The trick to staying on parallel bars: Honey and syrup

Practice areas for gymnastics are filled to the brim with all the necessary equipment: mats, boards and various apparatuses for all the different gymnastics events. Next to the parallel bars stand some items that do not quite fit in: bottles of honey and syrup.

In the parallel bars, an event that requires precision and firm grip, these ingredients are essential to make sure the competitors do not fall off the apparatus.

Each gymnast makes his personal mixture that feels the best for him. Many use a combination of honey and sugar water, while others go as far as to use ingredients like syrup and Coke.

Keeping a firm grip is important for an event in which swinging is the key concept.

The gymnast is required to loop his body above, beneath and through the parallel bars, combining many of the basic aspects of gymnastics in the process.

“I like the parallel bars because they have always made sense to me,” freshman Jordan Valdez said. “It is easy to add another skill because it goes off the basics of the sport.”

When working above the bars, gymnasts must master moves like the hand stand. These moves are easier for taller gymnasts like Illini seniors Chad Wiest and Daniel Ribeiro.

“The above bar moves can be easier for the taller gymnasts with long legs and arms,” Illinois head coach Justin Spring said. “It’s a struggle for them though to swing through the bottom of the bars.”

In the middle of the bars a gymnast spends most of his time on peach work, which is used for support. During peach work, the body is held tight and hollow while the gymnast drops back his head and shoulders suddenly, throwing his body vertically and working the hips and wrist.

“Peach work is one of the critical and complicated skills on p-bars that a lot of gymnasts need to have in their routine,” sophomore Austin Phillips said.

The work below the parallel bars can prove to be some of the most difficult moves because the gymnast needs to swing between and under the bars.

In order to truly master the event, the gymnast needs to be successful at all three components: above, between and below the bars.

“It takes a lot of practice on one skill over and over again and then you have to bring it all together,” Valdez said.

Spring said Tyler Mizoguchi comes the closest to mastering the event. Mizoguchi took second in the parallel bars at the U.S. Winter Cup Challenge and is currently ranked second in the nation in the event with an average score of 15.150.

“He has amazing potential to be a national champion, NCAA-wise for sure, as well as USA national champion if he continues to upgrade the way that he is,” Spring said. “He has a great balance of everything on the event, all the different skills.”

What Spring said many people question in regards to the parallel bars is how the gymnasts catch the landings mid-routine. The athletes land on their upper arms, which doesn’t happen in any other event and can prove very painful.

These landings can often result in chaffed hands or underarms for the athletes.

Spring added that despite the various questions on the event, people would always be most confused by the honey bottles sitting to the side.

“It’s kind of fun the things you have to bring in to make the event work,” Spring said.