Here’s a surprisingly little-known fact about the International Gymnastics Federation’s World Cup series: There are big cash prizes for doing well.
Just not as big as the athletes were led to believe.
This is especially true of what the FIG calls its Category A (II) Cups, which is a fancy way of saying World Cup events with all-around competitions. There are four such meets every year: The American Cup in March, the Glasgow World Cup in April, the Stuttgart World Cup in November and the Tokyo World Cup, which also happens in November.
How all-arounders do at these particular World Cups is tracked (though nobody pays much attention) and results are converted into points, which is how World Cup rankings are determined. The points system is easy to understand: all-around champions at each of these World Cup meets get 50 points, second place is awarded 45 points, third place 40 points, fourth 35 and so on and so forth.
The top three point totals a gymnast earns at whichever of the World Cups he or she chooses to attend are added up, and the gymnast with the most points is ranked no. 1 in the World Cup standings.
Here’s the point: Based on the FIG’s word, the top male and female athletes based on World Cup rankings at the end of the year expected to earn 50,000 Swiss Francs in “jackpot” prize money. That’s roughly $55,000 U.S. dollars, 40,000 euros or 4.2 million Japanese yen.
Except now they won’t, because the FIG announced yesterday that it wouldn’t be giving the jackpot prize money this year. This was confirmed by FIG Executive committee member Wolfgang Willam, who announced at the Stuttgart World Cup press conference that the FIG and the organizers of the four World Cup all-around meets have not agreed how to fund the 100,000 Swiss Franc jackpot.
That seems unfair to the gymnasts, many of whom are earning a living training and competing. The World Cup all-around purse was a good way to reward the best in the world (who are the only ones invited to compete in the World Cup all-around events anyway), especially those from countries without wealthy federations to support them.
Currently, Ukraine’s Mykola Kuksenkov is ranked first in the World Cup all-around standings, with Philipp Boy and Jonathan Horton tied for second, Britain’s Daniel Purvis fourth and France’s Cyril Tommasone fifth.
Fan favorite Jessica Lopez of Venezuela is currently first in the women’s standings, though that will be recalibrated now that the women’s all-around at the Stuttgart World Cup has taken place (by my math, Huang Qiushuang will now move ahead of Lopez). Romania’s Amelia Racea and newly pro World champion Jordyn Wieber are currently tied for second place.
Boy, who was at the press conference when it was announced that there would be no cash prize, was noticably irritated.
“If this is so, then if the whole idea of the World Cup series did not work out,” he said.
He’s right. The big money lure were part of a World Cup redesign the FIG launched in 2010 due to flagging enthusiasm for the series.
It’s worth noting that this will not exactly leave World Cup winners penniless — the all-around winners at the Stuttgart World Cup still exit the Porsche Arena 15,000 Swiss Francs ($16,600, 12,000 euros, 1.2 million yen) richer than when they came in. A total of 100,000 Swiss Francs in prize money is given away at each of the World Cup series events, according to FIG documents.
The FIG has also pledged to make organizers of the four World Cups next year contribute an extra 25,000 Swiss Francs to make sure the jackpot purse is funded for 2012.
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