Saturday 30 June 2012

So Close Saturday

Romanian Elegance

In recent years Romanian women's gymnastics has been going through a lull. There has been a distinct lack of medals and no real 'characters' within the Romanian team. Apart from Ana Porgras that is.

Ana Porgras turned senior in 2009 after an impressive junior career but already suffering from injuries, starting the year recovering from knee surgery. However, in her debut senior year, she not only became Romanian National Champion but came away from the 2009 World Championships with a Bronze medal on beam. This may sound impressive, but it could have been so much more. In qualification Ana performed beautifully, placing 1st on beam, 2nd all around and 3rd on floor. Mistakes in the final meant that she was left without any medals on these apparatus, eventually finishing 7th all around.

In 2010 Ana Porgras defended her national title, becoming National Champion for the second year running. Her style, grace and elegance were very much in evidence at the 2010 World Championships, wowing us with her delightful rouines, particularly on the beam. Although she yet again finished out of the medals in the all around, she performed beautifully to win the Gold on beam.

Ana always performed with great elegance, something which was recognised at the 2011 World Championships where she received the Longines Prize of Elegance. It was to be the only award she received at these championships due to problems in qualifying and finishing only 6th all around.

Ana Porgras announced her retirement at the beginning of 2012 having never taken an international all around medal. Although her fabulous style could never be questioned and she was always beautiful to watch, I always felt as if she was lacking in confidence. She never quite seemed to believe in herself and her performances which led to the small mistakes and problems which kept her out of the medals. With changes in the Romanian camp as well as ongoing injury issues, Ana obviously felt it was time to call it a day. I however will greatly miss seeing her elegant routines.

Friday 29 June 2012

Friday Favourites

Little Miss Sunshine

As a nation, China have historically been strong on the uneven bars and the beam. Not known for their strong tumbling or choreography, floor was always a somewhat weaker piece for this great nation. But in 1994 that all changed with the arrival on the gymnastics scene of little Mo Huilan.

In 1994 this tiny gymnast burst on to the scene, lighting up the gymnastics world and capturing our hearts. Always smiling, here was a gymnast who really enjoyed performing. And boy did she give us some wonderful performances!

At the 1994 World Championships Mo Huilan became the first female gymnast to compete the Gaylord somersault on the uneven bars. Her bars routine took people's breath away as she performed such an extraordinary routine with such exquisite form. Unfortunately she did poorly in qualifications not making the bars final but in the all around competition she scored 9.900 on this apparatus.

I was thoroughly impressed by such a display of skill. Bars were always a strong piece for China though and I'd been disappointed in the past by gymnasts who had impressed on one piece then given a poor performance on floor. But even as Mo Huilan stepped on to the floor area I could sense that this could be different. Her whole demeanour shouted not only confidence but enjoyment. Her lovely smile was very much in evidence as she took her position. As the music started I knew I was right, this was going to be no ordinary Chinese floor routine. With western music and lively choreography Mo Huilan sparkled. Her cheeky personality came shining through in what was a fantastic performance. Although her floor routine did not score as highly as her bars (her floor scored 9.725 in the AA and 9.462 in the final to finish 7th) this is the routine that I remember as being my favourite, not only of hers but of the whole championships.


Thursday 28 June 2012

Thursday's Thoughts

Compulsory Contemplations

With the Olympics drawing ever closer I've been thinking back to Olympics of previous years. To date, one of my favourite Olympics to watch and re-watch is the 1996 Atlanta Games. It was the first Olympics that I watched the gymnastics from beginning to end and for that reason alone it will always be very special and for many other reasons besides.

One of the things I enjoyed about the 1996 Olympics was watching the compulsory exercises. Here was a chance to see all of the girls competing exactly the same exercises. It made it so easy to see who stood out from the crowd and who had the confidence to make the routines their own, through to those who made a good attempt and down to those who were more unsure. What amazed me most is that not only did I not get bored of seeing the same routine over and over again, I actually felt as if I was watching a slightly different routine with each gymnast who performed it. I was surprised to see how much individuality the girls managed to get into their performances, especially on beam and floor. It was also nice to be able to watch a familiar routine and know what was coming next, making it easier to pick out those who completed them exceptionally well.

I personally would love to see the girls competing compulsory routines these days. With so much focus on the D score of their current individual routines, it would be great to see all the girls competing on an even level. I could spend ages thinking about who would score the highest on routines that were based on execution alone, but perhaps I'd better save that for another day!

But how would this affect the girls' training and their individual, optional routines? With compulsory routines to learn and perfect they would not have as much time to work on their own routines. Would they stick to a similar kind of routine and risk poorer execution and perhaps more chance of injury? Or would they have to lower their difficulty slightly in order to make the routines more manageable?

Atlanta 1996 was the last Olympic Games with compulsory routines. Here are some of my favourites:

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Wednesday Worries

Finding the balance

With the code of points favouring the brave, more and more gymnasts are being tempted towards the spectacular, high scoring, risky moves. But at what cost? Should difficulty be outweighing execution? And how safe is it?

Having re-watched a lot of old routines recently while researching the blog I noticed that the 'perfect routines' of previous years would by no means be given the same execution scores if they were performed today. When I first started watching gymnastics in 1993, the top end gymnasts were expected to score round about 9.800 and even occasionally up into the 9.900s. With execution scores today often in the high 8.00s or low 9.00s even from the best gymnasts, does that mean that their performances are not as good as those we were seeing 20 years ago? Of course not. With the code being much stricter these days, every tiny wobble or step is penalised by as much as 0.3 or 0.5. Judges really are expecting perfection from the gymnasts and it is proving incredibly hard to achieve.

So if the girls are scoring less on execution it seems logical that they will try to counteract the low E scores by upping the difficulty. While it makes for spectacular viewing as we see increasingly impressive tumbles, dazzling vaults and dramatic routines, what is the cost for the gymnasts? Is it worth risking their safety in an attempt to improve their D score?

Over the past few years we have seen an ever increasing amount of gymnasts being injured through the sport. There is no way these injuries can be blamed on the lack of skill of the gymnasts or the lack of support from the coaches as these injuries are happening to some of the world's best gymnasts.

In the 2011 European Championships, reigning World Champion Aliya Mustafina tore her ACL while performing an Amanar vault in the all around competition. Later that year at the American Visa National Championships, Rebecca Bross dislocated her knee while vaulting a DTY. Then came Alicia Sacramone, who tore her achilles tendon while warming up during the 2011 World Championships. Only recently, at the 2012 Visa National Championships, McKayla Maroney suffered a fractured nose and concussion while training her 3 1/2 twist on the floor. And the list of injured gymnasts keeps growing. Last week we found out that Marine Brevet of France was having to withdraw due to a shoulder injury and earlier this week it was announced that Julie Crocket will be missing the Olympics due to a knee injury. Only today there are more rumours of injury regarding Russia's Anastasia Sidorova. Surely there has to be a way to make the sport safer? Is it worth the extra difficulty to have such a big risk of injury? Obviously to those gymnasts who want to be at the top it is a risk that they are prepared to take and even have to take if they are to make their mark on the sport.

It seems a shame that we do not seem to have the perfect balance yet in this of all sports. Although I enjoy seeing big skills performed, I would personally rather see a slightly less difficult routine that is wobble and fall free. I would rather be on the edge of my seat to see which gymnast is the best rather than which one will remain uninjured. As Bekah of 'Get A Grip Gym Blog' tweeted this morning: "Is it bad that I wake up everyday hopping on my computer saying "I really hope no one's injured." I'm waiting for it. Sometimes I hate gym."

Let us hope that the continuing trials and indeed the Olympics themselves remain injury free for everyone to enjoy.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Team Tuesday

Team USA?

With the USA Olympic trials coming up this weekend, there is only one question on everyone's mind - who will make the Olympic Team? 15 girls have made their way to San Jose, California this week but only a third of them will be make the team.

Three of those girls already have Olympic experience having competed in Beijing in 2008. Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan are all trying for their second Olympics, but what are their chances of success? Alicia Sacramone has proved to be the most consistent of the three so far. Competing on vault and beam only, her lowest score of the weekend at the Visa National Championships was 15.100. Bridget Sloan gave a solid effort over all four pieces of apparatus with her highest scores coming on the uneven bars, the USA's weakest apparatus. Then there's Nastia. There seems to be such divided opinion about the reigning Olympic Champion's comeback and her ability to be ready in time. There are many who would give anything to see her in the time and are probably already envisioning her taking a handful of medals. But the more realistic of us are pointing out that although Nastia has shown excellent form on the beam, her scores performances and scores at Nationals were not as good as she would have liked them to be and we are still yet to see a full bars routine from her, which is the piece that the USA really need her on. At her best, 4 years ago, Nastia Liukin was exceptional. Will she prove that she is still exceptional this weekend. All three of these girls still have a lot to prove.

So what about some of the younger gymnasts? Second year senior, reigning World Champion and current two time National Champion Jordyn Wieber has already proved to the world that she deserves a spot on the team. Unless she falls on every routine this weekend she is pretty much guaranteed a spot - and even if she does she's still in with a good shot! The same can also be said for Aly Raisman, the most consistent of the US gymnasts at the present time. She seems to be absolutely rock solid and is adding great scores to her consistent routines. Kyla Ross is also up there with a strong chance of the team. In her first senior year she has worked consistently well. She is also a strong competitor on bars which definitely works in her favour. Then there's Gabby Douglas. I have to admit to having my doubt's about Gabby over the past couple of years. Although I could see that she was a talented gymnast, she simply did not seem to be able to cope with the pressure of the big meets. With Olympic pressure looming, I wasn't sure whether she would be able to sustain her form. Thankfully, I have been proved very wrong. Being given the chance to exhibition at the American Cup and perform with no pressure seems to have made Gabby realise that she actually can do it! Since then she has gone from strength to strength and I have been delighted to see her and her confidence blossom over the last 6 months. With her amazing bars routine and excellent all around scores I believe she only needs to withstand the pressure of these last trials and she will make the team.

One girl I would love to see on the team is McKayla Maroney. I was devastated to hear that she had been injured so close to trials and the Olympics, but thankfully she seems to have recovered very quickly and has made the trip to San Jose. I think that she is a beautiful gymnast to watch and although Marta Karolyi has said that there is no room for a one piece specialist, surely McKayla's stunning vaulting has to be worth it?

Rebecca Bross and Anna Li will both be keen to impress on bars this weekend as both posted excellent scores on this apparatus over both days at the National Championships. They both also competed on beam and neither were as successful on this apparatus. Although bars is where they need to shine a strong beam routine would definitely help.

The remaining four girls are Elizabeth Price, Sarah Finnegan, Sabrina Vega, Kennedy Baker and Brenna Dowell, who placed 5th - 9th respectively all around at nationals. All will be hoping to impress this weekend and up there scores and their ranking in the hope of making the team.

Choosing a team from these 15 girls seems like an impossible task. I know who I would like my team to be, and I'm fairly sure most people have a team of favourites that they would like to see in London. Fortunately, we don't have all that long to wait. Olympic Trials start this weekend running from 28th June - 1st July. Women's Day 1 is on Friday 29th June, 9pm-11pm ET (2am-4am BST) and Women's Day 2 is on Sunday 1st July 9pm-11pm ET (2am-4am BST) and will be live online via NBC. Enjoy!

Monday 25 June 2012

Magic Moments Monday

Miller Magic

In 1993 I watched a full gymnastics competition for the first time. It was the 1993 World Championships in Birmingham and I recorded as much of it as I possibly could. I have watched it so many times over the years I am still almost word perfect with the commentary and know instantly who is performing just from the music! The whole competition was magic to me, but one gymnast in particular stood out.

While watching the qualification competition I was stunned by one particular routine. Shannon Miller took to the beam. The way she started the routine with such poise and control, followed by an incredible acrobatic series literally took my breath away. I fell in love instantly with that beam routine and Shannon Miller.

For the rest of the competition I watched as this young American gymnast produced spectacular routine after spectacular routine, fabulous on all four pieces of apparatus. It was with baited breath that I watched the All Around final, willing her on and desperately hoping she would take the title. She started well on bars and followed that with an excellent beam routine. Then came her exquisite floor exercise.

I was utterly enthralled by her tumbling, her style and her expressive music. I was sure that she had to win the title but there was still one piece left to go. Shannon was up on vault very early in the last rotation. She chose to do the simple FTY, playing it safe rather than going for the double twist. It seemed a good choice as her second vault scored her 9.800, the highest possible score for that vault at the time. But would it be enough? I was on the edge of my seat for the whole of the last rotation so I can only imagine how it must have felt to be any of the gymnasts involved.

Shannon Miller did of course win the title, becoming the 1993 World Champion. And the best thing about rewatching it - you know that the gymnast you're routing for is definitely going to win!

Sunday 24 June 2012

Sunday Surprise

All that glitters isn't gold

When I first started thinking about this post, I was imagining picking one gymnast who had surprised me, probably focusing this week on someone at the British Championships. There were so many surprises however, I feel the need to dedicate this post to the women's senior championships as a whole.

The surprises were many and varied, some in a good way and some definitely not. In fact there were probably only two things about the championships that didn't surprise me. The first is, of course, Beth Tweddle's continuing excellent form on the Uneven Bars. Although still coming back from relatively recent knee surgery Beth delighted us with her usual impressive bars work. Although there was one connection she didn't go for, both in the all around and the final, her routine was still head and shoulders above the rest of the field and looking very strong. I think it can be quite easy at times to take Beth's exceptional level of skill for granted - she is Beth Tweddle, this is what she does! But we need to remind ourselves that here is an absolute world class gymnast in our midst.

The other gymnast who caused me no surprise was Rebecca Tunney, now the women's All Around British Champion. She continued her exceptional run of competitions to win yet another All Around Title with some style. She has placed first all around in all three of the Olympic Trials at still only 15 years old and in her first senior year. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of Rebecca in both the near and more distant future.

So, the surprises. I am delighted to say that the first surprise for me was the sheer strength and determination of Jenni Pinches, working fantastically well all weekend to claim silver in the All Around, silver on vault and gold on beam. I have admired Jenni for quite a while, both her gymnastics and her attitude towards such a tough sport. I had been incredibly disappointed to see that Jenni had not performed at her best during the first two Olympic Trials so I was thrilled to see her wonderful performance this weekend. At her best she is quite captivating to watch and her enjoyment of the sport and bubbly personality shone through all weekend.

I have to admit to being slightly surprised by Imogen Cairns this weekend, though really I shouldn't be. She put in excellent performances in the All Around to finish just outside the medals in 4th. I have been watching Imogen perform nationally and internationally for many years and, at 23, she seems to be performing with more and more style, skill and accuracy with every passing competition. I hope I continue to be surprised by her gymnastics for many more years to come.

Niamh Rippin is another gymnast who surprised and pleased me over the course of the weekend. Although she has represented Great Britain internationally in the past, she is not one of the more well known British gymnasts. I was delighted to see how well she performed over all four pieces of apparatus, finishing in 5th place all around just behind Imogen Cairns. Her strength and power meant that she gave fantastic performances on vault and floor in particular. She qualified for the finals on these two pieces and took the gold on both. An excellent weekend for Niamh and a gymnast to look out for in the future.

Unfortunately, Hannah Whelan did not have such a good weekend. Although she gave a solid performance on three of the four pieces, a fall on beam meant that she had to relinquish the title she has held for the past two years. The majority of her performances were very good and had it not been for the fall on beam she would have taken the title, finishing a mere 0.950 behind Rebecca Tunney. But the mistake meant that she ended the all around competition in 3rd place behind both Rebecca Tunney and Jenni Pinches. She seemed slightly downcast all weekend and without her usual sparkle. In fact, surprisingly, Hannah did not take a single title this weekend. She added to her bronze all around with a silver on beam and a bronze on floor, but gold has eluded her this weekend.

Neither Becky Downie or Danusia Francis seemed to be on form this weekend which was a big surprise to me considering how well both have been performing recently. It has been lovely to see Becky Downie back in competition after injury and she seemed to have been going from strength to strength with each competition. She did take joint silver on beam with Hannah Whelan, but I am sure she will be disappointed with her performances this weekend considering we know exactly what she is capable of. The same can also be said for Danusia. She also seemed to have been gaining in confidence over recent competitions, but finished this weekend without any medals, only managing 6th place all around.

With such a weekend of surprises, any thoughts of potential teams for the Olympics have been completely turned on their head! I certainly don't envy those who have to chose the five girls to go forward to 2012. Personally, I wish the team was big enough for them all, but as it isn't I will have to nervously await the announcement on 4th July. The announcement will be streamed live on BGtv on Wednesday 4th July at 12 noon. 

Saturday 23 June 2012

So Close Saturday

Russian Delight

Earlier this week I was disappointed to hear that Russian gymnast Anna Pavlova was not one of the eight women who had been named to Russia's Olympic training squad ending both her 2012 Olympic journey and my hopes of seeing her in London. She is a powerful vaulter and tumbler and for many years Anna Pavlova has delighted us with her skill and her artistry, yet she is one of the many popular gymnasts who has never taken a major title.

Anna Pavlova has graced us with her presence at two Olympic Games, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. And I don't use the word 'graced' lightly. Watching Anna Pavlova perform has been a highlight of many events to me. Her grace, style and elegance set her apart from other gymnasts particularly on floor and beam. She moves beautifully and her balletic style of dance on the floor exercise make her routines a joy to watch.

Yet despite her fabulous gymnastics, Anna has never won a gold or even a silver medal at world level competition. She has helped her team to two bronze medals, in the Athens Olympics in 2004 and the 2006 World Championships. Individually, she has only ever taken one medal at world level, a bronze medal on vault in the Athens 2004 Olympics. At European level she has been more successful, winning 1 beam bronze medal, 2 silvers on vault and an all around silver in the 2005 European Championships. Yet a title at international level has always alluded her.

My hopes that her Olympic run would continue this year have already been thwarted, despite her placing 5th all around in the 2012 Russian Cup and coming 1st on vault. With so many excellent young gymnasts in Russia at the moment I suppose that it could be seen as inevitable that she wouldn't make the final cut. However, I will certainly miss seeing Anna Pavlova in London this summer.

Friday 22 June 2012

Friday Favourites

Fabulous Fabrichnova

Not wanting to jinx the Olympic hopes of any current gymnasts, I have looked to the past for today's Friday Favourite. Although I have many, one gymnast that I really loved to watch is Oxana Fabrichnova.

The 1993 World Championships was a delight to me from start to finish as it was the first full gymnastics competition I watched. And in the middle of all this excitement, one gymnast caught my eye and really made me smile, That gymnast was Russia's Oxana Fabrichnova.

The first glimpse I got of Oxana was on beam in the all around competition. I often find that although there are many very artistic and beautiful routines on this apparatus as well as the strong acrobatic ones, it often seems difficult to see any real personality shine through. But there was no doubt the Oxana Fabrichnova had spark and personality throughout this routine. Her embellishments between moves, the little flicks of the head all seemed to give her routine that little bit extra. Here was a gymnast that gave a good performance.

It was then with great anticipation that I awaited her floor exercise. If we had been treated to that much life on the beam then surely her floor exercise would be something special. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. She sold the routine with great expression and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Her strong performances on all 4 events meant that Oxana Fabrichnova achieved 5th place in the All Around competition in the 1993 World Championships. I was looking forward to seeing more of her in the future.

When the 1994 World Championships came around I was surprised and most upset to realise that Oxana Fabrichnova was not one of the two all around Russian gymnasts. Who on earth were these replacements Dina Kochetkova and Svetlana Khorkina?! I was slightly mollified to find that I would still be getting a chance to see Oxana Fabrichnova as she had been brought as a beam specialist and qualified to the beam final. Although I was delighted that her one performance at these championships led to a 3rd place and a bronze medal, I was somewhat disappointed to see that her routine seemed to have lost it's spark. Although I was just as impressed by her elegance and skill, there seemed to be none of the expression and sparkle that I had seen in the previous year's routines.

Her style and elegance combined with her artistry and expression are what make Oxana Fabrichnova one of my favourite gymnasts.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Thursday's Thoughts

Comeback Queens?

With the average age of female gymnasts much higher than it used to be, more and more gymnasts are continuing to compete or come out of retirement. But how easy is it to conquer the comeback?

In the USA in particular comebacks have been a major part of this year's Olympic journey. Five of the six members of the 2008 Olympic team were hoping to repeat the achievement and try for the 2012 team. Bridget Sloan is the only one of these five members who never officially retired, though injury has kept her out of major competition for the last couple of years. Her comeback from injury has earned her a place at the USA Olympic Trials at the end of June. Her sheer delight at still being part of competitive gymnastics was evident at the Visa National Championships and the fact that she is still working all around is a great bonus. Alicia Sacramone also had a successful competition at Visas, which earned her a place at the Olympic Trials. Alicia feels that she has a lot to prove after falling twice during the team competition in Beijing and realised that retiring on that note was not the way she wanted to leave the sport. Concentrating these days on her two best apparatus, vault and beam, Alicia has worked up over the past two years to give very solid routines which placed 1st and 3rd at the recent National Championships.

Things haven't been so smooth for all the gymnasts trying to make a comeback though. Earlier this month, Shawn Johnson announced that her injuries were forcing a retirement and she would be unable to progress any further with her Olympic journey. I found this a great shame, as I was always a fan of not only her gymnastics but her bubbly personality and fabulous smile. Chellsie Memmell also ran out of time along the way to the Olympics, unable to secure the score required for her to progress to the National Championships or Olympic Trials.

So that leaves Nastia Liukin. The fifth member of that 2008 team who is trying to make a comeback. There has been much speculation about the reigning 2008 champion and her ability to be ready in time for the games. So far, she has proved that her beam skills are coming close to where she was 4 years ago, but even so there are still many tweaks and improvements to be made to her beam routine before Trials. But bars is where she wants - and needs - to shine if she is to impress the selection committee. Only two full bars routines have been seen from her in competition since 2008, neither of which were a success. Despite this, she has been accepted to Olympic Trials, where she has one last chance to show the selection committee and the rest of the world that she is ready to compete at the highest level.

So is a comeback really worth it? In certain cases absolutely, and none more so than Romania's Catalina Ponor. At the age of 24, it is not four years but eight since she competed in an Olympic Games. In Athens 2004 she not only helped her team towards the gold medal, but also took two individual medals on beam and floor. Her recent performance in the 2012 European Championships in Brussels showed that 8 years on she has lost none of her talent or style. She led her team to Gold ahead of a strong Russian team as well as taking a Gold medal on beam and a Silver medal on floor.

I for one look forward to seeing the contrast of the maturity of these comeback queens alongside the youth of the newcomers.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Wednesday Worries

Selection . . . rejection . . . dejection

With the Olympics growing ever closer, the sense of loss and stories of heartbreak are beginning to surface more frequently as Olympic hopes and dreams are being shattered.

Most countries have only one spot, making the selection process very tough and leaving a great deal of misery behind to those who were unsuccessful. In the Netherlands in particular there has been a huge battle as to which gymnast should represent the country. Initially, gymnast Wyomi Masela was announced as the representative for the Netherlands, however this decision was made while one of the country's most successful gymnasts, Celine Van Gerner, was out with injury. Celine appealed this decision through the courts having not been given a chance to prove her readiness. The courts agreed with her and stated that the more time must be given for both gymnasts to compete before a final decision was made. At this point, heartbreak was inevitable for one of these girls. Her performance in recent competitions led to Celine Van Gerner finally being announced as the representative for the Netherlands. I can't help but feel sorry for both girls having to go through so much as part of the selection process.

For the 12 countries that have qualified a full team it could easily be thought that heartbreak would be less of a problem. The fact is however, that majority of countries have such depth of talent which means that a lot of excellent gymnasts will be left behind. Now add to this the fact that this year, for the first time, there are only five gymnasts per team as opposed to the six gymnasts per team in Beijing 2008 and even the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.

This problem seems to be particularly apparent in the USA. The strength of talent within team USA is such that many countries would be more than happy with five if the gymnasts that the USA decides NOT to take to London. The potential for heartbreak when the team is announced is huge as there are so many genuine candidates hoping to be chosen. Problems have already begun to surface as 2008 Olympic team member Chellsie Memmel's petition was denied and her hopes of a second Olympics were dashed before even making it to the Visa National Championships. This caused outcry as many believed that she had a strong chance. It is with baited breath that we now wait for the USA Olympic Trials. I can only hope that my favourites make the team.

Elsewhere, selection news is starting to come in and much to my disappointment, many of my favourite Russian gymnasts are already out of the running. Although I am incredibly excited about Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova, I am sad to see that both Anna Dementyeva and Anna Pavlova will not be on the Olympic team.

I can only imagine the feelings of the poor gymnasts who do not make the Olympic team. They are all exceptional people with an incredible talent and I wish them all many happy and successful years of gymnastics to come.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Team Tuesday

Team GB?

With the British Championships a mere 4 days away, tension must surely be building as the gymnasts prepare to impress at the final Olympic trial. With a home Olympics and only 5 spots up for grabs, the stakes have never been higher. Nor has the amount of talent in the GB squad.

Only months ago the girls proved that they were the 5th best team in the world in the Tokyo 2011 World Championships. European success followed earlier this year in the 2012 European Championships in Brussels with 2 bronze medals for Hannah Whelan, on beam and floor, and 3 gymnasts making apparatus finals. What's more, this team consisted of two first year seniors making their debut at a major international championships, with two experienced gymnasts (including Beth Tweddle) out with injury.

So where does such depth of talent leave us when it comes to choosing the Olympic team?

With such outstanding success and a real hope of a medal, Beth Tweddle has to be seen as the first member of the team. Hannah Whelan's recent form and her overall achievements must make her pretty much a definite. First year senior Rebecca Tunney has such an amazing run of achievements over the last few months, posting consistently high All Around scores, I personally believe that she should definitely secure a place to the games.

So suddenly, there are only 2 places left. And what a battle it will be to take one of these places. With at least 5 major contenders for the last two spots, tension and nerves are bound to be running high this weekend.

As well as Beth Tweddle, Hannah Whelan and Rebecca Tunney, you should also look out for Becky Downie, Danusia Francis, Jenni Pinches, Imogen Cairns, and Ruby Harrold who will all be trying to impress.

The British Championships can be seen live online on BGtv via the British Gymnastics website: 

Saturday 23rd June
Men's seniors 12.00 - 15.00
Women's seniors 19.00 - 20.30
Sunday 24th June
Men's and women's apparatus finals 10.30 - 12.10 and 14.00 - 16.00

Monday 18 June 2012

Magic Moments Monday

Let the magic begin . . .

In 1992, at the age of 16, the extent of my gymnastics knowledge was that school P.E. lessons had proved that it was impossible to get over the horse. My appalling levels of co-ordination meant that most sporting activities were fairly alien to me and it never really occurred to me to hunt any out on T.V.

But that summer, something changed. Calling round at a friend's house, she was watching a rerun from the Olympics.
"Watch this," she said. "I saw it yesterday, it's amazing. She got a perfect 10."
I watched. Lavinia Milosovici. Barcelona 1992. Floor Exercise. It was magic. I was hooked. To see such elegance combined with such power, to see such amazing acrobatics combined with such lightness and bounce and all with such fun and enjoyment.

It truly was a magic moment and one which will stay with me forever. Lavinia Milosovici is the last gymnast to have received a perfect 10. She is also still one of my favourite gymnasts to date.