Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson recently caught up with Amanda Borden-Cochran to talk about how gymnastics has changed since the 1990s.
Along with Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu, who Anna previously interviewed, Amanda Borden was a member of the Magnificent Seven, the 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s team that came home with the gold. After an immensely successful elite career, Amanda began coaching at her own gymnastics club, Gold Medal Gymnastics, in Chandler, Arizona.
FT: What do you think has changed the most about gymnastics since the 1990s?
AB: Well, lots has changed!! They eliminated compulsories at the elite level after the 1996 Olympics, so I think that changed the overall artistry of gymnastics. After that we began to see explosive skills and routines filled with lots of power and difficulty. Of course equipment has changed and evolved along with competition rules, formats, scoring, etc…Compared to the 1996 Olympic Games, it seems like a completely different sport when it comes to the Olympics, however one thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of hard work, dedication and commitment it takes from both the coaches and athletes to compete at these levels.
FT: What do you think of the high difficulty showcased in competitions today?
AB: One thing is for sure… I’m glad I’m retired 🙂 The level of difficulty AMAZES me! We see a variety of difficulty from the U.S. athletes showcasing different skills on all four events. I commend the athletes and truly enjoy watching all of the amazing skills they can do!
FT: It’s been eight years since the “perfect 10.0” scoring system was abolished; do you feel that it was a negative or positive change?
AB: That’s a tough question! I think the fans like the Perfect 10, but I do feel that for the growth of our sport it was a necessary change! I feel that the scoring change is one of the biggest contributors to the growth of difficulty in our sport. Back in the 90s you could do a simpler routine, however it still started from a 10.0, which gave you a slight advantage to scoring better. Now it rewards those that take a bigger risk with the more difficulty. I feel like the scoring system has been broken down so that the general public understand that 1/2 the score is still from a perfect 10 (execution), while the other 1/2 of the score is earned through the level of difficulty performed by each athlete! I think it was a HUGE change and had both positives and negatives.
FT: The U.S. women’s gymnasts don’t compete in as many competitions as you did in the 90s—how do you think this affects their performances during the year?
AB: Well, I think that the U.S. women’s team has proven themselves as competitors over the last few years at the national and international levels. They are amazing competitors! I loved some of the fun competitions that we used to do and I think today’s gymnast would love them too, however they have a lot more on their plates. They travel to our national training center once a month and have small competitions there; along with the fact that their routines are much harder, I think it would be too much on their bodies to compete a lot!
FT: The FIG only allows two gymnasts per country to compete in World and Olympic finals. Do you think this is better or worse than the “three per country” rule of the 90s?
AB: Well, for a country like the U.S. that hurts because we have MORE than three athletes that are contenders in the AA competition at the international level.
FT: Do you think compulsories should be added back into elite competition?
AB: Compulsories was my strength and I loved seeing that athletes compete those because it made them focus on basics, form, lines, flexibility, etc…
FT: What is the best part about women’s gymnastics today?
AB: Well, I think that we are consistently producing great athletes and teams, which is great for USA Gymnastics and our sport across the country!
Special thanks to Amanda for chatting with Full Twist!
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