Tweddle’s revolution on the uneven bars continues at the 2022 world championships.

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By Creative Media News

Beth Tweddle was one of the uneven bars favorites when she returned home for the World Gymnastics Championships in London 13 years ago, having pioneered a path that had never been followed before. Tweddle, however, did not even advance out of qualification, after she fell from the high bar when attempting her new eponymous event.

Her failure highlighted her courage in attempting such a skill. The Tweddle has become a symbol of her ongoing influence after thirteen years.

In 2007, she left the world championships in dissatisfaction after finishing fourth on uneven bars. She explains, “We thought, ‘Right, we need to do something different.'” When this occurred, the Tweddle was created.

She chose a skill that requires impeccable timing and attention. She would swing beneath the bar from the top bar and then leap into the air as she ascended the other side. Instead of typically grasping the bar, she crossed one arm over the other, performed a half twist, and then grasped with her back to the bars.

Tweddle's revolution on the uneven bars continues at the 2022 world championships.
Tweddle's revolution on the uneven bars continues at the 2022 world championships.

Having mastered the maneuver, she decided to include it into her routine by immediately including the Ezhova. After catching the upper bar, Tweddle executed a half-turn in the air to catch the bottom bar face-on.

She says, “Lots of trial and error, lots of pleasure.” “Just playing in the [foam] pits to gauge the judges’ reaction. Was it going to be a routine that scored? We quickly realized it was the case.”

Despite winning a second world title on the bars in 2010 and an Olympic bronze in 2012, Tweddle’s technique was first tried by few. Gymnastics, however, is a sport of trends, and when more gymnasts began to succeed with her signature combination, others followed suit.

In 2017, Georgia-Mae Fenton of the United Kingdom and Nina Derwael of Belgium completed a variation of the Tweddle, which they termed the Derwael-Fenton. In the same year, Fenton’s colleague Becky Downie began experimenting with the Tweddle-Ezhova.

Downie remarked in 2019: “I never, ever believed I could achieve it.” “My initial thinking was, ‘Can I do it?’ I was pondering, “Hmm. Are you willing to have poor shoulders?'”

Tweddles uneven
Tweddle's revolution on the uneven bars continues at the 2022 world championships.

That year, Downie’s revised bar routine earned him a silver medal in the world championships. Derwael is now an Olympic champion and a world champion twice over.

Derwael executed the feat in the layout [straight body] position, the most difficult uneven bars technique, last year. The FIG decided to lower the Tweddle this year due to its increasing popularity.

Perhaps Tweddle’s approach to the uneven bars has had an even larger impact on the sport. At a period when many other routines were lengthy, taxing, and wasteful, she was among the first to develop a streamlined bar routine with intricate connections. In 2012, her routine lasted 28 seconds, 15 seconds less than in the 2008 championship.

“The theory was that the longer one is on the bar, the more deductions are available,” she explains.

“Additionally, the fewer connections you make, the more upstart handstands you must perform, and the more exhausted you become.”

Aliya Mustafina, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, participated in the final of the uneven bars event at the 2012 Olympic Games. Both athletes knew that a rapid but challenging transition from the low to the high bar was necessary for an effective routine, therefore they use the Shaposhnikova [also known as Shaposh] half.

A gymnast does the Shaposh-half by catapulting from the low bar to the high bar and executing a half-turn in mid-air to face the high bar as they catch it.

While Tweddle was one of the first to connect the before and after of the technique in 2011, Mustafina had mastered the Shaposh-half by the time she emerged as a remarkable youngster in 2010. Madison Kocian, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist on the bars, states, “Now, practically everyone performs that skill, while in the past, it was extremely valuable since no one else did it.”

Complex connections, Shaposh transitions, and a multitude of release skills are now the currency of the majority of contemporary uneven bar routines that are successful. Derwael qualified for Saturday’s final of the uneven bars at the world championships in Liverpool with a routine that begins with six consecutively connected abilities, while Rebeca Andrade strings together five.

Connections are highly rewarding, but also incredibly difficult. With each feat, gymnasts must determine if they are in a position to continue flowing. “It’s the mental capacity of bars that makes them so difficult,” explains Downie. “The skills are so technical that there is no time to process between each one.”

“You have a split-second to decide where you’re grabbing the bar, how near you are to the bar, and if you can link to the following skill,” concurs Kocian. Tweddle says:

“Most of the time, I knew the swing out from the Ezhova before my hands had even reached the bar, which allowed me to decide in mid-air.”

The International Gymnastics Federation and its ever-changing system of points can swiftly make trends obsolete, even though massive releases and big connections currently reign supreme.

Referring to Sunisa Lee’s impressive performance, Kocian says, “When people who know nothing about gymnastics see that, they’re like, ‘Wow, this is out of this world.’ It is comparable to men’s high bar in terms of the number of releases they produce.

If we can maintain the releases for women’s uneven bars, the event will look even cooler.

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