Sunday, November 30, 2008

Snooker anyone?

Remember when I told you guys about how Anna Pavlova said once in an interview how much she loved to play pool, but how for years she just had to watch the others play because she was too short to reach the table?  Well, it seems she is not the only one!

They must have chopped the legs off this table if Oana Ban could reach it The balls are the same size as her head!

Simona Amanar even got out the stick on her engagement party.

On the Best Australian Gymnast Podium is.....


So duh, Dasha Joura won the Best Australian Gymnast poll.  As if we didn't see that coming a mile away!  It figures.  She is recent, she is wonderful, she is fiercely talented and such a charmer.  She wins in the popularity stakes too.  She has definitely been such a breath of fresh, fun air this last quad and I think we can say that she is the first australian  gymnast to be really recognized around the world.  People remember her wether they like her or not.  Judges do too.  
She is a fantastic all-arounder, with particularly impressive floor and bars sets.  It truly is a pity she couldn't have a go at the bronze at Beijing. Her floor routine was always talked about endlessly in Youtube commentary.  And her own commentary in this years Perth Now column gave us just another reason to appreciate her.  
I hope she gets to continue using her gymnastics talents for another couple of years.


Next, yet another flame haired Aussie in hot pink took out second place.  Allana Slater, one of Australia's most elegant gymnasts-turned-rifle-shooters, claimed the silver spot.  
Slater was such a beautiful gymnast.  She moved wonderfully and her floor and beam work were world class.  And when she emerged on the scene, that was something special from Australian gymnasts.  She also debuted at a time when Australian gymnastics team efforts were really gathering momentum, being part of the first gold-clinching team at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur (as well as bagging a few individuals herself) and in the highest ranking (at the time) World team who came fifth in 1999.  
She has had such a successful career into the 2000's too when others around her retired,leaving her to win our first World Cup gold and our second, as well as being in that bronze-winning Anaheim team in Anaheim and qualifying for an Olympic event final on beam in Athens.
This girl had so much talent, but what I think was so, so great about her gymnastics was her beautiful choreography and the regal, lovely way she executed it every time.  Stunning.


Garnering the third spot in this poll was recent retiree Hollie Dykes.  Her leaving of the sport was a blow for gymnastics and gymnastics fans alike, including myself.  She was a wonderful gymnast with so much talent and such gorgeous lines.  Remember at the Pacific Alliances when Elfi Schlegel and co were wetting themselves over Hollie?  They were, as usual, tending a little toward the hyperbolic, but they were right in some respects.  She had a indefinable presence that made you want to watch her perform.  She also, though, matched that quality with difficulty.  
But I alway thought, raw talent aside, that she wasn't pychologically tough enough to make it.  Remember the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne?  That AA should have been hers, but she just couldn't get it together? That was depressing.
Oh well, she was still stunning to watch and like many people, I miss her.

Leo torture continued....

In the comments to my last blog about the quest for the least offensive leotard, someone asked me how i thought Canada fitted into this picture. What do I think of Canada's choices?
Well I have to say, Canada is one of those countries that is blessed with a simple, yet lovely combination of colours in their national flag with it red and white. Not only that, but it is blessed with a particularly pretty botanical symbol with which it can adorn its national uniforms.
The red and white has been used well on occasions in the past.

(Monica Goermann)

(Elyse Hopfner-HIbbs)

I have also noticed a bit of the ole black and white going on, which i have no idea of the significance of, perhaps some Canadian reader can fill us in. It might be much like how Oz flag colours are red, blue and white, but our other daffy flag, the boxing kangaroo is yellow and green, the combo we usually adopt for sports to differentiate us from the Brits.
The black and white has been adopted prettily at times too.

(Aisha Gerber)

They have even demonstrated a talent in the past for going way off the national topic and doing it well.

(jennifer Wood)

So, as we have seen, the National shades are pleasant, non-offensive colour combinations, and they can come up with other nice ideas, but that does NOT mean Canada has not gone all out breaking all the other rules set out by the Couch Gymnast.

(Nansy Diamonova in a sleeveless number.  Grrr!)

(First thing I though after that awesome beam mount and tumbling row, was "Wow, way too too shiny". The high collar give her no neck and Elyse is so compact  she needs all the neck she can get.)

(Nansy Diamonova letting the whole team down with this number that, according to CG logic breaks ALL the rules)

So, i guess I can  say that I think Canada, like the others, can do okay, but they are definitely not the least offensivewhen it comes to leo choices!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

And the least offensive leo award goes to....

We have had a lot to say about leotard fashion crimes over the years.  I know The Couch Gymnast has had plenty to say in a short time.  But it's hard to ignore the atrocities we are subjected to at each and every competition we see.  There is hardly a country that hasn't offended in some way, wether it be through the crimes of cut, colour or pattern.  They always find a way. 

Some, as we have discussed before, are total repeat offenders, consistently pulling out the no-holds-barred ugly stops on us. Countries like Spain, Germany and Ukraine do it again and again and again.

(Left-Oksy and crew.  Germany needs to ignore its flag and forge a new path, away from this monstrous, unflattering combination of vomity orangey-red, black and white and yellow.  It does no good to no one.  Centre-Spain, what to say? Melodie Pulgarin gives us a front of one of their spectacular attempts at out-uglying themselves in 2007. Right- Zgoba showing the Ukraine talent for multi-tasking.  Compete at worlds by day, pull on a mini and some heels and they'll let you intp any nightclub in downtown Kiev by night.)

Some countries commit the crime of dullness, constantly looking a bit same same, producing variations on the usual colour/design scheme that we have been saturated with over the years.  Countries like Korea, Brazil, U.S.A and China (USA did break out with the hot pink this time round though.  Kudos for livening it up a bit) just keep the same old, same old coming.  It's hard to get excited.  

(What?  The U.S.A will be wearing blue, red and white you say? And China will be in red and yellow?  As we say in Australia with all due sarcasm.  Shock. Bloody.  Horror.)

Other countries like Romania and Russia generally do a decent job, then all of a sudden, wham, out of nowhere a horrifying spectacle of ugliness is produced for some gymnastic event. 

(Holy flaming sequinned stocking fabric- that is u-g-l-y! Poor Zammo.  As if her life hasn't been hard enough)

Then there are others like Australia that just can't seem to fix on a theme and stay there.  And as a result, wind up mystifying and horrifying us in many and varied ways over the years.

(Australia can't decide wether to embrace it's national themes or  play on the teeny girls theme.  I vote go national if it keeps us far from the hot pink pot)

So i got to thinking about wether there is actually a country that nearly always pulls out a good leo? (well even a decent leo would do)  I used to think it was Hungary.  It helps that I think red, green and white are a lovely colour scheme for sports.  And they had some cute designs in the eighties and early nineties.

But then they had to go and decide they are over the National flag colours some time near the end of the nineties and start pulling this mind-bogglingly boring style out.


I've been thinking about this leotard problem a lot (as you can probably imagine) and I have been trying to figure out which country most consistently pulls out the better leotards. I am not asking for much here.  I know steady good behavior is beyond any country we have seen (particularly in the eastern part of europe) yet.  All I am asking for is just one country that never hurt us too badly.  After a lot of careful thinking, and by employing some strict guidelines, I have conducted my own personal search for a favored leo-toting country

Here are the rules that guided my search for the least ugly leotard collection:

1. They must not have had one single leotard that can be described as a heinous fashion crime.(See Example 1 below)
2. There must never, ever have been a collar involved (a high neck i will accept, just, but only because i would have to rule out nearly every single country if i didn't).
3. They must have had varied styles of leotards over the years- not just one safe style.
4. The cut must have generally flattered the gymnasts (i.e no high necks, super-shiny fabric, transparent stocking patches, false cleavages or sleeveless leos) (these are my rules.  Make up your own if you don't like them) (See example Two)
5. No velvet (i can't stand those velvety looking ones (remember this is my own personal fashion odyssey. You are quite welcome to ADORE velveteen leos. In fact you can cartwheel down main street in a fluorescent purple and pink one if you so wish. Just not on my watch.) (See example Three)
6. They must have employed some sort of feature, not just block colors (that would be too easy to win in the inoffensive stakes).
7. Both individual gymnasts leotard choices and team choices must be consistently tolerable. One gymnast can mess up a whole nation of gymnast's sartorial record, just like one fall can lose them the  gold in  team finals.  
8. No leotard must not ever  sting the eyes on viewing nor ride up excessively in nethers of poor leotard sporting gymnast-therefore stinging our eyes in other ways (see example Four).
9. Above all, they must attempt to be individual, attractive and interesting.
10. It must not EVER break four or more of these rules at the same time. (see example Five)

(Example One.  You only have to see half of Kaeslin's leo to know it gonna fit right into the heinous box.  It's a khaki butterfly/evil mask design with a mismatching swiss red-on-white emblem smooshed on top for Pete's sake!)

(Example Two.  I am just not sure why it is necessary for us to have this window into Cata's torso region?  It's hardly an enlightening experience.  Am I missing something I'm supposed to see?  Her soul, perhaps?)

(Example Three. Velvet look and fake cleavage.  A world of wrong.

(Example Four.  This leo definitely counts as a nethers rider)

(Example Five. Adela Sajn of Slovenia is the perpetrator burning our eyes with this particular atrocity.  I hope it was just her and not all of her team mates.  Yep, she's breaking all the rules -and it isn't cool.)

ANYWAY, after careful thought, and much internet google image searching, The Couch Gymnasts has decided that.......

The least offensive leotard award goes to...

And Here's Why!

(Patriotic, plain and as pretty as they come.  One of my all time favorites)

(Gorgeous, a bit old-school and goes on with the swirly ribbon theme that tends to run through the Japanese leo choices.)

(Very pretty choice for Beijing.  Similar to China but more delicate and less garish.  The white softens it and again, they use the nearly always lovely botanical theme.)

(Cute, different and very, very Japanese)

(classic, inoffensive, plain yet detailed)

(Cute, interesting, daring, but not too ugly colour scheme)

(This is one of those leos that, from a distance looks dull, but the closer you get, the more you appreciate the detail and the unusual but lovely colour combinations.  I could live without the horrid high neck,but i love, love, love the leaf/fan things  across the torso.)

( This one is so eighties and i am a sucker for the old eighties geometric.  Good colour combo and I like the way it works out from the blue sleeve)

(More nice colors and swirly effects)

(This one I can't find a good shot of but its a winner.  The fade from white to blue is gorgeous, and the pink swirls are in fact a gorgeous flower design stretched across the torso)

(This is probably my least favorite. But this is why they win. It's my least favorite not because its ugly, but just because its not as interesting or pretty as the others. It doesn't offend anyone though and that is what is important in this test.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hee Hee!

"They (the judges) were just being mean. If we all quit after our first mistake, Svetlana Khorkina would have retired a long time ago."
Simona Amanar (referring to harsh judging in a competition)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A little treat for...

Mez of the Australian Gymnastics Blog! Happy Birthday! Keep it coming!

Waddup Beth?

In my semi-permanent state of gymnastics musing, i found myself wondering this morning, when I really should have been deliberating on the effects of Australian road trip narratives on national attitudes toward the Australian outback, what Beth Tweddle is up to these days.  (See why i write this blog.  I can't think about my thesis all day.  I would die of boredom)
It struck me that i hadn't thought about Britain's Queen of gymnastics for quite a while.  That is strange enough in itself as I am a big fan of the Tweds.  You gotta admire her gutsy bar work and her fierce tumbling.  And you also have to admire her for single-handedly raising (until recently) Great Britain from the medal-less mire of world gymnastics.  
 Now I am pretty sure ole'  Bethy is retired these days and I am sure some far more up-to-date -on-the-money blogger told me so.  I know she said in her message to her fans on her site that she doesn't have a clue what she will do, but that was a while ago.  Things might have changed. In fact, I will just go check. Back in a jiffy.
(This is your hold music)hum-di -hum -do ho- la-la-la -la- KKKSHHHH " Hello, this is a brief message to inform you that the Couch gymnasts values its readers highly and will return to speak to you at the first available opportunity" KKKKSHHHH- La-la -hoooooo-ha-hoo-whooo-wa-whooo"

Okay, I am back.  Well kids, it seems the most recent tidbit  could find, from the Chester Chronicle -however reliable a source that is I simply do not know -is that Bethy is rethinking chucking in  her leo because of the sheer irresistible lure of the London 2012 games.
I gotta say, I know her stated aim and ambition was simply to make it into a bars final at the Olympics ( do you need to capitalize Olympics, or can you just say olympics?  I just realised I have no idea.  I will capitalize it for now because its important to us gym fans, at least until someone tells me differently) and that she did that with her fourth place.  But come on peeps, who really believes that with that insanely difficult and spectacular routine she pulled out of her adidas at the last minute wasn't gearing her up for a medal spot?  And darn i wish she'd gotten it.  I am certain she wanted the hardware, and i refuse to believe she wasn't frustrated by her so-close-yet-so-far-away fourth place (in fact she said she was slightly "gutted" on her website about it despite the all-round excellent time she had at the Olympics!)  You have to appreciate her honesty. 
Personally, I'd rather come eighth than fourth in an event final (you know, when they let someone whose highest gymnastic achievement is a handstand forward roll (on the floor, mind you) into the Olympics!) but Beth is probably a much bigger person than me.
Now there is no denying the Tweds is getting on, and that her body will be able to only take so much more pounding in training, but i really do hope she can hold out for London, at least on bars, because in my opinion, the girl is a legend.

And  if she doesn't make it as far as London, there is still Worlds this year.  Besides, I can't imagine Beth not having a great time in the next few years.  She is revered her country, which means she will hopefully get a chance at things like commentating during gymnastics events.  She has a life.  She has been studying for years, has a degree in sports science and is now studying sport massage WHILE she has been training.  She has a boyfriend and seemingly, a social life.  She has plenty up her sleeve.
I hope Beth continues for a while though, but i can't imagine her not contributing something more to the gymnastics world in any capacity.  And this would be great because the British are just getting better and better!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I couldn't resist....

Posting this piccy of Oana Ban. As I have mentioned i have recently been having a Ban renaissance, probably because she is a coach now in Cluj- Napoca in Romania, a town I am going to next year.  So I  have therefore been catching up with her work.  I wonder if i could get hold of a translator and try an interview with her while I am there?  The world needs a catch-up with her, I reckon!  
I would love to see inside a Romania gym too, even a recreational gym.  I am not sure if Ban trains elites, but  imagine she would be.  (When i saw on my blog analysis that people in Deva have been reading my blog, i got hysterical!!  Its so funny to think that people all over the world are reading these things!)
 ANYWAY, i found this photo on the wonderful, wonderful gymbox site and could not resist posting it. 
Now i don't like getting too schmaltzy, but is that photo not the cutest freaking thing you have ever seen?!!  Oana in her baby-fat, baby-face (the face never really went away) era is a sight to behold.  
She does, however, look mildly alarmed by the giant orange creature standing behind her.  And who can blame her at her obviously tender years?  I am probably nearly three times her age here and if i saw that thing coming', i'd run the other way!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Speaking of.....

Liu Xuan a couple of posts ago, i think it's time The Couch Gymnast had a little list devoted to the many, many unbeliavable aspects of Liu Xuan's gymnastics and post-gymnastics career.  Both have been equally, and amazingly as successful.  This outstanding gymnast not only had one of those dramatic and terrific gymnastics careers we love to see, she has also proved her mettle at using her suceess in the sport to launch other opportunities  in a frenzy of post-Sydney activity in her role as Chinese gymnastic's walking photo opportunity.  So today, here's a list of reasons to admire Liu Xuan.

Her Ability to Innovate

I always feel like I should take a moments silence when I see Liu Xuan's one-armed giant into Geinger release.  It was spectacular.  But it was also was another one of those mind-bogglingly brilliant moments in women's gymnastics that was consequently shot down by the judges.  Remind anyone of another innovator?  Of poor old Olga Korbut, perhaps?  Her  daring new brand of gymnastics was rewarded with just the same kind of disapproving attitudes Liu Xuan's new move was treated with.  When that one-armed giant was down-graded to a C- scoring element, the judges were basically telling gymnasts that they only like innovation on their terms, and their terms only. 
She told reporters, " I felt that was unfair to me because after you have spent so much time and sweat mastering something, to have someone take that away from you like that was really difficult to accept.  It's like when you try to innovate but are discouraged from ding so because no one else can do it."
 It was a disappointing moment for gymnastics.

Her ability to make a comeback.

Liu Xuan was supposed to make her big debut at the 1996 Olympics, bringing a team of excellent gymnasts to Atlanta with a huge amount of talent between them.  Liu was supposed to be one of it's greatest hopefuls.  This, however, was not to be.  Liu should have challenged for a medal on beam, but due to a fall in the qualification rounds, she did not make it to beam finals.  This did not stop her from continuing her training and returning to compete in Sydney. This time, her efforts were rewarded with a team bronze and a beam gold.  She was also, of course, awarded the bronze all-around medals after Andreea Raducan's gold was stripped from her.
Like many gymnasts these days, including her country woman Cheng Fei, Liu has continued with the sport and proved herself able to return to another Olympics and achieve a measure of success. The fact that she achieved all this at the age of twenty-one is even more satisfying.

Her Beam Stunning work.

It may seem like the Chinese girls have been kicking butt on beam forever and a day, but Liu Xuan's Sydney beam gold was actually the Chinese team's first ever Olympic beam gold.  Her 2000 beam routine was just gorgeous.  It was interesting from the start with her handstand press into a full-twisting drop down move into sitting on the beam. Her back layout was pretty too, though lacking the height and amplitude of some who came after her.  She did, however, manage to make it look more impressive because of her strangely slow tumbling.  
(You can see this evidenced even more so in her floor routines, where she appears to jog into her tumbling rows, flip comparatively slowly, yet still pull off the big moves.  It is quite dis-arming.)  Her stuck double back dismount was an awesome finish and seeing Ekaterina Labouzniak's wry smile of acknowledgment that she has been beaten fair and square is hilarious!

Her myth

In nearly all the stories of Liu Xuan's career, you will find that the story tells one of a girl moved to do gymnastics by a mother making up for her own lack of a career. Liu Xuan's mother was, in fact, a gymnast before the Cultural Revolution brought all such activities to a halt for a number of years. But it was not, according to Liu, her mother who pushed her into the sport, but her father, who believed it would be a way of teaching her to take things seriously and to work hard at achieving goals.  According to Liu, she was only entered into the sport because of her ill-health as a child.
"Contrary to some reports, my mother never actually wanted me to go into the sport and was very much against me becoming a professional gymnast. That's probably because back in her time gymnasts had to go through a lot of hardships with little reward. She wanted me to grow up happy and healthy."
This story has just become one of those myths, all tied up in Chinese national history, that get told about certain athletes. it does, however in that they are building myths around her, prove her status as a legend of Chinese, and perhaps world gymnastics.

Her uncanny sense of balance.

It's hard enough to balance in a needle scale, But Liu ups the ante with those spikes!

Her Ability to multi-task

Since retiring from gymnastics at the old age of twenty-two, Liu has done just about everything possible for a young woman riding high on the celebrity that comes from being a three-time medal winner at an Olympics in China.  She has starred in movies.  She has modeled for various fashion labels as well as for perfume.  She has begun recording her own album on which she sings.  She has studied for and qualified to become an international judge, although she was too young to be considered for the Beijing Olympics.  Instead she went to Beijing as a reporter, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, for a Hong Kong broadcaster of the Olympics to cover the gymnastics.  She is also enrolled in a prestigious Beijing University where she will graduate with a degree in journalism and communication.  Phew.  That is a lot to get done in eight short years!
"I know about athletes who are struggling with their lives since retirement" she told The AirMacau magazine, "The way I see it is that you have to treasure every opportunity because they tend to slip away easily when you don't take them seriously- even for those who were once famous."

Her fashion Sense

Liu Xuan, as demonstrated in other post's has an ever-changing sense of fashion that can at best, be described as highly entertaining.  While sometimes she can look simply lovely, sometimes she is just plain kooky! Either way, it is nearly always interesting.