Thursday, 28 February 2013

SCAM podium training live! Update- 2nd session videos

I hope everyone who can is already watching this! EDIT- Video has been changed to archive footage of the whole thing. MOAR EDIT- Couch Gymnast just tweeted a very interesting fact from Simone's interview- she is training triple yurchenkos! I knew she was well capable but WOW!!!

Thoughts so far:

(It's only showing Americans, currently on first event- beam)

Kyla is soooo solid on beam. It looks like a carbon copy of her London routine. That sheep jump would not get credit now outside of US, same for the switch ring leap. But so great to see her like this! She is definitely taller, looks like she'll be pushing 5'4 before long. I'm wondering the possibility of her exhibitioning bars too? Don't forget she can exhibition all 4 events, like Gabby last year.

Simone is steady, though not as much as Kyla suprisingly. Great attack on her punchfront and pike back. She is pretty much doing her 2012 routine too, with...dun dun dun..a full in beam dismount! I have no idea what that does to her SV, I'm guessing good things obviously. She looks more confident and her cossack turn which I think now has more rotations than the single one she was doing last year looks amazing.

Katelyn looks much better than she did at the WOGA classic. Her connections look more fluid, and crediting them won't be a joke, though still a little generous. That series looks like she will be absolutely nailing it without a doubt soon enough- the Onodi, aerial, aerial, Sheep one. The layout full is still very piked though she's now landing it very well. Worth making it tucked all the same, I don't see her ever getting it to a creditable laidout position (except in the US.) She looks very confident. Will be interesting to see what she pulls out for vault, that is the dealbreaker now.

According to live hits Elizabeth Seitz is doing a Geinger, not a Def. She has not done it since London I believe as the Geinger was surfacing in its place in other competitions post London. If she doesn't fling it on Saturday then the bronze I had already pretty much awarded her looks under threat. All eyes on what Asuka Teramoto will bring. Vanessa Ferrari is also a good bet for bronze, but I don't think she will be throwing full difficulty here at all. She's in it for the money, and nothing wrong with that. I relish any chance to see her perform.

Gabby Jupp has a full twisting double layout bars dismount! Excellent stuff.

Update: I think they are at least seeing if Kyla can do more than beam in podium training..she is training floor. Some nice double backs with too much power. She's a giant now, you can tell even by the amount of space her backhandsprings on floor take up. Taller than me at least. (Note: I am 5'3) Loooads of repetitions of her leap series. The switch ring leap looks to have the required 90 degree angle. The second leap is giving her trouble, she's short of 180 degrees on it. Simone had some crazy fast tumbles, a sky-high double layout and a lovely full in. I missed others people were talking about..a 1 and a half into double pike and a possible 3.5 twist (???). She definitely threw a double double apparently, yay! I missed it. On rewatching, all of these things happened- couldn't swear to the 3.5 twist but it was facing the right way and did not look like a 2.5. WOW. The floor rotation was really short. I saw Katelyn do a Memmel turn and that was it. Hmmmm. Gabby has a double turn on beam. Elizabeth Seitz falling all over the place on beam, damn.

Moving onto vault. Kyla is doing vault timers. So that's 3/3 events being trained so far. Her heel is wrapped. Okay, nobody doing anything other than timers, they're saving the hard pounding. Simone's timers are enormous, so looking forward to seeing her on Saturday. Katelyn's seemed fine. Gabby looks nice and sharp on floor. A contender for bronze??? The camera has cut away from showing bars, I really wanted to see Asuka doing something other than chalk! Victoria having issues on beam, and crashed a DTY earlier.

Oooo, bars! Katelyn and Simone absolutely nailing handstands, especially Simone, but both deteriorated as the repetitions went on. Kyla looking well, messy shap 1/2 but it did improve. She didn't push herself and only did half routines. Her Pak looks a little jarring, it doesn't flow as well as it did. Gorgeous lines, and fabulous double layout dismount. Simone had issues, fell on a Shap and then came back and stormed every Shap since with no chance of falling short. She fell on a release twice, fairly sure it's new so maybe she won't include it in her routine yet. Nice and sharp, her form looks better too. Her dismount was way above the bar and looks like she could do a double double tucked or laidout in her sleep, lands completely upright as if she was doing a flyaway. Nice crisp turns. Katelyn looks zippier on bars, though she was a little sluggish towards the end. Her legs are still coming apart on (late) turns but she seemed more confident. She does that thing I hate that WOGA always do before stalders, where their back completely bends first- I don't know what you call that, but Bross was a big offender. It's still a routine with lots of little flaws, I would agree with the concensus that it looks too much for her. I didn't see a totally wonky Healy, but that could just be the angle I'm watching at. Hard to tell who was strongest on bars really...


So, in a very interesting and awesome turn, Kyla is training all 4 events! This to me does not mean the injury story is a con, but that it was impacting her training so they've lessened the pressure on her by making her the exhibition. So she can do as much as she wants. I think she is recovered, just that the story is correct- it affected her training for a few weeks and ability to definitely have all 4 events down. Looks like she will anyway, but I hope she does at least 2 events.

Simone has upgrades! A full in off beam, a double double on floor, a 1.5 to double pike and what I'd swear is a 3.5 twist, two new bars releases and a transition and an acro line on beam with a layout- very Chinese. Her bars were not brilliant for her though, with some falls. Hopefully she will just get that out of her system now and be perfect on Saturday. Her bars thankfully look cleaner, her beam is crisper, her floor has fantastic looking upgrades and her vault will no doubt raise the roof. No idea what vault Katelyn will bring since they all just did timers. Kyla looks capable of bringing her London routines, I don't think we will see any upgrades from her though. But seeing her at all will be a treat. Katelyn looks improved from WOGA classic, much sharper. Her bars still have numerous issues but I'n not sure if the glaring one, the Healy, is still present and they look a little tiring for her. Beam is very snappy, she looks much more on but the layout full still needs to be binned. Utterly fabulous beam routine but all in all, I'm not convinced she can win. She will need more an FTY and some unfair scoring or mistakes to do that.

Sadly I didn't see near enough of the other competitors. Great reports about Gabby Jupp and Maegan Chant, as well as Vanessa Ferrari. Elizabeth and Victoria both displayed numerous issues, and Elizabeth will more than likely not throw the Def. Not much said about Asuka so I can't really judge where she's at. The fight for bronze will be equally as interesting as the fight for gold.

VIDEO now is the archive footage. The girls are wearing Under Armour leos, who have secured a contract with USAG until 2020. Personally I'd prefer Adidas (actual Adidas, not GK swirls..), with a mixture of old school and newer type leos. They are perfection. So these leos are nothing to write home about but Alicia has worn some brilliant ones so there is plenty of hope yet.

UPDATE- Some videos from the second podium training session. Much nicer leos, love the colour of them and the style. This one has proper floor and vaults, a wise move to save it and spread the four events.

SPOILER- Katelyn has her DTY back and Kyla is still using her old music. I did not notice the head fling plaguing it so maybe she either did not do all of the choreography or has mixed it up a bit. Katelyn's DTY has winner written all over it. Her bars will be leniently dealt with, her beam is ginormous, she has an acceptable vault now and her floor is half decent. Simone will need to be more on than she showed today to beat her, but since I don't know her start values or indeed Katelyn's except her vault and beam it's really hard to know who has what d-score advantage.

Kyla had a great upright DTY, noticeably better than Katelyn's, as would be expected. She seems to have lost form a bit on it though, and I noticed the same about her bars...maybe she is just not pushing herself to the limit, understandable. It could be her height either messing things up a bit. I wonder what all of those back layout passes will transform into! If not now then later on in the year. Simone's vault is as huge as ever, though I'd love if she tightened up her feet a bit.

Simone and Katelyn both have new floor routines. There's a comment under Katelyn's saying it's a Eurovision song. Hmm, can't have been a great one or I'd know it. Edit- It's Azerbaijan 2009. Fun fact- two other Americans currently (well, 2012..) have Eurovision floor music- Jordyn Wieber with Ukraine's 2004 entry and Alexis Buecler with Ukraine's 2007 entry. The former was a winner and the second did very well. The second one has to be heard to be believed- there are lots of Eurovision songs that push the weird boat out but nobody has ever topped this, it's insane! And awesome.

Moving on...I like the routines of both girls. I think Simone's old music may have suited her style better, but a bit early to really confirm that. GREAT tumbling, double double, double easy for her. It would be fantastic if she can plant those landings in competition. I wonder if she'll sneak a jump or two in? They can still be done, and she has crazy power. She didn't show all of her passes from earlier, but that is just one routine, so who knows. Katelyn's tumbling is a bit sloppy looking, hopefully she can get it more polished. Still a very good routine though, loving the last combination pass though it spells RISK all over it.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Some news and musings. SCAM lineup announced!

NON-USA: There will be a livestream of SCAM! On It's German so will presumably have German commentary, but who cares. It begins at 5:30 German time, 4:30 GMT and for anyone who can't watch it on TV in the US- 11:30 EST and 8:30 PST.

Gymnix rosters have been released. The Romanian team which differed between sources before is definitely Andreea Munteanu, Andreea Iridon, Laura Jurca and Paula Tudorache. The first three all feature in my New Kids on the Block Romania post. Very dissapointed not to see Madalina Blendea who doesn't seem to have competed in nearly a year, but word is she is not competition ready yet after an illness. Russia are sending lesser known girls to get experience. Apparently Seda Tutkhalyan has a DTY and round-off-layout on beam so that seems promising. Heaven Latimer, Aleeza Yu, Shallon Olsen and Rose Kayen-Woo from Canada will be there, as well as teams from Japan, Belgium and France. Should be very good. I'm expecting Romania to win. The final roster is here. (download)

In US news, the second girl for SCAM should have been announced by now! Patiently waiting. I fully expect Lexie Priessman but you just never know. Simone Biles would be another strong bet, or maybe Kennedy Baker. It looks like a very bad idea to push Katelyn Ohashi to compete all-around at the moment, so her name would be a huge surprise. The competitive field for this is quite weak so while you will hear a lot about the depth of competition from the reality there will be two extremely strong US girls against a B team. In fact, there will be nobody else from the top 4 at all. I'm most interested in Kyla Ross' upgrades and my main hope is that it will be a good fight for bronze. Jordyn Wieber has reported that she is training and has almost all of her skills back. That will make for an interesting Nationals if she's ready. Aly Raisman looks to be a dead cert for Dancing With the Stars (Strictly Come Dancing) which should be good as dancing definitely does not come easy to her. The official announcement will be tomorrow. Aly's age first and foremost makes her a good choice as she does not have to jump through the hoops Shawn Johnson had to first time around- child labour laws, court, guardian at all times, reduced practice etc. etc. However, I think she's also a smart choice due to her sunny, pleasant personality and she seems very genuine and humble. It's no suprise that she is raking in endorsements all over the place. EDIT- Aly has been confirmed. The competition starts mid-March.

EDIT- Bit of a shock! Katelyn Ohashi and Simone Biles will be the two USA girls for SCAM! Kyla Ross has sadly withdrawn due to a bruised heel. It's fine apparently, but she has had to reduce her training in the last few weeks so isn't ready to go on all four events. I'm sooo suprised to see Katelyn Ohashi, as I expected her not to be fully ready on floor and vault yet, she scratched floor at the WOGA Classic and only did a FTY so I thought she would take longer to be fully ready as an all-arounder. Not liking the fact that injury has forced a complete reversal of the original American's very early in the season. It has also kept Lexie Priessman out, she's recovering from an injury apparently. Really looking forward to Biles, and also to see what Katelyn has up her sleeve in an all-around. Koko Tsurumi has withdrawn and will be replaced by Maegan Chant of Canada. Ross may compete exhibition on beam. Full lineup is Moors, Chant, Jupp, Teramoto, Seitz, Ferrari, Ohashi and Biles with withdrawals from Price, Ross, Iordache and Tsurumi. There's a lot of snark going on about Kyla not being injured/recovering. There's no evidence for that but there is for the opposite so I'm going with that.

Peyton Ernst, another new senior, has been added to the National Team. She will compete at the Tokyo Cup, the previously unnamed USA spot.

Chantysha Netteb suffered a scary fall at a Euros qualifying competition at the weekend when she landed her beam dismount on her neck. She was taken to hospital as a precaution but thankfully the damage is only minor- a bump on her arm and some neck pain. There's a lot of optimism that she'll be ready to go for the next qualifying meet in a fortnight.Edit- Chantysha has her own blog. The fall sounds even scarier, she missed her foot before the dismount, attempted to get back up after and fell back down. She herself remains hopeful she can compete at the second qualifier. Get well soon Chantysha! Her blog is here. It's in Dutch of course, which translates fairly well but mixes up bars and beam. The accident happened on beam, not bars. I just left a comment which has probably translated as gibberish. I love when gymnasts have blogs- Jennifer Pinches has started to blog her London experience with looooads of photos, it's fascinating. I'll link the posts when she's done.

Does anyone else miss the old-style nicknames the Soviets got? I absolutely love them and wish they would be reinstated.

Olga Korbut- The Sparrow from Minsk

Maria Filatova- The Siberian Sparrow

Svetlana Boginskaya- The Belarussian Swan

Tatiana Gutsu- The Painted Bird from Odessa

Tatiana Nabieva- The Peacock from St. Petersburg

LOL JK Tatiana Nabieva does not have a nickname other than Nabs. In fact, this type died with the Soviet Union. I don't count Simona Amanar's nickname meaning airhead and Raluca Haidu's meaning dwarf (lovely bunch in the Romanian National Teams...), they have to be of this exact type. Sometimes a Russian comes along who deserves to be memorialised like former Soviet greats were. Tatiana is one, Aliya another. Bring it back!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

News and stuff

The WOGA Classic has taken place. The Texas Dreams girls did not compete, which drastically lowered the amount of serious competition. They are being paced for camp later this month. Katelyn Ohashi did not compete floor, and vaulted an FTY. Probably a very wise decision this early in the year though it makes me think there's not a hope she will be the second AA spot at SCAM. She did compete a very ambitious beam, with numerous issues which hopefully will be ironed out. It did not have a dance series, the layout full needs to be replaced with a tuck version, and nothing was the score while it is too high, also reflects the monster and around 6.5 to 6.7 for the routine shown, which can hit mid 7's in full. Similarly, her bars are a bit problematic too, the Healy turn is not working for her and is not worth doing if it remains like that. I really like Katelyn and hope she can be paced correctly this quad. Mariya Livchikova was second AA behind Abigail Milliet. Abigail is one of those elites you never hear much about, but she had pretty decent scores here. She was rumoured to be training an amanar but with a score of 15 on vault, I'm not sure if she did a very good DTY or a rough amanar. I'm inclined to go for the former, as overscoring was definitely evident at this meet. Really looking forward to seeing Mariya's beam and floor especially, though she did fall on beam. Krystyna only competed bars. Katelyn's beam is here and her bars are here. Senior results can be seen here.

Jordan Chiles missed qualifying elite by a tiny fraction, as she fell off bars. Seeing as she is 4 years off being a senior, this is far from a calamity, though dissapointing for her of course. She is very strong on all 4 events so if she avoids a fall in future there's pretty much no doubt she'll make it. Really looking forward to seeing her routines, I saw a beautifully clean DTY video recently. Pixie Brock, the girl in blue who was given short shrift in the MLT documentary, failed to qualify elite as did Alyona Shchennikova, Polina's sister. Madison Kocian managed it. There isn't a full list yet so I'm unsure if Irina Alexeeva qualified. She is even younger than Jordan by virtue of not turning senior until 2018 so again, plenty of time. She competed in the junior elite ranks later on in the day but seeing as she is from WOGA that isn't a chrystal clear indication..rules can be bent when it's your gym. Edit- Irina qualified elite! Well done to her. She just did beam and floor after doing the AA earlier, managing the highest scores on both events. I LOVE her beam. Seven juniors competed AA, with Meredith Sylvia of Parkettes in first. Laurie Hernandez counted a fall on bars and was second. Polina Shchennikova seems to have had a rough time on beam, coming in fourth. Full results are here. Irina's qualifying routines are here.

Russia have pulled out of Jesolo. This is a bit of a blow both as an opportunity to see a wide range of seniors and juniors and as a means of seeing them face off against USA which they now won't be doing until worlds and then only individually, but it does make sense that they don't want to wear their gymnasts out this early in the quad. They have quite a bit on their plate- Russian Championships at the beginning of next month, the LRSY (Bercy) World Cup in the middle of March which has Aliya Mustafina, Ksenia Afanasyeva and Maria Paseka on its roster, and then Euros towards the end of April. Anna Rodionova is injured and won't be at Championships. She competed watered down routines with a cast recently..a leg injury, not sure if it was sustained when she fell on her Pak on bars at Stuttgart late last year or if it's unrelated. Also missing will be Viktoria Komova of course, though prognosis on her seems to be better than expected. Edit- Aliya has pulled out of LRSY. Paseka and Afan are still on the roster. I was looking forward to seeing a new floor from her- even just with back layout passes- but still there's a few opportunities to see her before summer so whatever keeps her healthy and paced correctly. I noticed Diana Chelaru is not on the roster anymore in the last update, but hadn't seen the February 14th update. It's here.

Elena Zamolodchikova has reportedly suffered a heart attack. She has been dealing with a lot of stress- the closing down of her gym, move to another multi-sports facility and friction there. She appears to stand accused of physically beating other coaches (??!!). The translations are pretty bad, but it appears that she has been released, still feeling weak, and will be observed until Wednesday. It is entirely blamed on the stress she has been under. Edit: It's been said on IG forums that a fluff piece stated she had a minor heart condition, which would make this attack at such a young age all the more likely. I'm waiting for a decent translation to fill in the gaps but you can read/translate the original article here.

While it's obvious that Oksana Chusovitina has not retired given her recent participation in meets, the latest news is that she plans to compete for Uzbekistan in Rio. This would be her 7th Olympics, and if she makes it to 2016, her 25th year competing as a senior elite. WOW. Oksana has said before that she wanted to focus on coaching the Uzbek team, which presumably she will combine with her own training. While she has German nationality from moving there for her son's treatment, Uzbekistan is her native country so presumably she has dual nationality and won't have to jump through hoops to be elegible. Wishing this incredibly inspirational athlete the best of luck.She really deserves to be recognised outside of her own's quite a bit different to someone competing that long in a sport like archery or equestrian..

USAG just posted a short interview with Kyla Ross. She talks about focusing on her all-around potential and her goals of performing strongly at SCAM and Nationals. There's footage of her on all four events at camp, though vault and floor are just warm-ups. She looks nice and sharp on bars, good to see.

I posted this 10 minutes after USAG uploaded it. Delighted this morning to wake up to ones with Lexie Priessman, Katelyn Ohashi and Simone Biles. Hopefully a Maddie Desch one too. Obviously Kyla is already a senior, the rest are new to the scene. You can see the others here.

The Nadia Comaneci International Invitational was won by Victoria Moors in the senior category and Rebeca Andrade in the junior category. I thought this was a Level 10 meet when I heard about it a while ago, so very happy to discover some great names competing. Another favourite is 2000- born Romanian Asiana Peng who is very clean and artistic on beam and floor. Routines have been uploaded here. The highlight is Victoria Moors on floor. So great to see her right back on form after an off day at the recent Canadian Nationals. Love the choreography right in the middle, and the turn before her last pass. Although she is an extremely worthy floor medal winner she needs a good bit more difficulty to contend, but I'm glad she isn't being overworked when she's not long back from a mild injury. Rebeca Andrade is once again extremely impressive on beam and floor, super height on everything. Nice to see she's keeping it easy though. Bars are her nemesis and she did not do her Comaneci- a shame considering the meet. Asiana Peng has a lovely sprightly floor and nice swing on bars. Plenty of time for the two of them to develop on bars yet.

The Tokyo World Cup roster has been released. (C'mon Jesolo!!). It's a nice mix and I'm most excited to see Asuka Teramoto, Elisa Meneghini and Shang Chunsong. Elisa is a brand new Italian senior who isn't far behind Enus Mariani in terms of promise. (Speaking of Enus, there's a dance run-through of her new floor routine and it's amazing! Epic, dramatic music and she really sell it.) I'm a bit dissapointed to see Huang Qiushuang because although I love her expression on floor and she can display gorgeous work elsewhere...I feel like she has had endless opportunities often with dissapointing results and that it's time to push Zeng Siqi, Huang Huidan and Wu Liufang forward for the international experience they need. Elsabeth Black recently had an extrememly dominant performance at Canadian Nationals, so she should be strong competition. Somehow I am not suprised to see Vanessa Ferrari on the roster as she is competing like a maniac saving up for a house..hopefully a mansion at this stage, she deserves it. I haven't seen much at all of Charlie Fellows so I'm looking forward to her. And last but not unnamed American! Very exciting stuff and it's nice to see them participating in a greater number of international meets. February camp should be very interesting, names for SCAM, Jesolo, the Germany meet and now this, not to mention the much depleted Junior National team. I've named all the girls for the Tokyo Cup but you can see the roster and for MAG too here.

TCG have confirmed the Japanese lineup for Jesolo and coupled with the source on weibo, I'll take that! I'm SO EXCITED to see Asuka Teramoto who is definitely making up for missing competitions with a minor injury last year, Mai Murakami as always, not so much new skills from her as it's very early..but consistency, the cleanest bars worker I've seen in a long time- Wakana Inoue, the girl with the layout full beam mount- Natsumi Sasada who has been missing in action for quite a while and Waikiko Ryu who I haven't seen much of. Superb lineup. They are also sending five juniors and as their juniors are completely unknown to me, an excellent opportunity to see what's coming up through their ranks. 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

That sense of accomplishment (not gymnastics)

..Because I never had an accomplishment in my approx. 6 weeks of gymnastics anyway. Except a cartwheel on beam, an utter fluke. And who let me do that when I couldn't hold a handstand for more than split second..??

Anyway. These are St. Bridget's crosses, not swastikas. The older generations, especially rural, would all know how to make them but barely anyone my age would, which is sad. Every year in school there'd be serious carnage and mangling, except mine :D Anyway, I doubt anyone has seen these before and I think they're cool. We usually have 3 in the house, front door, back door and somewhere else. Keeps the evils away don'tchaknow. I think it's a nice tradition to pass down, and I'm proud that one of mine is better than wikipedia's stock photo...but I'm late by 12 days. Ah well.

And it's totally time for a new blog header. I just had a thought of shopping in tiny gymnasts onto the cross doing handstands and stuff, wow how lame would that be. So it won't be that...

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

That filthy word


The gymnastics world tends to be very dismissive of cheerleading. The eternal complaints against it are most often that cheerleaders do not exhibit great form and obviously do not master four apparatus' like gymnasts do. Great powers of deduction but how does that make it any less worthy of admiration or acknowledgement as a sport? Because of course, that is the other great annoyance I have surrounding cheerleading. It's classed as dance.
Does that look like dance to you? These girls (and sometimes guys who make up 5% of the total number of cheerleaders) are displaying strength, agility, balance, flexibility, endurance, athleticism, competitiveness and above all, LONG hours of training and practice. Gymnastics is a sport, and cheerleading should be too. It has evolved so much from waving pom poms around and needs to be recognised for what it has become. Much like gymnastics has evolved from arm-waving and the odd cartwheel on beam and floor. Because keeping it from being a sport means these things happen:

- Cheerleaders make up just 3% of female high school athletes. Yet they account for 66% of all catastrophic injuries in this category. These are not the incredibly common injuries like strains etc., but serious, disabling and fatal ones. College cheerleading has a slightly higher injury rate. Statistics are from the National Centre for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research annual report from 2008, compiled by the National Cheer Safety Organisation.
- There are more than 60 national and regional cheerleading competitions in the US. This means that winning nationals means absolutely nothing, it cheapens the reputation of the sport, and further prevents it from being declared a sport in the future. It's hard to get an exact figure- I've seen a lot of references to 'more than 60' and one for 72.

Injuries happen in any sport. It's just that most sports (including gymnastics, which is the second offender in the above statistic, at just under 10%) do all they can to limit them, and have as much safety equipment or protection as possible, as well as highly trained coaches and top class facilities. In cheerleading, that is not the case. NCAA insists on college cheer coaches being trained to a certified health and safety programme, but there are still a lot of holes regarding this at school and college level especially the fact that it's not part of NCAA by virtue of not being a sport. College has rules, and all-star is governed, but thay still have problems and everything below them is a free-for-all. Check out the mats and floor they use! All star equipment is not adequate, and further down the line it's worse with lots of reports of extremely old, thin mats that don't cover enough area, or any mats all all- like those who practice in school canteens or carparks. Obviously they can't use giant padded mattresses because of the speed, pace, dance and even surface needed...but they could use 8 inch mats, with extra ones where tumbling passes end in the corners and possibly under the pyramid too if that's not too much of an obstruction, which I suspect probably would be. The height they get, the speed of the routines, the neccessary synchronisation, the hard pounding of the multiple tumbling is a recipe for disaster. And no team is immune. Cheer Extreme Senior Elite, the team above, are highly regarded as being the best- or at least, having the most difficulty. In a routine only a few weeks back, the difficulty is clearly higher than the one from a few years ago shown above, even in the jumps they do, but especially the stunts. There are 2 falls though neither hit the ground thankfully, and 2 near collapses that I can see and they appear to have received a big deduction for not having another flier (the girls who are in the air) assist at the most intricate parts in the pyramid towards the end, which I would agree with- the point flier (the centre girl who assists in tossing the others) looks to be under a huge amount of strain. And that is coming from the top of the sport, where the girls train substantially more than the majority of cheerleaders. This extremely high level of stunting is pretty rare, but the same height and therefore the same risk is present in pretty much all levels.

I have a lot of respect for cheerleaders. What they do is incredibly difficult and just amazing to watch. Here in Ireland, cheerleading does not exist at all and the idea of my secondary school having a squad or having a squad at local GAA (our national sports) matches in the rain and mud is hysterical. Hence having no exposure to cheerleading except episodes of Sabrina and Sweet Valley High and the film Bring it On. The day I stumbled across all-star cheerleading routines on youtube was a great day because they are utterly mindblowing. Finding out how at risk these girls are and how their sport is perceived...not so much. So, cheerleaders don't do standing fulls and backhandsprings with perfect form? what? It's not something they have to care about, so why would they bother? And since when is gymnastics a bastion of perfect form anyway?
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Not that these issues are brand new to gymnastics. Lack of toepoint used to be a lot rarer, but leg seperation used to be a lot more common and crossed feet and shoddy form on backhandsprings and layout-stepouts are no new inventions either. It is just that slight form issues used to be ignored. They still can and are ignored, but they ARE now in the code of points. The point is, they are valid deductions in gymnastics and are still rampant.

In short, I'm sick of seeing how maligned cheerleading is in some circles. It's not your cup of tea? Fine. But no need to spread negativity about it. Not liking something is fine. But you should respect the hard work and talent that goes into it. The fact that cheerleading remains in a dangerous limbo when golf and darts are going to be Olympic sports in Rio is frankly, sickening.

Oh and this is worth watching. Penn and Teller's episode on cheerleading- contains profanity, footage of injuries/falls and very very brief nudity at the start. I will say that the 30,000 ER visits is a little misleading, because the vast majority are not kept in, or serious or even treated. The huge increase is concurrent with the huge increase in girls taking up cheerleading compared to stats from decades ago., and the fact that cheerleading is a year-round sport means that its injury rates cannot be directly compared to sports that only run for a season, like football. That's why I used the stat above instead of 30,000 cheerleaders admitted to ER!!!!!!!!!111for shock value. But it's still a very good video. Look out for the part showing a practice session, 30 seconds in a girl lands on her head in a tumbling pass and doesn't get up. What does the coach do? Rush over and implement emergency procedure to assess the presence of concussion or anything worse? Haha, you must be joking. The girl is asked if she's okay and continues. With no assessment. It's the worst part in the whole thing and shows just how big the problem is.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Jesus Christ...

I'm going to jump on the Twitter frenzy about is Mykayla Skinner's new floor routine. It's on TCG, Examiner, Gymnastics Coaching and Triple Twist so you can't miss it..but I'm just too excited about it to ignore it. I've posted about her and her opening pass in training before, but the routine in full deserves its own post. Presenting...a laidout double double, tucked double double, double arabian and 1 and a half into 2 and a half. Given her completely upright landing on the double arabian and overrotation (!!!) on the 2 and a half, I wouldn't be surprised for them to become piked and a triple respectively. Alternatively, she could add in a jump or two..or maybe a punchfront. Jumps now need to be a B value out of a D tumble, or A out of an E or higher tumble. This routine has been calculated to be 6.5..the same start value as Aly's, which had two jumps AND a punchfront A combination pass is not needed in the new code..I wonder if she could put a full twisting double layout, 3.5 twist or piked double arabian there instead? Incredible. I want to see this at worlds. I know she begins her first pass out of bounds, but there's a tiny snippet of a competition where she does it fine in bounds so I wouldn't be concerned. Mykayla is also training a Cheng which looks fine and not a fight to get around or anything. And she has had an amanar under her belt for a while.
Skip to 0:50 EDIT: I've just seen the complete video of this routine in competition and she does sit the double arabian, but it looks like a fluke, so I'm not bothered. This routine sells itself, she just has to nail it in front of Marta.

Even with disregarding the Fierce Five completely, USA already has enough powerhouses..Ebee, Lexie Priessman and Simone Biles. Mykayla would need to prove herself as an all-arounder before she could displace Ebee or Lexie..but with the difficulty she has, she could still get in to major teams. Classics/Nationals just got more interesting...

As for her new skill, it can only have a H value as it stands as that's what the tucked version is worth and it's the current maximum. However, that's not to say it couldn't get a higher value if she submitted it at worlds. They are forever revising the code, and it would be unfair to have both skills with the same value, as well as having the version with just a single twist worth the same. I wouldn't say definitely..but quite likely..that they would introduce I and J for this and for other future skills. OR revise the tucked version and full twisting DLO to G and leave this as H. Either or..

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Competitions :D and more things

The Italy Serie A competition is taking place now. It's a competition between the various gyms,and will see Vanessa Ferrari, Erika Fasana, Georgia Campana, Chiara Gandolfi, Carlotta Ferlito, Elisabetta Preziosa, Serena Bugani, Enus Mariani, Elisa Meneghina, Tea Ugrin, Anna Pavlova and more battle it out. I'll add videos if and when they become available, I'm most excited to see any upgrades the juniors have as out of the countries battling their way into the top 4, Italy have the biggest chance I think. Time will tell. Edit: Fasana, Ferlito and Anna Pavlova did not compete, the latter due to a problem with her flight and the others due to minor injury/illness. There's a full report with scores on TCG but no videos as of yet. Great to hear that Enus Mariani had such a strong showing, though it appears to have been a meet full of falls as it's sooo early in the season.

Elsabeth Black decisively won the AA at Elite Canada. Ellie was injured in the London vault final, so it's thrilling to see her back on form. Victoria Moors did not compete AA, but since she is down for SCAM it would be unwise to go all out now. Some videos here. Hope to see more from their juniors. Edit: Moors' floor is up, and it's a bit worrying. Not because she has watered down, but because she looks sluggish, tired and just not interested. She seems to have grown quite a bit in a short space of time and was dealing with a minor back muscle injury at the end of last year, so hopefully she'll recover soon. Black has watered down too and has issues with coming up a bit short on her tumbles, but she seems much more 'on' than Moors. Yay, junior videos are going up here. I really like Heaven Latimer, she is such a great tumbler and has the best layout full on beam ever done. As I'm typing, there's only 3 routines up. Shallon Olsen needs to have her coach back AWAY from new skills and clean up her form, it was already bad and seems to be getting worse. And I haven't even seen her beam's so dissapointing given the enormous natural talent she has.

The WOGA Classic is taking place next weekend. Its main star will be Katelyn Ohashi of course, with an ideal chance to show what she has planned for her first year as a senior. She's known for her beam and bars but her vault will be the most interesting aspect, as it looked extremely troublesome last year. If she actually does vault as she may not do AA. What I liked most is that Mariya Livchikova and Krystyna Sankova of Ukraine are both competing and that their trip was mostly funded by WOGA due to Ukraine's gymnastics federation's money problems. Mariya's strengths are floor and beam, with some gorgeous original combinations on beam and beautiful elegance and textbook tumbling on floor. Krystyna is quite powerful and has done Arabian double pikes recently, so she'll be interesting to watch too. Other international competitors are Ellie Downie and Ryhannon Jones of GB and Kristina Yaroshenko and Alexandra Yazydzhyan of Russia. Domestically, ones to watch are Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Nica Hults, Kennedy Baker and Peyton Ernst. There are tonnes of girls attempting to qualify elite as well. The ones I'm most interested in are Jordan Chiles and Irina Alexeeva. Irina is only 10, but so promising. Lots of videos to come hopefully. IG forums are down, which is where I got both rosters from, and WOGA's own links open in Excel which I'm not happy with linking to. Edit: Nevermind, TripleTwist have all rosters written out, divided into junior and senior. Important to note that Irina will have to qualify as an elite to compete in the junior session later in the day, though since she is from WOGA they might be able to have her compete if she doesn't make it. Rosters are here. TripleTwist also have a nice succinct guide on what the girls trying for elite have to achieve here.

Lloimincia Hall got a perfect 10 on floor, LSU vs Mizzou. It's the third 10 this season, after Mackenzie Caquatto on bars and Vanessa Zamarippa on vault. I know that on first viewing this routine is baffling, and seems like an insult to the name 'artistic' in the sport. Like, WTF is she doing? It takes a few goes. I am in love with it and her and I want her to win the national floor title. She is living her routine, so involved, so passionate, and selling the life out of it. It is the definition of artistry, taking your music and bringing it to the next level. In general for NCAA the time difference makes it very difficult for me to watch meets, as well as only a handful of them being free. I catch up with the odd routine on youtube and follow quick hits. That's why I'm thrilled that UCLA's meet tomorrow is both free like theirs always are (THANK YOU..and since they're hosting national championships..any chance of them being streamed free??) and on early.. it starts at 10PM for me, much better than the usual midnight, 1AM starts..bleurgh.

You can see part two of Gymnastike's Off the Mat series with Nia Dennis here. I love seeing how well grounded her and her family are. GREAT height on her releases. I'm so excited that one of her coaches is Li Li, the exquisite former Chinese gymnast with killer extension, leaps and DAT back spin. It bodes well for Nia's form, beam and bars work. You can hear and see her in the footage but she isn't interviewed, sadly.

European Championships are going to be streamed live, via eurovision, the same crowd who did the Olympics (without commentary, but still). I will give the link and timezone information closer to the time. I will say that it will not be possible to watch it outside of Europe unless you *cough* shield/change your IP to a European one. The timezone will be gross for Americans, Moscow is 4 hours ahead of me currently (might get clocks going back before that) and therefore 9 hours ahead of EST and 12 hours ahead of PST. I suppose it depends what time the competitions start at for how non appealing that is to those in the US. Still, EXCITING :D

Florida vs Alabama from last night is on free replay, thanks to Spanny Tampson for broadcasting that info. YES! I was so sure it was free and then when I got on the site and found out it wasn't..very dissapointing. But here it is, and at a much more suitable time for me ha. I'm going to subscribe to the growing view that Florida are going to win this year. The link should be here. If not, just click on game replay and it should show up there at the side. Considering Florida had to drop Kytra Hunter's scores on bars and beam (she's had stomach flu this week but that beam fall is odd and unlikely), the fact that they broke 198 is HUGE. A team with Bridget Sloan, Ashanee Dickerson, Kytra Hunter, Marissa King, Alaina Johnson and Mackenzie Caquatto looks unstoppable, as they don't have a weak event at all. If you do rewatch the meet, make sure you read Aunt Joyce's hilarious live hits.

Alexander Alexandrov did NOT sign a contract with Brazil. There will be more negotiations at another stage. Personally, and obviously not knowing anyone involved, I think he'll wait until Aliya is done before moving on. He clearly has a lot of motivation to leave the gymnastics federation that screwed him over like they frequently do their head coaches, but the bond those two share is very strong. I hate the idea of her being dumped a second time. The original source is in Portugese, but you can read/translate it from here.

My laptop might break in two at any time so blogging might have an abrupt hiatus (can't blog on phones outside US). A DIY screen replacement weakened the hinges and now more than a year later it falls back and has to be propped up. Damnit! I'm going back to college in September (unrelated to my degree, but much more likely to get a job out of it..) and obviously this one won't withstand transportation. Check this out:
Looking healthy. I'm not sure what the silver thing stabbing my screen is, but it needs to GTFO. Or back in, whichever. The other side is lifting too. Sigh. Also, 200th post! 200 posts in just under 8 months of blogging is pretty good going, though since a lot of my obsession burst in a torrent in the first 2 months, I don't expect to maintain that frequency. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Dutch Update

Chantysha Netteb and Eythora Thorsdottir recently competed at a national competition. I rave about Eythora all the time because she is a Soviet gymnast reborn, but I'm also excited to see Chantysha, who's very different but very promising all the same. I'm delighted to see Eythora nailing her beautiful triple turn combination, and as always having a gorgeous Onodi and sheep jump. Wondering if her coaches also trained the great turner Sanne Wevers? Hopefully her consistency can improve on this event. A pity she has dumped her beautiful 'Mostepanova extension' press to handstand to a really boring mount but if it preserves energy then that's fine. On floor, her first pass has upgraded to a double pike. She is getting enormous height on that and given that she's grown, she looks well capable of more difficulty there. Likewise, her other passes seem a little easy for her. New music! On facebook the music doesn't cut out like that but this video says 'music falls halfway' so I'm not sure if it did in reality. If it did, awesome because she's not bothered at all. Vault remains the same..maybe she can do a DTY?..and I can't find bars, if she did them. In general, her choreography on beam and floor is sassier but still beautiful. Excellent.

Chantysha is a great contrast to her teammate. Great fierceness and attack in her beam, and pretty nice difficulty there. Love the mount too. On floor her difficulty is also pretty modest, I expect her to be throwing full-ins! Certainly ripe for more upgrades. Nice work though, I like how both girls seem equally comfortable with front and back tumbling. Bars are not her forté, she does manage a nice swing but she exhibits plenty of form issues and very weird kip angles like Maroney. Still, she could be a very nice three-eventer, I'd love to see her develop on vault and floor in particular. As for vault, her difficulty there is 5.0 and 5.3. It's very easy for her, she really floats through the air. Different strengths and qualities, but two gymnasts with oodles of potential who can hopefully break out onto the world scene. Chantysha is now senior while Eythora has another year as a junior left. Chantysha is one of ten fighting for a Euros spot, though very likely to get one especially as one of the certainties, Celine Van Gerner is not in the running. Both girls train at the same gym, Bato-Pax Gymnastics, who enjoyed seeing Eythora as my 2012 routine of the year :)

Videos after the jump..

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Update on Russia

Evgeny Grebenkin, the new Russian head coach, has just given an interesting interview. You can find it in English here. The first interesting, but perhaps not surprising, point he makes is that he does not have gymnasts to replace the London team..unlike America, who can. The girls will have to compete, except of course Komova, who will be out for about the first half of this year. He also states that they have four good junior gymnasts born 1998-1999 who will be prepared for Rio. They have more than four, but perhaps his words should be taken to mean great, or with great or star potential. Undoubtedly these include Maria Kharenkova, Maria Bondareva and Viktoria Kuzmina. The fourth is harder to pinpoint- I kind of hope it's Daria Spiridonova. Evgeniya Shelgunova, who is now a senior, will be given experience in world cup events. Interesting to see if she lands a Euros spot or not.

Russia's most important senior gymnasts are of course, Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova. Komova is out of Russian Championships and Euros, and too young for Universiade. She will be gunning for worlds. Aliya will probably compete one or two events at Euros, more fully at Universiade and with all guns blazing for worlds. She has said her main priority is Universiade, though that doesn't mean she won't be at Euros..she probably will. She does say other competitions depend on her availability, which I read as doesn't want to say worlds when it's so far away. Ksenia Afanasyeva and Anastasia Grishina could still be core members. It's really hard to know where they are at, especially Grishina. Anna Dementyeva could definitely be a part of major teams if she continues to cope with her growth spurt and really overcomes her former inconsistency. Especially valuable on beam, while Afan if she just continues to be a beam and floor specialist could really compete throughout the quad. Grishina could be right up there as an all-arounder and capable of medalling in three out of four event finals. Hopefully her new coaches can prepare her to realise her full potential.

Who else is there? Anastasia Sidorova, who was injured before London. She's one to watch at Russian Championships to see how useful she could be. Likewise Anna Rodionova, who looks to have grown quite a bit. Maria Paseka is definitely still in the mix, especially as it looks like she's training a much more difficult second vault. Tatiana Nabieva is still on the National Team and a strong prospect for Universiade, but I don't see her making other teams. Maybe as alternate. New seniors Ekaterina Baturina, Yulia Tipaeva and Evgeniya Shelgunova are certainly in the mix, depending on difficulty. Shelgunova remains the brightest prospect, because although she needs a lot of work on her form, she has very good difficulty and a lot of fighting spirit and determination. She could be the Aly Raisman rock for her team this quad I think.

I think at Euros we'll be seeing Aliya Mustafina, Anna Dementyeva, Ksenia Afanasyeva and one of Anastasia Grishina/Evgeniya Shelgunova/Anna Rodionova. Right now I'm leaning towards Shelgunova for it. At Universiade..Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabieva, Ksenia Afanasyeva, Anna Dementyeva and Ekaterina Kramarenko. Worlds is very tough to say, though I know I already did predictions for it.

Who do you want to see shine for Russia this year? This quad? Do you see Viktoria Komova fully regaining her 2010 self? My own favourites are Mustafina, Demy, Rodionova and further on in the quad, the trio of Bondareva, Kharenkova and Kuzmina. I think Russia will struggle in collecting hardware until 2015, when they have their full battalion.

Friday, 1 February 2013

More News

Alexander Alexandrov is in Brazil this week, with a view to forming a contract to coach their senior National Team. Brazil already poached another ill-treated Russian coach, Oleg Ostapenko, who coaches the junior team. While this would be beyond fantastic for the team leading into their home would be a great shame for his personal student, Aliya Mustafina, who has already been dumped by her personal coach before. (Not Alexandrov..) So I'd be happy for Alexandrov to take up this oportunity, or indeed any fabulous opportunity that comes his way as he is an excellent coach and deserves it. Just after Mustafina retires would be preferable.

A video of the Chinese National Team training has emerged, shot by some Australians who were beyond lucky to even be there...though it's hard to call people suffering through Beijing's poisonous levels of air pollution lucky. Sui Lu can be seen on floor at the start. Shang Chunsong is the one on bars doing the lovely Hindorff to uprise. Zeng Siqi and Tan Sixin are tagged. It's great to see that Tan is back on the National Team and in full training, though it's obvious she has deteriorated. Hopefully just growing pains, she should be able to adjust. Zeng looks great, lovely connections. The other two on beam towards the end are Wang Wei and Yuan Xiaoyang, two of the most promising juniors. Wang is the one who falls on the layout and then nails it. It's private so I can't embed, watch it here.

Videos are circulating of Beyond the Routine- a Gymnastike documentary following Mary Lee Tracy at her gym, CGA. I find it hard to watch, from the dog on the mats to her beratement of the younger girls, the explanation of Amelia Hundley's nickname, her condescension to her gymnasts, favourtism, obsession over some stupid clock all the way to her dangerous driving. All in all, it confirms what I had already thought about how she operates, and then some. In a much more uplifting documentary (and this time free, so I'll link), we get a look at the daily lives of elite gymnasts. Very excited about this one! It's called Off the Mat and first up is the lovely Nia Dennis. The first episode focuses on her family life, the morning routine, her interaction with her cutiepie little sister Mya, and how her parents balance her gymnastics with quality family time- like her dad's conversations with her on the way to gym. An immediate impression is created of a great supportive family, it's nice to see. Next will be looking at her daily gym routine I think. The first episode is here.

Here is yet another great interview with McKayla Maroney, at the Metroplex Challenge where she signed autographs for 3 hours and only left because she was made to- I like hearing stuff like that. McKayla insists that she's not done and will be gearing up for worlds. She has an automatic berth for Nationals given her Olympian status, though if she misses it and verifies routines before Worlds, she would still stand a very good chance..particularly with a TTY or Y double back.

Alicia Sacramone has officially retired. Given the excellent shape she was in last year after another injury in late 2011, it's a shame, but she's definitely been around long enough and has a lot of medals to her name. She's not a gymnast I particularly like or enjoy watching, but I appreciate her enormous talent and longevity. I'll miss the fierceness of her beam certainly.

Here's Beth Tweddle's third performance on Dancing on Ice. Sadly her expression regressed a bit, though I can't blame her for entering wooden gymnast mode given the huge complexity and difficulty of her routine, which she nailed. Hopefully she can polish her performance more in the weeks to come.

None of this is particularly new because the One to Watch post took me 3 days or so, so news got old in the meantime.

BUT this is new- Romania will only have 3 girls at Euros! Dropping a place is a little ominous. I'm thinking Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar and Stefanie Stanila. There's no team finals, much like worlds, though I'm not sure if there's an AA. If there is, I don't think Iordache will do it because she will have done so at LRSY a month before. Germany will not have Elizabeth Seitz or several other elites because of the timing, right in their exam season apparently. Edit- Diana Chelaru is returning to the National Team and Sandra Izbasa is in full competitive training for this year so both of them are in the mix. I'd like to see Daniela Andrei get the nod for Euros though, especially if they don't want to tax Iordache and Bulimar.

Ellie Downie will compete at the WOGA Classic. She is the younger sister of Becky and has some lovely work, looking forward to seeing her. Also Jordan Chiles, who will be competing optionals in her bid for elite.

Danusia Francis won beam at UCLA vs Stanford! Nice. I.want.videos. Time difference kills me.