Monday, 14 July 2014

Tan Sixin has retired

This has been looming for quite a while and is now public news. She of the glorious oversplit leaps and particularly amazing beam, but also epic meltdowns such as 2011 TF floor, has retired. I'd hoped when she re-emerged last year with some very nice work that she'd make a full comeback, and we may see her yet at small competitions and maybe Asian Games if they need her, but she will not be in the running for major international competitions.

I know this would be better with a source, but Chinese news is secret and when made public as in this case, it doesn't come with official sources. Unfortunately, many girls fade away quietly, the prime example being Zeng Siqi earlier this year.

Wishing her a happy and healthy future.
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Saturday, 28 June 2014

The US worlds team

Summer is well advanced, not that you'd know it from Ireland's propensity for continuous rain, but how and ever.....this means worlds are only a few months away. And as always, it is the potential US team that is far and away the most interesting to speculate about. It is a shame that nearly everyone else, including the rest of the top 4, will be struggling to get 6 healthy bodies onto the plane to Nanning, as they have so little room to manouevre with the lack of depth.

As with all teams though, the core is pretty much in place barring injuries, and no doubt they will take out yet more 'sure things' in the months to come.

Simone Biles will continue to be the standout. Top all-arounder, highest-scoring contributor on vault and floor, more than likely to be used on all 4 in team finals. The favourite to repeat her feat and take AA gold again, and she could well take floor and vault gold too. If she got into all 4 event finals again, I wouldn't be surprised. But, she has of course been dealing with quite a bit since Antwerp, what with the somewhat dramatic leaving of her previous gym, although with her excellent coach thankfully, and a shoulder injury which sidelined her out of all early season competition.

Simone started the year with a bang, displaying many upgrades in a camp video including a rather nice BHS-LOSO-LOSO, beautiful Cheng and front 2.5-front full and a workable shap half on bars. Then came the shoulder and my Chellsie Memmel-esque visions. Then back at Pac Rims displaying a much improved brand new floor routine with her old immense power and vigour back on display at podium training, then she was pulled out of the competition at the last minute. The fact that she's attending camp and has stated that she's totally fine goes a long way to allaying fears, as too does her physique which like Aly Raisman, would really help deflect injuries. But what effect has the long time off had, and how has it affected her training? I did suspect, and Marta herself confirmed, that bars is the event taking the hit, she's not fully back there yet and they need work. I'm really curious to see her at Classics but I'd expect that by worlds her bars will be at Antwerp level, with the shap half and maybe an upgraded dismount. I may be overly optimistic, but I think we will be seeing a strong, powerful Simone this season once again who will anchor this team.

Marta's recent report on Kyla Ross was extremely positive so it looks like we'll be seeing improvements on her earlier performances this year where she had downgraded and was very laboured looking. What I think we'll see is the difficulty she had in Antwerp, and the sharpness she had then too. Upgrades would of course be both welcome and awesome, but I think at this stage with her back injury earlier this year, massive height increase and desire for college that the strategy makes sense, though it didn't for the previous two years. She remains an important asset to the team with valuable input on bars and beam especially, and has a super solid DTY good for a 15.2/3 and a floor that always does well execution-wise (AHEM let's not forget she beat McKayla Maroney into the floor final last year!)

Essentially, there is no scenario other than her own health whereby she wouldn't be in Nanning. If she stays elite, she could be demoted to specialist in major competitions due to new seniors outscoring her, but that's not going to be an issue this year. However, the return of no less than Gabby Douglas who is set to do the all-around at Nationals and is at 80% in her return definitely jeopardises Kyla making the AA final at worlds if Simone is at full strength. Nothing better than a good scrap to qualify though.

Other than those two, nobody else is set in stone as such but we can have a good guess. Certainly Ebee would have been had she not retired from elite. She's a big loss and I'd love to have seen her finally get the chance to really shine on the world stage, but I completely admire her decision and look forward to seeing her in college. It's just a pity that Stanford do not allow spring enrollment for athletes, but then again given Ebee's severe past injuries and the dedication and training time required for elite, that's still a pretty big ask.

Gabby Douglas is on this team if she's ready. Bars, bars and beam, AA, whatever she has in the tank really. Like most people, I was very shocked that she made the decision to move back quite quickly but seeing that she never stopped being in incredible shape, it's not too surprising that she's reportedly well on the way and that worlds is feasible for her. She was gifted with the ultimate body type for gymnastics really. If she was at 80% at the last camp, then what can she deliver once competition season rolls around again? Hopefully more than bars, and she seems to be prepping for the AA at Nationals. I don't think she would say that if it wasn't likely. AND, just released this morning, a training video containing a quite lovely Tkachev-Pak and prep for a new Ling! I'm interested in her beam which will need some little adjustments for the code anyway, and her floor. Her last floor was, well....bad, so I'm impatient to see what they have come up with for her. However, having all 4 events is a big ask. Even 2 would be great, especially bars/beam.

The darkest of dark horses and the ultimate underdog, Mykayla Skinner, could quite easily end up on this team. I have said before myself that she won't be selected due to poor execution and the fact that there are others covering her strong events, but I freely admit now that she's in with a great shot. McKayla Maroney, despite being great at coming back from injuries in time previously, is unlikely to be ready. This, and Ebee's retirement, are majorly to Mykayla's advantage, as too is the uncertain status of Lexie Priessman. She has not just one supremely difficult vault, but two, which neither of the latter two had, and with McKayla out, Mykayla (keep up with the correct Michaela variations!) has a great opportunity to take silver in vault EF after Simone. Floor is harder to predict. She will more than likely present with difficulty greater than 6.5, but greatly to her cost if her landings get the best of her again and if the judges get their protractors out looking at her leaps. She will still score high enough, especially obviously if she does one like her Nationals Day 2 routine from last year. She'd complement Kyla very well. However, how much does Marta trust her? Mykayla has barely any international experience, with just 2 Jesolo's under her belt. She still needs to prove herself, and be too good to ignore.

To quite a few, the idea of her being on a team makes a mockery of gymnastics due to her poor basics and execution. I won't pretend that they are fabulous or act as if she shouldn't be hit hard for it, she totally should....although, it's nice to see her making improvements in that department and I'm glad she's working at it. It is of course always better to see power coupled with great form, but she's just so exciting and so fun to root for. I found myself really not caring about her BHS on beam and its deplorable form in the camp video a while back because LOOK at the way she totally nailed a killer tuck full in combination right after it! You go girl! That is the effect she has on me. I also think it's a little funny to act as if bad form and basics are a shocking new revelation to the gymnastics world, heralded in by the US. Bent knees, crap toepoint, bad leaps...these things have been around for decades, even occasionally lurking amongst the (GASP) Soviets. That doesn't excuse this particular example. Yes, she should have a much stronger foundation in the easier things and it's terrible that this wasn't achieved at an early age, especially given her vast, vast talent and aptitude for the sport. But please spare the dramatics as if everyone else is perfect by comparison.

In yet another twist to this tale of the potential US team, Lexie Priessman shockingly exited her long term gym, CGA, and departed to a nearby gym under a coach she has previously worked with. I highly doubt this was entirely amicable. Anyway, I'm pleased for her as I don't have a whole lot of time for CGA and MLT but given her string of injuries and desire for college, I'm curious about her short-term plans. Go big or go home before college with the chances of injury reduced in her new home? Or slowly wind down, again, staving off injury before college? She is certainly a good prospect for this team if she's ready, decent bars, good floor, potential amanar, but she'd have to fight for it. I'm a little anxious that it may be too little too late for her and elite, and she'll go down like Katelyn Ohashi. The too young junior superstar that bows out before making their mark in elite. I truly hope she gets her chance this year before undoubtedly shining at LSU. Curious to see her against the likes of Brenna Dowell.

Speaking of those two, they're quite similar. Decent-strong bars and floor, serviceable amanars though neither rock solid in that regard. I'm unsure about both. Brenna never really broke through last year, despite having the goods. Her demotion to alternate at the last minute last year in place of an all-arounder who is really not an all-arounder, is not an encouraging sign. If her floor has solid landings, her amanar is landed that bit better and her bars show off their phenomenal potential which she did to great aplomb at American Cup, then who knows? She is another who benefits from Ebee's retirement, as the latter's strong and solid performances on the same 3 events are now off the table.

Of course, this is the US, and there a number of other options.

WOGA girls Alyssa Baumann and Madison Kocian have their eye on a bars/beam spot, which Gabby Douglas may well have already 'stolen'. My issue with both girls is that they're not equal and need to be combined into one gymnast. Madison is excellent on bars, less so on beam. Alyssa is strong on beam, but her bars are more average. It's a problem. I don't know what happened to Nica Hults who should by rights be in the running for this too, she seems to have faded away quite considerably.

Peyton Ernst and Maggie Nichols will of course be looking to step up into the team also. I see them both as being fairly well rounded, but being in the position of not having the d-scores or outstanding qualities on a particular event to really shove themselves forward. Hard to tell where they're at just yet. Likewise, Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley. The former has a new amanar, lovely beam and promising floor and bars, along with arguably the best coach in the world. She also has virtually no experience at all, including no Nationals, and was a bit disappointing at Jesolo. Stellar performances at Classics and Nationals will really boost her but I really do not see her snatching an AA spot regardless. The latter, especially given her nice bars, could be a solid team player, IF she is healthy.

Similar to Nica, I don't see much happening for Polina Shchennikova and Maddie Desch. Maddie's teammates Sarah Finnegan and Sabrina Vega have completely gone to ground with no camp appearances, since they are apparently preparing for college, although no word on where, I figure that's where we'll see them next.

Another 5ish weeks to go until we can really get a grasp of this team, I'm so impatient!

Who is the core of your team? Is it too early for Gabby Douglas to really be ready? Can MLT keep her remaining senior elite in one piece?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Bits and pieces

I'm baaack!

Now I just have the one job so have some actual time to blog rather than work all the time. Unfortunately, Euros, Jesolo and Chinese Nationals passed by in a confused blur. Gymnastics-wise, I felt very proud of myself for actually managing to buy Glasgow 2015 tickets, although a day into priority ticketing and the really good lower stands were already gone grrr.

Here's a piece on Sae Miyakawa. She has been chosen to represent Japan at YOG, turning senior next year, and already impressed when she threw a gorgeous double front and floaty DLO last pass at Japan Junior International meet last year. She also has a very nifty DTY to her name. Skip to see the actual gymnastics: training a Biles at 1:48, fabulously floaty layout punchfront at 2:38, the double front at 2:59 and training a double double at 3:57, full-twisting DLO at 5:10 with some nice beam work and sort of nice (needs work) bars work throughout. Definitely one to keep an eye on both in Nanjing and in general and should hopefully shine in floor finals at the former despite stiff competition.

Lexie Priessman's gym change was confirmed today as Perfection gymnastics. MLT is definitely a strong coach in many respects but the breakage rate is far too high for me to be comfortable with so I'm happy with her move and hope Amelia Hundley and Emily Gaskins consider it too. At this stage, Lexie does not really slot into the worlds team and it's quite sad to see the toll injuries have taken on yet another star junior. It's frightening that we may not see her shine in senior elite, just like fellow superstar 2013 senior Katelyn Ohashi.

As mentioned above, I haven't really been able to form a cohesive opinion of meets which took place in the last while, so I'm extra impatient for YOG and US Classic! The latter is sooo late this year, I'm really excited to see how the Nanning team is shaping up. Particularly Simone Biles and Mykayla Skinner. I fully agree with Marta that the latter has improved bigtime and was quite impressed with her Jesolo routines. I'm not sure about that triple on floor though..she struggles fully rotating the 2.5 around as is in a full routine. Clearly not one to underestimate though. I completely realise that her basics are fundamentally lacking if not just plain bad and her leaps are eh, interesting to say the least, yet I cannot help but root for her. She's so very exciting and really has made tonnes of effort to better herself.

News out of Russia seems solely to consist of the latest surgery, injury, trip to Germany etc. which is very depressing. Can Aliya Mustafina stay in one piece and carry her team on her back, again? Is Afan done? What will Vika trip over next? Do China and Russia actually have six seniors plus alternates to send? Only time will tell...but it's a very exciting build-up to worlds :)

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


I recently got a full-time job in my field. Hurray! I also have to work a part-time job at the same time for the next few weeks. It's really detrimental to both blogging and following live streams and videos, hence total silence when exciting events like Chinese Nationals and Euros were/are taking place. I should be able to blog on Sunday maybe and on a more frequent basis in a while, even just to dissect Euros when I catch up. I haven't gone away and I'm looking forward to getting back into gymnastics :)

Written on my phone on one of my many, many daily bus journeys :p

Friday, 25 April 2014

What's the story with YOG?

YOG is the Youth Olympic Games. This August, 16-18th to be exact, they will take place in the city of Nanjing, China. Not to be confused with Nanning which is thousands of miles away and is where worlds will be held.

There is only one female gymnast per country allowed, who must have been born in 1999 i.e. turning senior next year. The US have declined this opportunity and will not be sending any WAG. This is disappointing but is probably no bad thing..Bailie Key has had a lot of experience with wiping the floor with her competitors, and this leaves podiums more open and exciting.

Gymnasts qualify at a number of events. These include: Jr Euros, Jr Pan American Games and Jr Asian Championships. Ultimately it is down to the federation who gets to go, but it seems to be the case that the gymnast must have competed at one of the qualifying meets.

Note: Skills can be named at this meet. Viktoria Komova had one of her bars transitions named here. This will be only the second ever YOG.

So, who's in the running?

Russia have a number of options:

Maria Bondareva
Anastasia Dmitrieva
Seda Tutkhalyan

Maria Bondareva would have been seen as the forerunner of this for quite some time, however over the last year she seems to have stagnated quite a bit. Anastasia isn't consistent enough to really impress at this point either. Seda is the best option but isn't too consistent just yet.

Romania have two that I know of:

Laura Jurca
Andreea Iridon

This one isn't near as open, the spot should be Laura's. Andreea has some beautiful work but doesn't seem to be an all-arounder, which is the focus of this competition.

China have two major contenders:

Wang Yan
Yuan Xiaoyang

This one will I think go to Wang Yan if she is healthy. I mention her a lot, she's quite the star on vault and beam in particular although Asian Junior Championships did not go her way recently..

Britain have three:

Ellie Downie
Tyesha Matthis
Amy Tinkler

Now this will be close, all three are powerhouses with quite a lot of difficulty. We will I believe see amanars from this bunch when senior.

Japan have two:

Aiko Sugihara
Sae Miyakawa

Both girls are strong on floor. Sae also has a nice DTY under her belt.

Brazil have two:

Rebeca Andrade
Flavia Saraiva

Rebeca has had her name on this for years. Super springy, with an amanar, DLO and improved bars. However, Flavia is extremely promising and will hopefully be given a fair chance in the running for the spot.

Netherlands also have two, though I don't know a huge amount about these girls. Update: Both are currently injured. Many of their seniors are too - Chantysha Netteb, Noel Van Klaveren, Eythora Thorsdottir. The new CGA??

Mara Titarsolej
Dana de Groot

Sadly, the star that is Kim Janas is injured and won't be ready to compete. She could have given the big 3 a run for their money.

Elizabet Vasileva of Bulgaria won't be in medal contention but she WILL turn heads on floor and beam if she goes. She used to be a rythmic gymnast and incorporates this to stunning effect on both events. Australian Darcy Norman is another to look out for also. Edit- Elizabet may be 2000 born and therefore not elegible. We will see her at Euros though.

Now is the time to have fun on youtube looking up the contenders. It should be a great battle, some enormous potential and talent with no real obvious winner from looking at the lists of those elegible.

To me, the AA is anyone's game. On vault, looking forward to seeing who can contest Rebeca Andrade, hopefully Wang Yan can. On floor I'd love to see Sae Miyakawa holding her own, she has a super neat double front and double layout last pass. If this lot go of course. Beam and bars are harder to puzzle out.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Ebee retires

Yesterday USAG announced the retirement from the National Team and elite of Elizabeth Price. Ebee will be heading to Stanford next season where she is sure to be a star. While I didn't think Ebee would hang on until Rio, it's still very surprising to see a gymnast leave when she has been on top of her game since coming back from injury and winning all around her. The vast majority of people including myself saw her on the Nanning team, no question. It makes an awful lot more sense when we consider that Stanford does not allow enrollment in January (this is how Mackenzie Caquatto for one went to worlds 2010 and competed a few months later for Florida). Considering the gravity of Ebee's hip injuries that sidelined her last year, it seems like a very wise decision to step away from the pressures and pounding of elite to preserve herself for the next four years. It's really lovely for want of a better word to see how she prizes her education. I've really enjoyed watching her gymnastics and wish her all the best in NCAA.

Ebee- source:

It will be very interesting to see what this does to the team. The way I see it is, Brenna Dowell's spot just looked a lot more certain. Both girls have similar strengths. Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross remain as locks. I know some are uncertain about McKayla even if she's healthy, but I don't share this sentiment. Her experience is a major asset to this team and she can be counted on to deliver an enormous TF VT score, medal in VT EF and have a strong floor for prelims and potentially TF. Brenna has an amanar, so that fills out that rotation. Beam and bars are troublesome, this is Madison Kocian's in if she's fairly consistent this summer and has some luck with her health for once. The sixth spot though, hmm. I'm unsure about it. Right now I think Peyton Ernst might be a good bet for it. She will need to outscore Simone on beam and bars this summer. If not, then hold the phone because Mykayla Skinner could get the nod for her high floor and vault scores.

Speaking of Mykayla Skinner, I was very impressed with her at Jesolo, winning both titles. A nice boost for her, and I'm also happy that her leaps look slightly better and her beam has been changed. It looks watchable!

I'm very impatient for US season to begin. And Euros and Chinese Nationals. I may end up binging on cheerleader worlds on Sunday instead..

Monday, 21 April 2014

What makes me a fan of a gymnast

Hi there! I should be able to resume more frequent posting shortly. Here's a few thoughts that have been bursting for a while.

As you might have noticed, I don't really cling to one particular team or other. I really enjoy aspects of each of the big 4, and other teams. My gymnastics obsession is based much more individually, which means I'm not in a frenzy during major team competitions :p

So, what makes me root for a particular gymnast? I have a mental checklist of sorts, more than one of which must be present.

Form Is it exceptional? That's a huge plus right off the bat and is exactly what attracts me to Soviet and other past gymnastic greats, and current gymnasts such as Eythora Thorsdottir, Noemi Makra, Noel Van Klaveren and to the sheer precision and technical brilliance of the majority of the Chinese girls. I may still really enjoy those who leave a lot to be desired IF they have other positive attributes. On the other side of the coin, it's not enough to just be clean if it's not standout amazing 'wow'.

Skill selection Oh they're bringing something retro back? Awesome. Throwing an old rare skill and doing it well, or inventing one is always going to make me sit up and take notice. Preferably done well. It doesn't have to be rare or new though, but if routines contain some really pretty skills, always a bonus too - for instance on beam I have a lot of love for Onodis, Kotchetkovas, Rulfovas, BHS/aerial-LOSO-LOSO series and straddle leaps. If a routine has good composition and isn't totally stock, the gymnast immediately has my attention.

Difficulty Gymnasts capable of throwing immense difficulty are super exciting to follow and always have been. Pushing the boundaries is a great thing for the sport, although it is a major pity that the code demands it as of course, the injury rate is shocking and many are just not built for it. But for those that are, it's so enjoyable to see what they can do. However, I am appalled by skill chucking. Failed Produnovas and any skill where the gymnast just doesn't have it down and is risking her knees/ankles or worse are absolutely horrifying to watch and I hate the fact that nothing is really being done to discourage this.

Artistry Can they capture the crowd during a floor routine? I don't suscribe to the idea that only elegant routines can be artistic or that artistry is dead. We see a lot of it, particularly from those with low difficulty..they have more time to really put a lot into the non-acro side of things. Gymnasts must SELL their routine, connect to the crowd, be in time with their music, and have interesting choreography. I don't want floppy hand waving that 'looks' elegant but the gymnast may as well be yawning with all of the spirit and thought behind the actions. And I'm not blinded by toepoint either, there are gymnasts who look the part but are out of sync with their music completely. I find artistry in unexpected places, sometimes you get power gymnasts lambasted for their leaps and build but they come out onto the floor and light up the arena. Fabulous to watch.

Dance skills We don't see enough gymnasts excelling at dance skills unfortunately, which means that those who do gain automatic brownie points before I even consider what else they have to offer. Textbook switch rings, oversplit on switch halves/fulls...what's seldom truly is wonderful. Not to mention the rise of turn combinations on floor and the number who can do triples and quads. So exciting.

Spark This ties in with artistry somewhat. Some gymnasts just have 'it'. I think it's personality combining with other factors, I may only have been introduced to their routines and I already love them. It can just be a huge joyful grin during a salute. A real connection to what they're feeling and BOOM I am sucked in. However, if their attitude doesn't come across well in some situations or even while competing..I'll find it tough to watch their routines.

Competitiveness If their work is lovely but needs to be watched from behind a couch due to a phenomenal headcase rate, I'm not really going to be able to sustain being a fan. Likewise if tears are oft to be seen. There's absolutely nothing wrong with reacting emotionally to the results of a huge competition, but when it happens more often than not..that's a different story and will put me off. If a gymnast walks out onto the floor and exudes confidence, even if a mistake happens, that's really attractive to this fan. If they nail routines like a machine and anchor your team around them, it's just wonderful to watch.

So, a little from column A...a little from column B. Some of my favourites like Simone Biles, Eythora Thorsdottir and Mai Murakami are fairly easy to 'diagnose' from my criteria. I'm sure most people have something similar to this at work when they become a fan of a gymnast, but it's not really something you hear much about, so I thought it would be interesting to discuss.

So, what makes YOU a fan? Other than patriotism that is. That's not allowed in this topic :)