Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Formal Apology....

Very sorry about the radio silence.  Am in the process of finishing up and handing in my Masters thesis and working five nights.  Time is, as you can imagine, a little tight at the moment.  But as soon as this puppy is handed in, I will be back!  I promise!

See you soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Youtube Gems #200048!

The 1994 Goodwill Games team Competition

So, 19972000USgym fan put this tasty little gymnastics treat up in the last week or so.  This is a fantastic contest for many reasons, particularly the calibre of gymnasts competing, that it has some of the last decades best gymnasts at interesting times in their career and because it shows the Ukes and the Russians just after the transition was made to independant states.  This team competition has everything.  Here are some of the things that made it such an interesting gymnastics viewing experience.

The young Svetlana Khorkina was there and she was divine.  That early beam routine she used to do would have to go into my top ten of all time beam routines.  I really loved how the russian used forward rolls on beam back then.  I don't know why, but I like 'em.  I also love her floor routine from that time.  There wasn't quite so much playing up to the camera/crowds/judges but she still had such musicality and originality- in fact perhaps more so than later.  It was great to hear Kathy Johnson say, after Svetlana Khorkina landed a stunning triple twist, "For all you tall gymnasts out there, there is hope.  She is phenomenal and gorgeous!"

In fact, the whole Russian team was a delight.  particularly Fabrichnova who was so, so talented, though her floor music made me giggle a little!  And as ever, I was delighted to see a competition where we actually got to see Dina Kochetkova  show off her unbelievable combination of height and grace.

It was interesting to see Ukraine in this very early transition period, especially in comparison to the Russians.  The Ukes were very tense as usual, but in many ways very much resembled the Soviets of old still, including the red and white leo.  They were beautifully trained and lovely to watch, but you could see that the Russians had moved leaps and bounds in front of them already, particularly in terms of innovation.  Kathy Johnson also repeatedly referred to how relaxed and funloving the Russians had been in training, despite the immense difficulty of their tricks.

The Lilipod was there, and doing my favorite version of her floor routines.  You know, it wasn't simply because she had such great execution and flair that i enjoyed her beam and floor so much, it was also the mere fact that she always went with the unusual leap or interesting jump.  It made her stand out.

On the vaulting front Olga Knizhnik's Cuervo vault left me breathless though she didn't quite hit the landing.  Also, is it just me or did Olga Knizhnik look incredibly sickly?  She was so pale and twiggy looking it made me nervous.  Yelena Piskun had immense power (love that girl) and I just adore watching Shannon Miller vault.  Even when she didn't hit, she made such a lovely swallow shape in the air.  I always think she and Mo Huilan had very similar vaulting form.  A Kazakh gymnast Irina Evodkimova did a great handspring full vault in a fabulously eighties leotard! And it is always strange going back to the old vaulting horse.  I get scared every time someone vaults!

It was an very interesting time for US gymnastics.  Miller as veteran had a patchy beam routine.  The thirteen-year-old (talk about pressure!) Jennie Thomson, Nunno's post-Miller protege was a bundle of nerves and gymnasts I had never really seen before like Soni Meduna weren't too hot either.  Marianna Webster did a nice beam set though.

Speaking of beam, it was funny to watch the Romanians after the Russians.  They looked so clunky and high speed.  They sped up and down the length of the plank kicking and jumping and looking decidedly ungraceful.  I really wasn't impressed even though they were all doing four tumbling elements in a row.

The whole contest was a virtual punch front-o-rama too!  I would be hard-pressed to name gymnasts who didn't use it as a beam mount (the Miller wasn't performing hers- there's one!) and they were all over the floor routines.  What I love about the Russian girls is they often land their punch fronts on floor from exactly where they took off which looks so precise and spectacular.  Most gymnasts move forward, I guess because they are a little under-rotated from the trick they have come out of.  It just looks so much better when the Russians did it.

The other popular move at this meet was the wolf leap, which has clearly had a renaissance this last quad too.  And just like now, many of them were so badly performed.  I don't get it.  They don't look that (comparatively) hard.  What gives?

And Grosheva's tkatchev on bars.  OMG!  

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How embarassing!

Gymnastics, by nature, is a sport that is just asking for humiliation in some way, shape or form. 
It asks you to throw yourself over hard, immoveable and strangely shaped objects that could potentially leave you lying on the floor with your legs over your head. 
It asks you to do it in front of a crowd and a host of highly critical officiators.  
It asks you to bend your body into strange and uncomfortable positions- and asks you to do it with very few clothes on.  
It asks you to dance with grace and style, something the average teen finds uncomfortable and potentially degrading without the help of staring judges, loud audiences and television cameras.  
And of course, it asks you to do it at your most vulnerable-to-humiliation age....adolescence.

Basically, gymnastics is a hotbed of potential for humiliation. Even the most professional, elite gymnasts must go a bit red when they see themselves perform a particularly spectacular stack, do something goofy, or suffer an unusual wardrobe malfunction.

(Steliana Nistor, renowned for her unfortunate wardrobe 'issues')

As for young gymnasts, it seems the humiliation comes to them in many ways, shapes and forms, if the anecdotes at the USgymnet board are anything to go by!  Head over there if you want to read about the worst kinds of stacks, the humiliations of unintended er... bodily functions while training, forgetting your routines in the middle of a meet or what happens when nerves get the better of you in front of the judges!
My favorite;

"I was wearing my favorite leo, it was blue and had stars all over it.  So, we goto bars and I am doing my giants and flyaways and 'attempting' front giants.  I lean up against the cable that holds up the bars .  I was waiting for my turn.  When my friend Willow walked up to me, she scared me and I jumped.  And when i jumped the butt of my leo got caught in the cable and got a big rip so I had  a big hole in my butt. Right as it happened the news people walked in to interview the big girl team!! "

(Khorky: Oops! Under the beam!)

Of course some moments of humiliation are exactly that, outright mortifying and not funny at all, like Sacramones 08 teams experience, Kramarenko's vault choke and Atlers almost unbelievable meltdowns.  Some would be funny, like Dasha Joura's black eyes if it wasn't for the tragedy surrounding it, or Nicoletta Onel literally STEPPING out of floor bounds under the scary eye of Octavian Belu at the ITC.  But other, rare moment are just plain hilarious!  Face it, Gymnastics is a sport MADE for bloopers reels.  

In an old IG Forum, posters talked about what they though must have been the more embarassing moments for gymnasts.  Many mentioned Isabelle Severino's famous bars 'stack' in 2005.  It is the first routine in this video and the second 'stack' we are talking about!!

And lets not forget Elena Zamolodchikova's 'fall' in 2001.  That was pretty cute!

I always think the usually spectacularly graceful Ksenia Afasanyeva must have felt at least a little blush when she tripped over just walking out onto the floor at the Euros this year.
There are of course, many, many more  moments.

Write in and tell us about your own moments of gymnastics mortification, or others you can remember from elite gymnasts during competitions!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another Dream Team...

.....Nice to see Shushunova making an appearance on one of these Dream Teams.
If you want to play, read the original Dream Team post and email me yours at

The Real Gymnasts

Oksana Omelianchick (Floor, Beam, AA) (Floor, Beam)
Olesia Dudnik (Floor, Vault, Beam, Bars) (Bars, Beam, Floor) 
Elena Shushunova (AA, Vault) (AA, Vault)
Nadia Commenci (Bars, Floor) (AA)
Shawn Johnson (Vault, AA) (Vault)
Svetlana Khorkina (Bars, Beam) (Bars)

Alternates: Nastia Lukin, Alicia Sacramone

Coaches: Bela Karolyi, Eduard Nechai

In my team, for floor and beam, they may not have been the strongest tumblers, but they are spectacular dancers. My team is mostly gymnastics from way back when, but if they were in these times they could be better tumblers. Even if some of my gymnastics on these events might not have pulled of the difficulty of others, they make the judges and audience smile. Though, now a days, in the high levels gymnastics is losing it's art. So, those on floor and beam are to bring the art back. Some, I have just picked because I love their personality, like Shushunova who has the mindset of a football player, and obvious determination, and Oksana Omelianchick who is always smiling and can concentrate well. Lukin and Sacramone are my alternates, because they sre good all around, but weren't my top six (because I picked mainly dancers).

Sunday, June 14, 2009


So, this week, gymnasts from Spain and Romania are/have (can never figure out the time diff) competing in a meet in Barcelona.  
The Romanians are taking Amelia Racea, Diana Trench, Raluca Haidu, Diana Chelaru, Gabriela Dragoi and Ana Porgas.
The Spanish team will be Ana Maria Izurieta, Naomi Ruiz, Mercedes Alcaide, Melody Pulgarin (which Romanian prosport translated as Pulgarin Song!  Cute!)  Anna Serra and Claudia Villa.

The girls will be facing off to see who wears the ugliest leo....ahem, I mean which new young team is looking better as we enter the new quad.  There is a lot of power in the young Spanish lot, but a heck more grace among the Romanians.  I will be interested to see how it plays out.

More from...

Mostepanova Fan

Well Mostepanova (THE SHE for all y'all arguing about it out there!) has kept the goodies coming, this time with wrap-ups of her favorite floor and beam routines which, as I said about the beam ones- IF you haven't seen these routines, you should treat Mostepanova fan's montages and code videos as your GYMNASTICS EDUCATION! 
I mean it. If you are a new gym fan and only like the Nastia's and Shawn's of today, that is great. But if you want to see some old gymnastics, even just to see how we have arrived at the state the sport is in now (in good and bad ways) Mostepanovafan's videos show some of the greatest, most innovative, graceful and influential routines in gymnastics history. Use them wisely gym fans!

The Floor List

The floor list was quite a predictable lot once you have a grip on Mostepanova's gymnastics taste, but that doesn't make them much less brilliant. She also includes a list of others she considered using, which is great, because I agree that floor would be the hardest to narrow down to five favorites.
I love Naimushina's dance. Always have. Was a bit nervous for her very low double pike at the beginning though!
I have always been in two minds about Camelia Voinea's breakdance routine. While i truly appreciate and admire it for its originality and excitement, I find breakdance very clunky in a floor routine. It gives me the same kind of mild irritation that the NCAA hip hop routines give me. But then, maybe I am just an old stick-in-the-mud.
The Lilipod's floor is a classic, and I personally am a fan of it's obvious referencing of traditional ballet form. She was so well-trained in dance. And the tumbling? Woot!
Omelianchik's birdie routine is nothing short of seminal in this sport. It was innovative in so many ways.
I realy, truly appreciate her inclusion of Filatova's because it is such a winning combination of pure grace and some really innovative modern moves. And this was long before Bogey pulled out the balletic air guitar!

The bars is an interesting set of routines too. Here, Mostepanovafan is giving full and due credit to the innovators in this particular event. Even the ones that didn't make it are a particularly interesting bunch of gymnasts. I was pleased to see she included the underrated Kochetkova and Severino in her cutlist.

The Bars List

I had never actually seen Wu Jiani's bars set before. Holy cow! How cool was that first release? And what a slow. deliberate bar worker! It was almost excruciatingly slow. But beautiful too! I watched it about five times! Pity about the clunky cowboy legs coming off the release.
I have been a long-time fan of Mukhina's bar work. I've always wondered how come she was allowed to do that standing back flip off the high bar? I thought it was banned after Korbut? Bar routines like Mukhina's reminds me of how much we have lost in bars work since the bars were set further apart and the big swinging started. I miss all the crazy transfers and constant innovation. And I LOVE that dismount!
Oh and I'd forgotten about the Li Li combination. It is so very, very cool. I love how the commentator calls it the dislocation position! Well actualy i don't love the term. It kind of makes me wince because it reminds me of all those pictures we see of Chinese kids hanging from the bar in the 'dislocation' position, stretching themselves to achieve that grip. Yow!
I adore Ma Yanhong's dismount and her split position, which i think was one of the most beautiful EVER.
Her top pick is politically charged in a way because it is Kim Gwang Suk's dive from bassinet to bar at the 1991 World Championships. Well, she was still seriously underage here, but how good was that routine?


Sorry guys, internet issues, flu issues (hopefully not of the swine variety) and crazy social issues led me astray last week.  I've closed that can o' crazy and will be back to gymnastics blogging anon!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Beaming Like You

Wouldn't Believe!

So Mostepanovafan, the Youtube whizz kid with the awesome code-decoding videos, and catalogues of gymnastics skill that every self-respecting gymnastics fan must watch and learn if they didn't know every single thing already, has posted her (pretty sure it's a her) five favorite beam routines together in a video on Youtube. Even if you don't agree with the choices, watch and be blown away anyway by these orgiinal and exciting beam routines. 

I particularly adored seeing Svetlana Grozdova's routine because I had never seen it before. Wow. Talk about sticking to what you are good at!!  I love how one of the commenters said they loved its slower pace, and that it was not "Shawn Johnson barreling down the beam at warp speed"!!!  Now I love me some Shawn, but that was pretty funny!
Mostepanova fan is clearly a fan of beautiful handstand work, as am I. I just love it when a gymnast tumbles from a handstand position like Mostepanova does. I Love how one of the judges is clapping her after her routine too!
I always thought Kui Yuanyuan looked a Little bit robotic on beam, but who cannot gasp at her layout full twist?  And her wolf jump was absolutely exquisite!
Dudnik's routine is gorgeous and her dismount a stunner.
And Yango Bo.....what can you say?  That routine was over too quickly as far as I am concerned.  Could watch her all day.

Footloose, yes, but Flipping?

Apparently there has been a little bit of expectation around Gossip Girl star, Chace Cawford's planning on starring in the remake of the eighties dance film Footloose, after Zac Effron dropped out of the movie about a town that forbids dance for its wayward youth.  Even Kevin Bacon, the original star has had a word to say, reminding Chase of how tight the pants have to be for that role!
Blake Lively, on the other hand, was shocked to even hear that Chase got the part, because she'd never seen him dance.  And Blake has not forgotten the fact that Bacon's character was a gymnast.  She is looking forward to seeing Chase deal with that.

"I just want to see the gymnastics part.  I'm most excited about that!"

Something tell me Chace will not be doing all of that!  Something tells me, Kevin didn't do all those moves, either!
"I don't know if the gymnastics high bar scene is going to make it in." Chace told reporters, "I need to start stretching now!"

Youth Gathers Experience.....

At Ploiesti.  

So, Amelia, the newest wunderkind of Romanian gymnastcs has taken out the all-around crown at the Romanian Internatonal in Ploiesti this weekend.  Amelia is only just  coming off her win at the Lugano Trofeo contest last week and is heading to the Youth Olympic festival next month.

 Amelia told Prosport that she found the Lugano competition more difficult than the International, because the competition was bigger (Thanks for the peeps who pointed out i wrote it the wrong way around!).  
Everything at Ploiesti, however,  went as well as planned.  It seems she is learning to deal well with the pressure of serious competition because she claimed she was feeling a few emotons at the beginning of the contest, but "got over them" to compete well.

 She feels she is getting good competition experience and that this is giving her greater confidence.  Her goals are to win individual and all-around gold medals in competition at the Olympic Youth Festival this year.
When asked if she felt the pressure of expectation of her talent, Amelia said she felt the expectations but didn't feel as though she was being pushed to much.    She is improving on her difficulty at the moment to make her more competitive, including her bar work, a dismount and vaulting.
Tomorrow, her wish is to win every apparatus final in Ploiesti!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Totally Commited #4


Continuing its freshman heavy form, UCLA is taking on a bunch of recruits this year.  After fare-welling a small handful of seniors after last season, including the team standout and stalwart Arianna Berlin, UCLA is going to be even more bottom heavy with youth than ever.  But coach Val and co have selected some fabulously talented girls to take on the UCLA 2010 ride with them this year.  I am still, however, harboring a theory about Val Kondos Field only picking gymnasts with odd names, like double-barrel surnames like her own (Hopfner-Hibbs), a first name as a second names, boys names as second name (Nikki Tom) or just incredibly long or fun names (Heidi Moneymaker, Ari Berlin, Aisha Gerber!) !  I stand by it with this bunch of recruits!

Monique De La Torre  hails from Glendale Arizona.  She is level ten gymnast and trains at Carter's Gym in Mesa (Cater's has sent a whopping 83 gymnasts to college on Gymnastics scholarships!!).  De La Torre is in the top 60 gymnasts in the country and her coach, Jack Carter thought she had a small chance at making the Beijing Olympic Team.  Monique and her family are happy enough that she has a full-ride scholarship with a top college like UCLA.  Her father told journalists once, that "In Mexico, this sport is for rich people only.  Here in the United States, it is possible for Monique to participate."
Monique reached level 10 by 2005, and then international elite where she placed 24th at the Nationals.  She then returned to level Ten.  Her first year competing at that level, she won every event but bars at the State finals.  Last year she was Arizona's Junior Olympic Gymnast of the Year.  Monique is known for powerful and stylish gymnastics.

Danielle Greig- trains at Chart Oak Gymnastics Gliders club in California, home of the well known coaching couple, the Rybacki's.  Her personal best AA score is a 36.525 at Level !).  Some fabulous US Olympic Gymnasts have hailed from Charter Oaks, including Jamie Dantzscher, a UCLA favorite (along with her many sisters!) Allyse Ishino, Tabitha Yim and Vanessa Atler.  Grieg is a walk-on.  She placed 37th AA at the Level 10 Nationals.

Courtney Shannon is a level ten gymnast.  Her highest AA score at the 2008 Surf City Classic was a 36.350.  She trains at Olympic Gymnastics in Laguna Hills and placed 13th in the AA at the 2007 regionals.  She has a GPA of 3.7.

Chloe Takayanagi is a level ten gymnast who hails from Los Angeles.  She trains at Chris Wallers Gym Jam (other home of Chris, UCLA coach and workplace of Mohini Bhardwaj).  She attends Laurel Springs High School and has a whopping GPA of 4.27.  In 2007 she qualified to regionals at Level 10.  In 2002 she was the level 5 state champion.  Her beam set includes an aerial, back handspring to back tuck swing down, a front 1.5 dismount and she vaults a single Yurchenko layout.  She is walking on to the UCLA team.

What Language Barrier?!?!

I love this video.  Thirty- Four seconds of pure cuteness!  Watch and enjoy some comeraderie and good sportsmanship between two lovely girls who barely speak the same language, but don't let that get in the way of friendship!

Chellsie Meets Young Gymnasts

Competitors in The Heart of a Champion Regional Gymnastics meet in Glen Falls, New York this week were lucky enough to have a meet and greet with none other than Chellsie Memmel during the three-day meet.

Eight hundred gymnasts from all over the North East cormner of the U.S competed in the meet up to level six, then got to talk with and get autographs from the gymnast.

Sad News for Nebraska Fans...

I don't usually do Men's gymnastics, but breaking news today is that Francis Allen, the longtime coach of the Nebraska Huskers gymnastics team has announced he is retiring.

He told journalists that he knew it was time to go a few years ago when he made seasons highlights tapes for his team members, handed them to them, and the guys just looked askance. They thanked him, and said their parents might enjoy watching them. The tapes were VHS. Not one single member of the team owned a video player.... except Francis!

Francis began coaching at Nebraska in 1969, took them to many National Championships, coached two Olympic Teams and coached Trent Dimas to his high bar gold.

He is now, at the ripe old age of 66 saying godbye to the sport, but not before helping Nebraska find another coach for their men's team.

Another World's Worst Leotard Heat...

Vote for your Favorite in the Poll on the Side!

Best (worst) of 2009 Euros

The Butterfly/Mask

The Peepshow

The Russian Junior Horror Show

Purple Spiky Collar

Black and White No-Neck

Oh Spain!

Another Heat of the World's Prettiest Leotard....

Vote for your favorite in the poll on the side!

Pink and White (Weird to see Chengy out of Red and Gold!)

Purple and White

China Stars

Romanian Junior

Red and Black

Pink and Purple

Marbled Purple

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Prosport Article about...


A press release has been sent around the Romanian news sources talking about the Romanian International Meet this weekend.  It doesn't tell too much more than I have already told you.  Eleven countries will be participating.  Neither Izbasa or Tamirjan will be there, but the release is forecasting the other young female entrants as potential Olympic fodder.  Entry is free, and the contest runs over Fri, Sat and Sun.

Women's Team: Gabriela Dragoi, Diana Chelaru, Amelia Racea. Ana Porgras, Diana Raluca Haidu.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

And While We're on the Subject.....

When i was doing a little research on Maria Zasypkina the other day, I came across this old International Gymnast interview writer John Crumlish had with five young Russian gymnasts in 2001. The gymnasts were Maria, Anna Pavlova, Natalia Uchevatkina, Yelena Anoshina and Lidia Sidorova.

 Along with getting them to talk about how they started in the sport; how they looked up to seniors Khorkina and Produnova; and about their friendships with each other- one of my favorite bits of this interview was when Crumlish asked them to tell him something about each other.

John was smart enough to tell them they were not allowed to just say 'nice' about each other! Their responses turned out to be funny, sweet, enlightening and imaginative, particularly Natalia Uchetvakina's whose description of the girls performing was so vivid and true. I thought I would share with those who haven't read this interview before.

Natalia Uchevatkina: When lena does her floor routine, she always does such a great job, and sometimes she even stares at the judges in such a way it makes them give her a higher score. Anya (Pavlova) looks so little, but nevertheless, when she does gymnastics, her tricks are so big that all of a sudden she seems a lot bigger. Masha like to crack jokes and play around in practice. Lida has a creative imagination and always helps to put together our dance routines for warm-ups, stretching and exhibitions.

Maria Zasypkina: Anya was so little that she did not think she could make it to the national team, but she had so much talent that, with the help of her mom, she made it. Natasha is the prettiest girl on the junior national team, and she always gets praises. Lena is very shy. Lida is simply a good girl.

Anna Pavlova: Natasha tells lots of jokes and entertains everyone, she is very funny. Everybody on the team is pretty, funny, nobody is down often. If someone is down, everyone else helps her out.

Lidia Sodorova: Anya is always laughing, she has a very good sense of humour. Masha is always deep in thought.- gone somwhere in her own world, thinking. Lena is a good girl and a bit shy. Natasha performs well on the bars, and as a person, she is the one who does a really good job of psyching the girls up.

Yelena Anoshina: Masha likes to study and do homework. Natasha likes to clean up, she likes everything always to be tidy. Anya likes to go to the swimming pool with all the girls. Lida likes to make snowballs.

(International Gymnast April 2001, John Crumlish)

The Couch Gymnast is...

...thinking of Nicolae Forminte

and wishing him well after hearing the news of his skin cancer (gymblog). He seems like a wonderful, caring coach and a funny, funny man. I am a big fan of his work and his treatment of the Romanian girls. I hope his recovery is quick and painless.

Totally Commited #3


Louisianna has three recruits signed up for the 2010 season.  D-D Breaux says she needed some big recruits to to replace her senior class.  She got them.

Kaleigh Dickson: According to North West News aery strong Senior team.nd Tribune, Kaleigh Dickson fought hard and fast to get herself up to Level Ten standard gymnastics in order to apply for College Gymnastics.  She told the reporter she was determined to get better so she can be a valuable member of a college gymnastics team. Kaleigh joined LaFleur's Gymnastics in Tampa, Florida as a level Nine gymnast and within a year had lifted herself to level ten and won the all-around at the region 8 Championships in Florida.  Her coach Billy West told the NWN&T that; 

"It's really nice to see the kid who wanted to do this collegiae thing come in and be able in such a short amount of time to make such a quick jump to the next level.  It's difficult to be at the level she is at.  Last year she averaged a 36- or a 37- type score, which is good enough to get to level ten nationals, but this year to go to a state and throw a 38 and become a regional champion is really difficult.  She's so focussed and so driven and knows she wants to be really good, and she's just willing to do whatever it takes."

Kaleigh said she loved the coached, the campus and the girls she met from the team.  She knew immediately it was the right school for her.

Janelle Garcia: placed 17th in the all-around at the Nationals as well as holding a GPA of 3.82.  Garcia trains at the same gym as Shayla Worley, UGS signee, at Orlando Metro under Jeff Wood.  She will be performing as an all-arounder and D-D claims her having come from such a tough club will stand her in good stead for the competitive world of college gymnastics.  She will study sports medicine.

Shelby Prunty: also has a very high GPA of 3.964, and trains at Illinois Gymnastics Institute, Hanover Park in Illinois.  Shelby has suffered some injuries of late, but has given herself ample time to heal before the College Season starts.

Another Dream Team!

Yet another contribution to the Dream Team game.  If you want to play, read this.

This Dream Team Creator wanted you guys to know that they just began following gymnastics in the last few years, so they are only familiar with recent gymnasts and those they have been able to access on Youtube.  So if any important gynasts are left out, this is why.

I don't think it matters too much.  The Dream Team game is about personal choice anyway.  Love the team name and the reason for choosing Oana ban on beam- she is Romanian,  that's that!

Team name: I Can’t Stop Watching



Lilia Podkopayeva (vt ub fx) (vt fx)
Mo Huilan (aa) (vt, ub)
Oana Ban (vt, bb, fx) (bb, fx)
Ekaterina Lobaznyuk (aa) (vt, bb, fx)
Yang Yilin (vt, ub, bb) (ub)
Dominique Moceanu (ub, bb fx) (ub, bb)


Reserves: Courtney Kupets, Anna Pavlova


Kelli Hill
Liang Chow
Valeri Liukin
Martha Karolyi


Lilia Podkopayeva: Tumbling=awesome, chorearaphy=awesome, and her form is good to! I’m not really sure why people complain about her bars so much, because I thought they were fun to watch!
Mo Huilan: She’s got the difficulty, her form is amazing, and I LOVE her bars!
Oana Ban: She's got power, she's got presence! Watch her floor from TF in the 2004 Olympics and you’ll see what I mean.
Ekaterina Lobaznyuk: I LOVE her floor, LOVE her beam, and bars and vault are good to! But floor and beam…wow. Plus I don't know of any other gymnast who uses klezmer music for their floor routine. And klezmer is catchy!
Yang Yilin: Form! Plus I needed someone good on bars, and she's amazing! And her beam is great.
Dominique Moceanu: This would be the Dominique from 1996 that we’re talking about. Awesome floor, awesome beam, great bars…and a huge smile!


Courtney Kupets: Ok, I know a bunch of people are going to hate me for putting her as a reserve. But here’s my reasoning. (1)Her most entertaining gymnastics was in college, and that really just isn’t a high enough level of difficulty for elite. (2)She could easily step up for any event, and isn’t that what you want in an alternate? I know my reasoning isn't the best, but whatever.
Anna Pavlova: Her gymnastics is BEAUTIFUL and she's got all the skills! But I did have to also consider consistency, so I put her as an alternate.

Kelli Hill: She can stay calm, and hopefully keep the girls calm and focused.
Liang Chow: He's just a great coach, and I trust him to make good decisions for the team.
Valeri Liukin: I kind of didn't want to have him as a coach, just because he's been on pretty much every team so far. But once I thought about it a little more I put him on, because of all the reasons he's on every other team! 
Martha Karolyi: She can spot the tiny things.
I'm not really sure who the head coach is. Probably Liukin or Chow.


VT: Lilia, Mo Huilan, Ekaterina, Yang Yilin, Oana
UB: Yang Yilin, Mo Huilan, Lilia, Ekaterina, Dominique
BB: Oana, Ekaterina, Yang Yilin, Mo Huilan, Dominique
FX: Lilia, Mo Huilan, Oana, Ekaterina, Dominique

Choosing the gymnasts for prelims was not very hard on vault or bars. For beam, I left Lilia out because I heard in a few places that she was inconsistent on beam. Is that true? If it isn't, then I'd be in pretty much the same situation that I was in on floor, which is that I absolutely LOVE every single floor routine! I finally left out Yang Yilin, because I just couldn't leave out Dominique's "Devil went down to georgia"! I don't really remember why I was so set on having Mo Huilan compete on floor, but I'm sure there was a good reason! (the other 3 girls were already competing floor in finals, so I put them in)

VT: Lilia, Ekaterina, Mo Huilan (Oana)
UB: Yang Yilin, Mo Huilan, Dominique (Lilia)
BB: Oana, Ekaterina, Dominique (Yang Yilin)
FX: Lilia, Oana, Ekaterina (Dominique)

The gymnasts in parentheses are the alternate on that event.

On vault, Lilia and Ekaterina both have difficult vaults, and Mo Huilan's DTY is amazing.
For bars, Yang Yilin and Mo Huilan were easy. Dominique's bars is like a kid on the playground.
On beam, Oana is Romanian, Ekaterina's beam is beautiful, and Dominique is just good! (plus her mount is cool!)
Floor, I think, is the strongest event. I could put anyone up! I chose Lilia because she has the best floor I have EVER seen, Oana because, well, go watch her 2004 Olympic TF floor, and Ekaterina because I love the routine!

Gymnasts I wanted to include on the team, but didn't:
Olga Korbut: I'm not actually sure why I didn't have her on the team...
Nadia Comaneci: Same for her...
A lot of gymnasts from the 80's I don't know the names of: Difficulty of today, but still with the elegance!
Samantha Shapiro: Amazing form, and a huge smile! She probably would have been on the team, but she hasn't competed at worlds or Olympics yet.
Jiang Yuyuan: Her floor speaks for itself.
Lizzy Leduc: :)
He Kexin: WOW bars.
Ivana Hong: I actually had her on the team at first, before I replaced her by Mo Huilan and moved her to an alternate position. Then I replaced her again by Anna Pavlova. I LOVE her form!
Diane Dos Santos: Her tumbling is awesome!
Svetlana Khorkina: She would have been on the team if I'd actually wanted her. I don't know. I guess I just didn't want the drama queen?
Beth Tweddle: Her. Bars. Is. Insane.
This is by no means a full list, just who I can think of right now!

Bela Karolyi: Seeing as this is team "Can't Stop Watching" I thought it would be funny to have him coach. But in the end I decided that the gymnastics is amazing enough!

Congratulations to.....


So, Kim Bui won the German National Championshsips for women. I am very happy to hear that because I have become very fond of this gymnast. Only two nights ago I was watching her floor routine at the Tyson American Cup and thinking what a lovely, elegant floor worker she is. I also remember her very fondly from the European Championsships qualifications because I just felt so sorry for her cos she was having one heck of a bad day. I believe she won my Splatfest of the Day Award at the Euros!

Well it looks like there was no such splatting for her at these Championships considering there are a lot of talented German girls at the moment (some are out with injuries though) competing for the championships.
For those of you who don't know much about Kim, she was alternate to the Beijing Olympic Team but decided to continue training after as she still felt great affection for the sport. She told International Gymnast magazine that she would do it as "long as I have fun and time" to do it.

Kim's mother is Vietnamese and her father is from Laos, but she was raised in Germany. Kim really showed her talents at the American Cup this year, where she placed third, trying out the elements she wanted to use at the Europeans Championships. The Euros were not, however, the meet she planned on. She placed 16th in the AA and fifth in the vault finals.

Bui has been coached by various former Russian gymnasts, which is telling in her lovely form and execution. Kim is 20 and her training partner is the younger Marie- Sophie Hindermann. Kim says she tries to help Hindermann with certain things like performance failures and other things that one only learns through experience, but that she has also learned from Hindermann's strength and determination.
Kim is starting university soon and was unsure at the time of her february interview with IG, if she would continue on to the 2009 Worlds, let alone the London Olympics. Maybe with the German Championships under her belt, she might just consider it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Tale of the Two.....

 "Broken Dolls"

Last night I watched a little of Slommanie Kulkolkie (Broken Dolls), the documentary about Russian Gymnastics and was reminded of the sad stories of the Zasypakina's, the two young gymnasts with the same names.  Both girls competed for Russia at different times. There experiences, however, were strangely similar, though the outcomes extremely different.

The documentary Slommanie Kulkolkie is entirely in Russian and without subtitles. But even without knowledge of the Russian language it is not hard to grasp its negative attitude to the state of Russian gymnastics at the time of filming. It repeatedly illustrates the dangers of gymnastics with its shots of training gymnasts taking falls, it's coverage of Yelena Mukhina's sad story and it's repeated use of imagery from the heartbreaking Russian gymnastics film Kukolka (Little Doll). The documentary interviews gymnasts like Ekaterina Labuziouk, Svetlana Khorkina, Anna Pavlova and Maria Zasypkina as well as featuring a little of a young Yulia Lozhecko.

It would be interesting to hear what young Maria Zasypkina had to say about her sport in this documentary, considering she was recovering from a broken vertebrae in her neck that almost left her paralysed. At the time of the accident, Maria was a popular Russian gymnasts who was already making a name for herself at competitions like the Junior Europeans, the WOGA Classic, the Canberra Cup and the 2001 World Team's Event. She was already known for the incredible difficulty of her gymnastics, such as a double yurchenko vault and her punch front and standing Arabian on beam. She was also known, ironically, for taking some awful spills while performing them.

(Maria took an ominous and awful fall at the Canberra Cup some time before her more serious accident. Her beam set was magnificent, but perhaps too difficult for her age?)

Maria Zasypkina's accident occurred during training at Round Lake. Maria was training vault. She had recently returned from the Ghent World Cup contest in 2002. Maria was performing a round-off, half on handspring- off but something went wrong and she landed on her head. Due to difficulties experienced getting emergency help to the training center, it was nearly an hour before Maria actually received the urgent medical attention she needed.

When she finally made it to the hospital, it was discovered that Maria's legs were paralyzed as well as having partial paralysis to her hands and arms. Zasypkina's strength became legendary at Round Lake and in the media as she endured the torturous wait for the ambulance, survived two operations, had a metal rod inserted in her back and eventually recovered feelings in her hands, and then her feet. She spent her sixteenth birthday in hospital but was able to spend New Years Eve the same year at home, a testament to the speed and strength of her recovery. The documentary features lengthy interviews with her and footage of her spending time with her family at home.

The other Russian Zasypkina- Svetlana Zasypkina had already long left the sport when Maria had her near-tragic accident. Svetlana left gymnastics at age sixteen, when after ten years of intense training she too injured her spine while training. She was no longer able to perform any jumps and training was completely out of the question. Leaving the Soviet training system, Svetlana turned to acting when Isaak Friberg gave her the lead role in the tragic film, Kukolka ("Little Doll" or "Dolly").

For those of you not fortunate (or unfortunate some may think) enough to have come across the film, which had limited distribution, it is a poignant film about what happens to a young gymnast when she has to leave the sport. I was lucky enough to find a VHS copy of this film in the state library collection, and watched it with a mix of horror and sadness.

Following along similar lines to the life story of the young actress who played the part; the "Dolly" is a young gymnast who has been injured badly and must now leave the Soviet training system and attempt to lead a the regular life of a teenage student. needless to say, the little girl has immense trouble adjusting to regular social life, and takes out the psychological effects of the transitions on her classmates, manipulating and bullying them even though she is smaller and younger than most of them. Unlike the story of the real young gymnast, the film has a tragic outcome.

In an article catching up with Svetlana Zasypkina several years ago by Gymnastics Greats, the young actress seems to have had trouble adjusting to the the real world too. Confused about where to place her energies, she had first continued acting, then started a course in gymnastics coaching, switched to veterinary sciences, then eventually to industrial business. One thing is for sure, she no longer wants anything to do with gymnastics. She told reporters that if she so much as sees it on the television, she turns it off.

Maria Zasypkina, on the other hand, must still have some love for the sport because she tried to come back, unsuccessfully unfortunately, after the her recovery. But considering the far worse outcomes of the handful of spinal injuries we have seen in modern gymnastics (Mukhina, Gomez, Sang Lan) I am sure Maria is grateful she got the chance to do gymnastics again at all. She apparently does not harbour such negative feelings for the sport considering she and a friend reportedly skipped university classes in 2005 just to visit and watch other Russian gymnasts at the 2005 Voronin Cup!

It is interesting, I think, to look back on these films after Russian gymnastics has experienced and come out of such a crisis as a changed system. Things have cshifted markedly in over there and I think this is reflected in the two Zasypkina's opposite attitudes to the sport since leaving it. While Svetlana wants nothing to do with the soviet system that she felt used her up and spat her out, Maria, despite the magnitude of her accident and the negative light placed on it by the documentary, returned to the sport and continues to involve herself in it while pursuing her education. While many complain that the gymnastics isn't like it used to be from the Russians, life isn't what it used to be there either. And for that, I am grateful.