Tuesday, November 16, 2010





Thursday, November 11, 2010


In the last two or three years I have written 1081 posts here on this blogger account.  Eek.

In that time, you all have commented 3276 times.  So, you know, thanks for that!

But the time has come people.  The Couch Gymnast is moving.  Find it here at the very simple;


The entire archive is there for you to read, as well as some new bits and pieces very soon!
Also, just to let you know, that although doing The Couch Gymnasts Magazine has been bags and bags of fun, I have decided to no longer do it in a monthly format.  Frankly, although I get some wonderful help, it is too much work to put together.  Instead, the wonderful regular contributors will be joining me from time to time on the new site, so you will still get your fill of gymnastics stories, things like Amy's Gym Diary and the Romanian Update, the interviews and competition coverage.  But instead of getting a big swag of reading each month, you will instead receive it as it comes! The magazine will stay on its website so you can still read the back issues and some articles will slowly be moved over to the new site.

Anyway, thanks for everything, Blogger.  t'was grand!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


As we know, the Asian Games in Ghanzhou are rapidly approaching and word on the streets....and from the Chinese press is that China is set to dominate.  The Chinese men are feeling pretty confident, considering Japan are not bringing their strongest team, and the Chinese woman probably always expected to dominate.

China was also expected to dominate- or at least do very well in Rotterdam.  But they couldn't pull it off.  So was Japan.  They certainly couldn't pull it off. It seems the pressure was simply too much for the Olympic team champions and the nation on the rise.  Why?

There were definitely individuals who seemed to feel it more than others.  Both Deng Linlin and Koko Tsurumi were transparently feeling the weight of their previous success and the expectations that they could repeat it.  They definitely could not.

China was relaxed and confident and even happy during the team qualifications, then lost both their sense of joy, and, seemingly, their sense of faith in their ability, which is enormous in the finals.

Japan seemed like they had just found how good they might be and were terrified of the prospect of living up to it.  I daresay that the presence of new, Ukrainian coach Alina Kozich is anew pressure. That is not to say anything of Kozich's methods or style, in fact she seems to have forged a very close relationship with the girls already, but a new coach, a female coach, a female coach from a background of Soviet gymnastics- This all make a difference in dynamics and expectations, I believe.

There were some who seemed unaffected by the weight of the competition.  Jiang Yuyuan played it like a veteran and earned the results to prove it.  It seems funny that the Beijing baby who used to have to be bribed to train properly is now the team leader and behaving as such.  Maybe we can put it down to Rie Tanaka's age, or maybe even the fact she wasn't expecting to be Japan's shining light but whatever- it worked.

But as a general rule both these Asian nations just couldn't live up to their own, or anyone elses expectations, it seems, on the World stage.

But, as Chinese paper Xinhua, claims, "The Asian Games are a completely different story."

But why?  Is it just because it is not the Olympics, because it is not the WORLD championships and all the baggage and expectation those meets carry with them?  Or is it the home ground advantage? I am sure the Asian Games are considered important- but comparatively?

I want to avoid cultural determinism and say that these Asian nations seems to perform better at home, but it seems to be the case.  The same, however, seems to go for the US too. They thrive on a home ground.  Others don't.  Australia crumbled in Sydney.  Although they took the coveted bronze at Pac Rims this year, they looked like a team under immense pressure.

Is it just knowing the order of events from the get go?  When the pecking order of the participating nations is so clearly defined, maybe it is a lot easier to deal with.  The Japan WAG team won last time (2008) because China wasn't there.  Unless anything utterly crazy happens, they will come second, while China reigns.  Maybe for China it isn't a competition?  Maybe for Japan, knowing it would take a Tsunami and a couple of broken limbs for them to win means they will be able to just do their thing and relax.

Maybe the outcome will be that predictable.  Of course, this is gymnastics and everything I said could come out the opposite. But one thing is guaranteed, if these two nations do go into the competition with a markedly different mindset than they did at Worlds, we will see some awesome gymnastics.


Someone on Facebook (sorry I can't remember who exactly, but even if I did, I don't know if you want to be named, but thank you- you know who you are!!!) linked to this little baby Romanian gymnast.  Yes, there is no denying it, she has total shades of Porgras circa 2009 Worlds.  Excepty willowy little Paula is also like a new-born foal- all rickety graceful limbs that she doesn't quite know what to do with.  Her hands look like they are half the length of her legs and she seems very tall, even if she isn't  particularly(also, I think big feet, which she has, are signs of a good beam worker).   She isn't there yet, but there are signs of Romanian beam goodies to come!

And more importantly, check out the choreography.  Is this not WILDLY extravagant and original beam chorey- if not for the gymnastics world- then at least for Romania? How are the flicky hands at 2.29?  And there something a bit reminiscent of Haidu's shimmy in there too!  It's kind of out there.

soooo........what do you think?


Her name is Paula Tudorache, and she is from Dinomo, by the way.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Angelina Kislaya (http://www.angelinakislaya.com)

I just received an update on Angelina Kislaya, the Ukrainian gymnast who was injured during the first day of podium training at the World Championships.  Angelina has torn a ligament in her knee and this injury could take 9 months to a year to fully heal.  The all-around silver medallist from the 2010 Nadia Comanecu Invitational is resting at home but hope to get better quickly and back to the gym.

Stay updated on Angelina's recovery at her official website.


Marlies Rijken by Sandra Janssen

It was definitely nice to see Dutch gymnast Marlies Rijken have such success at the Ojisek World Cup competition.  Marlies is a long gymnast, which gives her gorgeous lines on her best event, bars.  Funnily, she only won bronze there, taking gold on floor (13.250)  and beam (14.050), where she is also wonderful to watch.
The Dutch gymnasts had an extraordinary amount of pressure on them, performing last month to a crowd of rabid, orange fans and a spate of Dutch media.  They did well.  but it must have been a relief to to compete in a more relaxed environment in Croatia.

Croatian stalwart Tina Erceg followed Marlies with the silver on floor.  (Was Tina Erceg in Rotterdam?  I don't remember seeing her?)

If you haven't read it already, The Couch Gymnast magazine featured an interview with Marlies in Issue Five about her life and her training at Pro Patria.


As Gymnicetic has already pointed out, there is a new gymnastics blog among us called Between the Olympics (click to read).  It is early days, but BTO has already provided some gymnastics news, that Russian gymnasts junior star Daria Elizarova will now be competing for Uzbekistan.  Considering the depth of the Russian team, and the injuries Elizarova has had to deal with, I agree with BTO, that this may be a wise move if she wants to see the inside of some major competitions.  The Uzbekistan girls seem very young and nervous, so this might be a good thing for them too!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Bea over at Gymnastics No Ceiling has written a great post introducing a group of Romanian juniors who are set to turn sixteen over the next year, including Diana Bulimar and Madalina Neagu.  To learn more, head HERE. It isn't the best situation, with a dearth of uninjured, competitive talent.  The news that there is only one  junior with a release move in their bars routine is a little alarming too.  Bitang and Belu and co will surely have their work cut out for them now.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


As you may have read on Gymnastics Coaching, Australian gymnast Daria Joura has officially retired from gymnastics this year. Hampered from a comeback by her foot injury, Dasha was unable to work effectively in the gym over the past two years since Beijing.

Known for her infectious smile, her salute that you either loved or hated, her sassy floor routine and her all-around talent, Dasha was enduringly popular.  The 2008 Olympics were to be her big event, as she was one of the handful of gymnasts with the realistic potential to win a minor medal.  This was not to be after she hurt her foot in the team qualifications on beam, and limped off in tears.  Then, to add insult to injury, as the strongest Australian she decided to perform on bars in the team finals to help the team, she missed her hands on the bar and hit her face on the bar, getting a black eye for her troubles.  Being the legend she was, however, she still did not fall! Bars was one of her greatest events too, making it an even greater disappointment for her.

Trained at WAIS, Dasha moved from Russia with her family as a wee child and, despite her heritage, had the charming Aussie accent and sense of humour.  She was fun, and it showed in her gymnastics and her attitude in competition. She was fun and funny and great at her sport. She will be missed.

Here, for those of you who haven't seen her in action, here is one of the biggest reasons she was so popular. No one has used this music better than she did. Whether you like the choreography or not, you have to appreciate the fact that the girl knew how to perform it- to sell it. She had spunk and charisma and just the right amount of sauce, which was perfect for floor.


Also, here is a video of Dasha at age 11, four years after she moved to Australia. Behold her excellent form and incredible splits in her leaps even at this young age, despite the steps in her tumbling. The Russian beginning did wonders for her!


Thanks for being so much fun for so long, Dasha!


Okay, so, being a good little Virgo I have finally found the time to put all of my Worlds photos in a series of albums on Facebook.  They are now organized by nations (more or less)  if you are interested in checking them out and are not tired of Worlds pics!  These are all the  action pictures, portraits and candids from the blog, from the galleries on the Gymmnastics Examiners plus some others I had hanging about.  There is also an album of photos from the training hall if you are interested in seeing the day-to-day aspects of Worlds training.

You will have to 'friend' my Facebook if you haven't already, as I am keeping the albums 'private' (hah!) because of photo stealing issues.  The link to my account is on the right of the page.

Please, I have to ask, don't take my photos without asking me first.  That would be really appreciated.  I am fairly generous about letting people use them if I know what they are for.  But I really don't appreciate people who just take them to put them on their own Facebook pages.  Just tell your friends to friend my page if they want to see them.  No one ever got hurt friending TCG that I know of!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy them.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Jennifer Khwela is one of the gymnasts on the meet trail this month.

Sad because the big gymnastics event of the year is over?

Well, never fear, it's not over by a long shot!  You think it is all going to end with Worlds, but do not despair, there are actually quite a lot of good competitions coming up in the gym world.

For starters, we have the  DTB Pokal in Stuttgart from November 12-14, which is going to feature a number of good strong athletes.  There will be gymnasts from China, Ukraine, Russia, Australia, GBR, France, Romania and, of course, Germany.

To see the full list of participants, head HERE

Later in the month we have the Massilia Cup in France, which has featured good athletes in both junior and senior levels. Some of the young Aussies are in France training currently, including Georgia Rose Brown, Georgia Simpson and Natalia Joura, Dasha's little sis.

The Glasgow Grand Prix happens in a couple of weeks and always gets a good showing of athletes.  This competition runs from  the 18-21 of November.  Here we will see many of the same athletes from Stuttgart on the campaign trail, including Lauren Mitchell, many of the Brits from World Championships as well as two of what is now Russia's old guard, Ana Myzdrikova and Ekaterina Kurbatova.

For a full list of competitors, see HERE

Then we have the Japan Toyota Cup, which should be good, as there is often good prize money in Japanese competitions, attracting many nations.  I am fairly sure Jennifer Pinches of GBR told me that the Brits will be there.

Then, to take us into Christmas, we have the Mikhail Voronin Cup in Moscow, Russia.  This usually attracts nearby nations (something to do with the cold, perhaps?) but often uses some of the younger more inexperienced Russians. making it an exciting meet.  Last year both Komova and Grishina competed.

See?  Plenty to look forward to.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I like this funny little podium pic, via Spanish Blog Doble Plancha.  What's up girls?


Well, the fact that I have an answer to my question about whether there are any female elite MAG coaches out there already truly confirms Pierre Levy, the french cyber-theorist's predictions of how online communities create collective intelligences.  "No one knows everything," he said, "But everyone knows something.  All knowledge resides in humanity."

Basically, together, we know a lot!

Well, one such gymnastics fan knew about Michelle Bradley, the female coach of British gymnast, Kristian Thomas.  Kristian qualified 17th in the men's AA qualification in Rotterdam this year, but was knocked out by his team mates Daniel Purvis and Samuel Hunter.  He trains at Earl's gymnastics club in England.

In 2009, Thomas was interviewed by International Gymnast Online, where they asked him about this unusual coaching relationship;

IG: It seems normal for female gymnasts to have male coaches, but very unique for a male gymnast to have a female coach, as you do. What are the dynamics of your relationship?
KT: I feel that we have a very good and solid relationship in the gym and both know what aims we want, so we are able to push each other on and strive to bigger and better things. I am also trained by (three-time Worlds competitor) Ryan Bradley at Earls Gymnastics Club where I train most of the week, and also by Andrei Popov, who is the men's national coach, twice a week.

To read more of the interview, head over HERE 


Danusia does....

Total KUDOS POINTS if you can guess whose feet these are!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I was just having lunch with a friend and was telling him how among our news team for the World Championships there was a dearth of people who were expert, or even significantly conversant with MAG gymnastics.  That, of course, meant that a couple of people were left to bear the weight of the MAG side of reporting.
My friend noted that he assumed men do men's gymnastics, and women would do women's gymnastics and know the most about, and follow their respective side of the sport.  I assured him that this was not necessarily  the case, and that gymnastics was one of those rare, rare birds where the women's version is more popular than the men's.
It also, as we talked, raised another interesting question.  There are many, many world class WAG coaches that are male.  Think Valeri Liukin, Octavian Belu, Alexander Alexandrov, Mihai Brestyan.....
Are there any, not even world class, but elite female MAG coaches?  Methinks not.  But I do like to be surprised.


As I have said before, I like Hannah Whelan of Great Britain a lot.  I think she is the quiet achiever of the Brits.  Besides, one does have to pay kudos to a girl who came back from an interminable injury break to win the British Nationals.  That is impressive.

Her coach, Amanda Kirby treated her performances at worlds as one of her first major international.  Funny, since the girl had already been to an Olympics.  "She was so tiny then, though" Kirby said.  And it is true.
And Whelans' attitude about her performance is just right.  She was great in Rotterdam, but she can do better.

“The standard is very high. In the individual overall I finished sixteenth, but the difference between eighth place to 20th was only a few marks and I feel I can do better.

Read More http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/junior-sport/2010/11/02/hannah-whelan-enjoys-her-experience-at-the-world-gymnastics-championships-100252-27582671/#ixzz14AMtmTHh

Anyway, for a little bit of reminiscing, lets look at what that tiny little thing did when confronted with the massive stage that was Beijing. Sure, she stepped out, but this 'Romanian junior' routine was very impressive coming from such a young 'un.



Orchard with Hopfner-Hibbs

The Couch Gymnast was happy to find a news article this morning announcing the appointment of Carol-Angela Orchard to a specialist coaching job in England.
For those of you who aren't acquainted with her, she was a Canadian gymnastics coach, in fact she was the women's technical advisor for Canada. Orchard was responsible for many great gymnasts, including upstart Peng Peng Lee and Canada's first female World Championship medallist, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs.

After taking Hopfner-Hibbs to Beijing and preparing Lee for her senior career (cut short by injury), Orchard moved to England to be with her husband.  Now, as MoreThanTheGames reports, she has been given a grand new spanking job out of it, as beam specialist for the British team.

Orchard has been handed the role of women's national coach - beam and artistic preparation and joins the British team with 30 years of coaching experience, including four Olympic Games, 11 World Championships, four Pan-American Games and three Commonwealth Games.
Arguably the highlight of her coaching career, where she was until recently Canadian national technical advisor, was aiding Canadian gymnast Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs to her countries first ever World Championships medal - beam bronze in Aarhus in 2006.

This is certainly good news.  Orchard is clearly great at her job, and one of the things that stuck out in her well-known gymnasts was the originality of the move/combinations in their beam sets.  Hopfner-Hibbs was known for her illusion turn and for connecting a side aerial to a back step-out- a notoriously tricky combination, and Peng Peng Lee was known for executing flares, usually the province of men's floor and pommel as part of her mount sequence.

This is only going to make a markedly improved Great Britain team even better.  If their beam rotation during the team finals were anything to go by, they need help in this department.  Certainly, they were missing Danusia Francis, one of their stronger beam workers, but still.
Hannah Whelan has great potential on beam, and Nicole Hibbert needs work if she is going to be used there.  The Brits, although very talented, are not really known for the elegance required to become strong beam workers.  With her flair for originlaity, Orchard could certainly help give them an edge.  I am looking forward to seeing what she does with them.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Gymnastics Coaching has already directed readers to take a look at this article by Ollie Williams;

 'Understanding China's Powerhouse',

but I though I too would mention it in case you haven't yet looked.
Williams attempts an interpretation of China's behaviors and reactions to their mixed success in Rotterdam, largely through a lens of cultural determinism.  In doing so, Williams asks many in the British Gymnastics world of their opinion of the state of coaching and training in China.  It is an interesting read on many levels, particularly in terms of media and cultural representations of gymnastics on a cross-cultural level.

"I remember Sir Matthew Pinsent's report in 2005. He thought it bordered on cruelty but you walk into an alien culture, you look at what people are doing and you make a value judgement based on your own system.
"I believed at the time, and I still think it's true, that people react to flavour-of-the-month opinion. Every Olympic Games we come up with the same gems of gossip - Chinese children, Russian children, Romanian children being abused. We pick up where we left off every four years."

Of course, this kind of cultural reading is unavoidable, and not wrong in any way.  But, as you will see from reader reactions to discussions about gymnastics cultures and of William's discussion of them, individual interpretation differs widely, causing avid and insightful debate.

The article certainly raises more questions than answers about the authors intentions, of what exactly he is trying to convey.  What is more interesting, perhaps, is the violent reactions of many readers, opening up some hefty debate in the comments section on the profitability and potential harm of these kinds of articles.

I was rather surprised by the vehemently indignant response, as I thought the author had tried to cover all bases of opinion, but there were some, especially one, who took quite violent umbrage to the tone of the article.

So, if you read this article, and it is well worth reading, be sure to read the comments too.  Between the two, we get quite a dramatic picture of the kinds of contestation occurring over meanings to do with gymnastics and culture.

On another note, I find it fascinating that one commenter refuted the article, saying;

1. there are significant socio-cultural and socio-economic issues to be addressed which cannot and should not be addressed in a blog...they are far too complex.
Certainly, this is a difficult and complex subject, introducing larger scale global and cultural issues than we are used to seeing in discussions of gymnastics.

But if we want to consider these issues in terms of our sport, gymnastics, then where else would we go?  I haven't seen such informed, interesting and culturally weighted debate occurring about gymnastics anywhere, least of all in mainstream media or the academy, so I say it has every place in a blog if it means it is going to happen at all.