Friday, 19 June 2015

The return of Viktoria Komova

This week saw the return of Vika to serious competition, finally. I realise she performed at the Mexican Open late last year, but I see that as a more of a tentative practice run.

Long story short, she looks good. I was not expecting such a nice DTY and her floor difficulty. I was, however, expecting some issues with adjusting to her height in an otherwise clean, crisp, beautiful bars routine and a beam routine marred by wobbles and we did get those but all in all, she showed immense promise here.

I'm unconvinced though of a few things. For one: upgrades. An amanar does not look viable, especially considering her growth. I think she'd be better off focusing on a lovely DTY capable of scoring 15-15.2 range. One good thing the code has done is reduce the margin between the two vaults and therefore disincentivise dodgy amanars. Her floor difficulty looks a bit ambitious to me. Yes, yes, first big meet back after so many injuries and absences, but I do question even with time her ability to throw those passes consistently, especially given that she has famed endurance issues. Floor comes last, and this competition was spread over 2 days so it's a little hard to tell. One thing that I'd like to see done is ditch the 1.5, she'd have an easier time without really losing out if she just did a stag from the double arabian. Her twisting was ganky to say the least, perhaps switching it for a 2.5 would mean she'd have an easier time, and save on execution deductions. And to further conserve her, a double tuck instead of pike at the end. I realise she needs more difficulty not less to contend, but the landings on the DLO and double arabian didn't inspire me with confidence and she could do with some saved energy to actually.have.choreography. This was a fairly miserable routine and it doesn't matter to me if you look stunning by putting your arm in the air by dint of exquisite line/carriage/dance training. It sucks and it makes a mockery of the idea of a routine melding dance and expression with tumbling. Give me a flexed-footed crappy leaper like even *gasp* Mykayla Skinner, she legit performs.

I also don't fancy her chances of bringing back the Patterson but I do think the Fabrichnova is achievable and would be great to cap off that bar routine with. Hopefully with more time in the gym she can get used to her height. Maybe take some tips from watching the likes of Kyla Ross or closer to home, Svetlana Khorkina,.who I can just imagine eye-rolling at every whack off the low bar! I'm hoping that she can become more confident on beam too, which of course, is also a big adjustment after growing quite a bit.

I feel positive after seeing her performance, but I'm reticent too due to her long-standing endurance issues, long-standing ability to slip on a banana peel and be out for 6 months and long-standing ability to rise hopes before dashing them again. Long live her strong return to the sport, certainly we saw more from her than I would have thought possible. But I will hold myself back from outright glowing optimism.

What are your thoughts on her return? Prospects of contending for an AA medal? Will be see less anaemic choreography or is the routine doomed? Can she be kept away from dangerous things like curbs and the side of mats?


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

USA! USA!

The US are currently dominant, and have been for this quad and a good portion of the last. Before then, they were steadily rising and certainly had a healthy dose of victories, but couldn't have been called outright dominant. The code has been almost universally blamed for this. A key point to remember is that US dominance is bad, while USSR dominance for essentially decades was good.

No. Bias shouldn't come into this. Dominance is bad full stop. Aside from anything else, it is freaking boring when gold will be won by 7+ points in a globally attended team final. The top 4 is no more in the sense of close competition. There's 1, and then 3-all of whom seem to deteriorate year on year despite the addition of new seniors. And then the rest, countries like GB, Germany and Italy who can't quite get up there to the same level.

Because of the code and the demand for difficulty? The code suits the US..now. It was not made for them, and certainly FIG themselves are not relishing the fact that it IS suiting them so well. Bruno and Nellie have both condemned this reality. The US adapted to the code. The level of difficulty increased steadily year on year. We have now gotten to the point where H skills and amanars are nothing out of the ordinary and the gymnast with the most difficulty of this quad, Simone Biles, is throwing far more than her compatriots of previous quads, Jordyn Wieber and Shawn Johnson. The reason why they've been able to do this is because of the resources, coaching and training that they have. Many of the coaches that fled from the east on the collapse of communism are ensconced in US gyms. This exodus, predictably, has had a major knock-on effect on the quality of coaching in their former countries. Much bigger salaries and a much greater quality of life is a huge draw of course.

Rather than a centralised state-funded programme, the US operates privately funded gyms on a grand scale. In that way, the success of individual gymnasts and the National team is not impeded by economic downturns. Programmes like that of the Ukraine are sad former shadows of themselves- even in the last 10 years. Money is not an object for the US, although of course the gymnasts and gyms also benefit from the National team training camps, a big part in the success story since 2000. The girls enjoy the best of both worlds- their coaches learn from top elite training staff. It's the little things too-they are able to have flexible arrangements as regards schooling, with several being home schooled or supplementing with online classes. This is not an option in other countries with more rigid educational structures with the direct effect of less training time or the altogether worse-education being willfully ignored. A few years ago, most of the gymnasts sitting the BAC that year in Romania failed it.
In short, the US are so good right now because they have mastered the code...because they have the resources, coaching, back-up, facilities.... everything in place to do so. And none of the other powers do. That is not the fault of the US. It's a direct result of keeping to the old ways when they no longer suit. People are no longer enrolling their children in gymnastics in countries like China and Russia. The private, individual system works in tandem with a national team set-up, and clearly works brilliantly. Countries like GB have come on quite a bit with this (although clearly have a long way to go) whereas adherents of the old ways are stagnating and/or deteriorating.

The difference in resources is the problem. NOT the code. The code is inherently flawed and could do with a complete overhaul, but the US would adapt to that too. They'd be able to handle anything the FIG can throw at them, and that's the key to their success.

Last year, we witnessed Mykayla Skinner being bumped to 4th place in the worlds floor final, after performing her incredibly difficult routine to the best of her ability. The bump-er was the last performer, Aliya Mustafina, who had only 3 passes, but much less deductions. This is what the code can be made to do, reward execution at the expense of messy difficulty. There needs to be more scope to do this within the scoring. If they added back in RSV which I will keep advocating for, then gymnasts who perform difficulty effortlessly and cleanly such as Simone Biles would still be rewarded and the motivation to chuck a skill would be much diminished. It is false to assume that there is only one perpetrator of this - girls of many countries are performing skills they have no right to do. With the very odd exception, the US believes strongly in performing only that which you are capable of, and perceptions of the contrary are quite unfair.

Blaming the code itself is too easy. There are many reasons why WAG looks so ridiculously top-heavy, and the code is only a symptom, not the cause.

In other news, I have a shiny new laptop :D Use of the internet is no longer an insurmountable struggle, hurray!


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Chinese Nationals AA results

I hate being too busy/worn out to blog. Hoping to make some changes this year that will have a positive impact. The first, and easiest, is buying a new laptop. This one after 5 years and even switching OS to linux to increase its longevity is now running so slow I expect to hear dial-up noises any time now. When typing, text appears in bursts. Fun...

Anyway, Nationals! Here are the results of the AA today,  translated by the wonderful Golden China

Source- golden-china.tumblr.com

Translating ain't easy and english-speaking regularly-posting great sources for Chinese gymnastics are extremely rare, so hurray!

By all accounts, we were not blessed with a hit-fest. Very, very few went clean. One of which, astonishingly, was Shang Chunsong with a very respectable score. I always expect her to come to grief on bars somewhere. Made up for that a bit with a very nervy beam, but all in all, a great day for her. Wang Yan was lucky to place second after she sat her beam dismount, left out skills, and then had some big error/possible fall on her double double on floor. I am waiting and waiting for her to learn to be a competitor since she has so much to give, and now that she's senior, I'm getting impatient. She could be so great! But, it's early in the season and I'm prepared to keep rooting for her. Chen Siyi is a nice surprise considering she has some health issues, although her scores aren't particularly outstanding. Liu Tingting had a meltdown on beam sadly but Mao Yi seems to have been quite impressive today. She's a super twister and is definitely one to watch.

Hoping to catch up on available videos sometime this week! It will be very interesting to see how the team is formed for Glasgow. Shang Chunsong is the only lock, I expect Wang Yan and Mao Yi/Deng Yalan to feature. The rest is very much dependent on health. In our top 10 from today, the top 5 are age eligible, plus Bai Yawen. Let us hope Yao Jinnan continues to be not in contention. Rio is far more important and shoulders are so pesky and fragile.

Overall, I'm uneasy about the amount of falls today. It's early, and there are health issues, but I continue to despair over how ill-suited China is to this code. And so injury-prone with their body types.