That's right guys, it;s time for The Couch Gymnast to wax all nostalgic about the highlights, to deplore and despair the lowlights, and generally to pick out some of the defining moments of the year in gymnastics. It's time to celebrate 2008!
Not only is it the end of the year, it is the end of yet another gymnastics quad, a quad that culminated in what so many of us were waiting for... Beijing. Everything was high pressure, high drama and high octane and gosh it was entertaining!
So today I present to you the Couch Gymnast's own personal ups and downs of gymnastics in 2008. As usual, it is full of the trial and tribulations, pointing out the dramas of gymnastics, the controversies and the politics and many of the the deeply shallow aspects of the sport! I will start with a list of the down aspects of the year, if only to leave you with the ups, ensuring you depart this New Years entry on a high note. Enjoy.
Where do I start? The vault zero? The robbery of her beam medal by a crappy scoring system? The lack of recognition for her outstanding grace and execution? The torn achilles? I can’t think about it anymore. It makes me too depressed.
I have to admit, I actually look forward to disgraceful leotard choices. Without them, we’d have nothing to laugh at. Some of my own downs this year was the lack of Spanish presence to assault the eyes and Adela Sajn wearing something relatively sane (not the one pictured, obviously!) at the Hungarian World Cup. Easier on the eyes, but far less entertaining.
The U.S Injury-apoloooza.
It started for me with Shayla’s fractured leg at training camp. It’s bad enough to think she was training on that CRACK IN HER LEG but also the realisation that we definitely wouldn’t be seeing her in Beijing. I nearly had a heart attack too, when I heard about Chellsie’s whiplash issues at training camp, then I nearly cried when she hurt herself in Beijing. I was so looking forward to the comeback queen coming back again and my hopes were dashed in the final moments! As for Sam, I wasn’t as upset because I am less of a fan, but still, it was just the icing on the injury cake.
The Chinese Age Controversy.
Opinion was divided. Arguments were heated. Nothing came of it but bad feelings and a realisation that the FIG has indeed no power at all in the face of a country like China’sall-powerful bureaucracy.
The FIG website.
It’s been blogged about plenty and everything they say is true. It’s crappy, crappy, crappy.
Bad News from Brazil
The news about the more traumatic and damaging aspects of the Brazil coaching system leaking after Beijing was saddening to hear. So, it seems Ostapenko wasn’t quite the positive influence he was made out to be. It’s such a shame, because Brazil’s improvement has been exciting to watch. I just hope the cost wasn’t too high for the girls.
The Couch Gymnast has nothing more to say about that but please, please please girls, ditch ‘em.
Her sad story of her training experience in the seventies and eighties told us a little about what many of us suspected maybe true of the old Romanian regime. Depressing.
What can I say? The girl had some wicked bad luck in China (including having to wear this dress in preparation).
Well, these pesky but necessary tendon are known the site of the mythic weakness, but really, come on, gymnastics Gods! This year an achilles injury has taken out some of my favourites; Isabelle Severino, Anna Pavlova, Oksana Chussovitina and Courtney Kupets for the second time. No fair.
Cheng Fei’s individual performance at Beijing.
I am glad Cheng Fei got to be part of the Chinese gold-winning team, but how I wish she’d had the individual experience she had the talent to have. All through Beijing I just kept shaking my head, rolling my eyes to the heavens and crying “Why? Why? Why?” and half the time it was at Chengy.
Her insensitive treatment of Alicia Sacramone after her falls in the team finals was so unecessary. It wouldn’t have killed her to be a little bit kinder to a clearly upset Sacramone. On the upside, it was lovely to see her teammates rally around her and try and protect her from her obvious pain of having to answer questions about her performance immediately afterward. Tsk Tsk. Andrea Joyce always goes on about what young girls these are. Why doesn't she think about it a little more too?
Carol Angela Orchard
The Canadian coach’s move to England with her new hubby is great news for her personally, but I can’t help feeling a little sad for Canadian gymnasts. She has done so much over there, training there first world medalling gymnast and fostering the spectacular junior performances of one Peng Peng Lee. I am sure she will be missed.
Yes. That's right. I said Whoopi Goldberg and I am referring to her when Nastia appeared on The View (The Edge? The Story? Sorry, we don't get it in Oz) Anyways, I am referring to the end of her post-Beijing interview where, after the other women have been drooling over Nastia, her very proud and very present family, and her gymnastics, Whoopi, in order to hurry them on to a commercial break, delivers a very lacklustre, dismissive line about them and their country being proud of her and shoots off to an ad break. I mean, come on Whoopi, you're an actor- act! It can't be that hard to play sincerity!
Finally it came! I don’t know about anyone else, but it feels like I had been waiting soo long for the Olympics to arrive, and for me, when it did it did live up to the anticipation with it’s heady mix of drama, controversy, upsets, spills and surprise victories. It was everything I was waiting for and more.
China’s Team Gold.
Okay, so maybe secretly I wanted the U.S girls to win, but still, it was exciting to see the Chinese girls pulling it together finally, and matching incredible gymnastics with a new, tougher team that had both the mental wherewithal and the veteran leader to help them snatch that medals they have had the difficulty scores to win for years.
Oh who didn’t want to see her win a medal- let alone winning an Olympic medal in her zillionth international competition!? Who isn’t completely sucked in by her story with it’s longevity, it’s happy ending with her son Alisher being in full remisiion and her sunny, impressive presence everywhere she goes? That vault medal was one of the most deserved medals in the entire competition.
I’ve said it, and I will say it again, the Japanese Olympic leotards. They are so, so pretty. Also very impressed with Russian team leos. Finally, they have settled on a lovely combination of a light aqua with white. Both classy and pretty.
Romanian holding out for the bronze at Beijing was such a redemptive victory. I am glad to see they are still able to bring it, considering their training regime isn’t what it was (probably thankfully) and they have had to retire mostly on the strengths of talented stalwarts Izbasa and and Nistor to see them successfully through the last quad.
In the face of so many of the out-of-leotard fashion crimes I have pointed out through the last few months it was exciting to see Alicia Sacramone and Nastia Liukin impressing the hell out of the Go Fug Yourself gals with their New York Fashion Week styling’s. It was also lovely to see them having so much fun after all the sweat of the Olympic lead up.
Hearing that gymnasts I miss already are heading to collegiate competition make me so excited. I get to see them compete in a more relaxed, fun environment. I wam looking forward so much to seeing the performances of Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Olivia Vivian, Shayla Worley and many many more.
I was so, so surprisingly glad Nastia had the year she did, and finished it the way she did. In fact, I didn’t think I cared that much, being equally as fond of Shawn Johnson, but I was thrilled for her in Beijing. I was particularly happy to see her snatching back the American Cup, a sweet victory that also functioned as a sign of what was to come in Beijing.
Jiang Yuyuan’s floor exercise.
Even though, as someone else somewhere in gymland said a while back, I think her smile tends to make her a little like a manic elf, that routine is so much fun, something that is harder and harder to come by in the current code.
2008 The Year of the Uneven Bars.
My personal favourite was Elizabeth Tweddle unveiling her new bars routine at British Nationals. It may not have the clean lines and perfect amplitude of Kexin’s or Liukins, but it was so athletics and so exciting to see that this gymnast can keep getting better. The Kexin and Liukin Beijing showdown was saddened by unfortunate tie rules, but it didn’t stop them putting on such amazing performances, showing that the uneven bars has become the high-scoring spectacular to watch in the latest scoring system.
It was a year of great team captains. It was sad to see Severino go down, but there were some stoic, mature gymnasts like Chussovitina, Sacramone and Fei helping their team’s younger members stay on track in the big comps over the year.
Proving that a talented gymnast can become an Olympian and have a life at the same time. Kudos to him as a fantastically kind, warm and generous coach.
Lyssenko on Youtube
Lyssenko has gone from strength to strength this year with his fabulous coverage of older competitions on Youtube. The dude has a backlog of gymnastics which will make your head spin if you haven't seen it, or at least make you wish you had a bigger internet plan! Now that he has invested in a webcam, we also get the privelege of hearing his insightful commentaries of the official gymnastics codes of the past and present, which he decodes in a an comprehensible and interesting way. He is also a favorite of mine because of the way he attends often and rigorously to the commentaries in his coverage, often answering questions about codes, history and particular gymnasts, giving these discussions a real communal feel.
The Sacramone Media Storm
In the gymfan world, we all knew that Alicia Sacramone was funny, smart, outrageous, tough and just a little bit out there- but then the rest of the world found out after Beijing. Despite her less than stellar performance in the team finals, the whole world seem to warm to the down-on-her-luck US gymnast who was having a really bad day. This is, perhaps, because of the dignity and humour she brought to interviews in the weeks after the Olympics, that the media loved her so much. She even seemed to be giving Nastia a run for her money in the popularity stakes!
At last a gymnast with just the right amount of wit, insight, self-deprecation and a uniquely Aussie way with words puts a pen to paper (so to speak) and gives the world a fabulously entertaining account of the road to the Olympics.
What a lovely moment that was for both Sandra and Romanian gymnast. This athlete has brought so much to the sport over the years. The floor finals looked to be another sweep by the same old gang that had been hanging out on the medal podium all Olympics until she took to the floor. And what a performance it was.