Turn Gymnastics

Future Focus: Reforming World Championships

Posted: Aug 05 2015

August 5th, 2015 - Glasgow, UK: President of the Men's Technical Committee, Steve Butcher, alongside his female counterpart Nellie Kim, participated in the lottery style draw to determine which teams competed in each of the qualifying sessions as they bid to qualify for Rio 2016. There was much hype around it being the biggest Olympic qualifying World Championships in terms of participation and this is truly great news. The focus of this blog however is to look at the outdated competition format that the FIG continues to use. I LOVE gymnastics, and despite some breathtaking gymnastics on display at the recent European Championships, I was bored watching the live stream which I put down to the poor competition format. Having proudly competed in the World Championships myself on two occasions I always felt there was something missing. Having an extremely outside shot of ever making a final myself, in the non-Olympic qualifying World Championships of 2001, I couldn't help think to myself "what was I there for"? It seems a strange question to ask yourself when representing your country at the world's biggest gymnastics specific event, but for teams and individuals that have no chance of medalling or making finals - what is the point of the World Championships? Why should a national federation spend thousands of dollars to send some gymnasts to the other side of the world for 2 weeks to compete?

It seems very unfair that the results of the previous World Championships mean nothing. Two of the 2014 team finalists (Great Britain and Brazil) find themselves in the dreaded first session in Glasgow, whilst an individual from the Bahamas is pitted against the powerhouses of China and Japan! So here is what we suggest in a bid to get our sport back in the news, back on TV and to make it competitive for all participants; change the World Championships qualifying sessions in to a league format that features relegation and promotion.

Simple enough and hardly mind blowing having been a proven model for the most popular sports, but the impact this could on gymnastics would be huge. 6 in a team, 3 compete, 3 scores count. This allows for nations with depth to send a couple of specialists ensuring the best gymnasts on every apparatus are present and also allows small countries to put a team score together. The final qualifying session is the grand finale, the Premier League of gymnastics, with the top 12 countries from last year all vying to win the World Cup trophy (why we don't already have one is bizarre!) and avoid coming in the bottom 2 places and getting relegated to league 2. Think of the excitement... TV stations would buy in to this!

Here is how the World Championships finished in 2014 and what the results would mean for 2015. (R) = Relegated and (P) = Promoted:

With this league format, yesterday's draw would not have been required and instead the 2015 World Championships would look like this:

Impacts:

  • It structures our sport in a way that is sellable to TV and sponsors which should be the main focus of the FIG.
  • It gives EVERY team and EVERY gymnast something to compete for, whether aiming to win the World Cup trophy or avoiding relegation to the league below - there is a reason for everyone to compete. 
  • Gymnasts will compete against gymnasts of a similar ability level providing for fierce competition in every session. The right to compete in the higher leagues should be earned not randomly pulled from a hat.
  • It removes one day of competition. With qualification structured as a league, the final session is in essence the team final. Currently, the likes of Uchimura and Verniaiev who could make several apparatus finals and the AA final have to currently compete 5 times in 7 days. With the level of gymnasts being what it is, this is dangerous and asks too much of gymnasts.

So FIG, I beg you, well actually dare you... modernize our sport! Use the vast sums of money received from the IOC and get our sport back on TV. Gymnasts work too hard and sacrifice too much to compete in a poorly managed sport and consequently not get the recognition they deserve.

- Dave Eaton

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