Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Couch Gymnast Awards, 2010

Take part in the voting at the new site!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010





Thursday, November 11, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Monday, November 8, 2010


Angelina Kislaya (

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

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


Marlies Rijken by Sandra Janssen

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

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

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


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

Sunday, November 7, 2010


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

Saturday, November 6, 2010


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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

Anyway, I hope you enjoy them.

Friday, November 5, 2010


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

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

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

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

To see the full list of participants, head HERE

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

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

For a full list of competitors, see HERE

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

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

See?  Plenty to look forward to.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


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


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

Basically, together, we know a lot!

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

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

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

To read more of the interview, head over HERE 


Danusia does....

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


Tuesday, November 2, 2010


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


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

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

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

Read More

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



Orchard with Hopfner-Hibbs

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 1, 2010


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

 'Understanding China's Powerhouse',

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Prosport asked Octavian Belu his thoughts on the Romanian results in Rotterdam.  He told them he believed they should not be considered in of themselves, but rather as hope for the future.  He, of course, is looking toward Tokyo next year and getting the girls ready for more difficulty and harder work.  He also admitted that he was not just in the stands during the World Championships.  This, anyone working there already knew, as he was very much present and in action in the training halls.  he simply did not wish to accompany them onto the floor- he did do a great deal of calling from the stands, however!
Ana porgras was also interviewed, saying that she simply thought of everything she had done to work for the medal before mounting the beam.  She is satisfied, but they are looking at upping her difficulty everywhere for the future.
Now?  "I want Olympic gold" she said.  Well honey, so does everyone!  For Porgras, the biggest task will be upping her difficulty whilst remaining uninjured. Let's hope she can.


As you all probably all know by now, the Swiss Cup was on this weekend.  The Swiss Cup has a strange format where two representatives, male and female, from each country compete together. It is like the Hopman Cup of gymnastics. In each round they comepte in one event each.
Germany's pair, Fabian Hambuechen and Elisabeth Seitz managed to defeat Italy to win.  Teams from Romania, China, Ukraine and Great Britain were also defeated along the way.  Many teams, according to International Gymnast, lost in the early rounds due to mistakes from their top gymnasts.
In each round, the gymnasts pick which event they will compete in.  Seitz, unsurprisingly selected uneven bars, but chose not to perform her Def.  Switzerland came thirds.  This means that if you fall, you are pretty much out of the competition.
For full coverage, including training notes and videos, check out the Gymnastics Examiner's coverage.


The University of Iowa have gone and gotten themselves in trouble by NCAA officials for allowing to potential basketball recruits to meet US stars Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore.  Because Kutcher donates money to the basketball team, he is considered a representative of the University's athletic interests.  But guess who has also been known to go to the games?!  Apparently, according to one of the players, Kutcher loves to talk, so Shawn would have had a good time!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


It's time to cap off what I really thought was a spectacular Worlds WAG competition with TCG's personal Rotterdam Awards.

The Skill


Charlotte Mackie- congratulations to her for performing and nailing the one-armed Onodi! 

Runners Up:

Nabieva and Mustafina- The Amanars.  They were messy, but they were landed and they were spectacular.

Elisabeth Seitz- The Def.  Awesome.

Kristina Vaculik- The Rufolva. It may have nearly broken her arm, but gosh it is beautiful when she does it!

The Team Clown


Nicole Hibbert- The whole British team were a fun, relaxed gang.  But the standout for a laugh was definitely Hibbert. From her rallying, old lady cries of "Come on, sweetheart" to her team mates, to her dancing in training to her incessant cracking of jokes and pulling of faces- she was always a lot of fun.  Hibbert may cite team mate and Worlds room mate Danusia Francis as the funny one, but Hibbert gave us her fair share of the laughs in Rotterdam.

Runners up:

Yang Yilin- I have to say I never had any idea what a clown Yang Yilin could be.  I don't know if it is only now that she is older and a bit more relaxed, but it seemed the girl was always giggling or making a joke in training and even during competition,  She was fun to watch.  And when she had to scratch beam in prelims, she thought it was hilarious!

Sandra Izbasa- Another great clown- especially in training.  From constantly cracking jokes to rolling over and playing dead after missed tumbles, she was always a training highlight. If you can repeatedly make Octavian Belu laugh, you must be doing something right!

The Comeback Queen

Jade Barbosa-  Jade Barbosa has been very quiet the past couple of years, mostly, it seems, occupied with injuries and training issues.  But it seems she has been quietly achieving to, because when it most counted, Jade barbosa quietly entered those vault finals, and quietly knocked out two fabulous vaults to earn herself another World bronze to join her 2007 AA one.  It was a wonderful moment

Runners up:

Vanessa Ferrari- Ferrari has done a fabulous job staying near the top since her 2006 heyday despite a lot of injuries.  But this year, despite having a slightly less comparable difficulty, her consistency and execution was fabulous.  It was incredible to see her nail her final floor performance.

Alicia Sacramone- I know there are many who would think Sacramone should win this category- and maybe they are right.  But although Sacramone's comeback was stellar, it wasn't a surprise- she had already proved herself back home before coming to Rotterdam.  It was still fabulous, however, to watch on a world stage.

Gabi Dragoi- is nominated for this category for her performance in the team finals.  Those two 14+ scores were very important for Romania and Dragoi has had to fight hard for her comeback.  Very impressive when it was most needed.

Most Improved

Jessica Lopez- Jessica Lopez has waited until the ripe old age of twenty-four (although you wouldn't believe it to look at her) to reach what may not even be her peak in gymnastics.  Lopez's top ten AA performance was a far cry from the nervous gymnasts who had the goods, but not the nerve to qualify for the AA in London last year.  This year Lopez came with the skills, the steadiness and the grit to take her place at the top of the world in gymnastics.  And the fact her eye is firmly on improving on that result is even more impressive.

Runners up:

Elisabeth Seitz- who cannot admire a kid who goes out, sees great skills and decides to do them for herself?  If it wasn't for Seitz's utter enthusiasm and drive we wouldn't have seen her throw a DTY, she would not have made the AA competition, something she was so pleased about, and we certainly wouldn't have seen her perform the only Def in the the entire competition.  Her bars meltdown was a sign of her youth and her experience, but even being in that final was a sign of her desire to always get bigger and better.

Aly Raisman- Aly had a bit of a rough patch in the middle of the year after her amazing US debut.  But at Worlds she proved what a solid, consistent and emotionally tougher gymnasts she is starting to be.  She was a staple of the team competition, and despite a fall on bars in the AA, she came back hard and competed beautifully for the rest of the AA and in floor finals.

The Couch Gymnast Prize for Elegance


Ana Dementieva-  This little kid is another Russian in possession of a truckload of natural verve and elegance.  Luckily, being Russian, her choreography has also been tailored to showcase this gift, with floor and beams sets featuring beautifully selected leaps and turns.  The fact that she performs these routines with a look of pure joy certainly helps.


Ana Porgras-  It's hard not to put this gymnast in top spot.  She has natural elegance ppzing from every pore- unfathomable from a Romanian.  But something to savour every time she competes.

Huang Qiushuang- Is truly a delightful gymnast to watch.  She makes bars elegant and on floor she shines brightest among a team of charismatic and graceful floor workers.

Out of Nowhere Girl


Imogen Cairns- I cannot say enough about Imogen Cairns.  The girl is fabulous.  She didn't really come out of nowhere.  She cam out of Delhi, where she had won two golds.  But as a team reserve, she did, in a way, come from nowehere. I spoke to her the day she arrived 
in Rotterdam and she was tired, happy and ready to sit back and work and be reserve for another GBR team.  But that wasn't to be.  Illness and issues led to her taking a key three-event role on the GBR teams for prelims, with strong, steady performances that earned her a spot in the vault finals and a whole lot of respect from this blogger.  

Runners up:

Danielle Hypolito- I know she still has skills on her big events and that despite her age, she still trains hard, but who saw a spot in the all-around coming?  i certainly didn't.  Hypolito was a rock for Brazil in Rotterdam and so deserving of that spot in the finals.

Rie Tanaka- who saw this 23-year-old coming?  It was supposed to be all about the return of Koko Tsurumi.  But Koko let her nerves and pressures get to her.  Instead it was Rie Tanaka who was the shining light of the Japanese team in the qualifications and, consequently, the all-around.  Her charisma and sense of the fun of gymnastics was so inspiring to watch.

The Specialist

Ana Porgras- I did not see Ana Porgras put a foot wrong on beam at Worlds.  It was almost as if she didn't really know how to fall off anymore.  She is lovely on bars, and even floor- but the balance beam belonged to her like it did for no other gymnast this year.

Runners up:

Elisabetta Preziosa- Specializing in, well, flexibility, who can't love Elisabetta Preziosa's beam mount, or her general bendy elegance?  Being preternaturally flexible, she puts it to great use, creating elegant and unique moves on beam and floor.

He Kexin- Oh how you have to admire this girl's adjustment to her growth and her sustained ability do terrific bar work!  She did, however, prove that she also has a gift for performance for floor.  It was certainly sad to see her go down on what can only be described as her event, the uneven bars.  It was so depressing to hear that the first thing she said to the Chinese reporters in the mixed zone was "I'm sorry!" to her nation.

Team Leader

Beth Tweddle- Her leadership was so evident on the floor.  It may have helped that she was only doing two events and had more time for her GBR girls than other leaders had, but Beth Tweddle not only tried to lead by example, remaining relaxed between events, and constantly, verbally encouraging the girls, but you could also see it in the way they went to her for advice on what to do next, or just to talk about what they had just done on the apparatus or their nerves.  She was always there for them.  There are so many individual stars in gymnastics, it is really lovely to see so many of these older girls take responsibility for their junior team mates.

Runners up:

Sandra Izbasa- Sandra Izbasa seemed a warm and positive team leader in Rotterdam, particularly in training where she had no end of advice and encouragement for her younger team mates.  She also seemed to be key in maintaining a mood of hardworking cheer among within the group.

Alicia Sacramone-  While I saw Alicia Sacramone play leader to a degree- she was always hollering for her team mates, and handing out the hugs and laughs, Sacramone's leadership was more evident in her team mates constant, verbal praise of her to the media- particularly Sloan.  Her daily influence and encouragement is foremost in their minds and that has to mean something.

Lived Up to the Hype Kid


Aliya Mustafina- Here, finally, is a Russian gymnast who lived up to the hype of her junior years.  She did not burn out, did not suffer an untimely injury and nor did she stop improving.  She is as good and elegant, if not more so, as when gymnastics fans first started raving about her.  It was such a treat to have such a deserving and brilliant AA champion performance.  She was worth the wait.

Runners up:

Tatiana Nabieva- the kid was talked up big as a junior Russian gymnast.  She may not have quite lived up to the hype, but she is still as spectacular in some ways as she has promised, delivering huge skills and tough gymnastics.

Team Russia- Yep, this category is all about Russia!  People have been hyping the return of Russia ever since the incredible spate of juniors started rising up the ranks several years ago.  And guess what?  They were right

The Coach

Mihai Brestyan- I loved watching this big man run the US show during the team competition.  He is very, very good at it.  He is calm, wise and warmly strict, just what some personalities need on the floor. And talking to him about hids gymnasts afterward proved how good he is at maintaining perspective on the sport and their performances.  He is a commanding, but kind coach and I sincerely admire him


Nilson Savage- I am a big fan of this coach and his gymnast.  He is so happy and excited to be taking this journey with jessica lopez, and despite his other myriad commitments, he is so commited to taking her on this journey for as long as she needs.

Alexander Alexandrov- What can you say?  The man has done an incredible job lifting the Russian programs back to the top. And the personalities he manages every day?  Total and utter kudos to him!

The Happy Camper

The Winner:

Mackenzie Caquatto-  Aside from when she was performing, it was rare not to see a smile on this girl's face during and between competitions.  Despite some obvious pain issues, she was full of smiles and laughter through the whole competition.  The fact that she delivered stable, solid gymnastics whenever required probably helped give her a lot to smile about.


Raluca Haidu- who could not enjoy the infectiously cute smile of little Romanian, Raluca Haidu?  The fact that she was so liberal with them, despite her obvious nerves was sweet to see.  She was always cheerful in training and happy on the floor.

Elsa Garcia- Ever sweet, ever elegant and always smiling, Elsa Garcia is so much fun to have around as a leader for the Mexicans.

The quiet Achiever


Kristina Vaculik- Kristina Vaculik did not apear in any event finals, nor did she make the AA, missing by inches.  But what Kristina Vaculik did do, despite a severely injured arm, a case of strep-throat and being out of form after a couple of weeks of orientation at Stanford was carry a largely nervous, inexperienced and injured Canadian team to their qualification for the Olympic games.  She did this quietly, and with little kudos, but her talent and dedication to her sport were evident in her  willingness to look past the pain of her injury and compete beautifully for her coutnry.

Runners up:

Roni Rabinovitz- The Israeli gymnast did more than she could have hoped for during worlds, hitting great routines and showing what she is capable of in her signature event; floor.  She may not have the difficulty to be up there with the World's best yet, but she sure proved why she is Israel's best.

Hannah Whelan- quietly and dutifully went about her business at Worlds, so much so that many, perhaps, didn't notice how good she is at what she does.  I know it took me a while.  She is one of GBR's more elegant gymnasts and, more importantly, one of their most stable young competitors.  She was throughly deserving of her top twenty AA finish.

The Untimely Injury

The winner (or loser, in this case):

Chelsea Davis- it was very hard to see this gymnast taken out of the game with injury yet again.  It was especially hard considering how fabulously consistent and steady she had been in training all week.  With that twenty-twenty vision that comes with hindsight, she may have been the better choice for the team line-up than Larson, but we will never know if that choice would have been made by Martha.

Runners up:

Dominique Pegg-  Suffering from a  confounding foot injury that stems no actual known moment of trauma, Pegg had hoped to do bars at this championships.  This was not to be.  it was sad to see this dynamic little gymnast miss out, particularly as she would have been a strong addition to a tenuous Canadian line-up.

Team Venzuela- The Venezuelans succumbed to a host of untimely injuries this year, particularly in team qualifications, where two of the first performers on floor had to be carried off the podium.  It was so sad to see a team who had been so fun and exciting to watch during podium training literally hobbled by injuries when they most needed to put to put up their best gymnastics.

The Save

Alicia Sacramone- Look above.  A picture speaks a thousand words.  She. didn't. fall.

Runner up:

Rebecca Bross- she wavered, she bent at the hips, she turned into a handstand and yet she couldn't stop herself falling from beam.  The fall took seconds, but it seemed to take hours.

Psyched themselves Out


Ksenia Afanasyeva: After Mustafina didn't quite deliver on floor, this could have been Afanasyeva's gold medal in the bag.  But then she did what she always seemed to manage to do, make a hash of what could have finally been her moment in the sun.  Sad.  it will probably be her last worlds too.


Yana Demyanchuk- she delivered her usual speedy but accurate beam work to qualify for the beam final.  She pulled out a good strong routine only to completely screw up her landing.

Mexico- they looked fabulous and happy in podium training and then just went and psyched themselves out in prelims.  They were nervous, tentative and forgot to enjoy themselves and it showed in the results

Mattie Larson- Yep, both commenters were right, and thanks,  I can't believe I actually forgot Mattie Larson in this category.  Once is unfortunate.  Twice has to be called a choke.  I still put Afanasyeva ahead as SURELY, she could have learned something by now.  But Mattie's psyche out was horrible and depressing.

TCG's Happy Happy Award


Lauren Mitchell.  Duh!  Floor gold!!!

Runners Up: 

Beth Tweddle-  I love Beth and her coach and I am always so happy to see them succeed.

Emily Little-  I just thought this just-out-of-juniors Aussie kid did a fabulous job for Australia at both Delhi and Rotterdam.  She has good clean difficult skills and she performed them like she was in her gym at home most of the time.  Total kudos to her for not letting her nerves get the better of her.

Thanks girls for a fun and exciting Worlds competition!