Tuesday, 19 November 2013

China's New Bonus System/COP and Superhuman Simone

China are set to introduce a new bonus system and COP changes for all of their internal competitions. This system aims to boost innovation and difficulty, particularly in areas where they are weak as a country. The source is here- unsurprisingly, it doesn't translate well in google, but luckily I had a perfect translation of it :)

FLOOR

- F skill +0.1 G skill +0.2 H skill +0.3 (no super unrealistic provision for I skills I see. G and H are very optimistic already. G is the Dos Santos 2, H are the double double tucked and full twisting double layout).

- Max +0.5 for good artistry

- + 0.1 for E dismount or above

- Bonus for D+B turn combination (not sure amount)

VAULT

- Female junior gymnasts cannot choose basic front tuck/pike vaults.

- +1.0 for vaults worth 6.3 or more (*coughamanar*)

- +0.3 for DTY, DTT etc, +0.5 for Rudi

BARS

-  +0.3 Pak full (Bhardwaj) or Shap full (Seitz). Extra 0.1 if either are connected to another skill.

- -0.2 deduction for each extra kip-cast-handstand for more than three kip-cast-handstands.

- +0.1 for E bars dismount, +0.3 for F (Example- Fabrichnova. Presumably if someone does a G rated dismount they'll get this bonus too).

-0.1 for flight series of D+D, 0.2 for D+E or more.

BEAM

- +0.2 triple twist dismount, +0.4 full twisting double back dismount. (The latter is almost funny but Chinese gymnast Jiang Wei invented it in 1980).

GENERAL

- +0.1 stick bonus.

- -0.3 Double front salto cowboying, except on vault. Not sure of the correct term- knee and leg separation?

- -0.2 Crossed legs in twisting.

- Female juniors in their last year before turning senior may not compete at Junior Nationals or the Intercity Games. This is a great move, discourages peaking at the wrong time and lessens the risk of burnout and inopprtune injuries. aids burnout and. For instance, as an old China hand pointed out to me, Zeng Siqi has never fully bounced back from an ankle injury she sustained at the 2011 Intercity Games, her last year as a junior.

- Female senior gymnasts must compete at least two events to qualify for event finals on any one event. Their 2 event total must be higher than the total of 85% of the rest of the gymnasts. Juniors must compete three, and their total must be higher than the total of 80% of the rest of the field. Essentially, MOAR all-arounders please.

- The format of team finals is changing to 6-4-4 for senior nationals and 4-4-3 for junior nationals. Each team should have 4 all-arounders.

So China says death to the one-event specialist, the ubiquitous double pike beam dismount and double layout bars dismount. What do you think of this system? I like the sound of it, in parts it's fairly unrealistic, but it should hopefully encourage innovation as well as drag them up in power events. I do think it's expecting quite a lot, particularly ambitious with dismounts, vault and tumbling. That just won't happen overnight, though I trust they're fully aware of that. The Bhardwaj and Seitz are strange skills to pick out. They are both so rare, and while I love both of them, I think I would have preferred if it was more general in terms of transitions. China are not ones to bring out half-arsed skills so I'm not afraid of that, but I am afraid of greater risk of injury, especially when you have girls with frames that are quite frail and injury-prone, in comparison to for instance the American gymnasts who ARE throwing the hardest tumbles and dismounts that China want to reward.


Speaking of superhuman Americans, a video of Simone Biles throwing a double double off beam emerged last night. It's here. You think her current skill set is exciting enough, until you're blown away by the skills she has thrown/is throwing in training. These include, but are undoubtedly not limited to: the above, triple twisting Yurchenko, triple twisting double back, double arabian full out, standing double tuck and double double laidout. Not to mention the more mundane Cheng, Bhwardwaj, double arabian piked and double arabian tucked. I know I have recently written a post complaining about extreme difficulty, but in this case I have faith in Simone's coaches not to overload her. She only does what she is capable of truly mastering. Check the landing on that double double though, her chest is fully upright. There are issues of course, 1) stamina to do it after a full routine and 2) In this video it's not into a pit but it is lower than the floor. Still, I think she could include at least one of her madder skills in the future. I fully understand how and why a good portion of people do not favour her gymnastics, but wow is she exciting.



Saturday, 16 November 2013

The United States of Extreme Difficulty

I freely admit that I am a giant hypocrite. I love seeing big difficulty once it's not scary and seeing juniors with crazy routines, like Katelyn Ohashi in 2011 with her beam and Norah Flatley with hers. But, enough is enough. There are too many now with routines that are just unnecessary at this stage, and others the same who are not even elegible for Rio. Injuries can happen to anyone but there's no real need to open the door and invite them in.

Look at Ariana Agrapides. She's not senior for another four years, so 2017 worlds would be her aim for the moment, and her Olympics would be 2020. With that in mind, she already has a DTY, double arabian and piked full-in. AND she's training an amanar. The first three skills are done very well, no doubt about it. Safe and secure and the DTY is one of the best I have ever seen. But that's not really the point. It's too much pounding at her age (12) and unfortunately, spells burnout. She went from not having an FTY to an amazing DTY in less than six months. Can this talent not be preserved? An amanar is just asking for trouble, and indeed, she currently has a fractured foot, not that I can tell the exact cause of that.


This is fantastic. But it's a little early and an upgrade is asking for trouble for her knees, joints and ankles. They just don't need that stress that early, and for what gain? The Jr National Vault champion. Not much of a trade-off. The same gymnast had an utter meltdown at Nationals on bars and her highest e-score over both days on that apparatus was 6.7. Going back to basics there could well serve her better in the long run.

It hasn't escaped my attention that if Ariana does do an amanar next year, she wouldn't be the first, three years off from being a senior. This exclusive club also contains Lexie Priessman. McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber also did it two years before becoming senior, at the age of 13, but they at least had London looming ahead.

Ariana has fabulous potential on vault and floor in particular. But what's the rush?


Irina Alexeeva has already attracted a lot of attention, Russian-born, WOGA gymnast with a flair for floor and beam. She competes at HOPES level, which is between elite and Level 10. Indeed she achieved the scores needed for elite I believe this year, but it was decided to not advance just yet. A wise decision given that she is 2002 born and therefore not senior until 2018. Yet, yesterday at Masillia she scored 15.850 on beam, with a d-score in the mid 6's. This score no doubt has a bonus included but think about it, 5 years from senior and she had more difficulty than anyone in the worlds beam final. It is like Aly Raisman trouncing seniors on floor, in 2005. I thought when Irina debuted this routine that it was too much for her and that she struggled a bit, and although the score from yesterday indicates that she must have mastered it totally, it is still craziness.

Not to mention Jordan Chiles, 2017 senior, who has a DTY and is also training an amanar. Not doubting her ability at all, and it looks good in the video, but I'm just hoping it stays in the pit until 2015. Or indeed Laurie Hernandez who showed up this year with immense upgrades on every event. Like Ariana her teammate, her skills look secure. But it could have waited another year.

What do you think? Am I fussing about nothing? Or is the trend for more difficulty younger and younger indeed worrying? We only have to look at examples like Katelyn Ohashi and Jordyn Wieber for athletes who it did no favours to. The code demands so much from gymnasts these days, but there has been no advancement in the structure of the body and how badly pounding can affect it. Look at the injury list before/during/after worlds. The longer gymnasts do these skills, the more likely an injury is. In the US, the depth of talent means you pretty much need to make a name for yourself. But pacing has never been so important. Being a superstar junior is not much good if it ultimately means that your senior career takes a huge hit.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The REALLY BIG Worlds Review Post

I am snowed under with assignments currently and for the last while, with no real let-up this side of Christmas. So that is the delay with posting, but I haven't gone anywhere :) I'll still have time for the usual much shorter posts, it's just these long ones that have been a killer to write. Anyway, worlds finished a month ago but I haven't finished yet!

I had an absolutely fantastic experience attending these worlds live. It's kind of difficult to recount it, but you can read about it here, in 4 parts:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I believe I said this in at least one of the above, but it was just so, so surreal to be watching gymnasts and gymnastics in person, rather than the hundreds if not thousands of hours I've watched through a screen. Like, oh McKayla Maroney is vaulting about 8 feet in front of my face...no big deal. But on to the juicy bit, actually reviewing worlds!

USA

Well, what a glorious domination for them. I did expect I believe a beam medal, 1 or 2 AA medals, 1 or 2 floor medals and 1 or 2 vault medals. Which obviously they exceeded, with a total of 8- 4 (AA and FX gold, VT silver, BB bronze) for Simone Biles, 3 (AA, BB and UB silver) for Kyla Ross and 1 (vault gold) for McKayla Maroney. I do have to say that this medal haul was helped along by a bit of a flop as regards international competition. The US were prepared as if it was the Olympics, everyone else as if it was a post-Olympic world cup. Viktoria Komova was not there, the Russian programme was a shambles, Aliya Mustafina was a bit tired, and the Romanians were relying entirely on a just-recovered Larisa Iordache. China were relying on Yao Jinnan who was also bouncing back from injury and new girl Shang Chunsong. The AA medals, floor and vault would have been won anyway, regardless of the strength of the competition, but the beam and bars medals were a bit of a surprise, and definitely not foreseen at the start of the year. Not a surprise in the last few months, but in general when sights turned to Antwerp last year. They attest to a general weakness in both events, especially beam I think.

BUT, that said, the US had an incredibly impressive worlds and fair dues to their programme of excellent preparation. It's fairly hard to imagine another country toppling their spell of domination any time soon.

First, we need to talk about Simone Biles. Simone has had quite a topsy turvy year or so. She exploded onto the scene this year with a huge arsenal of upgrades, but she also showed inconsistency- with falls at American Cup and Chemnitz. Still, she was regarded as the best US all-arounder and her performance at Classics where she fell on 3 events and was pulled from the fourth didn't really alter this. Indeed, it seemed to energise her. The new US National Champion fulfilled all of her potential and promise and defied the ever-present nay-sayers by going to Antwerp and qualifying to all four event finals, as well as the top all-around qualifier. This feat of qualifying to all finals is very rare these days as we know, especially since top all-arounders tend to eschew doing two vaults. Aliya Mustafina famously did so in 2010, however.

Of course, qualifying is only part of what she needed to do. I was nervous every time she mounted an apparatus...especially when she was first up on beam in her group..and yet, there was no need. Her all-around performance was a tour de force, summed up by the fact that although she was in second by a tenth after three rotations, she finished the competition in the lead by nearly nine tenths- an enormous gap. Could she keep it up for event finals with no break in between? It seems in hindsight to be silly to have been concerned over her consistency. For a first year senior to win the all-around title, qualify to all finals, and bring home another 3 medals including a second title is phenomenal. And, she doesn't seem like she's even at the height of her difficulty yet.

Kyla Ross

I don't feel like I'm the person to talk about Kyla. I haven't been shy of the fact that although I appreciate her lines and mastery of her skills and routines, I don't have much time for her gymnastics otherwise. She certainly had a great worlds, better than I could have predicted. Watching her on beam and bars in particular, knowing that there wasn't a hope of a mistake, was kind of thrilling in a way. It's refreshing to know that nothing will go wrong. I'm very curious to know where she will go from here. Will 3 silvers be an added spur to up her difficulty so she is one of the top contenders next year too? Or will she stay in and around the same level of difficulty in order to preserve herself for college? We do know that the injury rate is laughably high as a result of striving for high difficulty, after all.

  
McKayla Maroney

I have to laugh at the portrayals of McKayla Maroney as a one-eventer. A one-eventer does not place sixth in worlds qualifications all-around. She was a one-eventer last year since that is how she best served the team, and her own minor injuries meant saving herself for vault rather than adding floor into the mix was the best bet. I absolutely do not like the fact that Brenna Dowell was sacrificed at the last minute to make way for McKayla to do the all-around in qualifications, especially as she stood little chance of actually making the finals, which indeed proved to be the case. But it was still nice that she got the chance, and she certainly proved that all-around is not beyond her capabilities. Sixth with a fall, that is, and the best bars routine that she's ever done, an apparatus on which she has always looked nice, but much less secure than a bad routine by Aly Raisman.

The fact that her floor music was overtime is an appalling mistake which should have been fixed at Classics, nevermind camp. The US may have the best programme in the world right now but their internal competitions tend to overlook things- like Peyton Ernst getting credited for a dance series when she did not in fact do one. This silly mistake meant McKayla tied with Kyla and lost on execution. Kyla earned her place fair and square of course, but it would have been amazing to see McKayla in the final, with a routine that was worthy of fighting for a medal. Getting knocked out of the AA- although undoubtedly with the knowledge that that was nearly a certainty is one thing, but getting knocked out of floor finals over such a trivial error that wasn't even her fault is quite a setback. But that didn't do anything to dent her only final performance, vault. The reigning world champion fought off some fairly stiff competition to regain her title in style, and put the spectre of London to rest.

Russia

Really, I am amazed they managed to field a team at all. Meningitis, viruses, back problems, it was all going down at Round Lake, in almost comical fashion. I did predict that Viktoria Komova would not do the AA this year, but hospitalised with meningitis? Not to mention Anastastia Grishina getting blacklisted and then dealing with back/leg injuries and Ksenia Afanasyeva needing ankle surgery at precisely the wrong time. And glossing over other injuries, like Evgeniya Shelgunova. The team of Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabieva, Anna Rodionova and Maria Paseka would never have been predicted six months ago, or at least, half of it. But it didn't end there, before qualifications, Maria Paseka was declared out with injury and then Tatiana Nabieva fell flat on her face in warm-ups, which curtailed the amount of events she was able to do in the end. Seriously, that is one strong curse Round Lake has going on. What a pity that yet again, Aliya Mustafina had to carry the team on her back, despite having just recovered from yet another virus, seemingly so prevalent in Round Lake. Nevertheless, it was great experience for newcomer Anna Rodionova and it was nice to see the comeback of Tatiana Nabieva from the depths of Russia's b-team, who may yet be useful for Russia...particularly if they continue to be struck down so badly before a major competition. It proves the folly of peaking for Euros and Universiade, though the Russian Gymnastics Federation had their hand forced in that regard.

In the face of such adversity, three medals, one gold, is a fabulous result for Russia's WAG. Let's hope their programme bounces back quickly into producing more than one gymnast healthy enough to snatch medals.

But that one gymnast, Aliya Mustafina, is amazing. Footage from podium training was half deliriously exciting with upgrades, half gutting as she looked so tired and just not with it. We have come to expect lacklustre showings from Russia in podium training, yet it kind of seemed more than just not trying when it didn't matter. Adding two whips to her double arabian pass and adding a Seitz on bars was wonderful to see, yet she was having issues with landing the double arabian sometimes, and having trouble on bars too. Beam was still wobbly  and the double turn connection was just not getting hit at all. Nevertheless, still a force to be reckoned with, and so she proved. Nobody competes like Aliya Mustafina. When she walked out and lined up for vault, she just exuded everything a top competitor should have, focus, poise, confidence with the addition in her case of queenly regal-ness. She wasn't really able to catch either or the top two throughout the all-around, but had such moments of greatness, a hit 6.7 bars set and utterly nailing her whip-whip-double arabian-stag. It's just so impressive to watch her in action. It's unfortunate her bars routine in event finals wasn't that bit better, but hey, it's new with fabulous composition. But, a key factor in the US team's success was repetition. There's a lot to be said for not chopping and changing...although, she shot that down by winning the beam title with a routine that has looked different in some way in almost every single competition this year. A great all-arounder, a top bars worker, but beam? How amazing that she still manages to surprise us. Before finals on Sunday I saw a post on twitter 'Plot twist: Aliya Mustafina is beam champion' which, really says it all.

Romania

Another team affected by injury (and a shedload of retirements, as usual). Diana Bulimar is definitely the gymnast I missed most - as we know she had to have knee surgery just a few weeks before worlds. Still, it was nice to see the previously invisible Stefanie Alina Stanila get some much-needed experience. Not that she received much attention, all eyes were on Larisa Iordache as usual, and Sandra Izbasa in floor finals. Only one medal was their sum total, when it really should have been three, possibly four. That said, Larisa had been dealing with yet more injuries this year and had not been back training at full strength for that long before worlds, while Sandra had only recently returned to competition, after a year long break.

It feels like Larisa Iordache has been around for years, and also that she has been more successful than she has in actuality. Quite an unlucky gymnast, dogged by injury and only in her second year as a senior. Her difficulty is enormous, her potential remains as high as ever, yet she doesn't seem to be able to get it together when it matters most. Obviously, lack of full-on training time will hinder that. But I feel she needs more competitive fire, she seems to be more nervous in the really big competitions. She's going nowhere, a gymnast like her will continue to be the backbone of Romania's WAG programme. Let's hope next year is her time to really shine and get everything together.

I'm quite curious to see if Sandra Izbasa will stick around. Her fall on the exact same element in floor finals as in London was really gutting, and could well be motivation to retire on a better note than that. Not that she let herself look upset, she was so smiley and dignified, wonderful to see.

China

Now this was a 50/50 team. Three girls with a big record for inconsistency, the fourth an international unknown with an age question mark over her head. It was very hard to predict what this team could do, and so sad that they spectacularly underperformed. Not Huang Huidan, who after so much flakiness but a streak of hit routines this year, unexpectedly claimed a bars title with a huge score and the best routine she has done all year. Injuries have done their damage, Yao Jinnan and Shang Chunsong have both been dealing with those, and although Zeng Siqi's major problem seems to be general frailty as well as inconsistency..she has not been the same gymnast since an injury she sustained two years ago. In spite of that, she was supposed to make beam finals easily and was a huge medal hope. After her performance at the National Games, hopes plummeted and she lived up to those by falling in qualifications. Personally, I think she needs conditioning more than anything. Endurance is a big issue with her. Not sure how the flakiness can be cured but sometimes that happens- look at Sui Lu. Yao remains a heartbreaker. Caught the Mo in the all-around only to fall victim to a tucked full (or fall?) that she absolutely cannot do on beam. It's so, so low that the margin for error is huge and when I saw her preparation for it I was raging because it was never going to work out. Had she landed it, it would have been hit with so many deductions that it would not have been worth doing. Lamentably poor coaching decision. Grrrr!

I mentioned this before but..to Mo or not to Mo? Worked out once out of two occasions at worlds. I believe she had the same hit record at National Games with it. Our favourite source, Valentina Rodionenko, states that Yao was failing to catch it over and over again that she saw, in training. I think if she cannot better it during winter training, as in not only catch it more often but ensure her feet and shins are not going to touch the bar, then I think it dropped. It's awesome, so so awesome, but there's not much point otherwise.

Shang Chunsong is interesting. Huge potential difficulty, 6.9 UB, 6.1 FX, 6.6 BB etc. But she didn't live up to expectations, falling on beam in the AA, an event she is usually quite consistent on, and not doing a good enough routine to really challenge for the second Chinese spot in uneven bars finals. Floor scoring was so harsh that I wasn't that taken back when she failed to qualify for that final, but in general, I wasn't happy with her execution scoring at all. Don't get me wrong, she HAS execution errors. But it seems like she gets deducted for everything, while others don't necessarily suffer the same level of high scrutiny. Personally, and feel free to disagree, but I think she is to some extent being judged just that little bit harsher, due to how young she looks. As if that's somehow her fault? If the FIG have an issue, then they should be questioning her federation. It is highly, highly unfair, IF perceptions over her age are working against her - I'm not saying this is unequivocally the case - to take it out on her scores.

I was thrilled when she stayed on the beam in event finals, and even though there were definitely biggish deductions to be found like the big wobble and the lamentable switch ring, that e panel hated her too. Sigh. Worlds was a mixed bag for her. Much needed international experience and exposure (not that the latter was kind), always a good thing though. I think that she peaked at National Games which is by no means a negative- this worlds wasn't a big deal, and the benefit she received from her medals at NG (approximately $500k, a university place, and the ability to provide a house etc. for her extremely poor family) is immense, a huge achievement. In person, her FTY looked fine to me. But seeing it on the replay and online, it's another story. It's quite anaemic and just not dynamic at all. She really could do with gaining muscle mass, she's not a fragile gymnast by any means if you look at her other events but it would really help her vault with the goal of achieving a DTY in the future. I'm hoping her form is tightened up during winter training. She could be so much better than the girl we saw in Antwerp.

Thankfully, China did not go away with no medals. An extremely dismal performance as a team, but not for Huang Huidan who definitely exceeded expectations. A well deserved title.

THE ALL AROUND

The Good

- The TENSION. It was awesome. An absolutely wonderful atmosphere.
- Always, always something to watch.
- The buzz when big skills were nailed.
- Yao catching her Mo, Victoria Moors nailing her laidout double double.
- The opportunity to watch the beautiful gymnasts who are far below the radar, like Noemi Makra, Anna Rodionova and Ilaria Kaeslin.
- The rotation music. WHAT a song.
- The enormous roar any time the two Belgian gymnasts competed.
- Seeing vault and the gymnasts so up close.
- The view in general. It was fantastic. Not for bars, but you can't have everything.

Favourite Routines

- BEAM Ilaria Kaeslin, Anna Rodionova, Noemi Makra, Natsumi Sasada
- FLOOR Victoria Moors, Simone Biles, Aliya Mustafina, Larisa Iordache, Elisabeth Seitz, Noemi Makra, Roxana Popa, Shang Chunsong
- BARS Yao Jinnan, Roxana Popa, Aliya Mustafina, Ruby Harrold, Noemi Makra
- VAULT Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Giulia Steingruber, Roxana Popa, Noemi Makra

The Bad

- Well...the falls really. Natsumi Sasada's meltdown on bars, Shang Chunsong, Larisa Iordache and Yao Jinnan's beam falls in particular. And Ruby Harrold and Victoria Moors. And Rebecca Tunney. Anna Rodionova. It's a loooong list.
- Another missed opportunity for Yao Jinnan in particular, and for Larisa Iordache to really shine in an AA after what happened last year.

Favourite leotards

Carlotta Ferlito

Copyright - AP/ Virginia Mayo
This was just stunning in the arena. Eye-catching, but not too much. Lovely colour too.

Rebecca Tunney

Copyright- Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Just so classic. Simple, but not dull.

In general, I had seen most of the other leotards too many times to really care about them, or I found them dull. The US predictably had a leotard that would have been lovely in a wide variety of colours, but not that ugly, ugly shade. I'm not sure about Victoria Moors' leotard. I think the pattern was a bit too clumped together? Loved the contrast of the colours though.

VAULT

The Good

- McKayla Maroney vaulted right in front of me.
- See above.
- Also, Simone Biles did.
- Simone Biles' block on her Lopez.
- McKayla Maroney's amanar block is still phenomenal.
- Nobody died!
- The legend that is Oksana Chusovitina
- Higher calibre final than London.
- No deaths.
- Lots of diversity. Switzerland, USA, the Netherlands, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Dominican Republic...wow.

The Bad

- Chantysha Netteb went for the DTY and tore her ACL right in front of me. Absolutely horrifying to witness and to imagine her suffering. The constant replays of her injury on the screen, which was too close to block from my field of vision. The pain on her face was just so heartwrenching. Awful, awful, awful.
- Others were lucky to get up after their vaults. A preposterous decision for Phan Thi Ha Thanh to go for the amanar when her DTY is dodgy. And not forgetting the death cannonball Produnova.
- Too Yurchenko friendly.
- Overscoring. LOL at McKayla Maroney's amanar score for which her execution score was higher than in London, kind of blatantly ignoring off centre, bent knees, bent hips.

Favourite Vault

Simone Biles' Lopez, since it was TEXTBOOK. Uhhhh so beautiful! I know I just pointed out the flaws in Maroney's amanar but the block she gets off that thing makes it a close second. It's like BOOM.

Favourite Leotard

USA

Copyright- Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Hey at least they got one good leo for finals! Look the colour, the neckline, the sleeves. Suited everyone. More please.

UNEVEN BARS

The Good

- Great lineup. And some diversity, always great to see.
- Not one but TWO British girls made the final. Fantastic!
- Lots of dynamic connections, like Huang Huidan and Sophie Scheder.
- Rare, creative moves like Ruby Harrold's, super-difficult ones like Aliya Mustafina's Seitz and Yao Jinnan's Mo.
- Not a pirouette fest. Just enough.
- Very different styles of routines on display, from very different types of gymnasts.
- The gold medal winner doing the best routine of her life in a surprise finish.

The Bad

- Yao falling. Ugly sobbing. It was especially bad since she caught and then peeled off..
- 8 glide kips. I understand why it's wise to conserve your energy but it was just dull..
- Sophie Scheder's score was too low.
- Simone Biles' score was too high.
- Aliya Mustafina missing a connection and biffing her dismount a little bit.
- Becky Downie coming off when it looked like she was going to make it.

Favourite Leotard

The US, again.

BEAM

The Good

- The stunningly elegant Anna Rodionova qualifying.
- Aliya Mustafina hitting a beam routine perfectly. Twilight zone.
- Kyla Ross' lovely long lines.
- I expected Simone to mess up. Couldn't really say she did, dismount a bit I suppose. Pleasantly surprised to see her maintain herself until the end of competition.
- A very surprising gold winner. Always interesting.
- The super difficult BHS-Arabian attempt! 

The Bad

- Larisa falling. Not unexpected given her performance on beam in general at worlds. But so devastating.
- Anna Rodionova's fall.
- Shang Chunsong's routine far from her best.
- Lack of difficulty, gold and silver had double tuck dismounts, bronze hadn't much in the interior of her routine despite the killer dismount. All three had extremely weak acro series.
- The enquiries. It just seemed to taint the whole final.

Favourite Leotard

Shang Chunsong

Copyright- Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images




Lovely! It's a much deeper shade than their usual ketchup, and so so much prettier. The mesh and stars are a nice contrast and the yellow livens it up without being ugly. Anna Rodionova would really have won since she had my favourite Russian leotard but it's not new, this is, and it's the surprise element of this that I love also.

FLOOR

The Good 


- Killer difficulty. THREE double doubles, 1 full twisting double layout.
- The bounce, energy, charisma and charm of Mai Murakami and Simone Biles who just drew in the entire arena into their routines.
- Larisa Iordache recovering from her beam fall and the loss of that title by performing wonderfully - fantastic routine and tumbling.
- Simone Biles' double layout half. Such an awesome skill.
- Kyla Ross' much improved dance. Love the 'whip' bit especially.
- Elsabeth Black's 2.5 stepout, loved it.

The Bad

- Underscoring, specifically Mai Murakami who was robbed of a medal.
- Inflation of Vanessa Ferrari's routine.
- Sandra Izbasa's fall.

Favourite Leotard

Nothing really stood out..

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Congratulations, you have reached the end! I won't have anything near as long until I'm dissecting Glasgow worlds. Anyway, feel free to discuss your liked and dislikes- if worlds is not too much of a distant memory by this stage!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Worlds Experience/Competition Part 4

Finally! I started on Sunday in part 3. Read Part 3 here, Part 2 here and Part 1 here.

Sunday

Sadly, stalking efforts proved to be futile. Yao Jinnan was spotted but athletes get in to the arena a lot faster with accreditation than spectators who need their tickets scanned. She was wearing black, had chips, and got to her seat in the upper stands in record time. End of sighting! Once they get there, you can't go down to them, though we did try. Our seats were in the last stand on the floor side, which was sort of lower then the upper stands. Traipsed back up the stairs again after heading back down after spotting Yao, and all the way over to the stand...except we couldn't get in. One of the FIG cameras was blocking the stand, so spare seats were arranged. These seats were..you guessed it..nowhere near the stand. They were near parallel bars, just beyond the curve, and still in the upper stands. Very far from beam, okay for floor. I asked if we could sit nearer to beam but it wasn't happening. Damnit FIG, those who had tickets for that stand should have been assigned tickets nearer. There were seats right in front of floor that weren't occupied...

Moving on! Epke Zonderland qualified for two of Sunday's finals so the curved end of the stand where parallel bars and high bar was were covered in Dutch fans. I kept thinking all of people bedecked in orange were security heh. Great atmosphere from the beginning.

Men's Vault

Loved watching this, so powerful! And a great contrast to women's vault as there weren't any vaults I felt I should close my eyes for. Ahh, the double front as it should be done..refreshing. Not to mention the awesomeness of a Dragulescu. But the highlight by far, and moreso even than the legend that is Yang Hak Seon and his vaults was Kristian Thomas' STUCK yurchenko double pike. Wow just doesn't cover it. The crowd loved it of course, great buzz. He injured his knee earlier this year so didn't have time to upgrade his second vault..and lost his hold on silver as a result. Thrilled it was enough to still medal though, and in a stacked final at that.

Beam

Sadly, I was much further away than I anticipated being so they didn't look much bigger than ants up there. The growing sense of excitement that Aliya Mustafina was up there nailing everything and not even wobbling was so exhilarating. Like..wait a second..she doesn't have much left to do..just the dismount..what even is this, the best beam routine of her life? She still paused for the obligatory cup of tea while breathing before the dismount but it was well worth it since it was almost stuck. Sure, she missed the double turn connection as usual and the acro pass is indeed weak but...it was unbelievable to watch the ultimate competitor destroy her weakest apparatus like that. Masterful.

And an enquiry into Mustafina's d score. Hmm. Carlotta Ferlito's leotard offended my eyes, even from that distance. A total contrast to her lovely blue leo in the AA, but it definitely stood out in the arena so..job done in that regard. Her routine was steady, typically Italian but I just didn't get anything from it really. It wasn't beautiful or particularly dynamic. Her legs on the dismount were gross too. I'm not just saying this in hindsight of what happened when she opened her mouth, I just didn't see a whole lot in this routine to get excited about, although her acro series and the ease of her back tuck in combination was nice. Vanessa's routine was similar, but I like hers better. She seems to exude more attitude and make the beam her own. Another fine routine from the steady veteran. Annnnd..the enquiry for Mustafina's routine is rejected. Nor happy bunnies in the Russia camp.

I loved Shang Chunsong's leotard. A bit of a departure from China, but lovely all the same. Sadly, her beam thus far had not been living up to its standards earlier this year where at Anadia it wasn't far off flawless. What a stunning mount! I did kind of like the staccato robot choreography this routine has going on earlier this year, since it was different and suited her..but the more I see it, the more the lack of choreography annoys me. Aside from the big wobble, it looked like a great routine to me..it took the replay for me to see the not-so-obvious errors, like her switch ring. It was as if she just didn't give it her all, for fear of falling. Nevertheless, her score was far too harsh. Maybe not harsh if everyone was scored on the same plane, but it does seem like the execution panels just didn't like her. Vendettas are not cute. But the height on her layout is..

Sidenote..really enjoyed the songs playing softly in the background during this final. Beam is VERY silent and tense, so it was a nice touch.

Simone Biles steps up and beams. Curious to know whether she can hit again, after such an exhausting slog leading up to worlds and the excitement of her all-around win, not to mention vault and bars finals the day before. The 2.5 wolf is still great, very smart upgrade for her. Mostly steady, tiny wobble there..bigger wobble somewhere else but still fine. But the dismount was surprising, she seemed a good bit lower on landing than usual, and took a big step. Still a strong routine, but she's tired.

The camera shows up Aliya Mustafina using pen and paper to calculate a routine. It is NOT hers, it shows c+f, which is Anna Rodionova's BHS+Arabian combination. Kinda cute, looking out for her...not showing a whole bunch of faith in the judges though. Neither is Simone Biles' coach, who submits enquiry number two. Super, super distracting..trying to watch routines..eyes getting drawn to the scoreboard to see if the asterisk which denotes an enquiry having been submitted is still there.

Kyla Ross is in the same leo Bailie Key and Laurie Hernandez wore to the Japan Junior. It's a nice cherry colour, so I think I still like it. Kyla is known to have endurance issues so I'm wondering how well she is coping in that regard. No need to be concerned, it's another super clean and secure routine! She even gets the aerial-wolf connection in at the end. Her lines make her so lovely to watch in action. Pity her dismount didn't have as good a landing as she usually shows. Jenny running to her afterwards was so endearing.

I'm super nervous about Larisa Iordache, who not only fell on beam in the all-around, but was also falling in warm-ups before the final began. Just not healthy enough yet? Or possibly down to big-match temperament. (Ooo, enquiry number 3, for Kyla this time). Annnd...falls on the tuck full, very similar to London event finals. You could practically hear hearts breaking everywhere, as there was a quite a contingent of Romanian fans. Before she sets up for the layout (which she nails), the buzzer for overtime goes off and it flashes up red. Lovely. At least it didn't go off before she fell, or it would be blamed, but that should absolutely not be happening at worlds. The rest of the routine is slightly hesitant but still great, and the triple, though not the cleanest, is as great and fully around as ever. Devastating that she fell..

Anna Rodionova is up last, wearing my favourite Russian leo- so stunning! Like Becky Downie on bars, not holding out much hope as she may well have used up her consistency these championships already. Glorious toepoint, so elegant. Here it comes....and, fall. Damn. The most ambitious move in the whole final. The groan when she fell reverberated all around the arena. Lovely leaps, my angle is at least good for seeing the degree of split. Hilariously long pause before her dismount - how Russian that is these days - but pretty much sticks it, excellent way to finish off this routine. Valuable experience for her.

Parallel Bars

I've got the best view in the house, sigh. I've discovered Aly Raisman and her mother, and Al Fong and Armine Barutyan in the stand below me and to the left. Aly is as loud as ever. Al Fong didn't seem to clap or react for anything, but then I didn't watch him all the time or anything. Sad to see two routines on the bars come to grief, but amazing to see John Orozco hit a great routine, after the monumentally shitty year and a half he had. Kohei Uchimura was a joy to watch, and so was Lin Chaopan. Much more interesting in person, this final.


Floor

And hopes die for McKayla Maroney to magically appear when the gymnasts march out. I knew they wouldn't switch her in as the better medal hope, but I was hoping that for some other magical reason that she'd appear. To preserve Kyla's energy? Anyway, I have no quibble with an athlete who earned her place actually using it.

Vanessa Ferrari has changed leo, and it's quite nice actually! A great floor from her, super tumbling, very sure of herself. I do like her choreography but I think there's something lacking - other than execution sometimes. Expression I think. Score is a little high, but since she's first that's not much indication.

I FINALLY get to see Mai Murakami do a routine, hurray! She bounces up, adorable as ever. Lots of fear for her landings, which have been very low sometimes this year...but she pretty much nails them, with only minor adjustments. There's no other word for it, she completely lights up the arena and captivates the crowd with her smile. This is expression! She's always had unusual music which is never really able to turn the crowd, but she still draws everyone in effortlessly. Her leaps are still iffy, and the Gogean is bad, but I can't seem to care. Manages the triple okay, phew! When her score flashed up, placing her below Ferrari, I cried. An absolute disgraceful piece of judging. And then the screen showed her shocked face. :'( Her score was actually booed and rightfully so.

Simone Biles is the ideal tonic to get over a shock like that. Bounced her way around the floor and unfortunately, out of her landings too. She may not be the best dancer, and she could have a routine that utilises the dance skills she does have better, but...like Mai Murakami, she expresses the hell out of her routine and charms everyone in the process. The double layout half is still surprising with the turn coming from nowhere. A fabulous routine that definitely deserved gold, but not her best due to the landings.

Larisa Iordache is of course fresh from the gutting disappointment of having the beam title in your hand and losing it. But you wouldn't know it, she's full of energy and vitality, bouncing and dancing around the floor. This routine is a bit more mature than the previous one, but still suits her perfectly. She just seems to move more than the rest. Fantastic tumbling, just a great routine. I love when gymnasts bounce back so well. But..doesn't surpass Vanessa Ferrari who is clearly getting bonus points from the judges for losing the tiebreak last year. Lovely.

Giulia Steingruber's tumbling is fantastic, a full in double layout followed by 'just' a regular double layout. Amazing! The rest of the routine isn't great, she's a bit sloppy but still, very strong. Sandra Izbasa is up, looking very regal in a blue leotard. I really like this music but I don't think her choreography really works with it very well? As in, a lesser gymnast would look a bit lost with it. The tumbling is all going well, it's shaping up for at least a silver and then...crashes the last pass, in the exact same manner as at London. There was a general sense of disbelief that the same thing had happened two years in a row, and for her last routine too. Sandra was so admirable, straight up smiling and waving and so dignified waving at the camera when her score was shown. What a shame though.

I just love the improvement in Kyla Ross' artistry and choreography in the last while. Her first two passes are so well done and that whip noise bit is fantastic. Another strong routine but she just doesn't have the difficulty here to make an impact. Elsabeth Black who sadly didn't qualify for vault finals, rounded off this floor final. I LOVE the 2.5 stepout and this routine does have other moments of greatness but her execution did let her down a bit.

All in all, beam and floor had plenty of surprises and more than their fair share of disappointments. A bit of a letdown compared to Saturday's women's finals.

High Bar

The Dutch crew amped up completely when this final was announced and the roar when Epke Zonderland a) appeared, b) was announced and c) did anything at all was utterly deafening, but so much fun to be a part of. A truly epic routine, though yes those leg and knee separations are very obvious. Still, so so exciting to witness with the huge crowd support and then he just goes ahead and sticks the landing, bringing the roof down. Epic! Fabian Hambuechen, Kohei Uchimura, Samuel Mikulak (who danced his way off the podium :D) and Jossimar Moreno were all total crowd pleasers. A mindblowing final!

We had to leave shortly after the medal ceremonies started to get the train on time. Failed anyway and had a good bit of a wait..so I could have seen them all really! And then a mild panic to get to the gate on time, helped along by my missing several bottles of water and orange juice in one of my bags...so smart. Got there, and the flight was delayed, amalgamated with an earlier flight that had been cancelled...delayed again on the plane, and then delayed at passport control in Dublin. I collapsed into bed and you guessed it, the next day at college I arrived at 08:30 for my class starting at 10:00 because I forgot to change back the time on my phone. But nevertheless, a non-stop thrilling and just unforgettable weekend. Next stop, Glasgow! :D


It's actually quite difficult to condense the experience of watching the competition live. I'm really looking forward to a review post of worlds though, this weekend. Reviewing is much more up my street than faithfully recounting, I feel! Apologies all of these posts are so long. The review one will be a killer too, but after that they should be fairly normal again...