Sunday, 30 September 2012

A look back at the 2010 Worlds AA: "Live" Blog

This was a suggestion, to look back and comment on a past competition. I picked this one because I am very familiar with these gymnasts and because I am more familiar with the scoring, as opposed to the last quad. I also picked it because it saw the rise and domination by a true great.

2010 World Championships All-Around, Rotterdam

The greatest excitement in this all-around competition surrounds Aliya Mustafina of Russia, the highest qualifier who does not have a weak event. Rebecca Bross of USA also has high hopes surrounding her. Bringing up the rear are their respective tag teams, the highly entertaining one of the unbelievably bad amanar Tatiana Nabieva and the powerful one of the much lamented form, Aly Raisman. Also present are the beautifully elegant but with a shitty weak vault Ana Porgras of Romania and the ultimate headcase can-be-great Huang Qiushuang of China and the fan favourite Jiang Yuyuan.

The USA at this point are weak. Rebecca Bross has almost a clear field as the 2008 team have fizzled away and stars like Jordyn Wieber aren't able to compete at the senior level yet. (Except of course at SCAM, which does not folllow any noticeable rules). Aly Raisman is a worthy number 2 all-arounder, but has quite a few issues and areas to clean up. Russia are a mixture. Aliya Mustafina is the greatest prodigy they have produced this side of the millenium and Tatiana Nabieva is strong on some events, but they are also suffering from lack of depth halfway through the quad. Romania are going through an upheaval with the changing of the guard, and a hideous lack of depth. Ana Porgras is truly exceptional with gorgeous gymnastics but lacks power. A 1.5 Yurchenko has no place in a major all-around for a top competitor. China's super-young team of 2008 (ahem I do not believe they were underage) are a bit all over the place at this point, though some remain firmly in the game, puberty is taking its toll.

(Sadly, I cannot find BBC coverage of the AA. DAMN. NBC it is)

Rotation One

Raisman VAULT Having failed to perform an amanar safely earlier that year, Aly has reverted to a DTY. Nice colour pink/berry leotard, pity about the white swirls which add nothing. Elfi and Tim are pretty complimentary of her rock-steady status, nice to hear. A really efficient vault, bounces out of the landing but it's really well done. Slightly sloppy and her feet kinda ugly in the air, but still a very decent vault. 14.9 fair score

Bross VAULT I appreciate Bross as a gymnast, but I never enjoy her routines. She comes across as stiff and robotic with uninspiring choreography or expression. I hate to say it, but her sickled feet take away from her line terribly, even though I know she cannot do anything about it (there are LOADS who have no excuse!) it still is just not nice to see. Another DTY, loose leg form in the air and she lands quite low and takes a step back. She was still recovering from a shin injury though, so this was a really good effort considering. Same leo as Aly. 14.7

Nabieva BARS Here comes the delightful Nabs. Gymnastics is always in need of fiery or different personalities I think. Painful as her vault is to watch, her form on bars is a totally different story. Here comes her signature move! LOVE it, great height and straight into a Pak. Wobbles slightly in her handstands, Tkachev slightly flat but still fine. Plants her dismount firmly as if the mat had insulted her. BOOF! Replay shows loose enough leg form, damnit. Looking like a total badass in a glorious black leotard, looks like the same leo as Nastia and Shawn's 08 one. Fabulous in black. 15.133

Mustafina VAULT Mustafina eyes the vault with pure ice in her eyes. Great game face. The first amanar of the day and probably one of only 2. Twisting form is not spectacular, crossing and loose form is evident in her legs but it's not atrocious. Nice landing in the centre, just a small step. It's not until the replay that you see how dangerous it is, because she's twisting into the ground. Also highlights the leg form and leg seperation on her block. Urggh. Truly this is a day of ugly vaulting. Another who gets the job done though. She looks well in purple, but it's an overused swirly leotard which gets no love from me. 15.666

Porgras VAULT Ah here comes Ana to show us an elegant vault, pity it's worth feck all. Gloriously done, beautiful form. Nice landing too. White and black leo, something about it looks PVC. Inoffensive, not great. 13.966 Sigh

Huang VAULT Our favourite headcase sounds a return to fugly vaulting. It's not awful, a decent DTY with some leg form. Small hop forward. Replay shows her legs fairly bent at the knee, but not enough to be declared tucked or anything. Standard reddish leo, looks fine. Can't find the score on this, probably a 14.7 or something like that.

Jiang VAULT Beijing cutiepie of the super-expressive floor is back, looking a bit older. She had an amanar in 2008 but was pulled from team finals with it as she kept messing it up right before. Nevertheless, a good vaulter and here she shows a BEAUTIFUL DTY, textbook stuff and by the far the best one shown today. Jiang was one who was slightly all over the place after Beijing but this is a nice return to form. Replay shows bending of the hips and a tiny hop back on presentation, but still glorious. 14.833 Same standard leo.

- Rotation one standings: Mustafina leads by half a point. Not surprising!

Rotation Two

Bross BARS Truly one of the most aggressive bar workers ever. Great attack and handstands, nice height on her releases. I love her form on her stoop-throughs. Plants the dismount! Nice, but Mustafina's difficulty advantage on vault is fairly insurmountable. 14.933

Nabieva BEAM Excellent death stare! No casual stepping onto the beam from her, beautiful flic-flac mount instead. Brings her foot up on her barani but recovers fast. NICE barani though. And she's off on her round-off layout series, hitting her chest quite badly in the process which elicits a gasp from Elfi. Total shame. A bit rattled, probably in pain from that. Nice double tuck dismount, really sharp. Bahhh, fall deduction takes her right out of course. She is PISSED. NBC sees fit to replay the fall about 4 times, trying to see what she hit. Charming. 13.266

Mustafina BARS Yuss, a beautiful bars routine is on the way. Lovely crisp lines and fluidity. Lucky to catch her last release as it's really low but otherwise this is well done. Nice dismount, her own skill, just slight hop forward. Great routine. 15.350 Well deserved.

Porgras BARS Very reminiscent of Yang Yilin's lines, fantastic pencil-like form. Great height on her releases and flight between the bars. Plants a great double layout dismount. Fabulous. Could have done with higher difficulty, which is reflected in her 14.666 score.

Huang BARS Lovely pirouetting, nice and sharp. Big form break though, ughh. Really nice intricate high bar work. Great double layout with a planted landing. Ha she looks back at the bars like they pissed in her cornflakes, classic. 15.2 Hmm, seems a bit high considering.

Jiang BARS Not known as a great bars worker, but these are pretty nice. Very zippy in her movements, everything is done well and she has a nice pirouette combination. Lovely form and great full twisting double layout dismount. 15.533 WOW, nicely rewarded.

Raisman BARS Always her greatest weakness, and moreso here. Struggles but is doing okay until she messes up a turn towards the end and has to jump off. A great shame that her competition ends like this. Horrific flexed feet throughout. Nice dismount though. Lol at Al 'that could be a red flag for the Olympics'. Even with the power of hindsight that I have, that was a stupid statement to make, especially 2 years off London. 11.7

Rotation 2 standings. Mustafina has increased her lead to 6 tenths. Raisman and Nabieva are gone from the top, Jiang and Huang have replaced them. Lol at Al talking about Bross 'She's going to have to climb a big Russian mountain by the name of Mustafina'.


Mustafina BEAM Looking very determined here. Really nice double turn and a total stomp on her arabian. Leap series is totally badass. Extremely confident first half of routine, but some wobbles towards the end. Love her 'STOP' hand. Crossed feet in her triple twist dismount, but still a great routine. That leo looks worse as the competition goes on though.

Mitchell FLOOR First look at Australia's Lauren. Never going to be a favourite floor worker of mine, but she is a great tumbler. Woah seriously 80's elevator music. Really nice double arabian but was lucky to keep the uncontrolled stag leap in bounds. Full twisting double back is a little messy with a low landing, but sticks it. Awkward dance bit...fights to keep her cossack turn, but manages it. Really awful posey dance bit in the corner, she has great ability but her dance is eh not much to write home about. Beautiful combination twisting third pass. Another awful posey bit in another corner! NOOOO. Great double pike to end. What a tumbler, but the rest of the routine...I will end this by saying I really appreciate what she has done for Australian gymnastics AND only one pass had a leap out of it. Plainish black leo with red and blue swirly bits. Not bad at all, it's pretty decent actually.  14.6

Porgras BEAM Yay. Fabulous flexibility, great sheep jump. Pure elegance and form perfection. Really strong in her acro line. Gorgeous leaps. Really nice double pike, but takes an expensive step back. I like how Al says the Chinese now have to do something great to 'catch the Russian' because I'm now picturing them chasing Mustafina with nets. 15.433 Awesome

Huang BEAM This is a bit scrappy straight off the bat, leg up on first skill and misses a connection shortly after. Lacking confidence in her skills, but they are well done. And she's still on the beam, which considering her headcase label is great. Really nice double pike dismount. 14.7

Jiang BEAM She really is stunning. Really low landing on her pike front. Everything else is great, with planted landings but it's very skill-skill and doesn't flow very well. Nice Rulfova but it's all a bit stop and start, from the Deng Linlin school of beam routines really. Still it's a very good routine and she is precise in everything. Great dismount also. 15.066

Bross BEAM Needs a killer routine here to offset the Chinese. Mustafina is untouchable at this point. Runs onto the beam, nice attack. Can't get her balance after her arabian and ends up having to come off. Sad to see. Keeps her focus but it looks like she's going through the motions as she's clearly gutted. Loses her balance again but saves it. Heads into the Patterson and lands it well, slightly low but fine. Devastating fall though. That makes falls from both Americans, everyone else is largely clear of big errors. 14.1 Still in the game with a score like that actually, which is too high.

End of rotation standings (nice Ibiza vibe to the rotation music): Mustafina's lead still more than half a point. Jiang Yuyuan and Huang Qiushuang bringing up the podium. Bross in 5th, not too shabby after that fall.

Rotation 4

Porgras FLOOR Gorgeous spin straight off the top, though I think she dropped her heel early. Great planted first pass- full twisting double I think? It's so clean it's hard to tell. Another lovely pass, twist into layout. Wonderful elegance throughout this routine. Nice balletic-style dance with a good spin. Sprightly music suits her so well as it also screams class. Sky-high double tuck and a planted double pike, slightly low. She doesn't have huge power, but it looks decent enough to improve her vault, the weakness of which remains a mystery. Great routine and a great competition. 14.3

Huang FLOOR Lots of talking about climbing and mountains from Al. This is 'the second gymnast Bross has to climb over'. And she fulfils their wishes by landing out of bounds on her first pass. One of the most expressive gymnasts on floor though, really gets into the movement. Sad about the headcase bit, which always haunts her on floor. HUGE air on her full twisting double pike, plants that landing safely. Wonderful dance, working really well to her interesting tribal-mix music. Very nice double pike to end. Probably needed more difficulty to offset that OOB. Great dancer though. Replay shows her landing out of bounds, half a point off. Worse than previously thought. NBC are THRILLED. 13.7 bahhh

Jiang FLOOR Using her crowd pleaser 2008 music, excellent. Combination twisting first pass. Double tuck, well done. Seems a little lacklustre compared to her former sparkle on this routine, probably tired. Difficulty is a bit low too. Nice spin and double pike. A bit dissapointing, but well performed. 14.566

Bross FLOOR Needs a really high score to medal. Nice first pass, layout into double arabian to stag leap. Lovely combination second pass. Dance is a bit all over the place, she looks awkward. Another awesome third pass, should be enough..? Floor scores pretty harsh here though. 15.233 Now that is a bit of an overscore.

Mustafina FLOOR And the routine that will seal the deal. Love this music, so perfect for her. Gorgeous tucked arabian, really high. Bit of a meh stag leap out of it but haven't seen anyone do much better with it. Great twisting combination second pass, leg form not noticeable in real time or with the angle. Nice precise spins and lovely fluid movements. Third pass another combo one, sticks the landing and it looks great in the air. Triple full to end and out comes the crossing of the feet! Still, fabulous routine. 15.033

1. Aliya Mustafina
2. Jiang Yuyuan
3. Rebecca Bross

Okay wow that took a while. I absolutely love watching Aliya Mustafina at the top of her game, and hope to see her get back there again as she is clearly able to show more than she did in London. She literally picked up the competition and swept the floor with them. Amazing to watch. Rebecca Bross was quite hyped up for this but even without the fall she would not have been able to take gold. Maybe not the deepest of competitions, but a great one for the pure dominance of Musty. Some really bad replays here, lots with a gymnasts hands leaving the bar and catching it again, same with feet on a beam- err great? Some not so nice overscores and underscores too.

Friday, 28 September 2012

China videos and news

Videos of Chinese Nationals are up! See here. As I said before, there will be a slew of retirements next year of the old faces so look out for the new. Scoring is notoriously harsh, so ignore that. Love the exciting release combinations going on.

There will be another training camp for the US juniors in 2 weeks. It is expected that some will be added to the team at this one..though it was expected of the last one too. Most likely additions are Polina Schennikova, Nica Hults, Laurie Hernandez, Alexis Buecler (on a side note- she uses Ukraine Eurovision 2007's entry as her floor music, which is mental) Nia Dennis and one or two others- maybe Arianna Guerra. Verifications included new beam combinations from Nica Hults and also a 1.5 Yurchenko, from her previous FTY. This was reported as being an amanar initially! Texas Dreams and CGA look set to dominate the gym scene as having the best athletes. Sadly USAG seem determined to keep focusing on the tour instead of uploading photos and/or videos from camp. Okay I have mixed up Nia and Nica. Nica has a verified 1.5 Yurchenko which is an upgrade for her. Nia reportedly has an amanar.

In other USA news, Lizzy LeDuc has switched gyms and dropped to Level 10 for the time being. McKayla Maroney has filmed a guest appearance on a TV show called Dixie Hart. She has also had surgery on her broken toe which was successful, in her own words. Sounds like she will be all in one piece when her recovery is over. Kennedy Baker is now not competing in the Mexican Cup. No word on whether she is being pulled due to injury or actually any valid reason. This is very dissapointing as Kennedy is reasonably strong on all 4 events, particularly floor and would have been a worthy opponent for Demy.

It looks like Sarah Finnegan is injured or sick. Lots of 'not good :(' tweets and flowers and get well soon stuff going on. No word yet. Not a bad time for it to happen though if it had to happen at all. Looks like it can't be that bad though as she seems to be out and about, judging by her last photo.

Aliya Mustafina has dropped out of competing at the Stuttgart World Cup. This is not due to injury or coaching fuckery, moreso the need to preserve gymnasts in the off season and not overwork them. The injuries to McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman were cited in the same interview that confirmed Mustafina's pulling out..looks like it spooked the crew at Round Lake. Mustafina will still be competing at Voronin Cup in December. This is the same competition that witnessed her return last year. Other competitions this year are the Mexican Open and Massillia Cup. The line-up for the former has been confirmed (Baker, Dowell, Dementyeva) while the latter remains a mystery. It usually attracts star gymnasts from Romania in particular. While seeing a healthy Larisa Iordache and Diana Bulimar would be great, I'm probably most looking forward to their juniors- Silvia Zarzu is my favourite.

(...tumbleweed...not much news going on...)

Talia Chiarelli men's floor. Father Ted

Saw this on Bekah The Gym Fan's tumblr. Talia trains at Brestyan's (Aly and Alicia's gym) but competes for Canada. She was injured and was therefore out of the running for Canada's team. Here she is enacting a men's routine! It's actually perfectly done, brilliant.
I am pretty sure that Aly can be heard saying 'She forgot that other thing'..sounds a lot like her anyway.

If you have more time, I cannot recommend watching the below enough. This is an Irish comedy with Irish actors produced in the UK. It was highly successful in the 90's and only ended because the main character died. It is arguably MORE successful today. Many had their careers launched off the back of it. Father Ted quotes are brought into every situation, repeats are always on TV and anyone who says they think it's past it gets torn apart. Anyway, this is usually cited as the best episode..but there are many absolute classics. The humour tends to be a bit insular to Irish situations going on at the time like the divorce referendum in some episodes but this one is more accessible I think to all nations. Seriously, you won't regret spending the time watching it.

Yes I wanted a break from Russian drama!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Russia- Alexandrov fired UPDATE: Grishina

Alexander Alexandrov has been voted out of his head coaching position by fellow coaches. It has long been known that Paseka and Grishina's coaches had issues with him, but seeing as especially in the latter case Grishina did her own thing and wasn't really under his coaching, her failure to shine in London can't be laid at his feet. Extremely petty and political, when this will drive Russia right back. Alexandrov almost single-handedly got them from an all-time low in Beijing back up to team silver, all-around silver and bronze, bars gold, vault bronze, floor bronze- 6 medals. There are a lot of stars coming up through the ranks that would have benefited hugely from his vast vast experience and knowledge. Not to mention, if he leaves entirely- and why wouldn't he seek a head coaching position elsewhere- Mustafina is once again left without a personal coach, this time just as brutally and unexpected as before. Ridiculous. The Rodionenko's are the ones who needed to be booted out. Expect a slide down in results from now on.

UPDATE: Alexandrov will work with Mustafina until the end of the year. He does not know what will happen after that. Hopefully a huge dose of cop-on to the rest of the coaches.. Grishina has split from her coach, unsure whether it is a reaction to this or whether she was unhappy with how her seperate training programme failed to deliver.

The Rodionenko's, who are also credited with ousting Oleg Ostapenko and Leonid Arkaev are saying it was a conflict of interest, as Alexandrov is also a personal coach. The new head coach, Yevgeny Grebyonkin also has personal students- among them rising star Ekaterina Baturina. They will pretty much have to be dumped and have someone else coach them- even more upset. 

 Komova and Afanasyeva's personal coaches voted to save him. Making it sound like a reality show now, but it's good to know they know an amazing head coach when they see one. Alexandrov has coached in the USA before, he could well do so again...

Comments Semenova, Afanasyeva and Komova have made on a petition to reverse the decision are being translated. They are essentially telling people to butt out, that they don't know what was going on. They also appear to heavily criticise both Alexandrov and his 'favouring' of Mustafina. Afan mentions how many injuries there have been, and seems very vicious in her comments in general. Which would be a fair point- but how many occurred under his direct coaching? Mustafina's for instance occurred because of her own stubbornness and wish to show her best, even when it was not needed to secure a win. It appears that the girls think a nicer coach will be better, automatically. He might be just as good but this was not the way to go about it. I wonder if bars will suffer, because Grebyonkin was head bars coach. Obviously the girls know more than the general public and he could quite easily be harsh, I highly doubt he is a teddy bear Chow type of person. That still doesn't mean his way is terrible or worthy of this treatment. Komova did not get gold because she messed up her vault landing, and then whacked her feet off the bar and fell off beam in event finals. How is that anyone's fault except her own and the lack of sports psychotherapists (there are none)? Afanasyeva had issues with endurance, and made errors. Again, not the fault of the head coach. Grishina tanked completely, but was not ever under Alexandrov's control or even national training programme. Her failure is a damning indictment of her coaches insistence on going on their own way! Paseka exceeded expectations by getting vault bronze. Rodionenko's and the girls seem to be blaming Alexandrov for everything..

Excerpt from interview with Valentina Rodionenko: (rewritingrussiangymnastics.blogspot)

- In an interview with “Sovietski Sport”, Alexander Alexandrovich said that he had been blamed for working poorly. Do you personally think that he didn’t work well?  Can you say so if Mustafina is the most decorated Russian athlete at the London Olympics?
- Exactly. I have been blamed for having said unpleasant things about Aliya Mustafina. It’s true. I said good and bad things about her. But above all it was the truth. For instance, I said that her mood changes rapidly. Today Aliya wants to train, tomorrow she doesn’t want to. Aliya herself acknowledges she’s unpredictable. Not only for the coaches, but for herself. So let's be objective and targeted. Aliya, (and I am very happy about that), become bars Olympic champion and won four medals in a very difficult situation. But where were the rest? What’s the reason for the gymnasts’ injuries, why did Viktoria Komova, after having won the Americans in the qualifying competition, look paler and paler every day, as if she had disappeared? Who is to blame for the failure of her functional preparation?
- Аlеxandrov? What for?
- Because when Aliya was in a bad mood, he was the same. I mean that if Aliya didn’t train, the national team didn’t train. This explains the injuries and Komova’s insufficient preparation. 
- The gymnasts worked with their personal coach even if Alexandrov was not in the gym. What prevented them to continue training?
- They all need corrections, advice from the head coach. Otherwise, what does he do? If we think that personal coaches can solve everything, the head coach is not necessary, he is redundant. For those four years when Alexandrov combined his work as personal coach and as head coach, there were only problems, and all suffered from the situation. Marina Nazarova, Ksenia Afanasieva’s coach, said when her gymnast became World Champion on floor: 'At last I have been able to prove everything to him! He has been so harsh on this girl…'. 

Hmmmm. Alexandrov is not a sports psychotherapist, it is not up to him nor in his job description to make a warrior of Komova and banish her fragile mental state. Nor is her injury which ate into the time she had to get back her amanar and all of her difficulty objectively his fault either. What of Yelfimov, her actual coach? 'But above all it was the truth'. Yes, especially when she stated Mustafina was only capable of a bars medal and that was it.If the personal coaches are unable to coach their own gymnasts without Alexandrov being around as Rodionenko implies, then something is wrong with them, not him! Mustafina is going to get the most attention from Alexandrov, because he IS her coach too. The rest all have their own coach besides him. All in all, something IS wrong with the entire system.

Here is Mustafina training, part 2.
Let us all hope all of this does not negatively affect her.

Grishina has gone to Irina Razumovskaya. Irina and her husband Viktor have been in Japan for over a decade. They coached Elena Gurova and Shevchenko. It also looks like Roza Galieva (ie. number one victim of the system under Alexandrov) is against the decision and is attacking Afan for her comments. Very very interesting, may not BE the Galieva in question, but it looks like it really could be judging by the offence she is taking at Afan's comments.

26/09 Doesn't appear to be any more updates yet? Make it or Break It really would have killed for a storyline like this. It's my birthday and I'm hoping for good news!

It is on Aliya's official Facebook that her dad has confirmed Alexandrov will remain as her personal coach. He says it is even better for her, as Alexandrov can devote his full attention to her training. This confirmation seems a bit sudden as it was only the other day that the man himself said he didn't know what he was doing in the new year. This is fantastic news if true of course. However, it would surely be extremely awkward working in that environment- quite a hostile one too with the Rodionenko's at the helm! The ever-gracious Valentina has also said she does not know why there is a fuss over dismissing him. Why would there be really, he only dragged Russian gymnastics back from the brink and has a stellar record of coaching champions AND champions after injury in both WAG and MAG which no-one else has ever managed before.

I think this will die down now while everyone waits for tangible evidence of how Grebenkin (apparently Grebenkin is more correct than Grebyonkin) gets on. That is, barring any developmenets like Alexandrov actually leaving in 2013 or sudden retirements from gymnasts...

Edit: Poor translation initially on Galieva's comments, which I think were run through Google Translate. It appears that Galieva directed her ire at Afan's comments alright..but those comments were insinuating that Boginskaya's coach committed suicide because of her. Rightly, Galieva attacked. Afan has apologised. WOW. That was unexpected. Kind of dissapointed Afan would go that far. I was wondering why Boginskaya's name was showing up as nothing else made much sense.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Chinese National Individual Championships

As mentioned, Zeng Siqi won the AA. Huang Huidan came second with a mistake and Shang Chungsong came third with a few mistakes.

Event finals have also taken place. Huang Huidan won bars with Tan Jiaxin in second and Wu Liufang in third. Li Yiting won vault- by a mile, her vaults are 6.0/6.3. Second place Xiang Tong's vaults are 5.2/5.3! Third place Yang Pei also had 6.0/6/.3 vaults but fell on both judging by the scores. Zeng Siqi added the beam title to her AA win, helped by a fall from Tan Sixin. Lou Nina came second and Li Shanshan (not the 2008 Olympian) came third. Shang Chungsong won floor, with Zhang Qing in second and Cui Jie in third. No 2012 Olympians performed.

Overall, a great competition for Zeng Siqi who with a DTY and some upgrades on floor (she did introduce one in this competition) would be able to rival Yao Jinnan nicely. Huang Huidan also had a strong competition and Shang Chungsong too. Very dissapointing for Tan Sixin who had a point to prove after being left off the 2012 team for inconsistency. Also for Wu Liufang who would have wanted a better outing than this, and counted a fall on day 1 from beam. All of these girls- and the 2012 Olympians- will be performing next year in the National Games, barring injury. They carry huge prestige and will be the final competition for many. It is expected that He Kexin, Sui Lu, Deng Linlin, Jiang Yuyuan and Huang Qiushuang will retire afterwards. That leaves room for new faces- and Li Yiting, Zeng Siqi, Huang Huidan and Shang Chungsong in particular should be at the forefront as well as upcoming juniors like Lou Nina. Li Yiting is an event specialist- but the most important kind, and a potential vault medallist.

I will add videos here as and when they become available. So far there is one which includes Li Yiting's DTT, starting at 0:56. Also in this video is part of Huang Huidan's bars.

And here is Wu Liufang's beam from day 1- AA, with a fall.

Part 2 of the first video, featuring an amazing tucked Barani on beam from Xiao Kangjun. Towards the end are Zeng Siqi on beam and one of Shang Chungsong's passes, she was lucky to land that punchfront. There are videos of Zeng on that channel but they are from Nationals in May, at which she was still recovering from injury so wasn't at her best.

Also some interesting insights from Lu Shanzen, Chinese head coach about the 1994-1996 team, brought on by a biography by Liu Xuan

- Not only could Mo Huilan, Bi Wenjing and Meng Fei perform the Mo Salto- so could Kui Yuanyuan, Jin Yu and Wen Jing
- Zhou Duan of the insane Gaylord II who medalled on vault at the 1997 Worlds was supposed to perform the move there too to have it named after her. Unfortunately her technique completely messed up right before Worlds so they had to hold back on it. I always wondered why she didn't do bars then!
- Guan Yujing did the counter-Kim and Liang Qiong the Gaylord in a piked position.

I really love these bars releases, amazing the talent China had at this time. Apparently the new code allows for an intermediate swing with some releases, which may mean we might see some of the above again some day!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

News- UPDATED Mustafina training video

Aliya Mustafina training beam and some vault timers from Mallorca. Anna Dementyeva can be seen on the other beam. Lovely work from Aliya, she looks very comfortable on all of her skills. Seemed to be the harder acro skills and leaps giving her trouble in London, but she has plenty of time now to get back up to her old level on beam. BEAUTIFUL spins from her and Demy. Her timer is refreshing as without twisting she has great form. Looks like there will be a part 2.

Lexie Priessman and Amelia Hundley are both injured, Lexie training at her gym and Amelia from doing split leaps at camp. Neither sound like very serious injuries, moreso sprains.

Zeng Siqi has won the all-around at Chinese Individual Games. Huang Huidan was second with an error and Shang Shungsong was third, with a few mistakes. Tan Sixin only did bars and beam and Wu Liufang had a pretty bad day, including a fall off beam. Scoring is notoriously harsh at internal competitions- nobody broke a 15 that I can find, however I haven't seen the results of those who did not do AA- ie. Li Yiting on vault probably scored over 15.

 Here is a fascinating translated interview of Alexander Alexandrov.
He never holds back and in this one blasts Anastasia Grishina's coaching- with good reason- and damns the chances of any of them making the 2016 team.

A video of Vika training has emerged. I can't get it to embed here but here is the link-
The very start is interesting, standing double tuck. If she could train that in combination it would be extremely valuable in the new code, but she doesn't really seem like someone who would have the power or endurance to do that. The uploader has said that a video of Mustafina will appear on Friday.

Word is that Maria Paseka has broken her ankle in Mallorca. Maria is not at 100% this year as she is still coming back from a long list of injuries, so she would probably be more prone to a further setback like this. Unconfirmed as of now. May just be giant fat rumour. Update: Vika has posted on her vk (Russian social media) that Maria does not have a fracture and no need to worry about her ligaments so sounds as if she's fine. Relief!

China's roster has been confirmed for the National Individual Games, prelims for which are taking place now. You can see the full list here:
Lots of these names are new to me, but I hope the whole comp is put up- or all routines. Ones to watch are Shang Chungsong, Wu Liufang, Tan Sixin, Luo Peiru, Lou Nina, Xie Wenwei, Li Yiting, Cui Jie, Zeng Siqi and Huang Huidan. WAG takes place on Friday. I'll stick up videos if they are available.

McKayla Maroney has her cast off, still looks quite swollen though. Judging by the location of the scar, people in the know are saying that it is a tibial plateau fracture, which is quite a nasty one apparently. However, McKayla IS rejoining the tour soon and the cast is off so that's good. Most likely she will come out and wave, and maybe do a few dance moves.

Just to clarify my top 10 lists- all of them are individual favourite routines- not all-time favourite floor workers etc. as some of the gymnasts listed never hit the big time, and quite a few were seriously inconsistent or had extremely short careers. If I don't have the seriously big names in them, it is because I prefer other routines, not that I despise Nadia, Olga etc.

Top 10: Bars

I love watching perfect routines like Fan Di and Lu Li, but innovative routines always win for me. The ones I have included here that have insanely difficult release skills are always perfect or almost perfect elsewhere- there are quite a few for example doing the Def very sloppily so they won't be included! The ones without a unique release move are there because they are innovative or awesome in some other way. Bars top 10's are always China-heavy and this is no exception.

10. Irina Krasnianska, UKR 2006 Worlds QUAL

Irina was probably the most inconsistent Ukrainian, which is a feat in itself. She had a long career and performed this exact routine many times, and this is the only one without a major error. GORGEOUS long lines and fabulous German giant combination, very tidy double front too.

9. Amy Chow, USA 1996 Olympics TF

My favourite part is her high-to-low transition, the straddled Pak which is named after her. I'd love to see it used again as it looks amazing. Amy has fantastic lines and form- even in her very difficult dismount. What's noticeable is that her height does not mean she loses form on her downswing- some taller gymnasts like Nastia and McKayla break form slightly when they are clearing the lower bar and it ruins the whole look. Amy does it perfectly.

8. Beth Tweddle, GBR 2012 Olympics QUAL

A-MAZING. Love her release combinations and the Ezhova transition. Fabulous dismount and she has spectacular height on the Markelov which is often flat for everyone else. Beth also has absolutely perfect form and toepoint. It doesn't really get more exciting than this in the new codes.

7. Zhou Duan, CHN 1997 East Asian Games TF

Zhou Duan was a nifty vaulter, which were and continue to be rare in China. However her unbelievable bars really outshine her other events. Zhou performs a Gaylord 1/1- so a very rare Gaylord release WITH a full twist. Really just astonishing. Beautiful pencil-like form throughout- and another 2 releases on top of that. Fantastic.

6. Li Ya, CHN 2006 Cottbus World Cup

I picked this routine because it has her combination AND that dismount..piked double arabian, wow. Li does the Jaeger combination a lot straighter than He Kexin, fabulous to watch. Very very crisp turns and perfect form.

5. Liu Xuan, CHN 1996 Olympics TF

Liu Xuan's one- arm giant was one of the greatest tragedies of the code of was considered dangerous and was lowballed into a C rating, meaning it wasn't worth performing. Liu did ditch it, but kept it for the Olympics. It's incredible, especially as it's done right into a release. Fabulous lines and form in the rest of her routine, and I love her high-to-low transition.

4. Mo Huilan, CHN 1996 Olympics AA

What made Mo stand out amongst China's fantastic bars workers at this time and overall and even over her teammate Bi Wenjing who also did the Gaylord was her flight, especially on the hecht transition. She completely hangs in the air- nobody can fly like that. Fantastic height on all of her releases, perfect form and line throughout and at a time when jump to high from the low bar was perfectly acceptable Mo was doing two much more difficult transitions. Perfection.

3. Teodora Ungureanu, ROM 1976 Olympics AA

Teodora never made it beyond Nadia's enormous shadow. In my view, this routine is more interesting by far, and performed to the same excellent standard. Everything about this routine is great. 

2. Elena Mukhina, USSR 1979 Spartakaide AA

Everything about this routine is amazing, the first transition, the form, the Mukhina flip and her original dismount. Seriously the greatest gymnast ever.

1. Kim Gwang Suk, PKR 1991 Worlds EF

Not a suprise, I've mentioned quite a few times how much I love this routine. I do see the bent knees but the excellence of the routine- and her age- make it totally forgiveable. Unbelievably easy swing, perfect handstands and form, crisp pencil like line and turns and THAT combination. Outstanding.

Honourable mentions: Enilia Eberle, Bi Wenjing, Elvire Teza, Yang Yun, Liz Tricase, Hollie Vise, Courtney Kupets, Courtney McCool, Elise Ray, Ma Yanhong, Li Li, Lu Li, Fan Di, Olga Roschupkina, Becky Downie, Lori Strong, Emilie Lepennec, Cha Yong Hwa, He Kexin, Viktoria Komova, Yang Yilin, Nadia Comaneci, Karin Janz, Steffi Kraker, Gabrielle Fahnrich, Nadia Hategan, Aleftina Priakhina, Olga Korbut, Elena Abrashitova, Charlotte Mackie, Daniela Silivas, Maxi Gnauck

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Top 10: Vaults

While I do like incredibly difficult vaults performed well, my favourites are generally much easier but are beautifully performed. Yang Yun is never going to be described as a top vaulter, but hers are exquisite works of art that I could watch all day and I much prefer them to sloppy Rudi's and double twisting Tsukuhara's. The fact that yurchenko twisting varieties are the easiest to learn and are still well rewarded by the code is sad as it means the incredibly aesthetic but easier vaults are not going to be seen anytime soon.

10. Shannon Miller, USA 1992 Olympics AA

The most beautiful FTY ever, so flighty and perfect.

9. Mo Huilan, CHN 1996 Olympics AA

And this is the most beautiful DTY ever performed. Mo gets great height and dynamics on this, as well as textbook form and landing.

8. Elena Produnova, RUS 1999 Universiade AA

Elena did this vault several times, but this had the best and most upright landing by far. It's not pretty but it's a massive feat that she landed it at all- it hasn't been landed properly by anyone else. Incredible power, great to watch.

7. Svetlana Zelepukina, UKR 1996 Olympics Compulsories

It's an easy vault because it's a compulsory one- but it is absolute perfection, love this.

6. Lilia Podkopayeva, UKR 1994 Soapberry Shop AA

Perfection, fabulous vault.

5. Lilia Podkopayeva, UKR 1996 Olympics AA

Absolutely beautiful in the air, spectacular.

4. McKayla Maroney, USA 2012 Olympics TF
The best quality that isn't slow motion. This is the greatest amanar ever done and really is incredible- the height, the form, the block, the landing. Outstanding.

3. Meng Fei, CHN 1995 Worlds TF

Flawless performance of an amazing vault.

2. Yang Yun, CHN 2000 Olympics TF

Yang Yun makes vaulting artistic and elegant.

1. Yang Yun, CHN 2001 France Telecoms EF

The first vault. Few can maintain the form throughout this vault..and it's practically impossible to stick so that doesn't take away from it. Just lovely.

Honourable mention: Simona Amanar, Elena Gurova, Natalia Laschenova, Olessia Dudnik, Alicia Sacramone, Ariella Kaeslin, Joana Juarez, Cheng Fei, Monica Rosu, Vanessa Atler, Oksana Chusovitina, Vanessa Zamarripa

Top 10: Beam routines

I appreciate a lot of different styles on beam. Beautiful Soviet and Chinese routines are always a joy to watch, but I enjoy difficult, powerful and innovative routines equally as much if not more. Watching Elena Produnova stomp a beam is just as good as watching Aurelia Dobre float along it. Anyway, here's my top 10 favourite routines.

10.  Fan Ye, CHN, 2003 Worlds EF

This is perfect, everything is done to the highest level with no tiny wobble or adjustment. Leaves no room for doubt on any connection or leap- GORGEOUS Yang Bo leap! and stuck the dismount. This deserves to be a lot higher because there's nothing to take away from it..but I find it slightly dull as there's nothing 'new' or daring about it. Amazing though.

9. Elvire Teza, FRA, 1997 Worlds EF

Elvire lacked the polish most of her competitors had but she blew them out of the water as far as an exciting and original routine was concerned. I'll watch this over Gina Gogean's winning routine any day. So refreshing to see transverse elements- Elvire does two, both of which are her own and also a ruflova, another favourite beam element of mine. Just fabulous to watch.

8.  Yang Yun, CHN, 2000 Olympics TF

A lesson in glorious elegance from Yang Yun. Love her finesse and polish..such beautiful lines. Great ruflova and dismount.

7. Chen Cuiting, CHN 1989 Worlds EF

The beauty of this routine, aside from the perfect form, was that she had a sprightliness often absent from Chinese routines. Beautiful movement and fluidity. I am in LOVE with her tucked Korbut too.

6. Irina Baraksanova, USSR 1985 Worlds QUAL

Irina stood out as being particularly graceful, flexible and having perfect extension at a time when USSR was bursting with this style of gymnastics. Just a great routine, everything is beautiful. Love her crazy back flexibility move, right into a Yurchenko loop.

5. Aleftina Priakhina, 1987 Europeans AA

This routine contains an original mount which happens to be my favourite, and also the gainer ruflova and the standing full, more innovation. No prizes for extension, but this is one of the most exciting routines ever, for which a lot can be overlooked. A trajedy she was too inconsistent to make a major team and get some of her (SIX!) original skills named after her.

4.  Olessia Dudnik, 1989 Worlds TF

Known as one of the greatest beam workers, with good reason. A very exciting routine, from the mount to the full twisting layout to the triple full. Just great, so much daring and so ahead of her time.

3. Yang Bo, 1990 World Cup AA

Yang Bo had a lot of chances to take major titles, but usually tanked. This routine was one of the few where everything came together for her- everything is textbook. She has more fluidity and confidence in her movements than other great Chinese beam workers, and fabulous choreography. The fact that she never got anywhere but is so well known attests to her enormous talent on beam. This is a total masterpiece.

2. Li Li

Another perfect routine, the originality of the mount and her incredible back spin drive it right up to the top. Gorgeous, aside from her leo. Of all the difficult elements done on beam, the back spin is just in a world of its own..amazing. Perfect extension, form and fluidity.

1.  Tatiana Groshkova

Ahh...words can't describe how unbelievably amazing this routine is. 9.95 was a disgrace. I promise she won't top vault and bars lists!

Honourable mentions: Lilia Podkopayeva, Alexandra Marinescu, Hollie Vise, Shawn Johnson, Dina Kochetkova, Kui Yuanyuan, Elena Produnova, Elena Zamolodchikova, Danusia Francis, Mariya Livchikova, Olga Roschupkina, Aurelia Dobre, Mo Huilan, Shannon Miller, Sanne Wevers, Ana Porgras, Tatiana Gutsu, Tatiana Lyssenko, Qiao Ya, Zhang Nan, Teodora Ungureanu, Nadia Comaneci, Natalia Shaposhnikova, Natalia Yurchenko, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Peng Peng Lee, Elena Abrashitova

Monday, 17 September 2012

Top 10: Floor routines

Not individual floor workers, just routines. I've never been the type of fan who judges every floor by 80's soviet routines, I would often much prefer to watch routines that were way ahead of their time, broke the mould in some way, extraordinarily powerful or energetic in movement or just a plain triumphant routine for somebody who was written off by most. In this list, there's about 7 routines that will always feature in a top 10 for me.

10. Andrea Raducan, ROM 1999 Worlds EF, Tianjin

One of my favourite Romanian floor workers, Andreea combined great tumbling with brilliant dance and a real sparkle selling the entire floor exercise. It is the dance that puts it ahead of so many other Romanian floor exercises for me.

9. Dominque Dawes, USA 1992 Dodge Challenge

Her best performance of this routine. Incredibly energetic and really fun to watch, with a great back-to-back tumbling pass in the middle.

8. Deliana Vodenitcharova, BUL, 1988 Olympics TF

So much great Irish music, and this dirge was chosen. Sigh. This routine is so ahead of its time that it would still have a high start value today...24 years later. Excellent tumbling with some nice moves in between. Totally robbed as she always received a much lower score for this than the big names with their weaker tumbling.

7. Olga Strazheva, USSR, 1989 WorldsAA

The modern dance masterpiece, a total antithesis to the usual balletic Soviet floor routines. Her tumbling really is secondary to the dance, though it's not bad at all. She performed this with such ease- every movement was so thought out and so in tune with the music. Just amazing.

6. Chellsie Memmel, USA 2008 Olympic Trials

This is one of the most phenomenal floor exercises, and one I keep coming back to. The combination of the 5 very difficult tumbling pass, her illusion sequence, her presentation at the end of the pass and the most planted double pike ever seen is magnificent, made all the better by the fact that Chellsie was written off prior to Trials due to her long string of injuries. A very triumphant fuck-you to those people, though of course- Chellsie who cemented her place in the team after her Trials performances was injured right before the games.

5. Cheng Fei, 2004 Olympics TF

Perfect combination. Chinese grace and presentation combined with raw power and great energy and sparkle in her dance. Superb choice of music too. Her failure to reproduce this for both Olympic event finals was a travesty.

4. Liubov Sheremeta, UKR, 1997 Worlds TF

Liubov was a better floor worker than Lilia in my opinion. Hard to choose between this and her 1996 routine- but this edges the win due to its quirky choreography. Such a performer with such exquisite tumbling.

3. Inga Shkarupa, UKR, 1999 Worlds TF

 One of the cleanest tumblers ever with such perfect form. This would be higher but I find her choreo a bit lacking. Love the unusual third pass and just about everything, such excellence!

2. Anna Myzdrikova, RUS, 2009 Worlds EF
The third pass is upsetting because she messes it up a bit and it costs her the gold medal. I chose this one because she was at her absolute greatest here, and the first and second exquisite passes are the best she's ever done them- check out the PERFECT double arabian. Unbelievable form, great chorepgraphy and relation to the music. A joy to watch.

1. Tatiana Groshkova, USSR, 1990 USA Vs USSR

There are a lot of Soviet masterpeices that I passed over- Baraksanova, Filatova etc. This one takes the crown not only because it contains beautiful expressive choreography in the typical balletic style but because it contains the most insane tumbling pass. The first pass is a double full-in- which is the same as a double-double except that both twists are in the first salto. It would automatically have a H rating next quad as that's what the double double has. Only one other has ever competed it- Alexis Brion, but Tatiana did it on a crap old floor. Just amazing, the entire routine.

Honourable mentions: Elena Produnova, Olga Roschupkina, Simona Amanar, Oana Ban, Ekaterina Lobaznyuk, Ludivine Furnon, Aurelia Dobre, Lavinia Milosovici, Daniela Silivas, Daiane Dos Santos, Oksana Omelianchik, Irina Baraksanova, Mattie Larson, Henrietta Onodi, Diana Dudeva, Olessia Dudnik, Natalia Laschenova, Tatiana Lyssenko, Kim Zmeskal, Ivana Hong, Viktoria Karpenko, Pang Panpan, Vera Kolesnikova, Maria Filatova, Natalia Frolova, Vanessa Atler, Victoria Moors

Saturday, 15 September 2012

More fragments of news

September training camp at the Karolyi ranch is taking place right now for USA's juniors- and 3 seniors- Brenna Dowell, Kennedy Baker and McKayla Skinner. A lot of seniors are of course busy trying to remain healthy on the tour (see Rebecca Bross having to be restrained from completely falling off the mat onto concrete after her passes in the latest youtube video). National team members Katelyn Ohashi, Lexie Priessman, Simone Biles, Maddie Desch, Amelia Hundley and Bailie Key are in attendance. Seeing as 4/6 will turn senior next year, lots more juniors have been invited. They include Nica Hults, Laurie Hernandez, Peyton Ernst, Arianna Guerra and Polina Schennikova. Expect some glorious photos of Bailie Key doing a-MAZING switch ring leaps, but I doubt USAG will stick videos up. Word is Nia Dennis is extremely close to nailing an amanar (from a FTY!) and that Nica Hults has verified a double arabian and triple full on floor.

Attendance has been confirmed for the Mexican Open. WAG includes Anna Dementyeva, Brenna Dowell, Kennedy Baker, Jessica Gil Ortiz and Georgia Rose Brown. Demy is the favourite and if she can take the AA after a crappy year, that would do a lot to boost her standings in the Russia camp. Kennedy's explosive floor routine has really exciting tumbling, sadly not much of note in between. Still, I'll be looking forward to videos of it and more routines going up on youtube.

It appears that McKayla Maroney will rejoin the tour soon, but only to wave at the crowd or somesuch. She will be missed- not so much for her gymnastics as there is no vault even if she was allowed throw amanars in a tour setting- but for her presence and the fact that she is a great dancer. Also of course for the fact that she is a fan favourite. Alicia Sacramone has joined the tour, not sure for how many stops. Presumably she will do Boston stops also. Shawn Johnson will join the tour tomorrow, she will be dancing with her DWTS partner. Maroney's docs are being very cautious with her- she is in a wheelchair in the fierce 5 photo Derek Hough put up.

I posted this today in the last news bit, but it's further down now so Larisa Iordache whose MRI confirmed that she does not have lesions in her feet does have one leg slightly longer than the other. It is probably the case that this was either the main cause or a big contribution to her heel problems in the first place. She is having special sillicon deposits in order to make the pressure on her feet more equal. Hopefully that will be all it takes for her to return to her glorious peak form.

China's National Individual Championships are taking place next week. There's a long list but only some are confirmed. Among the confirmed are the very exciting Shang Chungsong, Wu Luifang, Cui Jie and Zeng Siqi. Huang Huidan, Luo Peiru and Tan Jiaxin are also expected to compete. Most of these gymnasts have suffered from either injury or major inconsistency or both, so a great chance to prove themselves. Especially as there will be a slew of retirements from the senior team after National Games next year- these are the ones with the team competition between the provinces and are very lucrative financially for the gymnasts and for the prestige of the province. They are seen as being on a par with worlds really.

Ksenia Afanasyeva is going to run in elections for her local council. It's not clear about whether she really is retiring now as she stated that 'gymnastics will be finishing sometime' in reference to her decision to go into politics. That's quite inconclusive as it doesn't shut the door on training for another year or so! Afan has a lot left to give as a floor/beam specialist so here's hoping she doesn't retire straight away.

Videos are starting to emerge of Russia's Mallorca camp training. It appears they are doing a lot more than the conditioning reported beforehand! There is one of MAG, and one of Maria Paseka. Maria who has a long long list of injuries was reduced pretty much only to vault, her other events were not even needed in that team. But she is an all-arounder. Bars are messy, but loving the Markelov-geinger combination. The code will reward things like this- very exciting to get a glimpse of how different gymnasts will be altering their bars routines to fit. I will put up any WAG videos ASAP..would love some insight into how Grishina is doing, as well as Musty, Vika and others.
Update: Here's a video of Anna Dementyeva training bars and floor and a bit of beam, and Tatiana Nabieva training beam and floor. Nabs looks pretty afraid of that beam, but that was a nice double pike from her on floor. She has grown quite a bit so obviously will take some time getting used to it. It was expected that she would retire so it's great to see that she's still training. She does have more to give- especially on bars. Demy looks quite rough, but that's no surprise after her crappy injury year. Hopefully she can get it together and impress as the Mexican Open.

Kim Gwang Suk

Kim Gwang Suk is best known for being blatantly underage at every competition she competed at. She appeared at the 1987 Druzhba, the 1989 Worlds, 1991 Worlds and the 1992 Olympics. Born sometime between 1978-80, she could have been as young as 9 at the 89 worlds. Too many people focus on the age falsification scandal and don't see her fabulous talent- especially at such a young age. In fact, many blame her as if a young girl in North Korea would have any say in the cover-up- the idea that she had is just laughable.

Kim's skill, the counter-Kim or Marinich as it is known in men's gymnastiocs has only ever been performed by 5 other people. Kim unveiled it to the world at the 1989 worlds, when the oldest she could have been at the time was 11. The rest of her routine is equally admirable- she has an incredibly easy swing, textbook form aside from slightly bent legs when she is recatching and hits perfect handstands like nobody's business- at a time when they were not near as important as they are now. Kim showed choreography on beam and floor that belied her age, moving easily and gracefully. Beam in particular was a great apparatus for her- lovely fluidity of movement. She was not made for vault or floor as she did not have the power to shine at either. Her youth may have been working against her there, though her vault did actually deteriorate badly in the 3 years from 1989 to 1992. Her greatest achievement, aside from being so spectacular that young, was winning the bars title at the 1991 Worlds, against favourites like Tatiana Gutsu, Shannon Miller and Kim Zmeskal. Her routine scored a perfect 10- the last 10 to be awarded at a worlds. Unfortunately, even though she upped her already crazy difficulty level, a tiny step on landing at the 1992 Olympics event finals cost her a medal, despite having the highest score in the compulsories. Sadly, the fact that she had the highest difficulty by far was not enough to oust her rivals. After Barcelona, the age falsification emerged and North korea were banned from the 1993 worlds as punishment. Kim, who quite probaby had a lot left to give, completely faded and her whereabouts since are unknown.

The fact that she looks exactly the same in 1989 and 1992 leads me to believe her birth year was closer to 1980 than 1978, as she still looks far from puberty in Barcelona. Regardless, a great gymnast.