The uneven bars are different from the other three events in women’s gymnastics. While vault, beam and floor are all about the flips, bars focuses more on swings and handstands with some flips here and there.
Routines are comprised of a number of different skills in collegiate gymnastics. There are handstand and pirouetting elements, bar transitions from one bar to another and release moves where the gymnast lets go of the bar and catches the same bar again and dismounts.
Every routine in Division I college gymnastics initially starts from a score of 9.5. Gymnasts must string together skills of various difficulties to create enough bonus tenths to start from a 10.
Many gymnasts come into college with more skills in their repertoire than needed for a single bar routine. So choosing the best skills to use can sometimes be difficult.
“I had two releases coming into college, so I basically just picked the one that was prettier on me,” senior Chelsea Davis said.
Other times, gymnasts get bored with competing the same old skills every weekend, so they take the summers in college to learn new elements to potentially add some variety to the routine.
“I only had one dismount coming in and I decided to learn a second one end of my sophomore year,” Davis said. “I competed that for a year and went back to my other dismount just because it’s more consistent.”
To get a perfect score a few things have to happen during a bar routine: a mount onto the bars, according to the code of points. Handstands must be completely vertical; a transition from one bar to the other at least twice during the routine; a flight element where the gymnast releases one bar and either catches the same bar or the other; another, different, flight element; an element with a turn in handstand; and a dismount.
While these elements are important factors that make up a routine, Georgia head coach Danna Durante said the most important aspect is rhythm.
“It’s the rhythm and the way that they swing and how dynamic is it, how aggressive is it, how crisp is it,” Durante said. “For some that’s relaxing if they tend to muscle things, for some it’s being tighter so it just looks crisper.”
Any fall from the apparatus results in a five-tenths deduction. If a gymnast falls, she has 30 seconds to compose herself and rechalk her hands and grips before remounting the bar and continuing her routine. If she fails to remount within 30 seconds, she is not allowed to continue her routine, according to the code of points.
Each routine starts with the gymnast saluting to the judge and mounting the bar and ends with a dismount and another salute. While all routines begin and finish this way, the interiors and actual mounts and dismount vary from competitor to competitor.
Variety matters too. While judges aren’t necessarily going to deduct for six of the exact same routine during a rotation at a competition, watching the same thing over and over again can get boring.
“It’s important to change it up by how you strategize your lineup,” Durante said. I love big releases and dynamic gymnastics.”
However if a gymnast is doing a unique skill that has a lot of deductions, it’s always better to conform rather than risk perfection.
While a gymnast might go into the season with a routine ready to go, it might take a few weeks to finalize the composition. Some seasons the judges focus more on certain elements than others, so Durante said she might go back and remove skills the judges deduct the most on to make it easier for her gymnasts to perform perfectly.
“A lot of times those [transitions to the high bar] get hit pretty hard in college unless it looks like Chelsea Davis’ or Brittany Rogers’ where it goes up and flies,” Durante said. “Brandie [Jay] started with one this year and worked hard to make it better. It was good, but it wasn’t great, so we took it out.”