Anyone who’s not been living under a rock will know that the reigning Olympic AA champion announced, mid worlds, that she’s making a run at 2012.
I wasn’t in love with the timing- looked a bit too much like trying to grab the limelight even if it wasn’t- but otherwise was completely unsurprised. She’s spent most of the last quad giving teaser interviews, promoting crap leotards, doing photoshoots and generally making as much money as she can out of her Olympic title.
Which is not a criticism by the way. I’d do exactly the same. You’re a long time retired. The same is true for Shawn.
Anyway, I wasn’t at all surprised by this announcement. If Nastia did want to come back for London, there was no need to make it any earlier. She needed to guard against burnout. Autumn 2011 was the point by which she really needed to shit or get off the pot. And so it was. The weight loss over the past few months should’ve given us all a clue, too. She’s spent the past couple of years pretending in every interview that she’s just on the brink of coming back, but that’s what you have to do when you’re professional and trying to keep everyone interested.
Clearly, as someone whose strongest event is bars, Nastia could potentially fill a hole on the US team. This much is obvious. However, her style of routine might not be judged in the same way as it was back in 2008.
Pirouette heavy sets still score well when done properly, because the D scores are so high. But E panels are now hammering them. The Chinese have felt the full force of this. They now rarely get E scores above mid 8s internationally.
Nastia’s 2008 routines had high execution scores when she hit. This was always controversial: her lines are beautiful, as is her toepoint and also her transitions. But the dismount was a mess, an accident waiting to happen, and there were a lot of leg separations.
There was consensus, even from the more sensible posters on the gymternet, that she did get away with a certain amount. I’m not talking about the frothing at the mouth, take off 0.3 for every bent legged giant, spewing out execution deductions that don’t even get taken at Euros brigade. But also amongst people whose views are worth listening to.
Now in theory, execution deductions are more extensive this quad. And it’s true that top gymnasts often internationally broke 9 on bars for execution in 2006-8, whereas that doesn’t happen much now. So I don’t expect to see any 9.3s from Nastia, or indeed anyone else. But what interests me is the way in which the built in errors in her 2008 set would be treated in 2012. I should state now that I’m taking about legitimate international competition, not domestically.
First up, the pirouettes.
These are now riskier than they were in the past. There’s no getting round that. Gymnasts now only need 8 counting elements rather than 10, so she could potentially drop two of them. However, one would hope that flat tkatchev would get the boot, lack of amplitude in releases being a big source of deductions too. Rumour has it that Nastia is training a layout Jaegar, which is encouraging. She’s bound to rely somewhat on pirouettes, but I hope to see her minimise it.
The flexed feet in Nastia’s dismount were also rather egregious. But if Aly Raisman is anything to go by, E panels don’t appear to give much of a fuck about that anymore.
For that reason, I don’t expect Nastia to particularly get hammered on the flexed feet in her dismount, or the leg separations anywhere in the exercise. Most of which aren’t particularly visible from the side anyway.
The ‘visibility from the side’ issue is one that’s always caused controversy. Lots of people couldn’t accept that judges might not be able to see leg separations. Someone posted video of one of Nastia’s Beijing sets taken from the side, which basically confirmed this. Notably, the virtual straddle in the dismount simply couldn’t be seen. I have tried and failed to find said footage, unfortunately, so you’ll all just have to take my word for it. Or dig it up yourselves.
This particular issue isn’t about judging trends, either. The only way it’s going to change is if the E panel’s seating positions do. They haven’t. As long as they continue to view bars sets from side on, they’ll miss lots of leg separations. It’s inevitable. They can’t (or shouldn’t) deduct for what they can’t see, so expect Nastia to continue to get away with this.
I also want to consider the dismount specifically. As previously mentioned, it was a total mess. Aside from the crashes, which are always a risk, Nastia typically had a big leg separation, flexed feet and a reasonably sizeable step on dismount. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to take 0.3 for the leg separation and sometimes the step, and 0.1 for the flexed feet. But that probably never happened, and the reason for this is because the leg separation wasn’t visible from the side either.
There’s also the issue of endurance. I think that dismount will improve after a shorter routine. At the 2009 US Classic, she warmed up the dismount in podium training on its own, and it looked much better. Better than it had as a sole element in 2008.
Link provided by 21Najafast.
The event I think she would have a problem on now is vault. The trend this quad is for big vaults with amplitude to score well. Nastia’s 1.5 was always a bit anaemic- her shoulder angle just isn’t great- and she compensated for that with nice form. The effect was pretty, but lacking in the wow factor. Like Miller on bars in 1991-2.
This quad, that approach won’t work. She’d get hammered for dynamics, and wouldn’t be able to make up the gap on gymnasts like Raisman and Ponor by keeping her legs straight. I would include our girl Nabz in that, but the execution judges at worlds were not particularly kind this time round. However, it’s far from certain that Nastia will actually do vault this time round anyway. I wouldn’t, if I were her.
Stoi! readers, what kind of skills and scores do you think Nastia’s comeback will feature, if she does actually make it back? And can anyone help us with the links?