Sunday, 14 July 2013

Universiade and other stuff

There's a heatwave (seriously rare here to get anything even approaching 20 degrees more than two days in a row) so motivation for blogging has been seriously lacking. But here's my super-late thoughts on Universiade and a round-up of other news anyway.

We need to talk about..
Afan. Source-

..Afan. First, a new floor routine! Same spectacular tumbling with crazy height. I can watch those passes all day. The music itself is nice and pleasant, certainly much more subtle compared to her last routine. The choreography is lacking and there's a lot of disappointment as a result. But we need to remember a few things; Afan has upgraded her routine since London, she now does two whips into her triple and two turn combinations- the latter also taking up a good bit of time. She wisely conserves her energy for the tumbles, especially the troublesome third pass and the double pike which gets way more height this year...possibly because it failed her so spectacularly last year. She's also not in peak shape since we're still a bit away from worlds. Am I hoping she will do more with it than arm waving? Absolutely, but I wouldn't give up all hope yet. Let's not forget Universiade is a gruelling competition with the gymnasts competing days in succession- Afan for one competed 10 routines over 3 days and with her ending pose on floor in event finals looked like she wanted a blanket for a nap and only got up with the greatest reluctance.

Her bars, of which we saw two routines, are definitely still hit and miss, but she was not originally supposed to do them as she was planning on taking more time to prepare and get used to grips after Euros. A fall in team finals/quals was followed by a pretty decent routine in the AA the next day. She still had nice lines and form on this event, the major flaws being a muscled up handstand and the still unsteady dismount. Noticeably better than when she crashed it sideways in Euros however. She also missed a requirement in the AA, a full turn. She fell on this the previous day so probably wise to swallow an 0.5 deduction rather than take the full point for a fall. This also happened in the Russian Cup this year when she missed the front tumbling requirement on floor. Beam is still shaky, but hopefully when she gets to grips with the new combinations it can be as steady as she was in London.

Her DTY's were lovely and clean but sadly I couldn't watch the EF's live to be shocked when 4.35- 6.3 flashed up for her amanar in event finals. It's quite clean aside from tucking too early in the last half twist and she gets it fully around but the landing was not great, fairly injury- friendly really. Hopefully she can get more height and improve. It's very new for her of course, and seriously impressive when you think of how long she's been in the sport and the fact her DTY used to be nothing special. Her second vault was great, again not magnificent height wise but great form and kick-out. It too was new and it means that she matches the vault difficulty of McKayla Maroney- as seen in the ranch videos of the latter. After Aliya Mustafina fell in the AA, it was hoped Afan could comeback and potentially snatch gold off her but a wobbly mess of a beam routine and her low difficulty bars were not enough even when coupled with a spectacular floor routine. It's bewildering to think that she could not only make Maria Paseka redundant but also Anastasia Grishina.

It was the competition Aliya Mustafina had been looking forward to all year, then she was out with flu after being hospitalised and missed a crucial week of training and was replaced by Ekaterina Kramarenko then she was back in..but in what condition? Her first routines, floor and vault, showed a noticeable deterioration in her twisting- the infamous triple full having bypassed its usual hideous triple-axel form and gone straight to dangerous. She performed this tumble three times in competition and each time the landing was scary, unlike other times where she has managed the landing very well regardless of her leg form. The DTY lost some of its dynamics, but the landing is no bother to her- great spatial awareness. On bars she lost momentum on one of her transitions, being too close to the bar but she didn't make that mistake again and her next two routines on bars showed her usual stellar work, though unfortunately with no upgrades which was unsurprising given her recent illness.

Beam was the real test and her 15.2 was a great sign. She's still pausing for a cup of tea before the dismount though. Falling off in the AA seemed to galvanise her for the rest of the routine but it of course still means her steadiness on the apparatus is in question. I'm very surprised she didn't pull out of floor finals given that she's pulled out of every other so far this year and also her obvious exhaustion, evidenced when she put her hands down on her last pass. Two times out of three, her double arabian was short which I found almost shocking as it is by far her strongest pass usually. This was lost in the storm of what the hell is the triple full still doing in the routine. Her focus and determination is great and a well deserved AA gold and bars gold were added to her team gold. But I'm not so sure about her beam silver. All systems go for Antwerp now. She's clearly better than this, but I still see no argument for keeping the triple full in.


- North Koreans on beam. Sure their acro is not great but they are so light and floaty.
- Yu Minobe and the rest of her team. Not a huge amount of difficulty but so much style and great form.
- Kang Yong Mi's bars. Gorgeous.
- Afan getting through her bars in the AA. Hopefully a nice boost while she continues to adjust to using grips in the future.
- Hong Un Jong winning gold with the highest vault difficulty. Dodgy landings but it's impossible not to root for her.
- Maria Paseka's block on her amanar has improved.
- Maria Paseka being so thrilled when Afan hit her vaults, despite the fact that it means she could technically replace her.
- The glorious return of Tatiana Nabieva- for her facial expressions alone! So much gold. Lovely bars, some nice tumbles on floor and a pretty good beam. Impressed.
- Tatiana Nabieva's face when the anthem played was a college anthem, rather than the country's anthem. Hilarious.
- Anna Dementyeva hitting beam so well in quals/team. Also ditching her troublesome old dismount.
- Danusia Francis being amazing to watch as always. Really magnetic performer, even though her music and choreography was not her NCAA one. Presumably Nellie Kim would have ordered an immediate zero for that. Hoping for a beam video of her.
- Hannah Whelan hitting in the AA. It took some downgrades but a great gutsy performance from this veteran.
- Ellie Black and Kim Bui hitting their routines out of the park. So steady.
- Elsa Garcia and everything she does. Wonderful gymnast.
- Especially her double layout
- Whackjob Japanese floor music as usual. Hey, big spender!
- Medals for Hong Un Jong, Tatiana Nabieva, Zhang Yelinzi, Elsa Garcia and Kim Bui.
- Really awesome vault final. 3 amanars, 2 Chengs, DTT's, Lopez', Rudi's.....
- Gymnasts other than Aliya Mustafina qualifying for 3 event finals.
- Zhang Yelinzi showing a 6.6 routine years after she was in the hunt for a major team. She used to have a 6.9 routine!
- And of course, lots of older and quite a few inexperienced gymnasts getting their chance to shine and showing some amazing routines.
- Yang Hak Seon's vaults. Like..what.

Not-so highlights

- That triple full
- Some scary vaults. Yu Minobe, the Afanar, Ri Un Ha..
- Inconsistency. I really wanted to see Kim Un Hyang in the beam final, and for Yu Minobe to medal in it. The beam final falls sucked.
- No Rie Tanaka. Any competition she isn't at is a little lacking.
- Three days of competition one after the other. It's too much all in one go. They could intersperse competition with rythmic if they cannot afford the extra days if they used the usual system of having the men alternate with the women.
- Non-broadcast of any subdivision except the one Russia was in.
- Some underscores. I thought Alexa Moreno deserved higher execution in vault finals.
- Exhausted gymnasts.
- An attitude of 'HA! Russia beat Japan by 10 points, way more than USA beat Russia in London!'. If Russia did not wipe the floor here with their nearest competitors it would have been an utter disaster and they might as well have shut down Round Lake and gone home- an A team versus much lesser gymnastics programmes B and C teams? Not to mention that the calibre of competition at an Olympics is on a different scale entirely.

I'm sure I'll think of more.

Favourite routines

Vault- Ksenia Afanasyeva, vault 2
Bars- Kang Yong Mi EF
Beam- Yu Minobe AA
Floor- Ksenia Afanasyeva AA

Favourite leos

Elsa Garcia TF/Quals, Heo Seon Mi AA, Elsa Garcia EF and Danusia Francis EF. Aliya Mustafina's bumblebee leo is a no from me, I think she's too pale for it.

Here is the best photo ever.

What are your thoughts on Universiade? Favourite routines? Why have North Korea latched onto the hot pink of their enemies?

In other news, Alexander Alexandrov has been officially named head coach of Brazil's WAG programme. He will first assess a group of gymnasts at a camp. It's a bit late to make miraculous changes before worlds, so hopefully he will concentrate on improving bars as a whole amongst the juniors. And starts to hone Rebeca Andrade into even more of a superstar.

Wang Yan of China has just won AA, vault and beam at a very recent China-Russia youth friendly. She also came third on floor. I feel obliged to share that her nickname amongst Chinese fans is potato. Nicknames tend to based on looks, and although we would find them offensive they are not really in that spirit. Tan Sixin is called big head also. Anyway, Wang Yan is not your average Chinese gymnast, she's quite strong and has Shawn Johnson's acro line on beam- BHS 2feet- BHS 2feet- LO. Her full beam difficulty is 6.7. One to really watch, she also has decent bars.

The Russian WAG EYOF team is Maria Bondareva, Maria Kharenkova and Viktoria Kuzmina. It was not announced but a photo emerged as they're actually there now. I was kind of hoping for Seda Tutkhalyan but this is such a stellar team. The Romanian team has sadly shed Madalina Blendea in favour of Silvia Zarzu. It's not known if this is because she's injured- like the fact Andreea Munteanu isn't on it as she just had hand surgery- or if they're relying on Silvia's floor score to bring them up. Watch out for a certain German junior- Kim Janas- to make a splash individually and for the entire British team to make their mark.

Both Silvia Zarzu and Laura Jurca have DTY's! This means that they have a 1.6 lead over Russia in the EYOF TF (2 scores count) right off the bat. It will be interesting since Andreea Iridon is great on bars and Laura Jurca is half decent. And now Madalina Blendea not being there makes more sense.

Jennifer Pinches will compete for UCLA, starting this year! I did hope she would consider NCAA after retiring and quite aside from the excellent choreography she will get there, she'll also be with fellow Brit Danusia Francis. Congratulations to her.


  1. Been really looking forward to your post!

    Afan is actually looking in pretty good shape and quite fit given the time of year and the general shape of the Russian team. The Afanar is interesting, her legs seem to twist faster than her body so her feet do seem well round but her body is a bit late and thus putting stress on her knees. But it's a great improvement from the crashed attempts at the warmups at Euros and given how short a time she has been at it. Plus her block and form in the air is now the best of all the Russians I think.

    All of Aliya's twisting elements have really deteriorated for sure, the triple full is barely recognisable and it seems like it's starting to affect her landings as well. I hoped she would pull out of floor EFs as she was clearly exhausted even in the previous two days - it's astonishing what she managed to do just a few days out of hospital. She just competes so well. The BB was glorious in quals and was fine apart from the fall in TFs - there's still hope! I'm hoping she can clean the form up on the DTY and swap the triple full on floor for a DLO ASAP...

    Russia is interesting. Given this and from the sounds of Komova's recent progress, I think it's pretty safe that Worlds will be Aliya, Vika, Afan and Paseka, barring injury. Demy's inconsistency is her downfall though she's so beautiful when she can hit, and Grishina is inconsistent plus now having lower difficulty than Afan AA. It was nice seeing Nabs's face back and she did much better than I expected honestly. Her difficulty's still too low to challenge for a main spot on the team and Russia is not desperate for UB, and she'll only get near the team with a Amanar but even at peak form hers had so many deductions it wasn't really worth it, moreso with the Amanar downgrade in D score now.

    1. Yes, Afan's form was better than I expected, hopefully she can improve the height/twisting a bit and land it securely too. I thought Paseka's amanar was slightly better than it, she's improved her block.

      I'm hoping Aliya's twisting will look better when she's fitter. They don't have a break, it's all systems go for worlds now. Yeah, I pretty much thought she'd only do bars/beam or something but no, 11 routines in 3 days! They ditched her twisting beam dismount, I don't see why there's a mental block about the triple full.

      Yeah I think the fourth spot is pretty much Paseka's too. Aside from the flakiness of Grishina, she cannot really medal anyway.

  2. What do you think about the rumors about Mustafina having a TTY?

  3. It is Valentina, so I think they are bilge. She's probably not capable of a secure amanar again, especially when her DTY always scores well. A TTY has a big advantage of the landing being safer than an amanar- it's backwards, so it's not blind. But that's where reality ends. A steady 15.2 DTY is the best she can get.

  4. Thank you for the blog post Catherine! I love your round up! I loved Aliya's 15.2 beam, Demy's 15.3 beam, Afan's AA floor, and Yu Minobe's AA beam. Aliya did seem very tired and her twisting did get worse. I hope she cleans up her DTY and doesn't do a TTY. Valentina is a crazy person. Afan's floor didn't have the best choreography. It was mostly arm flicks, especially compared to her former floor routines. her amanar was OK. It was one of the better Russian amanars. She has the best form on it out of the Russians besides the tucking at the end. She just needs a better block. Maria Paseka did her best amanar IMO. I want the Russian world team to be Afan, Musty, Vika, and Grishy. However, Afan makes both Grishy and Masha useless. I think Masha is a safer choice in terms of consistency.

  5. I think that Mustafina looked extremely tired and I would be kind of hesitant to judge anything about her skills and readiness for worlds given that she was ill just a few days before. Her triple twist and DTY were messier than they normally are but I attribute it to being sick. If at other competitions, it starts looking like that then I'm going to get concerned. I wonder what Russia is going to do now that Afan can vault. She basically made everybody useless for worlds except Mustafina and Komova. I doubt that Russia is just going to take three people to Worlds though but they definitely could. If Worlds allowed 4 people per team to do the apparatus then I would have Afan and Paseka do vault and Russia could potentially have 2 people in every final but they won't. I wish they did. I don't know if they'll still take Paseka for vault. I think they should because I don't think that Afan would be extremely consistent with it but it's amazing that she even got the Amanar considering how long she's beein in gymnastics. I thought it was so sweet that Maria was ecstatic for Ksenia's vaults. I always thought he had a great personality.

    1. Well I was really only commenting on Mustafina's performance at the competition, and I did mention her recent illness more than once. She's clearly better than her performances at this meet, but the triple full is one skill she has really outgrown. Its very, very dangerous especially given she already has a reconstructed knee.

      Yeah I'm not sure about Russia's fourth spot now. It's not as if there's a whole lot of competition for it, Rodionova and Baturina do not look capable, we haven't seen Tipaeva I don't think, Shelgunova and Sidorova are injured so it's really just Paseka and Grishina in contention for it.

  6. I'm really interested to see how Alexandrov will change Brazilian gymnastics. But I have a silly nagging question... how does Alexandrov communicate with the girls in the gym? Does he speak Portuguese? Have the Brazilian ladies been learning Russian in secret? Will they all speak some other common language? Or is there just a translator there all the time? Again, not really an important question, but something I always wonder.

    Great post, as always!

    1. He coached in the US before. I did hear that it doesn't really take a huge amount of common language to coach effectively! Maybe he'll pick up what he needs very very quickly.

  7. The Universiade looked like a lot of fun. I think the Russians got some very generous scores (not that it really mattered, since there was no competition) that they wouldn't be receiving anywhere else. I loved seeing Nabs again (I think she should have made the Olympic team instead of Grishy, the power of hindsight lol), and I hope she can hold out for next year's team worlds, where she might have a shot.

    Aliya's triple is a disaster waiting to happen. It needs to go ASAP. If she can't replace it with the double layout, she should just do three passes and work on upgrading them (add whip to double arabian, full twist to double tuck, etc.) and try to get some high-rated dance skills. And I don't understand why Afan is now being considered a serious contender for the world AA title. She has two strong events (vt and fx), one very weak event (ub), and beam could go either way. Plus, if Komova is even close to full strength, she won't be going as an AAer anyway. What do you think of her new floor? It is very underwhelming.

    1. They'll have Kuzmina and Kharenkova next year and I'd stick both on the team since they can actually hit beam routines. Plus Mustafina, Komova and Afanasyeva. The last spot I'm unsure about. Those 5 cover the AA and basically all of team. Maybe Paseka or Shelgunova. Vault is a little weak without Paseka anyway and Shelgunova is quite steady, an Aly Raisman type.

      I believe Mustafina will go for the triple Y soon. Leap out of the double arabian, maybe more turns. Double layout would be great if she could manage it. If not maybe she could make the double tuck a full in? If her endurance picks up a lot.

      Afan has made herself Russia's number 3 AA-er. And that's with uncertain bars and wobbly beam. Not exactly podium material, yet anyway. Very very interesting though! I like the music. There's very little real choreo in it, I hope she can put more in in time BUT those lovely turn combos take up so much time. I think she is wise to conserve her energy but hopefully she can dance more too.

  8. I am a big fan of Aliya but that triple has got to go, each year it looks worse. They just need to get rid of it stat! Actually all of her twisting elements need to go.

    I enjoyed universiade, not only for gymnastics, (rhythmic gymnastics is really great to watch as well) but the other sports that I saw as well. It was fun.

    Highlights in Artistic Gymnastics.

    Aliya winning AA an performing despite her illness.
    Nabs being back! I love her expressions
    Kim Bui doing well in AA
    the Russian men doing well esp Emin Garibov
    Everyone seeming to enjoy things!!

    Yeah Afan doing AA does make things more interesting, Grishina does need to step up as well as increase difficulty. She changed her coach so I think it is taking getting use to plus these new coaches seem to actually give her confidence.

    I think people are disappointed with Afan's floor because she always was a show-person with it, it was dynamic but if the code doesn't reward that kind of performance, what's the point of her tiring herself out doing that. So she is basically just doing what the code wants and nothing extra. Smart thinking.

    Paseka really only has the vault keep her on this team, so if it anyone who is replaced ont he team it is probably her. She is hot and cold in her only apparatus so she needs to have another one as back up. If she could do beam that would be great as it is still Russia's nemesis.

    I am interested in how Brazil does under Alexandrov. I hope they do well.

    1. Paseka is working on floor and bars. Beam would be handier, but vault is still important. Two amanars as Komova doesn't have vault back yet still makes Paseka valuable.

      I thought the Russian team looked tired also, as well as more relaxed. It's tough to have to peak for that and Euros as they're the home team for that, but they can't fall apart now as worlds is coming up quick.