Stretching Out: 10 New Rules To Spice Up Gymnastics
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So here we are, eight years into the 'new' Code of Points, and what do we have to show for it? For starters, many routines have doubled in length, while those with a time limit are presented in fast-forward mode. The women's all-around field has become thinner than a crepe, and some gymnasts are throwing tricks they have yet to master because they understand that the D-score, immune to deduction, is the most direct path to the podium.

Is gymnastics literally spinning out of control? Perhaps. To help rein in the madness and improve the sport's audience appeal, I have come up with a new rule for each event. And, who knows, they might even prevent an injury or two.

WOMEN’S VAULT

Any fall, including just a hand touch, should incur a 3.0 deduction. Gymnasts who fall on a handspring-double front in qualifications should not be granted a finals berth simply because they tried the hardest vault in the Code. Gymnastics competition should be about technique and mastery, not “attempts” at success. We will call this the “Common Sense” rule.

UNEVEN BARS

Any empty swing, such as those after a Shaposhnikova-type skill, shall incur a deduction. Why this has never been imposed remains a mystery rivaling the Bermuda Triangle. If a gymnast is talented enough to fling herself from the low bar to the high from a free hip, Stalder or sole circle, she should be able to do something after she catches.

BALANCE BEAM

Add an actual mount requirement in which the gymnast must either, a) use a board and show flight, or b) exert at least 5.0 METs (metabolic equivalents) without the use of a board. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 1.0 MET is defined as the energy it takes to “sit quietly,” which is not unlike many balance beam mounts today.

WOMEN’S FLOOR EXERCISE

Effective immediately, gymnasts are required to perform no more than three tumbling passes and no fewer than one pass comprising three different leaps, none of which may be initiated from two feet or include sketchy mid-air twists. These spinning jumps have become the bane of women’s floor routines, and there isn’t a judge on the planet who can accurately determine their completion. Should a gymnast attempt one of these whirling dervishes, the judge retains the right to sound a gong, thus ending the performance.

MEN'S FLOOR EXERCISE

Shorten the routines to five passes and the top eight skills (instead of 10), max, and some body part above the waist must touch the mat after every pass (except, of course, the dismount). This should help put the “exercise” back into the event. Until that happens, the event will be referred to as "Men's Tumbling." Oh … one more minor tweak: eliminate the 70-second time limit. Great gymnastics should never, ever be rushed!

POMMEL HORSE

This may sound radical, but give it a chance: Implement one “2-second hold” element that is not the mount. Pommel horse has developed into a mind-numbing event for spectators, who rarely know when to applaud. So let’s help them. Imagine these combos: flairs to a planche; flair handstand, stoop through to V or Manna (crowds will go nuts); scissor to straddle-L on one pommel. The possibilities are endless, just as pommel horse routines seem to be now.

RINGS

Require a swing to handstand in both directions. Too many musclemen perform endless strength sequences, one requisite swing to handstand, and then a dismount. Rings champions should be able to swing in both directions, don't you think?

MEN’S VAULT

I am not picking on Olympic and world champion Yang Hak Seon, but if you qualify to an event final, your second vault must feature a difference greater than moving one hand approximately eight inches from where it touched on vault No. 1. With his Yang-1 (handspring-triple-twisting front) and Yang-2 (Kasamatsu-21/2), Yang is practically doing the same vault twice (even though he could land neither at the 2014 worlds). Maybe men's vault finals should require at least one double somersault? You decide. (And yes, I guess I am picking on Yang a little bit.)

PARALLEL BARS

This rule is both simple and effective: no more than one front uprise-swing handstand per routine. Double somersaults to the upper arms are followed by this transition 99.99999999999999% of the time. P-bars has so much more to offer.

HORIZONTAL BAR

This one’s great too. Deduct 0.1 for every giant swing that does not feature a change of grip or body position as it goes over the top. If you’re that guy cranking empty giants before and after big releases, and prior to your dismount, there will be a price to pay. Finally.