We need to talk about..
|Afan. Source- fanofmusty.tumblr.com|
..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.
- 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.
Vault- Ksenia Afanasyeva, vault 2
Bars- Kang Yong Mi EF
Beam- Yu Minobe AA
Floor- Ksenia Afanasyeva AA
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.