Sunday, January 31, 2010

ANOTHER WOOT FOR UCLA!



The Bruins whipped some Arizona State butt last night which is happy-making, but what is even greater is that they did it with a season-high score.  This means not only is Miss Val honing in on the right line up for meets early in the season, but that the Bruins are steadily improving along with everyone else.  It was still only in the 196s, and they are not going to overtake Bama again.  But still, they are contenders and might well crawl back up a few places!!!  It would have placed them in second spot last week, so that is good news.

On the individual front, people did very well.  There were nine scores of 9.9 or better.

Zam produced a new vault.

Tauny hit a 9.9. (that girls is awesome- I am so glad she is competition form.  Miss Val used to always go on about how great she is, how good it would be when she was back, and I was like who?  Now I know.  She's great.)

Anna Li rocked bars with a 9.925.  Amazing!

They had to count a fall on beam.  Beam is getting a bit shaky for them of late.  They really need to address that.  More dawgy-style repetitions, perhaps?  Stalwarts EHopH did good with a 9.9 and Zam with a 9.85 wasn't far behind her.

Floor was the winner, with Anna Li finally doing that choreography justice (not that she has done half badly lately by any means!!!) with a 9.9.  Lichelle Wong, whose gymnastics is so very pretty, scored a 9.9.  And once again, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs proved that she has become the Bruins most consistently successful floor worker (same could not be said last year) with a 9.925.  Pretty amazing consistency considering the power of her front tumbling.

All in all, things are looking gooooood for the Bruins.  I know last weeks two meets were all about Miss Val messing with the line ups to see what fit, but it was still making me nervous! Next week they take on Arizona U.



*****

Saturday, January 30, 2010

ANOTHER COMEBACK KID!

Chelsea Davis just tweeted that she finished her first meet in a year-and-a-half.  It "was such a rush" she tweeted, "it can only go up from here!"  I have no idea how performed at the meet.  There are no scores yet, but I know she was competing bars and beam and possibly floor.
I'm really happy to hear that Chelsea is back in competition form.  She told Anne at Gymnastike that she would be back to the all around sometime this year.  It must be incredibly hard to find skills again after eighteen months away.  It is a testament to the value of a solid and deep bond between coach and athlete that Chelsea remains in intense and focussed and is clearly rapt to be back in a sport she clearly loves.



I still kinda wished UCLA had nabbed her, but she'll fit with the gym dawgs, and it looks like they are going to need her.

It will be interesting to see if Chelsea can make any kind of run at international meets.  She still has a year ahead of her before college.  It sure would be nice to see this frank, funny and talented gymnast out there on the mats again. Let's hope Marta agrees.



*****

Friday, January 29, 2010

KIM ZMESKAL'S GENES....

If anything, cuteness definitely runs in this family!  So cute and so, so funny.


Gymnastics Videos on Gymnastike
OR HERE

Thursday, January 28, 2010

OLD DOGS- NEW TRICKS!



Quite often, on gymnastics teams these days there is an older gymnast.  One who has somehow cheated the youth-dominated sport of gymnastics and is as fit and strong, or simply just mature and uninjured enough to continue in the sport long past when others her age leave it behind.  In recent years we have seen many such gymnasts who have defied the norm of gymnastics being a 'little girl's' sport and continued through their late teens and into their twenties. 



Here, I am thinking of gymnasts like Isabelle Severino, Beth Tweddle, Cheng Fei, Svetlana Khorkina, Alica Sacramone, Mohini Bhardwaj and of course, the brave Yelena Zamolodchikova, who kept competing simply because her country needed her.  She told reporters she would stop when the struggling Russian system stopped needing her.  Others simply missed the sport, like Severino and Bhardwaj, who felt herself still longing to compete after an elite and a college career were done.  Some didn't stop experiencing success like Tweddle, Chusovitina and Khorkina.  Some felt a sense of duty to their team like Zamo, and, of course Cheng Fei.

It wasn't quite as common to see the older gymnasts in the old days, past 1976, when the Soviets and Romanians dominated the sports and seemed to have a never-ending trail of young talents to replace girls as they aged (as in turned 15!) and left the sport.  There was such depth that it was never necassary and quite rare to see a gymnast who could maintain a level of excellence to match those younger, lither and without the injuries that come with longevity in such a sport.

One of the first girls I can think of who flouted the age conventions was the indomitable Svetlana Boginskaya.  The 'Belorussian Swan' had a heck of a career, winning many world and Olympic medals over a lengthy period.  While she now lives and coaches in the United States, her future was not always so certain.

Boginskaya competed and earned medals in three Olympics and endured as the Soviet Union fell, and training was thrown into chaos as they formed the unified team.  According to Sveta, this did not affect her drive to win.

"Before the Seoul Olympics, we were told to protect the honour of the motherland, that you perform not for yourself, but you display the image of the Soviet Union and socialism.  Now they don't say things like this, but we know ourselves what we want."

And so she continued.  There are a few reasons why Boginskaya was so successful for so long.  Though as she aged, many gymnasts came along who were doing far more difficult things, it was hard to find someone who executed so consistently perfectly, who was so popular and famous (for the judges too), who was creative and exquisite in everything she did and who oozed pure, steely determination to win.

One thing I have wondered, is how tough it is to be the 'old lady' of a team.  Certainly there are gymnasts who seem to thrive in the team leader role, like Sacramone and Cheng Fei, but that can't always mean it is easy on them.  If you are older and more mature, yet a lot younger than your coaches, it must be difficult to find someone to relate your own difficulties too.




Sometimes the exchange can be rewarding too, as Isabelle Severino discovered when she returned after a long injury to train for Beijing to find most of the team has changed.  Though she had been accustomed to working for and with people older than her, she found she learned a lot from them.

Okasana Chusovitina claimed she was happy to join the far, far younger German gymnastics team because she was tired of 'fighting alone' as a competitior for Uzbekistan, who were yet to develop their own gymnastics talent at the time.




Alica Sacramone claimed one of her Beijing goals was not just to make the team, but to be team captain and lead them to medals.  This has always been an important part of her career.  (Also, does anyone remember seeing the Youtube video, with the cute little exchange between SJ and Asac where SJ was joking, and saying "come on, I vote for you in that 'little thing' (which I take to mean team captain vote) it was cute and funny and i have never found it again.)  Her famous talking-to, of the US girls at Worlds, is seen as inspirational by many.


Boginskaya, though she seemed to take on the leadership role (who can forget her comforting Gutsu, who thought she'd been left out of the AA finals?), she also seemed to struggle somewhat as the eldest gymnast.  She told journalists once that while she was friends with her female team mates that she couldn't "be frank with them".  It was easier for her to talk to the male gymnasts of the squad.  She also claimed to miss the older gymnasts who were once in her team, but who left after the Soviet Union fell, and are now focussed on marriage and children, who wrote her letters, telling her it was time to leave gymnastics.

And gymnastics became less fun too, as she stopped learning as many new tricks.  Training became about repetition, and trying to maintain consistency on elements that used to come so easily too her.  "Now it's more routine work for me" she told reporters, "it's repetition and repetition, which of course, is less interesting."




Of course, other factors must have affected her.  Particularly the looming decision of what she could do with her life when she left the sport, and the training center she claimed to have lived most of her life inside.  Khorkina, the girl who had been too shy to enter the Round Lake training center because her idol, Boginskaya was in there, knew when it was time to finish.  "I think it is high time I stopped" she told reporters.  "As any other woman does, I'd like to have a family.  I'd like to have kids.  "I'd like to be loved."

Boginskaya certainly didn't feel the same sense of self-assuredness as Khorkina, who'd already found a degree of financial success, and competed most of her career in a somewhat more stable political, economical and personal environment.
 "I just don't know what will happen," the Belorussian Swan said about her future.  "so far, I only know gymnastics."



*****

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PROSPORT GOES TABLOID!!



(pic from prosport )


A recent interview in the Romanian news source Prosport, tried to make out by its headline that Nicolae Forminte wants to leave Deva.  Methinks they were going a little hyperbole on us.  From what I can glean from the very rough translation (Bea!? Bea!? Help!) is that Forminte would consider leaving Deva if the financial situation that makes it so difficult for Deva to produce gymnasts, for Romanians to live well, and to sponsor sport also began to affect his family.  then he'd think of leaving.  It is not, however, a decision he would arrive at easily.

Aside from the somewhat empty threats posed by the headlines, Forminte gave some insight into what is in store for Romania this year.

-The team objectives are to win one or two medals at Worlds and Euros and for the girls to perform with confidence.

-Dragoi, Tamirjan and Izbasa's recoveries are going satisfactorily, but their returns are not imminent.  Dragoi and Tamirjan are recovering slowly.  Izbasa has physically returned, but Forminte claims it remains to be seen wether she can conquer the mental effort to return to performing difficult tricks.

-The euros team will be entirely new, except Porgras and Chelaru.  As well as the juniors coming up, Forminte has not excluded Ceresela Patrascu from consideration if she loses a little weight.  He is hoping for six healthy girls to make up the team.

-When asked if Porgras is seen differently because of her world medal, he says no, and that Ana still has work in front of her and high expectations from the gymworld.  At the same time, he doesn't want to put too much pressure on her himself.

-They will be focussing on getting gymnasts who are best at each event, as their is no AA contest.


*****

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

HOW I LOVE MY READERS....




Thanks to everyone who emailed me their answers to the question "if you could change anything about elite gymnastics, what would it be?  I got many, many great responses.  You will see the fruits of your labors in a week or so. 
Sadly, I will not be using any more responses as the project is complete, but feel free to write me anyway and tell me what you think...


*****

Polina Astakhova - wise words

Polina Astakhova, winner of ten Olympic medals was known as 'the Russian birch' for her exceptional grace in gymnastics. 
Here, she provides possibly the best description of how a floor routine should make one feel that I have ever read. In the last five years I have probably only felt this sentiment about five times;


"In many routines, I miss more elegance, beauty in movement.  I believe that a well-performed routine should be done in total harmony and beauty and should impact the spectator as would a song, which the spectator would want to listen to again and again"

Or HERE

Polina Astakhova 1936-2005



*****



Thursday, January 21, 2010

A READER HAS A QUESTION.....

So, a reader contacted me the other day with a question that I could not answer.  Svetlana Khorkina, during the Athens AA final, wore a lovely black bedazzled number, but then turned up at the medal ceremony in a sleeveless (and might I say unfortunately plastic-looking) blue number?


From this...





To this...




I did read that she did it the moment her floor ex was finished.  She didn't even wait for Patterson to finish.  She came out in blue leo with a Russian flag. She also told journos that regardless "I an still Olympic Champion."  Maybe she was totally expecting to win.  But still.... a costume change?

What gives?What was that about?  Any ideas?


*****

A SPOT OF BOTHER!




Really, what next, Romania!  Prosport reports that not that long after the whole swine flu scare at Deva, now poor little Miss Amelia Racea has gotten herself a case of the measles.  Racea has been quarantined and not allowed to do much of anything.  The incubation period must be served, with Racea in quarantine, and the team doctor says it remains to be seen if any other girl has contracted it.

What with old Romania injury-palooza, they have already been dropping like flies.  Now another infectious disease scare?  Maybe some of the disgruntled Romanian girls from the Belu/Bitang era put a hex on the place before they were shipped out for being 'fat or 'lazy'  Hell.  Maybe it was Bitang herself.  I can totally see her in a cape, hanging over a cauldron....



******

I HAVE A QUESTION...





Okay, so I am wondering if any of you want to take part in a little Couch Gymnast side project  I am working on.  If you do, I need you to consider the question;

If you could change one thing about elite gymnastics, what would it be?

For this project I need you to email me on listaday@gmail.com with your answer. DO NOT LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENTS.  And also to be willing to be have your answer seen by others later, when it is all put together.

I want you opinion.  It can be as short or long as you like.  It can be one word or one hundred (though some may be edited for length and you have to be okay with that too) serious or as lighthearted as you like, or as in-depth or shallow as you like.

So, if you want to have your two cents worth, just email your answer in the next week.  I am looking forward to hearing what y'all have to say!

Once again, do not leave it as a comment.

Thanks!  Hope to hear from you.......


*****

THIS IS ABOUT GYMNASTICS, I SWEAR!!




Hey there guys, sorry if i have been a little incommunicado since my japan floor work spazz-out, but some of you may remember what happens in January , when I cheat on my beloved gymnastics with my second favorite sport, tennis.
Yep, it's Australian Open time and this year, this couch gymnast has turned active tennis fan and has ground passes for the whole shebang.  And boy she is using them (when she really ought to be writing her Phd (but the thesis is on sport so I count it as 'research')) with reckless abandon!




Anyway, yesterday I caught the end of Zheng Jie, a popular and talented Chinese player, trying to close out a game against the very tall and tough spaniard Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez.  Martinez was the favorite, but Zheng was whipping some butt and was about to win when I mosied on over. It was so frustrating to watch her- she'd get to match point (the last play to win)  and choke, giving another chance to Martinez to overtake her.  This happened about five or six times before Zheng was able to finally finish the deed.  It was frustrating because she was clearly outplaying the higher ranked player, but was just getting nervous.  I mean, I don't know that much about Zheng, and perhaps this was a one-off thing, but it did get me to thinking.

Anyway. (I told you this would get to gymnastics!) as I always compare any sport i love to gymnastics, it got me thinking about the frustration I always felt for the Chinese girls teams.  I think many would admit that in so many way, the Chinese have been outclassing other nations in terms of depth, innovation, elegance and difficulty.  So why did it take them so dang long to win a team gold?!!

I have always wondered if it is a general mental weakness, an inability to close, a 'choke' if you will, when it actually comes down to the wire. But why?

The other thing I always considered was the culture shock factor.  China is a very different place from most of the places they would go compete (let me clarify, I am talking about the gymnasts here- not Zheng.  I think the WTA tour gives one many opportunities to get used to the world!).

But the young gymnasts might have a different experience travelling. It is not, for example, as different for an Aussie going to Germany or London.  China is still communist, the language is different, the system is different, the food is different.  Not tomention the fact that the girls all live together, and rarely see family or outsiders.  Trips for competitions must be very eye opening indeed and affects overall performance.
Maybe that is why it was so easy for them to perform in Beijing (except Fei, who I belive was succumbing to a different kind of 'leadership' pressure).

But if it is not that, what is it?

What do you guys think?



******

Sunday, January 17, 2010

HOLY CRAPTASTIC FLOOR, BATMAN!!




Until now I had never thought floor routines were going to ever get any worse than they were back in those heady days when Martha Karolyi used to sit around in the lounge room in back of Deva, have a whiff on her crack pipe, watch the crazed black fairies perform floor routines on the back of her eyelids and store them in her addled brain to use for actual Romanian floor choreography, but they did.

We never learn.  Just as everyone was watching the USSR 'flourish' under communism while the poor Ukrainians were starved by Stalin, we all watched Romania continue to win medals (despite the shitawful choreography) while we ignored their poor, inferior sisters in the choreographic shanty towns of the far east.  And no, I am not even talking about those unfortunate floor routines China used to produce before they managed to beg (or pay enough) for Adela Pop to take pity on them.

I am talking about Japan.

You know I have been talking about Japan's imminent rise as a nation a lot.  They are blessed with a beautiful gymnastics body type and an elegance of carriage that lends itself to artistry.  Their work is getting more difficult. And their floor routines are not bad.  And for this we should be very grateful because sometime, somewhere along the line, someone clearly staged an intervention.

Welcome to the craptastics days of yore.  Marta Karolyi would have been so proud if she could have just woken from her nod on the sofa to witness what the black fairies were achieving in the orient....

It started in the 1970s.....with this piece of Japanese finery.....
 (35-40 secs is my personal highlight)


or HERE



But this badness went on for years and years...

Now, Mari Kosuge was a fine little gymnast, one of their best, but this is an unholy atrocity. 

My friend once had an 80s exercise video she cherished (more for its hilarious cheese factor than any health benefits it might have to offer) called Freedance. The concept behind this aerobic workout- the only concept that in anyway separated it from any other 80s exercise video that did not have an ex-porn or soap star's name to it- was that at the end of the workout the people working out got to get all loosey-goosey and 'freedance' for a while, making up the moves themselves.
I get the feeling that Kosuge's entire routine was based on the 'freedance' concept.


Or HERE

My favorite bit is 1.30-1.35- freaking hilarious!
My second favorite bit is where she slaps the floor after her first pass as though it is the floor's fault and not the fault of her overly exuberant tumbling that she stepped out!

In this next one we see one potential source of some of Japan's problems. The FIG forgot to tell Japan that floor music was to go with the floor routine (or something was lost in the newsletter translation). The bits where the dance did go with the music were just sheer luck as far as I am concerned. You put a Celine Dion album on over a football game (though I sincerely hope you have better things to do with your time. I clearly do not because i have wasted an entire morning watching these floor routines) and eventually someone is going to do something in time to her warbling.


or HERE

Okay, so part of this was not Makiko's fault. I mean, is that really her music, or was everyone so entranced by the hideousity of it all they neglected to notice the record was skipping?

But this my friends, is my absolute personal favorite, the piece de' resistance. If for anything in particular, other than the fact it is seems to be the product of some unholy unions where Utah chorey begat Romanian junior chorey begat Geza Poszar on LSD, it is for that amazing synchronised head and tummy slap at 40 seconds followed by the porny pony ride on her knees. Sheer freaking poetry.


Or HERE

and I wonder...is this the same Miho Shinoda? Because if so, she seems to have crafted a career out of making a dip out of herself!


or HERE


Kinda elevates Koko Tsurumi's slightly awkward slash dull floor choreography to the level of Soviet artistry now, doesn't it?

Anyway, I think we should all take a moment, think upon this and sincerely pray that Japan never, EVER, retreats back into those dark days again. If it does, we'll all take up a coin collection and send Miss Val over there. Hell, we could have even sent 1981 Marta and things would have improved.





*****

Saturday, January 16, 2010

reaction time.....

The ever-inspiring IG forum crew have started a new thread, listing their favorite reaction moments in the sport.  While I remembered some of them, there were so many I love that weren't there.

Of course, there was plenty of mention of Khorkina's various reactions to winning and losing over the years, but no mention of one of my favorite silly Sveta moments, when she watched her coiutnrywomen perform on vault in 2000.  HILARIOUS!


Or HERE

This is another fave of mine. So cute to see Sandra happy she knoocked one out for the team. They were inching closer to their surprise broze right here. That is one happy little fist pump!


Or HERE

One I can't find is from the Sydney Olympics where Andrea Raducan pulls that hilarious face when a girl crashes on the (too low) vault warm up. That made me laugh.

I love this one too. The sounds of the Frenchies going insane when Duforunet's score lifts them to the silver spot. Awesome.


Or HERE

I loved Peggy Liddick grabbing Lauren Mitchell's hand after her EF beam routine to show her just how fast her heart had been beating during the routine.

Svetlana Boginskaya hugging and comforting Tatiana Gutsu when she didn't make AA finals.

Suzanna Yoculan's running tackle on Courtney McC when she returned and served on beam against Florida. Very Funny!


Or HERE

Mohini Bhardwaj after she competed that unexpected beam routine in 2004.

Nastia Liukin's reaction to winning the Beijing AA really moved me. I remember being surprised because I had never really cared which one of them won, but when I saw how she reacted, all the pain of that long injury and rough year or two came back to me and I was nearly in tears with her.

Lavinia Milosovici's face after her perfect ten on floor in 1992.

Courtney Kupets calm, but destroyed shaking of her her head at her coach, when she knew she'd screwed her achilles again in college. Devastating.

Yelena Produnova when she landed her double front on vault. Yipee!

Okay, enough for now. I got to get to bed! Anyways, check out the IG forum for their choices.



*****

AND NOW, MY SECOND FAVORITE TEAM......

Happy news down south is that Florida made up for last weeks shaky start with a win against Arkansas.  There were no falls this time and Rhonda Faehn is happier.

Ashanee Dickson seems to be rockin' it for the Gators with her 2nd all-around win and 9.9 on floor.  The girl is a wonder. She told the Gator paper; "It's amazing. I've been coming here since I was eight years old to watch the Gators, and just to be out on the floor in a Gator leotard was a dream come true."

And of course it  was good news for me to hear one of my favorite British gymnasts was flying the coop to join the Florida Gators this year.  No one ever properly confirmed that rumour for me, but here she is, in black and blue. I was excited i would get to see some more of King's great vaulting, solid tumbling and difficult beam.  It looks like she is having a great time over there.


or HERE

King told the apper she was loving the experience and that the crowd was "phenomenal" and that she was still adapting to college gymnastics.
Her beam is quite difficult, with some more interesting skills than usual.  It's funny, she seems to land the big things and then wobble on the 'fluffing elements' Weird.


Or HERE

And her double arabian on floor is beautiful, with not a sign of cowboying.  That makes me happy.




*****

Friday, January 15, 2010

GO GO BRUINS!!!




The Bruins posted another win - against Washingtom this time.  The meet score was a 196.125 which is pretty great considering Miss Val was messing with the line-up to give everyone a go and see who fits best where.
UCLA's score was only just under Bama's score of 196.225, which is great considering they had to absorb a fall on beam (Tom and Frattone).

The Bruins proved their vault line-up is bangin' as they scored the same as last week with a 49.275 and Zam and Frattone as stars.

Ana Li tied for first in AA, and was first in bars and beam too.

Hopfner-hibbs got a 9.9 on floor, proving this routine is a home run for UCLA.

Anna and Elyse also scored really well on beam,  9.925 and 9.875 respectively- making sure the Bruins kept their score up despite having to count a fall.

Next week they play California, and then, as Miss Val put it- its back to the big gun team to play Stanford on the 24th!


YAY!!

******

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BACK IN THE DAY- SOVIET BUBS.




Maria Filatova, one of the most brilliant baby gymnasts to ever come out of the U.S.S.R. ripened into one of their greatest, attending two Olympic Games in her time.  Apparently, when she trained as a reserve during podium training in Montreal, she caused such a stir with fans she ended up being placed in the line-up.

  I turns out she wasn't the easiest child to coach, but her talent made it worth it.  Her coach once told the Moscow News:

"I like Maria's character. She's brave and a gambler. She loves games and rivalry gets her going. I remember when she used to bring dolls to coaching sessions and played with them in the breaks. When she is training she always tries to find someone to compete with her in doing an exercise, 'betting' who'll do it better. But she's a tough kid to work with because she enjoys an argument.




At school she's a good student -- things come easily. In gymnastics she also can do just about everything. She trained harder than anyone else and it was tough to get her out of the gym. I had to hurry her because I knew there were other promising up-and-comers in other cities, and I really wanted Maria to make the Olympic squad. Her tournament performances were somewhat unstable because nerves often got the better of her. But in the Olympic season she managed to find a place among the leaders."




Filatova, who won two Olympic team golds and a bronze (on bars) as well as the second-highest amount of World Cup medals won by any gymnasts (after Shannon Miller) in her career.  She, in 1975, was one of the first gymnasts to compete a double back on floor.After leaving the sport, she coached in Belarus, Ireland and finally in the U.S.A  She opened her own gymnastics club, Zenith gymnastics in Rochester, NY.
 
****

GERMANY JUNIOR TALENT....




Desiree Baumert has a gorgeous illusion turn on floor, excellent split positions, an affinity for balance beam and a recognisable all-around talent.  This explains why Baumert has been considered one of Germany's best juniors on the rise for the last couple of years. Her beam set includes side somi, free aerial, flic – layout, wolf jump, switch leap, turn, front tuck, sheep jump, front 1 ½.

Baumert, who turns fifteen next month, showed herself to be a steady all-arounder last year, coming in 8th at the extremely competitive Japan Junior International contest, 12th at EYOF with a berth to beam finals and 11th in the Germany vs USA meet in Germany where she competed among gymnasts very much her senior.


Or HERE

Desiree was named to the German youth squad in 2007 and began attending the Otto-hahn school in Karlsruhe, which is a sister school of the Olympic base where the gymnasts train.  The days are long for Desiree who often leaves the house at 6am and returns by train by 8pm. 

Called "An exceptional talent" by coach, Ulla Koch, Desiree was named to the Olympic squad in January of last year.  According to her mother, Monika Baumert, the entire family rejoiced when they heard the news.  Both Desiree and her family, very much have their sights set on the young gymnasts being part of Germany's Olympic squad in 2012.
She is definitely a gymnast to watch this coming year.


*****




THE DUTCH KNOW HOW TO DO IT....




So, for those of you crazily anticipating next years World Championships, which will be held in Rotterdam in October, the website is well and truly up.  It is an attractive site and there is an ongoing competition where each month you can win a World Championshsip t shirt or scarf if you answer some relatively simple questions correctly. (This link is to the translated version of the site- into English.  It is, as with many translations, highly iffy at times, including callling the all-around "the heptathlon"!)

You can also have a look at the arrangement of the competition.  The good news is that this competition runs for a week.  Qualifications will be spread over four days, rather than two.  This is kind of a relief considering in London, the twelve hour qualification stint was quite a long, although fun, day.

The other good news is that unlike London, the Rotterdam hosts are allowing audiencesinto the podium training for 10 euro per day!  This, my friends, is great news as it was sad not to be able to go and check out how everyone was preparing at the 02.  The competition will have alloted seating just like Worlds (though I must admit I rarely, if ever, sat in the seat alloted me!) except on podium training day when spectators are free to sit wherever they like.



The Sportpaleis, where the championshsips will be held will hold just over eight thousand people.  Rotterdam is a huge sporting city and so the venue has been recently renovated and modernised, making it a great venue for a highly technical sport like gymnastics.

The site is also calling for volunteers, so if any of you folk are from the Netherlands, check it out....

*****

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THE TIDE- PLANNING THEIR GEORGIA TAKE OVER...




(Kayla Hoffman- back in the game)

In an effort to swell pride in the potential of this years Tide- the Alabama gymnastics team writer Jason Galloway, writing for The Crimson White cast some pretty heavy predictions for Alabama's potential for success in 2010.  This argument included allusions to the imperative parts Tolnay, Kupets and Yoculan played in the Gym Dogs success last year, reminding readers that Georgia lost nine routines from its regular 24.  He also reminded us that Shayla Worley is still battling injuries and had three scores that were below 9.5.

Galloway predicts that if any year is the year, particularly considering their defeat of Georgia at the SECs, right in the prime of the Dawgy year, this is the one Bama should seize hold of.


(Tolnay and Yoculan- expensive losses to Georgia)

His argument is based on the fact that by the second half of the season, The Tide had it's injured gymnasts, KassiPrice and Kayla Hoffman, back in the game, Bama was in its prime. He believes that the only reason they couldn't defeat Georgia is because they could not get past a gymnast like Kupets.

But now she is gone.....

Alabama has only lost one routine from last year's lineup compared to Georgias 9.  So, if Jason's arguments are true, Bama could be a serious contender this year.

But don't worry guys, this fellow is a realist, as he also ensures us that "I understand Georgia can reload unlike any other team in the country." 
He also claims that Georgia's ranking in the pre-season was more to do with ranking than facts.

It is hard to say if Galloways claims will be at all prescient, but I think he is right about one thing, the lead up to finals, and possibly the outcome are going to be a hell of a lot more interesting this year.  I, for one, would really love to see the Dawgies (and all the other teams) have to fight like hell for a championshsip, to a point where it is anyones guess who will win. 

That's my little NCAA dream anyway!


*****

ROMANIA- ALREADY THINKING OF THE EUROS....

Why?  You ask. Because they have to. 




(pic from prosport)

It has been no easy task for Team Romania  to assemble a group of age-elegible, able-bodied girls into a team for any senior competition over the last few years (which explains why poor old Steliana Nistor, who was practically one bandage short of a body cast, was over-used in so many competitions when she clearly needed to rest).  The team selected to Worlds last year showed how dire things were.  When a gymnast was terribly injured (Izbasa) the most fitting replacement was a gymnast somewhat less injured (Dragoi). 

And while we look forward to the juniors inching up the ranks, many of them are not yet elegible to compete in next years round of competitions.

That is why  the latest news from the Deva camp is gonna make things even tougher for Forminte and co to put together a strong Euros team.  It has been confirmed that neither Anamaria Tamirjan nor Gabriela Dragoi will likely be able to contend for the Euros team.  According to Prosport, Dragoi has a projected two months, and Tamirjan a six week recovery period to get through before they can even begin training again. Forminte told Prosport that while the girls weren't looking like they'd be ready for Euros, he hoped they would be alright for Worlds.

Both girls are with the rest of the team at their special winter camp, and Tamirjan is taking part in a special training program to take care of her body as she recovers from her operations.

It will be interesting to see who gets to go to Euros with two of the old hand out of the picture.  Sandra Izbasa may or may not be ready either. 
I wish Dragoi and Tamirjan speedy recoveries.


*****

Monday, January 11, 2010

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS...





Cata Ponor has returned home for a holiday, and is hanging out with her parents.  She told journalists that everyone at her gym in New York State where she works for Teadora Ungureanu calls her Cat because they can't say her name properly (sheesh, it's not that hard!!- but then we have all been pronouncing Comaneci wrong for years).  She has been getting her fill of Romanian food eating at Ungureanu's home.

Cata already has her sights set on producing a Olympic champion, telling Prosport that there are talented young ones at Ungureanu's gym.  She plans on staying in the states as the pay is around eight times what a coach makes in Romania, but is using the money saved to buy a mobile (i think- wiggy translation) home in Constanta.

She says she has had no time for a relationship while in the US, and prefers to concentrate on coaching for the time.  "I care at the moment just about work."  She told them.

It is hard for me to belive Cata Ponor is only 22 years old.  Those years seem so long ago, but her reign was only six years.  I was never a huge fan of Cata's gymnastics, but at the same time, I admired her incredible beam set and the way she could sometimes perform it with rock solid intensity.  Her floor routine always left me cold- but it was more about the choreography than her performances.

There is no doubt in my mind, however, that she was an incredibly talented gymnast.  Considering she was barely even trained in Deva- instead discovered very late in her home gym in Constanta, it is a miracle she became the star she did.  It will be interesting to see how much of her uncanny beam ability she can translate into actual directions she can pass onto her students.  If she does have that talent, she is sure to produce some wonderful beam workers.


*****




*****

Sunday, January 10, 2010

WHY I WON'T GET TOO EXCITED..

I grew up supporting a football team, like nearly every Aussie kid did.  It is just part of life.  I, because of my mother supported a team who spent the first years of my footy fan life at the bottom of the ladder.  But, as I got older they moved up and down that ladder, even making it to a Grand Final, though losing it in the last quarter.

Since I have grown up, left football behind me to the point where i can probably only name two players... in the entire league (and mostly because they have been in the media drunken public carousing- or worse)my old team have slowly climbed to nearly routinely be near the top.  They have another Grand Final, which they lost by mere points..  But my time as a fan of a hot-and cold team taught me one thing.  To be cautious.

And while I am as excited and pleased as I could be for UCLA'a awesome victory and steady performance on the weekend, I will not, in any way, place expectations on one single meet.   That, in my books, would be foolish.  That would be like saying that Georgia is on a downward spiral simply because they started the season with a score in the 195's in one meet right at the start of the season. 

Who is to say that Utah and Georgia aren't ironing out the kinks?  Who is to say first-meet excitement of a very young team brought out a storm of enthusiasm that may not hold for UCLA?  Who is to say things won't change dramatically.

Don't get me wrong kids, I am a'hoping and a'praying that the Bruins rub all y'all noses in the dirt this year and take championships, but I am also realistic.  You cannot base too much expectation of what will come from the first meet in the season any more than you can forecast a promising US or Russian junior will take a World crown by the time they turn sixteen.

I am playing cautious this year.  Excited, yes, but cautious too.  Cautiously excited.

Anyway, one thing both my footy years, and certainly my gymnastics years have taught me, is don't get hyperbolic to quickly, because it is only the beginning......

Saturday, January 9, 2010

YEE-HAH!!

The Bruins took Utah DOWN and Hoppy looks HAPPY about it!!



Why? Probably because my favorite Bruin won the all-around.  Yay!

What else do I know?

Anna Li is back in AA land too and she came second  It doesn't get much better than this.

well maybe it does.
ZamBam DID NOT PERFORM her new layout Podkapayeva vault (i always get a little lost when I am trying to type Podkapayeva- too many letters too far away from each other!) She did a yurchenk and got a 9.925.

Tauny Frattone rocked a 9.9 on vault.

On floor they got 49.25 combined.  Wong got a 9.75 on her first floor.

ZamBam did a double layout. So did Anna Li.

McCullough got her first and highest 9.9.

Little Miss Hoppy kicked it with a 9.925 on her new floor ex.

YAY!!!!!!

U-C-L-A!

I cannot freaking wait to see vids.

That's all.

*****

'TIS THE SEASON TO BE FLUFFY!

Yes, as we all know, even those gym fans in the outer reaches of Kazakhstan, it's college gymnastics time. Some of you might remember that last year was my first year of really getting to know the collegiate sport well, and that i was a little bemused by terms like All-American and walk-on, by the scoring, by the regions and conference and and pacs and sec's of it all.  And of course, by the hair!




Nowadays I am an old hand, though it is quite frustrating to have to wait til a generous youtuber puts up routines to actually watch meets.  Still, it doesn't stop me loving the fluffy frou-haha which is college gymnastics when I do get to see it!

Why do I love it?

I love it first and foremost because it is good gymnastics.  While not as spectacularly difficult as elite international gymnastics, there are still terrific skills, dynamic routines being constructed and no gymnast or team is going to have much success without doing it well- and doing it well consistently!




I love it because it is healthy.  Restricted training hours mean that gymnasts can't quite get as beat-up as they do in elite gymnastics and team depth means that if a gymnast really can't compete, there are are other team members to lean on.  I mean, it is crazy how many college gymnasts have competed successfully with bits of metal rod instead of bones on some places (UCLA in particular seem to love these girls), and still win titles and carry out four-year careers.  It is a nice feeling to watch gymnasts at work and not fear they are risking their health and their careers.




I love it because it is a team sport.  Though I love the fierce individuality and intense psychology behind the individual performances in most elite competitions, it is really fun to watch gymnasts operate as a team.  Individual sports offer less opportunity for humour, drama and camaraderie that comes with a team trying to work together.  It changes the nature of the pressure an athlete feels when competing and a bad performance is not the be-all and end-all of a gymnasts meet.  I love that the gymnasts are made to be as supportive of each other as they can during a meet.




I love it because it has become a sort of encore performance for many elite gymnasts.  Girls who were too injured, old or unable to compete at escalating levels of difficulty, girls who may have disappeared from the scene altogether have an opportunity to keep competing in a more fun, and relaxed environment.  Without NCAA we may not have gotten to keep enjoying gymnasts like Kupets, McCool, Humphrey, Schikwert, Ray and Maloney and many, many more.




I love it because it is so performative in ways.  Because there is less need to pack in as many hard skills as one can possibly fit, there is room for artistry, innovation, personality and moves that are there because they are amazing and not just because they score well.  I am thinking of the fabulous artistry of UCLA floor routines, the stunning flexibility moves of Hartung on beam, the flat-out comedy of Abby Stacks senior floor exercise,  the design of Hollie Vise's new floor routine.  Floor routines are tailored to personalities, rather than to a fixed idea of what a floor routine should be.  Gymnasts have room to perform and let there personalities into their routines.




And, of course, I love it because it is sheer good fun.  Only in college gymnastics do you get to laugh at a floor routine, giggle as a coach swoops in and hugs a gymnast the second she salutes the judges, see a freshman positively radiant at their first good meet, have audiences doing the gator 'chop' along with the gymnast, see more group hugs than you've ever had in your life, watch the Dawgies have a pre-meet dance off or laugh at videos of the Utes on camp, or just and see gymnasts enjoy doing their sport.

Good Luck all!!


(But go UCLA!!!!)




*****

Friday, January 8, 2010

TCG AWARDS 2009- PART 14

FAVORITE COLLEGE FLOOR


AND THE WINNER IS...




This award goes to none other than Brittani Mcullough for the most wildly original and oddly effective routine last year.  Born of a collaborative brainstorm between Miss Val and Brittani herself, they employed the kinds of dance moves Brit had been doing at church for years, added a 'catwalk' moment, some great music and made something really really special.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Grace Taylor is another gymnast who blends wonderful talent and dance training with a genius for performance.  Her floor last year had just the right combination of elegance, skill and just a little bit of sauce.  It didn't hurt that she nearly always performed it brilliantly too.

Trisha Woo of Nebraska performed a cheeky, original and fun routine for the cornhuskers last year.  It was a fan favorite. and one of mine too.

Corey Hartung's beautiful Blues for Kook routines was so gorgeous and so effective that it was hard to believe that if not the choreography, then that the music choice at least didn't come from the UCLA camp.  A beautiful routine for a beautiful senior in her last year.

****

TCG AWARDS 2009- PART 13

FAVORITE ELITE FLOOR

It was all Russia this year for me, I'm afraid.



AND THE WINNER IS...

Once again, Ksenia Semenova came out with an effervescent, charming routine packed with fabulous dance, interesting choreography and a talent for performance that cannot be taught.  The girl is a performer through and through, and luckily she also has the talent and the skills that create one fantastic routine.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

I loved Ksenia Afanasyeva's 2009 routine nearly as much as Semenova's.  It was different, more of a polished old-school Soviet routine with its balletic leanings and distinguished air.  Afanasyeva, with her game face can pull off those kind of routines with a kind of regal aplomb.  Love it!

Sui Lu's floor ex was one of my favorites of the Worlds batch this year.  There was a really interesting rhythm to the choreography.  Some of the shapes created in the beginning of the routine were really different and eye catching.  Sui doesn't exactly give to her audience, probably something to do with her youth, but that routine is designed in such a way that it is not really necessary that she does.  it works for her her to have an air of remoteness and ethereality.

Ana Myzdrikova's routines managed to combine a bit of both worlds, tumbling difficult enough to have world medal potential, and an elegant and graceful routines.  Delightful when she got it right.

Kyoko Oshima gets a mention in this competition for always having lovely music, as it was this year, for having stylish and elegant routines, but mostly because of the joy with which she performs her routines every time.

*****

TCG AWARDS PART 2009- PART 12

FAVORITE MEET

When you write a blog, and are trying to keep on top of everything in the World of gymnastics, it feels like there are millions and millions of meets.  Some stand out more than others.

AND THE WINNER IS...



(pic from gymnastike )

There were so many great meets this year that I could have picked lots.  But to be honest, the meet that made me so, so happy to witness this year was Kim Zmeskal's Texas Prime Legendz Event meet, covered by Gymnastike.  Though not an elite meet, I think it qualifies as the greatest meet of the year because it was hosted by one of the greatest coaching teams in the states at the moment, pitted excited, enthusiatics gymnasts against each other, had a fun scoring system and brought in members of the US Olympic team to share the fun.  It was great to see how Alicia, Shawn and Nastia were part of the action, acting as team leaders and put into the back standing somi play-off at the end.  All in all it was a fun, fun meet to watch and a great reminder of both the influence of these athletes on young gymnasts all over and all the great things we can forget about the sport from time to time.



HONORABLE MENTIONS

The European gymnastics championships have always been a favorite competition of mine.  Initially I think it was because, while the soviet Union was still in existence and communist countries ruled the sport, the creme-de-la-creme attended.  Now, I actually think it is because once the ruling nations like the US and China are eliminated, there is often an unexpected, and therefore interesting mix of gymnast in the finals.  I think I also love it because the Italian crowds are CRAZY excited about gymnastics which made me feel like I was watching a football game- but in a good way!

Though the Worlds all-around competition was always going to be a fairly predictable affair, the event finals more than made up for it with appearance of gymnasts who I hadn't seen much of or didn't expect to watch in an event final, the Koreans on bars and beam,  Rogers on vault, Gil Ortiz on floor.  And there were also some great surprises; Lauren Mitchell's success, Dufournet's vault medal and Lichetta making bars finals.  All the reasons I love the year after the Olympics!

Florida vs Georgia.  Though poor old Florida was suffering from a bit of an injury-apolooza and having to put up newbies and inexperienced gymnasts all over the place, there was nothing, nothing quite like watching Georgia pull of the meet they did.  It was no surprise this dynamite team scored in the 198's for this meet.  It was sheer poetry to watch one gymnast after another pull of steady dynamic routines.  Georgia at it's finest was something to behold.  Let's see what this year will bring.



*****

TCG AWARDS 2009- PART 11

FAVORITE UNDER-THE-RADAR GYMNAST



AND THE WINNER IS....

I have to go with Cassie Whitcomb for this category.  Though she hasn't exactly been totally under the radar with her great results last year, winning bars at the US Classic, and coming second on them at the US Nationals as well as placing eighth in the all-around, I fear she has existed under Marta Karolyi's radar.  Cassie Whitcomb is a refreshingly elegant US gymnast with the kind of lines that make gymnastics look pretty without even trying.  Needless to say, her bars is wonderful.  Though it looks like she is emerging as a successful senior elite with her newly gained international experience, if it doesn't happen, hopefully when she gets to UCLA she will get the attention her gymnastics deserves.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

I really like Brazilian gymnast Bruna Leal.  I first saw her at the Stuttgart World Cup contest late last year and was delighted by her floor routine which is very, very pretty and performed to a piece of whimsical string music.  I was sad to see her place only fourth.  She did, however, come third on bars at this meet.
Bruna has clearly improved over the year, as she started her World Cup year in Cottbus in March where she only qualified to one final, floor, but placed only 8th.  By the time she competed at the Jesolo Trophy event, she came 3rd all-around in a fairly strong field.  Her floor routine was, once again, gorgeous, and her first two landings perfect.  Though she doesn't have quite the difficulty of her confreres, her execution and artistry is gorgeous.

I have to put Croatia's Tina Erceg in this category.  She has been around for quite some time, tirelessly performing World Cup events while remaining fairly under the radar (though her leotard at the World Championships ensured she was remembered for something!)  I have always been a fan of her trim and graceful floor work and her talent for turns.  It was really fun to see her taking two bronze, one on floor and one in the rather unsteady beam final, to in front of a wildly happy home crowd at Osijek this year.

I like Ida Jonnson because she's tough.  I saw her in the vault finals of the Doha World Cup last year and was really impressed how she pulled out two clean, high and though not difficult, impressive vaults.  I also really appreciate the way she exudes an air of calm and composure.  She has an elegant floor routine too and her tumbling is improving. It was also lovely to see a gymnast from one of the country's responsible for bringing modern gymnastics to the world, for which we are very grateful!



*****

Thursday, January 7, 2010

TCG AWARDS 2009- PART 10

GREATEST SURPRISE WIN

In a sport where the result is becoming more and more obvious before a competition because of difficulty values, it is a particularly lovely surprise when the result is unexpected. Here are some of my favorite surprise results of the year.

AND THE WINNER IS...




With their most recent results throwing their scores up into the 198’s and a run of terrific performances, who would have though there was a chance in hell Georgia wouldn’t take the SEC conference? When they were defeated by stalwart stars, Alabama, everyone, including the Tide were surprised and a little bit pleased because it meant the Super Six championships was about to get a whole lot more interesting.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

If asked who was going to take the gold at the European beam finals my answers would have included the typical contenders, Tamirjan, Dragoi or one of the Ksenias. I might even have considered Millousi who had qualified so brilliantly, but I had taken relatively little notice of the teeny Demyanchuk who got onto that beam, performed her difficult batch of tricks at warp speed and got the hell off before gravity could have its way before she was ready, leaving the crowds breathless and impressed as hell. It was a pity she didn't have quite the same meet at Worlds.

Canada has produced its fair share of Canadian stars over the past few years. Some of them retired after the run at the coveted two Beijing spots, some of them have kept going. One of those was the quiet achiever, Sydney Sawa, who surprised everyone, and maybe even herself by becoming Canadian National Champion only a short time before the Olympics. Sawa, who had been fighting a nagging injury put it a fabulous performance and was rewarded by a berth to Worlds and the confirmation of her recruitment with the UCLA Bruins for next year.

I guess it would have been less of a surprise if Beth Tweddle had medalled on bars. In fact, it was quite the shock when she fell in qualifications! But floor was definitely a surprise! Though she had one of the highest difficulties in the field, Tweddle's weakness has never been difficulty, but execution. When she marched out on floor as the very first gymnast in the line up and produced her tremendously difficult gymnastics with terrific (for her) execution, I still wasn’t convinced that someone, perhaps Myzdrikova or Bross wasn’t going to come and take her down. But it wasn’t to be. It must have been a nerve-wracking wait for Tweddle as she sat through every other competitor until it was certain, she was the floor exercise World Champion.


****

TCG AWARDS 2009- PART 9

FUNNIEST MOMENT

Gymnastics is a pretty serious sport. There is always so much tension surrounding competition, the danger, injuries, the young ages of the athletes, but luckily, sometimes, we get a giggle too. Less now perhaps that Khorkina is no longer among us, but still, we do get a treat now and then.

AND THE WINNER IS....





Vanessa has provided me, personally at least with the most amusement this year. I can’t decide which Vanessa Ferrari moment to use from the Europeans. The one where she got up on the beam podium, rubbed her feet with a hunk of chalk, and in her hurry to get onto the apparatus for her warm-up turn, flung the chalk behind- her narrowly missing a judge. She didn't even know it happened and it was up to her coach to apologise.  That girl is ALL business.
OR when she was warming up for floor doing battements (kicking her leg up behind her) and her shoe came off an flew right across the room. Runners and Italian team leotards are funny enough together without a waldrobe malfunction added to the mix!
AND let's not forget the news that Vanessa is joining the army.  Teeny tiny litte Vanessa!  I told you she is going to rule the world one day (and I a little bit scared)!
Because our Vanesaa has three moments, I think she must be named the winner of this category!

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Svetlana Boginskaya grabbing Dominique Moceanu and trying to make a run for it before the fans came a’calling at the London Worlds; “Kweek, ve must hurry!”

Courtney Kupets lip synching “I like to move it, move it” repeatedly in a bit of gym dawgy pre-meet hysteria. In fact, so many of their pre-meet dance-off videos were good for a laugh last year.

Overhearing Becky Downie talking to her mother at the Europeans. After not quite having the AA competition her qualification promised and then only managing a fourth place in the bars finals which she looked able to medal in, Becky was understandably peeved. I had to crack up though, when she said to her mother, “Oh well, I had me chance, but ah bummed it!”.

Ksenia Afanasyeva doing the Ksenia’s ‘fancy walk’ out onto the floor mat before her routine and kind of tripping over her feet in Milan. That was pretty funny.

(Once it was obvious she was okay) Becky Downies fabulous backward flip OFF the beam podium at Worlds.  It was pretty spectacular.

Hilary Mauro's face when she realised she had stuck her vault in the late season Georgia vs Florida.

Marta Karolyi at Worlds. Seriously, it is lucky the hag makes me laugh, or I could really, really despise her.


*****

Sunday, January 3, 2010

TCG AWARDS 2009- PART 8

BEST TAKING OF THE NEXT STEP....

This is for the gymnasts who left competition this year, wether permanently or not, and found new paths to travel.

AND THE WINNER IS...


(pic from gymbox)


Elena Zamolodchikova has has a hell of a gymnastics career.  Not only was it incredibly successful, particularly with her duel golds on apparatus in the Sydney event finals, but it was incredibly long.    Her mental toughness was made known when she helped Russia to a team gold, as well as winning three individual medals just days after her father died from exposure to radiation from the Chernobyl disaster. Her mother has since died too.  Yet she has won European, world and Olympic medals, trained long and hard for eighteen years, and is still nowhere near ready to give up on gymnastics.

Though Elena hasn't actually stopped training, she has taken the next step in her life by studying to become a gymnastics judge.  In fact, according to a translation of an interview in the new Russian gymnastics magazine (thanks Senor Nico!), she has recently passed a test that enables her to judge international meets.  She has also said that she has her heart set on coaching at some point, and that judging will aid her in that ambition.
It is wonderful to see the girl who was brave enough, tough enough and resilient enough to say she would retire from gymnastics when Russia, in a time of crisis, stopped needing her, staying with the sport she loves and sounding so happy to boot.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Though many of us still feel the loss of Shawn Johnson in the gymnastics world, it was pretty sweet to see how well her infectious spirit carried over to the wider world as she danced and charmed her way to the winning spot in Dancing with the Stars alongside partner Mark Ballas this year.

After much general prancing around in front of cameras in Romanian since the demise of her own gymnastics career, it was very good news to hear that Catalina Ponor finished her studies and found a place to start the coaching career she has been looking forward to.  Rumour has it she is enjoying her job with Teodora Ungureanu at the Dynamic Gymnastics Club, the gym where Sabrina Vega trains.

I am always excited to see international gymnasts join collegiate team rosters in the USA, and the addition of Mexico's Ericka Garcia to the LSU line-up for this year is no exception.  Garcia is a strong vaulter and, according to D-D Breaux, will be a 'difference maker' in the LSU line-up.


*****

Saturday, January 2, 2010

TCG 2009 AWARDS- PART 7

MOST DISAPOINTING PERFORMANCE

There have been a few gymnasts who for various reasons have sadly not lived up to their potential or promise this year.  Sometimes it isbecause of injury, sometimes sudden growth, sometimes a sudden lack of confidence, and sometimes, simply a bad, bad day.

AND THE WINNER IS.....




As far as I am concerned, Yang Yilin was one of the best gymnasts in Beijing last year, and her bronze in the AA more than proved this.  Not only is she a fabulous all-arounder, her performances are often stunning.  Her beam is flowing and gorgeous.  Her bar work is fluid and difficult.  Her vaults are terrific.  And her floor is simply exquisite .  In fact it was my favorite of all the Chinese floor routines.
All this is why it was just so sad to see her have a rough all-around experience in London this year.  In a competition she, as a veteran, could have medalled in, she instead, had a rough, rough time and an embarassing stack on bars.  Though her finals performance was somewhat better than her qualifications performance, it wasn't anywhere near the standard we saw in Beijing.  (A commenter told me that it was because of a big bad long term injury of which I knew nothing about.  Poor Yang) It was so sad not to see this sparkly young gymnast shine again.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Ksenia Semenova-  who would have though Ksenia Semenova would have such a bad week.  Even though I was aware she was suffering from injury, I would never have thought she would have quite the disastrous contest she had at Worlds.  Frankly, Ksenia was a sad, sad sight to see.  I really, really hope she can make her way back from this injury, but one has to wonder.

Shayla Worley- I know it is only the start of the season, and she has been out of serious training for quite some time, but I really did expect to see more from Worley in the Gym Dog sneak peek this year.  I like Shayla's gymnastics and i was looking forward to what they have created for her, but it was really hard to tell if she is going to come through with the Dawgy goods. It is early days yet, soI hope so.

Jana Bieger-  Poor old Jana.  That girl has had such a bad, bad run in the last couple of years.  I was surprised to even see her at theVISA National.  There was something kinda tragic about watching the poor girl try and pull off her skills, while clearly not ready, and, if rumour has it, was somewhat unwell.  She is a brave girl for persisting for so long, but I have to say I really wish she'd held out amateur so she could do collegiate gymnastics.  It would have suited her far, far better.

Gabi Dragoi-  Poor old Gabi.  She was one of the most promising looking of the new Romanians with her finals berth on beam at Beijing.  And when it came to the performances, she conducted herself well for someone fairly inexperienced.  She proved she was still doing well at Euros, but since then her relentless injuries have contributed to dissapointing performances all year round. Her performances at Worlds, after being let onto the team at the last minute proved that we may not be seeing much of Gabi once the juniors arrive next year.