they decided that it was going to happen at the end of that week. My ankle was really loose and junky. So they went in scraped out all the junk. They put in a cadaver tendon to tighten it. And cleaned out the rest. They called it ankle reconstruction. It's doing very well right now and should come back stronger than before. 
9. When do you think you will be back into full training and full competition?
USA Gymnastics
It has taken me about four months to be fully recovered. I am practically back to normal right now. I am full tumbling and vaulting into soft surfaces. I am doing a lot of therapy to try to get it stronger to take the harder landings when it's time. I mean my ankle has it's days but it is feeling pretty good for the most part.
10. What are your goals heading into your fist senior year? 
Going into the senior division this year. I just want to look more mature and precise than I was before. I want to show that I can play with the big guys. I want to make the national team. But the big goal this year would to make the world team.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fixing Floor

Due to low difficulty ratings on required skills, long routines and a lack of endurance, and the absurd rules the Federation of International Gymnastics has implemented,  floor has become the lowest scoring apparatus in Women's Gymnastics, by quite a large margin.  It appears that those with endless energy and springs for legs are the ones that seem to excel (I am looking at you, Simone Biles).  Let's look at the All Around Final from the past Olympic Games, we can see 6 of the top 10 athletes in the All Around Final yielded their lowest score on floor, including the gold and silver medalists Gabby Douglas and Viktoria Komova, the latter who performed her best routine on floor to date and stepped off of the mat on her vault.  Why is this and how can we fix this?  The current rules are preventing gymnasts like Aly Raisman and Brenna Dowell from maximizing their strengths in All Around competition, while minimizing the damage done to weaker floor workers like Viktoria Komova and Kyla Ross.
shannonmillerlifestyle.com

The Current Code of Points on Floor prohibits the high scores on floor that we see on vault and bars.  The current rules in place require a minimum of three dance moves be credited for the difficulty score.  This was intended to prevent gymnasts from maxing out their D-Score by doing insane tumbling run, and thus, prevent injury.  How ever, the Code of Points does not give any leaps, jumps, or turns a difficulty rating over a D, with the exception of a triple wolf turn and a quadruple turn, skills that are almost never competed.  When an elite gymnast and coach create routines, they rarely count elements less than a D for their final score, however, they are forced to do so to meet the requirements.  The only way to boost D-Scores, and thus final scores, is to raise the values of dance elements.
Also, the rule that will be put into place this month states that one can not use the same diagonal to complete a tumbling pass was designed to prevent back-to-back tumbling runs, a trend that was prevalent in the '90s, is sure to limit the number of tumbling passes one does in a floor routine.  In a routine that has a 1:30 time requirement, many gymnasts struggle to fit choreography, leaps, jumps, and four tumbling runs into that time period.  By requiring time to move from corner to corner, many gymnasts may drop one tumbling pass all together, lowering D-Scores and floor scores.
gymnasticscoaching.com

In a floor routine with a time component, endurance plays an issue.  As I previously mentioned, gymnasts have a lot to do in a short amount of time, and the requirements set by the FIG do not help.  By the time elite gymnasts are ready for their last pass, they are so exhausted, the gymnasts hardly ever do more than the required D-level dismount that you see occur on the other events.  On floor, gymnasts do the bare minimum, which leads to lower difficulty scores.
gymnasticsrevolution.com

When the FIG removed the "Lunge Rule", more deductions occur.  Possibly the most controversial rules of the past quadrennium was the rule that states gymnasts must stick their tumbling passes.  This rule ended an era of the sport, and created more deductions.  I can understand the reasoning, a stuck landing is the best indication of a truly controlled pass, but not only does it lower floor scores, it causes more stress on the body and can lead to more injuries.    

How can the Federation of International Gymnastics fix these issues on floor?  If dance skills had higher ratingings on floor, scores would increase due to a higher start score.  Low difficulties are the main reason for low scores, not because a gymnast is incapable of competing harder skills, because it is impossible to get as high of a start score on floor compared to other events.  By raising the value of dance skills, higher scores can be achieved and will balance out the separation of points in competitions.  By re-implementing the lunge allowed out of tumbling passes, less deductions will occur, and can lead to a rise of floor scores.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Comparing 2008 and 2012

Ever since the Fierce Five won Gold in London, people have been disputing which team was better, the 2008 Silver-Winning Beijing Team or the Gold Medal Winning 2012 Team.  As code changes makes it hard to compare between codes, I've coded the routines competed in Beijing and those performed in London to see who had the higher difficulty.

Vault
Bridget Sloan
5.8
Jordyn Wieber
6.3
Shawn Johnson
6.3
Gabby Douglas
6.3
Alicia Sacramone
6.3
McKayla Maroney
6.3
Total
18.3
Total
18.9

Bars
Shawn Johnson
5.8
Jordyn Wieber
6.3
Chellsie Memmel
6.2
Kyla Ross
6.1
Nastia Liukin
6.3
Gabby Douglas
6.4
 Total
18.3
Total 
18.8

Beam 
Alicia Sacramone
5.7
Kyla Ross
6.2
Nastia Liukin
6.0
Gabby Douglas
6.4
Shawn Johnson
6.4
Aly Raisman
6.4
 Total
18.2
Total
19.0


Floor
Alicia Sacramone
5.8
Gabby Douglas
6.1
Nastia Liukin
5.7
Jordyn Wieber
6.1
Shawn Johnson
6.2
Aly Raisman
6.4
Total
17.7
Total
18.6

*Thank you to  SportEverywhere and The GymnastFan Hub for their videos on the correct coding of these routines, which allowed me to check if I was correct or not. *

Keep in mind that these routines were not designed for this code of point, many skills were downgraded/ upgraded so these difficulty charts are not 100% representative of the difficulty capabilities of these athletes.  

Just for kicks, I know a people argue, "Difficulty is not the only important factor of Gymnastics!", so I included the execution score given to these routines and the Olympics.  

Vault
Bridget Sloan
9.4
Jordyn Wieber
9.433
Shawn Johnson
9.5
Gabby Douglas
9.466
Alicia Sacramone
9.375
McKayla Maroney
9.733

Bars
Shawn Johnson
9.05
Jordyn Wieber
8.266
Chellsie Memmel
8.725
Kyla Ross
8.533
Nastia Liukin
9.2
Gabby Douglas
8.6

Beam  

Alicia Sacramone
8.6
Kyla Ross
9.033
Nastia Liukin
9.375
Gabby Douglas
8.833
Shawn Johnson
9.275
Aly Raisman
8.433

Floor
Alicia Sacramone
7.925
Gabby Douglas
8.966
Nastia Liukin
9.0
Jordyn Wieber
8.9
Shawn Johnson
8.5
Aly Raisman
8.8

Looking at these execution scores, the 2012 Team has higher vault and floor execution, while 2008 wins on bars and beam.  It is important to note, however, these routines were judged under different Code of Points and different deductions, so the routines were not judged the same.  So, lets call execution between 2008 and 2012 a tie, as both teams had higher execution scores on two event.  The 2012 team had higher difficulty scores on each event compared to the 2008 team.

Lastly, I made charts showing the complete scores by adding the execution given at the Olympics and the difficulties I found under the 2013-2016 Code of Points.

Vault
Bridget Sloan
15.2
Jordyn Wieber
15.733
Shawn Johnson
15.8
Gabby Douglas
15.766
Alicia Sacramone
15.575
McKayla Maroney
16.033
Total
46.575
Total
47.532

Bars
Shawn Johnson
14.85
Jordyn Wieber
14.566
Chellsie Memmel
14.925
Kyla Ross
14.633
Nastia Liukin
15.5
Gabby Douglas
15.0
Total
45.275
Total
44.199

Beam
Alicia Sacramone
14.3
Kyla Ross
15.233
Nastia Liukin
15.375
Gabby Douglas
15.233
Shawn Johnson
15.675
Aly Raisman
14.833
Total
45.725
Total
45.299

Floor
Alicia Sacramone
13.725
Gabby Douglas
15.066
Nastia Liukin
14.7
Jordyn Wieber
15.0
Shawn Johnson
14.7
Aly Raisman
15.2
Total
43.125
Total
45.266

2008 Team Total                                                            2012 Team Total
180.7                                                                               182.296
In conclusion, 2012 was a better group of gymnasts overall, "beating" the 2008 Team under this code of difficulty by 1.596. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Interview with Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller, now 36 years old, is the most successful gymnast in American History.  After winning two silvers at the 1991 World Championships, Miller showed herself as the "It Girl" of American Gymnastics when she helped the team to a Bronze Medal in the Team Final, was the leader in the All Around before the Finals, and won the All Around Silver Medal by the closest margin in Olympic History- .012. to Tatiana Gutsu, as well as having a Silver Medal performance during Beam Finals, and winning the Bronze Medal on Bars and Floor.  Miller only got better during the 1993-1996 Quadrennium, where she became the only American to win back-to-back World All Around Champion in 1993 and 1994, as well as picking up Golds on Bars and Floor in 1993 and Beam in 1994, Silver with the US Team in 1994, and a Team Bronze in 1995.  As a member of the "Magnificent 7", Miller lead the US Team to a Gold Medal in ATlanta, and won an Individual Gold on Beam.  Today, Miller is married to John Falconetti, and they have one son Rocco and one daughter Sterling.  After the birth of Rocco, Miller was diagnosed Ovarian Cancer, which she won her battle with in September 2011.  Miller is the founder and President of Shannon Miller Lifestyle, which focuses on living healthy.  
quaked.com


1. What was it like to compete knowing you could achieve the Perfect 10?
Every time you step on the floor it’s about achieving perfection whether it’s a stuck landing or a hit routine. The 10.0 allowed you to have a very specific goal regarding a score. Of course, there is also just something special about achieving the “perfect ten.” Nadia Comaneci made the perfect ten the ultimate statement in our sport. It’s almost like grabbing a little bit of history when you achieve it!

2.  Which system is better for the sport of gymnastics in your opinion, the current system or the Perfect 10?
They both have their pros and cons. I believe the perfect 10 is better for the spectators, particularly those that tend to watch gymnastics during the Olympics but may not tune in during the years in between. I think there’s a sense of excitement that comes with the idea of closing in on perfection. For the athletes, I’m not sure it matters too much. We have the rules and we remain flexible with the changes (pardon the pun). It’s also nice to have the designation of difficulty versus execution. It has taken some getting used to for all sides of the sport but you try to make the best of any new situation.

3.  You remain the most successful gymnast, male or female, in US history.  Do you believe you paved the way for the future of USA Gymnastics?
We all have our part. Many paved the way for me to have success in the sport, and I hope that I have helped encourage other young athletes to follow their dreams. I was never very outspoken but always believed in leading by example. I hope that my success in the sport shows others that if you have a dream and you work hard to achieve it, anything is possible.


Shannon Miller Lifestyle
 4. Which Olympic Experience/ Memory is your favorite?
Lol, well there was driving through Dairy Queen with our security guard after the competitions had all concluded. That solidified my love of the chocolate and cookie dough Blizzard! But seriously, standing up on the podium with my team after the team final was amazing! I don’t think I truly realized what an incredible feat we had achieved. There is nothing like seeing the American flag being raised to the sounds of our National Anthem.

5. How did your life after the Olympics change from before it?
I had been through one Olympic cycle (Barcelona) so to some degree I understood the craziness that was about to happen. But having the Games in the US and winning two gold medals just maximized everything! We went on a 100 city tour throughout the nation performing in front of thousands of people almost every night. However, along with the television shows, appearances and tours came a bit of disappointment. I had retired from Olympic competition and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next.

6.  How have you stayed involved with the sport after your career ended?
I stayed involved on the performance side, touring in each of the post-Olympic tours from 1992-2008. I think I’m the longest touring gymnast ever, lol. I have also been an analyst and commentator since 2000 and hosted a gymnastics television show for Comcast for 5 years. Now that I have children, I continue to work to promote the sport of gymnastics at all levels.

7. You've tried to have a normal adult life, how have you done so?
I feel like I’ve always had a “normal” life, because it’s normal for me. I try to maintain a balance of “celebrity” with doing something each day that helps others. Nothing can replace the feeling of flying through the air or flipping on a balance beam but I continue to have different excitement in my life, some good some more difficult. Having my children has really kept me grounded. They don’t care how many gold medals you have, to them you are just Mom….and I love that!

8. After you had your first son Rocco, you were diagnosed with a rare form of Ovarian Cancer. 
Wikipedia.org
Can you talk about your fight?
With all the titles I’ve earned over the years; Olympian, Mother, President (of my company) I never imagined at the age of 33 I would add cancer survivor. My son was just over a year old when I was diagnosed, and the only thing I could do was fight. I had to be here for him. I was fortunate that mine was caught early at a routine exam. I went through a difficult surgery and an aggressive chemotherapy regimen that left me weak, sick and bald…but I am now cancer free. I believe that God has a plan for each of us. I feel like this challenge helped me grow as a person, be a better mom and find a renewed passion for helping women make their health a priority.  

9. You call your new daughter Sterling your miracle.  How old is Sterling now and how is she doing?
Sterling (named after her maternal great grandfather, Robert Sterling) is 6 ½ months old, and she is so much fun. She has a very relaxed demeanor, smiles a lot and loves to “talk.” We feel so blessed to have both Rocco and Sterling and just enjoy every moment with them.

10. You commentated at the Olympics and many gym fans believe you should commentate full time.  Any plans for a future in the business?
They are sooo sweet. I always get nervous doing commentary, just like I did for gymnastics. I want to do a good job and put out solid information. There is so much preparation that goes into it and it’s nice to hear that people appreciate that. Right now, I take commentary jobs when I can. I truly enjoy it, particularly for the Olympics. But I also love to do analysis and more in depth pieces with the athletes. Of course, I also have a company to run so I try to balance everything as well as possible.

11. You've dedicated your life post-gymnastics to helping other people get and stay fit.  What inspired you to form Shannon Miller Lifestyle?
ShannonMillerLifestyle
Staying fit is part of what we do. My mission at Shannon Miller Lifestyle is to help women make their health a priority. That means nutrition, fitness, rest and relaxation, getting to their doctor’s appointments and educated themselves on issues like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We want to help women understand that they should not feel guilty about making time for themselves. Because if they aren’t healthy they can’t be there for all of those who depend on them.My foundation works to fight childhood obesity primarily through fitness. We want to encourage a love of physical fitness for all children.

12. What is your opinion on USA Gymnastics current group of athletes?
The year or so after the Olympics is always a rebuilding year. You wait to see which athletes stay the course and what new comers are moving in to take their place. I’m looking forward to USA National Championships this year. As always, we have some incredible talent out there and it’s going to be an exciting road to Rio!

13. What advice can you give to young gymnasts? 
I always tell young athletes to enjoy it! Not every day is going to be a piece of cake, but you should truly enjoy what you do or you won’t do it well.

14. Is there a future in gymnastics for Rocco or Sterling?
People.com
Who knows. Rocco has been in gymnastics since he was 15 months old. I know how great the sport is for young children. It’s one of the few sports that toddlers can do that uses their full body. My hope is that he is getting a great foundation of balance, strength, flexibility and body awareness that will help him no matter what sport(s) he ultimately decides he likes. He also gets to socialize with other children his age, learns to follow direction, pay attention, and respect the equipment, his coaches and himself. I’ll do the same with my daughter when she’s ready. It’s a great way to keep them active.