Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Around the World in 2012

A 2012 reflection

What a year it has been for World gymnastics. The much anticipated 2012 seems to have been and gone in a flash, but what amazing memories and legacies it has left behind. From the Test Event in January, right through to the Glasgow World Cup in December, we have watched stars being born, dreams being realised, hopes being shattered, and above all some fantastic gymnastics.

London 2012 Test Event
The Olympic year began in earnest in January, with eight teams battling for the final four spots at the Olympic Games and many individual gymnasts making a bid to qualify individually to the Games. Italy, Canada, France and Brazil were the teams who successfully qualified, but for Belgium it was great disappointment - they had realistic hopes of qualifying but missed out by just over 1.000, finishing down in 5th. For the countries that had already qualified a full team it was a good opportunity to showcase some new talent. The London 2012 Test Event was our first look at Russia's Anastasia Grishina and GB's Rebecca Tunney in senior competition, two gymnasts whose first senior year had been very highly anticipated. It was also an opportunity to focus on some of the gymnasts from lesser known countries as they took their place in the spotlight. Greece's Vasiliki Millousi and Israel's Valeriia Maksiuta had their chance to shine and were very enjoyable to watch. The Test Event was a great start to the Olympic year.

American Cup
The highly anticipated American Cup saw eight all around gymnasts compete for the medals and the competition did not disappoint. Reigning All Around World Champion Jordyn Wieber took the lead at the start and retained it throughout, followed very closely by team mate Aly Raisman. We also got our first glimpse of Romania's Larisa Iordache in senior competition, who gave a very convincing Bronze medal winning performance and promised a great deal in the year to come. For Rebecca Tunney it was not the best of competitions - a very nervy beam performance saw her finish down in 8th. The controversy though came from a third American gymnast: Gabby Douglas, who had shown great inconsistency in 2011, had been chosen to give an exhibition performance. This third American, whose score did not count officially, unofficially finished the competition in the lead, beating Jordyn Wieber by over 0.200.

European Championships
Although this was obviously not a world event, it did give a very good insight into where some of the teams were standing just a few months before the start of the Olympics. Romania were the main surprise here, showing a great resurgence to previous form and taking the Team Gold ahead of the favourites, Russia. Italy also surprised many by taking the Bronze medal, pushing GB down into 4th in the process. Although there was no individual competition, Russia's Anastasia Grishina and Romania's Larisa Iordache both lived up to the high expectations put upon them with the highest all around scores of the competition.

Olympic Trials - and tribulations
With the Olympics getting ever closer, it was time for the 12 qualified teams to start making decisions about which gymnasts would make the team. This was never going to be an easy feat with so many extremely talented gymnasts competing for so few places. Olympic dreams were both made and shattered as one by one the teams were announced. It was not just the announcement of the teams that caused heartache though. In the weeks and days before the Olympic Games began, the list of injured gymnasts grew and grew. Four gymnasts who would be particularly missed in the Games were Canada's Peng Peng Lee, China's Cheng Fei, Belgium's Julie Crocket and France's Marine Brevet: an extraordinary array of talent which would no longer have the chance to be seen at the 2012 Olympics. On top of this was the sponsorship controversy which saw Brazil's Jade Barbosa unable to take part, leaving another great gymnast out of London before the Games had even begun.

London 2012 Olympic Games
After all the anticipation and build up, the Olympic Games had a lot to live up to - and this was something they managed quite spectacularly. Joy and tears flowed side by side throughout the Games as the gymnasts battled with themselves, each other and injury in many cases. It really did seem to be an 'Injury Games' with many of the top gymnasts not performing to expectations and 'survival of the fittest' seemed to become the motto. The dominance of the top four nations was evident yet again, with the power and strength of the USA taking the world, and the medals, by storm. The style and grace of the Russians was not enough to take them to the top of the podium, but the contrast between them and the Americans made the whole competition more enjoyable to watch. Aside from the top two teams, Canada delighted us all with a fantastic performance to finish in 5th place and Romania proved that they are indeed on the up again, taking the Bronze and pushing China off the medal rostrum. GB were spurred on by the home crowd and we saw the team finish 6th, the highest ever Olympic result, and Beth Tweddle achieved her much coveted Olympic medal on the Uneven Bars. We also saw some lesser known gymnasts making an impact, with Japan's Asuka Terramoto, Venezuela's Jessica Lopez and Guatemala's Ana Sofia Gomez Porras all making the All Around final and performing some beautiful work. The highs of London 2012 were very high and the lows were very low. It is an Olympics which will remembered for its disappointments as much as its achievements, but the biggest achievements were of course those of Team USA, Gabby Douglas, Sandra Izbasa, Aliya Mustafina, Deng Linlin and Aly Raisman for their Gold medal winning performances.

Stuttgart World Cup
After all the build up and the excitement of the Olympics it seemed like an interminable wait for the next major competition. By the time the Stuttgart World Cup came round we were all desperate for a gymnastics fix. For many of the gymnasts competing it was their first competition since the Olympic Games, but three gymnasts had more to prove: USA's Elizabeth Price, Russia's Kristina Goryunova and GB's Niamh Rippin had not competed at the Olympics and will have wanted to prove themselves here. Kristina and Niamh had some shaky moments and finished down in 7th and 8th, but Elizabeth Price conclusively proved the depth of talent in the USA right now, having been named only as the alternate to the Olympic team but taking the Gold medal in Stuttgart relatively easily with a lead of over 2.500.

Glasgow World Cup
A mere one week later was the Glasgow World Cup, with many of the same gymnasts coming straight on from Stuttgart to compete again. Two new additions to the line up were Japan's Wakana Inoue and Canada's Kaitlyn Hofland. Although both of these gymnasts had some lovely, elegant work they also both had their problems and finished the day down in 7th and 8th. GB's Rebecca Tunney, hoping to perform well in front of the home crowd started the competition brilliantly, but a fall on beam saw her slip down the rankings and she finished the day in 5th. It was Elizabeth Price who was dominant once again, this time extending her lead to a massive 4.366.

It truly has been an amazing year of gymnastics and has given the promise of much more to come next year and even up to the next Olympics. There are so many gymnasts who I have enjoyed watching and to all the gymnasts worldwide who have competed this year, thank you for making 2012 such a fantastic year for gymnastics.

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