Sunday, 20 October 2013

Worlds Competition/Experience Part 3

I mentioned before this edit to this post that pesky college assignments have been getting in the way. I should be able to clear my thoughts about worlds and other stuff this week and definitely next week, which is midterm. Anyway, back to October 5th! Again, this is very long, so hopefully it kills some boredom and doesn't send anyone to sleep. Here is Part 1 and Part 2.


Pommel Horse

I can't lie, it was not riveting. It could have been better, but everybody had much the same routine. Oh travelling Russians, how 'new'! There was a Croatian with a very good routine, but he totally biffed the handstand dismount unfortunately. Max Whitlock was quite messy I thought. I also used this final as a snacks interlude...

Uneven Bars

As mentioned, bars were at the far corner of the arena, but the view wasn't bad. It was still totally possible to see if handstands were being hit, and little errors like leg separations. First up, because the Chinese always seem to be first..Yao Jinnan. Will she go for the Mo? Yes, I didn't think there was much doubt that she wouldn't, she needed it to fend off Aliya Mustafina and teammate Huang Huidan. The sense of anticipation and excitement in the crowd when they know something awesome is coming up...the roar when she caught the Mo...and the grief when she peeled off straight away. Gutting. Her shins and/or feet have always seemed perilously close to the bar on recatch and a still image showed that she may have been closer than usual in this final.

It looks like it jarred her from catching properly. It was especially sad to see her absolutely nail everything else in the routine, perfectly. And then to remember how she lost the 2011 AA gold, and of course her beam fall the day before. Heartbreaker. So admirable though to see her not miss a beat and immediately help Huang Huidan to chalk the bars. I'm torn about the Mo. It lost her a title and she needs more height or drive to really unmistakeably clear the bar with a better margin for error, but on the other is beyond impressive and it is still great to see someone go for broke, performing a rare skill. If she can't improve it over winter training though, then it should be swiftly dropped.

I didn't want Huang Huidan on this team. Or indeed Zeng Siqi though I was proved right there. Huang Huidan has been a gigantic flake and I was sure that after unexpectedly winning the bars title at Nationals prelims in May that her luck was going to run out. But then she hit all over the place on bars at National Games and her place didn't look like wishful thinking anymore. But another fabulous routine when it counts the most? How refreshing, especially after Yao's disaster. I love her connections, so zippy and no dead hangs. The shap revolution is really helping Chinese bars, though the devaluation of pirouette combinations is not. Her routine is more impressive again since she's one of the few left not using any grips at all, and practically alone among the best bars workers. Fabulous planted dismount. She's not one of the greatest bars workers they have, her technique just seems a bit off or wonky on some skills, especially one particular pirouette near the end but she has improved this year and a Chinese routine FINALLY got a well earned huge score. Take that, Marta! Side note, she is stunning. She is of an ethnic minority, hence her unusual looks.

Next up, Becky Downie. GB are bursting with fabulous leos so I cannot endorse this Nastia-esque horrible-ness as a result. I CAN forgive North Korea, who have very little funding. Anyway, Becky has struggled with this routine all year, both with the difficulty and endurance, and also getting back into routine shape herself. Her full potential was apparently 6.9 but I don't think she went for that once in Antwerp, correct me if I'm wrong. The fact that she hit in qualifying after so many mishaps during the year made me feel that all of her luck had already been used up, which...sadly proved to be the case. The stalder shap to Hindorff was fantastic, so dynamic but it all seemed to come apart from there, second guessing herself, seeming to slow down. Despite that, the routine went on and she was still resolutely on the bars getting through her releases, so I thought, along with the crowd, that she was going to make it. And then, off on an easy move. Damn. So disappointing, but not particularly surprising. I hope she rocks it at Euros next year and shows what it will be like in all of its glory.

Sophie Scheder steps up. These mounts are so varied! Sometimes they glide kip facing the high bar, sometimes facing away from it, wow. Not that I blame them, you gotta preserve your energy for the super-high-difficulty interior of the routine, but..boring. I absolutely love Sophie's lines and her swing seems quite light and easy, though she seemed to hesitate just a bit in a handstand. Fabulous flighty Jaeger, and another great dismount. Where on earth did they pull that execution score from? 8.283, yeah okay. It may not have been that exciting or have the highest difficulty, but it was a very strong routine. Sigh.

It's Simone Seamoney, fresh from a vault silver. Another moment of appreciation for the glorious purple leotard. The US tend to not give us too many such moments in international competition, thanks to Marta's pink obsession. Can she have the highest execution score again like she did in qualifications? I love her, but..for real? The more time that passes, the more bizarre it seems. She does have one huge advantage over a lot of her competitors here, and that is that her routine is short, she goes up and gets the job done. No hanging around doing turn combinations, where deductions are so easy to find. Starts off with another thrilling glide kip, ooooh. Aly Raisman is back shouting again. I wonder how much patience those sitting near her have? I know for a fact she's down sitting with the general ticket holders. It's a strong routine with some nice skills, but I'd say her leg flickering, back arch and occasional flexed feet will get the benefit of the doubt again. Killer dismount! It looks too easy for her, as well as working on form it will be nice when she has a shap half going on and the Ray dismount. Replay shows short handstands, so it should be her lowest scoring bars routine this worlds.'s higher than the AA and four tenths higher than Sophie's execution. It should be funny except it isn't.

Kyla Ross brings the purple goddess leo to a new level of regal. It's nice to have a routine where you just know this gymnast will stay on and never, ever fall. It's clean, it's pretty, another hit routine with pretty much a stuck landing. But I think she's showing some tiredness here, like Simone did too. Slight leg separation in a few skills, a little short here and there, it wasn't as 'on' as she normally is, though that's not a huge surprise given that the US girls has been training without a day off for 3 weeks by that point. Don't get me wrong, it was a great routine, but just not done to her absolute best. Interesting that the replay shows she has the same issues as Simone but not as obvious. That elegant awesome long line though, so great to watch. But yes, I was hoping it wouldn't be overscored and beat Huang Huidan's, since hers was that bit better and more difficult and....China have been having a miserable worlds. I'd love to see Kyla up her game here, it looks like she could easily. So much fluidity and ease. She's into silver but the queen is still to come.

Dun dun DUN. Here she is. Will we see the shap full? How tired is she by now? Lovely start to the routine and the shap full is such a thriller and although it's not the most elegant move out there and the last half is kind of's still fantastic because it's so rare and so exciting. After that she breaks a connection and has slight hesitations and form breaks, but the flow otherwise is so lovely and her form is generally spot-on. She does her trademark dismount but has to take steps on it. Certainly not her best and the composition is quite new, but I was sure they'd hand her silver on a platter. When her score showed up and sent her into third it was such a shock, and I wasn't the only one. Kyla was certainly cleaner and Aliya didn't bring her full difficulty, but I still thought it was a brave and interesting move to finish off the podium in that order. It doesn't get mentioned much that she sickles her feet, but, yeah...she does. It's not that glaring but it does put a but of a downer on the routine for me, it's a pet hate unfortunately. This is not a fully on-form Aliya, and we know her knee has been causing her pain. I hope she gets a nice break, but what are the chances of that when there's world cups and Voronin and you've been carrying all of your team on your back for years?

Happily the excitement of the bigshots wasn't over, with Ruby Harrold last up. This routine is my second favourite after Yao's, and arguably more exciting since she's yet more innovative, and has cleaned up her execution a lot this year. Here comes..the Bhardwaj! Yes! And with so much less leg separation than when she first incorporated it into her routine. And there's not much of a breather since she goes straight into a nice Van Leeuwen (I am learnding, this is a toe-on shap half) and BAM Zuchold! I was expecting it, and the crowd too of course since there was a nice buzz right before but she still has jaws everywhere drop with that move, it's incredible. I bet she'll get it into a pencil-like handstand soon, since it was total banana-back earlier this year and only a slight arch now. Of all of the crazy bars moves Antwerp showed us, this is the most impressive because it was created when the bars were not much more than parallel bars, so to do it now when they're so much wider is...just awesome. She's short on handstands, has everybody on tenterhooks when she pauses in a pirouette and then is short on her double front (woohoo! Not a DLO or tuck full in!) and has to stumble back a bit...but...the score was still harsh. Hopefully motivation to clean it up even further, what a rollercoaster to finish up this final!

Favourite routine- Hmmm, Yao. Even with the fall, the rest was so precise and perfect.
Favourite skill- Zuchold
Biggest downer- Yao falling
Best leotard- Simone and Kyla
Worst- Becky, because hot pink is gross.

Still Rings

I knew rings would be a great spectacle, just for the sheer insane strength on display and it didn't disappoint in the slightest. So much..beefcake, I had a great view of men's faces being squashed by their own almost comically sized biceps. Balandin was so clean, I was delighted he stayed in the medals. The iron cross was definitely the most impressive skill I thought. I did find it weird how when they strain and strain for a straight line but the vast majority had their heads popped out of line, like 'here I am!'. Brandon Wynn's coach was decidedly not a happy bunny. Super distracting when he was running the length of the arena to file the appeal. The look of uncomprehending '???WTF??' on his face when the appeal was denied, and then the anger, was a sight to behold. He so totally punched a wall when they filed out of the arena. 


Had an earlier breakfast than Saturday since I was determined to get some last-minute quality stalking time in. It seemed like a waste not to try, but again, no devastation if it were to be a dismal failure. The day started off badly because there was none of those amazing mini doughnuts :'( I was facing the entrance instead of a wall this time and noticed some Under Armour tracksuits. Could there be persons of interest in the 4 star after all? One of them looked familiar and eventually it clicked, Aly Raisman's mother! She looked really tired, that's jet lag for you. Surely this means the rest of the family appear and yes! There's Aly Raisman. Odd to be casually eating breakfast when a multi-Olympic and world medallist strolls in, who you've written so much about, whose FEET you have written so much about, and nobody bats an eyelid. She doesn't look like a gymnast in a tracksuit, just a regular sized, regular height human being. Much different to Mai Murakami and Asuka Teramoto! She stood quite near us talking across tables to her family, discussing the spectacle men's vault would be. I toyed with the idea of going up to grab some bread beside her but left it, since I am not a dedicated stalker at all and breakfast isn't really the time to annoy someone. I was laughing at the idea of going over and annoying her about her calorie intake 'Hey Aly, that won't help your comeback you know', because how obnoxious would that be. Don't worry, she remained unmolested by me and actually by everyone..there were some little girls in leotards floating around but maybe they too got the memo of leaving a fellow breakfaster in peace.

I should really have dramatised this and talked about how me and Aly totes breakfasted together, and joked about toepoint. Is it too late??

This is again too long, so I hope to squash Sunday into just one more post. Soon! After part 4, probably next week when I'm off, I'll do a big review post.

Highs and lows of the bars final? Favourite routine? Is it so hard to believe Aliya only got bronze or is that just me? How old is Huang Huidan now, considering her routine was much the same aged "7", which is, you know, impossible. A german article came out today lambasting Marta citing the same reasoning, hurray! Reasoning in the China age debate! :D

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Tired of RUS-bias vs US comparison posts? Here's the opposite!

Sick of seeing hilariously Russian biased comparisons against the US, like this one and that other one on tumblr that I can't find now? Introducing, a US biased version! The point is, it's extremely easy to do (though it is tough to find a bad picture of Viktoria Komova), and highly inaccurate to pit one nation against another in this way, especially when the worst example of one side is taken, versus the best or one of the best of the other. Or you know, not even the same skill. Apologies that they're not formatted brilliantly, or at all, but you get the idea. In the last one, the point is back flexibility, though yes Maria Kharenkova's hands and arms are nicer. Disclaimer- This is pretty much a joke post, though not without a valid point- how easy it is to skew something. Also, Viktoria Komova does not know how to do a bad leap, correct. She is obviously not near her apex, and nor were the photos of Simone Biles featured in both of the other comparison posts.

Maroney- source-
Nabieva- source-
Maroney- source-
Nabieva- source- spannysbigfakesmile

Sacramone- copyright- AP
Mustafina- source-
Finnegan- copyright- Melissa J Perenson
Komova- copyright- Alexandr Wilf/Ria Novosti
Ross- source-
Shelgunova- copyright- MINKUSIMAGES
Key- copyright- USAG/John Cheng
Kharenkova- copyright- Thomas Schreyer
Kocian- copyright- USAG/John Cheng
Mustafina- copyright- Xinhua/Shen Bohan
Ernst- source-
Kharenkova- source-

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Worlds Experience/Competition Part 2

Warning: This is longer than the previous post and only covers floor and vault Day 1 event finals as a result. Read part 1, the AA, here.


OMG, the breakfast. Continental breakfasts in mainland Europe are always great, but this was just such an unbelievable spread. I've never seen such a varity of fruit, fruit salads, yoghurts and seeds on top of the excellent hot food and pastries- there were these tiny doughnuts which were amazing. Anyway. Event finals were starting a lot earlier than the all-around of course, at half 2. We got to the arena at about 2 and hung around it for a few minutes, magically hoping a stream of gymnasts would appear as spectators. But....Mai Murakami and Asuka Teramoto obliged!

!!!!! :D :D :D :D Nothing like elite gymnasts to make you feel like an awkward giant, at the lofty height of 5'3. This practically made my year, seriously. Both girls went unnoticed by those outside and seemed very surprised when I asked them for a photo. Probably as I have a big red Caucasian head on me - they'd be far more used to just an Asian fanbase I think. They thanked me afterwards! It's odd to be beside someone I've written so much about and fangirled over. I wasn't very interested in actively trying to find gymnasts though. A bit, but not super stalky or anything. So random encounters seemed more fun for that reason.

Our seats were the same as yesterday, 2 rows further back, so the same view. Great for MAG floor, which started off the day. The noise of them warming up was astoundingly loud, like BAM..BAM..BAMMMMM. No music obviously so of course the landings were exemplified. It was really exciting to even think of seeing Kohei Uchimura's routine and Kenzo Shirai's AMAZING twistathon live and of course, they didn't disappoint. Mindblowing stuff. Every single roll-out skill was nervewracking, I'm delighted they're being phased out. I felt that it was a great honour to see Kohei Uchimura competing live and although his difficulty was a good bit lower than some, he was incredibly impressive and so clean. I don't really watch MAG floor and after watching so much of WAG floor, it's refreshing to see the differences - like the amount of great twisting combinations that we just don't see in WAG. However, I think I'd get bored of the lack of double backs if I watched or saw it in person more often. The fact that Kenzo Shirai was competing last was wonderful, it allowed the tension to build nicely. Everybody definitely got the memo about his crazy routine, huge cheer when he saluted. That quad twist...just incredible. Almost the best part of his routine though was Kohei Uchimura's reaction to the landing of the quad twist and the sheer joy when his score was posted. It's fantastic to see such sportmanship in action.

Thanks to Agnes Suto for mentioning the name of the marching in and out song, Martin Garrix- Animals. The cut the arena used is better than the video I found on youtube. The beat of it really fired up the crowd and I was thrilled when the vault finalists marched in...and there was no hot pink from the Americans. No red, white or blue from them either which I know bothers people but uhh such a stunning leotard, and I just love purple so much. So glamorous and regal with the jewelled neckline/bodice. Each time Simone Biles marched out at these worlds, at all five possible finals, I was blown away by how much shorter she is than the average gymnast. It's a reflection moreso on the changes of gymnast's builds over the years I think. Did you know that Shang Chunsong is actually taller than her? Barely, but still, hilarious :D

Sadly no timers this time around of course, I really think it's stupid and possibly dangerous not to allow it for event finals. Giulia Steingruber got the competition off to a great start with a fabulous Rudi. Yes, her feet are messy and she's a little bit too piked in the first half twist or so, but it looks amazing from the side and she almost stuck the landing. It's a weird experience to experience firsthand how little time a vault takes! And to be close enough to gymnasts that I could hit them with my water bottle if I so wished, people I've written so much about having only ever seen them on screens. Not to mention the weirdness of seeing yourself in the audience on footage! Back to Giulia, I'm so impressed that she learned the DTY in such a short space of time. A very wise decision as the DTT hadn't been working out, famously keeping her out of vault finals in London when she crashed it. And what a great DTY it was! She barely had leg separation on the block and she kept her legs glued together throughout the vault, which as we know is very rare, especially on vaults more difficult than a FTY. Again with the flexed feet...but again with the great landing, though she was bent over a little too much at the waist. A worthy contender for bronze.

Next up, the cannonball Produnova from Yamilet Pena. I admire her spirit a lot and I do think she does have a lot of innate vaulting talent, but this is a waste, and still so dangerous on her knees and ankles. It's especially surprising that she's still doing it after suffering setbacks with injury and with her coach leaving this year, and the fact that she could not land a handspring-layout front at Pan American Games not that long ago. Predictably, it was scary both in the air with her insufficient height, and on the ground though there was no doubt she got her feet under her and bearing weight enough to get a score. Huge groan of course from the crowd. I wonder what people like Oksana Chusovitina and McKayla Maroney who have been watching her splat this vault in the same finals for years think when she goes for it. It was upsetting to see the anguish on her face when she got up afterwards, though also maddening, I wished I had a stock of rotten tomatoes to throw at her coach and any other officials encouraging this gigantic hot mess. Even worse when she fell backwards on her second vault, sigh. I wish she could do an exchange programme with a US gym for a few months (not WOGA..) or just plain change citizenship.

Unsurprisingly, a huge roar greeted Oksana Chusovitina. Another legend I got goosebumps to see competing in front of me. She must like the springboard being set further back than usual, but this looked a bit like overkill as she hit the horse very far forward and the vault was consequently a struggle which she landed low. Still, she landed it, very impressive! It was hilarious when her coach was speaking to her right after and you could almost imagine Oksana thinking 'Be quiet, child!' It's got to take nerves to give constructive criticism to her. Happily, her second vault, Tsuk 1.5, was great! So straight and with great leg form. When you think of the pounding vault entails at her age, I highly doubt she does half the repetitions in training that her fellow competitors do. Which just serves to highlight the brilliance of that second vault, and indeed the ability to get around the first when the takeoff was wrong. What a privilege to see her in action.

Fourth to vault was Phan Thi Ha Thanh in another stunning leotard, pink this time. I've no issue with the colour when it's not sickly pale, hot pink, or pepto-bismol. She is so, so beautiful. I was gutted when she didn't make London finals last year, so it was great to see her here. She does pike her Rudi as we all know by now, and the last half twist is wild but it's really lovely in the air, very dynamic. At least from the side, which does mask quite a bit of what you see from the straight view on replay. Easier than ever to imagine why the judges don't deduct for things fans see on these replays. A pity she couldn't get her chest up on landing the Rudi though. And...I had a heart attack when 6.3 flashed up for her second vault. It never crossed my mind she would go for an amanar, because her DTY is not particularly great, or even secure. Madness to try it. Predictably, she barely got the two twists around and it was the scariest thing ever because it was the worst case of twisting into the ground I have ever seen. She's very lucky she got up and walked away after that. I'm all for difficulty and going all out, but they need to be skills you can actually do and do consistently. That was just frightening.

Chantysha Netteb qualified with low difficulty vaults, ahead of teammate Noel Van Klaveren who failed to make the final after practically landing her gorgeous DTY off the mat entirely. Chantysha has had issues with the DTY with a bad fall at Euros, and did revert to a 1.5 Yurchenko after. But the final is the time to bring it, so she went for the full 5.8. It looked good in the air and very clean and secure so it was a huge shock first of all when she fell backwards and a second, sickening shock when she grabbed her knee in agony. Just awful. My view of her face in intense suffering was all too clear and the big screen on my right which was too close to block out replayed it over, and over, and over again. The obvious pain on her face, the replay of her landing and the knee grabbing all screamed ACL tear, sadly. Chantysha is so promising, especially on vault, and it's just gutting to see her world championships go like this. What discipline it took for her not to make a sound.

After Chantysha Netteb was carried off on a stretcher (the worst sentence I think I've ever written here), it was Simone Biles' turn to vault. It's unnerving to be first up after that, harking back to Aly Raisman who had to go up on beam after Rebecca Bross dislocated her knee on vault at Nationals two years ago. But no problem for the new world champion, who launched her amanar up to the ceiling and had a better landing than the all-around, with just a small bounce back. The noise of her block is just BOOM, so explosive. Amazing. Her second vault, the Lopez, is the best I've ever seen. Her block is perfect, much superior to McKayla Maroney even, and she never once wavered from her pencil-like straight form. Her Cheng when we see it will no doubt be even more mindblowing.

The 2008 Olympic vault champion, Hong Un Jong, the only gymnast North Korea brought, has the second highest difficulty of all- 6.4 and 6.3 (Yamilet Pena just a tenth higher..), but her execution leaves her in contention for nothing more than bronze and the Cheng is a bit beyond her at times. Her first vault, the amanar, was better than I expected though. Very clean in the air but an uncontrolled landing marred it. It's a different story for the second vault, which was scrappy in the air, and so piked. The execution score she got was kind of hilarious, but then they mostly were in this final. Certainly it should not have approached a 9, a clear case of the judges afraid to penalise difficulty, again. Still, at least we weren't treated to a carcrash TTY, after an already scary few vaults! She's quite broad in the shoulders, and is definitely healthy and strong. The same can't be said of her coach, who looked like a doll by comparison- and basically, undernourished as a result of living through the famine in the 90's. I wonder how closely their delegation is watched at international competitions like this?

Last but not least, the reigning world champion, she of the stupid meme, McKayla Maroney appeared at the end of the vault runway. It was quite a tense moment seeing her focusing and getting ready after what happened the last time she appeared in an international vault final. No white leotard this time! The step back, the incredibly fast and powerful fear for her amanar, which was just unbelievable. She still has the most incredible block and airtime, even though she's not getting the same height as last year. And another almost (soo..close) stick! She knows how to please a worshipping crowd, such an exciting moment. That said, I have issues with that score. Her hips and knees are bent, she was off direction by quite a bit and she didn't quite stick her score being higher than the TF vault in London last year, taking into account the lowering of difficulty on it, is funny, and not in a good way. Yes, yes, she will beat Simone Biles on difficulty. There's no need to be ridiculous about it though. Also, Simone's own amanar was better, but scored worse. McKayla's second vault was a great vault for anyone else, but it was a bit poor from her, her block was really quite wonky. The important thing was that she landed it, and it was really good otherwise, great explosive distance I thought. That must have been one great sigh of relief to banish the ghost of London with a second consecutive world title. Onwards and upwards hopefully, her execution and height are even better than what we witnessed here.

The Podium
And the world champion is...big surprise here...McKayla Maroney! Silver of course went to Simone Biles with what were to me, easily the best two vaults of the competition and in third, Hong Un Jong beat off stiff competition from Giulia Steingruber and not so stiff from Phan Thi Ha Thanh, given her bad fall. It is absolutely fantastic to see somebody retain a title, and so magnificently. We shouldn't forget McKayla's string of injuries in the last year, and she had just 8 months of training to get to this point. I'm not sure we'll see a Cheng but I think a TTY is definitely possible, and I'm hopeful she can brush up just a bit on her execution and/or height. She absolutely deserved her gold..BUT..there's usually a but, it should have been closer as both of Simone Biles' vaults were in fact better. It's great to see these two sparring in international competition as well as internally, good motivation. Don't be fooled by gamefaces and Simone's polite but disinterested looking clap for McKayla after the latter landed her second vault. After the competition they marched out smiling and talking and when they came back for the medal ceremony, there was a great camaraderie between the two. What incredible vaulters, what a pleasure to see them raise the roof like this.

Many are saying Giulia Steingruber was robbed, and it's easy to see why. But although her vaults were great she did throw marks away with her low landings, and form issues particularly on the Rudi. It just wasn't enough to best a girl with seven more tenths of difficulty. I cannot but be happy for Hong Un Jong to take away a world championship medal. She is surely celebrated as an Olympic gold medallist, and entitled to live in the capital etc...but it's got to be miserable all the same and another prestigious medal cannot but be a good thing.

Here is a ridiculously great stop-motion photo gallery of every vault finalist in action. Love it!

Favourite Leotard

Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney's glorious purple leotard. Perfect on both.


- The two amanars of the Americans, great to watch for different reasons.
- The clean fabulousness of Kohei Uchimura's floor.
- Everybody survived their roll-out passes.
- Kenzo Shirai's quad twist, because it's insane.
- And his entire routine, so exciting. I don't care how one-sided it is.
- Simone Biles' Lopez, it's just fantastic with the perfect block and technique.
- Giulia Steingruber's lovely DTY, despite the haste in which it was learned.
- The atmosphere before McKayla Maroney vaulted, so tense and expectant- waiting, wanting, hoping for the usual magic.

Not-so Highlights

- What looks like an ACL tear for Chantysha Netteb.
- The constant replays of her injury.
- A totally unneccessary and dangerous amanar from Phan Thi Ha Thanh.
- The cannonball from Yamilet Pena and her fall on the second vault. :(
- Roll-out skills. So fearful of them.

Who do you think has the best amanar now? Who should have gotten bronze? HOW CUTE is it that Kenzo Shirai and Mai Murakami are a couple and have been for years? How much crack are Yamilet Pena's and Phan Thi Ha Thanh's coaches on?

I had to split this post in half, so coming up soon will be the second half of Saturday, and hopefully some of Sunday if I can squash it in. Being closer to vault helps me blab on more about it, not to mention their being so kind as to take it in turns to compete, rather than all at once in the AA :)

Monday, 7 October 2013

Worlds experience/competiton part 1

It's a little difficult to fully process the 177 routines I saw over the weekend (okay, not exactly..ignored some in the AA if something more exciting was going on..) but I'll give it a go! Here is my (painfully) long worlds experience, and thoughts of course. The actual gymnastics bit probably won't be as detailed as I'd like as it's hard to differentiate everything at the moment.


4AM alarm unfortunately but thankfully it was way more exciting to wake up to the realisation that my flight was actually finally leaving in a few hours than Christmas morning growing up ever was. Antwerp inexplicably does not have an airport, or if they do it's a Fisher Price effort, so had to go via Brussels. Because of this we had to go for the safe option of a morning flight, but it was great having the security of arriving very early (09:30). The two cities are just 40 minutes apart by train, so it was fine.

Here's how convenient the location was:

This is Koningin Astridplein, or Queen Astrid's square.


The beautiful building in the middle is the train station where we arrived from. To the left is the zoo, which has King penguins! Killed time nicely there. At the other end facing the station was our hotel, which was a huge behemoth of a thing and looked down on everything.


We were bumped from a 3 star to this 4 star, which was great :D To the right of the station as seen here were streets filled with great places to get lunch and dinner. The street to the left of the hotel in this photo was a Chinese district, where we had an unbelievable meal. Worth feeling left out for eating with forks and having Western dishes. RIGHT UNDERNEATH the hotel was the metro station for the subway to the arena. On the same street as the Chinese district we could have gotten trams to the arena either. Transport to the arena with event tickets is free, because why not.

Anyway, on with the show. Met up briefly with some people I know which was great and.......wait for it......Andreea Raducan crossed the street right behind us! I am in the green jumper, nicely in height order - how very Romanian of us. She was very gracious about being pounced on (nicely!) thankfully.


Our tickets for the all-around were slightly beyond the vault table, and for row 13...which ended up being row 5, presumably because rows were chopped out to make room for the podium. Amazing feeling to sit down in INCREDIBLE seats, though they should be as I booked them on day 2 of release :p I can see us in some footage already, and I haven't seen much. Here is the view straight ahead, floor and beam were perfect. Bars were far away but still fairly clear. Each seat had a shiny card on it, made to be folded into a fan. The noise of everyone using them for clapping was great, really added to the fun of the music they used between rotations and as marching in/out music. In fact, I basically loved all of the music they used.


Group 1 started on vault which was so exciting. The sheer noise in warmup of Simone Biles hitting the table and then the mat is awesomely loud, and she was doing her usual trick of throwing DTY's and amanars while the rest were just doing timers still. Having the perfect side view means things like leg separation go unnoticed, and foot crossing. It was such an experience to see Simone Biles launch towards the rafters just a few feet away. The others vaults I enjoyed the most were Giulia Steingruber's, Roxana Popa's, Kyla Ross' (legs looked perfect on the block from my angle..), Noel Van Klaveren (so so clean and beautiful) and Larisa Iordache. Almost immediately it was tough to know where to point my eyes. I wrote out the start lists as I wasn't going to be ripped off for roaming data prices and there was no wifi in the arena, and that definitely helped, but I had lots of pink underlining for routines I wanted to watch clashing with others throughout the competition which as expected, was tough to manage.

I found vault and floor quite calm to watch, beam was so nervewracking. Most gymnasts were held for at least a minute before competing, which I really hated to see. It's not an apparatus you want to be standing around waiting for, giving yourself time to freak out. There were moments of glory a-plenty, Simone Biles nailing the 2.5 wolf and planting the dismount, Kyla Ross' lines and being perfectly and gloriously in line with the beam on everything, Roxana Popa hitting a very solid routine for her weakest event, Anna Rodionova, Noemi Makra and Ilaria Kaeslin showing off their perfection, form and elegance, Aliya Mustafina staying on and Natsumi Sasada's insanely difficult mount, the layout full. But such heartbreak, and so many tense moments. Every time there's a big wobble everyone holds their breath and the atmosphere heightens completely, and such disappointment for someone when they fall. Ruby Harrold, Rebecca Tunney, Victoria Moors, Larisa Iordache, Shang Chunsong and Yao Jinnan...horribly long list of such fantastic gymnasts. Ruby's routine is quite exciting so it was such a downer when she fell, and of course Rebecca has had a very tough time with injury, recovery and growth so had she succeeded here at last it would have been such a boost for her. I found Victoria's routine one of the most upsetting as I had a clear view of her sitting apart from everyone else looking absolutely miserable afterwards. And of course, the 3 girls who had the difficulty to contend right at the top. Yao's fall was infuriating because the tucked full should have been dumped long ago. As soon as I saw her prep for it I was gutted, pretty sure I called out 'Noooooo!'. Shang's was another super disappointing one, she's usually very solid on beam, or at least not prone to actually falling. And of course, Larisa, who when you think about it aside from Euros 2012 has had a pretty bad time as a senior. It's funny, you think she's been around for ages and everyone knows her and her routines...but she hasn't accomplished much and has been so unlucky. The competitive fire seems to be lacking a bit too, sadly.

Not that floor didn't have its moments. Right before Victoria Moors went for her skill, there was total, terrified silence. And then BOOM an explosion of joy when she not only landed it but stuck it too! Simone Biles' much better landing (than quals) of HER own skill also got a great reaction. It's so different to hear floor music booming live. Shang Chunsong's gunshots seemed louder and weirder than ever, but the ending few seconds of her routine were absolutely endearing and totally worked. Elizabeth Seitz' routine was great even just for this reason, the beat magnified in the dance bits was infectious and really got the crowd involved. Happily I did not notice one single fall on floor and the number of out of bounds was very, very low - lower than would have been expected with such a bouncy and newly - launched floor, but of course that's what practice and podium training was for. One strange thing I noticed is the speed of gymnasts runs- for instance, Asuka Teramoto and Natsumi Sasada seemed to be taking their ease, compared to the power and attack of others. It instantly explained the difficulty they are apt to have with underrotating skills like the triple full. Ilaria Kaeslin and Anna Rodionova stood out a mile for their beautiful gymnastics here, and my eyes were out on stalks thanks to the perfection of Noemi Makra's piked full-in. I'm so glad I got to see that live. It's great to see stunning lines and form etc. amidst all of the scary and sloppier difficulty. Not that immense difficulty isn't exciting, it was awesome to watch, but noting the amount of crazy skills performed and the legions of injured gymnasts is still worrying.

Highlights and Favourite Routines

- Yao Jinnan's Mo Salto. It was breathtaking, and the entire routine besides was amazing to watch.
- Elizabeth Seitz' Def. It looked way cooler than I expected, seriously impressive skill.
- Natsumi Sasada's layout full beam mount, previously mentioned.
- Aliya Mustafina's PRESENCE. She radiates it even walking down the steps after saluting. She holds herself very regally and beautifully, and while it wasn't exactly a surprise, it was still great to witness her at her queen-liest.
- The Biles and the Moors.
- THAT shap full. Fabulous.
- Simone Biles' smile. Lit up the arena and while obviously her choreography is lacking, her routine was still electrifying and she expresses the hell out of it, particularly in the dance bits before the corners. For this reason, I see no issue with her seemingly not getting any artistry deductions. It was just a great routine.
- Aliya Mustafina's floor, especially the first pass. She left no doubt at all, the whips looked fantastic and she went for the stag and totally nailed it. Her determination blew me away completely.
- Roxana Popa, what a competitor she is. Highlight would have to be the whip-whip-full in. Because WOW, it's just jaw dropping.
- Again, Noemi Makra's piked full in. Love...
- Larisa Iordache's speed and fluidity. Seamless movement and it's especially great on floor, her floor works very nicely for her.
- Stuck landings, especially the really planted ones. It's just such a thrill.
- Ruby Harrold's bars. It's just so much more interesting and exciting when original moves are performed, and Ruby did two, and they were great. The Ooooo!! after the Zuchold..great moment.
- Vanessa Ferrari still being so strong. Veterans are great to see, no matter their motivation to continue!

'Podium' of favourite routines

UB 1. Yao Jinnan 2. Roxana Popa 3. Ruby Harrold
VT 1.  Simone Biles 2. Giulia Steingruber 3 T Noemi Makra and Roxana Popa
BB 1. Ilaria Kaeslin 2. Noemi Makra 3. Simone Biles (tough, so many falls..)
FX 1. Victoria Moors 2. Elizabeth Seitz 3 T Simone Biles, Aliya Mustafina and Roxana Popa

Favourite Leotards

Carlotta Ferlito's sparkly turquoise and black leotard, it looked so well in the arena. Victoria Moors' black with pink maple pattern. All of their new leotards are stunning but the contrast of this one is particularly amazing. Yao Jinnan, just stunning, and I really liked Rebecca Tunney's too. Least favourite...hmm. I'm not sure about Vasiliki Millousi's, I don't think it worked. Also, the top button at the back of her neck was undone, so noticeable.

Longines Prize for Elegance

I felt this was a bit of a letdown, since Kohei Uchimura has already won it and while Kyla Ross IS elegant, I felt they should have rewarded one of the unknown but stunningly beautifully elegant gymnasts. Ah well. 

Not-so highlights

- Beam falls. Oh so many. 7 that I remember offhand, I'm sure that wasn't the grand total. It's such a fraught apparatus and the groan all around you just makes it affect you more and feel the gymnast's devastation more.
- Natsumi Sasada's bars. She had to come off three times, it was heartbreaking.
- Overscoring. Yes, Simone Biles' scores, notably vault and floor, were that little bit too high. It wouldn't have done anything to the standings however. I don't think she was the only one but I'd need to have a good think about it.
- The waits for beam. Let them on!
- Vault execution scoring in general. Too generous.
- The stupid switch ring rule. It appears quite a lot of beautiful ones got downgraded, sigh.
- The really hard twisting leaps on floor, like the Gogean. Ugly on screen, uglier in person.
- Aliya Mustafina's contouring/bronzer skills. What was that about? Looked like someone put it on like that out of spite. Same for Vanessa Ferrari's lipstick, which looked to have been done without the aid of a mirror.

This is hard, there were soooo many highlights compared to things that sucked!

The Podium

Simone Biles has firmly shut the haters up. It has been obvious for so long that she was capable of this kind of domination, if she could just get her head and new skills together in time..and sure enough, she was untouchable. I was already a big fan but seeing her compete in person...just, wow. The scary thing is, it doesn't seem like she has peaked at all. Both vaults, her floor, bars...she's definitely not done. What a thrilling performance by a first year senior, and a well deserved gold. No arguing with the validity of that result, for once.

Kyla Ross had a great day, but all of the naysaying 'her best is not good enough' etc. came to pass, as predicted by basically everyone. I don't really hide the fact that I'm not a big fan of hers, but that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate her gymnastics, or aspects of it. Her lines were great, bars were smooth and so solid, floor choreography has much improved and I got a fabulous view of her super clean vault. I really would like to see her keep improving, adding sensible upgrades- beam and bars. So no, I am not converted but wow is she solid, strong and totally earned this.

Aliya Mustafina has depths of reserve like no other. When all looks bleak - knee pain, general tiredness and looking off-form, dodgy beam and/or floor, the stress of carrying her entire team on her back again...have no fear, because nothing like that seems to matter when hitting is the most important. Her fierceness and elegance everywhere was dazzling and I'm delighted she was able to get it together. It would probably be too much to ask that she gets a break now..

What were your favourite routines? Moments? Skills? Leotards? Worst? Can anyone step up the plate next year and beat Seamoney?

"Tune in" for part 2 (and 3 probably) soon which contain a picture I prize even more than the one included here and a thrilling story about who I met at breakfast on Sunday..(not very thrilling, but still a fantastic sighting)...