Wednesday, June 30, 2010

OUCH.....



I am having a thought.  It hurts...

 And we know what thinking means in these parts, don't we?  Here, on TCG, where we have been doing a little math lately, we often find that Big Thoughts + Couch Gymnast = what?  That's right, kiddies, a giant rave!

So todays rave is about the age thing.  I was thinking about Grundi's  oft-criticised idea of raising the age limit of gymnasts to participate in the majors to 18 years old. 

Even though it will never happen, and what I think about the idea doesn't really matter, there is, to me,  that one thing it would actually achieve.  This would be to raise the public profile of the sport.

Seriously.

I think gymnastics would be a lot more popular to a general audience if gymnasts were older.  Sure, the tricks wouldn't be as hard, and we close fans who know just how spectacular it could be with the young 'uns competing get would be bored, but I have seen some of my non-fan friends go crazy over seeing a basic beam routine or a double back somi on floor.  This is because to them, it all looks pretty freaking spectacular.  We tend to forget, at least I do,  just how hard it is just doing a really dynamic leap on the beam, let alone a standing arabian. People are impressed by the simple stuff, because it's not simple.



I think most people who don't know the sport think gymnasts are going to be older than they are.  A case in point.  Just before I was heading off to the Pac Rims to watch podium training on day one, I ran into my friend Colin at our local cafe.  Colin, who knows I love gymnastics, says to me excitedly, "Guess where I am going?"  It turns out he has been hired (he is a director) to work for ther NBC to help in making their Pac Rim footage.  After we talked a little bit about how he'd been briefed (including the execs telling them who was going to win) he asked me, being a typically dirty-minded thirty-something guy, "So, will there be any hotties?"
I of course, somewhat witheringly said, "Colin, they are children."  He just kind of laughed like he didn't believe me.

Later that day, I happened to be standing near him when they called the gymnasts to march out for training.  And what do you know, I saw him witness these gymnasts, most of whom truly are children- some of the juniors almost fetal- march out into the arena and his face kind of dropped.  Later, when I ran into him, he told me how embarassed he had been when he actually saw them.  He had no idea that they's be that young.  I think he was expecting the early twenties cheerleader type, more your NCAA kinds of girls.
But anyway, I don't plan on arguing that we should have older gymnasts because sex sells sport. That'd make me a bad, bad feminist.  It really does sell it, though.  Look at Maria Sharapova.  She doesn't even have to play great tennis any more to remain a global celebrity, she just has to prove she can still put those legs with a skirt, preferably one made by a major designer, to stay famous.


(Mohini- a fascinating journey)


What I really think is that older gymnasts are more interesting.  They have real life experience that inspire and affect their gymnastics. They have opinions and thoughts about the sport.  Of all the gymnasts, who did the Australian media pick out to focus on during their coverage of Beijing, other than the Aussie girls?  Oksana Chusovitina.  Of course they did.  Here is a woman with a story.

Look at some of the most intriguing personalities of the sport in the last few decades, Khorkina of course, Sacramone got better with age, Bhardwaj, Produnova, Chusovitina.  All the mature gymnasts (okay, Tweddle doesn't give us much, but she still gives a decent quote).  These girls were old enough to have actual stories to tell about their lives.  Bhardwaj can tell you about pulling a Capriati, then finding her way from delinquent back to the gym again through college gymnastics.  Chusovitina can tell you about returning to the sport essentially to save her son.  Khorky will tell you her opinion on just about anything and prance down a runway too if you ask her.  Khorky was the consummate gymnast celebrity.  Sure, Nastia and Shawn are getting a workout in the States, the hotbed of celebrity culture, but that is because they won gold.  Khorky endured long after the medals ran out.


Marta Pihan-Kulesza can tell you what it is like to have a spouse in the same sport, travelling the world together.  The older Svetlana Boginskaya can tell you what it is like to see an entire country change in front of your eyes and not know how to leave her beloved sport. Annia Hatch can tell you what it is like to uproot yourself fro your tiny nation, marry and fight your way to compete for a leading nation.

(Khorky- the only true gymnast celebrity outside America)

What can little sprites, as adorable and as talented as they are, like Raluca Haidu, Anastasia Grishina and Kyla Ross tell you about their world?  That after training they have to go to bed because they have homeschool tomorrow?  Or that they like Friends reruns on cable?  That last September they got to have ice cream?

The crossover of sports people into the world of celebrity, where we have come to know far more about sports people than just their athletic achievements  means that the public has come to desire knowledge about athletes.  They want background stories, to feel a close, imagined relationship with their heroes.  The celebritsation of sport makes sport into not just a competition, but a form of entertainment, a cultural entitiy with a significance way beyond the Rudis and double layouts.  Knowing the pesonality and the personal aims and desires that motivate the athlete has become an imperative means for the media, who, lets face it, make or break the popularity of a sport, give sport meaning to spectators. 

(Chuso- a reason to contine)

Some might argue, as I argued with myself, that it was the kiddy sprite that sold gymnastics to the world.  This of course, is partly true.  But also, it was the fact that live television showed Olga Korbut which sold that kiddie sprite in Munich, and again, in a battle of the cuties against Nadia Comaneci in Montreal.  The television made gymnastics what it is every four years, at least.

Besides, remember how frustrated journalists were interviewing Nadia, a little girl who had nothing to say but mention her doll collection?  She had nothing else.  The gym, her team, her coach and her dolls.

  The media played as much a part of getting those elfs out into the world as they did.  And how the media, and the role of the sportsperson has changed since then!  The sportsperson is now an entertainment commodity, something to be bought and sold to its audience.  To do so, these athletes have to participate in selling themselves by offering more than just their sport to the world.  It is unfortunate most of the time, but it is how it is. Young gymnasts just don't have that much to give beyond fans of their own age. I do think this plays a part in gymnastics not having a wider general appeal.

(Nadia-one of the first media celebrities)

Also, of course, because it is one of the few sports where participation, spectatorship and coverage is dominated by the women's side of the sport.

As I said, I don't think the age limit raise will ever happen and I am not sure I want it to.  But if it did, I have a feeling gymnastics would be a lot more accessible and appealing to viewers.  It wouldn't matter so much if they couldn't understand the confusing rules or the spurious scoring system if they were able to sympathise with the people competing.  Just a thought.


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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CH-CH-CHANGES....



According to one of the best sources of English-speaking China gym news, The IG Online Chinese Gymnastics Appreciation Thread, some of the girls are finally getting some new choreography.
Deng Linlin was first up, getting a more modern and "vivid" routine that suits her explosiveness.
Sui Lu, who has been using the same routine from Worlds last year will also be getting a change.

It is to be imagined that the choreographer in charge is still Adriana Pop as she has been working with them for many years, and the article one user quoted said it was a choreographer who had been with the team since 2002.  The information, which is gleaned through Head Coach Lu Shanzen's public blog, also states that Huang Qiushuang is slated for a new floor after Sui Lu.

It will be refreshing to see some new stylings from the always elegant Chinese girls.  As one IG'er is moaning, I really hope Yang Yilin gets a change too.  It's time!!




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GUESS WHO IS BACK??!!



After a forewarning that a Tuesday meeting would decide wether Nicolae Forminte, who has had a month to think about it, would return to coach the Romanian National team,  it seems Nicolae Forminte has taken the wise path, and headed back to join the new coaching team at Izvorani, according to Prosport. I though perhaps that a month away from his years long obsession might help change his mind.  Slipping back into regular life would be pretty difficult, even if he wanted to.

Apparently the Federation are looking at this change of heart optimistically, and Forminte told the press that he had put in a lot of work for the team as a 'soldier' for the federation and that the team was what was important.  It looks as though he will return as a specialist- vaulting, I am guessing, and Grigoras has said that there will be decisions made as to how power will be distributed under the new arrangement.

I am really pleased he has chosen to come back.  many will not care, as long as he is not in charge, but he is a good coach, and a terrific vaulting specialist.  Whatever people say, he built a team from nothing and kept them afloat when others did not.  He deserves to still be a part of it.  I am sure the girls will be very happy too.



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GYMNASTICS+RIDICULOUS+KHORKY+JAPAN= HAPPY COUCH GYMNAST

Now that's some easy maths!!!



Many of you guys may have already seen this, but I am so happy right now, and it is all thanks to Nade00 for uploading The Gymnastics Monster Box Challenge from 2004 up on Youtube!

 I saw this bad boy a few years ago, and it amused the heck out of me.  Then, last year, I went looking for it everywhere, but could not find it.  I was sad.  Now I am not.

Yep, that's what I said, Gymnastics and a Monster Box.  A great big giant vaulting box that gets bigger every time the gymnast attempts to jump over it!



And who are the gymnasts crazy enough to take on this challenge?  The post-Soviets of course!!!
Some Team Ukraine, including Mirabela Akhunu, Irina Yarotska and Alonya Kvasha, as well as some Russians- the gorgeous Miss Pavs and our 2004 resident diva, one Ms Svetlana Khorkina.  Yep that's right, it's not enough for her to holler at the vault in the Olympic Stadium for what it did in Sydney- she gets to take it out on a giant one instead!
I love when they ask her questions- she is sooo Russian! "Verrry Eassy!"

And who wins?  The girl with the springiest legs of course.  You should be able to guess.

And who is responsible for this little piece of ridiculous?  Who else but a crazy Japanese Game show!  And if you have never seen one of these mental things, you have must have at least seen the Simpsons spoof....

And yes, when you miss, it does look like it hurts!!


Or HERE




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NATIONALS-LOZZA + EMS=SAD COUCH GYMNAST



Well, you probably all know by now that Lauren Mitchell and Emily Little are both out of Nationals due to injury.  Lozza has strained her groin (edit) and Emily- this makes me curious/queasy- pulled tendons in her elbow, dismounting off bars.  Dasha Joura won't be ready either.

I have to say, by the time we see Lozza, she will be an old woman!  But she'll be a sight for sore eyes. I hope this injury big quits biting her and lets her do some gymnastics, you know, in public,  soon.

One has to wonder if that other Australian stalwart all-arounder, Georgia Bonora might take it away....

For a proper and full report, head to The Australian Gymnastics Blog where Mez knows all about what's what....




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Saturday, June 26, 2010

SOME ACTUAL F.I.G SENSE-MAKING.....



The Nelli Kim article featured in the International Gymnast Online is probably one of the best interviews ever featured on that page.

Not only does Kim enlighten us on some of the concerns of the FIG about the current code, and the kinds of debates that are happening about changes that can be made to it, it actually interesting to see both sides of the issues at hand, which she does provide as she accounts for some prospective changes.

One thing I was particularly smug to see in her discussion was this new deduction for 'bodyline' for gymnast who just stroll from well-executed move to another.  That particularly lazy choreography has ticked me off no end in the past few years.  A gymnast would do a split jump, for example, then take two normal steps with no real presentation, because they were thinking of the next move, a turn perhaps, or another jump and then leap into that skill. You would never, EVER have seen that in the old days.  Every movement was accounted for in the seventies and eighties- every movement was choreographed.  There was no walking into skills, or shuffling into corners and I AM SO FREAKING GLAD the F.I.G is taking notice.
Maybe girls will starting dancing into the corners again.

Also, it was very sad, but interesting to hear of the end of Nelli Kim's career and how she was treated.  Methinks that transition period between the Madames and the pixies in the late seventies was an ugly and bloodthirstily competitive time in gymnastics, even among team mates.  And then to have the specter of Mukhina hanging over your head........

A really, really great read..... Thanks John Crumlish.


******

IZVORANI IT IS, THEN.....


(Corina. Photo: Prosport)


The press is still banging on about Corina Ungureanu's training with the girls.  It is pretty amazing.
A short interview with Prosport revealed that she is commuting to train with the girls for five hours every day from Ploeisti to Izvorani.
She went back into training on a 'joke' bet with her boyfriend that apparently got serious!
She is struggling with tendon pain, but tries to push through it.
She is going to try for a spot on the Worlds team, but is not expecting miracles.  Her first competition will be the Romanian Nationals.
It would be awesome to see another gymnast in her thirties at Worlds.  No guesses who'd be team captain at that meet then! 


(Izvorani. Photo: Prosport)


Also, the Romanian team has been training, if you didn't already know, at some facilities in Izvorani.  I believe these faciltiies may be somewhat better than at Deva (I wonder why the National Team stays there- isn't the gym really old, and don't some half finished new living quarters still just sit there rotting, without the money to finish them?).   Anca Grigoras has told the press that there is so much work to be done before Worlds, that they are keeping the girls there, and in work mode, as they already had a break post-Euros.

The girls are also scheduled to compete in Great Britain in Ipswich.  I am not sure if this is against the British National Team, but I imagine they would be wanting to test that particular opponent after their embarrassing defeat at the Euros team contest (not to belittle the fantastic effort made by Great Britain!).  That competition is in August,between the 12 and 15th.



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I WANT TO SAY DER RIGHT NOW BUT ITS CHILDISH.....


(Tumpa Debnath)

For some reason, the Commonwealth Games peeps in India seem surprised that gymnastics has been a big seller for early tickets.
The trend of ticket sales in Delhi for the year's most awaited event, the Commonwealth Games, has spelt out two unlikely favourites — swimming and gymnastics.
“Hockey found the most takers initially, but now swimming and gymnastics are swiftly climbing the popularity chart,” said a senior Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) official who didn't wish to be named.
The official, however, declined to offer the exact number of tickets sold for the two disciplines “at this stage”.

I don't get it. Isn't gymnastics always one of the first events to sell out- just like it gets the highest TV ratings during Olympic time?
Isn't it one of those facts that really annoy us year-round fans, who wish it would be loved, and therefore shown all the time, all year round?
Anyway, that's a nice prospect for the games, and for the Indian National Team who have been invigorated by some coaching of the Soviet school of late.




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Friday, June 25, 2010

THE GIRL MOST LIKELY....

(photo: Don Johnson Photography)

I think my all-time favorite tumbler has to be Viktoria Karpenko.  The girl epitomised the 'springs in her legs' type.  Her whipback- BHS- Double Arabian- Punch Front combo makes me go weak at the knees nearly every time I see it.

Even though she didn't give all to her chorey, she had that typically Ukrainian polish and flair that made even the non-dancers look pretty good.  When I think about what happened to her in Sydney, I want to throw up.

I wonder if Oleg Ostapenko completely lost his @#$% after that floor ex.  That was probably what made him move to Brazil.  She did have an awful bad habit of screwing up at the wrong moments.

Poor thing.  And all she gets for all her magnificently massive talent is a bronze on bars ten years later.

Here is another example of the she-tumble-demon screwing up at the wrong mo.  The AA probably would have been hers......


or HERE

God she was amazing.  Even her double pike was insane.  Look how she blithely leapt up a million miles in the air and just snapped those legs up in the air and pulled herself around.  Sure she broke form a little, but the height....the height!
Unsung.  If I could change and World or Olympic Result, I'd change the outcome of that all-around competition in Sydney. She would have the gold.


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THERE'S FLORAL, AND THEN THERE'S RIDICULOUS.......

You've probably all read by now, either on Gymnastics Coaching or from Fishbulb on the IG forum that Japanese gymnast Miki Uemura is in Texas, learning coaching tips from the crew at WOGA.  I really hope it is so she can take that valuable learning home to help the Japanese get to an even higher standard than they already are at the moment. That'd be awesome.

Also, can she also take back some sartorial self help books too?  I know I have lauded Japan for their nineties leotards in the past, which I love for their avante garde, nature lovin' vividness, but the obscenely floral leatord that Koko Tsurumi was sporting at the Japanese National Championships in April was bordering on insanity.......
A few have already commented that they like it.  I like the colours, and the use of flowers, but it's the size that gets me.  In the pink one it looks like it is going to spread upward and devour her head!

I call it, The Flower that Ate Koko....


It was pretty much a floral version of an overshare in hot pink version too.....




(Thanks to Simone for the heads up!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TAMIRJAN CONSIDERS RETIREMENT......



According to Prosport, Anamaria Tamirjan is contemplating retirement.  Sad news from a girl who has been fighting an uphill battle with injuries for so long now.
For years she has been an elegant, valuable and sometimes under-rated gymnast for Romania.
Anca Grogoras told Prosport that there is still hope she will overlook her difficulties, but because of the injuries and growing up, gymnastics has become hard for her.
If she does retire, she will be missed.



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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

THE ORIGIN OF THE 3-UP 3-COUNT?

(Would Hatch have been on the 2004 Team? Pic: www.gymbox.com)

Hi guys, i just recently received an interesting email from a reader who asked me a question I couldn't actually answer.  His question was to do with the introduction of the 3-up 3-count competition format.  He wanted to know what exactly the rationale for that decision was.
Can anyone answer this?

All I know is that I hate it in a lot of ways, and that it has changed the face of the sport.  On one level I love that there can be a specialist- otherwise we wouldn't have got to experience gymnasts like Annia Hatch, Olivia Vivian, Sam Peszek or even Cheng Fei.
On the other hand, we have lost a fiercely competitive team competition.  The more gymnasts in either competition, the more left up to chance, and team's and individuals ability to sieze the moment.

I do wonder how much the decision was influenced by broadcasting needs for a quicker, more dramatic team competition?
Anyway, I leave you with this readers question, and hope you can help us....

I am writing you from Plano, Texas (and at the direct midpoint between Nastia's hometown to the east, Carly's to the north, and WOGA to the west...really!) with a question that I have been looking all over the internet for months trying to find the answer to.  I am also writing as someone who has never been to a real gymnastics meet in his life, nor even seen any apparatus (or gymnast, for that matter) in person.  Needless to say, I am not in touch with any insiders who could help me.  The nagging question: what is the rationale for the 3-up, 3-count format?

The thing is, I learned everything I know about gymnastics through media: sports commentators, TV, YouTube, blogs, etc.  I was exposed to the wide diversity of opinions regarding the sport.  Yet, astoundingly, it seems like virtually all of these outlets have raised their voices in unison over one particular opinion: that the 3-up, 3-count format is ridiculous.  

Intrigued by the amount of vitriol the format garnered in the media (and especially in other blogs and their comments), I decided to try to find out why, if the public hates it so much, it has become the mainstay of gymnastics competition formats.  There have to be people more educated in the sport who could vouch for it and explain why it is the preferred format among the higher-ups who make the rules.  But they don't show up on my Internet searches (it could, of course, be that I don't know the best search terms to use).



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VIVIAN BACK IN BLACK!!!

(photo: Etsuko Ikeda)

According to the Corvallis Gazette Times, the Australian National Championships will be all the richer for the fun and winsome presence of the now collegiate gymnast Olivia Vivian this year.
The gymnast, who brought her bars talent to the 2008 Olympic Team, and who has since become a strength on floor for the Oregon Beavers plans on competing at Nats.  The best part?  She is incorporating some AC/DC into her floor!


"I'm really excited to go home and compete with my Australian teammates again," Vivian said. "I've wanted to do this since last summer when I went home and all I could do was watch nationals. It was hard to sit and watch rather than being involved."
Vivian will return to Australia later this month to train. Since Vivian has been out of the country, she recently submitted a competition video of her routines on all four events to be considered to compete.
"Australian gymnastics is very different from college gymnastics and I'm looking forward to incorporating a few traits I've learned here into the Australian gymnastics culture," she said.
"I'm really excited to show off my college routines and plan to rock the judges' world with an AC/DC - Ironman floor routine."

Nationals will be all the more fun with her there!


****** 

ROMANIAN GYM FEDERATION WEBSITE



The Fangymnastics, Romanian Gymnastics Blog has reported that The Romanian Gymnastics Federation finally have a decent website up and running (the report is in Romanian).  The actual site has been around for a while, but nowadays it seems it is actually being updated with accurate and relevant information!
This is good news for Romanian Gym fans as we may be more informed about when and where National Team members will be competing and training from now on.
It has a news update, a photo gallery and even a poll- and guess what the question is?  Yep, that's right- Is the women's Team set to improve?

Izbasa after her floor win





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Monday, June 21, 2010

VERA'S SILENT PROTEST.......

I have always thought that people who think sports and politics shouldn't mix are crazy- crazy because whether they like it or not, sports and politics have and do mix in myriad ways.  It exists in every aspect of sport- in the selection of Olympic cities, in Michael Jordan draping an American flag around him to cover the Reebok insignia on his track suit, in John Carlos and Tommy Smith's silent salute in Mexico.


One of the most powerful sporting images of the Twentieth Century is of Carlos and Smith who climbed onto the podium after the 100m sprint wearing no shoes to symbolise the poverty of black Americans, their gloved fists raised to acknowledge the Black Power Movement, and their heads cast down in mourning for the suffering of their people, and stood in protest.  Here were two men whose people, in 1968, were denied the most basic human rights, but who were brought to Mexico to win gold for their country.

Gymnastics is a sport that has not been free of political machinations either.  Think of the boycott of the Russians of the Los Angeles Olympics.  Think of the way the US broadcasters always played up the USSR vs USA Cold War tropes in their fluff pieces, and continue to do it in their stories of orphaned, poor Chinese children who give up their lives and parents for their country.

And, as another reader reminded me, their has even been a podium protest in gymnastics.
It is 1968 again, and Russia has just invaded the homeland of one of the sports greatest heroes, Vera Caslavska.
Here is how she responded to the Russians invading Czeckhoslovakia;

or HERE


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ANOTHER AUSSIE TO COLLEGE!

Finally, Mez of The Australian Gymnastics Blog has been able to spill the news that Shona Morgan is headed to Stanford next year!


This is great news for Shona, as it not only means she gets to continue her gym career in a fun, exciting way, but she gets to do it at a really top level school.

(Shona on left with Peggy and Georgia in Beijing)

Seems the girl must be a bit of a smart cookie!
Also, she will be attending college with another smart cookie and couchy favorite, Kristina Vaculik.

Some of you might remember Shona from the Beijing Olympics where she and Georgia Bonora carried the candle for Australia in the all-around after Dasha Joura was hurt.   Shona placed 15th in the AA. She also qualified 14th on beam and wound up first reserve.

Some of you also might remember her from the London Worlds where her competition was cut short by a terrible injury on the day of qualifications. Poor Shona had dislocated her knee and spent the rest of Worlds with an ice bag on her knee.

Shona trained at the Waverly Gymnastic Centre, a top gymnastics Club in Victoria, Australia, who have provided many of our elites over the years.
Last year, she came second AA in the Australian Championships.

Stanford Coach, Kristen Smyth, said she was looking forward to Shona's strong AA presence, as well as her strength on vault and beam.  We look forward to watching her college career unfold.



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Sunday, June 20, 2010

MOONEN AND KROONEN.....

(Tess Moonen by Sandra Janssen)

It sounds like a whiny love ballad, probably played on acoustic guitar in the moonlight, but really it is the names of the women, Mayra Kroonen and Tess Moonen, who won their divisions of the Dutch National Championships this weekend.

This is not the only thing these two gymnasts have in common- they both qualified 12th into the AA finals of their categories at the European Championships this year too!

Mayra Kroonen, at the ripe old age of 22 took the senior title by pulling out a four-for-four performance.  Wyomi Masela, the favorite, fell from beam and landed in second place. Kroonen placed 12th in the all around at the European Championships this year.

Celine Van Gerner, who placed fourth on beam at the European Championships, was not present.

(Masela- bars winner)

In the apparatus finals;

Vault- Mayra Kroonen
Bars- Wyomi Masela
Beam Marlies Rijken/Mayra Kroonen
Floor- Marlies  Rijken

Marlies Rijken trains at ProPatria Zoetermeer. Her brother Frank is also a gymnast.


(Marlies Rijken)

Tess Moonen, who is a bright hope for Dutch gymnastics, ripped the competition to shreds, taking the junior title by a two-point-lead. Moonen is qualified for the Youth Olympics in Singapore.
Lisa Top and Tessa Gerrit trailed her in that order.


(Tess Moonen on top. Pic by Martin Mooij)




In the apparatus finals;

Vault- Lisa Top
Bars- Tessa Moonen
Beam- Tessa Moonen
Floor- Lisa Top

Lisa Top had a terrific AA competition in Birmingham, placing seventh, while Moonen took ninth spot and took the bronze on beam with a careful and clean routine.

It seems things are looking up again for the Netherlands.  Remember when they were looking amazing all those years ago?  When it seemed like they were going to start some serious vying for team medals?  Then the bubble burst and the dramas and tell-alls erupted from every crack.
Well, now it is safe to say, thing are looking tight, and soothingly calm.  It would be awesome for them to have strong home meet in Rotterdam this year!

Anyway, I am leaving you with a video of Marlies Rijken's floor performance from a meet earlier this year.  This is a good effort at choreography (though it could use work) with some lovelt traditional music. She has moments of polish and grace and as a tumbler she is no slouch either, opening with a double arabian. She also does a standing arabian on beam and shows off some lovely lines there too.

Or HERE



*****
(This pic originally came from Benoit at Gymnet.)

So the junior bubs of the Romanian Clubs (hee, that rhymed!) competed this weekend.  Of the Category I juniors, some familiar faces in the individual AA. I believe Category I is the 95-96 births.

1. Maria Balea                    CNS "Cetate" Deva                54.100
2. Madalina Neagu             SCM Bacau                              53.725
3. Georgiana Gheorghe    CS Dinamo" Bucharest           52.750
4. Andreea Tufa                 CNS "Cetate" Deva                51.900
5. Adina Buzescu               CSA "Steaua" Bucharesti      49.025

Maria Balea took the all-around by streaking ahead of the others with a vault score of 14.00, three tenths more than her nearest rival, Madalina Neagu.  Balea is also proving herself to be a potentially strong floor worker.  Her tumbling is high and she has a lot of energy.  With time, her difficulty  will get better.  For now, she twists beautifully, has high leap and shows off her flexibility with a - what is a Memmel called when it is only one turn?- I don't know!
(Georgiana Gheoghe)

I believe the reason we didn't see Balea at Europeans was because she was injured before them- but I am not one hundred percent sure!

Madalina Neagu scored an impressive 14.150 on beam, leading the field by eight tenths of a point.

Neagu, the only one of these girls to be on the team,  placed 6th in the beam finals at the Junior European Championships this year, a placing that was affected by a low execution score.  When she becomes more confident, the routine, which features a very pretty mount sequence and some flourish among all the usual skills, she will be able to clean op her feet issues and perform the routine well.

Georgiana Gheorghe landed her bronze by cleaning up on floor with a 14.300. Georgiana first proved her talent for floor at the 2008 Tournoi d'Arques, where she performed in the espoir category, taking the gold, the only medal for a Romanian- on floor at the meet. With a build remniscent of the younger Pitic, she demonstrated precise tumbling and potential for upgrades. In 2009 she was performing a very similar routine, but there is no footage of her from this year that I can find.

These girls will be eligible for London 2012.




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Saturday, June 19, 2010

GUESS WHAT?

Finally, it is out!  Here is Issue Four of The Couch Gymnast Magazine!!


Follow the link in the side bar to read it.  I hope you enjoy.  Please leave a note in the guestbook.  It is nice to hear some feedback as all the writers work really hard on their pieces.  Thanks.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

ROMANIA NEWS: DIANA CHELARU IS INJURED....

Well, you can't blame this one on Nicolae.....



Prosport has reported that Diana Chelaru has been injured in training.  According to Anca Grigoras, she broke a metacarpal in her hand on a transfer on bars.where she hit her finger.

Poor Diana.  Bars are definitely not her funnest event (remember the Swiss Cup catastrophe?)

I hope it doesn't affect her Worlds training too much.  Two years ago I would never have thought I'd be saying this, but Romania needs her.


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A LITTLE CATCH UP....

(I guess you learn a fair bit about militancy in gymnastics!)

Hi Guys, I do apologise for the delay in writing.  I was in Tasmania (where life is slow and the internet is slower) and then I had a horrid postgraduate conference where I had to present my 'research' to all the other students and lecturers in my department.  It was truly terrifying.  But it's all over and I am back!

I have been, as some of you will have noticed, doing my best to answer Formspring Q&A's. it's a fun way to communicate, though some people don't seem to read it and ask the same questions I have already answered.  So don't get sad if I just write see below.

So, what have I missed?  You all know by now Vanessa Zam managed to score herself a berth to Nationals after a little trip to BiegerLand.  That's great news!  Obviously, as her difficulty stands, she doesn't stand a chance at any big teams, but it must be really fun for her to have a go again. i wish her luck.

Hearing that Terin Humphrey was going to be a police person gave me a good belly laugh.  It's not about Terin, persay. I laugh when I hear that anyone wants to be a cop.  Why oh why would you want that?  It's mostly boring, and when it's not boring, it's bloody dangerous!
It is, however, funny to think of Terin, who was described by her coaches as a girl who always needed positive reinforcement, to put herself in such an out there job.  I wish her luck.  I wonder how distracted the crims are going to get by her looks?
And I wonder if they will let her wear the old eyeliner?

What else.  Utah is joining the Pac-10.  That should liven up Pac-10s a little!

By the way, if you are wondering when the next Couch Gymnast Magazine is coming up, it is very, very soon.  It has just been very, very busy lately.  Plan for it to come out about once every two months at this stage.


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Thursday, June 10, 2010

IN INANE NEWS.....

I have a Formspring if you want to ask a question. That's all.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

SOME UCLA FASHION AND FAFFERY.....

In Bruin off-season news.  Miss Val is being inducted, with seven other honorees into the Bruin Athletic Hall of Fame for her work with the gymnastics team over the last near-twenty years.  On top of all the year-to-year successes, Val has coached four different Honda Award winners, including Mohini Bhardwaj, Onnie Willis, Kristen Maloney and Jill Andrews.  Climbing the ranks from student coach, Val has been the rock UCLA gymnastics was built on.  Congratulations!

In other news, the Bruins had their annual banquet where everyone got kitted up, honours were given out to individual gymnasts and there was general celebration.  There is no article, but there is a photo gallery (go to view John Wooden photo tribute, when that appears, see top left it says view other galleries- then view other sports- then go from there). 

Gymnasts always look a little funny in dresses. don't they? Kind of like horses in tutus!

Vanessa Zamarripa, perhaps unsurprisingly won the Gymnast of the Year Award in a dress that looked like it belonged on a woman fifteen years older at least.

Brittany McCullough was honoured for her Floor Championship title and looked really beautiful in a simple black dress.

Chloe Takayanagi wore a dress so short that it barely constituted being called a dress.

Miss Val looked great in a prim but fitted pink vintage style dress with a modern neckline.

Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs awarded the Bruin Spirit Award to Freshman Lichelle Wong.  Unsurprising either, considering how highly Miss Val sung Wong's praises all year long. EHH wins the award for prettiest patterned dress for the second year in a row. Lichelle also kept it simple and looked really pretty.

Danielle Greig won the Top Academic Award.  Maybe that is why I am not really sure who she is- she was studying all that time!

Brianna McCullough looked really cool in a white angular number and was awarded a pair of new shoes.  Why I know not!

Talia Kushynski won the Breakthrough Season Award.


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FROM ELITE TO COLLEGE AND BACK AGAIN!


Reader, Marcus raised an interesting point in reaction to Gymnastic's Coaching, Rick's post on the Commonwealth Games. 

We know, from her interview with Gymnastike, that Marissa King is trying for the Commonwealth Games team.  Marcus asked, could she be a potential champion over there? We know GB isn't sending it's top gymnasts for fear of Dehli belly.  Australia isn't looking to competitive right now, even if they do have to send their best in order to get top funding from the government.  I don't know what Canada is planning.

Marissa is certainly in with a chance to do some damage in this competition.
For one thing. Marissa will have learned a lot about consistency in her Freshman year with the Gator's.  King, who only this week shared the Newcomer of the Year Award with Freshman star Ashanee Dickinson, won the all-around on several occasions during her first season and placed fourth AA in the SEC league.  She also made floor and vault finals at the Nat Championships.  If she can keep the head together, she is a strong contender.

Frankly, I think Marcus is right, Marissa may well be a sight for sore AA eyes in India this year, so I hope she makes it.

(I also hope Malaysia kick some butt too after their performance at pac Rims!!)




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"REGARDLESS OF WHO YOU TRAIN WITH, SOMERSAULT IS STILL THE SAME..."


Prosport interviewed Sandra Izbasa about how she feels about the changes.  She told them everyone will work just as hard, but did say;

"I feel a bit scared because I need help, especially on floor, where I rely on Mr Forminte, and it's hard to do myself.  I will miss his help because he was near me so many years."

Sandra is working on floor, beam and vault as she tries to get her skills back.  She plans to take it slowly, before heading out into competition.

Sandra recalls meeting Belu and Bitang when she was evaluated for the move from Onesti to Deva at fifteen.  She said it was new and that she felt many emotions being discussed in front of everyone. Now, she said, she has matured and sees thing differently, that she knows "how much he (Belu) wants to reach the top."

When asked if she had ever wondered what it would be like to work with them, she said, somewhat philosophically, "No, because regardless of who you train with, doing somersaults is the same, all the exercises and elements are the same."

On being team leader;

"I am proud to say this is a big responsibility and I hope pay her well.  It is true that last year I (edit!!) was not much of a leader, in the gym, in training as my injury put everything on its head.....  But I hope everything is slowly returning to what it was."

She told the paper she has respect for them, and hopes to not ever have problems.



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ACTION SHOTS!



Prosport has featured a picture gallery of Belu and Bitang's first training with the girls at Deva.  There are lots of shots of the B's in coaching motion and casts and bandages everywhere, though they would be hard to avoid at the moment.  Nice to see Lilia is still there. Nice to see Sandra's still having a giggle in training.  Nice to see Mariana looking slightly p'ed off.  But methinks that might be her default "concentration" face setting (actually there are a lot of her smiling too!). And it is definitely lovely to see Gabi Dragoi after all this time- girl looks thin enough to me!
I also love the 'limping into the gym' shot with Anca Grigoras looking concerned! 
I also love that they are having what we call "chicken races" over here as part of their training!
I can just imagine Belu saying, "Yes, yes, come in and take photos, and then don't come back until after the Olympics!".  You can view the gallery here, at Prosport.




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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MEANWHILE...ON THE CONTINENT....


In  actual Romanian gymnastics news, the results have come in from the three girls who were sent out to do Anca Grigoras's first gymnastics bidding. 

Diana Chelaru only placed 4th in Spain at the Joaqim Blume Memorial.  She scored a 54.45 which was not enough to beat Izurietta, Downie or Lopez.  She received a very low 12.600 on beam, so her mistakes must have happened there.  Chelaru, however, has never really been a strong AA gymnast.  As we move into the strong team-focus part of the quad, we may see her specialise more on vault and floor where the addition of Belu could see her improve even further.

The other girls, Dana Trenca and Daniela Andrei, who went to Belgium, had greater success, however.  Trench took first in the all-around, while Andrei took third (edit).  This competition offered prize money, so Trenca earned 3000 euros while Andrei made 500.  This is a good result for two girls who have been kept in the shadows a little.  Both, I believe only performed on one event at the Romanian International (or was it nationals) and now they are getting a chance to prove if they are contenders for team spots over the next couple of years.

Also, I'd love to see Izurieta's vaults and beam performances- as they were her highest scores- the girl has obviously been working hard.  Congratulations to her for her efforts.

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ASAC GOES FOR COVERGIRL (CLASSIC NOT SEVENTEEN MAG)....


As was expected from the rumour-mill, Alicia Sacramone will be making her re-appearance onto the podium at the US Covergirl Classic according to the Gymnastics Examiner.  Sacramone has a hell of a lot to prove- that she is back, that she is consistent and that she can beat the kids who have climbed the ranks and are already doing the same tricks as her.  It's gonna be tough, but all power to her, I say.  I heart me some Asac and U.S. gymnastics was a lot more fun when she was around.

What I am interested in, however, is how much will her performance at Beijing affect her chances at making it onto a big time team again?  Will Marta forgive and forget- or will it come into play when thinking about wether to throw her into high pressure situations?  I hope not, but geez, its kind of hard to ignore.

But then, on the other hand, Asac has pulled through when needed just as often.  Her biggest challenge may be Raisman- not Marta.



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BACK WHEN THE U.S. WERE IN AWE OF THE SOVIETS.....


While I was hunting around for something else entirely recently, I found an old Sports Illustrated article about US gymnast Sabrina Mar during ther 1985 World Gymnastics Championships.  Mar was an exceptional gymnast in the eighties.  Born in the US of Chinese parents, she emerged after the 1984 Olympics as something of a promise for the next quad.

Mar claimed five medals at the US nationals in 1985, made event finals at both the 1985 and 1987 World Championships- remember that was no small feat for a US gymnast in those days- and had what was perhaps her best result, coming third at the USA vs USSR meet, placing ahead of Shevchenko and Laschenova in 1988.

Unfortunately, the supremely talented Miss Mar was sidelined by terrible back injuries which prevented her from going to the Olympics.

After leaving gymnastics, she later played the role of an orphan in the movie of Annie, then used the money she made to enrol in pre-med at UCLA, where she did not compete for the Bruins.  She later returned to university to study animation. 

Mar has had a very interesting life, both during and after gymnastics, and the article, called "Tumbling Into the Soviet Sea", though it does its best to play up the 'pain and popping pills' factor, captures a girl who was lively and curious and having a lot of fun in the sport. She was excited to be among the Soviet gymnasts for the first time but immmediately realised the incredible difference between their brand of gymnastics and hers;

"I thought I was training hard," said Mar, "but then I saw the Soviets, and I know I have to go home and train even harder. That's why I loved this competition. You got the chance to see who was doing what, and that is good. The thing that makes the Soviets so good is their form, their dance, their toe point—little things that stand out. They have more dedication. They take it more seriously. They look as though they have more concentration, more confidence. They do something, and they know they are going to hit. That is because there are so many gymnasts in Russia and they can never relax. They always train hard. In the U.S., there are not so many, and you tend to slack off in training."


She loved seeing gymnasts like Omeliantchik perform, however;

"Did you see that Omeliantchik? She's such a little cutie. Everybody loves her. I wish I could have talked to her. But the Russians don't like to socialize as much as we do. You smile and try to talk to them, but you can't."


 Here is a video of her performing in 1985, not long after she emerged in the sport. The dance is kind of horrid in its eighties way, but at least she put her all into it!!


Or HERE

Sabrina's mother's talk about her daughter's intial reticence about pushing herself forward, and the cultural factors she believed affected her daughter's early performances was quite interesting.

Interesting too, is to note the sympathy US coach, Don Peters expressed for Olga Mostepanova's withdrawal from the Worlds AA in 1985.

"I'd like to see a doctor examine those Kids," said U.S. coach Don Peters. "I'm sure they are not injured. I feel sorry for Mostepanova, especially for her. She should have won [the worlds] in 1983, but the judges underscored her, and she a came in second. Now she has a second chance here, and they do this. That's cruel. They just want to win." And they did. After the dust cleared, Omeliantchik and Shoushounova tied for the all-around "old medal."

The sad thing is, even if doctors had examined them- I am sure they would have found some injuries and the girl's would have been told to claim pain, I am sure.  I find it hard to imagine any of those Soviet gymnasts working without some level of injury, especially considering how hard they worked.

Thanks to Gymnastics Greats for the info on Mar's later career.
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US NATIONALS TICKETS ON SALE....


For those of you stateside, tickets are on sale for the Visa Championships.

HARTFORD, Conn., June 8, 2010 — Single-session tickets for all five gymnastics disciplines go on sale June 10 for the 2010 Visa Championships, scheduled for Aug. 10-14 at the XL Center and Chase Arena at the University of Hartford. The 2010 Visa Championships, USA Gymnastics’ national championships, features the country’s best gymnasts vying for national titles and spots on the U.S. National Team in men’s and women’s gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, acrobatic gymnastics and trampoline/tumbling.
Get ready for the big competition, the depressingly talented juniors who are too young for worlds and the bad, bad leotards.......

Monday, June 7, 2010

A LITTLE BIT OF 87 HEAVEN...

For those of you out there who adore Soviet gymnastics, here is over two hours of footage of training for your viewing pleasure from USSRGymnastics!

Or HERE





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Sunday, June 6, 2010

2010 WORLDS ANTICIPATION: QUEEN B SPEAKS........

(Pic by Rowena Humphrey- from Rotterdam site)

I am sure by now many of you have had a good look at the Official Rotterdam 2010 World Gymnastics Championships Website.  With more content and more action than most official sites have, a number of interviews and articles have been posted over the last six months.  The most recent article, which went up this week, is an interview done with reigning World Champion, Bridget Sloan. 
Bridget talks about training, her time off and hedges around answering whether or not we will ever see that rumoured front triple twist.  Check it out HERE

Also, for those of you who live in Europe, you should check out the possibilities of volunteering at this year's Worlds.  It is a unique way to experience a gymnastics competition and see how it all works while attending the biggest gymnastics competition of the year. 
I believe that if you live outside of Rotterdam, the organisers are providing accommodation (do not, however, expect anything too fancy), food vouchers and fun.

There are a number of jobs available that would suit all kinds of interests.  if you are interested, go to the Volunteeer Page to read more and fill out an application form.  Remember though, guys, volunteering isn't just a free ticket to Worlds.  There will be work to be done, and it may happen while competitions you wanted to watch are on.  But that said, it should be a great experience.


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