Friday, December 5, 2008

In Gymnastics, when we say pint-sized....


Of course we all know it pays as a gymnast to be short.  It's all got something to do with having a low centre of gravity and being able to get a whole lot of stuff done in the air before you land.  I'm sure the cuteness factor helps too.  It did for the baby Soviets.
It's funny how gymnastics makes you lose your perspective, though.  Athletes like Khorkina, Bogey and Harmes looked like giants, when i am actually taller than all of them by a mile!  Even Alicia Sacramone looks kind of normal to me on the television and she is only 5'1!!!  

  People always go on about how short Shawn Johnson is at 4'9, and don't get me wrong, that girl is diminutive, but she is by no means one of the shortest gymnasts to have competed in elite competition.  This list is about some of the tiniest girls we have seen in competition.  Not all of them, but enough to get an idea.  Check out this selection of shorties, it only goes downhill from Shawn!


Ludvine Furnon 
Kim Zmeskal 
Hollie Vise

So, here are a few girls who were the same height as Shawn Johnson, just to get some perspective on her height.  No wonder Shawn has always reminded me of Kim Zmeskal!  People would always go on about her being the next Mary-Lou, but i always saw her precision and power as being much more reminiscent of the powerful midget Zmeskal!  It doesn't surprise me that Hollie Vise was this little.  She always looked so tiny.  Luckily for her, her very very lovely execution always gave her the lines she needed to be so successful on bars.  Same goes for her wonderful flexibility and extension, which gave her an elegance on beam the belied her height.  
Furnon is the only surprise for me here.  I knew she was small, but her elegant lines on floor and the way she carried herself must have given her something because i would have guess she was a little over five foot if pressed.  


Kui Yuanyuan 

The little Chinese gymnast who shocked everyone by winning the 1996 floor event in the World Championships comes in just under these girls.  Her diminutive size also gave her an edge on beam, giving her the space and aerodynamic to pack in an incredible amount of difficulty.  It was devastating when she produced that astonishing routine at the Worlds only to lose to Gina Gogean'sless than stellar difficulty rating. 


Koko Tsurumi 
Tatiana Gutsu
Ksenia Semenova 
Jiang Yuyuan

In the 4'7  range we have some of gymnastic's favorite cuties.  Jiang Yuyuan who charmed the pants off Beijing watchers with her pixie stylings on the floor.  Koko Tsurumi whose lovely and dynamic work never seems to quite shine brightest in the tougher competitions.  And we have the teeny tiny Ksena Semenova, a darling of the last quad.  It was hilarious when Nastia Liukin made that comment about Ksenia training at WOGA and Nastia used to be like "Aw how cute is she?" Then a year later, Semenova is snatching a bars title from her!  Tatiana Gutsu did surprise me a little.  She was always so leggy and foal like, I would have given her a couple more inches.


Lyubov Sherememta
Deng LinLin 
Oana Ban
Daniela Druncea
Trudi McIntosh

Here is a bunch of renowned shorties! It seems that the tinies tend to do well on the floor exercise- at least according to a lot of this gangs track records!   Oana Ban's is one of my favorites of this bunch. She had such dynamism of floor and it was miraculous what she could get done in the air.    Daniela "Dulcinela (sweetie)" Druncea was another who preferred floor, though she was a good all-arounder at Nationals.  Ukrainian pixie Lyubov Sheremeta took out a floor medal at 1994 Junior Europeans, the 1996 Worlds as well as at the 1995 Chunichi Cup.  Deng Linlin also has a reputation for floor work as well as the more archetypal Chinese beam excellence, taking out floor medals at both Doha and Moscow World Cups this year.  Trudi McIntosh was a heck of a tumbler too, and had enough power on vault to construct a front layout vault that was named for her-in spite of her stature.


Dominique Moceanu

This little one erupted onto the American gymnastics scene to a world ready to adore her tiny, elfin-like gymnastics style.  With a coach used to coaching the first pixies of world gymnastics, she had a floor routine designed to get the entire country melting at the knees over her cuteness.  And of course, being Karolyi's protege, she also had the skills to knock 'em dead when she became the shortest ever National Champion at 4'5. 


Kim Gwang Suk

It's less surprising that Kim Gwang Suk, the last gymnast to be awarded a perfect ten at a World Championships was 4'4  when it became known that the Korean Gymnastics federation had entered her age as fifteen for three years of competition in a row.  But the world became truly suspicious, near the end of her career, when she was, at this teeny height, still claiming to be 17 years old!


Cui Jie (on right)

This little cutie, one of China's rising stars is positively miniture.  Nonetheless, her beam work is extraordinary, and the height she achieves on some of her leaps are stunning considering her size.  Her floor work is impressive too with her leaps and turns executed perfectly, and choreography tailored to her childlike form.  She does, however, lack the personality and expression of her older team mates.  But that may come.


Bai Chunyue

And here she is folks,  the teeniest of the teeny, the shortest of the short.  Bai Chunyue competed for China at Tianjin and came fourth in Cottbus the same year on bars, though her best events are vault and beam.  Chunyue became the darling of the competition because of her incredibly short stature, but also attracted rumours that she was perhaps under age in yet another age falsification scandal. 'Yue Yue'told an interviewer once that she worked very hard to keep her weight down, something she found harder than other gymnasts, meaning she forced herself to stay back after other finish training and keep working.  "I envy many of the American gymnasts" she told them "though i don't know their names.  Most of them are chubbby (!) but can do their skills so lightly and easily."  (I,  for one have never seen a chubby American gymnast! ) Also, apparently some gymnasts at Cottbus, the source wouldn't say who, apparently referred to Chunyue as "it" through the competition because of her height!


  1. The uber-tiny girl's name is Bai Chunyue. Family name Bai, given name Chunyue.

    The tiniest gymnast I ever saw from up close was Romania's Claudia Rusan. When she first started doing exhibitions in 1990/1991, she was Bai's size. By the time she started taking part in international championships in 1993, she'd grown a bit, but even so she was one of the tiniest gymnasts Romania ever produced. Also one of their best ever tumblers, but that's another story.

  2. i just watched her in 93 at the junior euros. Wow she was small enough then! And you are right. That girl got some air time!

  3. "(I, for one have never seen a chubby American gymnast! ) "

    You don't remember Jennie Thompson? It probably depends on what your definition of chubby is.

  4. Remember Marie Fjordholm? She got quite chubby by the years...


  5. I, for some reason, thought Vise was tall like Nastia (who is probably still only my height). wow.

  6. American gymnasts chubby? I dunno, but Miss Chunyue sure looks like she's enjoying that fine western cuisine. 4'1" doesn't allow alot of space for the standard post-retirement weight gain, so you can guess who's chubby now.