Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Highlights of Glasgow

Yup, definitely still wishing worlds was yet to come instead of finishing a few weeks ago.

Location

Glasgow is a great city, I really enjoyed it. Not exactly spectacularly different to Dublin...certainly they have the same mild at best-wet and cold at worst weather systems, but that's okay since I don't have much time for the sun anyway. I'm getting good at picking hotels and always aim for an old one that's not a dump. Our hotel was not only a spectacular Victorian behemoth of a building, it was right in the centre and above the train station, which was a whopping 2 stops away from the arena. Seriously convenient. Glasgow seems to have a bad reputation here, most people made a face and suggested Edinburgh instead, a very nice city which spectacularly lacked the main reason for going in the first place. I get the impression it used to be a rough place but you can tell a lot of work has gone into regenerating it and I always felt safe, even on Hallowe'en night which is a spectacularly dangerous night back home. Very friendly place.

The arena itself is fantastic, very fancy. The seats are tiered quite high and I'm not happy that the 'priority' seats released first afforded me seats in the upper tiers only, despite buying a few hours after release. Clearly I am dedicated, do not shaft me on this. I'll know next time not to go ahead and buy, I just thought that was the availability. Lol. Antwerp was very, very different. Anyway, the view was fine, I just suffered jealousy of the people with seating much lower down. But it WAS good to get a great overall view, and our best seats were for the AA which was most important to me.

Stage

I never realised that introductions were missing from worlds, but it really added a lot to the atmosphere and it was wonderful to see teams and individuals recognised like this, with their huge flag behind them and some very catchy music-sometimes even matching the gymnast in some way. Nice bit of hype-building and I really hope that's not the last we've seen of it.

Diverse finals/better depth

It was just great to see much more diverse finals than we are used to, echoing MAG almost. This hasn't been an overnight change, but was more noticeable than in past worlds I thought. It's a big jump from the last Olympics and will be interesting to compare to Rio's finals. Vault was as usual the most diverse, but beam wasn't far behind for once. Two Dutch girls. While beam itself has suffered bigtime this quad and inconsistency even among the best is still a major issue, the fact that it's less deep than last quad is balanced out for me by the refreshing different styles on display, afforded by the diversity of the finalists. If only they could stay on the beam.

Floor and bars are stronger than ever, which is very exciting and bodes well for next year. And that was a floor final without Aly Raisman. Considering the quality of this year's floor final, there were quite a few big names missing. When you think that next year we'll be expecting Simone Biles, a second American such as the aforementioned Aly though medal-winner Maggie was certainly a worthy finalist, Ellie Black, Giulia Steingruber, Shang Chunsong, Ellie Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Larisa Iordache/?? Catalina Ponor ??, Vanessa Ferrari, Sae Miyakawa, Ksenia Afanasyeva and more to be vying for places...

On bars, the standard has definitely been raised. There have always been routines of the calibre the 4 gold medallists showed (what a sentence) but not quite so many. And there are plenty that are right behind them. The fact that most routines are fairly similar and shap-heavy is a bit of a drag, but some managed to stand out, such as Shang Chunsong with multiple releases, and Ruby Harrold for her unique skillset. A great routine to cap off the final.

The AA rankings both in qualifiers and finals were certainly an unusual mix, it was great to see Giulia Steingruber qualify 2nd behind only the untouchable Simone Biles and even though a fall on beam put paid to a repeat in finals, it really bodes well for how far she has come as an all-arounder. A shaken Romania clawed back to great places in the AA, from which they were completely out of the top 10 in qualifying-Larisa Iordache of course admirably clawing her way to bronze and Laura Jurca showing her potential finally to finish in 8th after qualifying 22nd. The best though was seeing Mai Murakami completely unexpectedly finishing 6th. It will be great to see Russia have more of a presence in the AA next year hopefully, with Seda's inconsistency putting paid to any glory there, but it was nice to have the focus more spread out.

GB Bronze Team Final

I don't think anyone expected that, and it blew the roof off. To get their first ever team final medal on home soil is just incredible. Seeing their reactions when the score came in and the realisation that their vault scores had been enough - it looked like they didn't let themselves believe it could be even after Russia imploded- was just such a great moment, historical and heartwarming. I didn't think it was possible-they are still a team that are on the way, having made huge strides but still affected by issues such as depth and messy form lowering scores, and of course it's a team final that didn't have Romania in it and had Russia counting no less than 4 falls-but it comes to the same thing, it doesn't matter what you CAN do, unless you can put it together when it counts like in the team final, and GB certainly accomplished that.

Netherlands qualifying for team final

Up there in terms of achievements with GB's medal. Who'd a thunk it? Doubly fantastic since it means they've qualified a team to the Olympics. Their greatest achievement to date on worlds and Olympics stage was Celine Van Gerner placing 12th in the London Olympics. Competing singly for her country, since NL haven't qualified a team to the Olympics in a long, long time, if ever. And this isn't even through the Test Event, but directly through worlds. This is a team who I was hoping would individually make a final or two, so that I would be able to watch them in person, but I never anticipated team final. One of those elegant types to enjoy watching but withhold hope from. They definitely had some issues in team finals, which was perhaps not surprising, but were nevertheless glorious to watch from the very moment they came on stage and performed their stunning and elegant salute, encompassing all they are as a team.

Netherlands individual qualifying and finals

Staying with the Dutch girls, I was flabbergasted to see Lieke Wevers qualifying 5th into the all-around. In the best way. Considering her start values, it highlights how vital execution and expression can be to scores, and how seriously FIG can take it. Sadly, Eythora Thorsdottir was just barely knocked out of the AA herself, but snuck into the beam final. Of course, she proceeded to have the oddest fall there but she was in good company with 50% of the finalists falling and it was still great to see her in person. I didn't dare hold out hope that Sanne Wevers would hit in the beam final, after qualifying second but having a nightmare in team finals-no outright disaster but failing her connections and thus a composite requirement, but lo and behold, beam silver! Brilliant result!

US steadiness

When you see teams with enormous potential dealing with enormous flaws- such as mass inconsistency from Russia, chronic lack of depth, political issues and abysmal bars from Romania, lack of depth, politics and power from China, form issues, lack of depth and minor inconsistency from GB etc. etc....it is just so GREAT to see a team nail everything. 12 solid, hit routines. Not only do they show power and consistency, but confidence, and the skills are always secure, you never have to hope the gymnast will rotate it fully. It's refreshing. Their qualifications performance was just so jarring and odd, but never fear, they were back to their robotically solid selves when it counted.

Watching Simone Biles in person

History in motion, she is fascinating to watch and it's fun to think that I've so far been able to see her in action twice, considering she will go down as one of the most legendary and talented gymnasts of all time. It's just bizarre to be blown away by her routines and know that she still has more to give and the potential for yet more difficulty.

China

Getting their act together for team silver. I've become too used to falls and mistakes from them, and qualifications did not inspire confidence, so I was thrilled to see them so solid in finals. Not perfect, (why can you never stay on the beam Wang Yan??) but 11/12 and a really quite super vault rotation of all things is still not to be sniffed at.

Shang Chunsong 4th AA, general hit record

She has previously stood out at worlds for all of the wrong reasons, so to witness her hitting again and again (yup, fell off beam after waiting far too long for the judges in quals but...just quals) and coming so close to beating Larisa Iordache was wonderful. She'll always be let down as regards AA as long as she carries a flat FTY, but to come so close is impressive. It's also nice to see her become the face of her team, and gain a ton of fans. The spread of her story has definitely helped, and has helped explain her circumstances etc, but I do feel a bit uneasy about it considering how detailed it is, just wondering does she know or did she give permission for all of it. Anyway, to come away from worlds with 2 4th places and one of them undeservedly low is disappointing, but she still has great performances and showed more of her potential than she has previously on the international stage.

Russia

Coming back from being a complete nonentity in the all-around and a meltdown in the team finals to shine in event finals, with no less than 3 golds and 1 silver. Despite some qualms about colours of some of those medals, there's no doubt they were impressive and it's great they were able to make a comeback.

Harsh scoring

I definitely have some issues with individual scores but overall, I felt the scoring was harsh and fair. It was reassuring to see them come down hard on things, on a relatively equal playing field.

Last but definitely not least..

Meeting the Biles

Still feels bizarre to have been invited to meet them, and very flattering to have my blog recognised. I had a great morning to start off event finals day 1, lovely people.


I'll probably do a part 2 to this, with lowlights, routines, things like that. Definitely still more to talk about this worlds. What were YOUR highlights? Favourite unexpected hitters? Or moments from off the competition floor? Best hair bow?


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Event Finals

I'm definitely still in the post-Glasgow slump. Hard to believe it's been and gone, when I've been waiting for it since the moment Antwerp worlds ended.

Anyway, last things first! How about those event final podiums?

I've gone through vault already, and my opinion hasn't really altered. I think the top two were deservedly close, but the edge was with Hong un Jong. When they are both performing the same vaults though with their own set of flaws, it's so hard to call. I'd like if the podium was slightly reshuffled, but I'm definitely not mad or anything. It was really sad to witness Giulia Steingruber injuring herself after already fearing the worst when she put up 5.8 for the second vault. Thankfully, it looks like she avoided doing any major damage and will still be good to go for Rio. I really love how diverse that final was- USA, China, Russia but also Mexico, Switzerland, North Korea, Great Britain and India. Another low point was Dipa Karmarkar's Produnova- looking forward to the day they are either removed or no longer worth the risk-and also Alexa Moreno Medina's lack of mastery of her vaults, they were really just about rotated and a complete scramble.

Bars though, definitely had crazy judging. A tie was justifiable, but not 4-way. The podium to me should have been Viktoria Komova-Gold, Fan Yilin-Silver, Daria Spiridonova-Bronze. Daria had a few too many handstand errors to be further up, while Madison Kocian is possibly justifiable for a tied bronze. I think that while she is very dynamic, she has too many tiny form errors adding up such as leg separations/bent elbows. I'm not sure if this was visible on any streams, but each time a score came in, the big screen showed it against the current highest score, which was pretty cool. For bars they used a different 15.366 every time as current highest, but when Vika's score came in, she showed up against herself as the score to beat. Highlighted how very weird the whole thing was. Interesting podium ceremony to witness too! Very curious to know if there will be repurcussions from this...hopefully not future tie-breaking at worlds.

I went into beam without any high hopes, knowing that most finals these days have a ridiculously high number of falls. Even with that though, I held out for Wang Yan to medal and the Dutch girls not to fall. Eythora had the unwelcome draw of first-up, and had such a strange fall. Looked from my angle and from watching it back that it was salvageable, but I'm glad she even made the final and it was still a glorious routine, though a bit frightening when her head veered back near the beam after dismounting. The biggest shock from Viktoria Komova's routine wasn't that she had a major error, but that she didn't jump off in resignation like we are too used to seeing time after time. A nice routine otherwise with the usual gorgeous form, although it was overly hesitant. I can't enjoy watching her beam because it's too nerve-wracking and she rarely flows anymore. What was somewhat funny was the shock and negative reaction to her score from the crowd around us when her score came in, who seemed to have forgotten the major save and how costly they are. I've seen some comments around that the best part of the final or the 'real victory' of it was her not falling, which is really quite sad. Anyway, back to business of beam finals with more actual falls, from Ellie Black on her full twist, Wang Yan on her layout and Seda Tutkhalyan on her layout full. None of these were a surprise, all 3 have been splatting regularly all yearThey all seem fully capable of their high difficulty, but seem to get a bit lost in landing of their hard skills in a competitive setting. Hopefully they can rework things a bit, even downgrade, to get proper consistency.

Thankfully, we were graced with some hit routines. Simone Biles pretty much nailed everything, I was particularly pleased her 2.5 wolf had no wobbles and her Barani-once a vulnerable part of the routine-was completely secure, everything after that especially the super-flighty BHS-LOSO-LOSO series and practically stuck dismount was a bonus. Considering how sadly used we are to seeing several wobbles, broken connections and really hesitant work if not outright falls from top routines, it is such a relief to see such clean, difficult work in a flowing routine. Lieke Wevers, as the second qualifier, stepped up to the plate and delivered a gorgeous routine. Not quite as steady as she can do it, but it was much closer to her lovely quals routine than the messy TF one. Pauline Schaefer also had a nice routine -plenty of little wobbles-but nothing serious. It's well composed and impressive even without her own skill in it. I love this podium, but that was a rough final. Far too many falls and major errors. I'm over this quad's beam and looking forward to whatever FIG have in store for it after Rio.

Floor was such a great final routines-wise, so deep. But the podium...not happy with it at all. Simone Biles had yet another great routine and claimed gold by a mile, no arguments there, but silver and bronze are questionable. Ksenia Afanasyeva completed her tumbling and leaps with ease, not so much her turns though. She received 0.3 in d-score for a turn she did not complete, bearing in mind Shang Chunsong did not receive credit for a turn she did not complete. Both were obviously not around, so where was the consistency there? Afan's routine was a bit lacklustre by her old standards, little expression or enthusiasm and just dull, but it was the d-score that I had the major problem with. It didn't deserve to be in the top half of the scoreboard as a result. I would have put Sae Miyakawa in second- she had a glorious routine, super clean tumbling with only 2 slightly short landings to mar it and really and truly deserved a medal. Shang Chunsong had the floor routine of her life-such a pity she didn't complete the turn, but even with that, she deserved a slightly higher score. It seems like they are killing her for her legs/knees in twisting passes (which isn't even clear in real time), but not killing Maggie Nichols, whose leg form is much looser/untidier in her tumbles. Both were great, I would have had them tie or Shang barely ahead.

What does your floor podium look like? Who would you have put ahead on bars? What are they going to do with beam to fix it? This time exactly a week ago it was all over....aghhh the realisation that the next European worlds are FOUR YEARS AWAY...

I definitely have more stuff in my head to post, moreso reactions rather than rehashing competitions, in the next few days.