Friday, 25 April 2014

What's the story with YOG?

YOG is the Youth Olympic Games. This August, 16-18th to be exact, they will take place in the city of Nanjing, China. Not to be confused with Nanning which is thousands of miles away and is where worlds will be held.

There is only one female gymnast per country allowed, who must have been born in 1999 i.e. turning senior next year. The US have declined this opportunity and will not be sending any WAG. This is disappointing but is probably no bad thing..Bailie Key has had a lot of experience with wiping the floor with her competitors, and this leaves podiums more open and exciting.

Gymnasts qualify at a number of events. These include: Jr Euros, Jr Pan American Games and Jr Asian Championships. Ultimately it is down to the federation who gets to go, but it seems to be the case that the gymnast must have competed at one of the qualifying meets.

Note: Skills can be named at this meet. Viktoria Komova had one of her bars transitions named here. This will be only the second ever YOG.

So, who's in the running?

Russia have a number of options:

Maria Bondareva
Anastasia Dmitrieva
Seda Tutkhalyan

Maria Bondareva would have been seen as the forerunner of this for quite some time, however over the last year she seems to have stagnated quite a bit. Anastasia isn't consistent enough to really impress at this point either. Seda is the best option but isn't too consistent just yet.

Romania have two that I know of:

Laura Jurca
Andreea Iridon

This one isn't near as open, the spot should be Laura's. Andreea has some beautiful work but doesn't seem to be an all-arounder, which is the focus of this competition.

China have two major contenders:

Wang Yan
Yuan Xiaoyang

This one will I think go to Wang Yan if she is healthy. I mention her a lot, she's quite the star on vault and beam in particular although Asian Junior Championships did not go her way recently..

Britain have three:

Ellie Downie
Tyesha Matthis
Amy Tinkler

Now this will be close, all three are powerhouses with quite a lot of difficulty. We will I believe see amanars from this bunch when senior.

Japan have two:

Aiko Sugihara
Sae Miyakawa

Both girls are strong on floor. Sae also has a nice DTY under her belt.

Brazil have two:

Rebeca Andrade
Flavia Saraiva

Rebeca has had her name on this for years. Super springy, with an amanar, DLO and improved bars. However, Flavia is extremely promising and will hopefully be given a fair chance in the running for the spot.

Netherlands also have two, though I don't know a huge amount about these girls. Update: Both are currently injured. Many of their seniors are too - Chantysha Netteb, Noel Van Klaveren, Eythora Thorsdottir. The new CGA??

Mara Titarsolej
Dana de Groot

Sadly, the star that is Kim Janas is injured and won't be ready to compete. She could have given the big 3 a run for their money.

Elizabet Vasileva of Bulgaria won't be in medal contention but she WILL turn heads on floor and beam if she goes. She used to be a rythmic gymnast and incorporates this to stunning effect on both events. Australian Darcy Norman is another to look out for also. Edit- Elizabet may be 2000 born and therefore not elegible. We will see her at Euros though.

Now is the time to have fun on youtube looking up the contenders. It should be a great battle, some enormous potential and talent with no real obvious winner from looking at the lists of those elegible.

To me, the AA is anyone's game. On vault, looking forward to seeing who can contest Rebeca Andrade, hopefully Wang Yan can. On floor I'd love to see Sae Miyakawa holding her own, she has a super neat double front and double layout last pass. If this lot go of course. Beam and bars are harder to puzzle out.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Ebee retires

Yesterday USAG announced the retirement from the National Team and elite of Elizabeth Price. Ebee will be heading to Stanford next season where she is sure to be a star. While I didn't think Ebee would hang on until Rio, it's still very surprising to see a gymnast leave when she has been on top of her game since coming back from injury and winning all around her. The vast majority of people including myself saw her on the Nanning team, no question. It makes an awful lot more sense when we consider that Stanford does not allow enrollment in January (this is how Mackenzie Caquatto for one went to worlds 2010 and competed a few months later for Florida). Considering the gravity of Ebee's hip injuries that sidelined her last year, it seems like a very wise decision to step away from the pressures and pounding of elite to preserve herself for the next four years. It's really lovely for want of a better word to see how she prizes her education. I've really enjoyed watching her gymnastics and wish her all the best in NCAA.

Ebee- source: zimbio.com

It will be very interesting to see what this does to the team. The way I see it is, Brenna Dowell's spot just looked a lot more certain. Both girls have similar strengths. Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross remain as locks. I know some are uncertain about McKayla even if she's healthy, but I don't share this sentiment. Her experience is a major asset to this team and she can be counted on to deliver an enormous TF VT score, medal in VT EF and have a strong floor for prelims and potentially TF. Brenna has an amanar, so that fills out that rotation. Beam and bars are troublesome, this is Madison Kocian's in if she's fairly consistent this summer and has some luck with her health for once. The sixth spot though, hmm. I'm unsure about it. Right now I think Peyton Ernst might be a good bet for it. She will need to outscore Simone on beam and bars this summer. If not, then hold the phone because Mykayla Skinner could get the nod for her high floor and vault scores.

Speaking of Mykayla Skinner, I was very impressed with her at Jesolo, winning both titles. A nice boost for her, and I'm also happy that her leaps look slightly better and her beam has been changed. It looks watchable!

I'm very impatient for US season to begin. And Euros and Chinese Nationals. I may end up binging on cheerleader worlds on Sunday instead..

Monday, 21 April 2014

What makes me a fan of a gymnast

Hi there! I should be able to resume more frequent posting shortly. Here's a few thoughts that have been bursting for a while.

As you might have noticed, I don't really cling to one particular team or other. I really enjoy aspects of each of the big 4, and other teams. My gymnastics obsession is based much more individually, which means I'm not in a frenzy during major team competitions :p

So, what makes me root for a particular gymnast? I have a mental checklist of sorts, more than one of which must be present.

Form Is it exceptional? That's a huge plus right off the bat and is exactly what attracts me to Soviet and other past gymnastic greats, and current gymnasts such as Eythora Thorsdottir, Noemi Makra, Noel Van Klaveren and to the sheer precision and technical brilliance of the majority of the Chinese girls. I may still really enjoy those who leave a lot to be desired IF they have other positive attributes. On the other side of the coin, it's not enough to just be clean if it's not standout amazing 'wow'.

Skill selection Oh they're bringing something retro back? Awesome. Throwing an old rare skill and doing it well, or inventing one is always going to make me sit up and take notice. Preferably done well. It doesn't have to be rare or new though, but if routines contain some really pretty skills, always a bonus too - for instance on beam I have a lot of love for Onodis, Kotchetkovas, Rulfovas, BHS/aerial-LOSO-LOSO series and straddle leaps. If a routine has good composition and isn't totally stock, the gymnast immediately has my attention.

Difficulty Gymnasts capable of throwing immense difficulty are super exciting to follow and always have been. Pushing the boundaries is a great thing for the sport, although it is a major pity that the code demands it as of course, the injury rate is shocking and many are just not built for it. But for those that are, it's so enjoyable to see what they can do. However, I am appalled by skill chucking. Failed Produnovas and any skill where the gymnast just doesn't have it down and is risking her knees/ankles or worse are absolutely horrifying to watch and I hate the fact that nothing is really being done to discourage this.

Artistry Can they capture the crowd during a floor routine? I don't suscribe to the idea that only elegant routines can be artistic or that artistry is dead. We see a lot of it, particularly from those with low difficulty..they have more time to really put a lot into the non-acro side of things. Gymnasts must SELL their routine, connect to the crowd, be in time with their music, and have interesting choreography. I don't want floppy hand waving that 'looks' elegant but the gymnast may as well be yawning with all of the spirit and thought behind the actions. And I'm not blinded by toepoint either, there are gymnasts who look the part but are out of sync with their music completely. I find artistry in unexpected places, sometimes you get power gymnasts lambasted for their leaps and build but they come out onto the floor and light up the arena. Fabulous to watch.

Dance skills We don't see enough gymnasts excelling at dance skills unfortunately, which means that those who do gain automatic brownie points before I even consider what else they have to offer. Textbook switch rings, oversplit on switch halves/fulls...what's seldom truly is wonderful. Not to mention the rise of turn combinations on floor and the number who can do triples and quads. So exciting.

Spark This ties in with artistry somewhat. Some gymnasts just have 'it'. I think it's personality combining with other factors, I may only have been introduced to their routines and I already love them. It can just be a huge joyful grin during a salute. A real connection to what they're feeling and BOOM I am sucked in. However, if their attitude doesn't come across well in some situations or even while competing..I'll find it tough to watch their routines.

Competitiveness If their work is lovely but needs to be watched from behind a couch due to a phenomenal headcase rate, I'm not really going to be able to sustain being a fan. Likewise if tears are oft to be seen. There's absolutely nothing wrong with reacting emotionally to the results of a huge competition, but when it happens more often than not..that's a different story and will put me off. If a gymnast walks out onto the floor and exudes confidence, even if a mistake happens, that's really attractive to this fan. If they nail routines like a machine and anchor your team around them, it's just wonderful to watch.

So, a little from column A...a little from column B. Some of my favourites like Simone Biles, Eythora Thorsdottir and Mai Murakami are fairly easy to 'diagnose' from my criteria. I'm sure most people have something similar to this at work when they become a fan of a gymnast, but it's not really something you hear much about, so I thought it would be interesting to discuss.

So, what makes YOU a fan? Other than patriotism that is. That's not allowed in this topic :)

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Just having a Simoment





Pac Rims Beam

Copyright - Thomas Schreyer

Source - despositphoto

Not to mention Anastasia Grishina and her copious amount of knee injuries. Sigh.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A note on Team China

Making time for a quick attempt at clarifying!

Recently, news, videos and gifs emerged of fantastic upgrades from some of the girls. Shang Chunsong landed a beautiful and secure 3.5 twist on floor, Wang Yan threw a triple off beam and Chen Siyi either a triple or 3.5, Tan Jiaxin threw an amanar, Deng Yalan a 2.5 (!!) Tsuk and Yao Jinnan a full twisting DLO bars dismount..and other skills were on display also. No double doubles which I know I saw mentioned somewhere.

The key word is display. Many of the above skills were on trampoline or into a pit. The quad twist, if Shang Chunsong actually threw one, definitely was.

This was an internal verification of upgrades, not a competition. Essentially, kickstarting their new internal code previously detailed here - emphasising floor and vault, and harder skills in general. No full routines were shown. Songsong's 3.5 on competition floor does look good indeed, but ALL of the upgrades have to be put into full routines and it's worth bearing in mind also that basically, the girls are not really built to be able to massively up their difficulty and endurance. Not that none of the upgrades will appear or anything, but just to be aware that they were performed singly. The 3.5 in particular was a skill assigned to the girls over winter training to accomplish on trampoline. Other combinations were probably assigned individually.

Tan Jiaxin's amanar looks serviceable. In her case, she has a lot of adjusting to do from her previous status as a one-eventer. Hopefully she can perform well on bars, floor and vault as she is very, very valuable.

Yao Jinnan IS AN ALL-AROUNDER at this point in time. She had one upgrade to show, and showed it. There is nothing to read into what events she will drop in the future. Don't get me wrong - she could indeed drop vault and floor, but she will not be able to do that this year. They are going to have a horrendous time scraping together enough girls and alternates for Nanning and the vault rotation will be an issue - there is just no way a guaranteed DTY will sit on the sidelines during it.

Tan Sixin and Huang Huidan did not appear, which indicates no upgrades to show or none to show yet. No need to fear, they'll be back in action when appropriate.

Wang Wei may retire. If she does, hopefully she'll be very happy in what she chooses to do. She would have been very valuable on floor this year and possibly vault, so it's a blow if she does :/

Upgrades are good news, but should be treated with caution! :) I have noticed a lot of certainty in the reporting of them and also about Yao Jinnan's status so thought I'd try to make it a bit clearer (hopefully).