Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The One to Watch

I have done a mini-series showcasing the best upcoming seniors of this quad. You can find the links to each New Kids on the Block post here. It's worth noting that the China one is a bit redundant, as further competitions and insight has shown that there are brighter stars in their future. I'll redo it. You can also find a not-totally-comprehensive-but-including-everyone-of-consequence list of upcoming seniors here. As you can see, we have just had 21 girls (at least) turn senior! Exciting stuff, and Euros will be very interesting to see their upgrades and potential for worlds. And of course, the competitions USA, China etc. will be at. But now to pinpoint the one girl from each country who I think will be the star. It's tough! At least I discovered page breaks. If the routines have falls, it's either a) the only routine on youtube or b) a fluke but by far the most recent routine or c) doesn't really affect how much amazing potential there is in the rest of the routine.

USA

Bailie Key

Copyright- Jessica Frankl
This was very difficult, not to push Simone Biles, Amelia Hundley and Lexie Priessman out of the way, but to disregard Nia Dennis. The reason why the first three did not get a look in is because they are currently very weak and exhibiting poor form on bars and beam. Having two dodgy events will not get you my crown. As for Nia, I think Bailie has the greater potential. Now, moving onto Bailie herself. She trains at Texas Dreams and will turn senior in 2015.
Copyright- USAG- USA Gymnastics
LOOK AT IT! And she can get her front leg higher. Disregarding the fact that this will be a victim of the new switch ring leap rule, this is awesome, and especially from an American gymnast. Bailie's greatest assets are her form and flexibility. Her bars exhibit fabulous form (minus her tendency to flex her feet on transitions), beautiful releases, precise and beautiful bodyline and a great dismount. She tends to clear the bar like Nastia unfortunately, but as she grows taller hopefully technique can be bettered on that. Upgrades include a Shaposh 1/2, Downie AND Church! Wow! All in all, her bars are like golddust, and world class long before she's senior. Beam is another delight, showcasing her lines and extension in her acro skills, a beautiful twisting 2.5 dismount, the aforementioned switch ring leap and a tour jete 1/2 actually worthy of credit. Her upgrades here include an Arabian. She looks well capable of an Onodi or Kotchetkova, her whole routine looks easy for her. Side somi has to go, she's too good for that ugly thing!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

French World Cup and stuff

The La Roche sur Yon World Cup lineup and roster has been announced. It takes place 16-17th March. Luckily I despise the gigantic mess that is Dublin on St. Patrick's Day (revoke your citizenship if you don't pass out by 9pm!), so I'll probably watch a stream of this instead. This World Cup is the new location and subsequently name for Bercy. The roster/lineup is here. One of the nicest things is that Larisa Iordache will compete all-around, originally only being down to compete bars and beam. Must be as a result of dropping out of SCAM. Certainly she has enough to be getting on with, she should also be a star at Euros, which this year are individual only, much like Worlds. Diana Bulimar is competing beam only, there are other spots available on floor (I don't expect bars from her somehow..) so hopefully that might come to fruition. Russia are sending Aliya Mustafina, Ksenia Afanasyeva and Maria Paseka! Maria is vault ony, Aliya bars and floor and Ksenia beam and floor. Here's the exciting bit....wait for it...Aliya and Ksenia will have new floor routines! YES! Presumably with watered down tumbling, but I can't wait to see what two of the most exciting and potentially most elegant floor workers have to show. I will also be watching out for Janine Berger's vaults and Celine Van Gerner and Kristina Palesova's bars. There are currently no Asians listed, though I don't believe North Korea can qualify, as they have not had berths at the Olympics or subsequent World Cups. I would like to see Shang Chunsong or Zeng Siqi make their mark. And a Japanese contingent would be delightful, or more representation from Britain and Canada. Edit: Another odd thing is that Diana Chelaru is down for floor. She was slated to have retired last year. She definitely did leave the National Team and retreated back to her home gym, but nice to see her get another outing.

March is shaping up to be fantastic.
1st- Nastia Cup
1st-7th- Russian Championships
2nd- SCAM
16-17th- LRSY WC
21-24th- Cottbus WC
23-24th- Jesolo
30th- USA V Romania V Germany V Spain

:D 

There have been some slight changes to the COP. One of which is pretty dull, scissones must land on one foot, and not two. Switch ring leaps are getting a bit of a makeover, the back leg must be bent at a 90 degree angle, along with the previous requirements of head release, back leg at head height or higher, front leg at least at horizontal. There will be an 0.1 deduction for angles between 45 and 90, and total discredit for angles less than 45. This I think is in reaction to this monstrosity:

Not a switch ring leap in any code, but was credited. And to add insult to injury, it comprises the front cover of her book. Here's me trying and failing at a skill! Gabby does not have bad form as a rule, so I'm sure they had a cache of much better images to choose from. Anyway, here's what a switch ring leap now has to look like:

And not like these, they would all fail to avoid deuction or even get full credit:


Eww, hideous! Sigh. The 90 degree angle is jarring and takes away from the line. Who on earth thinks that the first one is more aesthetically pleasing than the 3 below? The other change is to the sheep jump, which must now have a 30 degree angle in hip extension. I hope everyone else is picturing beam judges everywhere squinting with protractors, because I certainly am. This means little for Russia and China, who are well capable. I think they will drop off a bit in popularity elsewhere, as it won't be worth the risk for those less flexible. I do think this will increase the risk for sheep jumps to become scrappier in the fight for the correct angle- feet apart, knees apart, sickling, one leg higher than the other etc. Hmm.

Ebee's new upgrades are cited to include a full twising double layout on floor, and a Mustafina (or half on, full off for its correct term, as it isn't the Mustafina in the COP) as a second vault. Jordan Chiles has passed elite compulsory testing. She will now have to pass elite optionals, at the WOGA classic on February 16th. Looking forward to seeing her shine at Junior Nationals. Grace Quinn of Texas Dreams passed elite testing, I haven't heard of her before so will keep an eye out. Maddie Desch has reportedly torn her mesniscus. A horrible start to her senior career, but it doesn't have a particularly long recovery so she could easily compete at Nationals etc.

Here is one of the funniest 'action' gymnastics photos I have EVER seen. Signing off with the fiercest warrior of them all, Llomincia Hall (rhyme an unintended bonus).

 


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Soviets Chomping Caviar. Komova injured?!

For reals, yo. This one contains an interview with Lena Degteva, a Soviet Junior gymnast who went on to emigrate to Canada and compete for the Bruins. Lena was at Round Lake circa 1989, in the same training group as Oksana Chusovitina and Tatiana Gutsu. The whole interview is fascinating, and extremely frank. No holds barred on how she got her start in the sport, the Soviet attitude to things like education and America, the dance training and diet. Yes, caviar! I'm sure I'm not the only one who did a double take at that. The interview starts roughly a third of the way through, if you want to skip NCAA recaps etc.

Also MCKAYLA MARONEY IS BACK IN THE GYM. 
This was posted on Jade Barbosa's twitter, who seems ready to go for Rio. Great news on both counts! As for McKayla, she's in a leo with her comp hair sorted, that's good enough for me even if she's just conditioning..I wouldn't expect much more than that at this stage. I'm all for pale, but wow what a milk bottle! It must be the Irish in her :P

I just saw this a second ago. What a MASSIVE blow to Viktoria Komova's entire 2013 if true, quite possibly resulting in her 2011 experience...barely getting back in time for Worlds. Let's hope there will be a much more positive outlook on this soon. Get healed quickly Vika! Update: Vika has said on her own VK (Russian social network) that she is out of both competitions. However she will be undergoing further testing on the 27th and 28th, and maybe there will be more hopeful news then. Crushing and all as it is to see THE most fantastic gymnast of the quad down with another injury, it may well be the best thing for her- enforced rest. If she has to take a year off and heal fully from everything and really grow into her new frame, she would probably be in a much better place for Rio, rather than run the risk of pushing herself too hard and coming down with more injuries closer to 2016.

More bad news, Ebee and Larisa Iordache are both out of SCAM. Ebee is citing a hip strain, no reason is given for Larisa. I would not immediately cry 'injury!', it may well be that they want more time to develop for Worlds. Koko Tsurumi and Victoria Moors have been named. The fact that a replacement Romanian has not makes me think that it's not neccessarily Larisa, but moreso the structuring of their programme. Koko is an odd one, seeing as the general idea was that she was winding down to retirement after London. Maybe a last hurrah? Will always welcome a chance to see her and Victoria. Victoria has a new floor routine, and I love it. The replacement American for Ebee will be named at the February camp. It is most likely to be Lexie Priessman facing Kyla, which will be just as interesting I think. There are still more spots, and of course, room for an exhibition. Confirmed are Seitz, Ferrari, Moors, Tsurumi, Teramoto and Ross. I expect a Brit, Priessman and Katelyn Ohashi to exhibit 2 or 3 routines.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

More news- Do not adjust your VCR

UPDATE- Added Lizzy LeDuc's routines from a few weeks back, and Bridget Sloan's brand new floor for Florida, debuted last week.

China, who took the team title at AYOF despite four falls, did not dominate in the AA and EF, sadly. However, they did accrue some more medals- Mei Jie took third in the AA, first on bars and third on beam, Luo Huan took second on bars, Liu Zhilin second on floor and third on vault and Chen Siyi second on beam. All in all, they went home far from empty handed, and at an inauspicious time of the year for them, still in the middle of Winter Training. There is great dissapointment that they did not sweep the board, but I don't think they should be written off...they are not used to competition, particularly international, and will not have been training high level skills for long. A good point was made on IG, that Deng Linlin was extremely inconsistent as a junior. Conversely of course, Tan Sixin and plenty of others never translated their potential as a junior to a senior. I am very impressed with Britain! Hope to see all of these girls in the future.

There's a US National Team Camp taking place. Some more appointments to the Junior National Team would be nice. Sarah Finnegan is not at camp, no idea as to why not. Hopefully not an injury. If she is not present at the next camp at the end of February, it is unlikely that she will be in contention for the competitions in Italy and Germany coming up in March. This one will no doubt be focusing on upgrades for those meets, and the summer season- Classics and Nationals, as well as SCAM of course.

Norah Flatley, Alexis Vasquez and Jordan Chiles will all be trying for elite this year. Norah and Alexis are Chow's most promising Level 10's, with some gorgeous beam work and artistry. Jordan is the girl I posted about a while ago, who has an arsenal of awesome skills in training- a DTY, a front triple-layout front etc. but sadly is not elegible for Rio. They would all make fabulous additions to the Junior National Team. I am most excited for Bailie Key, who now has a Downie and Church (!!!) on bars, and a standing arabian on beam. No doubt she has plans for floor and hopefully vault too. She will make excellent competition for Amelia Hundley.

Here is Michaela Chernoch's of Southern Utah's vault from a while ago, versus UCLA. It's the last one, at about 20 seconds. It's a one and a half on, full off. There's a lot of debate over whether it is a vault or not. It's extremely expressive in that a) she lands it and b) she lands it dead centre, and not off the mat...that's a very difficult vault to control the direction on. It also of course, looks awesome. But I'd have to agree it's not a vault, the vault is in her way, not a tool for her to rebound off. She gets pretty much no repulsion off the table and barely touches it. So, not a vault as it does not conform to the three stages of one. But wow!


Beth Tweddle performed for the second time on Dancing on Ice at the weekend. On her first outing, she was commended for her skill and bravery, but condemned for her roboticness. I would agree that she is much more watchable this time around, and has clearly made a lot of effort as regards her presentation. Well done Beth! Particularly impressive in that she was not felling well and had been hospitalised during the week.

Here are Lizzy LeDuc's routines from a meet a few weeks ago. The super-stylish junior who garnered quite a fanbase, moved gyms from WOGA after breaking both her elbows and dropped to Level 10. She failed to qualify elite last year, and has moved gyms again. This is an interview she gave after that move. It won't work for me, not sure if it's under gymnastike's gold' premium section or what. She seems happy with the goal of a college scholarship in mind, and indeed her routines look very NCAA. LOVE that floor. Still, I'd say ruling out her return to elite is premature.

Bridget Sloan did not dissapoint with her new floor routine. It makes the most of her choreography potential, and there's plenty of room for her to increase the difficulty in her tumbling, which is fairly average at the moment. I especially like the opening part.

This is my routine of the day, Hope Spivey at the 1994 NCAA EF on floor. Not only because she was 26 and still awesome, but for the difficulty, form and flair she shows here. Did I mention...reverse choreography??? Wow. Do not adjust your VCR!XD

I made a tumblr. I'm not sure exactly why, as I've no real interest in the tumblr world of OMG REBLOG LOL and I only ever look at a grand total of 3 tumblrs. Boredom I suppose. Predictably, you can find it at http://beautifulgymnastics.tumblr.com It looks extremely bare right now. I will use it for more informal snippets/pictures/videos. You can ask me questions or suggest something for a post on this blog. I won't be neglecting blogger in its place. EDIT- I got very sick of it and deleted it. I just don't like tumblr.

Friday, 18 January 2013

AYOF and News

The team final at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival has taken place. Predictably, China won, with a two point lead. Second was Britain and third was Australia. (Australia fielded two teams). Girls elegible were 1998-2000 born. Britain's team was the youngest- including the lovely 2000-born Catherine Lyons and her gorgeous form. China consisted of Mei Jie, Chen Siyi, Luo Huan and Liu Zhilin. Sadly, they suffered a collective nerves meltdown on beam, all of them fell- though Mei Jie managed her whole routine only to fall on the dismount. These four are extremely talented, and will be a strong part of the Rio squad. Unsurprisingly, they shone on uneven bars. The competition is not over yet, with an AA and event finals still to come, so hopefully they can learn from TF and stay on the beam!
Stunning. Especially the mount and scale into turn. Shows a lot of presence for a 12 year old.

Luo Huan Uneven Bars Her toepoint! Great dismount too.
Chen Siyi Uneven Bars Not as strong, but still lovely.
Liu Zhilin Uneven Bars Sooo precise.
Mei Jie Uneven Bars Great release combo! Needs to take a lesson from some of her teammates in toepoint, but I love it. So tiny, 3 releases, beautiful dismount...maybe she could do one of the old hardcore releases??
Liu Zhilin Beam Obviously not the routine she wanted to show, but I can't help but think she will develop beautifully on this event. Gorgeous lines, and nice Nastia-esque mount! A pity she broke form on it slightly, but at least she didn't topple off on it like eh..Nastia.
Mei Jie Beam  Okay I love the fact her name is translating as Team Major. Kept the team beam flakiness in check until the last. She works the beam very strongly, reminds me of Deng Linlin. Promising!
Luo Huan Beam Clearly feeling the nerves, but still divine. Great acro series and Onodi. They really were dominoes on this event, but they're so young..they'll be fine!
Chen Siyi Beam The tuck front is not her friend, hopefully she can improve it. Beautiful layout!

They all either vaulted FTY's or layouts, but then that's not altogether dissapointing due to their age and the fact that nobody did anything more difficult than a FTY in the whole meet.

Floor is harder to find so far, but here is Luo Huan. very weak in difficulty as expected, but so elegant! Love her arm movements.
 

Lavinia Milosovici has had a baby boy, Mihai. Lavinia suffered the loss of her daughter some years ago from illness. Shannon Miller has announced her second pregnancy, said to be a miracle owing to her ovarian cancer.

British 2000 Olympian Lisa Mason has announced a comeback for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Lisa is now 31 with a 7 year old daughter. Good for her :)

Here's a great article about some controversy at the 1981 Worlds. Just substitute some names and bam, it's 2008 all over again! It's worth noting that they were in fact correct on both counts, but still a fascinating read.

Larisa Iordache and Diana Bulimar will compete at the La Roche sur Yon World Cup (formerly Bercy, a snappier title...) on March 16-17. Larisa will do beam and bars, Diana just beam. Seeing as Larisa will be coming off SCAM a fortnight before, I'm not surprised she is doing the 'easier' events pounding wise. Not sure what the deal is with Diana though, I'd love to see her do AA or 3 events..

McKayla Skinner is training a Cheng. Into a mat on a pit, but very upright! Bit of bent knees, but it's a new skill and I'm hoping she can straighten them in time. She has a similarly very upright competition ready laid-out double double, and already has an amanar and tucked double double under her belt. McKayla turned senior last year, but did not yet get her chance to shake things up. Looking forward to the debut of these skills! You can see the Cheng here.

Unfortunately my laptop charger has died a death, and because of Blogger's US only phone service, I can't update. Hope to have one within the week :) Thankfully can still look at everything on my phone, so I won't be starved of news...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Double back off low bar (!!!!) and underrated beam

WOW! An unknown, presumably Soviet gymnast judging by one of the video titles, did a double back off the low bar at least twice in competition- at the 1988 Moscow News and the 1988 Junior European Championships. And successfully landed it, I should add. Almost a quarter of a century ago. I love when you think you have exhausted the treasures of youtube and then something like this hits you in the face. Low bar tricks are not unheard of, at the same time, Yulia Kut was training a Hindorff on the low bar. Predictably, she scraped her legs on the ground and did not compete it- she did warm it up though. Anyway, it's not her. If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to know.


I should look up Tatiana Groshkova's teammates under Elvira Saadi..it's not Tatiana, but there was nobody like Elvira for pushing her gymnasts to do mental tricks, and it is the right timeframe. It's very hard though to get information on nobodies who don't even have the underground popularity of Tatiana and Aleftina.

Now for some delightful underrated beam routine, with a total absence of the usual queens- Nadia Comaneci, Olga Korbut, Daniela Silivas, Olessia Dudnik, Yang Bo, Olga Mostepanova, Tatiana Groshkova, Aleftina Priakhina etc. etc. Some of the following girls won Olympic and/or world medals, but you still won't hear of these routines!

Yes, I love her and I prefer her work to that of her superstar teammate and best friend, Nadia. There is something about her. Ahhh the grace, fluidity, extension, 540 degree pirouette handstand and her deep arch in her LOSO's. Perfection.

Nobody does back flexibility quite like Irina, check out that reverse planche! Amazing. The rest of the routine is great too of course.
Her low to beam is what stands out to me, but she moves very well here. And a great full-in dismount to boot.
I love a routine where you just know there won't be a hint of a hesitation or wobble. 13 year old Lavinia is masterful here, especially her mount and turn combination. Special mention to her double tuck WITH legs together, when it was common for them to be done with legs shoulder width apart.
Fabulous, she's so floaty. This routine is apparently missing a requirement so was only scored out of a 9.9. Without fully knowing the COP under which is was performed- perhaps the wolf jump was not credited and she lost a leap series if it was needed? Anyway, check out the perfect form in her BHS-LOSO-LOSO-LOSO! And then watch Dawes do the same pass in the same competition. Bleruugh. Gorgeous extension, amazing cradle, difficult dismount. So dissapointed she faded before 96..

Monday, 14 January 2013

Another One Bites the Dust (Romania) and News

Raluca Haidu, also known as Pitic, (which seems to mean dwarf) has left the senior National Team and returned to Deva. The article translates as 'out of calculations for maintaining the best team in the country', which must mean out of contention for being part of the squad for Rio 2016. It does not mention whose decision this was. Or indeed, if it truly is a permanent fixture. After all, Romania are short on elites and it's not out of the question that an improved Raluca could transfer back to Izvorani. This news comes on top of the retirement of Catalina Ponor, Gabriella Dragoi, Diana Chelaru, Amelia Racea and Ana Porgras, all within the last year. They are left with Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar, Sandra Izbasa (no news to the contrary), Daniela Andrei and the three new seniors- Stefania Alina Stanila, Ana Maria Ocalisan and Maria Rauta. Raluca, the adorable star of the documentary The Secrets Of Deva has struggled somewhat as a senior, with her most useful event, bars, not being one she could score overly high on. She also seems to have struggled with her mental game. Nevertheless, she had a lot of potential and is one of those gymnasts that sparkled and drew people in to her personality- she will be missed if she never returns.

In the same batch of news, several juniors (and brand new seniors) have been training at Izvorani at the invitation of Bellu and Bitang, in the hopes of being selected to train there permanently in preparation for Rio. The camp is still ongoing, but so far Madalina Blendea, Andreea Iridon (she can SWING BARS and is training a Memmel on beam) Andreea Munteanu, Asiana Peng, Stefania Stanila and  Ana Maria Ocalisan have been selected. I would also expect Laura Jurca and Silvia Zarzu to be selected- and Maria Rauta, if she is not there already. The squad for Rio, the article and common  sense claims, will be built around Iordache and Bulimar. Sadly, the best juniors will not be senior just yet- none of the new seniors are particularly impressive, or at least, have not shown themselves to be yet. Zarzu and Munteanu are 2014, Iridon and Blendea are 2015, and Peng is 2016. Let's hope Romania can continue to shine with the impressive talent they still have in their ranks.

In totally different news, Jesolo will have event finals this year! This relatively small meet which is not important, always attracts a great lineup. It also gets a full USA team, one of the very few competitions outside of the US that they participate in. Last year saw Sarah Finnegan, Elizabeth Price, Mckayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Rebecca Bross, Brenna Dowell, McKayla Skinner and Kyla Ross for the USA, along with Anastasia Grishina, Anna Rodionova, Vanessa Ferrari and Carlotta Ferlito. Jesolo is also a great opportunity for a good look at Junior talent.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Two New Skills and Demy BB

Really exciting stuff this week, videos emerged of no less than two new skills. The first is a double double laidout, performed by McKayla Skinner of USA.  Though we have seen an arabian double layout, and a pretty loose double double by Ebee, nobody has yet done this. Would be great to see it even at Nationals. Though she is using a mat, it doesn't look like she really needs it. Decent landing, and hopefully with time she can force her legs straighter. The second skill is a double layout dismount off beam, performed by Catalina Ponor of Romania. She is supposed to be retired! This was rumoured to be done by Armine Barutyan (yes, of GAGE) of USSR in training, but no video ever emerged so it is not widely credited. Clearly she is doing it into a pit so it's nowhere near ready, she gets spotted and she's below the floor before she's upright...but it DOES look very possible. Even if it never materialises- respect!

McKayla's double double laidout

I can't believe when pondering the possibility of this skill a few days ago, that I couldn't figure out exactly what it would look like. Eventually it struck me that it would look exactly like Elise Ray/Shawn Johnson's bars dismount. Duhh.


WOW! EDIT: This video was only uploaded yesterday, and several good sources are similarly reporting it as new. Others are saying its from last year. Point still stands regardless, Cata is awesome and this could well inspire another gymnast.

Anna Dementyeva's beam routine at Voronin last month caused a stir, and scored extremely highly- in excess of 15.6 if I remember right, must recheck. A video has been anxiously awaited, and here it is! Such a beautiful gymnast. I hope she gains more fluidity with this and one or two of her connections are a little tentative, but this is lovely and difficult work. Well done Demy!





Friday, 11 January 2013

American Cup lineup announced

I'll try not to call it SCAM, but it's tough. For some reason I have it in my head that it takes place in the same venue in New York every year. Maybe it often does, but the NBC commentary is in my head 'It's in this venue that Nadia blah blah blah'. Anyway, it's not this year- it's on Aly's turf, Massachusetts.

The American lineup is Kyla Ross and Elizabeth Price.  Not very surprising as these are the only two with senior international experience, and who are fighting fit to compete. Kyla needs to show strong upgrades to stand a chance of beating Ebee, who has monster d-scores and is coming off the back of two easy World Cup wins. Two very different gymnasts- should be interesting! No word yet on whether there will be an exhibition gymnast. If there is, my money is on Lexie Priessman, who, like Gabby Douglas before her, is quite capable of equalling or even beating her compatriots.

The international lineup (2 free spaces currently) is Asuka Teramoto, Vanessa Ferrari, Larisa Iordache and Elizabeth Seitz. Vanessa was expected to fade out from competition, she only did the World Cups a while ago for money to get an apartment with her boyfriend. Presumably this competition is furthering her quest. Not that I think it's a bad thing or anything. Asuka, who was in London, was the new-found star of the Japanese team, who is very very strong on beam and floor. Hopefully she can step it up on bars and beam and really contend well. She was injured last year and did not compete at the Asian Games or Japanese Nationals- I cannot wait to see her again. Please please please let Larisa actually compete this time. This is probably to make up for her being pulled from the World Cup last year. I hope to see her in full health. Elizabeth is really quite strong and could be very successful at least at Euros if she cleaned up her form and polished her routines some more. Lovely floor routine- and I hope she throws her Def. I don't care if it's sloppy. As for the two remaining places- I would think one would be a Brit- Kristian Thomas is competing, makes sense to send someone with him. Not neccessarily Rebecca Tunney (who if she does show up, should be unrservedly apologised to for the awful commentary she had last year at the hands of the trio), but one of their new seniors- and they have several. There really is no new faces in this lineup, would be nice for the last two spots to be filled by them. I'm going to guess no Russians. Chinese...hmm. They are and have been for a while sequestered in winter training, which the competition comes right at the end of. It's not great timing, not sure how much they would be bothered over a biased competition even with the lure of experience. I would think the likeliest scenario is a Brit and a Romanian or South American- the men's side has quite a few.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

NCAA gymnastics in not-elite shocker

So, it's elite gymnastics dry season. Naturally enough, people turn to watching what NCAA gymnastics has in store, particularly as it features many familiar faces. And yet, far too many people go in expecting a carbon copy of US Nationals and throw a fit when it's not what they get. It drives me MENTAL.

 'Eww that choreo is the WORST'

'Why are they all doing such easy vaults'

'It's disgusting that they are doing sexy moves in their routines. That's not what gymnastics is about'

'Why are they all using such horrible modern music'

'How in the hell did that get a 10'

'I'm sick of seeing such easy floor routines, they should be more difficult'

'What is with that exaggerated stick, I've never seen that before'.

NCAA tends to have far better choreography than elite, as a whole. The girls work much more and focus a lot more on their choreography. Sure, they use more er, 'mature' moves sometimes, and often use popular songs. Why on earth not? They are 18 and above, and their job on floor is to draw the crowd in and get them going- as well as of course, get a good score for their team. The girls play to their strengths on floor, instead of looking awkward trying to conform to a style that is clearly not theirs, which has quite often been the case in elite.

Well yes, because they can get 10's for well performed Yurchenko fulls. People just do not see that these girls are older and therefore more prone to injuries from hard landings, and that they do not train near as much as when they were elite. Because, they are like, studying for degrees and stuff? That means they have assignments, and lectures, and actual lives. Now if you want to see a whole lot of amanars and risky vaults, then rewatch Olympics and Worlds.

It got a 10 for the same reason that excellent elite routines in the past got 10's- even with visible errors like leg seperation, shuffles and hops on landings. The range of scores for excellent routines is narrow, so if a gymnast goes above and beyond, then a 10 is reasonable to expect.

Yeah, I for one really want more ACL and Achilles injuries, so bring on the piked double arabians and double doubles please! People do do double layouts and arabians on floor, I kind of wish they wouldn't..

Ha, it's fresh from the old elite days. I kind of love it, it's very endearing and really just shows how happy they are for themselves AND the team.

The best thing about NCAA is the team spirit. The way the girls are surrounded after a routine, the way they mimic floor choreography, just everything. They are there to win and be successful, but having a lot of fun along the way. Of course they are not going to place themselves at risk for the minority who wish to see difficult moves beyond the reach of the gymnast. If you can't get over it, then stop watching it and stop bitching about it.

This refuses to embed, but it's Lloimincia Hall's brand new floor routine. I'll let her have the last word. Is she stomping all over the grave of beautifully graceful floor routines? Yes she is. But how anyone could watch this and not smile is beyond me. It's everything NCAA gymnastics stands for- sassy, sparkly, fun, enthusiastic, crowd pleasing and above all- suited to the gymnast, who could not be anymore thrilled to be out there doing her thing if she tried. Wonderful to watch.

Lloimincia is AWESOME
 
Who I am looking out for this year: (bearing in mind I am only watching free meets at a reasonable timezone so haven't been exposed to everyone yet)

Danusia Francis
Peng Peng Lee
Vanessa Zamarippa
Lichelle Wong
Olivia Courtney
Sophina DeJesus
Mattie Larson
Bridget Sloan
Lauren Beers
Lloimincia Hall
Keeley Kmieciak
Kytra Hunter
Marissa King
Alyssa Click 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Floor Routines of the Year, 1976- 2012

 Simply, the one routine per year that stands out from all the rest.

2012- Eythora Thorsdottir, Netherlands, Junior Euros
Yes I've mentioned her quite a lot. Anyway, here she is on floor in all her glory- perfect precise form, beautiful graceful dance. I can't find myself to care that her difficulty is low. Just a masterpeice. And yes it does beat the various Olympic routines, for me. Her main contenders were Aliya Mustafina, Mai Murakami and Larisa Iordache.

2011- Mariya Livchikova, Ukraine, World Cup- Ghent
Just gorgeous. That double front is truly exceptional. Love her flair and form.


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Forgotten Ones

Before the rise of USA and China, another country frequently shared the medal stand with the Soviets and Romanians, and earlier greats like Czechoslovakia. Always efficient, often cold and sometimes quite overscored, the East Germans picked up a very respectable tally of medals during its short existence. Though it was founded as a seperate state in 1949, they did not compete as such until the 1966 Worlds and 1968 Olympics, which also coincides with the starting point for their gymnastics success. As a team, East Germany were extremely solid- medalling in all 5 Olympic team finals in which they competed, and in 8 out of the 10 world team finals they appeared at. Individually they also racked up a good bit of hardware, especially from Karin Janz, Maxi Gnauck and Erika Zuchold with the occasional contribution from Dagmar Kersten and Dorte Thummler.

In short, their medal record looks like this.

TEAM

5/5 Olympic medals, 8/10 World medals, 13/15 possible team medals.

ALL AROUND

6 overall medals, 5 silver

BARS

13 medals in 15 competitions, 8 gold

BEAM

3 titles overall, 2 gold

FLOOR

1 bronze

VAULT

11 medals, 3 gold

Their 3 best gymnasts have an extremely impressive medal count:

Erika Zuchold

Erika holds 8 individual titles. She competed at the 1966 Worlds, 1968 Olympics, 1970 Worlds and 1972 Olympics. 2 of her medals are all-around, 1 each for beam and bars and the other 4 are all vault. She competed against such greats as Vera Caslavska, Ludmilla Tourischeva and Olga Korbut.

Karin Janz

Karen achieved 7 individual titles at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics and 1970 Worlds. 3 of her titles are for bars, 2 for vault and 1 each for all-around and beam. She also competed against Tourischeva, Caslavska and Korbut.

Maxi Gnauck

Maxi holds 9 individual titles which she received at the 1979, 1981 and 1983 Worlds and the 1980 Olympics. She was almost certain to have medalled at the 1984 Olympics, which her country boycotted. She performed well at the Friendship Games held by the boycotting countries, winning several medals. Her main competitors throughout her career were Nadia Comaneci, Nellie Kim, Natalia Shaposhnikova, Emilia Eberle, Natalia Yurchenko, Olga Mostepanova and Ecaterina Szabo.

In total, East Germany in 20 years and 15 competitions won 47 medals, 35 of which are individual. Of those 35, 24 were won by Zuchold, Janz and Gnauck combined. Impressive, no? You would imagine that their achievements and gymnasts are often fondly remembered and lamented in a similar vain to the frequent wailings over the loss of Soviet grace.

This is unequivocally NOT the case.

Despite the great results, and despite the fabulous bar work and innovation these girls brought, they as a whole are not lauded, not celebrated, not reminisced over. There are many reasons for this of course, which I will give my own view on.

1) Negative Image

This one is twofold. The gymnasts themselves tended to look miserable and underfed and quite often performed as if they were going through the motions. Although they were far from the only slight pixie types around- young Nadia Comaneci, Emilia Eberle and Olga Mostepanova being just a small selection of the others- East German gymnasts seemed to possess it as more of a collective trait. The misery is an important one, as it works against a gymnast appealing to the crowd and assembling a fandom. This might sound very crass, but Elena Mukhina was guilty of this too (also for good reason) and if she had not had such an awful fate, I believe her sad demeanour would have absolutely worked against her being as remembered as she is. The opposite is proven by the audience's love for smiley gymnasts like Daiane Dos Santos and Jiang Yuyuan. As for going through the motions, this was most visible on floor where contrary to the eclectic (Romanian) and gloriously elegant (Soviet) routines being performed, the East Germans tended to have poor choreography and a total lack of expression, charisma and charm. This is also reflected in the achievement of just one title on the event. And as we know, gymnasts tend to win hearts on floor much moreso than any other apparatus.

Not only were they individually damning themselves, they are also retroactively contending with the extremely poor reputation East Germany built up in sport. Children were picked out at young ages and trained in special schools, which is fine. But the other strong proponent of how East Germany got to be so strong in sport was doping. Cycling was the most notorious by far for this, but gymnastics was not exempt. Dagmar Kersten who competed at the last gymnastics competitions while her country existed has since come out and acknowledged that it did happen to her and her team. It would be ambitious to expect ALL of her teammates and other former gymnasts to back up her claims, as few would want to remember or publicise it. But as it was so rife in the 1970's and 1980's in all sports in the country, and as Kersten competed at the latter end, it is safe to assume that doping occurred throughout the two decades. Nothing worse than doping to taint achievements, and it understandably has a negative impact in how they are remembered.

2) Fellow Competitors

The 70's and 80's are the golden era of gymnastics, spawning legends and all-time greats who are at the tip of every gymnastics fan's tongue. Karin Janz and Erika Zuchold, as previously mentioned, contended with such names as Ludmilla Tourischeva, Olga Korbut and Vera Caslavska. Korbut of course was and is the darling of gymnastics whose name is known worldwide, one of only two to ever achieve this. Caslavska and Tourischeva both had longevity on their side, with Caslavska's reputation being helped along by her heroic snub against the Soviets on the medal stand and subsequent lauding by her native Czechoslovakians and triumphant return to competition. Tourischeva is often remembered for her consistency and efficiency, and that one time where the bars collapsed as she dismounted and zero.fucks.were.given as she walked off and never looked back.

It was even worse for the girls who competed in the 80's. Maxi Gnauck was up against Nadia Comaneci,  Nellie Kim, Ecaterina Szabo, Natalia Yurchenko and more specifically fabulous bars workers like Teodora Ungureanu, Emilia Eberle and Natalia Shaposhnikova. Dagmar Kersten competed against Daniela Silivas, Aurelia Dobre, Elena Shushunova, Svetlana Boginskaya and Olessia Dudnik. Quite a tough act to be remembered along with the greatest gymnasts of all time, and by and large they seem to have failed in this. This is helped along by victories by East Germans over some of the above gymnasts tasting foul to the legions of their adoring fans.

3) Overscoring and controversies

Not that East German gymnasts were the only beneficiaries of generous scores- but it did consistently happen, and several of them contributed to medals which many felt were undeserved. The 1968 and 1980 Olympics are both notable for their controversial and hand-picked all-around podium, and East German gymnasts benefited at both of these. One of the most controversial was the perfect 10 awarded to Dagmar Kersten's bar routine in the 1988 Olympic event finals, which still inspires rage. The fact that she would have medalled anyway does not seem to matter, it's the score that is the instigator. Another routine which bested a favourite is below, not least because it deprived USA of their first potential gold undeservedly. Still an awesome routine though.

Clearly East German gynasts have quite a lot against them being remembered fondly, but I think it is important to remember just how little control over what was happening. Their faces say it all. Doping does of course render the high medal count in question, but to me the most important thing is that great routines were performed, and these girls are well worth watching. Just not on floor.

The Best Of  (read: BARSSS)

Here are some of my favourite routines, bars heavy as it was far and away their best event. Some nice vaults from the East German crew, but I don't appreciate the super-easy vaults enough to include them.



Baerbel Wielgoss is only here for her mount and dismount, beautiful work. Erika Zuchold is the one who snatched Cathy Rigby's gold medal hopes, but it IS still a great routine.

In short, East Germany produced innovating and exciting routines, and should be remembered for it. Discover an East German gymnast today! There are of course a lot more than the ones listed above, Martina Jentsch, Carola Dombeck, Silvia Hindorff and Katherina Rensch are more of my favourites.


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

2013 still doesn't sound very appealing as a year, though I remember saying that about 2001 and 2003. There's something just ugly about 1's and 3's in years like that.

So my first gift is my new blog header. I was bored of my samey old one and those type of ones are too common anyway. Maybe this one will become endearing and actually original, or something other than just laughably bad and childish looking. But I like it, it's magnificent, no? Such toepoint, such beautiful non-flexed wrists (thanks to Spanny, flexed wrists can never be unseen) and such a symmetrical beam! Though I think the toepoint was better before I decided it would look better if she faced right not left.. And yes it should really be a switch ring leap, but arching the back and head would be too hard for my limited paint skills. You never know, I might shake it up a bit and introduce stag, double stags and maybe even a sheep or wolf jump if I'm feeling adventurous. A perfect Yang Bo is the pinnacle I'm aiming for. For the moment though, a very very oversplit switch leap it is. I seem to remember Anna Pavlova managing a similar shape to my gymnast's left leg, so no making fun of it. You might notice the gloriously patriotic leotard incorporating Celtic designs AND colours, genius or what. Ireland will be at the top of WAG for the 2037-2040 quad and forever after- you heard it here first.

Not a clue what's happening with my employment situation yet. I will either have no hours or much less than I was doing last year- so more time to post in general. Anyway, I hope to get stuck in straight away with SCAM/Jesolo/Euros rosters and actual competitions as they become available, and of course, upgrades. I seem to have got rid of an awful lot of the opinion I had built up prior to starting my blog (which is 6 months old!!) with prolific posting, but no doubt more will spew out of somewhere.

Anyway, happy new year :)

Bailie Key has divulged some of her new upgrades- a Downie, Church and shaposhon bars and arabian on beam. Awesome! She mentions these in a recent interview, with footage of the beautiful Downie in question. A more awesome bars release wish partially fulfilled already and we're only one day in! The interview is on gymnastike and you can see it here. Part 2 is further down on the side. Also check out Arianna Guerra doing a full twisting DLO bars dismount. I fully expect to see CGA and Texas Dreams utterly dominate the next quad for USA.