Sunday, September 21, 2008

Poll Results...

So, as expected by the standings at the half-way mark, Alicia Sacramone was the runaway winner in my retirement poll. But who got second place? Well, it was nearly a tie..but Anna Pavlova pipped Daria Joura at the last minute by 1% of the vote.
So, today’s list is devoted to the two gymnasts in second and third in the retirement poll. It was wonderful to see the two biggest contributors of artistry to the sport are so well (and equally) loved. And the fact that they have the two of the most winning smiles in the sport is fitting too. So, here are ten reasons (five each) to love Pavs and Dasha…

Anna Pavlova

We have been lucky enough to watch her grow up from the phenomenally talented tyke she was at the time of the 2000 European Juniors into the graceful woman gymnast we saw suffer so much heartbreak in Beijing. We have seen her journey from being a talented team member to someone who has been forced to lead the upcoming young group oftalent Russia has worked so hard to produce since their fall from gymnastics supremacy. It is hard to believe that the little baby ballerina we first saw back then is now on the brink of retirement.

She has the ultimate combination most gymnasts would long for- incredible explosive power AND beautiful execution. There are not many gymnasts around pulling off both an Amanar vault and one of the most expressive floor routines in the competition mix these days.

She deserves more accolades than she ever got. You couldn’t help feeling so, so sorry for her as she wept after the Athens AA final when Zhang Nan inched past her in the last rotation with a .025 advantage, leaving her in that horribly familiar fourth place. Then to get zero in vault and lose that beam bronze in Beijing was just insult to injury.

She really does possess so much grace and beauty in both her life and her gymnastics. You only have to watch her most recent floor routine to see how her work just continued to get even more beautiful as time went on. How funny that she shares a name with the most legendary ballerina; is considered one of the most balletic gymnasts in the sport, but claimed in an interview that dancing was the part of gymnastics she liked least.

Between training sessions she has cute hobbies like playing pool and doing maths, (Apparently she claims that she had to simply watch the coaches and other team members play pool for years before she could join them because she was too short to reach the table!)

Daria Joura

She has a great back story. Like Nastia Liukin being born in Moscow, there is something kind of cool and dramatic about being born in a coal mining town in Siberia. Possessing that Russian heritage has such potent connotations in this sport, doesn’t it? Like they are somehow linked to the great Russian gymnastics tradition. Dasha apparently claims she is not a gymnast by choice, but by birth (NBC Olympics Pofile). Back in Russia, her mother refused to take maternity leave and instead brought her into the gym in Russia. Dasha would sleep on the trampolines and play on the mats while her parents coached.

THAT floor routine really was one of the artistic highlights of the last few years. Part of me always kind of wanted her to change it though, just to see what they would come up with next…

She’s a team player. Though the way the Australian media went on, many non-gymnastics fans in Australia can be forgiven for thinking she was the only gymnast on the Australian team (Lauren Mitchell’s name might have been slightly familiar), when it came down to it, in the end, Dasha did it for the team. The way she fought on, despite pain and injury in the teams, even giving herself a black eye on the high bar and continuing like nothing happened, was pretty great. Even though her AA hopes were well and truly dashed, she took that blood nose for the sake of the     team score.

She has personality. Dasha wrote an ongoing column for a Perth newspaper in the lead up to the Olympics, giving people outside of the sport an entertaining opportunity to understand what it is like to be an elite gymnast in this country- told straight from the horses mouth. And she did it with just the right blend of smarts, vividness and tongue in cheek-ness. Here's a little sample.
On her intention in writing the column;
“That is why, as I embark on the journey to share my experiences on the journey to Beijing, I hope that I can captivate the interest of the community in our sport; help everyone respect our sport and the fantastic talent and perseverance of the athletes, coaches and staff; and be utterly charming, entertaining and inspiring at once. Not anything I can’t handle….” Perth Now.
On training in America;
“Of course, there are the usual orientational adjustments that are associated with a new environment. There have been a myriad of differing gyms and with them, new sets of equipment. No one set of apparatus is the same as its brother, everyone is unique, just like me. And you . . . and that, was cheesy.” PerthNow

She wasn't afraid to show that she wanted to be noticed. Staring down judges was actually a part of her floor routine and love it or hate (I hated it) people did notice that salute.

1 comment:

  1. You should have named the post "From Russia With Love"! :P

    I love both of these gymnasts for their unique style and engaging performances. And I thought you might like to know (if you didn't already) that Dasha will be getting a new FX now that the Olympics are over!

    Keep up the good work!