Stretching Out: A Letter From ... Difficulty
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Greetings to all my fans, friends and followers! Please accept my apologies for not returning your calls, messages and tweets. I have never been so busy in all my life! The open-ended Code of Points has completely changed the business model for gymnastics. I used to be bundled with Artistry, Originality and Virtuosity. And a long time ago, Compulsories purchased all the stuff that never sold very well.

All that has changed, though. The demand for me alone has gone through the roof! For the first time, I’m getting orders from places like the Dominican Republic and Egypt, for crying out loud! And they're buying the rarest of elements, the ones I keep locked inside glass cases! I had produced only a few of those super tricks, but now they’re all gone. My inventory of mind-boggling F’s, G’s and H’s is completely and utterly depleted, while my shelves are overflowing with some beautiful—and apparently useless—basics. Even at half-price, my gorgeous deep Stalders and split leaps just sit there, collecting dust. Everybody wants the updated versions with all the extra frills, instead. Since when did gymnastics skills become like smartphones?

So that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while. I have been working days, nights and weekends, dreaming up a whole new line of unbelievable super skills. It hasn’t been easy, because I’m venturing into new territory with these crazy combos. Writing the instruction manuals takes forever, so I wish people would stop throwing them away. This new stuff is really hard. Don’t try step 4 before you’ve mastered steps 1-3! I am tired of being blamed for all the injuries. Hey, I didn’t make the rules, people!

My mix-and-match tumbling elements are doing really well, however. Buy one set and you’ve got the ingredients for three or four passes! These new men's floor routines alone are making me rich! I thought I had reached my limit until someone placed an order for a 4.5 twist on floor. It came from some Japanese dude who is dismounting with a quad! I didn’t think that was even possible. To cover my bases, I have just added the 4.5 and a quintuple twist to my next catalog, which is at the printer now.

Life sure is funny sometimes. I just got an emotional email from my longtime colleague Artistry. We worked together for years, but I never really knew how she felt about me. She called me a bully! Can you believe it? I guess people will say anything in an email.

Truth is, I always felt suffocated by her. She never let me do anything the least bit daring. Everything had to perfect. Nothing out of place. Geez, loosen up, will ya? Live a little!

In the end, I believe her OCD got the better of her. Under the current rules, she and I just could rarely coexist in the same routine. It was a like a tug-of-war, her penchant for perfection against my need to spread my wild wings. Something had to give.

Anyway, I’ve learned that the key to any successful business is to know your market, and I listened to my customers. They screamed loud and clear: “We want bigger tricks and longer routines!” Nobody seemed the least bit interested in downsizing and working on their E-scores. Why would they? They’re not open-ended. Duh!

Artistry thinks she should be a reward, a separate bonus category. Frankly, I think she is just bitter. She’s been out of steady work for some time now, and pines for days long gone.

Word on the street is that Artistry is trying to brainwash the juniors now: the talented American Laurie Hernandez, Enus Mariani of Italy, a few others. Eventually, they will all see the light. They can get by on the junior circuit with the gorgeous dance, but it won’t get them far after Sweet 16. That’s when they’ll be desperate to score a 16.00, and a higher E-score won’t be the answer.

I never got along with Artistry’s cousin, Compulsories. In her eyes, I was invisible anyway. Never gave me the time of day. Can’t say I was sorry to see her go in 1997. She was just plain weird. Some purists want to bring her back, but where would that leave me?

I do miss my old buddies Originality and Virtuosity, though. Someone told me they were in a retirement home, suffering from neglect. I enjoyed having them around when I was younger. We had some really great times together. I’m sure it didn’t help when they got edited out of the judging criteria. The rules makers were determined to remove any human aspect from judging, which remains a debatable decision. (I’m keeping my big trap shut about that, as long as my inbox is filled with new orders every morning!)

Risk—Originality and Virtuosity’s third Musketeer—sort of faded into the background. Everyone has Risk now. Instead of the exception, it is now the rule. And I’m getting the blame for that, too!

Apparently, I’ve gotten so extreme—I prefer to call it “advanced”—that nobody can relate to me anymore. They say I’ve changed.

I’ll have to admit, it is kind of lonely at the top. Through no intentions of my own, I have risen to a lofty, isolated perch, yet I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom. Difficulty … the rich new king of Artistic Gymnastics! How ironic is that?

I need to update my Facebook status, send out a tweet. Whether they want to or not, my friends and followers need to know how I’m really feeling.

So here it is: I’m really, really sorry! I never meant for things to end up this way. I am embarrassed by my greedy excess. I just want to be part of the team again. Can somebody—anybody—please help me?

A version of this article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of International Gymnast Magazine. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.