Sunday, 9 September 2012

Late starters

Most elite gymnasts will be in fairly serious training by the age of 8 or 9 and usually start at the age of 6 or even before. This Olympics saw most of the Fierce Five stating that they started in Mommy and Me classes at the age of 2. Some gymnasts start years after the normal age and still manage to be wonderful on the elite stage, progressing far faster. Here are two of my favourites.

Ludivine Furnon

Ludivine was the springy sensation who snatched a bronze at the 1995 World Championships on floor (the same Worlds that Lilia Podkopayeva dominated). A very strong tumbler who performed the very rare double layout punchfront later in her career and a really expressive tumbler- Ludivine only started gymnastics at the age of 11 and had been training for less than 3 years when she became an elite and performed at the 1995 worlds. She was able to stay on top of her game for several years, performing strongly at the 1999 worlds in particular, and taking gold at the 2000 European Championships. At Euros she beat an incredibly strong field- probably one of the strongest floor line-ups ever- Produnova, Karpenko, Amanar, Raducan and Zamolodchikova! Unfortunately an injury took her out of serious contention for Sydney, where she only did bars. Her beam, while not sensational, was fairly strong and she showed her confidence and expressiveness on that apparatus too. She competed at smaller meets after she recovered, and has worked for Cirque Du Soleil in Vegas. Her worlds medal was France' first ever. It's just amazing to see someone get to that level so quickly, especially as France is not one of the top 4 countries.

Daiane Dos Santos

Daiane has had an incredibly long career, but just like Furnon, she started gymnastics at the age of 11. Unlike her though, it took Daiane much longer to reach the higher echelons of the sport, though she too comes from a country not renowned for huge depth. Daiane burst onto the world stage in 2003, with an emotional gold winning floor routine at Anaheim worlds. Unfortunately, though she won many minor titles, she made costly mistakes at major competitions and in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic floor finals and the 2012 Olympic prelims. Her 2003 worlds gold was a first for her country. Daiane stands as one of the greatest floor workers, and certainly the greatest tumbler. Though she is most known for her two tumbles named after her- the arabian double pike and the arabian double layout- the second of which has never been attempted by anyone else- she showed an astonishing variety in her tumbling, much more than any other gymnast. In her career she displayed more than 20 different tumbling passes and at the age of 29 was competing a full twisting double layout, double layout and arabian double tuck! Her music was always a crowd favourite during her peak period of 2003-2008 and her astonishing tumbles and sense of rthymn drew them in. Sadly her incredible height was often her downfall to major titles as it meant that landings were very hard to control, often stepping out of bounds. Daiane was fairly average on other events, but did manage to compete a front layout onto beam! The only video sees her falling on it after landing, but she did manage it with more success on other occassions. Despite her familiarity with missing out on titles, Daiane's legacy is one of oustanding talent and difficulty. Hopefully Rebeca Andrade, the young Brazilian junior who also gets incredible height on her tumbling can follow in her footsteps.



  1. Alicia Sacramone started at age 9!

    1. Well that's younger :p Very impressive in the USA though especially.

  2. This is very encouraging as I am starting gymnastics at a 'late' age :D

  3. i started when i was 11 now im 12 and im already in Level 5 soon to be Level 7

  4. I started at 2... but I was too busy to continue. I cried when my parents told me to quit, it had always been my passion, a sport I had done for 9 years. It'll be nice if I can pick it up again...

  5. I'm 41 and I think I will start training next year