Sunday 30 December 2012

GB 2012

A year of British Gymnastics

Much has happened in British gymnastics in 2012. With a home Olympics to look forward to, there was a great deal of anticipation and with such a wealth of talent within British gymnastics it was also guaranteed to be very exciting.

London 2012 Test Event
With Britain having already qualified a team to the Olympic Games, the Test Event was a chance for GB to showcase new talent and give experience to some of the younger gymnasts. Jocelyn Hunt and Rebecca Tunney were the two gymnasts selected to compete at the Test Event. First year senior Rebecca Tunney acquitted herself particularly well showing us a glimpse of what we could expect from her in the year to come. She placed 19th All Around as well as making the Uneven Bars Final, where she finished 6th. It was a good start to what would be a great year for Rebecca.

European Championships
With Beth Tweddle recovering from knee surgery, Team GB was without their star and team leader in the European Championships. Not to be deterred, the team of Hannah Whelan, Rebecca Tunney, Jenni Pinches, Danusia Francis and Ruby Harrold gave their all throughout and with great results. In the team competition they qualified in 3rd behind Romania and Russia, however they were pushed down into 4th place in the Team Finals. There was more to come though, with first year senior Ruby Harrold qualifying to the 
Uneven Bars Final and Hannah Whelan qualifying to both the Beam and Floor Finals. Ruby did brilliantly in what was her first major international competition as a senior, but unfortunately a small error at the end of her routine saw her finish in 7th. Hannah fared much better in her two finals, earning herself two Bronze medals. Overall, a very successful competition for Team GB.

British Team Championships
With Liverpool again looking very strong it seemed inevitable that they would yet again be victorious in the British Team Championships. Even without their two main gymnasts, Beth Tweddle and Hannah Whelan, Liverpool did indeed take the title, with The Academy finishing 2nd and Notts 3rd. But perhaps of even greater importance was the fact that this competition was the first of the GB Olympic Trials. With only five places available on the Olympic Team there was a lot at stake for the gymnasts. Rebecca Tunney gave a fantastic performance to take the All Around Gold with Danusia Francis taking the Silver and Ruby Harrold taking the Bronze. Other seniors that impressed were Imogen Cairns, Jenni Pinches and Becky Downie. There was clearly going to be a battle all the way to the Olympic Games.

The second of the Olympic Trials was a friendly meet between GB, Spain and Finland. Rebecca Tunney was yet again victorious, taking Gold in the All Around ahead of Spain's Paula Vargas and Ana Maria Izurieta who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. With everyone giving some good performances, the question of who would make the Olympic Team was looking more and more difficult.

British Championships
Alongside the chance to become the 2012 British Champion was also the third and final Olympic Trial. With so much at stake tensions were bound to be running high. This was the final chance for the gymnasts to make their mark on the selection committee before the team was announced. The All Around competition proved to be a demonstration of the excellence of the City of Liverpool Gymnastics Club with their gymnasts Rebecca Tunney, Jenni Pinches and Hannah Whelan taking the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals respectively. Overall it was a very interesting competition with each of the gymnasts demonstrating their skills on various pieces of apparatus. The five places for the Olympics were still very much in doubt. Fortunately there would not be long to wait.

London 2012 Olympic Games
The team chosen to represent Britain at the London 2012 Olympic Games were Beth Tweddle, Hannah Whelan, Rebecca Tunney, Jenni Pinches and Imogen Cairns. For these five the pressure of trying to make the team then became the pressure of competing at a home Olympics. The team qualified well, successfully making it to the Team Final. With very few errors, they all performed brilliantly, earning a record high of 6th place at an Olympic Games. The All Around Final saw two Brits, Hannah and Rebecca, competing as part of the top 24 gymnasts. Rebecca performed cleanly to finish the competition in 13th place. Hannah however suffered a fall on vault which was very controversially judged as a 0.000. This meant that all of Hannah's hopes of a good finish were dashed, so unfortunate for such a good gymnast who had been performing so well in the competition. In event finals, all eyes were on Beth Tweddle for the Uneven Bars Final. Everyone knew how much Beth wanted an Olympic medal and we were all nervous as we watched her take to the bars - I for one think that I held my breath during the entire routine! The routine was amazing, then just as we were all about to breathe there was a very uncharacteristic stumble on landing. Again came the wait to see whether she had done enough, followed by the elation of realising that she had indeed achieved her dream and won an Olympic Bronze medal - the only medal that was in fact won at the Olympics that did not go to one of the top four nations.

Glasgow World Cup
The Glasgow World Cup was an excellent way to round off what has been a fantastic year for British Gymnastics. With British gymnasts Rebecca Tunney and Niamh Rippin able to end the year in front of a home crowd, spirits were high. Rebecca and Niamh had both competed at the Stuttgart World Cup the previous weekend, finishing 6th and 8th respectively and I am sure that both of them would have been hoping to improve on that, especially with the support of the home crowd. Niamh had a great competition, performing cleanly and finishing in 6th. For Rebecca, it was a game of two halves. After both the first and second rotations she was in second place, but a fall on beam in the third rotation saw her drop down to 6th. An excellent (as always) performance on floor saw her move up slightly and finish the day in 5th place.

With the departure of Beth Tweddle and Jenni Pinches, and Danusia Francis competing in NCAA gymnastics in LA, it could have easily been thought not so long ago that British gymnastics would have nowhere to go. But with the recovery of Becky Downie and the emergence of Rebecca Tunney and Ruby Harrold alongside the likes of Hannah Whelan and a whole host of talented juniors about to move up, I think it is safe to say that British Gymnastics is going to have a lot to offer in 2013 and beyond.

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.

Sunday 9 December 2012

All in a day's work

Glasgow World Cup 2012

This weekend saw the last major international competition of an incredible year in gymnastics. The Glasgow World Cup saw eight female gymnasts compete across all four apparatus in attempt to take home the Gold. Kaitlyn Hofland (CAN), Rebecca Tunney (GBR), Niamh Rippin (GBR), Elisabeth Seitz (GER), Vanessa Ferrari (ITA), Wakana Inoue (JPN), Kim Bui (GER) and Elizabeth Price (USA) all hoped that they would be able to do enough to end the year on the top of the podium.

Kaitlyn Hofland
Kaitlyn is a young Canadian gymnast in her first senior year. I had not seen her compete before so I did not know what we could expect from her, other than that she is reported to be one of Canada's big hopes for the future. From what I saw in Glasgow, Kaitlyn seemed to go from strength to strength as she progressed through the competition. A very elegant gymnast, she did not necessarily have the power of some of the other gymnasts competing. Her vault was a full twisting Yurchenko, relatively simple in this level of competition, but beautifully performed. She had an unfortunate fall at the beginning of her bars routine, hitting her leg on the low bar as she was swinging. Again her difficulty was relatively low. but the elements were performed with style and elegance. Beam and floor is where Kaitlyn really seemed to shine and her routines suited her elegance. She did not have the power for the more difficult acrobatic skills but was lovely to watch on both apparatus. Kaitlyn finished 8th with a total score of 52.099

Rebecca Tunney
Rebecca has had an amazing year in 2012, her first senior year, becoming All Around British Champion and the youngest member of Team GB at the Olympic Games. She has been a pleasure to watch this year and she was no doubt hoping to end such a fantastic year on a high, back in front of a home crowd. Rebecca made a fantastic start on vault with one of the cleanest DTYs I have seen her perform. She continued on to give a superb bars routine with a perfectly nailed dismount. Having been in second place after both of the first two rotations, things were going well for Rebecca. Beam was next and, unfortunately, this did not go to plan. She made a great start but came to grief on her acrobatic series. The rest of the routine was good, apart from a couple of small wobbles, and her double pike dismount was fantastic. She managed to pick herself up brilliantly and performed as well as ever on floor. Her tumbles were clean and I am still amazed by just how much power she has for a tiny gymnast. At the end of the day Rebecca finished in 5th with a score of 54.431 (a mere 0.001 behind the 4th place gymnast).

Niamh Rippin
Niamh has recently started to get back into competition after struggling with injury. She had a difficult time last weekend at the Stuttgart World Cup and would have been hoping to make amends. She started with a great Yurchenko 1.5 then went on to give a solid bars routine, just landing rather too low on her double front dismount. A solid and well executed beam routine followed, then a great floor routine to finish off her competition. She is a very powerful tumbler and I really love this floor routine. It really was a good competition for Niamh and a great way for her to finish the year. She placed 6th with a score of 53.099.

Elisabeth Seitz
Elisabeth has had a really good year of competition, finishing 12th All Around in London as well as making the Uneven Bars Final, and just last weekend took Silver at the Stuttgart World Cup. She started fairly well on vault with a DTY, though it somewhat lacked rotation. Bars in Elisabeth's speciality and she showed us yet another great performance on this apparatus. Beam was steady with just a couple of wobbles, but floor caused her a few problems. She landed completely out of bounds on her first tumble and fell out of her triple spin. She did well to recover and perform the rest of the routine cleanly, but I have to admit to not being a fan of this routine at all. She did manage to repeat her result from the Stuttgart World Cup, finishing in 2nd with a score of 54.799.

Vanessa Ferrari
Confession time - I struggled to take in much of what Vanessa was doing because of her strange leotard! I am not sure who designed the one-armed, no-shouldered leotard she has taken a recent liking to but I am not a fan! Odd clothing choices aside, Vanessa has had a very successful 2012. She placed 8th All Around in London and only missed out on a medal in the Floor Final due to the tie-breaking rule. She also competed in the Stuttgart World Cup last weekend finishing 4th and I am sure she would have been hoping to improve on that in Glasgow. On vault she performed a Yurchenko 1.5, but with quite a large hop forwards. Bars was relatively clean with a very nice double front dismount. She struggled from the start on beam though, with some big wobbles and then a fall on her acrobatic series. After remounting the beam she seemed much calmer and gave a great finish to the routine. Vanessa's floor routine was, of course, fantastic though slightly easier than we have seen her perform. She finished the day in 4th place, scoring 54.432.

Wakana Inoue
Wakana is another gymnast I had not seen in competition before this weekend and I was very pleasantly surprised. She started off with a problem on vault, sitting down her Yurchenko 1.5, but recovered to perform well in the rest of the competition. Her bars routine, while relatively simple, was beautifully performed and she had a lovely double straight dismount. She performed very elegantly on beam with some great work and a wonderful triple twist dismount. On floor she had an unfortunate stumble out of bounds on her first pass but recovered to give a great routine. She is a very stylish and elegant young gymnast and one that I hope we will see much more of in the future. She finished 7th with a score of 52.765.

Kim Bui
Kim Bui is another gymnast who competed at the Stuttgart World Cup, finishing just outside the medals in 4th. On vault, Kim was the only one of the eight gymnasts who did not perform a Yurchenko vault, choosing instead a handspring front with half turn. It was a steady start, though she piked somewhat in flight and needed a hop on landing. Her bars routine was good with just a few execution faults and her beam routine was steady throughout, but unfortunately she needed a few steps backwards on her dismount. On floor she gave a lively performance with some good tumbling. She looked happy throughout and you could tell she was pleased with her performance. She managed to go one better than last weekend, taking the Bronze medal with a score of 54.732.

Elizabeth Price
Elizabeth is a first year senior who has achieved a great deal in 2012. As part of a very strong National Team in the USA, Elizabeth finished 5th All Around at the Visa National Championships and 4th All Around at the Olympic Trials. She was then named as an alternate for the London 2012 Olympics. She performed last weekend at the Stuttgart World Cup where she confidently took the Gold, and was the favourite to do so again in Glasgow. Starting on vault gave Elizabeth an incredible lead, being the only gymnast of the eight to compete the Amanar vault. It was also an incredibly well performed Amanar and started her off with a lead of over 1.500. I absolutely love Elizabeth's bars routine. It is very complex and was performed exceptionally well, including a very well performed full twisting double straight dismount. She performed a solid and confident beam routine with very few errors. Floor was the only routine where she made any major errors, twice stepping out of the floor area, but even that was not enough to detract from what was an amazing floor routine. Her double twisting double back at the start was one of the highest and cleanest I have ever seen performed, and she made it look so easy! The rest of the tumbling was also spectacular and I really do love her floor routine. Elizabeth posted the highest scores of the day on all four of the apparatus, so it was no surprise that she took the Gold medal. She really is a very talented gymnast and one that I am sure we will see much more of. Her final score was 59.165 - more than 4.000 higher than anyone else.

It really was a fantastic day of gymnastics and a great way to end a spectacular year. To watch videos of all the routines from the Glasgow World Cup (including Beth Tweddle's Bars demonstration to open the competition) click here.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Bright Young Things

The future of British Gymnastics (Part 2)

In Part 1 of Bright Young Things (click here to read) I looked at some of GB's up and coming junior gymnasts who are hoping to make an impression on the future of British Gymnastics, and have their eyes firmly set on Rio 2016. In Part 2 I will look at some of the younger, but nevertheless equally remarkable, espoir gymnasts who will also be turning senior before the 2016 Olympics.

Catherine Lyons
Catherine is a beautiful young gymnast who will turn 16 and be eligible for senior competition in 2016. She has already made an impact on many gymnastic fans for her grace and artistry, and showed her talents to the full earlier this year when she became the All Around Espoir British Champion. She also qualified to the Beam and Floor finals, taking a Silver medal on Beam to go with her All Around Gold. Her beautiful style of gymnastics, especially on beam and floor has delighted many as she has grown up and she is continuing to delight us with elegant and stylish routines. I cannot wait to see more of her as she moves through the espoir and junior ranks, then into senior competition in 2016.

Ellie Downie
Ellie is the younger sister of GB gymnast Becky Downie and looks to be following in her big sister's footsteps. Ellie will turn senior in 2015 but is already showing her talent in the espoir category. Earlier this year Ellie took the Silver medal All Around in the Espoir British Championships. She also qualified to three of the four apparatus finals, finishing 7th on Floor, 4th on Bars and taking the Gold medal on Vault. She works well on all four apparatus and I have no doubt that we will see much of her over the next few years, and she will make as much of an impact on British Gymnastics as her sister Becky.

Amy Tinkler
Amy is another gymnast who will turn senior in 2015 and will turn junior next year. She has already started to make a name for herself as an espoir, taking the Bronze medal All Around at this year's Espoir British Championships. She qualified to three of the four apparatus finals, where she took a Silver medal on Vault and Bars and won the Gold medal on Beam. She has some great work on all apparatus and is definitely one to watch in the future.

With such talent amongst our young gymnasts it seems that we have a bright future in British Gymnastics, and I cannot wait to see these gymnasts in competition over the years to come.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Jenni Pinches - GB Olympian

Interview with Jenni Pinches


Jenni Pinches has been a regular member of Team GB for many years, representing her country at various European and world events, and this year was selected to be part of the GB Olympic Team. After an amazing Olympic year, Jenni announced her decision to retire from gymnastics. Here she looks back on her career as a GB gymnast and looks ahead to a future after elite gymnastics.

2012 has been an amazing year for you. What have been your highlights?
This year has been incredible so I am going to have to pick a few highlights. It was a long and difficult rollercoaster ride for the first six months of this year as I strived to be part of the Olympic team: difficult enough of a task in itself without adding injuries, personal life problems and stressful school exams to the equation! When I finally did make that team I was delighted, obviously, and I found the entire Games to be overwhelmingly brilliant, as you can probably tell from my reactions during the competition. Not only did we break the Olympic record for GB women's highest ever result but I also got two PB scores in the Team Final and got to meet and/or hear the support from thousands of fans in the crowds! The atmosphere was electric, a real buzz, and I was buzzing long after the Games ended. The Olympic Games left me memories that I will cherish forever. And then my year didn't even stop there!
Other highlights which followed included the Olympic Parade of athletes in London and my trip to South America to volunteer. I went to Ecuador and spent two months building, teaching English, conserving the environment and rescuing local wildlife in small communities near the Cloud Forest, in the Amazon and on the Coast. I made some friends for life, whilst achieving something quite different to an Olympic placing, but just as impacting - something that wasn't only for myself, but will really benefit people's longevity and well-being in their community. The trip was a lot of fun, allowed me to glimpse some really beautiful parts of the planet, and broadened my perspective on the world.

What was the overall experience of the Olympics like, being in the Olympic village and meeting the other athletes?
The Olympic Village was like a virtual world someone had created, it was surreal. Everything worked efficiently and perfectly. We stayed in the Team GB block, overlooking the Olympic Park, stadium, the Orbit and much of London which was a stunning view. Outside the accommodation, (which was simple yet fairly stylish and homely by the way) the most talented athletes ever were just everywhere you looked; amongst the always-cheerful volunteers and always-helpful soldiers keeping the place feeling secure and organised. Everywhere was friendly, everywhere was clean. It was a welcoming and relaxing place. And then there was the food court with drinks and foods and available from all over the world, in unlimited quantity and at any hour. It was a village impossible to be realistic beyond the powerful few weeks of the Games. But it was great while it lasted!

Other than incredible talent, what do you feel has helped you to become an Olympian?
Talent isn't enough to become an Olympian, you also need absolute determination and dedication.

You announced your retirement just after the Olympics. What prompted this decision?
I've retired because I achieved everything I wanted to achieve and was satisfied and looking forward to other things in life. I didn't have enough motivation to dedicate my life to training any more. I got my goal and I am so happy! But you need absolute drive and passion to succeed and for me it's all or nothing. I commit to a goal and do everything to reach it, even if I hate it, and never give up, or don't start . . . some competitive instinct to achieve.

Have you got any plans to carry on with gymnastics in any way in the future?
I'm not leaving touch with gymnastics, hopefully, just changing roles - visiting upcoming gymnasts of the future in little clubs (I love it!) and maybe a bit of commentary/media work for all the fans of the sport to get better access.

What are your future plans for life after gymnastics?
I dunno. I am happy doing my A Levels now, giving motivational talks and then just regular stuff! I am still working on my Ecuador blog but will let you know how my charity work in South America went, soon.

What have been the highlights of your career in British gymnastics?
Going backwards, off the top of my head:
21st AA in qualification at Olympic Games
5th Team in the world, and earning that Olympic spot originally, in Tokyo
English Senior Champion 2012
British Beam Champion 2012
British Junior Floor Champion
Australian Youth Olympic Festival bronze medal
European Youth Olympic Festival
Olympic Hopefuls Competition in Czech Republic- Silver AA
Junior Europeans 8th AA
British Levels Champion, 2003 and 2004

Which gymnasts have been your inspirations, both British and worldwide?
Aliya Mustafina (her beautiful gymnastics), Shawn Johnson (I can relate to her style and personality better than others), Beth Tweddle (she has mentored me and been an inspiration my entire life, how she is unfazed by setbacks and totally committed to training).

Finally, five favourites:
Favourite colour? Turquoise
Favourite food? Home made (by my dad) macaroni cheese
Favourite book / author? 'The Host' by Stephanie Meyer
Favourite tv show? Doctor Who
Favourite singer / band? Currently looking forward to seeing Robbie Williams and Olly Murs next year, but like a variety of genres of course

Jenni's beautiful gymnastics will be greatly missed, but I look forward to hearing much more from her in the future (starting with live tweets from the Glasgow World Cup this Saturday, 8th December) and would like to wish her every luck in all her future endeavours.

Monday 3 December 2012

Bright Young Things

The future of British Gymnastics (Part 1)

With 2012 drawing to a close and another Olympic cycle over, it is inevitable that people are starting to think about the future. With Team GB celebrating great success at the home Olympics in London, what can we expect next year or even in Rio 2016? Here are some of the gymnasts who are currently making a splash in the junior ranks of British gymnastics and all have their sights firmly set on 2016.

Gabrielle Jupp
Gabrielle will turn senior next year after a great 2012, a year in which she became the Junior British All Around Champion as well as taking Bronze on Vault and Gold on Bars. She was also selected to be part of the junior team to represent GB at the European Championships where she finished 5th in the All Around competition. She also made the apparatus finals on Beam and Floor, taking a Bronze medal on Beam. She is a very stylish gymnast who works well on all four apparatus and is someone I am sure we will be seeing a lot of over the coming years.


Angel Romaeo
Angel is another gymnast who will turn senior next year after a very successful junior career. Her talent shone through early on, taking the Espoir British Championship title in 2010. In 2011 she was selected for the Youth Commonwealth Games, where she took the Gold medal and All Around title as well as taking the Bronze medal on Vault. In 2012 she took the Silver medal in the All Around final at the Junior British Championships as well as winning Bronze medals on Bars and Beam and taking the Gold medal on floor. She was also part of the team selected to compete at the 2012 European Championships where she qualified to the All Around final. Angel is a very elegant and expressive gymnast and her work on beam and floor is beautiful to watch. She is a gymnast who I have no doubt will make a big impact as she moves into senior competition.

Raer Theaker
Raer is another promising young gymnast who will turn senior next year. Her talent started to shine through in 2011 when she competed very successfully at the Youth Commonwealth Games. She placed 4th in the All Around and qualified to three of the four apparatus finals. She placed 4th on Vault and took two Silver medals, on Bars and Beam. In the 2011 British Championships she claimed two medals, taking the Gold medal on Vault and Bronze on Bars. She successfully defended her Vault title at the 2012 British Championships as well as picking up a Bronze medal on Floor. She was also selected to be part of the team that competed at the 2012 European Championships. Raer is solid on all 4 apparatus. She combines power with elegance and has some excellent tumbling. Another gymnast I am sure we will see much more of in the future.

Abbie Caig
Abbie is another gymnast who turns senior next year and who has shown great potential during her junior career. In 2011 she took the Bronze medal in the All Around competition at the British Championships as well as making three of the four apparatus finals, finishing 6th on Bars and taking Bronze medals on both Beam and Floor. She was also very successful at the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games, taking the Bronze medal in the All Around competition, another Bronze in the Vault Final and the Gold medal on Floor. 2012 has been a quieter year for Abbie as she has been recovering from injury. She competed well at the 2012 British Championships though, finishing 4th All Around and taking the Silver medal on Beam. She has some lovely work especially on beam and floor and I have no doubt that she is a gymnast we will see much of in the future.

Charlie Fellows
Charlie will also turn senior next year after a very successful 2012. In the British Championships she took the Bronze medal in the All Around competition. She also qualified to two apparatus finals, finishing 4th on Floor and taking the Silver medal on Bars. She was also selected to be part of the team at the 2012 European Championships, where she qualified to the Floor Final and finished 7th. She has some really interesting work on all apparatus and is definitely one to watch in the future.

Georgina Hockenhull
Georgina has started to make a name for herself in 2012, being part of the team that was selected to compete in the 2012 European Championships where she helped the team on beam and floor. She also impressed at the 2012 British Championships, taking the Gold medal on Beam.


I think it is clear that even with the retirement of gymnasts such as Beth Tweddle and Jenni Pinches and the departure of Danusia Francis to the NCAA championships in America, the future of British Gymnastics looks to be in very good hands.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Ruby Harrold

Interview with GB's Ruby Harrold

Ruby Harrold is a first year senior gymnast who started her senior career with Team GB in some style, by not only making the team for the European Championships but also making it to the Uneven Bars final. I have no doubt that she is a gymnast we will see a lot more of over the next few years. Here she looks back on 2012 as well as looking ahead to the future.

What have been the highs and lows of 2012 for you?
Highs: Competing at the European Championships in Belgium. It was amazing to finally be in a major senior competition. I learnt a lot and gained experience.
Lows: Getting injured right before the games. It was huge a disappointment but hopefully there will be other opportunities for me in the future.

How has competing as a senior been different from junior competitions?
I haven't competed much as a senior but from what I learnt from the Euros in Belgium is that at Senior there is a lot more pressure in the competition than at junior.

What was your most memorable moment of 2012?
Competing in the Bar final at the European Championships in Belgium.

What are your hopes for 2013?
My hopes for 2013 are to compete my best at the British in March and trial for a space in the European or worlds teams.

Looking further into the future, what are your main goals?
Compete at the Commonwealth games in Glasgow in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016.

How do you manage to balance your home / school life with your gymnastics training?
I've managed to get a good balance. Gymnastics is a huge part of my life and I manage to fit school around it. Unlike every other A level student I only take 3 subjects rather than 4 so this makes missing lessons and catch up work easier.  

What do you enjoy doing to relax when you are away from the gym?
I like to sleep ;) and spend time with friends.

What are the best things and the hardest things about being a gymnast?
Best: Travelling the world and being able to do loads of cool skills.
Hardest: Having to sacrifice a lot for my gymnastics.
Which gymnasts are your inspirations, both British and worldwide?
I don't have any specific gymnasts who inspire me. Any gymnast who competes for GB or is successful and wins medals in Europeans, Worlds or Olympics are inspirational.

Finally, five favourites:
Favourite colour? Red
Favourite food? Fajitas
Favourite book / author? The Hunger Games
Favourite tv show? Big Bang Theory
Favourite band / singer? The Script and Olly Murs

Thursday 29 November 2012

Back on the podium . . .

GB's Niamh Rippin

It has been a quiet couple of years for Team GB's Niamh Rippin but that is about to change over the next few weeks, with Niamh competing this weekend (1st December) at the Stuttgart World Cup then straight on to the Glasgow World Cup next weekend (8th December). It is great to see Niamh back in international competition after battling with injury since her last major international appearance in 2010.

Niamh made a splash as a junior gymnast, coming 4th all around in the Espoir British Championships in 2006, 3rd in 2007 and 3rd in the Junior British Championships in 2008 as well as many other accolades in between. Her transition to the senior ranks began in style, being part of the team that took Silver in the Team Final at the 2010 European Championships. She also made an apparatus final in this, her senior international debut, placing 6th in the Floor Final. She then went on to take the Silver medal on floor later in the year at the British Championships.

It was after the British Championships in 2010 that Niamh's injury problems began. A back injury, which forced her to reduce her training, turned out to be a stress fracture. A recovery and rehabilitation period of three months proved to be what Niamh has described as the worst three months of her life. But worse was still to come - after finally beginning training again, Niamh suffered a broken hand. With thoughts of giving up gymnastics, it was up to coach Claire Starkey and teammate Becky Downie to keep her going. Thankfully they did and Niamh returned to competition in 2011, placing 7th all around at the British Championships as well as taking the Bronze medal on vault and the Silver medal on floor.

By 2012 Niamh was back to winning ways, taking Gold medals and the title of British Champion on both floor and vault during the 2012 British Championships, as well as finishing 5th all around. A contender for the Olympic team, Niamh unfortunately missed out but was named as a reserve. And 2012 is not over yet - competing twice in the next two weeks at major international competitions, what can we expect of Niamh Rippin?

Niamh is a powerful gymnast, whose main strengths are floor and vault. She tumbles dynamically, combining difficult passes with excellent landings. Her vaults are well executed and she has a lovely DTY as her first vault. She has some lovely work on beam and a good bars routine with a great double front dismount. She has some really exciting work and I am looking forward to seeing much more of Niamh, not just over the next few weeks but hopefully over the next few years. Good luck Niamh!

(Niamh Rippin, 2012 British Championships, Floor Final - Gold, 14.250)

Thursday 4 October 2012

Gymnast Come Dancing

Louis Smith takes to the floor

Just three weeks ago, the latest group of celebrities was announced for Strictly Come Dancing 2012. This year I was delighted to discover that two of my biggest passions, gymnastics and Strictly Come Dancing, were to be united thanks to three time Olympic medallist, GB gymnast Louis Smith.

Louis was partnered with professional dancer Flavia Cacace and given three weeks to prepare their first routine before the start of the series on Friday 5th October. During the launch show we were treated to our first glimpse of the partnerships as well as getting our first look at the celebrities prowess on the dance floor. Louis seemed oddly nervous throughout, something I was not expecting from the confident team captain of the Olympic Bronze medal winning gymnastics team. He nevertheless seemed pleased with his partner and Flavia seemed delighted to be teamed up with Louis. The celebrities then took to the floor in a group dance, giving us the first chance to see their moves. Louis looked more confident on the dancefloor than off, clearly enjoying performing to the audience - though it has been a while since Louis has performed on the floor! He wowed us with a back somersault during the routine, though Flavia informed us later that his gymnastics talent will not be seen all that often on the dance floor: "We're definitely going to use Louis' skills but he's here to learn to dance." With his competitive spirit already in evidence, his desire to win transferring easily from the pommel horse to the dance floor, Louis echoed Flavia's thoughts: "I'm sure we're going to incorporate some gymnastics somewhere along the series, but we want to go quite far just by doing dancing and see how far we can get."

With that in mind, training for the first dance began. The tweets soon started to come in from both Louis and Flavia, excited about the routine and the start of training, but the picture posted by Flavia just a few days in showed a rather different story!
The training video of Louis and Flavia's first steps thankfully painted a better (and more active) picture! Rehearsing for the Cha Cha Cha, the video from day one looked very promising. With loose hips and his body moving in very different ways to during a pommel routine, Louis looked to be taking it all in his stride. Although Louis felt that Flavia was being very patient with him on day one, she nevertheless seems to be pushing him to the limits: "The funny thing is, day one, and I think I've possibly broken Louis already!" Already? Surely not! But: "Back's quite sore, my knee, both heels, I've got an intercostal muscle which has kind of seized up a little bit on the right hand side, so yeah, I'm taking a bit of a pounding!" Oh dear Louis!

Hopefully Louis has managed to put his aches and pains to one side and keep up the training. With the live shows starting this weekend (Friday 5th October, 9pm, BBC1 and Saturday 6th October, 6.30pm, BBC1) all the celebrities will be taking to the floor for their first dance. Although they will be scored by the judges (scary enough prospect!) there will be no elimination in week one. It will simply be a chance to see everyone in action - and sort the good dancers from the, er, not quite so good! Voting will be starting in week two - can anyone guess who I will be voting for?

Good luck Louis and Flavia!

Friday 24 August 2012

Time for a change . . .

The Olympic journey this summer has been amazing and has created plenty of blogging opportunities. Now though I feel it is time for a change - I will still be blogging, but probably not every day as I have done so far. There is plenty of blogging still to be done and I still have plenty of ideas, but if you have any suggestions on things you would like me to write about please let me know (details on my Contact page). In the meantime, why not check out some of my previous posts or follow me on twitter (@GymFanBlog). See you all soon!


Thursday 23 August 2012

Thursday's Thoughts

Vault scores in the new CoP

With the Olympics now over for another four years the rules and regulations are due a rethink. The provisional Code of Points for 2013-2016 is now available to download and while it can be a bit wordy and long it always worth a flick through. Do bear in mind that this is still provisional at the moment and not all the changes may see it through to the final draft. After looking through, the main change stands out as being the scores on vault. While there are new requirements and connection values on the other apparatus, the scoring of vault looks set to have a complete overhaul.

The main changes will be to those gymnasts looking to qualify and compete in the vault final. For gymnasts just competing one vault (for the team final or all around final) it will be pretty much the same though some vaults have had their D score changed. For example, the highly difficult Amanar vault will be decreasing in difficulty from 6.5 to 6.3. If you are wanting to try for the vault final though you do of course have to compete two vaults. At the moment the gymnasts' two vaults are scored completely separately then averaged to give the final score: the D and E score of vault 1 are added together to give the score for vault 1, the D and E score of vault 2 are added together to give the score for vault two, then the scores for vault 1 and vault 2 are averaged. In the new Code of Points this scoring system will change and only one execution score will be given. Basically, the two D scores of the vaults will be averaged, then all the deductions (from both vaults) will be taken off a single E score. This will then be added to the average of the D scores to give a final score.

Sound complicated? I was really unsure at first quite how it would look in practice and whether I liked the idea, but the more I got used to it the more I like it. So how does it work in practice? Here are a few vaults with the difference between the old and the new scoring system:

Sandra Izbasa, London 2012 VT Final
Old scoring system:
VT1: D (6.1) + E (9.233) = 15.383
VT2: D (5.8) + E (9.200) = 15.000
(15.383 + 15.000) / 2 = 15.191
New scoring system
D: (VT1 (6.1) + VT2 (5.8)) / 2 = 5.95
E: 10.000 - VT1 deductions (0.767) - VT2 deductions (0.800) = 8.433
5.95 + 8.433 = 14.383
As you can see, Sandra's score would come out much lower in the new scoring system than it does in the current one, but the same will be said for all the gymnasts. Sandra had good execution on both of her vaults as well as moderate difficulty, meaning her score will still be fairly high compared to others.

Yamilet Pena Abreu, London 2012 VT qualifying
Old scoring system 
VT1: D (7.1) + E (7.833) = 14.933
VT2: D (5.8) + E (8.666) = 14.466
(14.933 + 14.466) / 2 = 14.699
New scoring system 
D: (VT1 (7.1) + VT2 (5.8)) / 2 = 6.45
E: 10.000 - VT1 deductions (2.167) - VT2 deductions (1.334) = 6.499
6.45 + 6.499 = 12.949
You can see that Yamilet, who fell on her first and very difficult vault, would score very low under the new code with all the deductions coming from the single E score. Until now she has relied on her extremely high difficulty to get her into vault finals but you can see that this will no longer be an option under the new scoring system.

McKayla Maroney, London 2012 VT qualifying
Old scoring system 
VT1: D (6.5) + E (9.400) = 15.900
VT2: D (6.1) + E (9.600) = 15.700
(15.900 + 15.700) / 2 = 15.800
New scoring system
D: (VT1 (6.5) + VT2 (6.1) / 2 = 6.3
E: 10.000 - VT1 deductions (0.600) - VT2 deductions (0.400) = 9.000
6.3 + 9.000 = 15.300 
Although McKayla had that unexpected error in the vault final, you can see that her excellent vaulting in qualification would still be rewarded in the new scoring system. Because she has high difficulty as well as excellent execution there are very few deductions to take.

Overall, I think I like the new system. There will be no more cases of gymnasts making the final or taking a medal if they have had a fall, both of which happened in this year's Olympics. Instead, the focus will have to be on good quality vaulting and after all, is that not what it should be about?