Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Decisions...decisions

Much as we whine about them, it must be hard to be a gymnastics judge. Part of me would love the job. You'd get to watch gymnastics all the time and when you had seniority, you'd get to travel all over the place to international meets. 
But the other part of me would hate it. It is all so, so subjective, yet it's the one time when it is really not a good idea to have a different opinion from those around you. I mean, look at the Aussie judge, the target of Valeri Liukin's vitriol. She has had a lot of trouble. Hate mail. Media interference. Internet forums have been full of people saying nasty things about her. Right or wrong, I bet she didn't think that kind of abuse would come with the job.
And you know, I am sure there are dodgy judges out there. There has to be. We know plenty of occasions where gymnasts have suffered because of what looks like faulty appraisal of their routines or blatant favoritism. So, today’s list of quotes are from judges, gymnasts and coaches, talking about the subjective aspect of the sport and what it’s like to judge and be judged…..


"When you judge internationally and you're way off from your panel (of judges), you're going to look like you're cheating or look like you don't know what's going on.
 And, your panel may not be judging on the up and up. 
You have to work with the panel internationally more than just 'I have the right score.' Domestically, it's more cut and dry. But when we judge internationally, there's nothing cut and dry about it. When you're judging internationally, you don't want to be singled out. People ask, 'Will we see you a lot on TV? Will they have the camera on you?' I'm like, let's hope not because, if they do and it's not a glancing look at me, then there's trouble."
Steve Butcher, International Judge. Knox News


“I have a problem with the judges. In my opinion, I don't feel they are trained well enough, I don't think they like me. I was gold medalist in Athens on the beam and at the European Championships, and here I am only third. I'm very disappointed and unhappy with them."
Catalina Ponor, World Championships press conference.


''Let me tell you, having a worldwide audience of over 2 million plus looking on to see if the judges make a mistake, that's not the sort of pressure I'm hoping for!''
Daren Wolfe, Olympic Judge

“I don’t understand why the little people always have to suffer for the decisions of the big people.” 
Maria Olaru


“You have to have competent people evaluating the athlete, not the housewives! 
Bela Karolyi.


"If she'd got the gold medal, he wouldn't be noticing Helen's judging.  But the result is not what he likes so he then goes looking for a scapegoat.” 
Jane Allen on Valeri Liukin's criticism of the Australian Judge.

"I do not have any complaint about my score. The only thing I can say is that the USA got something more than it deserved. I am sad and bitter. I felt that I had the medal in my hand and I lost it.  Everyone got a fair judgement, with the exception of the USA, who got a little bit more." 
Marian Dragulescu, Romanian Gymnast on Hamm’s controversial AA win.

“I’d love to go, honey, but I'm protesting the crooked Olympics judges. To make my point, I'm boycotting movies with ABBA soundtracks until Alicia Sacramone gets the bronze medal in the vault she richly deserves." 
Fresno bee


"My perception is that, until the FIG really changes how judges are selected, there's going to be issues with what happens in the field of play. I believe they're headed in the right direction. It's like they're taking forever to wake up from a long nap, and they're having a hard time shaking the effects of sleep medication.” 
Steve Penny.



"I'm gonna get myself in a lot of trouble, but it's been like this forever. It hasn't changed: Countries have certain friends and friends help friends…I don't know what message was sent to the judges in between sessions, but I think we're a better team than the marks indicated.” 
Tony Smith, Canadian Men’s Coach (after Beijing Qualifications).


“It was brought to my attention that I gave the judges a death stare. Maybe I had a big toe on the line. I didn’t think I was out of bounds." 
Alicia Sacramone.

‘She should’ve been given a ten and she was standing there waiting to run back up to wave to the crowd, which is what you did if you got a perfect score. 
But she didn’t get the score she deserved.  
That feeling of having no control wasn’t good. 
I wanted to make sure that the kid who did the best job ended up on the podium at the end of the day.’ 
Helen Bingham on the moment she decided to become a gymnastics judge.



Monday, September 29, 2008

I wonder what she's thinking...


A. Hey Li, isn't it, like, so embarrassing that we have to wear the national colors even when we're swimming?
B. Anyway, Do you think anyone will notice that they're our old training leos?
C. Who is this dude anyway?  Some random fan?  His hair is kind of funny.
D. Li!  Quit ignoring me and quit acting so polite! I know you're as freaked out as I am. Do you think he's dangerous? 
E. You know, If Lu Shanzen sees this, we are so dead.

Cartwheels in.......

 Namibia?

For years now the same handful of countries have been vying for the team spots in the Worlds and the tops spots at the Olympics, meaning we see the same group of countries competing over and over again. There are surprising surges of talent of course, like Spain, and Australia and Brazil over the years, and sudden demises like Russia and Romania, but generally it has been a fairly consistent bunch competing for those team podium spots in every major international comp.
It is not that surprising really. Gymnastics is an expensive sport, and only countries that have have the money to fund any effective kind of national gymnastics program can really have a chance at producing enough talent and depth to become a powerful competitive force. Some countries can't even afford to send one or two gymnasts to Worlds each year.
But that is not to say Gymnastics isn't being practiced all over the world. It is. We just don't get to see it That is why i have decided to introduce this segment, looking at gymnastics in some lesser known countries. Because i don't know about you guys, but i am curious about the other places we might find our favorite sport.......places that one day might have a chance at the podium.
So, today I am starting with Namibia, a country in the south of Africa. And yes, there is plenty of gymnastics in Namibia!












Having become a German colony in the nineteenth century, gymnastics came very early to Namibia, (when it was still called South-West Africa).  The sport was first practiced there as early as 1889. It died off a little during the First World War, then flourished again, culminating in a major gymnastics festival being held in 1929 in a town called Luderitz. Namibia officially became competitive and joined the FIG in 1991

Gymnastics is both a recreational and educational sport in Namibia, being taught widely in schools all over the country. Children learn tumbling skills, rhythmic gymnastics skills, and apparatus where the apparatus are available. These kids are learning rope skills at their school.





While many promising and talented young gymnasts have been discovered country wide, it seems that funding is the major problem, limiting the availability of training for potential gymnasts and restricting opportunities for traveling to international competition for the more advanced gymnasts.
Things are looking up, though. Earlier this year, a French ex-aerobic gymnastics champion, Gregory Alcan and a businessman, Victor Da Cruz Gomes announced that he had decided to invest in Namibian and all southern African gymnastics future by building a national training centre in Walvis Bay. It will be double the size of the old one and be large enough for international meets to be held there. This signals a huge improvement for Namibian gymnastics.
There has also been more emphasis on educating training technique in the country in an effort to make Namibian gymnasts more competitive and coaches more effective. The Namibian federation held a course for dedicated coaches and gymnasts to improve teaching and learning techniques countrywide this month.


Namibia’s most successful gymnast was Gharde Geldenhuys, who participated in the 2000 Sydney Olympic games as a wild card entry.  She also entered two World Championships and the 1998 Commonwealth Games where Namibia came in eighth in the team competition.
As an individual competitor in the Sydney 2000 games, Geldenhuys came in 64th all around in the preliminary rounds and was the sole representative of all of Africa in gymnastics. 
Due to the financial situation of the sport, she had to train for the Olympics in a makeshift gym built in an old mechanics garage in Swakopmund with next to no facilities. She claimed it was "difficult, but worth it" because of attending the opening ceremony and the events.
She moved to the U.S.A to attend college, competing for the Washington University gymnastics team, the Huskies mainly on vault and floor. She told a British newspaper
“Most people I tell I'm from Namibia think its somewhere in Asia while hardly anyone's heard of the Commonwealth Games!” She studied psychology and physical therapy while at college.


More recently, Ramona Beukes (centre) became one of Namibia’s most decorated gymnasts, earning a vaulting medal at an international meet between South Africa, Namibia and Wales, and three medals at last years All-African Championships. She is also the first and only Namibian gymnast to successfully perform a double piked back somersault on floor.


Ramona Beukes and Kimberley-Ann Van Zyl received funding to go to Stuttgart for the World Championships, hoping to earn an Olympic berth. Ramona Beukes came 148th in the AA, while Van Zyl (left) placed 179th. Unfortunately, they were not successful in getting to Beijing.





There is still hope of an Olympics for Namibia as there is also some junior talent sprouting in the country. One of them is Michel’le Solomons, a fourteen-year-old gymnast. She competes in trampoline and tumbling sports as well as Artistic gymnastics. Her coaches are Vesselin Kostin and Dongina Risser. She trains for three hours a day and believes that gymnastics takes lots of practice and discipline as well as talent. In her federation profile, she encourages other kids in her country to turn to sport instead of drugs and alcohol.
Her idol is her mother, and she wants to become the best junior gymnast in Namibia. Starting on her endeavour, she has been named to the Namibian National team for the Artistic discipline for the All- African games this year.


On a less positive note, according to an editorial complaining about discrimination in sport in the country, a sixteen year old gymnast who had one an international medal (probably Beukes) was not qualified to win a Namibian sports award because of their age. An older gymnast who had won a bronze at a regional meet took the prize instead.  The writer was upset about that, and also of having been a victim of racial violence by a man who once worked for the Namibian Gymnastics Federation.
Despite these issues, it seems that with new training and finance the state of the sport in Namibia is about to improve vastly. Hopefully in the future we may see some Namibian gymnasts becoming competitive on an international stage. 



Saturday, September 27, 2008

And the Best Jazz Hands Award Goes To...

ROMANIA IS BACK!!!

So, in first place in this weeks poll, not so surprisingly, was our new olympic champion, Sandra Izbasa. How great was she that night? As Difficulty Plus Execution said, she single handedly saved the face of Romanian gymnastics at the Olympics. I have to admit, her win surprised me. I knew she was a great floor worker, but with names like Fei and Johnson and seeing how much the international judges loved Liukin's routine, I really didn't factor her in for gold. Perhaps a bronze, but gold? But that was a corker of a routine. Not so graceful. But, although i appreciate the gorgeous dance-y routines, I have nothing against the high energy exercises if they are done well (A-sac being a great example). 
It reminded me too, that years ago, I don't know when, or which competition I was watching, that it was during a floor ex that I really noticed Sandra Izbasa and how talented she was.   It was also wonderful to see all the hard yards Sandra has put in for Romania over the last years rewarded at such a major event. 
It's sad Stels didn't have the same luck, but she has got herself a nice share of world medals over the years.  And, as i have said so many times, I nearly got a bit teary when i saw the gracious way Cheng Fei congratulated Sandra after her routine. It was truly lovely.


THANK YOU DARLINGS!!!!!

Yes, that's right, Alicia nearly won another poll. She actually only lost by a meagre one percent. I'm starting to think that even if i had a poll on "Best Bar Worker" or "Least Personality" you guys would all still vote for A-Sac!!
Her floor work could be truly awesome. And i am happy to say that i was there the day she won that World floor title in Melbourne. She was hot! (We were a little distracted by the entire Chinese population of Melbourne waving flags in front of our faces. They were nearly as enthusiastic as the ten year old gymnasts screaming for Monette in the front rows. (I felt sorry for the Chinese contingent, though, because the day before, many supporters had obviously bought tix assuming Chinese gymnasts would be in the AA finals (ussually a safe guess) but the coach had pulled his girls and they had nothing to cheer for.) Also, my friend Megsy was REALLY hungover (a tale i will tell you guys another day, cos it's pretty funny!) and the flag waving was making her feel even sicker than she already was.)
ANYWAY, although I generally find watching gymnastics on television is a lot more rewarding, seeing Sacramone that day really made me realise the unbelievable power and height in her tumbling. Daiane Dos Santos was there too and she was a-mazing too, but of course, she had the usual OOB and stepping problems. Alicia on the other hand maintained her explosiveness but did everything cleanly at the same time
It was sad to see her usurped by Shawn Johnson later, but that kind of tumbling gets a little hard on the body at twenty. She is amazing just for doing what she does.

THE QUEEN

Speaking of which, third place went to Ms Cheng Fei and I am so glad. I've always thought she had more charisma than any other gymnast around. And I certainly can't think of another Chinese gymnast who can match her in personality. There is something incredibly regal, but incredibly human about her at the same time. Even when she was younger, she still looked older and wiser than her years. Watching her move around in her floor routines, was like watching a queen at work. Her tumbling was huge like her vaults, but her dance was still quite graceful. That, i think is why it was so hard to watch her fall.  It is almost shocking to see her stumble. I was so saddened to see her not be able to recover herself for the floor finals.  It would have been vindication for the vault disaster at least.
But hell, when Cheng was on on floor, she was brilliant. I will never get enough of seeing Cheng's fist in the air after a great routine! Wish we'd seen it more in Beijing.  She had a lot of pressure on her in those games.  Didn't they say that floor music had been composed especially for her?  That is a weight to carry. I hope she'll be back.

Something to look forward to...


I always feel a bit all over the place during this point of the Olympic quad. Beijing is over.
 Some of my favourite gymnasts will be retiring. I am depressed about that. 
Some are staying on. I am happy about that. 
Then of course, a whole lot of gymnastic newcomers are on their way, which is exciting. I don’t know which way to look! 
So, it is at this time I have to get all glass-half-full, and try not to think about potential losses like A-Sac, Nistor and Pavs and start thinking about what is out there to look forward to.
So, we know a lot about the Junior Gymnasts who are elbowing their way up the ranks in the U.S. We’ve heard so much about athletes like Bross and Shapiro and Wieber. In fact, we haven’t stopped hearing about them, especially in this past year. The American media is very good at anticipating the next big thing while the most recent big is still trying to do her thing But anyway, there is a lot of talent in that junior gang. It should be interesting to see who lasts the distance.
But I thought, considering so much has already been said about the U.S girls, I’d focus on some of the other countries and the gymnasts they are going to be bringing into the senior ranks over the next few years. This way, I can comfort myself that thing are going to be just as exciting as they were in the last while. I can tell myself I have a lot to look forward to, gymnasts to get to know, rivalries to look forward to....
This list is not exhaustive, however. Or thorough. Talented young gymnasts sprout and wilt like weeds in this sport. 
Hell, gymnastics careers can be so fleeting, some of these girls probably retired while I was writing this! But anyway, here is a taste of what is to come.

Russia

Things are certainly looking up for Russia. Their little one’s have been dominating the Junior international field lately. Some of them have been working the competition circuit for a while now, getting a heap of experience and attention. They are certainly looking to have the guts, talent and grace to challenge the seemingly impossibly talented bunch of U.S gymnasts coming up in the West. Tatiana Nabieva of St Petersburg, took the all-around crown at the 2008 Europeans, as well as an individual floor gold. Tatiana won’t be eligible for senior competition until 2010, though, so she will have to maintain her edge.  Her team mate Aliya Mustafina, who is becoming renowned for her gorgeous lines and beautiful dance elements came second in the Euro all-arounds behind her.  Despite coming fourth in floor- due to weaker tumbling- Aliya apparently had crowds cheering at her exceptionally lovely routine. Unfortunately, Aliya is becoming quite familiar with second place, taking five gold medals behind Rebecca Bross at a Japanese junior international meet last year.  She does, however, have the kind of elegant lines and clean movement we gym fans seem to crave.  Her little dance to sudden stop to sheep jump is just awesome.
On top of this junior finery, i am sure we can expect to see a lot more of the two Ksenias, Afanasyeva and Semenova, in the next quad too.


France

Youna Dufournet is the ‘it’ girl of French gymnastics at the moment. It was, I’ve got to say, pretty exciting to see a young French woman on the podium at the 2008 European Championships after the All-Around competition. In fact, not only did Youna win the AA Bronze, she won medals on vault bars and floor, earning the most hardware of anyone present.
She has an impressive two-and-a-half-Yurchenko and a piked Omeliantchik on vault. On floor she tumbles a piked full-in and a double Arabian on floor. She is tiny (duh) and, as someone commented in a Youtube video, she has a touch of Vanessa Ferarri about her- wether you think that is a good thing or not is a matter of taste.
In the French Federation profile on Doufournet, her personality traits are described as “demanding and manic.” We can only hope something was lost in the translation to English! Her gymnastic heroes are Severino and LePennec. Her “Physical Quality” or “Qualite Physique” is stated as being her shoulders. I don’t quite follow…. Is that a good thing?

England

Nicole Hibbert and Danusia Francis are two powerful young gymnasts from the same Heathrow Gymnastics Club in England, sharing the same coaches and similar successes in their junior careers. From Edgeware, Nicole Hibbert is the youngest gymnast to win a gold at the British championships, in vault. She also took fourth place in vault at the 2008 Junior European Championships as well as fifth in floor. As you can probably imagine, she is known for her explosive strength.
Danusia Francis came second to Nicole Hibbert in the British Championships All-Around competition. She has a scholarship at a nearby school so she can attend the club and has particularly strong beam work as well as being good on vault and floor. From the sounds of it, between them, they just need to sharpen up the bar work and they could be something of a force for British gymnastics. We can probably still expect to see a lot from the likes of Hannah Clowes and Marissa King in the next few years too.

Canada

It feels like the gymnastics world has been looking forward to Peng Peng Lee becoming a senior for years now. I know I have been ever since I saw her do those awesome pommel flares on balance beam. Peng Peng is proving herself worthy of the attention too, slotting herself into a spot amongst those indomitable U.S girls at the Junior Pan Ams this year, taking fifth place in the AA and helping Canada to a second place team medal. Though her coach, Carol Lee Orchard, has sadly left Canada, she claims to have set Peng Peng up with the skills and difficulty she will need come 2012 (Like a Bhardwaj on bars. Yay!).
Her team mate Dominique Pegg also had a successful competition, coming in sixth. Dominique’s strengths are vault and bars and she has been having a lot of triumphs in Canadian homeground competition. To explain why they put her in gymnastics, her parents claim she practically back flipped out of her mother’s womb when she was born! She also out-midgets Shawn Johnson, coming in at 4’7 tall.
Peng Peng and Dominique took one and two on vault in Guatamala, heralding a new vaulting power and Charlotte Mackie, Gail’s sister is also an exciting gymnastic prospect with her original and exciting beam work (is that a one-handed Onodi?!)

Romania
Like in the days of old, Romania has some phenomenally talented young gymnasts rising through the ranks.  The top four performers across the three age categories of the Romanian Nationals this year were the same bunch of girls. Amelia Racea, Larisa Lordache and Diana Chelaru were all winners in the all-around categories. Ana Porgas was consistently highly placed too. Racea trains in Onesti and outside the gym, her two passions are Nadia Comaneci and the Internet! Cute!  Larisa Lordache is also being touted as the next ‘Nadia” though she would probable be the 507th new Nadia, so I don’t know if it means much anuy more. She started out at Dinamo but now trains in Onesti with the rest of the Romanian top juniors. Romania lived up to it’s heritage, with two girls , Racea and Porgas taking first and second in the beam finals of the Junior Euros.
 


Australia

A product of the Victorian Institute of Sport, Britt Greeley is tiny. And I mean tiny. It is no wonder her VIS profile says her favourite quote is “It’s not the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man” or that her heroes are two renowned shorties, Shawn Johnson and Monette Russo. Despite her pint-sizedness, Britt is described as being very powerful, throwing high level tumbling passes. She was also the Australian National Champion for under 12’s. She has placed in the top twelve gymnasts in the Pacific Rim, Pacific Alliance and WOGA Classic competitions this year, has earned a handful of top three spots in both Victorian and Australian Championships finals over the last year and will qualify as a senior next year.
Emily Little, another excellent all around product of the WAIS program (Joura, Mitchell etc) took out the all-around in the Australian Junior National Championships. Her strengths (not that she seems to have significant weaknesses) are floor and beam.



Italy

Paola Galante is one of the major up-and-comers for Italy and is already being celebrated for her beautiful floor work and stunning flexibility. At the 2008 Europeans, however, it was her bar work that earned her fifth place in the finals. She also came third, as a junior gymnast, in the all-around at the Italian Nationals this year behind senior competitors Parolari and Bennolli, promising another well rounded performer from this new European gymnastics force.

There were so many more gymnasts I wanted to find out about, but alas, unless I suddenly acquire about six to ten more languages, it is pretty difficult to research these young gymnasts! But here are some others who are looking good that I just couldn’t get much info on.

Japan- is mixing things up a bit with its juniors. Shizuka Tozawa came 2nd at the Pacific Rims last year on floor, while her team mate Erica Lynn Danko, a half American, half-Japanese athlete came second on vault. It was exciting to see two gymnasts who come from a country more well known for its bar and beam work to compete so well on these two events, meaning we might see a few more female Japanese gymnasts in event finals.

Netherlands-Nastasja Blind came third on uneven bars and 8th on floor, signalling some great talent at the euros then sixth all-around at the 2008 WOGA classic
and Celine De Gerner also came 10th in the All-round earning herself as personal best with 56.075 points. She actually placed second in a qualification competition and fourth AA at last years WOGA classic. Fittingly, her favorite gymnast is Nastia Liukin!

Brazil- Khiunai Dias came seventh at the Junior Pan Ams, the highest ranked of the Brazilian girls, followed by Ethione Franco in ninth. The juniors as a team took out third place which was exciting to see. Brazilian gymnastics has been improving immeasurably in the last ten years or so and maybe this batch can best the best of the already exciting Hypolito, Barbosa and Santos. Ana Claude Silva who won the Brazilian Nationals this year is also bound to have many years left in her.

Belgium- Jolien Eggermont came fifth all-around in a Junior Youth Olympic Competition in 2007 and followed it up with a fifth place in vault in the European Championships. 

Mexico- Daniele Espinosa was the highest ranking Mexican gymnast at the junior Pan Ams this year and came twentieth in the Junior Pacific Rim. Someone to follow in Garcia’s footsteps perhaps?

Ukraine-Natalia Kononenko placed eighth on bars and fourth on beam in the 2008 European Champs continuing a tradition in Ukrainian talent for lovely bars work She also won the all-around at the Olympic Hopes Cup in October last year in Great Britain against a number of junior European gymnasts.

As for China- well, how do you know who is a junior gymnast and who isn’t? Chen Chuyan became China’s all-around national champion, but, as someone said in the International Gymnast forum, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Things change fast in Chinese gymnastics.  Jie Cui was the only non-American gold winner at the 2008 Pacific Rims this year, tying on balance beam with, of course, Rebecca Bross! Her specialties are beam and floor. She may well have moved up to senior now, though. It is safe to say that no matter what, with their type of recruitment and training system, China will be bringing in some more major players.
I’m pretty sure this little one is still labeled a junior (Sorry, I am a fan of Chinese gymnastics, but I couldn’t resist.  Besides- very cute pic)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fuggers Meets Gymnastics....AGAIN!!!

It's like Christmas.  Once again.  Here's a list of reasons why.
1. I am excited.
2. The Fuggers covered gymnasts again!
3. If you don't know why that is exciting, you haven't been concentrating
4. You need to go back and read the other Fugger post.
5.  Any way, this time it's about A-Sac and they were really nice.
6.  They said; 
“But our biggest almost-squeal of glee came after the show when we almost bumped into heartbreaking Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone standing across from the Bryant Park Hotel — upright, on both feet, and with a cute boy to boot. Alicia looked deeply fierce in giant shades, a black dress, a blowout, and huge peep-toe platform pumps that made her very nearly person-size. Forget that damnable balance beam, Alicia — you get a gold medal for negotiating New York's streets and precarious subway grates in those bad boys. Who cares about the Olympics when you have Fashion Week?” New York Times.
7. See? That's exciting.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crimes of Fashion #1

We gym fans have seen a lot of heinous leotards in our time- too many to count.  From the repeat-offending Spanish team to the leotard-as-ball-gown Ukrainan monstrosities.  There have been some spectacular team uniform offenses from some countries over the years as The Australian Gymnastics Blog would have you know.  But at least, most of the time, with leotards, we can blame the team coordinator, or whoever it is that is actually responsible for these decisions.  But what about when gymnasts leave the gym?   It's like in the Tina Fey movie, Mean Girls, when one of the characters, Janis Ian spots a teacher at the mall and says; "I hate seeing teachers out of school.  It's like seeing a dog walk on it's hind legs."
It can be the same with gymnasts.  Seeing them out of their leos can be strange, especially when they are making some highly dubious sartorial choices.
Therefore, today I present to you, the first entry on the out-of-leo fashion crimes. This weeks episode;  


Fashion Safety in Numbers (Not)

Remember when you were a kid, and you'd do bad stuff only if everyone else was doing it?Because getting in trouble together wasn't nearly as bad as getting in trouble on your own?  It seems to be a similar case with fashion crimes.  They are, it seems, best committed in large groups.
 

1. The Morph Syndrome

As we have seen in the earlier hair post, gymnasts who spend so much time together, sometimes tend to morph into each other fashion-wise.
Now it's not so much that the US girls are committing a fashion crime in this photo as such.  They look nice enough. But what I want to know is, do they plan these things? Why all the matching monochrome?  It can't be that they get dressed together.  Otherwise, why would Sam and Nastia have turned up in basically the same outfit?
 You'd think getting into your own civvies and going out together would be a relief after all that team uniform same-ness, but no, not here.  I wonder, did the girls call each other and coordinate before the event? Is there someone in charge (A-Sac or Nastia perhaps)?  Someone who says "Okay black and white only tonight, girls."? Are they afraid of clashing? Or is it just that they have hung out in the gym so much they have essentially become the same being?


2. Group Retro. Nineties Style.

Now before you ask, "what's wrong with this picture?  They don't look so bad." (Though if you had to ask that about Mohini's dress, I worry. Oh Mohini, you are such a beautiful girl, but did you, perhaps, hang out with Pammy Anderson for too long? I know she like, paid for you to go to the Olympics, but a simple thank you note would probably do as homage.)
Anyway,
A. They do look kinda bad (except Terin.  She looks pretty and remembered to follow what I had previously thought was a basic rule.  Keep It Simple.  Courtney McC might pass with a shove too. It's as a collective outfit that they don't work).
and
B. Also, please consider something very important you may be missing as you gaze upon their many-medal-winning smiles. This is the  2004 Olympic team, not, as one could not be blamed for thinking, the 1992 Olympic team, as their nineties fashion stylings might lead you to think.
See? It's like a collective gymnastic team fashion unconscious. Those who dress together, regress together. They must each think, "let's all revisit the most awkward sartorial decade together! It'll be fun!" If so, they are a bad influence on each other. Which leads me to...

3. I blame Terin Humphrey.

For this one, peoples, it's not the outfit i worry about so much, it's the make up. Now I know Terin Humphrey had quite a proclivity toward the ol' heavy eye make-up, and she actually looked good in it.  But it seem to have infected the whole team (Except Annia, who was clearly too old and wise to follow blindly) I understand the concept of wearing a lot of make up during performances, so you can be seen, but this much collective eye war-paint on a daytime outing?
Particularly, I dearly wish someone had told Carly and Courtney to PUT DOWN THE EYELINER AND BACK AWAY. It make Carly's eyes look small and a little beady, which they already have a tendency towards, and those heavy black rims do not suit Courtney's fresh faced prettiness one bit.  I mean, come on ladies, if Terin jumped off a cliff, would you?!

4. Denim attracts Denim
Words cannot express how much i love this photo. I can't even decide what i love more about it, the matching denim, the fantastic hair or Chusovitina's pose. It is pure, pure eighties gold (although it was actually taken in the nineties. But then, they are Eastern European and as I have said before, they were a little left in the dark what with the Fashion Iron Curtain being up for so long). Do you think they saved up their rubles and all went out to buy these jackets together? As a sort of team activity? Oh i hope so.
Isn't never wearing denim on denim like, fashion commandment number One?  Geez, and I thought the US team were morphing! I guess the Russians were doing communism at the time, I suppose. Maybe that translated to their clothing. Maybe this is actually the team uniform?

5. Dare to be different

It seems the Russians have moved on a decade.  Time has passed. Communism has been left by the wayside and the Russian team are beginning to express themselves more individually now. (As in they have each made their own, individual interpretation of nineties fashion and maintained it wholeheartedly into the twenty-first century) 
We have a little bit of everything here from that hallowed ers.  There is the clip belt buckle,the creased visor baseball cap, a little bit of stonewash, and the piece de' resistance- the cropped, tie-up shirt.

6. The Old High Pony Tail.

The Romanian girls certainly seem to believe in safety in numbers. But at least it is a non-offensive form of gang fashion warfare. It's all demure denim and high pony's with this lot. Nice to see they are mixing thing up in the shoe and top department though. Sandra looks gorgeous in the heels, while Stels is still wearing THAT jacket. Now, I have to say, I don't really spend a lot of time looking at pictures of Steliana in her civvies, but even i have noticed that she is nearly always wearing that creepy cropped white nineties parka thing in nearly every photo i have seen of her.  I could do an entire entry on that.  In fact, if i get desperate for a list later, I might.  
Now I know that gymnasts, particularly Romanians, probably don't have a lot of money for clothes, but I have done a lot of photo trawling these past couple of days and i can tell you that Steliana does, in fact, posess other, much nicer jackets (with a lot more torso coverage too)! For the love of god, why oh why won't she wear them?

7. Folk Stylings

Oh those poor Romanian girls. Even when they are out of their leo's and their coordinated denim, they still have to match. I can only suppose this is some traditional Romanian peasant outfit thing-y- and they have been forced to wear it for some cultural shindig. Otherwise i would really, really begin to worry about them (I may already be worried about Sandra).



8. Not So Criminal

Well, unlike the Romanians, for the Brazilian girls it's all about wearing the hair out and long. They also seem to share a penchant for large sunnies and larger earrings.  They may be accessorizing en masse.  But they look good doing it.




Anyway, that's all for Crimes of Fashion for this week. Stay tuned for some more...well...more individual crimes next week.



Ouch!


Gymnastics hurts.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise......
Today’s list is a selection of quotes about being in a sport where pain and injury are part and parcel with being great, where absolute toughness is necessary and when some gymnasts are smart enough know the consequences of their own risk-taking.


"Elite gymnastics is like, the navy seals, only harder. There are like 2000 navy seals, there are only like, 200 elite gymnasts. I guess that's because there's kids who's rather have a life than spend 6 hours a day training tricks that could kill you. Don't be fooled by the leotards people, the things gymnasts do make navy seals look like wusses. And we do them without a gun.”
Hailey Graham in Stick It


"There was a slight mishap in competition warm up on Vault when I dislocated the top joint in my middle finger. Stepping off the landing mats, I informed my coach of the rearrangement to my anatomy. 
Some time passed before the medical representative was to be found. It proved a futile exercise, because it seems she was just that, a representative. 
She was not authorised to fix my problem and at this moment I was grateful for all the times I intentionally sought to gross out my coach with bleeding rips and the like. For someone so easily led to queasiness, she did the best job in popping it back in. I was very proud!”
Dasha Joura, PerthNow Column.

“The first thing you learn when you’re learning release moves is how to fall properly. I don’t feel any pain in competition, but it’s just like, ‘How did I get here? Why am I on the ground?’

Shayla Worley. International Gymnast.



It made me stronger. ... Gymnastics prepared me for life. Things happen for a reason,"
Annia Hatch on her crucite ligament tear. Baltimore Sun.

When I broke my knee, no one cared how I was; they just wanted me to get better and come back to gymnastics to win more medals for their country.”
Lavinia Agache, International Gymast


"Your first stack (a really stupid looking fall) is generally the decider whether you continue with gymnastics or not. And in most cases, the stack will occur on beam. It's hard when you are young to stack it on bars or anything else as you aren't doing hard enough skills for the stack to occur. But on beam, you can stack it on any skill at any time. I've stacked it just walking on the beam! When you have you first stack, you either gather the courage to do the skill again, or you never do gymnastics again! Courage is a requirement in this sport."
Olivia Vivian (WAIS Blog)


“This was a completely different tear. A tear telling me that I have had enough. Luckily I didn’t hurt myself drastically. Enough to tell me I have a weak link in my body and not to push it.” 
Kim Zemeskal on retiring from gymnastics because of injury. International Gymnast.

 "I went to a seminar in Lausanne, and gymnastics was ranked 17th in a list of dangerous sports, not including extreme sports. Besides, the athlete’s health is closely tied to their ability to recover. Let’s not forget that in Romania, sleep was the only recovery program used for a long time. The more we take care of our athletes, the less problems will arise from gymnastics." 
Octavian Belu, Romanian Gymnastics News


“I got a really bad concussion, so I was on medical for a while. I was doing a front double full into the pit onto a mat. I don’t know what happened because I’m usually good at front twisting, but I missed the mat and smacked my head on the floor. I sat there for a long time, and then I stood up, and I said my ear hurt. I got back up and started walking back, and then they said you need to sit down, and ‘I said I’m fine. I’ll go again.’ But then they said I needed to get a test for a concussion.” 
Krystal Uzelac, International Gymnast



“In football, it’s another player who crushes, bruises, breaks the athlete. In gymnastics, it’s the floor. Or the beam. Or any piece of unmoving, unforgiving equipment that meets the body on its descent through the air from great heights.” 
Jennifer Sey, Chalked Up

"Gymnastics is a really painful thing, especially for pretty young kids; it’s torture.” 
Zhou Hanhua, Chinese Coach.


"I've had enough injuries to last me a lifetime. In a way it's made me a stronger person, it's made me more determined to go out and prove to people that an injury isn't going to stop me. I think every athlete competes through certain aspects of pain. I guess that's just part of the sport.”
Beth Tweddle, Eurosport


"I don't feel anything bad. I learned to face reality from the beginning. Sometimes, when I watch old videos of me flying in gymnastics, I'm proud that I used to be so good."
Sang Lan on never walking again. International Herald Tribune.

"Nine months after I get my injury, doctors said I have to quit, I said no, I sign for this-will do on my own risk, I want to have a chance to compete in Olympics! I was sure I can get a medal and was ready to do anything for it.”
Sylvia Stoescu. Romanian Gymnastics News.

“She cried crazily, like she was dying. Her father and I accompanied her and our hearts almost broke into pieces when she cried that heart-wrenchingly.” 
Cheng Fei’s mother (about watching her practice as a child.)



I was stupid. I really wanted to justify the trust put in me and be a heroine. While I was in the cast I gained weight. I had to get rid of it. Everything was rushed again. I would come to TsSKA [Central Army Sports Club] two hours early and rush around the gym like a crazy person. The workout would just be beginning and I didn't have a drop of strength left. I was so tired then, both physically and psychologically."
Elena Mukhina on the pressure that led to her debilitating spinal injury.

And on what seems to actually be the achilles heel of gymnastic injuries..... the achilles heel.

"I knew I wouldn't be walking out of there," 
Courtney Kupets on landing the pass the ruptured her achilles.
"It's the end of gym, the end of the Olympics, the end of everything I had counted on. Everything collapses," 
Isabelle Severino at the Europeans. International Gymnast

“You know, with the Achilles tendon, there’s a fine line between snapping it and keeping it healthy!” 
Tasha Schwikert.