Tuesday, 1 April 2014

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

British Championships 2014 All Around Final

With flashing lights, smoke machines and a stage for the gymnasts to enter the arena on to, the 2014 British Championships had drama written all over it. And the build up was not for nothing as there certainly was plenty of drama.

Rebecca Tunney
After a tough year battling injury in 2013 and unable to defend her 2012 British title, Rebecca certainly proved that she was back in business. Starting with a nice DTY with just a step on landing, she followed with the highest scoring bars routine of the day. Always a consistent bars worker, Rebecca has never had the difficulty to compete with the likes of Beth Tweddle, Becky Downie and Ruby Harrold. This weekend however, proved the exception. With a D score of 6.6, she performed a clean and fluent routine that left the crowd gasping. An amazing routine that I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of. Beam proved more problematic with a touch after her side somersault, but otherwise a steady routine. Floor was last and Rebecca was the last gymnast to compete. She performed well but with floor scores being low all weekend there was a wait for the score, which came up high enough for her to take the title of British Champion 2014. It was great to see her back to her winning ways.

Becky Downie
Becky started the competition with what we think of as her best piece - bars. Unfortunately though, bars proved to be something of a problem. After a great start she faltered above the bar and although she managed to save a fall, she lost marks for both execution and difficulty. But, this being Becky, she still scored 14.150 (the second highest bars score of the day). This was followed by an absolutely solid beam routine, packed with difficulty, until a very uncharacteristic fall on her dismount. But despite these shocks, it was the next rotation that would prove to be the biggest surprise of all, with Becky competing floor. After years of not competing all around, I was surprised and delighted to see that she would be doing all four pieces and challenging for the All Around title. And you certainly could not tell that this was her first performance of a floor routine for years, it was wonderful to watch. All that was left was vault and she performed her usual powerful vault, scoring a massive 15.000. Overall, her first all around competition in years scored her an impressive 56.350 and earned her the Silver medal.

Claudia Fragapane
A second year senior, Claudia is still new to competing at the senior level due to injury in 2013. Relatively unknown to many, she impressed most this weekend with her skills and her power. Her vaults were strong and powerful and saw her qualify in first place for the vault final. Her bars routine was steady and well performed and she finished with a fabulous double straight dismount. Her beam was strong and dynamic with some interesting and difficult skills. But it was floor where Claudia really made her mark. Posting the highest floor score of the day, she opened her routine with a fantastic full twisting double straight. It was amazing to watch and a great routine. A great competition and the Bronze medal was her reward. She is definitely one to watch out for in the future.

Raer Theaker
Raer had a steady competition, performing well on all four pieces. She managed to keep her nerve in a competition where many others were losing theirs. Her clean, solid performances saw her qualify for two finals and finish the day in a well deserved 4th place overall.

Georgina Hockenhull
Georgina really impressed me this weekend with some beautifully performed routines. She looked very elegant in all of her performances. I really enjoyed watching her and was very pleased that her efforts were rewarded with a strong 5th place finish.

Kelly Simm
After a great year, many expected Kelly to be challenging for the medals, but unfortunately it was not to be. Solid on beam and vault, she had troubles on bars which meant she finished the day in 6th place. Nevertheless I have no doubt we will be seeing much more of Kelly in the future.

Ruby Harrold
With Ruby having gone from strength to strength this last year, many were expecting Ruby to take the title but unfortunately it simply wasn't her day. Although she went through three of her routines cleanly, it was her trademark piece, bars, which gave her problems. With three falls and a score of 11.400 she finished the day down in 9th place. Not the day that she would have hoped for but still much more to come from her no doubt and I cannot wait to see it.

Lisa Mason
Lisa continued to surprise and impress this weekend, with some great routines and some great results. Competing on a sprained ankle which she had sustained during warm ups, Lisa nevertheless gave it her all and finished a creditable 11th place. She also qualified to three apparatus finals which she unfortunately had to withdraw from due to her injury. However, it was still a very good competition weekend for Lisa.

Hannah Whelan
Expected by many to compete all around and challenge for the title, Hannah only competed on vault, beam and floor. These were however, three exceptional performances and showed that Hannah really is still a very strong force in British gymnastics.

Overall, it was a very dramatic and surprising competition with many ups and downs and some unexpected results. It was one of those competitions where you simply could not predict what would happen next and kept everyone on the edge of their seat.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

BATTLE OF THE (JUNIOR) BRITS

Junior British Championships 2014

This coming weekend not only sees a battle for the title of British Champion 2014, but also an equally anticipated fight for the crown of Junior British Champion. There are many up and coming young gymnasts who are making their mark on the sport in Britain and this competition is sure to be a nail biting one. So who can we expect to see?

Tyesha Mattis
The reigning Junior Champion, Tyesha will be hoping to power ahead of the rest of the field and reclaim her title. A gymnast who seems to be going from strength to strength, she has already taken the title of English Junior Champion. (Incidentally, she posted a score of 55.300, almost 1 whole point higher than the top score in the Senior competition.) Tyesha will definitely be aiming for the top of the podium this weekend.

Catherine Lyons
Catherine has had an amazing career as an Espoir gymnast and is now facing her first year as a Junior. Having won many titles as an Espoir, she recently had to settle for second place behind Tyesha at the recent English Championships. I have no doubt that she will be aiming for the top spot this weekend.

Georgia-Mae Fenton
Georgia-Mae is another gymnast making her debut as a Junior, having won the Espoir title last year. Will she be able to repeat her success from 2013 and take the crown as the Junior British Champion in 2014? Only working two pieces in the English Championships (bars and beam), Georgia-Mae is nevertheless one to watch.

Amy Tinkler
Amy has been one to watch for some time now and this will be no exception this weekend. She took the Silver medal in the all around competition last year and recently took the Bronze medal at the English Championships. She has some interesting and difficult work and will definitely be aiming for the medal podium.

Ellie Downie
Proving the saying 'it runs in the family', Ellie is firmly following in big sister Becky's footsteps. Ellie has a great deal to offer as an all around gymnast, finishing 4th at the recent English Championships. She will definitely be one to keep an eye out for this weekend.

Teal Grindle
Teal has been making her mark on British gymnastics for some time and will be hoping to impress once again this weekend. A first year Junior, she has been used to being on the medal podium as an Espoir and will no doubt be hoping to make it there as a Junior this year.

This is of course just a handful of the fabulous gymnasts who will be competing for the title this weekend and it looks set to be a fantastic competition.

Good luck to all the girls competing this weekend!

LET BATTLE COMMENCE

British Championships 2014

This coming weekend sees the battle of the Brits with the 2014 British Championships. British Gymnastics is asking you to 'Choose your champ', but with such a wide field of gymnasts competing this is surely going to be a tough decision, especially with reigning champion Gabby Jupp being out of the running due to her recovery from an ACL tear last year. So who are the possible champions of 2014?

Ruby Harrold
After her fourth place finish at the British Championships last year, Ruby has been going from strength to strength, not just on her signature piece, uneven bars, but also in the all around competitions. This was reinforced recently by her all around win at the English Championships. She will definitely be hoping to turn English Gold into the British title this weekend.

Hannah Whelan
After a disappointing 8th place finish all around in the 2014 British Championships, Hannah will be hoping to be back to her winning ways this year. She recently took the Welsh Open title by more than 2.500 ahead of Welsh Champion Raer Theaker with routines that included a grasp on beam and simple, single somersault dismounts on both bars and beam. With full routines by this weekend, Hannah will have the title in her sights.

Rebecca Tunney
The British Champion in 2012 and Team GBs youngest Olympian, Rebecca was unable to defend her title in 2013 due to injury. Although we do not seem to have seen much of Rebecca in the last couple of years, recent performances have been showing that she has been working on upgrades which we will hopefully see this weekend. Always one to perform well on the big occasion, she cannot be counted out.

Kelly Simm
Kelly is a gymnast who seems to have made a great improvement throughout the year. She was selected to compete for Great Britain at the 2013 Austrian Open, where she took the All Around title. At the 2013 British Teams competition she took the silver medal, second only to Ruby Harrold. I am sure we will see much of Kelly this coming weekend.

Raer Theaker
Current Welsh Champion, Raer was beaten in the Welsh Open only by Hannah Whelan. After finishing in 6th place at the British Championships last year, I am sure Raer will be hoping to improve on that and will have the medal rostrum firmly in her sights.

Charlie Fellows
A first year senior in 2013, Charlie impressed at last year's British Championships by taking the Silver medal in the all around. She is another gymnast we do not seem to have seen much of recently. She placed 4th at the recent English Championships but she will no doubt be hoping to repeat last year's British success this coming weekend.

Lisa Mason
Although still an outsider for an all around medal, it cannot be denied that Lisa has proved her doubters wrong. Having made a comeback last year at the age of 31 and after 13 years of retirement, Lisa initially only competed on vault and beam. This year however, she has not only tackled all four apparatus but finished a very creditable 7th place all around at the recent English Championships. Definitely still one to watch.

These are just a handful of the gymnasts that I cannot wait to see compete at the weekend. Others to watch out for include Claudia Fragapane, Jade Armstrong, Georgina Hockenhull and, of course, Becky Downie who is now competing on three apparatus. It certainly looks like it is shaping up to be a great competition.

Good luck to everyone competing this weekend!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2014

New Year Predictions

Anything can happen in a year in the world of gymnastics. With that in mind, what are you looking forward to and hoping to see in 2014? Results will be shared at the end of the month, so get voting!

Question 1
Which country are you most looking forward to seeing in 2014?
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Question 2
Which senior gymnast are you most excited about?
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Question 3
Which new Senior are you most excited about?
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Question 4
Which GB Junior are you most looking forward to seeing?
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Question 5
Which US Junior are you most looking forward to seeing?
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Question 6
Which International Junior are you most looking forward to seeing?
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Question 7
Which routine are you most excited about?
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Question 8
Finally, the big question: who do you think will become the 2014 World Champion?
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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

TOP 5: FLOOR

My Favourite Floor Routines of 2013

As 2013 draws to a close I want to take a look at some of the routines that have stood out for me throughout the year. They may not necessarily be the highest scoring or the the most difficult, but simply ones that I have enjoyed watching. You can find my top 5 Vaults here, my top 5 Bars routines here and my top 5 Beam routines here. And here are my top (5) Floor routines of 2013:

Ok, so I know this post is called 'Top 5: Floor', but there were so many fantastic floor routines to choose from, I have had to include a few others that I feel really deserve a mention:

Catherine Lyons - graceful and elegant
Simone Biles - dynamic and powerful with phenomenal tumbling
Kseniia Afanaseva - powerful yet beautifully elegant
Victoria Moors - incredible tumbling and very artistic

And now to my top 5:

5 - Louise McColgan
Still only 12 years old, Louise McColgan has really impressed me in her first year as a British Espoir, especially with this beautifully artistic floor routine. The routine suits her perfectly and you can really see her personality shine through as she performs. I simply cannot wait to see more from this budding young gymnast, especially her fabulously expressive floor routines.


Louise McColgan, Floor, 2013 British Espoir Championships

4 - Roxana Popa Nedelcu
Normally I tend to favour the less dynamic type of floor routine so I was very pleasantly surprised to discover just how much I loved Roxana's floor exercise. Her energy suits this routine which is brilliantly choreographed and brilliantly performed. She really makes a mark on floor and is definitely one to watch out for in the future.


Roxana Popa Nedelcu, Floor, 2013 World Championships

3 - Larisa Iordache
Larisa approaches floor with the confidence we see on every apparatus, but here she gives us that little bit extra - she interacts so well with her audience, using her expression and her eyes to draw you into her performance. Add to this some fabulous tumbling and you get an absolutely superb routine.

Larisa Iordache, Floor, 2013 World Championships

2 - McKayla Maroney
I absolutely adore this routine from McKayla Maroney. I love the way it combines her elegance and grace with the more dynamic side of her personality. The routine itself is structured brilliantly, allowing McKayla to show off her elegance and her energy side by side as the music switches. With McKayla's natural ability to perform and the height in her tumbles, this routine is one that I simply love to watch.

McKayla Maroney, Floor, 2013 P&G National Championships

1 - Vanessa Ferrari
Seven years after bursting onto the scene and winning the 2006 World Championships, Vanessa is still a force to be reckoned with. Still performing the amazing tumbling she became known for at the age of 16, she now brings experience and maturity to her floor routine. As well as being dynamic in her tumbles, Vanessa gives a performance that is sophisticated and inviting. She knows how to sell her performance and she does so with style.


Vanessa Ferrari, Floor, 2013 World Championships

Monday, 30 December 2013

TOP 5: BEAM

My Favourite Beam Routines of 2013

As 2013 draws to a close I want to take a look at some of the routines that have stood out for me throughout the year. They may not necessarily be the highest scoring or the the most difficult, but simply ones that I have enjoyed watching. You can find my top 5 Vaults here and my top 5 Bars routines here. And here are my top 5 Beam routines of 2013:

5 - Shang Chunsong
It has been really, really hard to pick just 5 beam routines, but Shang Chunsong has edged out the rest to take my number 5 spot. I think that one of the things that I like the most about this routine is her mount. While most of the girls are choosing to mount the beam simply and safely, Shang Chunsong chooses a forward walkover. It looks different and impressive and sets the tone for the routine right from the start. Add to that some great tumbling and the difficult leaps that the Chinese have become known for and you have a great routine.

Shang Chunsong, Beam, 2013 World Championships

4 - Kyla Ross
Kyla has made my top 5 with the sheer beauty of her movements. Her long lines make her look elegant and graceful throughout, even in her most difficult moves. She links moves together well and her routine as a whole has a fluidity and rhythm to it which many others lack. She is simply a delight to watch on this apparatus.

Kyla Ross, Beam, 2013 Secret US Classic

3 - Aliya Mustafina
What a routine! The connections alone are incredible, but when they are performed with Aliya's trademark style and artistry they are simply superb. Her switch half to Onodi is one of the most beautiful links I think I have ever seen on beam. Aliya really does know how to perform a routine, and when she performs this routine it is easy to see how she became the 2013 Beam World Champion.

Aliya Mustafina, beam, 2013 World Championships

2 - Gabby Jupp
It has to be said that this girl is at home on a beam! As a first year senior Gabby came out with confidence and presence, something that can really be seen when she performs on beam. She shows a great combination of difficulty and artistry in a very fluent routine. In fact her routine is so good that she managed to qualify for the Beam Final at the European Championships, despite suffering a fall which regretfully has taken her out of competition for the rest of the year. I for one cannot wait to see Gabby back competing again. This is a great beam routine from a great gymnast.

Gabby Jupp, Beam, 2013 British Championships

1 - Larisa Iordache
What can I say other than that this is an INCREDIBLE beam routine! It is packed with difficulty from start to finish and is simply mesmerising to watch. Larisa is able to tumble so securely on beam, and I really do mean tumble. Her skills on this apparatus are amazing but not only that, she makes them look effortless. She works through these difficult skills with a rhythm and pace that really does seem to defy the fact that she is performing on an apparatus that is a mere 10cm wide.

Larisa Iordache, Beam, 2013 World Championships

Sunday, 29 December 2013

TOP 5: BARS

My Favourite Bars Routines of 2013

As 2013 draws to a close I want to take a look at some of the routines that have stood out for me throughout the year. They may not necessarily be the highest scoring or the the most difficult, but simply ones that I have enjoyed watching. You can find my top 5 vaults here and here are my top 5 Bars routines of 2013:

5 - Becky Downie
This girl has got some AMAZING combinations in her routine! It is packed full of difficulty and is definitely a routine to watch out for. Her combinations will make you gasp in delight as she swings through her routine. Becky has made plenty of finals this year with this routine and hopefully, with more consistency, there will be plenty more finals and medals to come.

Becky Downie, Bars, 2013 British Championships

4 - Kyla Ross
Kyla's work on bars is simply beautiful to watch. She is clean and elegant throughout, making even her most difficult skills look easy. She flows through her routine from start to finish with breathtaking fluidity and grace. A delightful routine performed by a delightful gymnast.

Kyla Ross, Bars, 2013 P&G National Championships

3 - Aliya Mustafina
Aliya's work on this apparatus is simply stunning. She sails through her routine in such an effortless way, as if failure is simply not an option. She has plenty of difficult skills and combinations, all made to look so beautiful and elegant. It can be said that it is difficult to actually 'perform' on bars, but Aliya certainly manages it and with some style too!

Aliya Mustafina, Bars, 2013 European Championships

2 - Yao Jinnan
This has to be one of the more spectacular Bars routines of the year. Yao Jinnan deserves so much credit for bringing the Mo Salto back into competition in her routine. I loved watching this skill when Mo Huilan first introduced it to the Uneven Bars all those years ago and I love it just as much now. An immensely difficult move and a definite crowd pleaser, it takes a great deal of courage to attempt such a skill in the middle of a routine. But in the World Championships AA Final Jao Yinnan not only performed the skill successfully, but performed the whole routine with the style and ease we have come to expect from the Chinese gymnasts.

Yao Jinnan, Bars, 2013 World Championships

1 - Ruby Harrold
This routine has stood out for me from the first time I saw it. It is a routine with a 'wow factor' and draws gasps from all who see it. I was lucky enough to see Ruby perform this routine at the British Championships this year and it was quite amazing to see the routine in front of me and hear the reaction from the crowd. A fantastic routine and one that I am sure will be watched and remembered for many years to come.

Ruby Harrold, Bars, 2013 Doha World Challenge Cup