Sunday, November 23, 2008

Speaking of.....

Liu Xuan a couple of posts ago, i think it's time The Couch Gymnast had a little list devoted to the many, many unbeliavable aspects of Liu Xuan's gymnastics and post-gymnastics career.  Both have been equally, and amazingly as successful.  This outstanding gymnast not only had one of those dramatic and terrific gymnastics careers we love to see, she has also proved her mettle at using her suceess in the sport to launch other opportunities  in a frenzy of post-Sydney activity in her role as Chinese gymnastic's walking photo opportunity.  So today, here's a list of reasons to admire Liu Xuan.

Her Ability to Innovate

I always feel like I should take a moments silence when I see Liu Xuan's one-armed giant into Geinger release.  It was spectacular.  But it was also was another one of those mind-bogglingly brilliant moments in women's gymnastics that was consequently shot down by the judges.  Remind anyone of another innovator?  Of poor old Olga Korbut, perhaps?  Her  daring new brand of gymnastics was rewarded with just the same kind of disapproving attitudes Liu Xuan's new move was treated with.  When that one-armed giant was down-graded to a C- scoring element, the judges were basically telling gymnasts that they only like innovation on their terms, and their terms only. 
She told reporters, " I felt that was unfair to me because after you have spent so much time and sweat mastering something, to have someone take that away from you like that was really difficult to accept.  It's like when you try to innovate but are discouraged from ding so because no one else can do it."
 It was a disappointing moment for gymnastics.

Her ability to make a comeback.

Liu Xuan was supposed to make her big debut at the 1996 Olympics, bringing a team of excellent gymnasts to Atlanta with a huge amount of talent between them.  Liu was supposed to be one of it's greatest hopefuls.  This, however, was not to be.  Liu should have challenged for a medal on beam, but due to a fall in the qualification rounds, she did not make it to beam finals.  This did not stop her from continuing her training and returning to compete in Sydney. This time, her efforts were rewarded with a team bronze and a beam gold.  She was also, of course, awarded the bronze all-around medals after Andreea Raducan's gold was stripped from her.
Like many gymnasts these days, including her country woman Cheng Fei, Liu has continued with the sport and proved herself able to return to another Olympics and achieve a measure of success. The fact that she achieved all this at the age of twenty-one is even more satisfying.

Her Beam Stunning work.

It may seem like the Chinese girls have been kicking butt on beam forever and a day, but Liu Xuan's Sydney beam gold was actually the Chinese team's first ever Olympic beam gold.  Her 2000 beam routine was just gorgeous.  It was interesting from the start with her handstand press into a full-twisting drop down move into sitting on the beam. Her back layout was pretty too, though lacking the height and amplitude of some who came after her.  She did, however, manage to make it look more impressive because of her strangely slow tumbling.  
(You can see this evidenced even more so in her floor routines, where she appears to jog into her tumbling rows, flip comparatively slowly, yet still pull off the big moves.  It is quite dis-arming.)  Her stuck double back dismount was an awesome finish and seeing Ekaterina Labouzniak's wry smile of acknowledgment that she has been beaten fair and square is hilarious!

Her myth

In nearly all the stories of Liu Xuan's career, you will find that the story tells one of a girl moved to do gymnastics by a mother making up for her own lack of a career. Liu Xuan's mother was, in fact, a gymnast before the Cultural Revolution brought all such activities to a halt for a number of years. But it was not, according to Liu, her mother who pushed her into the sport, but her father, who believed it would be a way of teaching her to take things seriously and to work hard at achieving goals.  According to Liu, she was only entered into the sport because of her ill-health as a child.
"Contrary to some reports, my mother never actually wanted me to go into the sport and was very much against me becoming a professional gymnast. That's probably because back in her time gymnasts had to go through a lot of hardships with little reward. She wanted me to grow up happy and healthy."
This story has just become one of those myths, all tied up in Chinese national history, that get told about certain athletes. it does, however in that they are building myths around her, prove her status as a legend of Chinese, and perhaps world gymnastics.

Her uncanny sense of balance.

It's hard enough to balance in a needle scale, But Liu ups the ante with those spikes!

Her Ability to multi-task

Since retiring from gymnastics at the old age of twenty-two, Liu has done just about everything possible for a young woman riding high on the celebrity that comes from being a three-time medal winner at an Olympics in China.  She has starred in movies.  She has modeled for various fashion labels as well as for perfume.  She has begun recording her own album on which she sings.  She has studied for and qualified to become an international judge, although she was too young to be considered for the Beijing Olympics.  Instead she went to Beijing as a reporter, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, for a Hong Kong broadcaster of the Olympics to cover the gymnastics.  She is also enrolled in a prestigious Beijing University where she will graduate with a degree in journalism and communication.  Phew.  That is a lot to get done in eight short years!
"I know about athletes who are struggling with their lives since retirement" she told The AirMacau magazine, "The way I see it is that you have to treasure every opportunity because they tend to slip away easily when you don't take them seriously- even for those who were once famous."

Her fashion Sense

Liu Xuan, as demonstrated in other post's has an ever-changing sense of fashion that can at best, be described as highly entertaining.  While sometimes she can look simply lovely, sometimes she is just plain kooky! Either way, it is nearly always interesting.

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