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A Gym Nerd’s Guide to NCAA Beam

All The Gainers

When it comes to watching college beam, elite gymnastics fans typically have one of two reactions:

  1. Oooo! A gainer full? How nifty! No one does that in elite! I want to see more of that!
  2. A gainer pike off the end? Seriously? Is that even a skill? It should be, like, an A. Lame.

Regardless of your love or disdain for gainer dismounts, the question remains: Why are there so many gainers in NCAA gymnastics?

To help demystify NCAA beam, we have created an infographic for you. Like with the floor infographic, it does not list every skill in the Code, nor does it list every rule in NCAA. Furthermore, this visual is primarily focused on tumbling, as those are the skills that gymnastics fans discuss most frequently.

All that said, this infographic should introduce the newbies to the world of NCAA gymnastics, and while you’re scrolling, try to figure out why we see so many gainers in college gym.


Question: Why are there so many gainers in NCAA gymnastics?

To fulfill their special requirements, gymnasts can perform a C dismount. A gainer pike off the end and a gainer full off the side are perhaps two of the easier C dismounts, and as such, they are easier to stick consistently.

Keep in mind that, in NCAA, minimizing deductions is the name of the game. If you see a gymnast take a step after a gainer full or a gainer pike, you can bet that her coach is not a happy camper.

Question: Why do we get to see so many combination dismounts in NCAA? Why don’t they all do roundoff double tucks or roundoff 2.5s like they do in elite?

Short answer: Connection bonus.

Long answer…

Exhibit A: Lindsay Mable of Minnesota

If you’re going to do a B dismount (like a full), it must be connected to a C element (or better). Otherwise, the gymnast will receive a 0.2 deduction. For instance, a roundoff to a full would not fulfill the aforementioned requirement because a roundoff is only a B. In order to avoid the 0.2 deduction, Lindsay Mable and many other gymnasts do an aerial (a D) before their full twists.

P.S. Like a gainer dismount, a “B” dismount should be stuck every time. No exceptions.

Exhibit B: Madison Mooring

To fulfill her dismount requirement, Madison Mooring does not need to perform two back handsprings before her dismount. Since she is performing a back 1.5 (a C), she, unlike Lindsay Mable, does not need to worry about connecting the skill to another C element. She could simply do a roundoff (a B) to a 1.5 and call it a day. She could simply do a cartwheel to a 1.5 and call it a day.

However, by adding two back handsprings before her dismount, she receives 0.1 in bonus for performing a B + B + C combination. Plus, the combination makes her look like a legendary badass.

Question: How much connection bonus do the following gymnasts receive for their acro series?

Exhibit A: Taylor Spears

+0.2 Onodi (E) + Korbut (B)

Exhibit B: Erica Brewer

+0.3 Total

Exhibit C: Danusia Francis

The combination is original, but in terms of connection bonus…

Danusia Francis - No Bonus

The Colussi-Pelaez aerial cartwheel is an E, and the full is a B. By connecting the two elements, Danusia fulfills her dismount requirement. However, the only way to receive dismount connection bonus is through an acro series with 3 or more skills. Danusia does only two skills. It doesn’t matter if one of the skills is flippin’ cool. She doesn’t get connection bonus. Period.


So, there you have it. An introduction to NCAA beam. Like we said at the top, we can’t cover everything, but we hope that it explained a thing or two for the new-ish fans. Next week, we will look at NCAA bars!

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Laurie Gallus
10 years ago

Has a gainer ever been done landing back on the balance beam?

10 years ago
Reply to  Laurie Gallus

Svetlana Khorkina used to do a ton of them (this routine has a gainer dismount, but also a gainer-full-twisting-BHS and what I think is a gainer-LOSO?)

10 years ago

But the most enjoyable part, IMO opinion, of watching these NCAA athletes over FIG? No safety pinned numbers, bubbling like a blister, thwarting my view of their lines / leotard!

10 years ago
Reply to  Lizzy

No, but you do get to see numbers stuck to nude mesh, which is just horrendous.

10 years ago

Yea, I never understood why they do a Gainer. They may as well just jump off the end of the beam. That’s like ending your floor routine with a friggin cartwheel. But then again, it’s not like the COP encourages a more difficult dismount than an A- skill.

Nick Mann
Nick Mann
10 years ago

Two things…
I wouldn’t downgrade either of those skills in NCAA just to try to encourage them…it probably wouldn’t make a difference though.

Was that Erica Brewer’s real choreography?!? She LITERALLY walked from one end of the beam to the other!!!

10 years ago
Reply to  Nick Mann

They aren’t downgraded so much as an E value is just the highest value that can be given.

10 years ago
Reply to  Nick Mann

The clip of Brewer says it’s from an intrasquad meet, I think she just walked to the opposite end of the beam to do her dismount because they didn’t have space to set up enough mats on the left side where she would normally dismount.

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