Compulsory ContemplationsWith the Olympics drawing ever closer I've been thinking back to Olympics of previous years. To date, one of my favourite Olympics to watch and re-watch is the 1996 Atlanta Games. It was the first Olympics that I watched the gymnastics from beginning to end and for that reason alone it will always be very special and for many other reasons besides.
One of the things I enjoyed about the 1996 Olympics was watching the compulsory exercises. Here was a chance to see all of the girls competing exactly the same exercises. It made it so easy to see who stood out from the crowd and who had the confidence to make the routines their own, through to those who made a good attempt and down to those who were more unsure. What amazed me most is that not only did I not get bored of seeing the same routine over and over again, I actually felt as if I was watching a slightly different routine with each gymnast who performed it. I was surprised to see how much individuality the girls managed to get into their performances, especially on beam and floor. It was also nice to be able to watch a familiar routine and know what was coming next, making it easier to pick out those who completed them exceptionally well.
I personally would love to see the girls competing compulsory routines these days. With so much focus on the D score of their current individual routines, it would be great to see all the girls competing on an even level. I could spend ages thinking about who would score the highest on routines that were based on execution alone, but perhaps I'd better save that for another day!
But how would this affect the girls' training and their individual, optional routines? With compulsory routines to learn and perfect they would not have as much time to work on their own routines. Would they stick to a similar kind of routine and risk poorer execution and perhaps more chance of injury? Or would they have to lower their difficulty slightly in order to make the routines more manageable?
Atlanta 1996 was the last Olympic Games with compulsory routines. Here are some of my favourites: