Thursday, 12 July 2012

Thursday's Thoughts

My thoughts about Men's Artistic Gymnastics

As many of you may have realised by now, I do not follow the men's gymnastics anywhere near as closely as the women's. I pretty much only watch parts of the major competitions (like the Olympics and sometimes the World Championships) and some event finals - you know, where you have to sit through the pommel horse final in between women's vault and bars! I know the names of the main contenders and for the main part I know enough to tell what makes a good routine. Some parts of the men's gymnastics I love, other parts not so much - and some just confuse me completely. So here are my views on men's artistic gymnastics:

Floor
This is one of the easier pieces of apparatus for fans of women's gymnastics to understand. There's no music and much less dancing than in the women's floor, but the tumbling is powerful and spectacular. Strength elements must be included between the tumbling passes to make up the floor routine. I do generally enjoy watching men's floor, and a well performed, high difficulty routine can be quite spectacular to watch.

Pommel Horse
Right. This is the piece of apparatus that I just do not understand. At all. From what I can tell, the gymnasts move up and down the horse on their hands either circling around the horse or with flared legs. They work on the horse itself, on one handle and on both handles. And they try not to fall off. I always try to understand what the commentators are saying when they talk about Magyars, spindles and triple Russians but I can never quite tell the difference between the moves. What I do know is that I always watch routines on this apparatus very nervously as it always seems to me to look as if they are about to fall off!

Still Rings
Although I do understand what the gymnasts are trying to achieve on this apparatus, it is one that has never held much appeal to me. This piece of apparatus requires sheer strength and each move has to link one strength element to another. The gymnast has to show movement between each position while trying to keep the rings as still as possible. Although I have on occasion been really impressed with certain routines on the rings, as a whole I don't particularly enjoy watching this event, perhaps because it seems the least artistic of the disciplines.

Vault
Like the floor exercise, this apparatus is very similar to the women's, but often much more spectacular. This is the event in men's gymnastics that I enjoy watching the most. It is amazing to see some of the vaults that the men can achieve, ever increasing in difficulty and often performed with amazing accuracy to make it look almost easy! Double front somersaults, sometimes with a half turn, have become almost commonplace in men's gymnastics these days and they are truly amazing to watch.

Parallel Bars
I think that a good parallel bars routine is really interesting to watch as it combines moves and somersaults with great amounts of swing but also moves of great steadiness, strength and coordination. I do sometimes find that parallel bars routines have a 'sameness' about them, with many gymnasts performing the same types of skill. To me, a standout routine is one where the gymnast is innovative and makes his routine seem different from the rest.

High Bar
This is perhaps the most spectacular of all the men's disciplines. With fast swings and breathtaking releases, high bar routines are always a crowd pleaser. These dramatic routines are always impressive and the gymnasts seem to soar through the air on their releases before catching the bar and continuing the swing. With these impressive releases and amazing dismounts it is no wonder that the high bar is such a popular apparatus to watch.

Who to watch out for
Japan's Kohei Uchimura is going into the 2012 Olympic Games as the three time World Champion. He is dubbed as one of the best male gymnasts of all time and to watch him it is easy to see why. He is not only brilliant but consistent on all six pieces of apparatus and makes all of his routines look effortless. He is the hot favourite to take the all around Gold in London. Philipp Boy of Germany is never far behind and will be chasing for a medal. Also hoping for Olympic all around glory will be Daniel Purvis (GBR), John Orozco and Danell Leyva (USA). On individual apparatus look out for GB's Louis Smith on the Pommel Horse, and Epke Zonderland (NED) and Fabian Hambuchen (GER) on the high bar as they are bound to have routines to impress. You can never count out the Chinese men though; they have a winning streak as a team and will be hoping for team and individual medals.

I am getting more and more excited by the prospect of the men's competition this summer, and hopefully I will be slightly more knowledgeable by the end of it! Good luck boys!

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