Christina’s Code Corner: Bars

Welcome back to Christina’s Code Corner. If you missed the first article, on vault, you can check it out here. We’re going in Olympic order of course, so this week we are moving on to bars! Here, the biggest change involves start values, so we’ll start there and then move to skill value changes.  

Start values: As a refresher, there are baseline start values for bars, beam and floor if you meet all the composition requirements. On top of the baseline start value, a gymnast must perform more difficult elements (D- or E-rated) and elements in combination to reach a 10.0 start.

With that in mind, the baseline start value for bars, beam and floor has been lowered from 9.500 to 9.400 this year.

For bars, the basic requirements did not change from last year. Those are:

  1. Minimum of two bar changes
  2. Two flight elements 
  3. Minimum of two different C-valued elements OR a D and a B (not to include a dismount)
  4. One turning element with a minimum of a C value (this requirement can be fulfilled by a bail to handstand, and cannot include a mount or dismount)
  5. Minimum of C dismount

For a list of common skill values, head over to the Balance Beam Situation

Up-to-the-level: There are also “up to the level” requirements. These are essentially the same as composition requirements, except the deduction is taken as a neutral deduction (like stepping out of bounds) instead of it being taken off the top of the start value.  These requirements are:

  1. A single bar release with a minimum of D value OR a release move valued as an E OR minimum of two D releases OR minimum two E-level skills
  2. Exercise must have a minimum of a D dismount or C dismount in bonus combination

If you’re new to college gymnastics, you may not know the origins of the up-to-the-level release drama. In 2015, Alex McMurtry was the last gymnast up for Florida on bars at the Super Six (RIP). She did not have a D-level release in her routine (single or between bars) but was able to start from a 10.0 because of clever routine composition. She ended up scoring a 9.950 and Florida clinched the title over Utah by 0.050.

There was some disgruntlement in the gymnastics community that a routine without a “major” release would start from a 10.0, and that was part of why the up-to-the-level rule began the next season (2016). Fast-forward to this upcoming season, and there continues to be debate about requiring a single bar release. 

Because the baseline start value was lowered to 9.400, gymnasts hypothetically must add one more tenth of bonus. However, the committee also added the following: 

Difficulty bonus: Same bar D release move or any E release move will receive an additional 0.100 bonus DV (difficulty bonus). 

What that amounts to is that anyone doing a single bar release—the Jaeger, Tkatchev and Geinger variations are the most common; the Markelov, Comanici, Deltchev and Shushunova also qualify—does not have to make any composition changes. Gymnasts who have an E release—any Shaposhnikova half variation or a Bhardwaj—also won’t have to make any composition changes. 

The vast majority of Division I gymnasts are doing single bar releases already or have an E release, so the change won’t affect most gymnasts. For those that don’t have one of these skills, some will still be able to keep their current routine composition because of the bonus they have in the rest of their routine. 

Let’s look at Kyla Ross’s routine from last year

Though we know she can do more releases, she wouldn’t have to change her routine to still start from a 10.0. Why? Because she has enough bonus in her routine without adding a release:

  • Meets all composition requirements: 9.400
  • 0.100 bonus each for Maloney (D) and bail to handstand (D): 0.200
  • 0.200 bonus for connecting the Maloney and bail: 0.200
  • Double layout dismount, E value: 0.200
  • Start value: 10.0

This routine composition is common for athletes without a “major” release; Olivia Karas competed a similar routine. The difficulty bonus is not an up-to-the-level requirement, so a gymnast is fine to start from a 10.0 without a “major” release if they have extra tenths of difficulty in other places. 

Let’s look at an example of an athlete that would have to make changes under the new code. Donna Webster from Cornell (in the top right box in the clip below):

  • Meets all composition requirements: 9.400 
  • 0.100 difficulty bonus each for full pirouette (D) and bail to handstand (D): 0.200
  • 0.100 connection bonus for giant half (C) into bail to handstand (D): 0.100
  • 0.100 connection bonus for bail to handstand (D) into toe-shoot to high bar (C): 0.100 
  • 0.100 connection bonus full pirouette into double back: 0.100
  • Start value: 9.900 

Last year, Webster was able to start from a 10.0 because the base start value was 9.500. However, unlike the composition of Kyla Ross’s routine, she didn’t have any extra tenths of difficulty in her routine last year, so she will have to add a tenth somewhere to start from a 10.0

My take: After all that discussion about routine composition, the reality is that this change is going to affect a very small number of routines. I can’t give a specific percentage because I still haven’t had time to watch EVERY college bars routine (a girl can dream), but I would estimate that fewer than 5 percent of Division I gymnasts will have to make changes to their routines.

I am in favor of the 0.100 lower baseline start value. What that rule is basically saying is that compared to level 10, you are expected to have an additional tenth in difficulty, which I think is representative of the higher level of college gymnastics competition. 

But my question is: Why would you lower the base start value but then create a bonus that the vast majority of gymnasts already have? That’s not really meeting the spirit of increased difficulty. 

I’m not overly sold on the need to require single bar releases. I think D level transitions like Pak saltos and Shaposhnikova variations are every bit as hard as the D-level single bar releases. Plus, single bar releases are very popular in college gymnastics and requiring them could take away the little variety we see in routines where gymnasts perform skills like Pak saltos and Maloneys.

What I wish they had changed:  Two words: Squat-on. 

Rather than this difficulty bonus, I would have preferred that the committee created an up-to-the-level deduction for gymnasts who transition from the low bar to the high bar with a squat-on. 

I’m not blaming the gymnasts of course; if I were competing college gymnastics, I would take advantage of the opportunity to catch my breath before my dismount as well. I am blaming the code of points for allowing it. Requiring a “real” transition like a toe-shoot or Maloney is consistent with the level of gymnastics expected in college. The code shouldn’t be allowing gymnasts to use the same transition to the high bar that they did in level 5.

Skill changes: Bars had only a few skill changes, all to dismounts. 

Upgraded from C to D:

  • Back double twisting dismount 
  • Front one-and-a-half twisting dismount

Upgraded from D to E: 

  • Front double twisting dismount

My take: We rarely see these dismounts in college gymnastics, so I am not sure what the impetus was for changing these skill values. I do love flyaway twisting dismounts, and a front double twist deserves a difficulty rating of an E, so I’m glad they made that change. It would be great to see someone compete it!

In a few weeks we are on to beam! If you have any questions about beam that you would like me to address, comment below.

Article by Christina Chauvenet

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  1. Absolutely love that I was trying to learn about bar code (because I am over the top lacking) and to my greatest surprise I noticed Utah State in the quad meet in the tape. I learned and I watched a meet I attended but I watched from a whole different view. (Mom of the Varnadore twins) Thankful for your coverage of Gymnastics and educating on so many aspects of the sport!!!

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