Tuesday 31 July 2012

Team Tuesday

Golden Girls

 Today was the Women's Team Final and the first gold medal in the Olympic gymnastics competition was awarded. Who was it awarded to? Team USA of course!

The USA girls were the easily the favourites going into this competition. They dominated in qualifying, posting a team score of 181.863 which was 1.434 ahead of their biggest rivals, Russia. None of the teams had had a completely clean competition in qualifying though so there was plenty of tension as the competition got underway.

With the amazing vault scores that had been posted by the girls yesterday it would have been easy to think that they would not be able to improve on that. Jordyn Wieber was up first and looking ready to prove a point after missing out on qualifying for the all around final. Her vault was amazing and scored a whole tenth more than her qualifying vault. She had indeed proved her point that she was here for the team no matter what. Gabby Douglas was next with yet another fantastic Amanar vault and again improved her qualifying score, by 0.066. Then it was the turn of vault specialist McKayla Maroney. Both of the previous two girls had posted a higher score than she managed yesterday, could she really improve on what had gone before? She is not known as a vault specialist for nothing though. McKayla Maroney vaulted the most spectacular Amanar vault I have ever seen, ridiculously high, beautifully clean and perfectly landed. As a result she was awarded a simply unheard of 9.733 execution score to giver her a total of 16.233 - the highest score of the whole competition so far. The USA were off to a great start.

Uneven Bars
Known as the USA's weakest apparatus, this could be a case of make it or break it for the USA girls. Yet again Jordyn Wieber was up first on a piece that is known for giving her more problems than any other. A slight falter near the beginning of the routine had me holding my breath but she kept it under control, performed brilliantly and hit another amazing full twisting double straight dismount to post a good starting score of 14.666 for the team, just a couple of tenths less than her qualifying score. Then it was the team debut for Kyla Ross. Kyla is known as a good bars worker and she lived up to that today with a lovely clean routine, bettering her qualification score by posting a great 14.933. Up next was 'The Flying Squirrel' Gabby Douglas - and boy did she live up to that name today! She soared through her routine with her trademark high releases and clean execution to post a 15.200. Not bad scores for the team's weakest apparatus!

Balance Beam
Kyla Ross was up first and yet again proved to be an asset to the team with a clean and beautifully performed routine. Her leaps and acrobatic skills were sky high, her connections were made easily, she was absolutely rock solid on virtually every landing and practically nailed her dismount. She improved on her score in qualification to post a 15.133. She really is a beautiful gymnast to watch. Next was Gabby Douglas and this was where everyone was holding their breath - if there is one apparatus on which Gabby is likely to falter, it is beam. Many people were surprised that she had been put up on this apparatus given her inconsistencies but she proved to everyone that the right choice had been made by giving one of the most solid routines I have ever seen her perform to score 15.233. Aly Raisman was last up and did her job as the 'rock' of the team. She performed well on her first piece of the team final to score 14.933, just slightly lower than her qualifying score.

Floor Exercise
Floor was the last piece of apparatus for the USA and by this point they knew that they only really had to stand their tumbling up to take the Gold medal. But just as they did in the 2011 World Championships, when they were in a similar situation, they went for everything. Gabby Douglas was up first and managed to put the mistakes of qualifying behind her to give a fantastic performance. You could tell that she was loving every minute of the routine and it was fabulous to watch. Her score of 15.066 was a big improvement from the mistakes in qualifying. Up next was Jordyn Wieber who gave a performance that brought a tear to my eye. It was a performance worthy of a champion and showed just how much of a strong character and a team player she is to put the disappointment of qualification behind her and compete at her absolute best. It was one of the best floor performances I have seen from Jordyn and her smile throughout was infectious. She enjoyed every minute of that routine and so did I. She posted a much improved score from qualifying of 15.000 which was well deserved. Aly Raisman was last up to give the final performance for USA's team competition. She needed little more than a 10.000 for the team to take the Gold but she put her whole heart into that floor routine. You could tell that she was barely able to conceal her emotions from the beginning, her grin showing through at the start and still present after her first two good landings. Quite how she got through the routine I will never know, and her reaction when she landed her final tumble had me in tears and probably will every time I watch it. The relief, delight and sheer emotion came through and her tears were evident the second she landed her final tumble, before her routine had quite finished. She did of course get not only the score that was needed but more - an amazing 15.300.

USA - Olympic Champions. I have to say they thoroughly deserved it. There was not a single mistake from any of them, despite the pressure of coming in as the favourites. Others faltered around them, but they kept their nerve and even without the errors from the other teams I highly doubt anybody else could have beaten them. They have put in so much preparation and their mental strength and focus really is second to none. They took the title with an amazing score of 183.596 - over 5 whole marks higher than 2nd place Russia. The sheer delight and emotion from all five of the girls showed exactly how much this meant to them and I am thoroughly delighted that they have achieved their goal, their ambition and their dream.

For full results of the team final click here: http://www.london2012.com/gymnastics-artistic/event/women-team/phase=gaw400100/doc=results.html

Monday 30 July 2012

Magic Moments Monday

The dawning of Olympic magic

Amidst the excitement and shocks of yesterday's qualification competition there were some absolutely stunning performances. Here is a quick look at some of the magic from the beginning of the gymnastics competition.

Beth Tweddle
Beth gave an absolutely stunning performance on bars yesterday to post the top score across the whole of qualifying of 16.133. She has worked incredibly hard to come back from knee surgery earlier this year and it has certainly paid off. Her bars routine yesterday was the best I have seen her perform recently, hitting her connections and showing great execution. The home crowd cheered her along all the way and were delighted with her performance. I am really looking forward to seeing her perform this routine again both in the team final and the event final for which she qualified first.

McKayla Maroney
All four American gymnasts who vaulted in yesterday's competition did the Amanar vault and the lowest score (and the score they dropped) was an incredible 15.800. But it was of course McKayla Maroney who was the vault star of Team USA. Vaulting on an injured foot, she still managed to post a score of 15.900 for her first vault, the Amanar, then went on to compete her second vault, the Mustafina. On this second vault she was given an execution score of 9.600 which I believe is the highest E score of the whole qualifying competition. A total score of 15.700 for this second vault gave her an average of 15.800 putting her firmly in the lead of the vault qualification, almost 0.500 ahead of the second place qualifier. I cannot wait to see her perform these two vaults again in the vault final.

Asuka Teramoto
This Japanese gymnast was one of the real surprises of qualification, and all of her routines were a highlight for me. This slight gymnast impressed everyone by hitting four beautiful routines to finish 8th all around, well ahead of her better known team mate Rie Tanaka, and qualify strongly for the all around final. She showed great skill and elegance in all of her routines and is definitely one to watch out for in the all around final.

Sui Lu
Having seen Sui Lu's new floor routine in training I was not expecting to be overly impressed with it but, on the big occasion, she rose up and performed it beautifully. It was her beam routine that impressed me the most though, and was a routine worthy of the reigning World Champion on beam. She is exquisite to watch on this apparatus, combining great skill with a fluency and ease of movement that makes it look effortless. She posted the highest beam score of the day with a 15.400 and sailed through into the beam finals almost 0.150 above the second highest qualifier. This may not seem like a big advantage, but the difference between the 1st and 8th highest scores on beam was less than 0.400!

Ana Sofia Gomez Porras
This Guatemalan gymnast was earmarked as one to watch this Olympic Games, but I think few of us expected her to excel the way she did yesterday. She comes from a country with very little gymnastics background but has obviously worked very hard to put herself on the map. She performed absolutely beautifully in qualification to finish 16th all around. I really hope she continues to shine in the all around competition and I am looking forward to seeing much more of this young gymnast.

Vasiliki Millousi
This Greek gymnast really is something special to watch, especially on beam. I was really disappointed to find out that she had not qualified for the beam final as I was really impressed with her skill and execution during her beam routine yesterday. She has lovely grace and elegance on this apparatus and is a delight to watch. She also impressed me on floor with yet another beautifully elegant and stylish routine. It is so unfortunate that she has not qualified to any of the finals as I would have loved to see more of her this competition. It is sad to think that her Olympics is already over.

There were so many magic moments from yesterday, but these were some of the absolute highlights for me. I am excited to think about how many more there will be to come over the next week.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Sunday Surprise

The good, the bad and the ugly

Wow, what a day! 'Sunday Surprise' seems to cover almost everything that happened in qualification today. Qualification always throws up some surprises but today's competition has seen more than most.

The good
There were some exceptional performances today. One of my best surprises was just how well Aliya Mustafina of Russia performed today. She is one of my favourite gymnasts and it was lovely to see her looking on such good form again after her injury last year. She has worked incredibly hard to get fit in time for the Olympics and I am delighted that she seems to have managed it. We can look forward to plenty more beautiful performances from her in the days to come.

Another great surprise for me was the phenomenal bars score for Beth Tweddle. I am not saying that I thought she would not do well on this apparatus but I was delighted to see just how well she did. She posted the highest score of the entire competition with a 16.133 and secured herself the top spot going into the bars final.

The fact that the British girls managed a 5th place finish is also a massive achievement and although that is not necessarily such a surprise it was a big hope. The girls have all worked incredibly hard coming into this competition and so far it has paid off. 15 year old Rebecca Tunney was not fazed at all and gave a brilliant all around performance to finish 15th in her first major senior world competition and qualify easily for the all around final. Hannah Whelan also qualified to the all around, but what impressed me most today was her upgrade on vault to a double twisting Yurchenko which she performed beautifully. Jenni Pinches impressed me once again and her fantastic floor routine was a real highlight for me. She performed it really well and sold the whole routine beautifully. With all of this and the amazing Beth Tweddle we have a lot to look forward to in Tuesday's team final.

The bad
Unfortunately though, the bad surprises seemed to outweigh the good ones today. It started in the first subdivision with Brazil. Brazil have had so many problems recently nobody particularly expected them to do well as a team. What was expected though was that Daniele Hypolito would perform well and make the all around final. Unfortunately neither of those happened and a disastrous floor exercise, that gave her a score of 11.900, left her in 37th place all around and way off qualifying for the all around final.

Yao Jinnan of China also had a very bad day in qualification. The Bronze all around medallist from the 2011 World Championships had been struggling with injury earlier this week but was set to compete all around. But things certainly did not go according to plan today. She finished down in 22nd place and way below her two team mates meaning that she has not qualified for the all around final. Normally good on beam and floor, she struggled on these and missed the apparatus finals by a long way. She did recover for her last piece though, qualifying in 4th place for the bars final.

Romania's newest star, 16 year old Larisa Iordache, also had problems today. Although she managed to qualify for the all around final, she did so down in 9th place. As one of the hopes for the all around title this was a big surprise. Not only that, but she also failed to qualify for any of the four apparatus finals. She looked nervy on both beam and floor, her two best apparatus, and lower than usual scores mean that we will not be seeing as much of her as we would have hoped.

One of the teams that surprised was Australia. They started well, but struggled in later rotations and have not made it through to the team final. After the success the team have started to build up recently this has come of something of a surprise. I was certainly expecting them to make it through and I am sure that they would have been hoping to.

The ugly
So now to the biggest shock of the day. I call it 'the ugly' not because of the gymnastics involved, because that was anything but; it is simply the way that I would describe such a disastrous situation: the reigning World Champion and favourite for the Olympic title has not made it through to the all around final, despite qualifying in 4th place. Such is the depth of the American talent, their three all around gymnasts qualified in 2nd, 3rd and 4th, but because of the two per country rule Jordyn Wieber does not get to advance to the all around final. It is not even that she performed particularly badly, though I am sure that by her standards she would have wanted to do better; it is simply that Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas had the most amazing competition. Aly in particular surprised everyone by posting the highest USA all around score to qualify in 2nd place behind Russia's Viktoria Komova. Aly was the underdog of the American team going into today's competition, with Jordyn and Gabby expected to take the top two spots so she has done amazingly well to come out on top. I feel exceptionally sorry for Jordyn who has had to deal with all the pressure of being the favourite and the one to beat. She was clearly devastated when she realised it had not been enough. In the style of a true champion though, she gave her quotes to the media, saying "It's a bit of a disappointment. It has always been a dream of mine to compete in the all around final of the Olympics but I'm proud of Aly and Gabby and happy that they reached the all around and that I helped the team get to the finals. I think from the beginning we were all looking very strong. It was always going to be close between the three of us doing all around and in the end it is what it is." I know that rules are rules and everyone comes into the competition knowing that only two gymnasts per country can qualify but I must say that it cannot be good for the sport when the reigning World Champion and 4th highest qualifier does not get to compete.

Jordyn's coach John Geddert commented after the competition, understandably saying how upset he was that this had happened, but also reminding us of the pressure that these gymnasts are under. He said "Some of the FIG rules are absolutely ridiculous. The 3-up-3 count rule is just the stupidest rule I’ve ever heard for children’s sports. One kid is going to make a mistake that costs her country a medal, and they have to live with that the rest of their life. So the FIG really needs to start rethinking some of these things. A kid’s training their entire life and because they’re the 3rd best in their country, they don’t get to go to the dream competition." Because we are watching such incredibly talented athletes it is easy to forget how young most of these gymnasts are and the pressures they have to deal with at this young age. The team as a whole did exceptionally well under the pressure of being the favourites and finished the day in 1st place over a whole mark ahead of 2nd place Russia.

One of the other things that has surprised me is some people's reactions to this. Although I am incredibly disappointed that one of my favourite gymnasts at this Olympic Games has not got the chance to try for the title, I do not want to take away from the achievements of the other two gymnasts. Aly Raismam and Gabby Douglas both performed absolutely brilliantly today and fully deserve the chance to qualify and go for the title.

Upcoming upsets?
With all these surprises after just one day of competition, what can the next few days bring? After today it seems that absolutely anything can happen and I simply cannot wait to find out what the rest of the competition will bring!

For full results of today's qualifying competition click here: http://www.london2012.com/gymnastics-artistic/event/women-qualification/phase=gaw499900/doc=results.html

Saturday 28 July 2012

So Close Saturday


Well, it is finally here! Qualification for the women begins tomorrow and there is everything to play for. With the excitement of finals it can be easy to forget how important the qualification round is, but this is the part of the competition which is make it or break it for the gymnasts. This one day of qualifying determines who makes it through to the team final, the all around final and all four apparatus finals. You simply cannot have a bad day in qualifying otherwise you could end up with absolutely nothing.

There are 12 teams that have qualified to the Olympic Games but only 8 places available for the team final. In the qualification round each team can put up four gymnasts on each piece of apparatus with the top three scores counting towards the team total. All five gymnasts in the team will have to work steadily and cleanly to make sure that they qualify. But not only will team mates be competing together, they will also be competing against each other. Each team is likely to have two or three gymnasts who are hoping to qualify for the all around and apparatus finals. With the rule of two gymnasts per country in each of the individual finals there is inevitably going to be some rivalry as to who qualifies highest and ensures their place in the final. Team USA for example has three excellent all around gymnasts who will all be hoping to make it to the all around final, but only the top two scorers in tomorrow's competition will go through. Similarly, Team Romania has many excellent floor workers but only the top two of the four gymnasts competing on floor tomorrow will be able to make it to the floor final.

All Around
The top 24 all around gymnasts from tomorrow's competition will qualify to the all around final, after the two per country rule has been taken into consideration. For example, the gymnast who finishes 28th should definitely make the all around final as there will almost certainly be more than four gymnasts in the top 24 who cannot qualify because two of her team mates scored higher. Although many of the top gymnasts hoping to qualify to the all around final are likely to be from one of the 12 teams, there will also be many gymnasts who are singularly representing their country who will be hoping to make their mark. There are 98 female gymnasts competing tomorrow and though not all of them will be competing all around (especially in the teams) 98 to 24 is a big drop so there will be some fierce competition to make the final. For those all around gymnasts who do not qualify to the top 24, their all around position will determine their world ranking so there is still everything to go for. 

Apparatus Finals
The top 8 gymnasts on each apparatus will qualify to the apparatus finals, again with the two per country rule. It is highly unlikely that any gymnast will make all four apparatus finals and fairly unlikely that many will even make three. Teams are more and more commonly using specialists these days to help with the team score and trying to take individual apparatus medals. Because these gymnasts specialise in just a couple of pieces of apparatus they have more time to train them and are more likely to post higher scores than the all around gymnasts. With the vault final requiring two completely different vaults many of the top gymnasts do not even attempt to get into this final, making the decision to practise only one vault so they can concentrate more on the other apparatus. What this does mean is that you are likely to see a greater range of countries represented in this final, rather than it just being the top teams on show. It is really nice for some of the less well known gymnasts to get a chance to shine.

It is going to be a long and nerve wracking day tomorrow and I hope that all the gymnasts perform their best and feel proud of their achievements.

Friday 27 July 2012

Friday Favourites

Olympic Hopeful McKayla Maroney

USA's McKayla Maroney is not only part of the team that is favourite for the Gold medal in London, she is also the favourite for individual Gold in the vault final. Rumours of an injury have had people worried this week, but McKayla insists that she will still be vaulting at the Olympics if nothing else.

McKayla Maroney has not had an easy journey to the London 2012 Olympics. Back in 2011 she came 2nd all around to Jordyn Wieber and even beat her at the City of Jesolo Trophy earlier that year. Her phenomenal vaulting was helping her all around scores greatly and she was definitely one to watch. At the 2011 World Championships McKayla was part of the team that won the Gold medal, helping the team on both vault and floor. She also made it through to the vault final where the difficulty and beautiful execution of both her vaults meant that she easily took the Gold.

By 2012 things were not quite so easy for McKayla. Despite continuing to vault better than anyone else, many other American girls had started to compete the Amanar vault increasing their start value and all around scores greatly. McKayla also suffered inconsistencies on the other three apparatus. Coming in to the 2012 Visa National Championships it was obvious that she could greatly help the team on vault as well as hopefully take an individual medal, but would vault alone be enough? She would have to work hard to prove herself. She started well with a solid beam routine and a relatively good floor routine. Her vault was of course exceptional, as always, and by the end of the 3rd rotation she was in joint 3rd. Bars however has never been McKayla's strongest apparatus. She had a couple of falters and hit her feet on the low bar leaving her down in 7th place at the end of Day 1. Things then got even tougher for McKayla. While she was warming up on floor she fell on one of her tumbling passes. She was taken straight to hospital where she was diagnosed with a fractured nose and concussion. Despite this she was back in the arena by the end of the competition and petitioned to the USA Olympic Trials.

As the Olympic Trials approached there was much doubt as to whether McKayla would be recovered in time to compete. We should not have been worried, McKayla trained and competed as if there had never been a problem, despite having had to take a week off training at this vital time. She started excellently on vault proving to everyone yet again what an asset she would be on this apparatus. On bars and beam she struggled however, and fell on both apparatus. She recovered beautifully for floor though and gave a lovely performance. Although she was down in 7th place at the end of Day 1, she had posted brilliant scores on vault and floor which were the two pieces the USA would be most likely to need her for. She started Day 2 on bars where she struggled slightly but gave a much better performance than on Day 1. She then went on to give a stunning performance on beam but landed completely out of bounds on one her tumbling passes on floor earning her an automatic 0.500 deduction. Her vault, the apparatus she ended on, was virtually perfect.

Fortunately she had proved herself enough and was selected to the team, much to my delight. So training continued and the gymnasts travelled to London. But in London, McKayla started to worry us again, sitting out of training sessions and only ever warming up vault. Was she injured? Would she be able to compete? The rumours were endless but eventually we found out the truth. She had aggravated an old foot injury while training in London and was resting her foot but would definitely compete on vault if nowhere else. I have every admiration for this girl at the moment and her determination to make the most of her opportunity and compete for both herself and the team. In an interview with NBCOlympics.com McKayla said "Bad things happen, you just have to make the best of it. It does hurt. It's broken. How is it not going to hurt? I just try to ignore it and I have worked so hard to be here. I can ignore the pain for a little bit."

I really hope that McKayla can overcome all the problems she has faced to make it this far and gives the performances on vault that she is capable of. I would absolutely love to see her take the Olympic vault title, I think she thoroughly deserves it. Good luck McKayla.


Thursday 26 July 2012

Thursday's Thoughts

Olympic medallists?

With the start of the Olympic gymnastics competition not far off, many people's thoughts are turning to those who may take the medals in the various finals. I want to take a look at who could win, but also those that I personally would love to see take a medal.

Team Final
Most people are saying that this title is the USA's to lose and I have to say I completely agree. They have one of the most solid teams I have seen from any country in a long time. This team of youngsters (Aly Rasiman is the oldest at 18) is so secure and so thoroughly prepared I do not see how any one can beat them on difficulty, execution or consistency. But of course gymnastics is a competition and anything can happen. Romania, Russia and China will be the other teams battling it out for the medals. Romania have been looking really strong recently and I would love to see this newly rejuvenated team take a medal. However, with rumours that Romania's star gymnast Larisa Iordache is injured and may not compete all around, the rest of the team will have a lot of work to do. Russia is seen by many as the strongest threat to the USA for the team Gold. With Aliya Mustafina back competing again after her knee injury and Viktoria Komova looking on good form it is easy to see why. You also should not count out newcomer Anastasia Grishina who is competing brilliantly at the moment. What the Russian's seem to be struggling most with though is consistency. If they hit all of their routines they will be challenging for the Gold, but that is quite a big if in my opinion. The Chinese also seem to lack consistency, especially on big occasions. Although they are the reigning Olympic Champions I really do not see them fighting for the Gold this year. My ideal podium? USA, Romania, Russia.

All Around Final
With doubts around about Larisa Iordache competing all around, the main contenders for the title will most likely be Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Viktoria Komova. All of these girls are more than capable of taking the all around title IF they compete cleanly during the final. I really hope that they do, for their sake because they all deserve to have a good competition and also because it will make for a very exciting final. Personally, I would love to see Aliya Mustafina back on top form and competing for the title as I absolutely adore her style. I would also like to see Jordyn do well as I think she is an exceptional gymnast who is lovely to watch. We also need to remember China's Yao Jinnan who took the Bronze medal all around at the 2011 World Championships. Also bear in mind that Larisa Iordache may still compete, nothing seems to be definite at the moment. My ideal podium? Wieber/Mustafina. Iordache.

Vault Final
I fully expect the standards of this final to be absolutely phenomenal as we are likely to have some amazing gymnasts challenging for the title. The favourite is of course the reigning World Champion on vault, McKayla Maroney. She is an absolutely exceptional vaulter and just seems to float through the air on vaults that others can only dream about. Sandra Izbasa of Romania is another one who makes difficult vaulting look effortless. Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland will be one to watch, as will Germany's Oksana Chusovitina who will be competing in her 6th Olympic Games! Yamilet Pena Abreu will also be hoping to make the vault final as she has been training the hardest vault in women's gymnastics - the handspring double front. If she lands it well she is in with a chance, but her landings often leave a lot to be desired. My ideal podium? Maroney, Izbasa, Steingruber/Chusovitina.

Bars final
This is the final where all British gymnastics fans will be holding their breath as Great Britain's Beth Tweddle is one of the favourites for this title. She is an exceptional bars worker with incredible difficulty and great execution. Gabby Douglas and Kyla Ross of USA will also be hoping to make the final on this event. Gabby in particular has the difficulty and the execution to be a medal contender. Russia and China are also very strong on bars. Both Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina will be hoping to have an impact on the medals and He Kexin of China will be desperately trying to defend her bars title from Beijing 2008. We also have France's Youna Dufournet and Germany's Elisabeth Seitz who have some great skills on the bars. My ideal podium? Tweddle (of course!), Komova/Douglas, Mustafina.

Beam Final
There are many contenders for this final with the Chinese and Romanians being amongst the top ones. For China, Sui Lu in particular is beautiful on beam and is the reigning World Champion on this apparatus, with Yao Jinnin and Deng Linilin also hoping for a place in the final. For Romania, Catalina Ponor will be the one to beat. She was the beam champion when she last competed at the Olympics in 2004 and she seems to have lost none of her magic. Iordache may also be hoping to make this final even if she does not compete all around. Vasiliki Millousi of Greece is also an exceptional beam worker and has a beautiful routine. If she performs it well she is in with a chance of not just a place in the final but also a medal. And we should not forget Britain's Hannah Whelan. This is one of her strongest apparatus and only a few months ago she took her first European medal on the beam. My ideal podium? Lu, Ponor, Millousi/Whelan.

Floor Final
This is the apparatus where I find people's opinions vary the most. Perhaps it is because of that added element - the music. If you really do not like the music that a gymnast is performing to you are much less likely to like the routine in my opinion. With me, it has affected my ability to watch Lauren Mitchell's routine objectively and it took me a long time to get used to both Gabby Douglas and Hannah Whelan's floor music. But what really counts of course is the gymnastics, both the tumbling and the artistry. Tumbling wise, Aly Raisman has one of the most difficult floor exercises you are likely to see this year. She has some incredible tumbling passes and seems sure of her landings on each one of them. The Romanians will definitely be a force to be reckoned with on this apparatus. If not for the two per country rule I believe it would be possible to see most of the team qualifying for the final. Catalina Ponor has an excellent floor routine, as does Larisa Iordache if she is able to compete it. Of course there is also Sandra Izbasa who is the reigning Olympic Champion on floor. Elsewhere we have Britain's Beth Tweddle and Australia's Lauren Mitchell who are both previous World Champions on this apparatus. Brazil's Daiane dos Santos and Canada's Victoria Moors also have fantastic floor routines and Sui Lu and Italy's Vanessa Ferrari will be hoping to do well on this event too. My ideal podium? All of them!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Wednesday Worries

Living up to expectations

Sunday 29th July 2012: the start of the Women's Artistic Gymnastics competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games. We have been waiting for what seems like forever, now it is almost here. The one thing that I am most worried about at the moment? How can the competition possibly live up to my expectations of it?

With gymnastics not being a mainstream sport here in the UK it was incredibly hard to find out anything about the gymnasts or indeed the competitions when I first started watching it. It was more sheer luck than anything else if I happened to come across a competition on TV so I felt lucky to have found and recorded various World Championships over the years. The Olympics of course were more easily watchable and for the most part there was excellent coverage from the good old BBC. But still, even a year let alone four years is a long time in gymnastics so I always seemed to be watching new faces and having to adjust to the latest rising star rather than continuing my allegiance to the previous year's favourites. Even in 2008 I had yet to discover the online gymnastics world, though the internet had made it easier to find televised events.

So you can imagine my joy when I discovered the wealth of gymnastics information that was a mere click away. I can confidently say that I have lost hours, days, weeks and even months immersed in this wealth of information. By 2010 I had not only discovered the British Gymnastics website with BGtv, but also the USA Gymnastics website and access to the American competitions. Youtube allowed me to start filling in the gaps between my beloved VHS taped competitions, discover new gymnasts whose careers I seemed to have missed entirely, and even go back further into the history of the sport and find out about the all time greats.

Then came twitter, and by the time the 2011 World Championships came round I found that for the first time I knew not only the whole of the GB team but also the US team and many more besides. Now, going into the Olympics, for the first time I know something about every athlete who will be competing at the Games. Will it add to the excitement? Of course it will. Will it add to the anxiousness as I watch the Games? Of course it will!

The problem with knowing so much about the gymnasts is that you know not only what is expected of them but also what you are expecting of them. What on earth will I do if Aliya Mustafina is not as beautiful to watch as I want her to be? How will I cope if Jordyn Wieber makes a mistake in the all around final? Will I be able to bear it if Sui Lu somehow does not make the beam final? How will I manage to breathe while Beth Tweddle is performing her bars routine?

Heightened awareness definitely brings heightened anticipation and the excitement I feel as we are about to embark on these Olympic Games in unlike any other. I feel so emotionally involved this time round - I know exactly what has gone into the preparation for these games, how hard the gymnasts have worked and how much they have suffered to get this far. I also know how much every single one of them wants to do well, whether their goal is to win Gold, take a medal, make a final or just perform their best.

What I also have as we go into the London 2012 Olympics is knowledge. I know what makes a good routine and I know what kind of scores to expect from watching a routine. I know if the gymnast has good execution and where they will incur deductions. Although this is something that I have steadily been learning since I started watching the sport, the sheer volume of gymnastics that I have been able to watch and evaluate over the recent years has helped enormously.

With all this knowledge, should I not be able to watch the Olympics objectively if I know what to expect and how the routines are likely to score? The problem, of course, is that gymnastics is not a sport that can be watched with your head, it is watched with the whole of your heart.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Team Tuesday

The 2012 Chinese Olympic Team

Although the Chinese team are the reigning Olympic Champions, very few people can currently see them taking a medal at this year's Olympics. However, it is never a good idea to write off the Chinese team and they will certainly have their sights set on a medal. So who are the team who are trying to cause an upset at the top?

Yao Jinnan
Yao Jinnan was the Bronze medallist in the all around final at the 2011 World Championships as well as the Silver medallist on beam. She only joined the national Team in 2010 and turned senior at the beginning of 2011. In this short time she has become the strongest Chinese all around gymnast. Unfortunately, injury meant that she was unable to compete at the 2012 National Championships although she desperately wanted to. Although many people are not regarding her as a major contender for the all around title she certainly should not be counted out. She will undoubtedly be a great asset to the team.

Deng Linlin
At 20 years old Deng Linlin is the current Chinese National Champion. She is an experienced Olympian having been part of the team that took the Gold in Beijing 2008. As well as a good all around gymnast she is excellent on the beam. She was World Champion on this apparatus in 2009 and took the Silver medal at the 2010 World Championships. She has competed very little since then and her recent win at the National Championships was something of a surprise. If she can keep up her good performance she will be one to watch for China.

Huang Qiushuang
Huang Qiushuang turned senior in 2008 but it is only in recent years that she has come into prominence in Chinese gymnastics. In 2010 she was selected to the World Championships Team where the team took the Bronze medal and individually she finished 4th in the all around final. She qualified in 2nd place to the bars final but a fall meant that she finished in 6th. At the 2011 World Championships she took yet another Bronze medal with the team and finished fifth in the all around. She again qualified to the bars final, this time winning her first individual World medal by finishing 3rd. If she keeps up the level of performace she has shown recently, her good all around scores will be help the Chinese team.

Sui Lu
Sui Lu is one of my favourite Chinese gymnasts at the moment. Known for her excellent beam and floor work, she is graceful and elegant on both of these pieces of apparatus. She turned senior in 2008 but has often struggled with consistency. It is only in more recent years that she has shown her true capability by performing not just consistently but brilliantly. 2011 was by far her most successful year to date, taking individual Gold and Silver medals on beam and floor respectively at the 2011 World Championships. I really hope that she comes to London with the same level of performance that she showed us last year. If so, not only will she be a great help to the team but she will also be a strong contender for medals on beam and floor.

He Kexin
He Kexin competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and found herself in the middle of a major controversy. Some of the documentation reported her date of birth to be 1994 which would have made her ineligible for the competition at just 14 years old. This was finally put down to an administrative error and assurances were given that she was in fact born in 1992. Despite the age controversy, the 2008 Beijing Olympics proved to be highly successful for her as she helped take the team Gold as well as winning individual Gold on bars. She is without a doubt a bars specialist and is only likely to add to the team score on this event in London. If she hits her routine well, not only will she greatly help the team but she is in with a good chance of a medal in the bars final. But her problem has always been her consistency. She tends to struggle in major competitions and has found herself in the past not even qualifying to the bars final because of a poor performance in qualification. This last spot on the team was only decided fairly late on and many people did not believe that He Kexin would make the team. It is clear that the Chinese team is hoping for a boost to their team score and a possible second Gold bars medal by including her in the team.

Monday 23 July 2012

Magic Moments Monday

The magic of the Games

With the Opening Ceremony in just 4 days time, the much awaited London 2012 Olympic Games are just around the corner. With so many events happening at the same time it can be quite difficult to keep track of what is happening and when. So here is my guide to gymnastics at the London 2012 Olympics, including the BBC coverage of the gymnastics events.

Saturday 28th July - MAG Qualifying
Sub. 1 (MG3, KOR, GBR, CHN, FRA, MG4) 11.00 - 13.20 BBC3
Sub. 2 (ITA, USA, MG6, MG5, MG1. JPN) 15.30 - 18.00 BBC Red Button (some coverage)
Sub. 3 (ESP, UKR, ROU, GER, MG2, RUS) 20.00 - 22.30 BBC3

Sunday 29th July - WAG Qualifying
Sub. 1 (MG2, MG6, MG1, BRA) 09.30 - 10.55 BBC Red Button (some coverage)
Sub. 2 (MG4, ITA, MG3, AUS) 11.15 - 12.40
Sub. 3 (USA, CAN, GBR, FRA) 14.45 - 16.10 BBC3
Sub. 4 (MG7, GER, CHN, RUS) 16.30 - 17.55 BBC3 (some coverage) 
Sub. 5 (MG5, JPN, MG8, ROU) 20.00 - 21.25 BBC Red Button (some coverage) 

Monday 30th July - MAG Team Final
16.30 - 19.20 BBC1/BBC2 (coverage changes @ approx. 18.00) 

Tuesday 31st July - WAG Team Final 
16.30 - 18.45 BBC1/BBC3 (coverage changes @ approx. 18.00) 

Wednesday 1st August - MAG All Around Final 
16.30 - 19.15 BBC1/BBC2 (coverage changes @ approx. 18.00) 

Thursday 2nd August - WAG All Around Final 
16.30 - 18.40 BBC3 

Friday 3rd August - TRA Men's Qualification & Finals 
14.00 - 16.15 

Saturday 4th August - TRA Women's Qualification & Finals 
14.00 - 16.15 BBC1 (15.26 - 16.00) 

Sunday 5th August - MAG/WAG Event Finals 
MAG Floor Exercise 14.00 - 14.40 BBC2 
WAG Vault 14.50 - 15.30 BBC2 
MAG Pommel Horse 15.40 - 16.20 BBC2 

Monday 6th August - MAG/WAG Event Finals 
MAG Rings 14.00 - 14.40 
WAG Uneven Bars 14.50 - 15.30 BBC1 
MAG Vault 15.40 - 16. 20 

Tuesday 7th August - MAG/WAG Event Finals
MAG Parallel Bars 14.00 - 14.30 BBC1 
WAG Beam 14.45 - 15.20 BBC1 
MAG Horizontal Bar 15.35 - 16.10 BBC3 
WAG Floor Exercise 16.20 - 17.00 BBC3 

Thursday 9th August - Rhythmic Qualification
Individual (Rotation 1) 12.00 - 13.18 
Individual (Rotation 2) 13.18 - 14.36 
Group (Rotation 1) 14.50 - 15.45 BBC Red Button (some coverage) 

Friday 10th August - Rhythmic Qualification
Individual (Rotation 3) 12.00 - 13.18 
Individual (Rotation 4) 13.18 - 14.36 
Group (Rotation 2) 14.50 - 15.45 

Saturday 11th August - Rhythmic Final 
Individuals 13.30 -16.00 BBC Red Button (some coverage) 

Sunday 12th August - Rhythmic Final 
Groups 13.30 - 15.15 BBC Red Button (some coverage) 

All of these times are British (BST). The BBC coverage is as I am aware of it at the moment, I will update if I become aware of any changes. The whole of the gymnastics schedule will be available live via the BBC website as one of their 24 live streams of the Games.

For those of you wishing to find out about coverage in the USA, Bekah at Get A Grip Gymblog has provided information which can be found here: http://getagripgymblog.blogspot.co.uk/p/olympics-schedule.html


Sunday 22 July 2012

Sunday Surprise

Leaps and bounds

If you had asked me this time last year if I thought Gabby Douglas would be on the USA Olympic team I would have been hard pushed to say yes. Although her gymnastics was good, her consistency most definitely was not. At last year's Visa National Championships she finished 7th all around scoring over 10.000 less than winner Jordyn Wieber. So how did she manage to go from 7th to one of the stars of the team?

In 2010 and that year Gabby began her elite gymnastics career at the CoverGirl Classic and qualified to Junior Nationals where she placed 4th all around, 2nd on beam, 4th on vault and 8th on floor. Later in 2010 Gabby decided to move from Virginia to Iowa to train at Chow's gym, home to 2008 Olympian Shawn Johnson. This was a big move for Gabby as she had to leave her family behind and stay with a host family, all at the age of 14.

In 2011 Gabby turned senior. In her first senior National Championship she struggled over both nights. On Day 1 she started on floor where she fell and stepped completely out of bounds on her second tumbling pass. She never looked to fully recover for the rest of the routine and made a daft mistake by stepping back too far and going out of bounds before her final tumbling pass. Her vault was good but she also had problems on bars, staggering forward wildly on her dismount. By the time she got to beam it seemed that she had simply had enough. She fell from the beam not just once but three times. She scored a mere 11.450 on beam. When combined with her poor 12.950 from floor it was easy to see why she ended Day 1 in 12th place. Day 2 was better generally for Gabby. She started with a good vault and finally managed to show off her bars routine the way it should be. It was beam where the problems lay again though. After completing a near perfect beam routine, she faltered after the first back flip in her dismount, ran out and jumped off the beam. After being told by her coach to get back on, she again faltered after her first back flip. Fortunately it was third time lucky and she dismounted safely and well from the beam. Floor was her last apparatus which she performed cleanly to end on a good note and moved up from 12th to 7th all around. She had done enough however to take the Bronze medal on bars.

After Nationals, Gabby was named to the US National Team and was later named to the 2011 World Championships. In the team final she competed only on bars, posting a good score to help the team win the Gold medal. Although she qualified in 5th all around the two per country rule meant that it was Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman who qualified to the all around final ahead of her. She did qualify to the bars final but she hit her feet on the low bar and missed one of her connections, leaving her down in 5th.

At this point, I was still unsure as to whether Gabby would make it to the team. Although she was rapidly improving, she still seemed to buckle slightly under pressure and surely there could be no greater pressure than the Olympic Games! But at the start of 2012 something happened which showed Gabrielle Douglas in a different light. She was named to exhibition at the American Cup in March 2012. This meant she got to perform her routines and be given the scores, but those scores would not count. What happened was that Gabby had an amazing competition and actually scored higher than Jordyn Wieber, who became the official American Cup Champion. Without the pressure, Gabby was able to perform with ease and shine. I can only imagine how good that must have felt knowing that you had outscored everyone else in the competition, despite not being officially recognised. But I still had my doubts as to whether she would be able to maintain this level of competition when the pressure was back on.

As the 2012 Visa National Championships approached I was curious. With this being the start of the road to the Olympics, would Gabby be able to shine like she did back in March or would she cave under the pressure as she had done previously? Many people were already saying that she was a definite for the Olympic team, but I needed more proof. She performed amazingly on Day 1, scoring well on each piece of apparatus. Although she had a few wobbles on beam she managed to stay on and complete her routine well. She ended Day 1 in joint 1st place with Jordyn Wieber. Would she be able to hold on to that 1st place? We did not have long to wait. She started Day 2 on beam and almost instantly fell. I honestly thought that that was it and she would fall to pieces but fortunately she proved me wrong. She stayed mentally tough and went on to perform the rest of her routines almost flawlessly. Although she could not take the title from Jordyn Wieber she finished in 2nd, a mere 0.200 off the lead. What a difference a year makes!

Next were the Olympic Trials. Another 2 day competition, eight more routines to be performed. She started Day 1 on bars and although she posted a reasonably good score, she faltered in one of her handstands but managed to use sheer strength to bring it under control. The rest of her routines were excellent but she was in 2nd place, 0.300 behind Jordyn Wieber at the end of Day 1. On Day 2 Gabby's first two apparatus, vault and bars were exceptional and she took a 1.350 lead over Jordyn Wieber. Then came the dreaded beam routine. The first few big skills had some major wobbles but she managed to settle down and finish the routine well. By this stage her lead had dropped to just 0.600. Would this be enough to take the win after her floor routine? The answer of course was 'yes'! She performed her floor routine exceptionally and won the Olympic Trials by a mere 0.100 over Jordyn Wieber and earning herself the only automatic spot on the 2012 Olympic Team.

Gabby is now one of three favourites to take the all around title in London this summer, along with team mate Jordyn Wieber and Russia's Viktoria Komova. Gabby has more than exceeded my expectations this year and she has shown that she has improved in so many ways, not just in her gymnastics but also in her mentality and her maturity. Well done Gabby and good luck for London.

Saturday 21 July 2012

So Close Saturday

Adding insult to injury

As the Olympic Games draw closer I cannot help but feel sorry for those gymnasts who will not be able to compete, through no fault of their own. The list of injured gymnasts seems to be growing ever longer and there are a lot of amazing routines we will be missing out on seeing this summer.

Marine Brevet
Marine Brevet of France started her senior career in 2010 after a successful junior career. She became the French All Around National Champion in 2010 and she helped the French team to take 11th place at the World Championships and 4th place at the European Championships that same year. She also qualified to the floor final at the European Championships where she finished in 6th. In 2011 she took the Silver medal in the all around and on beam at the french National Championships and finished 3rd on bars and 6th on floor. In 2011 she placed 10th all around at the European Championships. At the 2011 World Championships she helped the team to a 10th place finish but did not make any individual finals. In 2012 Marine was part of the team that helped France qualify a full team to the Olympics at the London 2012 Test Event. Individually, she placed 4th all around as well as making two apparatus finals: beam, where she finished 7th and floor, where she took a Bronze medal. Having been selected to the French Olympic Team, Marine was injured during a competition and diagnosed with a fracture and dislocation of her elbow. With the injury happening just over a month before the games I can only imagine how devastated she must feel. I wish her a speedy recovery and hope to see her competing again soon.

Julie Croket
Julie Croket of Belgium had a great junior career before turning senior in 2010. She became National All Around Champion in her first senior year and was selected as part of the team at both the 2010 European Championships and the 2010 World Championships. In 2011 she again competed at both the European and World Championships, qualifying for the all around final and two apparatus final at the European Championships. She finished 12th all around, 4th on bars and 5th on floor. Earlier this year she competed at the London 2012 Test Event, where the team finished just outside the top four and therefore did not qualify a full team to the Olympics. Individually, Julie placed 5th all around. In the 2012 European Championships she helped the team to a 6th place finish as well as qualifying to the floor final where she finished 8th. She also became the 2012 All Around National Champion. Unfortunately for Julie, after being named the representative for her country at the 2012 Olympic Games, she tore her ACL in her left knee at the end of June. Having worked hard to become the sole representative for her country it must be heartbreaking for the injury to have occurred at this time. I hope that she recovers quickly, and I will certainly miss seeing her compete his summer.

Cheng Fei
Cheng Fei has been an amazing gymnast over many years of competition and has already competed at two Olympic Games, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. She is best known for her vaulting and has been three time World Champion on vault from 2005 - 2007. In 2005 she was the first woman to compete the vault which has now been named after her, the Cheng. She helped the team take the Gold medal at the 2006 Gymnastics Championships and led her team to take the first ever Olympic Team Gold medal for China at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is also well known for her floor work and took the Gold medal at the 2006 World Championships on this apparatus. Cheng has competed very little since 2008 due to a leg injury, but was in training hoping to recover and compete at the London 2012 Olympics. It would have been a fantastic achievement and one that many people would have loved to have seen. Unfortunately though, she injured her Achilles tendon in June and was no longer able to be in consideration for the team. I hope that she recovers soon and feel that it is a great shame that she will not be able to share her fantastic skills and personality with us again this summer.

Christine (Peng Peng) Lee
Peng Peng Lee is a Canadian gymnast who is known for her style and originality and her routines have been a delight to watch over the last few years. Peng Peng has not had things easy, having been plagued by injury for much of her career. Recently she was part of the Canadian team at the 2011 World Championships, where the team placed 11th. Individually, she placed 19th in the all around final. In 2012 she was part of the team that competed at the London 2012 Test Event where she helped Canada to qualify a full team to the Olympics. She finished 6th all around and also qualified for the bars final where she came 5th. In May however, Peng Peng injured her knee during training and was unsure whether it would heal in time for the Olympic Games. It was later diagnosed as a torn ACL and she had to withdraw. Yet Peng Peng is not going to completely miss the Olympic Games this summer. Despite being unable to compete she has been named as team captain and will be there to support her team. I am really pleased that her hard work has been recognised in this way but I just wish, as do many others, that she was still able to compete as her artistry and innovation will be greatly missed.

Friday 20 July 2012

Friday Favourites

Olympic Hopeful Beth Tweddle

Britain's Beth Tweddle is not just a great gymnast, she is rapidly becoming a legend of British Gymnastics. Nobody has done more for the sport than Beth, going on to achieve greater and greater things and generate more and more enthusiasm for a little talked about or followed sport in Britain. She has become a six time European Gold medallist, and a three time World Gold medallist. Can Beth's third and final Olympic Games, in her home country, bring the Olympic Gold that she so deserves?

I for one, believe that this is Beth's year and I think you will find it very hard to find anyone who does not wish Beth the Gold in London - except the Russians and the Chinese perhaps! At the age of 27 and with over 11 years of senior competition behind her, she has the experience and the maturity to do what needs to be done. She also knows how to deal with the pressure, saying that she wants to do the best routines she possibly can and if that produces a medal even better, but if not she still has a lot more to look back on. And Beth certainly does have a lot to look back on over her wonderful career.

Her senior career began in 2001 with Beth taking her first senior all around British Championships title. Later in the year she was picked for the 2001 World Championship team, where the team finished 9th and Beth came 24th in the all around final. In 2002 she won the Bronze medal on bars at the European Championships, becoming the first British gymnast to win a European medal. Later that year, she finished 4th in the bars final at the World Championships as well as becoming the Commonwealth Champion on bars, Silver medallist all around and with a second place finish for the team. In 2003 Beth made history again, taking the Bronze medal on bars at the World Championships and becoming the first British gymnast to win a World medal. In 2004 she took Silver on bars at the European Championships before being being selected to the Athens 2004 Olympics, where the team finished 11th and Beth came 19th in the all around final.

2005 started well for Beth, qualifying in 2nd place all around at the European Championships and qualifying for all three of the apparatus finals she was eligible for. Unfortunately, injury struck and she was unable to compete in the finals. At the 2005 World Championships she did incredibly well, just missing out on a medal in the all around with a 4th place finish. She also took yet another Bronze medal on the bars but had to withdraw from the floor final due to injury. 2006 was an incredible year for both Beth and British Gymnastics. Beth became the first British gymnast to win a European title, taking the Gold on bars at the European Championships, and the first British gymnast to win a World title, becoming Gold medallist and uneven bars World Champion at the 2006 World Championships. In 2007, she became British Champion for the 7th consecutive year. She helped Britain to qualify a full team to the Beijing 2008 Olympics at the 2007 World Championships. Although she did well individually in qualifying, she failed to medal in any of the finals. In 2008 Beth claimed yet another Silver medal on bars at the European Championships as well as a 4th place finish on bars. At the Beijing 2008 Olympics she made it to the bars final but finished just outside the medals in 4th.

By now, firmly concentrating on her two favourite apparatus, bars and floor, Beth continued winning at World and European level. She won Gold on both events at the 2009 European Championships and although she failed to qualify for the bars final at the 2009 World Championships she won the Gold medal on floor. In 2010 Beth once again took Gold at the European Championships on bars and floor as well as helping the team to a Silver medal finish. She also took another Gold on bars at the 2010 World Championships. In 2011 Beth took her 3rd consecutive Gold medal on the bars at the European Championships, but finished outside the medals on floor. At the 2011 World Championships, although she failed to medal, not only did she help Britain to qualify a full team to the Olympics, she also helped lead the team to a 5th place finish, the best ever result for a British gymnastics team.

So now for 2012. After such an amazing career so far, I would love to see Beth win an Olympic medal. She certainly deserves it. Her bars routines are innovative, daring and excellently performed. I am sure that the home crowd in London will be cheering her on, as will I and many others across the world. Good luck Beth.

(Sorry about the spelling mistake in the title of the video - that wasn't me!)

Thursday 19 July 2012

Thursday's Thoughts

Individual hopes

With most of the medal hopes coming from the countries who have qualified full teams to the Olympic Games it can be very easy to overlook those who are competing as individuals for their country. Here is a look at some of those individuals who will be hoping to make it through to the all around final or one of the events finals.

Giulia Steingruber (Switzerland)
Giulia is currently Switzerland's top female gymnast. She is a good all rounder and should make the all around final in London. In the 2011 World Championships she came 16th, her best result at a major world competition. She is best known for her vaulting and should definitely make it to the vault final. Not only that, but she will be hoping for a medal on vault. She came 5th in the 2011 World Championships vault final and will be looking to improve on that. I certainly believe that she is in with a chance of a medal on this apparatus.

Celine van Gerner (Netherlands)
Celine has had a tough battle to make it to the 2012 Olympic Games. After competing well in the 2011 World Championships, Celine was unable to compete at the 2012 test event due to injury. The Dutch selection committee named Wyomi Masela as the gymnast to represent the Netherlands, but Celine van Gerner fought the decision and eventually won the right to compete at the Olympics. With such a struggle to get to the Games, Celine will be hoping to prove that the selection committee made the right choice. She should make it through to the all around final (she came 17th all around at the 2011 World Championships) but is less likely to make an individual final. Bars is her best chance to make a final, having recently come 5th on this apparatus at the 2012 European Championships.

Vasiliki Millousi (Greece)
At the age of 28, Vasiliki is already an experienced Olympian having competed in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Recently she has come to people's attention for her excellent beam work. She is starting to feature more and more often in beam finals, and at the London 2012 Test Event at the beginning of the year she took the Gold medal on beam. With so many good gymnasts, she will probably struggle to get through to the all around final, but she will definitely be wanting to make the beam final and she may have a chance at a medal.

Phan Thi Ha Thanh (Vietnam)
Phan Thi Ha Thanh made history for her country when she qualified for the Olympics by becoming the first Vietnamese gymnast to win a world medal. At the 2011 World Championships she took the Bronze medal on vault, earning her an automatic entry to the London 2012 Olympics. Although she is highly unlikely to make it to the all around final, she will be hoping to repeat her success on vault. She should make it to the vault final and it would be lovely if she could take an Olympic medal.

Yamilet Pena Abreu (Dominican Republic)
Although Yamilet Pena has never scored particularly well all around she has recently become noted for her vaulting skills. In the 2011 World Championships she attempted the Produnova, a handspring double front tucked somersault. It is the first time since 1999 that this vault has been seen in the women's competition and she is only the second female gymnast to compete it, the first being Yelena Produnova after whom the vault is named. She executed the vault well in qualifying to make her the third highest qualifier to the vault final. Unfortunately in the final she sat the vault down, earning her 0.000 and putting her in 8th place. I am sure she will be hoping to make the vault final in London and I hope that she performs well if she gets there.

Among the others hoping to make a final in London will be Elsa Garcia (Mexico), Ana Sofia Gomez Porras (Guatemala), Nataliya Kononenko (Ukraine), Marta Pihan-Kulesza (Poland), Jessica Lopez (Venezuela), Valeriia Maksiuta (Israel), Gaelle Mys (Belgium), Jessica Ortiz (Columbia) and Maria Vargas (Spain). Many of these will be hoping to make the all around final, but with only 24 places up for grabs, it will certainly not be easy. Out of these gymnasts, possible apparatus finalists are Nataliya Kononenko and Marta Pihan-Kulesza on bars and Valeriia Maksiuta on vault and beam.

For a more detailed look at individual competitors, Arabian Punch Front Blog has done a brilliant series looking at all 36 of the individual gymnasts.