The 1983 National Gymnastics Tourney As I See It

By Lu Enchun

China Sports, December 1983: The 1983 National Gymnastics Championships in Shanghai last June were also the team finals and individual preliminaries of the Fifth National Games. It was a world-level competition which demonstrated the high standard of our gymnasts. Nevertheless, a few problems remain to be solved.

Quality in Competition

The quality of performances is of crucial importance in the men's and women's compulsory exercises. The present sets of exercises have been in use for three years and most of our gymnasts can do them quite well. However, there are a few who have not paid enough attention to the fine points. For example, when a two-second pause is required, then it must be two seconds, and the slightest deviation from this rule means a deduction of points. In the rings, it is most difficult to keep the right time while doing the hanging scale rearways. But during the competition, some gymnasts had to shorten or prolong the time while the rings swayed beyond control. Some movements strictly require a correct position. For instance, the rearward swing to handstand on high bar to dismount is a high-quality part. But some girls failed because they overdid the body turn, while others could not attain a correct position in the back swing. Some parts require certain direction in execution, and any deviation will also result in deduction of points. In the men's floor exercise, however, some gymnasts made a deviation of 30 degrees in the serial somersaults at the beginning of a routine. The height of movements in the vaulting horse is a key to high scores, but not many gymnasts could perform with perfection. And again the turning movement in the hand spring with full twist requires an exact degree, but some girls either overdid or underdid it before landing. Some parts require an exact number of run-up steps, but some boys in the floor exercise took three steps instead of two as rquired in the commencing salto, which alone meant a deduction of 0.3 point. These examples fully exposed the performers' lack of strict demand on themselves, though a few made mistakes because they were over-anxioius to give a good performance. It should be pointed out that compulsory exercises are the first step to winning the championship and unless they are done well, victory will be out of the question

Connection in Optionals

During the competition Song Wen from Hunan Province worked a new connecting part between two flights - Tkachev followed by Gienger; while Yang Yanli from Shanxi Province performed on the uneven bars a giant swing backward to Tkachev and Stalder hop change followed by Jager - with two other connection parts between flights. By increasing the value of connecting movements between difficult parts, a gymnast can earn bonus points for originality. This is a new tendency in the gymnastics world today. However, it has not aroused enough attention among our gymnasts, though they possess great potential in this respect. In the floor exercise, for instance, many of our boys and girls are capable of doing the backward double salto tucked, which will become more impressive and valuable if it is preceded or followed by some difficult connections, as Huang Wofu from Guangdong did at the recent tournament by following it with a front flip tucked. In the uneven bars, there also appeared some new connections during the competition. The performance of free hip circle rearways with full turn to backward swing in hang by Guangdong's Zhong Yanbi on the uneven bars was actually a man's part on the horizontal bar. Thought not without flaws, it was an attempt in the right direction and should be encouraged. The pity was such superbly connected value parts were too few at the tournament. It witnessed some giant Tkachevs, but all followed by simple movements. We should be aware of the fact that some foreign gymnasts are now able to do such complicated connecting parts as Tkachev followed by salto to regrasp the bar. As to saltos on the beam, many of our girls could manage one or two on it. But few could do three in succession, and still fewer could do four with the last for dismount. Such drawbacks in connecting techniques were also rather common among the men gymnasts on various apparatuses. In the years to come, only those gymnasts with novel connections under their belts will have a place of honor in competitions. Why were the three one-arm giant swings by Beijing's Yang Yueshan on the horizontal bar so attractive? The answer: to do them separately is easy, but to connect them into a whole is difficult.

Artistry and Decorum

An outstanding characteristic of the 1983 Tournament was that many newcomers had come to the fore. Lou Yun from Zheijiang Province, for one, was only 0.125 point behing Li Ning in the men's all-around. This is a clear proof that we do not lack up-and-coming gymnasts who compare favorably with the world's best.

However, we should also note that some of these hopefuls still lacked polish and artistry in performance, despite their good techniques. When competing in the arena, a gymnasts's single move or act is part of the artistic whole. Walking toward an apparatus with head raised and body erect will give the judges and spectators a good impression from the outset. How can he get high impression marks if he walks in with lowered head and hunched back? In competition, a gymnast must also mind his behaviour even when he makes a slip. In the pommelled horse competition, however, some of our gymnasts seemed to have thrown decorum to the winds. When losing their balance, they plumped themselves down on the apparatus, or mumbled to themselves and shook their heads, or groaned with legs bent and hands loosened. During the competition special prizes were awarded for good behaviour so as to draw more attention to decorum. To ensure artistic beauty in performance, coaches should set strict demands on their charges in this respect.

Inadaptability

During the tournament some gymnasts made slips in one individual event or another and most of them had difficulties working some parts they usually were good at. We should pinpoint the causes and tackle them accordingly. There was no doubt that some world-level parts had a high degree of difficulty and the slightest fault in timing, direction, angle, speed or balance would result in faulure and spoil the whole thing. What should merit our particular attention is the fact that to some extent the failures results from inadaptability to the arrangements made according to regular international competitions. In the past we used to hold half of the men's and women's competitions simultaneously, so that contestants had ample time trying the apparatuses. This time competitions were conducted according to international practice, that is, the men's and women's events were held separately, with one day for compulsory exercises and another for optional exercises. The competitors were allowed only three-minute trial practice in the competition hall, while warm-up exercises had to be done outside it.

As a result of this tight schedule, even some of our top gymnasts who had had some experience in international competition did not come off well. This all the more underscores the necessity to adapt our gymnasts to the international practice of arrangements.