There has been plenty of debate about the new team format for the current cycle and, as usual, nobody is happy. There is of course one solution to this problem which has not been talked about, although it appears to perhaps to be the most logical. Abolish all gymnastics teams. Get rid of them. Really reform the system. This is a radical solution I’ll admit but let me outline some reasons as to why this option may actually be very appealing.
Gymnastics team events are essentially shoehorning an individual event into a team format. Gymnastics is not basketball, volleyball or football, it’s not a sport which requires two teams face each other. The sport can’t even pretend to be a team sport like relay events in swimming or athletics where individual athletes do their individual performance directly after each other. Stop pretending gymnastics is something that it’s not.
We should keep in mind team event rules change all the time, even within the same competition (hello team final vs qualification). How are we to take the team competition seriously when the teams that make the team final do so under different rules compared to the ones they follow competing in the final. Team numbers have been diminishing from 7 members to 6 to 5 and now 4 in the next cycle. Some events, such as the European Games, have experimented with 3 member teams. The logical conclusion is not hard to see in the distance. 1 member teams!
We don’t see the best gymnasts make it to the Olympics currently. The current team qualification system is a large reason why this is not the case. We get gymnasts that fit the small teams of countries under the arbitrary rules that competition decides on. Sometimes even the best gymnasts in the country can miss out on selection for their own team due to strange team structures. Which brings me to my next point.
Given this massive reform this would open up many spots at the Olympics and other events for those who are competitive and deserve to contest at these major competitions. Now I have no huge ideas on the specifics of how to pick the competitors but the numbers would open up room to explore radical new options rather than the tinkering around the edges we see now.
In essence the gymnastics community has been asking itself the wrong questions and we really need to take a hard look at ourselves and decide what we really want from gymnastics in the long term. Granted it takes two medals away from the Olympic Games events but if we really want to be honest with ourselves as a community we should stop beating around the bush and tackle this issue head on.