[By Max Sabert]
BTB Note: We won’t be foolish enough to claim we know anything about Olympic gymnastics, but, fortunately, we found someone who does. Sabert is a former gymnast who competed from age 3 through college—with and against all the Olympians on the U.S. team—and says he remains very close to the sport.
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If you want my analysis on value bets, feel free to skip ahead. But for those who are interested in knowing how scores are calculated, this brief explainer will catch you up to speed.
Many of you are probably asking: “Why is gymnastics not scored out of 10.0?” Well, that changed a while back, and for the everyday Olympics viewer, it’s annoying and difficult to grasp. In men’s gymnastics, there are six events: Floor, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars and Horizontal/High Bar.
On these events, a gymnast will perform a “routine.” The routine is made up of 10 skills (sometimes more), but only 10 skills count towards the gymnast’s final score. These 10 skills are ranked on a scale of A, B, C, D, E, F and G—with A being the easiest skill and G being the hardest ever performed.
To give you some context, an in-shape, non-gymnast could probably perform a few A skills, but not many (probably less than five). I’ve been doing gymnastics for 20 years, and at my peak, my routine contained (if I was lucky) a few E’s and D’s, three to four C’s, and one or two B’s.
An A skill adds a tenth of a point to your difficulty, a B skill two-tenths, and so on. These skills make up your difficulty ranking. Besides your difficulty, there are 5 types of skill categories on each event that a gymnast must fulfill. This will not be an issue for any Olympic gymnast. Every Olympian will easily fulfill this requirement.
For each category out of five that you meet, you get 0.5 added to your score. The performance is then judged from a 10.0 scale. If you break form, there are three types of deductions that can be taken: small (-0.1), medium (-0.3) and large (-0.5). If you fall on any event—defined as not landing on your feet or supporting yourself with your hands on the ground—you lose 1.0 points.
- Start at 10.0.
- Add skill values (max 10 skills)
- Add Category completions.
- Subtract form deductions.
Note: If you’re interested in learning how to judge a routine (while actually watching it), my analysis can be found on the BTB Forum.
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ANALYZING THE ODDS
I see the following teams vying for a medal: China, Japan, USA, Britain, Russia and Germany (in no particular order).
The way team finals works is there are six total events in Men’s Gymnastics (Floor, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, Vault, Parallel Bars and Horizontal/High Bar). In the team finals, the teams will send up three competitors and all three scores count. This is an important factor to consider. Since you cannot throw out any scores (like you were able to do in college, until they changed the rules this year), consistency is key. If you fall off of an event, it is a 1.0 deduction. A 1.0 deduction is huge and can be costly to your team. The events I likely see faltering on are a) Pommel Horse, b) Vault, and c) High Bar.
Pommel Horse, unless you have the right genetics, is in my opinion the toughest event in Men’s Gymnastics. As you can see, it is unlike any other event. The consistency and difficulty on this event is key to your team score. This is where the Chinese will outpace themselves. They are the best pommel horse swingers in the world and it will show. Their team score here will be a good bit higher than the rest of the field. The US in particular has always been weak on horse, and this year is no different. We will throw up John Orozco, Sam Mikulak, and Danell Leyva. All three are decent, but not great on pommel horse. I think we will see three hits from the US here, which is what is needed if they want to stay in the race. But the scores will not be nearly as high.
Vault is the next separator. The big vaults are key, but also very risky. You will see the same huge vault from both Jake Dalton and Mikulak from the US team. If they land it well, it will score big. The US’s third vault does not have as high of difficulty, but should be solid from Jon Horton. The Chinese will take it again here on vault. They just have too much difficulty to compete with on this event, but if Dalton and Mikulak hit their vaults, the US won’t be far behind.
Finally, high bar. This event is dangerous because of the high-flying release moves that you will see. These are the scariest, but also the most fun part of gymnastics. Like I said, if you fall on an apparatus, it will be -1.0. The US will have some great high bar routines, and we will be able to stay with the field, but it won’t be enough to separate ourselves and pick up points. The way I see it, the Chinese are just too solid here, and actually don’t throw as many huge release moves, so they will be fine on high bar.
The pick: China is stacked. They are strong in every event and shouldn’t give up points to anyone on any event (and if they do, it won’t be much). I hate to use the word “lock”—and never will—but the Chinese Men’s team at -250 is a solid bet.
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Kohei Uchimura is an even better bet to win the All-Around Gold Medal. If anyone is within two points of him here, it will be a huge misstep on his part. He has won the last three world championships and is going to add an Olympic Gold to the collection. Barring a huge injury, he wins the gold here. While -320 is steep, no one else wins this, so I wouldn’t entertain a bet on anyone else.
Where’s the value?
I see value on Kohei not winning the gold on Floor Exercise at +170. He is very, very good on floor, but I think he will falter. He will have competed two days of all-around by this point, and floor is the hardest event to come back and do again. It is tiring, and I still think he hits, but I think he gets beat out by a tiny bit. If you look at scores from World’s 2011, you will see that there are a ton of competitors all within about the same range. Someone will sneak in and take this. There’s a little less value on Zou Kai at +250 to win floor. If Kohei doesn’t take it, he is the best bet to win. He won in 2008, and he has a good chance of repeating.
I also see value in taking Krisztian Berki to win pommel horse at -170. He is the hands down favorite here. He has won the last two world championships, and has the second highest difficulty score in the meet. He has to miss to not win the Gold here.
On vault, I see some value in Yang Hak. He is the reigning world champion, and does the hardest vault in the meet (most difficulty). If he lands it without much landing deduction (hops, steps, etc.), he should be in great shape.
Finally, I see value on Leyva at +160 to win Parallel Bars. If he hits his routine with less than 1.0 off in deductions, he should win. I think he will be coming back, maybe after the US gets squeeked out of a medal, and wants to really show he’s got it. He could be on both Parallel Bars and High Bar event finals. He is more solid on PB, and if he hits cleanly, I think he holds on. He is the reigning World Champ.
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Will Zou Kai Win The Men Artistic Horizontal Bar Gold Medal?
There is a very high likelihood of this happening. He has the highest starting value of anyone. He is pretty erratic on high bar, but if he hits a solid set, he takes this.
Will Zhang Chenglong Win The Men Artistic Horizontal Bar Gold Medal?
I think this is equally as likely as Zou Kai. High Bar is totally up for grabs, and I think it comes down to probably about a 0.1 difference separating first and second. If you want to bet high bar, I slightly favor Zou Kai.
Will Kohei Uchimura Win The Men Artistic Horizontal Bar Gold Medal?
No. High bar will be taken by someone in the high 15’s/low 16’s. He will be close, but I think .2/.3 behind the winner. Though he does my favorite skill in all of gymnastics (see 35-second mark), that routine is the best you will see Kohei do, and he arguably should have won HB at World’s. He has to hit better than that to win Gold in London.
Will Vasileios Tsolakidis Win The Men Artistic Parallel Bars Gold Medal?
I don’t think so. He has good difficulty in this routine with a lot of original skills and sequences, but his lines (another word for form and how his technique looks), is not nearly as good as the other competitors, or Danell’s.
Will Zhang Chenglong Win The Men Artistic Parallel Bars Gold Medal?
Good technique, clean routine. He has a shot, but like I mentioned earlier, it’s Danell’s to win or lose.
Will Cyril Tommasone Win The Men Artistic Pommel Horse Gold Medal?
No. The reason why it’s +250 is basically saying, “It’s Berki’s to win or lose.” Berki is a machine and rarely misses. Cyril is a crapshoot to win, even if Berki misses.
Will Louis Smith Win The Men Artistic Pommel Horse Gold Medal?
No. See above.
Will Chen Yibing Win The Men Artistic Rings Gold Medal?
Yes. At -400, there isn’t any value. I’ve been watching Chen for probably six years now. Rings was my best event through college, and Chen set the precedent in the world for how Rings should be done. In the six years I’ve been watching him, I’ve only seen him falter once. He will come up big here.
Will Arthur Zanetti Win The Men Artistic Rings Gold Medal?
No. He just doesn’t have the difficulty or presentation that Yibing has. Chen has to falter for Zanetti to win this, and I just don’t see that happening.
Will China Win The Men Artistic Team All-Round Gold Medal?
Yes. I really, really don’t see someone coming in to steal this. If anyone, it’s Japan, and even with Kohei, China is too strong.
Will Japan Win The Men Artistic Team All-Round Gold Medal?
Will USA Win The Men Artistic Team All-Round Gold Medal?
Only if the Chinese, Japanese and possibly even Germans and Brits all get food poisoning. We should be shooting for bronze, and being happy with that. I put silver medal at a 10 percent chance and Gold even lower.
Will Anton Golotsutskov Win The Men Artistic Vault Gold Medal?
If Yang doesn’t win, VT is up in the air. Anyone can take it, very similar to high bar. I don’t see value here when you can get Yang at +160, compared to Anton at +165.
Other Male Gymnast besides Kohei winning All-Around?
Not even going to go into this. Kohei has to have a devastating injury to lose. Plain and simple.