What's The Difference: The Tkatchev Family

You know those skills where the gymnast swings around the high bar, lets go of it, flies impossibly high in the air with her legs perfectly positioned and her toes perfectly pointed and then catches it on the other side? Those are the Tkatchev skills, a family of skills done on the uneven bars with a seemingly exponential number of names and nuances. Here’s the gym-nerd’s guide to knowing your Tkatchev from your Ray, Galante, Ricna and all of the rest of them, because knowing those tiny, tricky differences makes watching gymnastics even more of a delight. 

The Root Skill: The Tkatchev

Difficulty: D


The first Tkatchev was actually performed by a man, the Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Tkatchev, in 1977 at the Riga Cup. It begins with a backwards giant; the gymnast swings around the high bar, lets go, travels over the high bar in the straddle position and catches it on the other side. Elena Davydova, also of the Soviet Union, was the first woman to do it—she debuted it at the 1980 Olympic Games—but the name “Tkatchev” had already stuck.

What differentiates the Tkatchev from the other Tkatchev-adjacent skills are the entry (a giant, toe-on, stalder or inbar) and the flight (straddle, pike or layout). Here are the rest of the skills in the family. 


Difficulty: D


The Ray is named after the American gymnast Elise Ray, who got it named for her at the 1999 World Championships. Instead of a giant, the Ray begins with a toe-on—the gymnast pikes her legs and touches her toes to the bar as she circles around it—but, like a Tkatchev, the flight is done in a straddle. Elise Ray was a particularly creative bar worker, and this was actually the second skill to be named after her; the first was a stalder shoot from the low bar to the high bar, and the third was a layout double double dismount.


Difficulty: E


The Hindorff, named for gymnast Silvia Hindorff of East Germany, was debuted at the 1978 World Championships; it was actually the first of the Tkatchev variations to be introduced to women’s gymnastics. It begins with a clear hip—where the gymnast circles around the bar with her hips at bar height—and, like the Tkatchev and Ray, has a straddled flight. 


Difficulty: E


The Ricna was first performed by gymnast Hanna Ricna of Czechoslovakia at the 1983 World Championships. It has a stalder entry, where the gymnast circles around the bar in a straddle position, and has a straddled flight, too. Some gymnasts maintain the straddle throughout, and some touch their toes together between the entry and flight—but both are still considered Ricnas. 


Difficulty: E


Starting in 2009 code of points, release skills got an extra boost in value when connected with other elements in a bar routine, and we started seeing a lot more creativity in the Tkatchev space. Enter Italy’s Paola Galante, who got her skill named after her at the 2009 World Championships. The Galante has an inbar entry, where the gymnast pikes her legs deep enough that her feet go below the bar as she travels around it—and, like the Tkatchev, Ray and Hindorff, has a straddled flight.

Piked Tkatchev

Difficulty: E


The Piked Tkatchev, which doesn’t have its own special name, is exactly what it sounds like: it begins with a giant, just like a normal Tkatchev, but has the gymnast travel over the bar in a piked position, instead of a straddle. That pike shape bumps up the skill difficulty level from a D to an E.


Difficulty: E


The Church is named for gymnast Shavahn Church of Great Britain, who debuted it at the 2005 World Championships. Like the Ray, the Church begins with a toe-on, but has the flight performed in the piked position. 


Difficulty: F


Chinese gymnast Shang Chunsong is the woman behind the Shang, which was unveiled at the 2013 World Championships. It begins with a clear hip, just like the Hindorff, but has a piked flight instead of a straddle. 


Difficulty: F


The 2010 World Championships brought us the Downie, a skill named for gymnast Rebecca Downie of Great Britain. It has the same entry as the Ricna—the stalder—but, like the Church and the Shang, has a piked flight. 


Difficulty: G


Not to be one-upped, Russian gymnast Tatiana Nabieva also introduced her Nabieva at the 2010 World Championships. It’s a whopper of a G-level skill, with a toe-on entry and the flight done in a layout position—currently the only Tkatchev skill done in a layout, and once considered too risky to attempt.

Brette Warshaw is a freelance writer and consultant based in New York City. You can follow her at @bstarwarshaw.

Cali Grand Invitational: Who Will Challenge Oklahoma At Season-Opener?

In recent history, Oklahoma has been the powerhouse team of the NCAA, winning four of the past six team titles. Most notably, the Sooners win this past year showed the NCAA that they are THE team to beat in 2020. 

Everything You Need To Know: 2020 California Grand & Collegiate Challenge

The California Grand Invitational and Collegiate Challenge is coming up, and this huge club and college competition is a great way to kick off the 2020 NCAA season and showcase many talented level 10 competitors. This meet will take place in Anaheim, California, at the Anaheim Convention Center. The venue is recently renovated and is sure to be a gorgeous spot to host this huge event. 

Rookie Coaches Bring Fresh Ideas To NCAA Gymnastics

Last week, we brought you reflections from some of the most veteran coaches in NCAA gymnastics. 

Maggie Nichols Leads Oklahoma Gymnastics Into 2020 Season

The 2020 NCAA season is less than a month away, and eight teams, including the reigning national champion Oklahoma Sooners, will begin their season at the California Grand Invitational & Collegiate Challenge.

5 Reasons To Watch The 2020 Cali Grand Invitational & Collegiate Challenge

The NCAA gymnastics season is coming up, and we could not be more excited! First up is the Cali Grand Invitational and Collegiate Challenge, featuring eight NCAA teams alongside level 10 club gymnasts. The competition will be held Jan. 3-5, with the NCAA teams competing Jan. 4.

Everything You Need To Know About Robot Judges Used At Worlds

With all the history made at World Championships 2019, it was easy to miss perhaps the biggest news of all: this was the first competition that included the use of artificial intelligence and 3D sensors, “robot judges” if you will, as an additional judging tool.

Veteran NCAA Gymnastics Coaches Reflect On Past, Present & Future

The 2020 NCAA gym season is stacked with talent, and not just from the athletes.

Philippine Gymnasts Prep For SEA Games Pressure

When Carlos Yulo made history for the Philippines by winning bronze on floor at the 2018 World Championships in Doha—his country's first world medal in gymnastics—he raised the bar. When he made history for the Philippines by winning gold on floor at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart―his country's first world title in gymnastics―he raised the bar even higher. 

2020 Collegiate Challenge Ticket Giveaway

FloGymnastics will be be kicking off the 2020 NCAA gymnastics season at the Collegiate Challenge on Jan. 4 and we're giving away tickets to watch the event in person! We will also be providing exclusive coverage of the competition including a live stream and video replays.

Who Are The Young Gymnasts Who Earned Bronze For Italy?

During last month’s 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, the U.S. won gold and Russia silver, but it was Italy, winners of the bronze medal, that captured hearts in Stuttgart and around the world.