Progression Through Elite Development In Great Britain. Part 2 The Voluntary System.

The second part of our look at the Elite development system in Great Britain focuses on the voluntary side of competition and assessment over the age groups from nine to twelve years.
Part one focusing on the compulsory system is available to read here:
https://britishgymnewstics.com/2015/05/04/progression-through-elite-development-in-great-britain-part-1-the-compulsory-system/

As with the compulsory levels, gymnasts on the elite path compete in one level per year, with level four at age nine, level three age ten and level two at age eleven. For voluntary levels there is no level one, gymnasts who have passed compulsory one will then compete as a first year Espoir at the British championships later in the year. The Voluntary age group championships are held in November.
At level four and three, there is a team competition as well as individual. As with compulsory levels, the team is selected from the regional qualifying competitions held in the autumn. The first four gymnasts from each regional qualification will represent their region at national finals.
Should a gymnast not qualify in the top four at the regional qualifier, any gymnast scoring 47.00 or more at level 4, and 46.00 or more at level three is still eligible to compete at National finals representing their club, providing they have a carry forward score from the National Compulsory finals.
Level two is not a team competition, and all gymnasts represent their club rather than their region. There is no regional qualification score required, only that gymnasts have passed compulsory 3.

As with the compulsory levels, voluntary age group results are where the names of future GB stars will often first appear. A look at the top ten in each level from 2014 will give readers an idea of who we may be seeing on future GB teams over the coming years.

Level 4

1. Jaimee Smith – East 51.150
2. Elise Adeyemo – South Essex 50.550
3. Maya Thomas Osbourne – South 49.80
4. Alina Cofie – London 49.60
5. Sofia Meadows – West Midlands 49.20
5. Madeleine Roberts – South East 49.20
7. Ellie Gargett – East 49.050
8. Kerry Hegarty – East 48.90
9. Emma Tara Atkin – East 48.7
9. Alice Sumners – South West 48.7

Level 3

1. Ondine Achampong – East 51.90
2. Halle Hilton – 51.60
3. Samantha Katkevica – London 51.050
4. Isla Lees – East Midlands 50.20
5. Abigail English – South 49.850
6. Amelia Thomas – Wales 49.50
7. Drew Drury – South East 49.40
8. Ramiyah Kofi – East Midlands 49.250
9.Shanna Kae Greant – Yorkshire 49.150
10. Amanda Cook – South East 48.90

Level 2

1. Hallie Copperwheat – Saphire 52.10
2. Amelie Morgan – Slough 51.5
3. Marnie Woolrich – Park Wrekin 48.90
4. Martha Franks – Heathrow 48.75
5. Scarlett Williams – Notts 48.650
6. Oriel Powell – City of Birmingham 48.450
7. Ella Gaynor – Cardiff Central 48.30
8. Gypsy Squires – Saphire 48.250
9. Lauren Matthews – Saphire 47.90
10. Francesca Ryman – South Durham 47.850

How it works
The requirements for these age group levels are unique to British gymnastics, difficulty is capped with the idea of protecting young gymnasts from injury, to discourage poor technique for the sake of difficulty, and to encourage focus on form, accuracy, and consistent performance. There are also certain GBR bonuses in place for specific moves, levels of skill, connections, and combinations.
Lets take a look through the levels at the requirements and the difficulty caps.

For all levels

Elements are given Difficulty Value according to FIG Cycle 13 Code of Points [2013]

Rules and Regulations are as FIG Cycle 13 Code of Points, unless stated otherwise.

FIG Execution, Artistry and Choreography penalties are applied.

BARS/BEAM/FLOOR – 8 highest elements including dismount BEAM/FLOOR – 5 acrobatic [max] + 3 dance [min] FLOOR 4 x Acro lines [max]

Same element can only count once EXCEPT on Bars where an FIG Coded element may be repeated for Difficulty Value *Bonus will only be awarded for successful performance of the skill/combination as per FIG requirements*

Short Exercises
FIG Rules apply for Beam & Floor
On Bars, an exercise with less than 5 elements will be deducted 1.00 for each missing element
Vault Bars Beam
Level 4

Vault
The vault is set at 105cm with an extra 5cm roll mat over the table. Mats are piled to the height of the vault.

Gymnasts can choose from three entries, the Handspring (D 3.50) Tsukahra (D 3.50) or Yurchenko (D 4.00)

At this level it is about the entry, repulsion, and the beginning of the second flight. There is no deduction for over rotating in the direction of the vault, as the gymnast is meant to show dynamism and continue to front/back after landing. Jumping on to the front/back due to lack of dynamism however incurs a 0.3 deduction.
Bars

The only composition requirement at this level is the dismount, as long as the gymnast performs a routine with an A dismount, the full 2.50 is received. Should the gymnast perform an unpermitted or uncoded dismount, she will only receive 2.0 CR, and also lose the DV of the move should it be higher than an A.

The following uncoded elements are permitted at this level for 0.1 each:

Cast above 45°
¾ Giant from LB to HB
Squat onto low bar – jump to catch high bar
Straddle or pike on undershoot dismount or ¾ sole circle – will fulfil the dismount CR
The following elements are barred and will receive no DV:

Cast to handstand with straddled legs (also with ½ turn)
Back hip circle
Tucked or pikes salto dismount fwd/bwd.
DV higher than a straight back salto

GBR bonus:

0.5 Back giant without fall (counted only once)
Beam

Requirements: Connection of minimum 2 different dance elements including 1x leap/jump/hop with 180° split (cross or side) or straddle position.

Any coded full spin on one foot in forwards direction
1 x acrobatic series with 2 elements [minimum] 1 x with flight [not salto], not connected into dismount.
Acro elements in different directions [fwd/swd & bwd]

Dismount of A only allowed, no CR or DV awarded if higher.

The following uncoded elements are permitted at this level for 0.1 each:

Foward roll
Cat leap
Tuck jump
The following elements are barred, and will receive no DV:

Any saltos (other than dismount)
Free cartwheel,
Side salto and free walkovers
Hops/jumps/leaps with LA turn
Hops/jumps/leaps to front support
Floor

Requirements: Dance passage to include minimum of 2 x different leaps or hops. Must include 1 leap or hop with 180° split (cross or side) or straddle position
Any coded 1/1 spin on one foot in forwards direction – D panel deduct for the missing CR if a spin is not performed, E panel do not apply the penalty incomposition/choreography
2 x saltos in different directions (fwd/swd &
bwd)
1 x acrobatic line with 2 x different saltos
Dismount of A or B salto only allowed or no DV/CR
The following uncoded elements are permitted at this level for 0.1 each:

Cartwheel
Backward walkover
Forward walkover
Valdez
Backward roll to handstand
Headspring
Handstand forward roll
Cat leap
Tuck jump
The following elements are barred, and will receive no DV:
All elements above B in difficulty value
All hops, jumps, leaps to front support

Level 3
Vault

The vault is set at 115cm with an extra 5cm roll mat over the table. Mats are piled to 10cm above the height of the vault.

Gymnasts can choose from three entries, the Handspring (D 3.50) Tsukahra (D 3.50) or Yurchenko (D 4.00)

At this level again, it is about the entry, repulsion, and the beginning of the second flight, focusing on the gymnast achieving the correct technique before adding somersaults to vault. There is no deduction for over rotating in the direction of the vault, as the gymnast is meant to show dynamism and continue to front/back after landing. Jumping on to the front/back due to lack of dynamism however incurs a 0.3 deduction.
Bars

At level three the gymnast performs on the single wooden bar, starting from hang, with hands in overgrasp.
Requirements: At this level the flight element from HB to LB & Flight element on same bar are not required, the gymnast automatically receives the 1.00 CR (0.50 + 0.50) that these skills would normally earn.

Gymnasts must perform the following CRs to receive 0.50 for each (a gymnast who does not
meet any of these requirements will still receive 1.00 in CR as stated above)
Close bar circle element (non flight). Back hip circle and forward hip circle not allowed.
180º (minimum) non flight element (not mount)
Dismount A only allowed or no CR/DV
The following elements are barred, and will receive no DV:
Cast to handstand with legs straddled (also with half turn)
Back hip circle
Flight on same bar (release)
Dismounts:
Salto backward tucked or piked
Salto forward tucked or piked
DV higher than salto backward straight

GBR Bouns:

0.5 for 2 x different grips. Not within flight or dismount. Can be awarded once only
Beam

Requirements: Connection of minimum 2 different dance elements. Must include 1 x leap/jump/hop with 180° split (cross or side) or straddle position
Any coded 1/1 spin on one foot in forwards direction
1 x acrobatic series with (min) 2 x flight elements. Salto not required, not connected into dismount
Acro elements in different directions (fwd/swd & bwd)
Dismount A or B only allowed , no CR or DV awarded for higher.

The following elements are barred, and will receive no DV:

Salto forwards from two feet (mount or within routine)
Salto sideward
Hops/jumps/leaps with LA turn
Hops/jumps/leaps to front support
GBR Bonus:

0.3 for connection of full spin with leap/jump. Can be performed in either order, only awarded if leap/jump hits 180 degrees.
Floor

Requirements: Dance passage to include minimum 2 x different leaps or hops. Must include 1 x leap or hop with 180°split (cross or side) or straddle position.
Acrobatic line (2 x different saltos)
2 x saltos in different directions fwd/swd & bwd
Straight salto with minimum 360º LA turn – forward or backward
Dismount A or B only allowed. No DV/CR awarded for higher.

Level 2

Vault

The vault for level two is set at 125cm, with the FIG junior code applying. Any vault from the code of points is acceptable, the open tuck position for Tsukahara and Yurchenko vaults is permitted.

Bars

Level 2 gymnasts perform on uneven bars, using the FIG junior code. There is also a GBR penalty in place of a whole mark for not showing at least one full cast to handstand without turn. Straddle handstand is permitted here. Coaches must stand in for all release moves, and all dismount of D value and above. Failure to do so results in no DV/CR being rewarded.

The following elements are barred, and will receive no DV:
Dismounts higher than D value
Salto forward with 360°/720° turn
Single salto backward with 180°/540°/900°turn
Dismounts 6.407, 6.408, 6.507, and 6.508 in the COP.

GBR Bonus:

0.5 for permitted D dismount, awarded in addition to the 0.5 awarded for fulfilling dismount CR

Beam

As per junior FIG rules, with the additional GBR penalty of a whole mark for not showing 180 degree split in leap/jump elements.

GBR Bonus:

Gymnasts may be awarded bonus for a maximum of two out of the following three options:
0.2 – D or above salto/ariel performed in series
with dance element
0.3 – For performing ‘FIG Series Bonus’ – must
be completed on the beam for GBR bonus.(FIG
series bonus awarded for a series which
includes the dismount)
0.3 – Double Spin
Floor

For floor gymnasts at this level perform as per FIG junior code, a 5cm mat is permitted for double so without incurring a penalty. There is a GBR penalty of a whole mark for not showing 1x 180 degree splits (cross or side) in leap/jump elements. There is a penalty of two whole marks if a gymnast performs less than three acro lines.

The following elements are barred, and will receive no DV:

Double front
GBR Bonus:

0.2 – 1 x acrobatic line (2 x different saltos indirect connection) including C salto
0.2 – 3 x C or above dance elements

At the end of competition, the top three teams at level 4 and 3 are awarded gold silver and bronze medals, as are the top individuals in each of the three levels. After that, the overall national champion for each level is crowned, with the top three gymnasts in each level receiving medals. The overall champion is the gymnast with the highest combined compulsory and voluntary scores from both national championships. This is where you can see which gymnasts have excelled in both parts of the competition. The overall score is also important as it is where national squad places are selected from for the coming year. The top eight for each level in the country are selected for national squad, although it is not set in stone that it is the combined scores alone that guarantee a place, as a very talented gymnast who has been injured and missed competition will also be considered.

Of course there are always exceptions in any system, and there will be gymnasts who develop more slowly, and not make a name for themselves at the age group levels, but then have hugely successful senior careers. There is also the option for gymnasts to come through the other side of testing, following the club grade route then onto the challenge cup. The Challenge cup also presents an opportunity for a gymnast who has not been able to pass compulsory 1 to try to become an elite gymnast and qualify for British championships. Promotion from challenge cup to the following year’s British championships requires a score of 46.00 for Espoir gymnasts, 48.00 for juniors, and 50.00 for seniors.

So that concludes the guide to the elite path in British gymnastics, of course some of the girls will fade over the next few years, and some girls who are currently finishing in the middle of the pack will surge forwards, but some of the names will be wearing the Union Jack on their backs on the road to to Tokyo and beyond.

2 thoughts on “Progression Through Elite Development In Great Britain. Part 2 The Voluntary System.

  1. Why are hip circles and straddle casts barred at the lower levels? That seems extremely arbitrary. (Are pike casts allowed?If not, why are gymnasts going straight from no cast-HSTD allowed at 3, to being penalized if they don’t have one at 2? With the hip circles, do you mean a on-the-bar hip circle to front support, a clear hip, or both? Does this also exclude clear-hip derived elements like the hecht to high bar?)

    In all of its forms, the hip circle is kind of the backbone of US bars development through about level 7 – a back hip is usually the first circling element a gymnast learns on each rail, and the clear hip handstand is used to teach ending in handstand over the bar and even pirouettes well before most gymnasts learn their back giant. Imagining a development system that actively avoids them leaves me a bit confused as to how these skills are being taught instead.

    3 to 2 seems like a huge jump, especially on vault. Going straight from just an entry landing, or falling, on stacked mats, to potentially a full vault with a salto and twists in less than a year… it’s no wonder 5 or 6 years down the road they still have trouble catching up enough to get to the higher DV vaults the team needs. (And about this one level per year thing – if you don’t do well at a level in the given year, or miss a season due to injury or something, what happens? Are you still automatically moved up? Are your chances at elite voided? Are you automatically done forever if you turn 12 and aren’t elite/espoir yet, or are older gymnasts allowed to compete at the lower levels as in the US’ JO system? A little clarification on this would be nice.)

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  2. Straddle casts are barred in the lower levels, as everything here is about development. A young gymnast on the elite path absolutely should be able to cast to handstand without having to straddle cast, by not allowing the gymnast to straddle, there are no corners cuts in development here. The higher placing gymnasts at level four (turning nine in the year) are typically competing upstart straight cast to handstand, squat on/sole circle to high bar, upstart straight cast to handstand, long swing, long swing, fly away. A gymnast that may not have a straight cast to handstand, may have chosen the straddle cast with half turn to count a B element, and therefore score higher if this skill was allowed. Seeking higher scores at the expense of developing strong basics goes against the development plan. By the time the gymnasts get to level two, they start to compete Jr FIG code, so longer routines with more demanding elements, hence the straddle cast then being permitted.

    The hip circle is an empty element for gymnasts this age on the elite path, and therefore discouraged. You will see it from six and seven year olds at lower levels, but not from those turning nine in the year which is when the national system testing begins. The clear circle is very much allowed, as are clear circles to handstand with or without turn, which we see a lot of from level three onwards.

    The vault jump from level three to two isn’t so huge I wouldn’t have said, at level three the top gymnasts are mostly competing Yurchenko entries, blocking high off the table through vertical onto a mat higher than the vault which is an option for bonus. To turn that into a rotating vault in a year isn’t a huge step up for them, demonstrated by the fact that year after year most are doing it without issue. I would say as a nation the system on vault has been working, and disagree that they are having trouble finding the higher D scores. Great Britain will go to Rio with anything from four double twisting Yurchenko’s scoring 14.8- 15.2, to two double twisting Yurchenkos, and two Amanars making them very competitive on this piece, and I would say the most improved nation on vault from London 2012 where we had two double twisting Yurchenkos, and two one and a halfs.

    At voluntary level, gymnasts can move up, they are simply not ‘In age’ anymore should they lose a year through injury. This does not mean that elite is over, just that they will come to the Espoir level British Championships a year later as a second year rather than a first year (Gymnasts go from level two, to spending two years as Espoirs, two as juniors, then turn senior). At the compulsory level things are slightly different, there are levels to be passed, but there are two chances per year at levels two and one which must be passed, the option again to be out of age, and a further option to qualify out of the compulsory system through gaining a high enough AA score at the Challenge Cup are there.

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