Thursday, March 26, 2009

Listen Here, Texas Lawmakers


I just left this comment on the wonderful Gymnastics Coaching blog tonight;

"Wow, I can't believe this. I'm hundred and thousand of miles from Texas and i am raging!!! 
Where is the line drawn between a sports training venue and a child care venue? Uneven bars/climbing structure? 
A gym is not a playground and isn't that something all coaches tell the kids? The first thing we were told when we did gymnastics in school was not to 'play' on the equipment, not to even get on it unsupervised because it is not a 'playground' for our own safety. 
I'm all for making sure kids are well looked after in terms of care and hygiene issues, but as a sportings facility, with the necessities and requirements of the sport taken into consideration. This bill is all about semantics.
(and it's so funny, because tonight i was watching an old Elise Ray college routine on bars and thinking what terrific bars workers the states have produced- like Liukin and Kupets. Imagine if the other states followed? Imagine if those past bars champions couldn't have 'climbed them? Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid)"

But I am still so stunned by the ludicrous "climbing structure" part of this new bill that I can't let it go. Come on, Those in High Places, there is a distinct difference between this,

and this,

I can just see it now- some new Nastia of WOGA telling the judges, "oh i can't do the uneven bars. Where I grew up you couldn't do bars."

Come on Texas policy peeps, I understand you want to look after your kids, but really....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Speaking of ANTM...


I'm pretty sure Annia ain't wearing a weave though!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Bad Girls Files #7

Gymnast: Mohini Bhardwaj
Gymnastics Highlight:  2004 was a great year for Mohini. Winning the silver in Athens as team captain at the ripe old age of 25, and making it into the floor finals has to be a highlight.  She also had 'The Bhardwaj' named after her on bars. 
Crime: Being the gymnastics version of Jennifer Capriati.

Please Explain:  When she was still a teenager, Mohini moved into an apartment on her own in Texas in order to continue training with her coach Alexander Alexandrov  who had opened Brown's gym in Houston.  Given her newfound freedom, much predictable partying ensued.  What would you expect from a sixteen year old facing the freedom of her own place?
The partying may have affected her training as Mohini did not make the 1996 Olympics, though she earned a place in the Karolyi camp.  According to her, she watched Kerri Strug land her vault in a Cincinatti bar somewhere with her friends.  She said it saddened her, but she loved watching seeing the U.S girls take gold.
The partying habits continued into her college years, though Valorie Kondos-Field famously took a chance on the 'wildchild' of US gymnastics and gave Mohini a full scholarship.  According to Kondos-Field, she first heard about Mohini when in 1997 Mo apparently stayed out late partying with the Russian team during the World Championships in Switzerland.  For her freshman year Mohini spent too little time studying and plenty of time partying.  She gained 'the freshman 10', pulled a lot of al-nighters (not of the studying variety) and then lied to avoid a practice session.  That was the breaking point for Kondos- Field, who confronted her when she realised Mohini was just trying to get out of team practice.
Funnily enough, her father, an alternative medicine practitioner, who has been fairly forgiving of her past misdemeanors, was most ticked off by her tattoo (the olympic rings on her wrist), which she tried to hide from him.  "It is the worst thing she has done."  He told a journalist. She has another, floral tattoo as well, stowed somewhere under her leo.

Punishment:  She was nearly kicked off the UCLA Bruins team at the end of her freshman year after the lying stunt.  This threat actually encouraged Mohini to mend her ways and she came back for her sophomore year a reformed student and a team player.  At one point in her second year, she came to training crying when she finally studied hard enough to earn a B in school. She then, as we know, went on to have an absolute dream college gymnastics career and a wonderfully close relationship with Miss Val.  Her difficulty and artistry increased so steadily  during her time at UCLA that she was able, even after suffering a dislocated elbow, to compete for a berth on the Olympic team.

Badness Rating:  Medium
Well what kind of behavior do you expect from a smart, independant kid allowed to live on her own in a city? That, my friends, is what we call temptation! And anyway, the upshot of being the bad girl, is that you attract other bad girls like Pammy Anderson who are more than willing to spring for your Olympic trip!  Considering she claimed she was living by taking her pennies and playing the slot machines in order to buy soy milk and cereal while living in L.A and training for the Olympics,  Mo sure needed the help! 

Dear Gymnastics Gods....

Bless me for i have sinned
It's been, well.... forever since my last confession.  
But I have to admit i have been having uncharitable-unkind even- thoughts about a certain gymnast.   

I just can't help myself. 

No matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to stop having them.

Is it bad that I am really, really glad that Courtney Kupets is finally finishing up with NCAA gymnastics this year.?

It's just that she is so, so irritatingly, annoyingly good at gymnastics.  

Is it bad that even though i think she is a fabulously talented gymnast and probably a very, very nice person I am still so, so tired of her and her annoying habit of winning everything?  

Is it bad that sometimes I want her to like, fall of the beam or miss a few more handstands on bars just to know that she can?  
That she is human?
Is it bad that I am glad i never have to watch her do another one of those floor routines again?

Is it bad that even though I think she is real, real brave for overcoming and returning from two achilles injuries that I am happy that she has claimed she is hanging up her leos for good?

I've thought about this a lot, and I thought that maybe i was still just a little bit mad about the whole Martha letting her go up on floor instead of Court McC in Athens even though she was injured and I really, really, really wanted McC to get a go in the team comp, but it's not.  That was four years ago, and it wasn't Koop's fault anyway- it was the Hags. 
I'm over it. Really I am.

I think its just that once Courtney's gone, and is no longer winning every NCAA, SEC and National title in sight, that others will have a chance to shine, Georgia will have to fight harder and the individual rankings won't be so darn predictable.

I know, I know.  It's not Courtney's fault she is so good, or that Georgia likes to pluck ex-Olympians for their fodder, or that she has had the good fortune of being on one of the most consistently good teams for her four years.  But I am still sick of her.

Okay, okay I know the drill.  I'll go recite the Code of Points five times and try to change my ways.

For the Love of....


More out-of-leo fashion crimes from The Couch Gymnast!

Ah denim! It is the fashion staple. It is not only wanted, it is necessary. You sling on your jeans, and anything goes with it. 
You sling on your jeans, a tee, and you're instantly dressed. 
You throw in a cute top, or a saucy singlet and you're dressed up. 
You put on a nice blouse and you're fit to see Grandma. 
Denim is everyone's friend. 
At least i thought. 
But for those who live in the further reaches, on those Eastern sartorial shores of Europe where they haven't heard that velvet and sequins are out, these lost souls still exist in a world where acid wash, stone wash, and denim-on-denim still carry fashion weight. 
Don't know what I am talking about?
Let The Couch Gymnast show you....
Now, every experiment (even fashion) must have a control.  Here is a control.  A-Sac in a perfectly regular example of the donning of denim.  

And here is another.  Courtney Mc 'Really Quite Cool- Have You seen her Dance?' showing how to bring it to the beam.  So here is a little example of normality before we move onto the more, uh, experimental of denim choices....

See what I mean?!!  Here is Simona, all innocence and and sweet uncorrupted youth, but yet sporting that great eighties throwback, the faded denim jacket..... like it's normal.

Oh Catalina.  Those jeans.  Still magnetically attracted to the nineties, aren't you?  Low slung, or knee length?  Can't decide?  Let's do both!  Brought to you by the decade where less is not more... more is more. 

Here is her baby fashion sister, Monica Rosu.  I'm thinking she might have an Amanar hand-me-down here,

And here is Catalina's young protege, Oana.... it's like a virus.

Okay, so fair enough, Ekat looks like she is about twelve here, and no one is totally responsible for their fashion decision at this age.  But, a sheepskin lined denim vest? Holy hell.

Anyone watch n Next Top Model?  This is what Tyra would call "high fashion" denim.  All Queen Khorky needs is a good 'broken doll' pose.

And just in case you thought they left those fashion war crimes back in the nineties, Anastasia Koval keeps Eastern Europe in the loop..

And just in case we thought there was no one else to carry the fashion torch in the West....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Couch Gymnast is going on a....


Yep, that's right, at the end of this week, The Couch Gymnast will be heading on a whirlwind, five-week tour of Eastern Europe. She will, however, be starting her her holiday with some Europeans Championships reportage for you folks out there!
The International Gymnast Online announced the roster for this years individual Euros, a list which got me all a-flutter with excitement at prospect of this competition.  I know, being so close after Beijing, it will not be a jam-packed with the bigs stars or the thrills of a team-comp, but I am still ridiculously excited about it!
Here's a list of what I am most looking forward to next week in Milan.

Beth Tweddle!  Yay! Yay! Yay!  Time for Bethy to put that big-scoring bars routine to the use formwhich it was strung together.  I know a bars gold at these Euros might not have the same flavour after that fourth place in Beijing, but hell, I'm just glad the Tweds is still gunning it!  )

Speaking of the British girls, I am very much looking forward to seeing how the young, surprise Beijing team member, Hannah Whelan is coming on.

 I am sad, however, to see no Marissa King in the line up.  I'd love to see that girl win a vault medal in a major competition.

Spanish Leotards!  Yay!  It is safe to assume that the four spaniards, Mercedes Alcaide, Ana Maria Izurieta, Naomi Ruiz and Anna Serra will be sporting some stunners for the show!

Seeing the French wunderkind with all that her difficulty and talent, Youna Dufournet play with the big kids in a major competition.

The Ksenia's going head to head on beam.  Isn't it so very strange to think that the Ksenia's are now the old girls on team Russia?  I love watching both these girls on beam when they hit it and would love to see one of them win a medal.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the Sandra Izbasa body is holding up in the post-Beijing year.  I hope she can still power up for floor.

And of course, I am totally dying to see what the patron Saint of the Hideous Leotards, Adela Sajn will be donning for the meet.

Though Dariya Zgoba is nowhere to be seen on the list, I am looking forward to seeing Anastasia Koval, who actually qualified third for the Beijing bars finals (though Liukin and Kexin had problems) do her thing on the unevens.

Seeing what Croatian gymnastics stalwart, Tina Erceg pulls out on floor.  Though she doesn't always hit her tumbling, I find her floor exercises strangely appealing.  She has lovely leg extension and some nice dancing.

I am also looking forward to seeing one half of the Romanian talent-twins Anamaria Tamarjan perform on one of her favorite apparatus, floor after her bronze medal win last year. Between injuries and two-per-country rules, Anamaria hasn't had enough opportunities to perform despite her solid performances and impressive talent.

Seeing the winner of the 2007 European Youth Olympic Festival, Valentina Holenkova performing for Ukraine.  Valentina was impressive, winning bars and beam as well as second on floor.  She was also Ukraine's only all-arounder in team qualifications, but only qualified as a reserve for the AA final.  I am hoping she has lifted her difficulty because her work is very pretty.

The Gym Dogs say....


So, magicians can bend spoons, a group of men can survive at the bottom of a mining shaft for weeks, a snail can hang in suspended animation, pinned to a display board in a museum while no one realises it is still alive for two years and....... 

I was getting to think that these blonde- haired, blue-eyed, employee-of-the-month, yearbook mostly-likely-to-succeed, clam-bake lovin', tea-party makin', academic-honours earning, best-friend-a-girl-could-ever-have, all-around wunderkinds were incapable of losing a meet...  
But here, folks, we have it.... in quite the turn of events the wonderful team at University of Alabama, the wonderfully-named Crimson tide, beat Georgia by four mammoth tenths of a point with what looks to have been a steady, stellar team performance.  

The largely injured Florida Gators followed close behind in third at the SEC gymnastics championships.
After coming second by 0.25 last year at SEC's Bama coach Sarah Patterson said that the girls kept the momentum up by spending the last bye screaming and yelling and dancing to music in order to take the pressure off the last rotation.  Well, it worked.  Patterson said she didn't tell them the scores before the last event, but just reminded them they were capable of doing it. And they were.

Georgia still managed to take out a bunch of the evening's honours, with Suzanne Yoculan taking SEC Coach of the Year (her goodbye present i guess) Kupets getting Athlete of the Year (duh) and the immeasurably sweet Grace Taylor taking out the Scholar-Athlete of the year award.  Kupets also took the AA of course, being a sole or shared winner in all events.

It looks like, from the scores, Hilary Mauro and Cassidy McComb both had falls on beam, meaning Mauro's 9.3 score had to be counted, affecting the over-all team count though there were no other major mistakes.

The best thing, of course is The NCAA Nationals now look to be an actual exciting meet.  Yay!!!!



Yes, the Couch Gymnast is ecstatic, and yes of course it is because of the UCLA Bruins taking out the Pac-10 Championships against Stanford, Oregon and myriad others (well, seven.  Yes, I can do basic math)! 
 That, my friends, makes me happy happy happy!
Also, I can't decide what makes me happier, aside from the team win, that,
1. They did it by kicking some college butt on beam. 

The beam hasn't necessarily been a strong point for them this year.  or,
2. That it was wonderful to see that, while Stanford fell back in the standings because of freshman falters on floor (having to count one of two falls) it was UCLA's babies like Zamarripa, whom Kondos-Field made the big-time claim of calling her "the most talented athlete UCLA has ever had." (wow, big call), Hopfner-Hibbs and  Aisha Gerber who were whooping butt all over the plank.
Also, Anna Li took a part in an impressively even-handed five-way uneven bars win taking UCLA's only individual title.
And to put the icing on The Couch Gymnasts happy cake, her favorite shorty, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs took out the Pac-10 Freshman of the year award! 


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

World's Worst Leotard Heat 7

U.S Cummerbund

Spanish Stunner

Rhapsody in Yellow

Russian Wrestling Leotard

Yet another Nineties Abstract

Another Spanish Stunner

Handstand of the Day...

The Japanese Gymnastic Team Will Train Anywhere!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Bad Girls Files #6

Gymnast: Verona Van De Leur
Gymnastics Highlight: Silver medallist on floor exercise at the 2002 Debrecen World Championships
Crime:  Pulling a no-show
Please Explain: In late 2008, The Dutch Gymnastics federation expressed worry in a magazine, Volkskrant (translated by the dearly departed Triple Full blog) that Verona van de Leur had all but cut off ties with anything to do gymnastics, including neglecting to turn up at the yearly Dutch Gymnastics Gala, a night that she would have been the star of. Verona had already refused to respond to texts from federation leader Frans Koffrie and fellow gymnast Suzanne Harmes or to see the federation doctor anymore either.  Rumours had already been rife that Verona been going on talk shows and talking to media, claiming her parents had taken her prize money to spend on things for themselves.  They, however, argue that any of her money spent was just for training, leotards and travel.  There has been a rather acrimonious court case being covered by gossip media since.  Most concern, however, has been over the influence of Verona's much older boyfriend (seventeen years older) and how much hand he has had in her recent behaviour.
Punishment:  There has been no punishment for van de Leur apart her own self-imposed embargo from the gymnastics world (in any way).  She does not, however seem to mind too much! 
Badness Rating: Low?
This whole thing seems worrisome rather than being outright bad behaviour.  If it weren't for that older, scary-looking boyfriend of hers, I'd be all gung-ho saying , 'Go ahead, Verona, take the bull by the horns.  Do whatever you want to do!"  I just hope she is doing what she wants to do.  Some girls leave the gymnastics world suddenly, like Hollie Dykes late last year, with minimal fuss.  But there seems to be a lot more rage and hurt behind Verona's behaviour.  
Call me old-fashioned, though, but it would probably be the respectful and professional thing to do to have some minimal contact with the Federation, no matter how she  was feeling, just to let them know she's okay and to actually inform them she is no longer taking part in Dutch gymnastics activities.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You Tube Gems #2

The 1998 International Teams Competition

Today, I watched yet another gem from Youtuber Lyssenko's awesome competition archive.  This particular meet was the International Team Championships battled out between China, Romania and the USA held in 1998. This weird little comp was carried out in a odd, transient little period in world gymnastics.  It was in turns exciting, strange and sometimes downright depressing.  Nonetheless, it was an intriguing meet.

Here is a list of reasons why the 1998 ITC is a competition worth watching.

Getting to see Corina Ungureanu looking young and innocent (and dressed) and doing a  corker of a floor routine.  The music, however, was completely bizarre.  Someone commented that it reminded them of something out of an 80s Stridex commercial.  I have no idea what Stridex is, but I bet B-girl Camelia Voinea would have got some mileage out of this music in the eighties!

Seeing the Romanian delegation look even glummer than usual after one of their delegation (not a gymnast) had been very recently shot during a robbery and hospitalised, and after nearly half the team had broken, sprained or snapped something important in the training for this comp.

Hearing the commentators say that when they asked about one of the floor workers (Onel's) chances of being on the Euros team for Romanian later that year, that Octavian Belu simply said "Absolutely no chance."  The commentators were actually having a pity party for her until she shuffled out of bounds.  And I mean shuffled, not stepped or tumbled, or even stumbled!!! She was simply backing into the corner for her next tumbling line and managed to shuffle her feet over the line. Doh!

The bittersweet sadness of seeing Sang Lan competing on a few events, doing pretty well and knowing what is going to befall her in the not-too-distant future.

Seeing Maria Olaru perform what Lyssenk0 describes as a technically flawless routine and it still being completely and utterly underwhelming.  Her triple twist at the end though?  Holy toledo!(You know when you're in a car and it goes over a tiny dip and you lose your stomach ever so slightly?  That's what I felt on seeing that unbelievably beautiful triple.)

Seeing another Vanessa Atler meltdown.  The fluff piece built up and built up her bars mental  block, the commentators built it up, a Vanessa interview built it up.  And duh, guess what happened?

Hearing Donna Strauss holler "You're an animal!  A freaking animal!" at Kristin Maloney after she  finished a (rare for this particular team) nailed beam routine.

Also, watching Kristin Maloney watch Atler on beam, and on seeing her nearly fall, grabbing her team mates leg and doing this hilarious nervous, terrified high kick!

The Chinese doing a fairly mad bars set (aside from landings of course) and seeing a very young Ling Jie strut her stuff.

Seeing Andreea Isarescu getting pulled in to perform at age thirteen after a Romanian injury-apolooza and doing a pretty good job.  You kind of got the sense she had no idea what was going on really, so she had no idea she should be nervous!!

Getting close ups and microphones on Octavian approaching the judges.  Twice.  Something about that gruff bear-man makes me laugh, especially when he hadn't realised Onel had stepped out of bounds and was enquiring about the penalty she'd received.

Though most fascinating thing (in that kind of horrifying way where you can't stop staring at the badness) was seeing a pretty crap USA team competing against a pretty crap Romanian team and making a lot of dumb mistakes.  That's a rare thing from two such usually deep teams.

Worlds Worst-I MEAN PRETTIEST!-Leotard Contest.....

(thanks to the readers who noticed I wrote worst instead of prettiest leo contest and let me know!)
This is definitely a WPL Heat

(yep, that's right, it's time to celebrate some NCAA finery)

Michigan State



Oregon State








(Now People, please remember, it is about the team whose leotard you like the best, not the team you like best, hokay?)