Monday 20 August 2012

Magic Moments Monday

The magic of the top four nations

The London 2012 Olympics proved once again that the top four nations of USA, Russia, Romania and China really are in a league of their own in women's gymnastics. In the competition where medals were dominated by these four countries, what was it that made each of them magic?

What made Team USA magic?
In my opinion it was the sheer dynamic of the team that helped them so much. The depth of talent in the USA meant that so many combinations of girls were possible but 'The Fierce Five' was definitely the best combination in my opinion. Not only did all of these girls have the drive and the desire to succeed, they also had the focus and determination and a great attitude. Each one of them is capable of working as an individual as well as a team and is capable of keeping going through the good times and the bad. But what is more important in my opinion is that these five girls as simply the best of friends and are always willing to support each other and cheer each other on.
Best moment of the Games?
There are so many to choose from really, but it has to be winning the Team Gold. This was the USA's main aim coming into these Olympic Games and all five girls put everything they had into these performances. They had all had mistakes in qualifying but when it mattered they gave their absolute best - actually, I would say they gave better than their best! They really did excel in this competition, working brilliantly as a team unit and posting the best scores possible. The sheer delight and emotion these girls showed when the scores came up and they realised they had won will stay with me for a long time.
Star of the team?
For me it has to be Aly Raisman. She has been the rock of Team USA for so many years now and has always played a background role, but these Games gave her the chance to shine in her own right and that is exactly what she did. She was the most decorated American gymnast at these Games, taking Bronze on beam and Gold on floor to go with her team Gold. She was voted the team captain and it is a role she took on very seriously. She was there for the other girls when they needed her, supporting and encouraging them throughout. Used to being in the background she was definitely one of the stars of London 2012.

What made Team Russia magic?
For me it is the passion that made the Russian team successful. Each member of the team desperately wanted to succeed and gave their all to try to make it happen. Wearing their hearts on their sleeves, you could always tell how these girls were feeling. They were equally as happy to share their joys and their tears with us throughout the competition and they really did put their hearts into every performance they gave, making them an absolute delight to watch.
Best moment of the Games?
Bars has always been a strong apparatus for the Russian team and for these girls this was no exception. Their height and flight in their release moves is spectacular and their beautiful form in all of their moves makes their routines look elegant and effortless. They posted consistently high scores on this apparatus and of course the Gold medal on bars went to Russia's Aliya Mustafina.
Star of the team?
Without a shadow of a doubt, for me this has to be Aliya Mustafina. Not only has she spent the last 18 months fighting back against injury, she finished the Games as the most decorated female gymnast, taking one Gold, one Silver and two Bronze medals. Not only that, she was also there to support her team mates in times of need, encouraging them during competition and comforting them through upsets. She acted with grace and maturity throughout these Games and set a real example of good sportsmanship throughout.

What made Team Romania magic?
I personally believe that the mix of youth and maturity in the team is what gave them their wonderful team dynamic. The wealth of experience of Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa contrasted beautifully with the youth and exuberance of the rest of the team. Each of these five girls worked incredibly hard to get to this point, with the restructuring of the team that has taken place over the last couple of years. Their hard work paid off though as they took the Team Bronze medal, a feat that seemed impossible just a couple of years ago.

Best moment of the Games?
Their floor exercises are always what I think of first when I think about the Romanian team. The styles of floor exercise are very different within the team, again highlighting the combination of youth and maturity, but each routine suits the gymnast perfectly. I really feel that I can see the character behind the gymnast with every one of their routines that I watch. I was utterly delighted that we got to see all five girls perform on floor at some point during the Games as I find each one of their routines as captivating as the next.

Star of the team?
This is a tough decision for me, but I think I will have to go with Sandra Izbasa. Not only did she take Romania's only Gold medal (on vault), she also gave a fantastic performance in the all around to finish in 5th place. This returning Olympian seems to have taken less of the spotlight than her fellow returning Olympian, Catalina Ponor, but I feel that she really gave her all in her performances and deserves the recognition.

What made Team China magic?
With China I feel that their diversity is their strong point. Having historically always been strong on bars and beam, they have made a real effort to improve their floor and vault work. Although vault can sometimes still be a bit weak, especially without Cheng Fei, their floor work has improved dramatically over recent years and is often delightful to watch. Bars and beam as always remain strong for the Chinese and their work on both of these apparatus is astounding to watch when it is performed at its best.

Best moment of the Games?
This has to be the beam final, with China taking the Gold and Silver medals. I have to admit I was surprised that Sui Lu did not take the Gold as I thought her routine was absolutely delightful as always. She moves so beautifully and elegantly on beam but with amazing power and difficult skills. Deng Linlin did also perform a fantastic routine though. The Chinese always seem to make their work on the beam look absolutely effortless and always perform with great style.

Star of the team?
This is another difficult choice for me, I feel I could justifiably choose any one of these five girls, but I think I have to go with Deng Linlin. Making a comeback on the Chinese team, she really excelled herself throughout the Games taking the Gold medal on beam and finishing 5th in the all around final. A good way to make a comeback!

These four teams really have given us some fantastic gymnastics throughout these London 2012 Olympic Games and have been an absolute delight to watch. I cannot wait to see what they all have in store for us in the future.

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