Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Anadia Challenge Cup

First of all, I hope everyone got the chance to see this live. If not, there are plenty of accounts who've uploaded individual routines on youtube. I did say I'd post links to the livestream but I got caught up in trying to record and doing test recordings and forgot. And while I did upload a test recording to youtube, they totally betrayed me and the full-length ones won't even play for me, never mind convert or upload.


- The return of the lovely Julie Croket from Belgium, one year after an ACL injury took her out of contention for a London spot. She qualified to two finals, beam and floor, but sadly fell off beam in the final. Still, it's great to see her back and she can definitely build on this. Great floor choreography from her.
- Another opportunity to see the fabulous Noemi Makra of Hungary who I will continue fangirling over at any opportunity. Noemi qualified to bars finals, but was bumped out of beam where she qualified ninth and had some issues on floor. Her difficulty needs to be built on, it was nice to see the addition of a Church on bars though, and her connections need to be snappier on beam, though the skills are breathtaking in their execution.
- Diana Bulimar solid as a rock. Great to see her take gold on floor and bronze on beam, but her difficulty is a bit pitiful all things considering- a full one point behind Larisa on beam, and 5.9 on floor when she can do more there too. The good news she's getting a new floor routine soon!
- The incredible beam routines of Shang Chunsong, who looked like she'd never even heard the term balance check. Routines of the Fan Ye/Ekaterina Vandisheva level of precision and perfection.
- The return of Larisa Iordache's two fulls! She's also connecting her aerial to leaps, which brings her full beam difficulty to a whopping 6.9. That is higher than Katelyn Ohashi gets credited with.
- Jing Ying Tam's beam mount. It's one of my favourites.
- Anastasia Grishina's hit bars routine in finals. Awesome.
- Shang Chunsong's release fest on bars is just spectacular.
- The resurgence of Jade Barbosa! Her DTY in particular in finals was explosive. Pencil her in as a vault threat this year...as long as she has the right leotard sponsor!
- Larisa Iordache's turns on floor in event finals. Nailed the Gomez and double L, so precise. Turn combinations would be great from her.
- Kim Bui making all 4 finals. Nice!

Not-so highlights

- Larisa Iordache, despite upgrading her beam routine for finals, looks to be hampered with injuries and/or recovery. This was hinted at after Euros. She has also of course grown quite a bit in the last year. Wobbling on her tuck full, crashing her Silivas, underrotating her triple..this is not a fully healthy gymnast.
- Shang Chunsong getting screwed on her beam execution. Yes, she was 0.4 behind in difficulty and yes her routine was not perfect perfect..the low dismount, the step...but it was significantly more perfect than Larisa's routine, which scored one tenth higher in execution despite having a wobble where her foot reached shoulder height, a step, a balance check and a hop on dismount. This is just like how clean FTY's get lower execution than a sloppy amanar- the judges allowed themselves to be wowed by Larisa's two fulls and/or reputation on this event. This is an FIG event, not some unimportant regionals. We can argue all day over who had better choreo and whether they received artistry deductions or not (they are both equal in that department) or whether Shang paused too much, but the fact is they applied maximum deductions to one girl and not to the other.
- Russia imploding, with the exception of Anastasia Grishina on bars in finals. However, she herself had falls and errors on other events, and Anna Rodionova, Ekaterina Baturina and Alla Sosnitskaya all crashed at least once.
- Noemi Makra only making one final.
- Jessica Lopez falling in bars finals. Love her and her routine.
- Shang Chunsong falling on the Shap both days. It's there to avoid dead hang as she is terrible at toe-shoots, but if she hasn't perfected it by National Games then it needs to be binned. Hopefully she grows a bit too. Utterly fabulous routine, and so difficult she still snatched bronze.

What did you think of the competition? Favourite routine? Should the beam judges be forced to watch Yang Bo beam routines on repeat?

Something's Gotta Change..

If you haven't seen this video yet, prepare to wince. This is not a new topic, Yamilet Pena of the Dominican Republic has been frightening everyone for a couple of years now, but Fadwa Mahmoud of Egypt brings it to a new level. After all, both vaults are massively flawed, but Yamilet at least opens up to land, endangering her knees and ankles rather than Fadwa who endangers her spine, head and neck and is lucky nothing has happened to her yet. Are the FIG Women's Technical Committee asleep at the wheel? They lowered the value of this vault by a massive...wait for it...0.1 this year, which of course has done nothing to lower the incentive non-top 4 developing countries have to make a name for their programme.

I'd advocate removing it from the code altogether, just like how the equally dangerous roll-out skills were stamped out, though as we all know they remained in the code for nearly two decades after Elena Mukhina was paralysed while training one, and only removed when a Korean gymnast almost emulated her fate in the 90's. I'm sure there are gymnasts, especially in the US, who could potentially actually land one upright. We don't really know how proficient or otherwise McKayla Maroney is with front handspring vaults but certainly the block she gets off her amanar would be sufficient. It's a big glaring flashing neon sign that nobody IS doing one there, where they have the coaches, gyms, equipment, and technical knowledge neccessary. If you can't get Maroney's amanar block on this vault, it's not going to work. Yamilet has the power, but she flies forward in distance rather than height and therefore can't land it, nor does she rotate fast enough. Yes, yes, she landed one in a really deep squat at Zibo last year. Big deal, she's splatted pretty much all the rest, though the technique has altered just slightly so she can be sure to get her feet under her for a score. Fadwa on the other hand DOES rotate it enough, in fact she overrotates it. The problem is she plops off the horse and has nowhere near enough height to actually land it. You can tell by her run she's not going to be successful. Notice in the replay that there is a Yurchenko safety collar on the mat, which is not used for handspring vaults. Her coaches are really putting her safety first!

I understand that it's not likely to be her decision to continue training this thing, and her coach too would be under pressure. That's why the FIG needs to act. They were quick enough to slam Liu Xuan's one-armed giant and gienger to a C rating, making them redundant in her routine and anybody else's. Those skills were so dangerous, and they couldn't have anyone else attempting them! So why is this the third year we are seeing vaults so chucked a gymnast is lucky to be able to get up afterwards? This isn't a case of a chucked amanar or DTY etc. which as we all know can and do result in injury. But those vaults tend to be upright even when they do cause injury, and a result of a poor coaching decision. These Produnova vaults are far more than that- in this case, they could be much much more serious than taking a gymnast out of competition for a year.

There are more options other than taking it out of the code. If they lowball it like the above mentioned bars skills, say to a 5.0 or something, it would definitely work but it would make a mockery of the code and difficulty ratings. Another option would be up up the fall deduction to 2.0 or greater (bearing in mind this would still be averaged out in a vault final), or one which I saw on tumblr which suggested handing out an automatic zero if your head, neck, upper back or bottom touch the mat. This last one is great but it opens a can of worms for vaults which do land on the feet but bounce back and down. Really though, if it was taken out of the code- who'd miss it? Sure it would be nice if someone could land the thing, but it's just not worth it. I certainly would not miss death defying stunts like the above. How could the FIG possibly defend keeping it as is?

What do you want to see done with this vault? More videos of the vault by 4/5 of those who attempted it after the break.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


The first shock is Romania's team for EYOF. The girls named are Andreea Iridon, Madalina Blendea and Laura Jurca. As in, where the hell is Andreea Munteanu? Lots of guesses going on about how she has already competed so much this year and maybe they are resting her for next year or maybe they want to try the younger girls with less experience etc. but by far the most common opinion is that she must be injured, as they really need her. This is a very strong team for bars and very good on beam, but extremely weak on vault where they would desperately need her DTY and her high beam and floor scores would come in very handy too. This meet is in fact a big deal, moreso than any other she has attended this year so it's quite bewildering IF she isn't injured.It's important to remember that this is a nominative registration list and that Romania are huge fans of substitution. However, they are also quite fond of not disclosing injuries so there's that too..

For the host country, Eythora Thorsdottir is a certainty, despite counting falls at Dutch Nationals and in general being unsteady on beam. Dana de Groot is another good bet, but not sure about the third. Britain have quite a good team, not named yet but expected to be Tyesha Matthis, Amy Tinkler and Ellie Downie. Sadly Catherine Lyons is not elegible. I would call Maria Bondareva a lock for the Russian team. Maria Kharenkova too if she is fully healthy, she has been dealing with a hand injury this year. The others place(s) are between Anastasia Dmitrieva, Viktoria Kuzmina, Seda Tutkhalyan and Evgeniya Zhukova. The latter in particular is a great vault and floor girl, would would be very lacking in a team of Bondareva/Kharenkova for instance. Kim Janas is a huge AA threat, almost certainly she will feature on the podium there. But the one I most want to see is Elizabet Vasileva of Bulgaria who hasn't been named at all, but is elegible for her country!

Russia have named their Universiade team. No surprises with Aliya Mustafina and Ksenia Afanasyeva on the roster, and joining them will be Tatiana Nabieva, Anna Dementyeva and Maria Paseka. I did expect one of Ekaterina Kramarenko and Anna Myzdrikova or even both, since despite Demy's much higher start values she is still very inconsistent unlike those two. The biggest excitement is Afan's new floor routine! And also whether she will do bars and what she will throw on vault. Aliya's beam is her most important event here, as once that is steady she's away on a hack to really challenge in Antwerp.

Also for Universiade, Alexa Moreno of Mexico who is an amazing vaulter, and Danusia Francis of Britain who is of course, very valuable on beam and floor.

The Portugal World Cup which has an absolutely stacked roster takes place this weekend. I will edit in a few links before then, I already have one that definitely works so check back for that! Competing at this competition are Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar, Rebecca Tunney, Hannah Whelan, Jade Barbosa, Shang Chunsong, Zeng Siqi, Anna Rodionova, Ekaterina Baturina, Alla Sosnitskaya, Anastasia Grishina, Jessica Lopez, Oksana Chusovitina, Noemi Makra, Ilaria Kaeslin and Janine Berger!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Confirmed: Yao Jinnan is a complete badass

After my disappointment the other week with Aussie Maddie Leydin not in fact having a counter-kim on bars as was reported earlier this year, I'm delighted that it's been confirmed with actual evidence that Yao Jinnan DOES have a Mo Salto. The gif is two thirds of the way down this page. Sure she has assistance, but it looks like a solid skill. I love when people go the unorthodox route for upgrades, and I'm so happy we are more than likely to see this release in a routine again. It was rumoured a few months ago and dismissed, but here it is! :D Even if she never competes it, the fact that she actually trained it is incredible. She may be able to release out of it into a Jaeger as Rick from gymnasticscoaching said, but if she doesn't have the flight to do that (wow how awesome if she could?) then she won't incur a deduction for an empty swing after, which she would have done last quad. Same goes for the counter-kim, if someone does unleash one.

Elite season is looming in the US with Classics about 6 weeks away. USAG have now released training camp snippets of Kyla Ross, Maggie Nichols, Maddie Desch, Polina Shchennikova, McKayla Maroney, Brenna Dowell, Kennedy Baker, Lexie Priessman, Bailie Key and Ebee Price. Still to come are Simone Biles, Amelia Hundley, Nia Dennis, Mykayla Skinner, Abigail Milliet, Nica Hults and new kids on the block Emily Gaskins, Grace Quinn, Ashton Locklear, Emily Schild, Norah Flatley, Alexis Vasquez and Rachel Gowey. The latter three have just qualified elite at Parkettes and all showed fabulous work on beam in particular, though sadly Alexis has injured her foot and watered down significantly as a result. The star of the show was Laurie Hernandez who posted a huge 57.8 total, though she was there moreso for experience, what with already being an elite. Her new floor is glorious, I absolutely love it. Sadly, Bailey Ferrer and Vanasia Bradley who both have huge skills in training had disastrous competitions, though Bailey scraped past the qualifying post.

The one who all eyes will be on is Simone Biles. We already know her routines, and her difficulty currently stands at 6.1 UB, 6.3 BB, 6.2 FX and 6.3 VT. Here's the fun part, her planned upgrades of a full-in DLO and piked double arabian bump up her floor to an enormous 6.8 and her planned arabian on beam bring that set up to a 6.7. Very interesting! Her bars count a C and her dismount is very easy for her, if she can (maybe next year even) do an E transition and a Fabrichnova that would bring them to 6.5. To put that into perspective, her difficulty even without the hypothetical bars is equal to Gabby Douglas at the Olympics, though like Gabby on bars, Simone would be unlikely to claim her full difficulty on floor, as she has two questionable leaps. This would bring her down to a still fearsome 6.6

Andreea Iridon won the AA for her age group at Romanian Junior Nationals. Andreea Munteanu did not compete; she has more than proven herself this year. Olivia Cimpian, a 2001 born, won it for her category. The surprise in the younger ranks is Andreea Ciurusniuc who has come on tremendously in the last year, though she did beat Andra Stoica at Trnava so that was definitely a sign! There were notable absences and a bonus system in place so there's not much of a cohesive picture yet. Results are here, to be taken with a pinch of salt.

The winners of the Dutch Nationals AA were Vera Van Pol who snuck up out of nowhere when Celine Van Gerner and Wyomi Masela made mistakes, and Eythora Thorsdottir who continues to break hearts everywhere when she fell off beam again, and also floor. Happily she did have interesting upgrades, a 2.5 dismount on beam and a double twisting flyaway on bars. Now this is my favourite type of bars dismount and wow are they rare, but so beautiful. It's only worth a C and she needs D or higher to satisfy CR...but the 2.5 version is worth a D and the triple an E. I didn't think I could root for her more but the dismount has definitely made her more awesome. She had a double pike and she must be upgrading this flyaway further or there would be no point. You can see senior results here.

Following Jacoby Miles progress, the Level 9 gymnast who was paralysed late last year and she is continuing to progress which is great to here. I love the fact she's helping out in her gym. The blog about her, maintained by her mother, is here.

Videos after the jump! Parkettes videos were filmed by Between the Olympics blog.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Happy blogbirthday to me, and news

Source- bugakampar.com
Today marks one year since I started blogging instead of boring my boyfriend's head off about gymnastics- he's subjected to much smaller doses now :) I really enjoy blogging, I won't really be able to keep up with the amount I post now in the future, but I'm still committed..and I love discussing things with commenters. Feel free to tell me post suggestions or how I should really keep an eye on my loooong run-on sentences.

I think it's fitting that on this day we get a glimpse of the amazing McKayla Maroney in action, since she is a favourite of mine.. Trying not to be biased here but she had three surgeries with the last in December and is only back a few months in the gym. No bother to her it seems..as she unleashes not just the amanar (and her second vault from 2011, the Lopez) but a brand new double layout! Her coach also taught Mattie Larson her own amazing version of this skill, but even so it's not one I would have envisioned for her. We have seen tantalising double layouts before like Jordyn Wieber's that never materialised, but McKayla does look stronger than before so with extra stamina on floor it would slot in nicely. Maybe 3.5, double layout, 2.5-front layout and double arabian. She's more of a twister so I think she would find this easier than taking out the third pass and slotting in a double pike to end instead. She used to do a double arabian so that's not new but its return is very welcome since her knees are glued together..how often do you see that? Inga Sckarupa, Anna Myzdrikova and Sarah Finnegan..nearly as rare as a TTY! As for bars, hmm. They are better and I wasn't afraid watching them that she was about to majorly mess up, a definite improvement. The dismount has always been spot-on, maybe she could double it if she has the stamina.

USAG are trickling out the videos, yesterday showed Brenna Dowell and Kyla Ross, also training new skills. I've harped on about Kyla's lack of difficulty before but I really hope she has more in the bank than what's she's showing here. The bars and beam combinations do look nice and will bump up her score, it is floor that's quite disappointing. Double tucks are too easy, whips or not. She needs to chuck her beam one too. Here's hoping for a lovely Geinger-Pak-Stalder-Shaposh and maybe side aerial-LOSO-wolf jump-sheep...double pike dismount. And a floor with no double tucks or twists! It has been suggested that the floor skill could be a timer for a whip-double arabian. Here's hoping! I find it hard to get excited about Kyla's gymnastics, as lovely as her lines are there's very little spark to her..which doesn't just come with difficulty. Regardless, I want her to do well as she has enormous potential and it would be a shame if she was crowded out and bumped into NCAA too early. Come on Kyla, 6.6 bars, 6.5 beam, 5.9 floor and 5.8 vault!

Now Brenna is really busting out the big skills. Here comes the first showing of her amanar..and a thoroughly unexpected full-in double layout! Brenna is an extremely hard worker, acknowledged by her coach as his best gymnast in that regard, and she has made great strides of improvement in the last year- her bars have cleaned up bigtime. Not that they are perfect, but they are a lot better. She favours front tumbling, by contrast to just about everyone else, so these huge back tumbles are a real surprise. I love how clean it is when she begins the twist in the full-in, though it's hard to tell if she pikes down or not, it seems like she does but I don't think it's significant enough for actual downgrade. This girl could be a real surprise, and a super solid contributor for team finals.

Here is Rebeca Andrade's amanar! It's not as clean as some of the best, but it's so floaty and easy for her..just like McKayla Maroney's in that sense. She beat British powerhouse Tyesha Matthis who unveiled a double double, but she also fell off beam and her DTY to counter was not enough. The meet was barely publicised, fielding two Brazilian teams against a whole host of British clubs. Jade Barbosa won the senior AA..looks like a junior AA was not contested as such judging by the lack of number 1 beside Rebeca's name. Competition was not fierce and Jade appears to have struggled, but still an encouraging result given her recent return to the gym. Sadly Ruby Harrold looks to have had major trouble with her bars again. The results are here and here. It's worth noting that Rebeca is missing a compositional requirement on bars (a release), so that's why her d-score is so low. Beam and bars ARE very promising but need a ton of upgrades. Watch the vault here.

Romanian and Chinese Junior Nationals start this weekend. Not all of the Chinese girls will compete, but a sizeable proportion. This is more important for Romania who are looking to EYOF of course. I think that team depending on size has pretty much pointed itself out though- in order of importance: Andreea Munteanu, Andreea Iridon, Madalina Blendea, Laura Jurca, Silvia Zarzu with Paula Tudorache maybe worming her way in.

Stale news by now but Oksana Chusovitina won the Trnava Gymfest AA. She posted the highest scores on beam and bars, just pipped to the post on vault by what must have been an incredible DTY from Anna Pavlova, who managed a 15. Oksana also claimed the vault title and placed second on beam. Anna won the floor event final. Full results are here.

I've updated the list of gymnasts turning senior this quad. You can find it here. All gymnasts marked with an asterisk are new additions to it, and all worth watching if you haven't heard of them! First and foremost if you only pick one unknown to watch would be Elizabet Vasileva, who is a rythmic-artistic crossover. All (European) girls born in 1998 and 1999 are elegible for EYOF. YOG is 1999 ONLY, and restricted to one per country. Junior Euros next year will be for 1999 and 2000 girls. I was sooo excited when I heard new senior Maddie Leydin verified a Counter-Kim-geinger combination. Sadly, though I had hoped it wasn't an error- it is; she actually does a Markelov-Geinger combo. Included in the same routine are a Ricna, Pak and shaposh, pretty impressive!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Blendea returns; Munteanu triumphant

The junior friendly between Romania and France concluded today. Quite the domination- Romania won the team competition, gold and bronze in the all-around and the vast majority of event finals medals. Andreea Munteanu of the glorious leaps added 5 gold medals to her already full cabinet- Team, AA, vault, floor and beam. This enormous ball of talent unleashed two brand new upgrades; a DTY and a triple full beam dismount. She also added a turn combination, though it is currently worthless she's obviously paving the way for something more valuable there. Sadly she fell off bars on the first day and had a very costly error the next, but her huge strides forward on every other apparatus will hopefully allow her to focus on bars and get them more consistent and worthy of such a solid all-arounder.

Madalina Blendea returned to competition for the first time in a year. Her difficulty level was cautious, though it paid off as she hit all 4 events while her teammates splatted all around her. The low difficulty also explains how she only managed fourth in the AA despite falls from the medal winners. Nevertheless, this was a strong competition from her, with beam and floor in particular a delight to watch. Her lines on bars are still beautiful, and her swing on transitions has improved. Her leaps need some work but what a great return for her!

Andreea Iridon suffered falls from bars and beam but redeemed herself on her best event in event finals- claiming gold on bars- facing strong opposition from Madalina Blendea and French bars wunderkind Louise Vanhille. Her beam has beautiful composition, really lovely to watch. Her leaps are superb on floor, like Andreea Munteanu she should be able to pull off the harder turning leaps like the Gogean (who judged at this meet!) with no question of doubt. Unfortunately, she has a lot of troubles with vault and only did a layout yurchenko (piked a bit!) at this meet. Normally she does a very scary FTY. Unless a miracle happens, she cannot really be any kind of top all-arounder sadly. But a fabulous gymnast with lovely original work especially on beam.

Poor Diana Teodoru suffered a fall on floor and three off beam- and began crying during her routine. She did manage to stay on bars and there is a good bit of potential in her work. Would love to see her mentally as well as physically improve..and change her floor routine. I'm all for the use of traditional music for gymnasts but this music is just too fast and frantic to benefit her. Silvia Zarzu and Laura Jurca had quite a mixed meet. Silvia has not competed in a while and counted a fall though looks like floor will be her major selling point. This is not enough in itself especially in Romania so if she bucked up on vault that would help her chances tremendously.

Thank you to Maryline for travelling to capture these videos! Particularly the very elusive Madalina Blendea. Videos after the jump..

Friday, 7 June 2013

Alexandrov leaves Russia

This probably isn't that surprising given that we know Alexander Alexandrov was scoping out the situation in Brazil not that long ago, but it has now been confirmed that he has left Russia for Brazil, as of June 1st. This news was confirmed by Elizabeth of Rewriting Russian Gymnastics and Rachael of What should gym fans call me. It's not known whether he will be working directly with fellow exile Oleg Ostapenko yet or with a club. It is unlikely he will be at Flamengo though, home of superstar Rebeca Andrade and former home of most of their best gymnasts as it is critically underfunded and not even fully recovered from a fire some time ago. Hopefully facilities etc. can also benefit from renewed focus by the government prior to the home Olympics as it's not exactly going to solve everything to just call in some big names. Edit- Update, he certainly is no longer coaching at Round Lake but he has not accepted a position in Brazil as of yet. The person who would authorise this is currently in the UK for a meet going on there.

Aliya Mustafina is currently being coached by Raisa Ganina. This is unofficial but comes via a good source. Ganina is her beam coach and a childhood coach of hers. It is also being reported that not much will change as Aliya was not coached much by Alexandrov after he was fired as head coach. I don't read anything in to how he was not at Euros- decisions like this are unlikely to be in her hands, or else she was solely considering what events she needed the most help on- as she stated in an interview. Personally, I think Aliya is of such strong character and will and with such a good sense of her own abilities as regards training that she absolutely will not be dragged down by this. Not that she is an emotionless robot or anything. I think it IS such a pity as they had a great dynamic together, and of course the man who achieved so much for Russian gymnastics in such a short space of time deserved far more than to be unceremoniously booted out...but I'm kind of excited as to how his arrival can boost Brazil's gymnastics. I'm sure his talents will be very appreciated by the powers that be there, and they will already be falling on fertile ground.

In other news, Dana Andrei and Ana Maria Ocalisan have both been pulled from Trnava GymFest which they were supposed to compete at. This lends a lot of fuel to the rumour that Andrei has had enough and left the national team. Not sure what the story is with Ocalisan though, whose first assignment as a new senior this would have been. Two juniors will be sent in their place- Andra Stoica and Andreea Ciurusniuc.

Monday, 3 June 2013


This is one exciting month for competitions. Coming up in just 3 days is a juniors friendly between Romania and France. Romania are sending Andreea Munteanu, Silvia Zarzu, Andreea Iridon, Diana Teodoru and....Madalina Blendea, who has not competed in more than a year! Let us hope for videos. Silvia also has not been seen for a good while. Right as that ends is the Gym Festival Trnava in Slovakia, which has more Romanian faces emerge from the crypt..Ana Maria Ocalisan and Daniela Andrei! Ocalisan is a new senior who really should have been at Euros just for experience. Andrei has not had an assignment for quite some time despite being one of the very few seniors they have left. Unfortunately, the mother of Asiana Peng who is also at Izvorani has said that Andrei has left the National team. That would not be particularly surprising given that the girl has not competed in so long, but truly astonishing just as news broke that she actually has a competition coming up. We will see! Anna Pavlova, Kristina Yaroshenko (who competed at the WOGA Classic), Anna Myzdrikova and Oksana Chusovitina are competing and in the younger category, the wonderful Varvara Zubova. I'm thinking Myzdrikova's place here means she won't be at Universiade. Coming up in the middle of the month are Chinese Junior Nationals and Romanian Junior Nationals, another chance to see Blendea. Parkettes Elite Qualifier is also taking place, at which Norah Flatley and Alexis Vasquez of Chow's hope to make the cut. Then right at the end of June there will be a world cup in Portugal. The roster for this includes Noemi Makra, Shang Chunsong, Zeng Siqi, Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar, Alla Sosnitskaya, Anastasia Grishina, Ekaterina Baturina, Anna Rodionova, Jade Barbosa, Hannah Whelan and Rebecca Tunney. Rodionova has been injured and this marks her return, similarly this is the first opportunity to see Rebecca Tunney in quite some time.

Speaking of China, here is a great montage of the girls of Coach Wang/Xu's training group of the National Team, including Yao Jinnan, Sui Lu, Huang Huidan and juniors Liu Tingting and Yuan Xiaoyang at the recent Chinese National Games prelims. These girls captured the AA, VT, UB and FX (shared) titles. Love 0:27-33 especially.

Eythora Thorsdottir of the Netherlands placed first in a NED v SWE competition recently. This forms part of the Dutch qualification for EYOF- European Youth Olympic Festival which takes place in July. She beat the very promising Emma Larsson even with a fall on beam. Sadly she is quite shaky on this event, hopefully it can be ironed out before she turns senior next year.

Rebeca Andrade competed at two internal competitions recently- Brazil Trophy and Circuito Caixa and won both decisively. She is not doing her amanar yet but she did unveil a fabulously straight DLO, which is oddly piked in the first salto. Unfortunately her choreo has gone downhill, hopefully just a blip. Her beam continues to be wonderful, very light and floaty as well as super springy and ripe for upgrades. Floor is here and beam is here.

Here is a news excerpt of Mai Murakami to get your hopes up about her again. Watch it here. I don't know if ads can be skipped on youku but I just sit through them anyway. She shows a new skill in training here- a 1.5 DLO! It also reportedly mentions when showing Kohei Uchimura's triple twisting double that she wants to compete it in the future. Bonus- a cute confession about her:

Source- gymfanconfessions.tumblr.com
USAG have said they will post videos of the ongoing National Team Camp. Here's a group photo in the meantime:
Copyright- USAG
L-R: Hundley, Ross, Maroney, Nichols, Price, Shchennikova, Dowell, Locklear, Baker, Priessman, Desch, Milliet, Skinner, Gowey, Dennis, Key, Hults, Gaskins, Quinn, Schild, Biles, Flatley and Vasquez.

Notable exceptions are Sarah Finnegan, Katelyn Ohashi, Laurie Hernandez and Peyton Ernst. Laurie was out because her coach just had a baby (she..does have more than one coach though) and the rest are recovering from injury. The return of McKayla Maroney is momentous though. She had better show up in a video! Amelia Hundley, who performed well below her standard in Europe, has one shin heavily wrapped. Nia Dennis has been added to the junior National Team. Deafening silence on the inclusion of Laurie Hernandez (at the last camp- which she won) and Mykayla Skinner- but the new national teams will be chosen fairly soon I suppose. Plenty of new floor routines debuted during verification AND.... McKayla Maroney looked better and had higher difficulty than expected. Bring on Classics!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The State of Russia

Part 3 of a 4 part series. You can read 'The State of Chinahere and 'The State of the US' here.

Russia, aside from Aliya Mustafina of course, had a pretty disappointing time in London last year and although they do have fabulous juniors in the pipeline they are clinging to their veterans facing into the new quad. So, after Russian Nationals and Euros with Universiade looming; where do they stand?

- First up is their main weapon, Aliya Mustafina. Aliya, the 2010 world champion, ACL comeback girl extraordinaire and the most medalled gymnast of the 2012 games continues to be the strongest gymnast they have as of now. Aliya has reworked her beam entirely with exciting new connections, it's definitely far from solid yet though it looked great at the Zakharova Cup. Even with a double tuck dismount she can reach 6.6 without the arabian and it can go higher if she upgrades when she needs to. That's the key to her longevity now- clever preservation; she has pulled out of all three floor event finals she qualified for so far this year, her choreography is still fairly underdeveloped and her bars are at a conservative 6.3- sans transition connections and her own dismount. What's clear is that she'll pull out all the stops when she needs to and not before. Underestimate at your peril, and try to avoid her ridiculously stalker fanbase! Aliya will almost certainly compete at Universiade, it will be most interesting to see how her beam has progressed.

- Viktoria Komova has not competed yet this year as she is out with a back injury. All is not lost, though she is not training at full intensity she apparently has nearly all of her skills back. She had less time coming back from injury leading up to both the 2011 worlds and the 2012 Olympics than she does now so remain optimistic that she'll come out all guns firing in time for worlds.

- Anastasia Grishina changed coaches last year after the Alexander Alexandrov shakeup. While she certainly hasn't hit every routine so far this year, her consistency record has gone way up, with beautifully hit beam routines in particular at Cottbus and Euros. This is in stark contrast to last year when it was practically impossible to find a routine where she did not meet the mat too early. What's perhaps most startling about her now is her confidence. This definitely isn't the same gymnast who balked about going up on beam last year in team finals and messed up a round-off shortly after. She looks very comfortable with her coach and her routines, even if she has hit the mat a few times. What's most important is to retain her consistency and add the difficulty back in gradually in time for worlds. It's almost sad that we are very unlikely to see her in AA finals this year if Viktoria Komova is healthy. But you just never know and winning AA and beam bronze is definitely a great boost to this beautiful gymnast.

Grishy. Copyright- Thomas Schreyer

- Ksenia Afanasyeva is a true veteran, with two Olympics under her belt. Not only is she continuing to train and competing as an all-around gymnast rather than dropping vault and bars but she is actually upgrading. As of now she has the second hardest floor routine yet competed this year, with significantly better execution than that of the most difficult. In a surprising twist as she is not known as a vaulter, she's training an amanar though she failed to land every single one she attempted at Euros in warmup. Word is her floor is not done yet and a video emerged of a full-twisting DLO. Another possible upgrade here could be a 3.5 twist as she finishes twisting very early in her triple full. It's rumoured that she will unleash a new floor routine later this year. Afan unfortunately does have an inconsistent streak and is unlikely to be able to surpass her teammates to compete AA, especially with a bars dismount that causes her endless trouble, but she is still a very important national team member as she is a major contender for the floor title this year and a strong contributor to team finals in the future. She will compete next at Universiade though she will drop bars for that competition.

- Maria Paseka, brought to London just to vault, has been busy getting her bars up to scratch. She competed well at Russian Nationals and her vaults looked better than they did last year, but unfortunately she finished dead last in the Euros vault final after crashing both vaults. Fortunately she managed to eke out a bronze on bars immediately after which will have gone some way to comfort her. If she can land her vaults this year then that's all she'll need to make her case for inclusion on the worlds team.

- Anna Dementyeva, Ekaterina Kramarenko and Tatiana Nabieva in particular are the main gymnasts also gunning for a spot at Universiade. Anna remains as lovely and inconsistent as ever but has a very good chance of performing at Universiade. It's very unlikely that she would be trusted to compete at worlds. Ekaterina competed at the 2007 worlds (notoriously so) and the 2008 Olympics. While she is past her prime she can still knock out strong routines. Tatiana no longer does her named release but scores well on bars and vault all the same. Neither of these three are in contention for worlds etc. anymore I don't think but all are capable of netting high scores.

- I don't believe that this is Evgeniya Shelgunova's year. She of the infamous sheep-Pak has reportedly had issues with her back, which could explain the failure to improve her form. She is quite an asset on beam and floor as she is usually rock solid though not exactly beautiful to watch but very unlikely to stand out as a medal threat on any event in Antwerp. I expect her to feature next year in team situations.

- Alla Sosnitskaya could be a nice surprise this quad. She's quite powerful with a DLO and triple full on floor but what makes her special is her turn combinations, which she is training but did not compete at Russian Championships. Although she had issues with her landings when we saw her last, including a fairly disastrous double pike she has shown herself to be much better that that. She's another who is more useful in team situations and would complement a UB/BB specialist very well.

- Ekaterina Baturina has absolutely beautiful gymnastics but definitely needs upgrades to contend. I'd like to see her contend especially on floor in the future. She turned senior next year and thankfully has an assignment coming up- the Portugal World Cup where she will compete alongside Alla Sosnitskaya, Anna Rodionova and Anastasia Grishina.

- It's hard to know what stage Anna Rodionova, a 2012 senior, is at. She injured herself last year on bars in the team final at Stuttgart WC and we haven't seen much of her since. A very beautiful gymnast though unlikely to knock out huge difficulty I would think.

- There are 4 juniors who have quite a bit of hype being generated around them- Maria Kharenkova, Maria Bondareva, Anastasia Dmitrieva and Viktoria Kuzmina. The first and last are 2014 seniors and the other two are 2015. Of these the best all-arounders for the future are Anastasia and Maria Bondareva. Maria Kharenkova should be well up there, her bars are currently not up to the standard of the others and she's just slightly sloppier in form but exciting to watch, especially on her pet pieces of beam and floor. She looks like she could crank out a DTY sometime soon too. Viktoria is stunning to watch on bars and beam and has a 6.1 d-score on the former. She appears to have fallen on bars at her last meet, a friendly, but even so.Sadly, videos have not emerged from this meet. A bars/beam specialist to complement one or two of the others I think. She does not even have an FTY yet and while her floor is lovely the difficulty is beyond low, and comparable to the routine of the ridiculously adorable Varvara Zubova who is four years her junior. She did however place second in the AA in her category at Russian Junior Championships behind Maria Bondareva and placed first on bars and second on beam. The results of the friendly recently were interesting- Maria Bondareva came out on top again, but her scores were lower than Anastasia's with the sole exception of bars, and I believe Anastasia can definitely catch up there. Maria lived up to her reputation by adding golds on floor and beam to her AA first place at Junior Champs, while Anastasia received silver on beam and second on vault.

Kuzmina. Copyright- Stefan Wurzer

- You won't hear too much about Seda Tutkhalyan and Yevgeniya Zhukova but they could definitely be game changers. Seda in particular is of a much stockier and compact build than her fellow pixies and is consequently more powerful. Thankfully, she can point her toes too! She won the all-around in her category at Russian Junior Championships, and also won bars and vault, along with bronze on floor. Yevgeniya also looks like she could be a little powerhouse, she won vault in her category and was third on floor and beam, with a 4th place on bars too. She really came out of nowhere this year, vastly improved.

While talented juniors are definitely in the ranks, Russia are wisely holding on to their Olympic team, all five of whom are actively training and competing. This year their new seniors will not be a massive help, though I'd expect Evgeniya Shelgunova in particular to be an asset next year for team competitions. For the AA they have Aliya Mustafina, hopefully Viktoria Komova, Anastasia Grishina and probably Ksenia Afanasyeva too. Bars remain strong as ever, and even if Komova cannot do AA she can surely do bars. The strongest routines unsurprisingly belong to her and Aliya who are essentially guaranteed to be in the bars final at worlds if they are healthy and do not monumentally screw up. Anastasia Grishina is also very strong on bars and Maria Paseka has made great strides of improvement there too. Looking to the future, Maria Bondareva and Viktoria Kuzmina are glorious on bars, and some other juniors look promising also.

Floor belongs to Ksenia Afanasyeva who can hopefully stay consistent with her routine this year at worlds. Aliya is probably still their second best floor, and then a healthy Komova and an upgraded Grishina are very valuable too. I'd expect Bondareva, Kharenkova, Tutkhalyan and Zhukova to contribute high scores here also. Vault-wise they should have two amanars, and Afan is definitely training one. Aliya's DTY is rock solid and if she can at all clean up her legs in the second twist then it could outscore a Pasekamanar. Paseka is still quite an asset for vault alone, they don't have a huge number of vault specialists climbing the ranks just yet. Beam remains an issue though their use of new connections particularly in the case of Aliya and Afan is very heartening, despite numerous wobbles and falls plaguing this pair on this event. Komova also should boast a difficult routine in time, and Grishina hopefully can execute a more difficult routine while staying on the beam. Kuzmina, Kharenkova and Bondareva in particular stand out as ones to watch here.

The worlds team will most likely be some combination of the Olympic team. Who to leave at home though? If healthy then Aliya Mustafina and Ksenia Afanasyeva are locks. A fully restored Viktoria Komova would be too. Unfortunately for Anastasia Grishina, she's unlikely to take the fourth spot as she's not a medal threat without quite a few upgrades, and would be bumped out of AA and UB finals by her teammates unless by fluke. I would say Maria Paseka will take it.

Aliya Mustafina- AA, UB, (BB and FX attempts)
Viktoria Komova- AA, UB, BB
Ksenia Afanasyeva- FX, (BB attempt)
Maria Paseka- VT

Quite a strong team. Who do you think will be featuring on the horizon coming up to Rio? Favourite juniors? Can Grishina continue to stay on the beam and get her big chance soon?

Some video highlights after the jump..