Gymnastics risks ‘losing its artistry’

Gymnastics risks ‘losing its artistry’

SANTA FE, Argentina - The Associated
Gymnastics risks ‘losing its artistry’

Nastia Liukin competes on the uneven bar on day 4 of the Visa Championships at Chaifetz Arena June 10 in St. Louis, Missouri. AFP photo

Gymnastics is in danger of losing its artistry as competitors are concentrating on pulling off increasingly difficult acrobatic moves, the sport’s governing body said.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is unhappy with trends in artistic gymnastics, where the accumulative scoring system encourages athletes to cram their routines with risky moves.

“Artistic gymnastics should be about art, about beauty, and in the case of the women it also has to do with music, with expression,” FIG Secretary-General Andre Gueisbuhler told Reuters in an interview.
“But increasingly, we are finding that gymnastics has developed into acrobatics. We have more and more difficult acrobatic movements and we are missing out on the beauty of gymnastics. There is certainly a correction which has to be made.”

Gueisbuhler suggested that other sports, such as diving, had done a better job of getting the balance right. “If you take diving, where you have a completely different ratio between execution and difficulty, you see that the sport remains ‘clean’ because a diver would only risk a more difficult skill if he can do it to perfection.

“The smallest mistake is a catastrophe so nobody is taking too many risks and nobody takes on anything which is too difficult.

“We would like to see the (women) gymnasts perform with music (on the floor exercise), we like to see them dancing, we like to see them expressing themselves, we like to see nice transitions.”

Gueisbuhler said the FIG was drawing up a new scoring system which would put greater emphasis back on execution, however, this would only come into force after the London Olympics.

Age fraud

Gymnastics will again have a minimum age limit of 16 for competitors in London, a rule which has led to accusations of age fraud in the past.

China was cleared of entering underage competitors four years ago after extensive media allegations prompted the FIG to launch an investigation. However, North Korea will be banned from London after being guilty of flouting the rules during 2010.

Gueisbuhler said that the FIG now double checked the passport details of competitors, looking for possible inconsistencies, and also issued its own identity cards.

“I’m convinced, certainly in the case of China, that the government has issued the necessary directives to all the leaders in the various provinces and the federations to respect age rules and not to cheat,” he said, adding that media pressure had been a great help.

“In the case of China I’m convinced we have a clean sport.”

Judging is another area where the FIG has taken strict measures to avoid controversy. A complex system of “reference judges” are now in place to avoid obvious injustices and make sure officials do not favor competitors from their own country.

“They are under pressure from their own country, their own coach, sometimes the president of the country and sometimes, their heart just beats a little bit too strongly for their own country,” Gueisbuhler said. “But there is pressure from the FIG on these judges to be as neutral as possible.”