Tuesday, June 22, 2010


(Would Hatch have been on the 2004 Team? Pic: www.gymbox.com)

Hi guys, i just recently received an interesting email from a reader who asked me a question I couldn't actually answer.  His question was to do with the introduction of the 3-up 3-count competition format.  He wanted to know what exactly the rationale for that decision was.
Can anyone answer this?

All I know is that I hate it in a lot of ways, and that it has changed the face of the sport.  On one level I love that there can be a specialist- otherwise we wouldn't have got to experience gymnasts like Annia Hatch, Olivia Vivian, Sam Peszek or even Cheng Fei.
On the other hand, we have lost a fiercely competitive team competition.  The more gymnasts in either competition, the more left up to chance, and team's and individuals ability to sieze the moment.

I do wonder how much the decision was influenced by broadcasting needs for a quicker, more dramatic team competition?
Anyway, I leave you with this readers question, and hope you can help us....

I am writing you from Plano, Texas (and at the direct midpoint between Nastia's hometown to the east, Carly's to the north, and WOGA to the west...really!) with a question that I have been looking all over the internet for months trying to find the answer to.  I am also writing as someone who has never been to a real gymnastics meet in his life, nor even seen any apparatus (or gymnast, for that matter) in person.  Needless to say, I am not in touch with any insiders who could help me.  The nagging question: what is the rationale for the 3-up, 3-count format?

The thing is, I learned everything I know about gymnastics through media: sports commentators, TV, YouTube, blogs, etc.  I was exposed to the wide diversity of opinions regarding the sport.  Yet, astoundingly, it seems like virtually all of these outlets have raised their voices in unison over one particular opinion: that the 3-up, 3-count format is ridiculous.  

Intrigued by the amount of vitriol the format garnered in the media (and especially in other blogs and their comments), I decided to try to find out why, if the public hates it so much, it has become the mainstay of gymnastics competition formats.  There have to be people more educated in the sport who could vouch for it and explain why it is the preferred format among the higher-ups who make the rules.  But they don't show up on my Internet searches (it could, of course, be that I don't know the best search terms to use).



  1. I hate this rule. Not necessarily about not being able to drop a score (I actually kind of like that part), but the part about decreasing the number of gymnasts up on each apparatus. I know nothing of the rationale, but have always suspected it had something to do with broadcasting networks' need to cover the whole meet, but spend a smaller amount of time doing it. I used to live for seeing nearly the whole team on nearly every apparatus during compulsories (which I also miss) and most of the team on nearly every apparatus during team finals. I'm apathetic about if a team of all-arounders is 'better' than a team of specialists, but I sure do long for the days of more girls up. Three makes sense for a country with a miniscule size. I'm always wishing more talented girls (and guys) had the opportunity to display their abilities on the grandest of stages, but nobody asked me....

  2. From what I have heard from the sports commentators, was the solution to make the team competition shorter and more dramatic. The aim was to please the broadcasters and the general public(who will understand better the rules since now every fall affects the team total as opposed to the previous rule 5 up 4 count).

  3. I have also heard it was for the sake of broadcasters...I think I could prefer something like 6-4-4 or 7-5-5. Room for specialists, but a few more athletes get to perform.

  4. I think it's a combination of a couple of things

    1) To make the competition quicker for tv, the 6-5-4 rule made it far too long.
    2) To eliminate the advantage of the strenght in depth of the major countries and allow the lesser teams to have at least a chance of winning a medal. ie China/USA would have 5 strong gymnasts, allowing them to drop one poor score gives them an advantage over a weaker team. Making every score count opens up the competition to more possibilites and allows other teams to medal. We've just seen its effects in Birmingham Euros where Britain beat Romania who had to count two beam falls whereas Britain had 12 clean routines. Within the 6-5-4 rules, Romania would have dropped the falls and probably have won silver. I think it's great to see the medals being mixed up among different nations and makes the team competition much more dramatic and exciting.

  5. "Annia Hatch, Olivia Vivian, Sam Peszek or even Cheng Fei"...

    I agree, the 3/3 rule sucks!

    But how did Olivia Vivian's name pop up among that group of gymnasts!

    Don't get me wrong, she's a great girl, and a TOP athlete - perfectly suited style for college gym.

    ... But - her bars was NEVER in top echelon of our sport. It wasn't even that nice to watch! The difficulty was NEVER amazingly high, the lines couldn't be described as PHENOMENAL.

    Not an attack on Miss Vivian, I enjoyed seeing her compete, but lets not pretend she did anything to the scale of Cheng Fei, or was famously known for her apparatus like Hatch, or got the world results of Peszek...

  6. Heather said:
    I remember back in 2001 Tim Dagget was saying that the format change had a lot to do with the FIG wanting there to be more teams able to compete in team finals (8 teams instead of 4), which I'm sure also makes the broadcasters happy, since they would only have one competition to air instead of two rounds of finals. I've also heard that part of the reason was to give developing countries (gymnastically speaking) a fairer shot at making the finals, but I haven't been able to confirm that this was ever said.

  7. That actually makes a lot of sense that they would want other countries to have a chance. It probably also helps in individual finals because it's ok for a team to give 1 of their 6 spots tosomeone who specializes in one thing and might have a chance of winning an individual medal. Take Alicia sacramone. She's no all arounder but could do good work on vault for the us in a team sense but also in an individual sense. If we needed so many all arounders, we wouldn't have been able to bring her.

    Also, I believe it was the broadcasters too. A lot of YouTube comments say how they hate the American commentators/ viewings becausethey show so few gymnasts. This gives them the chance to show a greater percentage of overall competing gymnasts. For swimming in Beijing, they moved the finals to the morning so that they could air hem live at American prime time. That's just so odd to me because you spend years swimming finals at night and then you suddenly have to race the race of your life in the morning so couch potatoes can watch you. Ironic, huh? They're not doing that for the World Cup, now are they?

  8. I don't know Olivia, but granted Annia, Sam, and Cheng Fei are specialist- but they do/have competed multiple events in international comps ....I bring this up b/c you left off the most famous 1 one note gymnast- He Kexin...I wonder what her chances of being on a 6-5-4 team would be