Thursday 9 August 2012

Thursday's Thoughts

London 2012

The London 2012 Olympic Gymnastics competition is over and I have so many thoughts I am not quite sure where to begin. Some of them I have written about already and there are many more that I intend to cover in some detail over the coming weeks, so what I want to do today is have a brief look at my "12 for 2012" - 12 things that stood out for my over the duration of the Games.

1) USA dominance
From the first medal of the Games to the last, the American women were present and fighting throughout. They won a total of five medals from the six finals, taking three Gold, one Silver and one Bronze, meaning that half of the available Gold medals went to the USA. In the team final they took the lead right from the start and never let it go. They won the team final by a massive 5.660 lead over 2nd place Russia. Dominance indeed.

2) Gabby Douglas
I have to admit to being sceptical about Gabby's performance and consistency in the past but the more I watched this girl throughout the Games the more impressed I was with what I saw. She was absolutely phenomenal in qualifying, team final and the all around. She never seemed to put a foot wrong (quite literally) throughout what was a fantastic competition for her. The event finals unfortunately proved to be a different story and we saw what looked like a physically and emotionally worn out gymnast. This should not detract from what has been an amazing achievement from Gabby who performed her absolute best when it mattered the most.

3) Jordyn Wieber
A lot has been said about Jordyn over the last few weeks and I do not intend to go over it all in detail again here. What I would like to say though is how impressed I have been with Jordyn's attitude and sportsmanship throughout. After the initial (and very justifiable) tears at realising she had not made the all around final we saw nothing but support and encouragement towards the rest of the team, both in the team finals and throughout the event finals. She was the first to offer her congratulations to the others on a good routine and stuck by her team mates in what can only have been a very difficult and emotional time for her. I was delighted to see her handle herself with such class and maturity.

4) Injury
This was always going to be an issue these Olympics and it was an issue that started way before the Games did with many gymnasts sustaining injury in the weeks and months coming up to the games and not being able to compete. The problems did not stop there though. Many of the gymnasts who made it to London suffered injury in the final days of practice including McKayla Maroney, Larisa Iordache, Yao Jinnan and possibly even Jordyn Wieber. All of these gymnasts were determined to compete having made it this far but in many cases this proved quite costly. Whether it was due to the injury, loss of training time or lack of confidence in their bodies none of these injured athletes found themselves able to give their best.

5) Comeback Queens
I was delighted to see so many returning Olympians at this Games. I find it makes a much more interesting competition to see youth alongside maturity. In the Romanian team both Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa returned for a second Olympics with great success, as did Britain's Beth Tweddle and China's He Kexin. The gymnast that impressed me the most though was Aliya Mustafina. Although only 18 and competing in her first Olympic Games she was making a different kind of comeback. Returning to competition less than 18 months after surgery for a torn ACL, she proved that she is still one of the best gymnasts of the day, taking four medals (including a Gold on bars), one for each final she entered. Now that is a successful comeback!

6) Youngsters
There were quite a few first year seniors in the Games with varying degrees of expectation on their shoulders. Larisa Iordache was probably the youngster most was expected of, but injury meant that she was unable to show what she was really capable of and was unable to live up to expectations. Anastasia Grishina was another youngster we saw less of than we thought we would. Mistakes from her alongside dominant performances from her team mates meant that she did not make any of the finals. It was more of a success story for Kyla Ross and Rebecca Tunney though. While Kyla did not make any individual finals she was a key part of the USA team and you could tell that she was delighted with her performances in the team competitions - as were her team mates. Rebecca Tunney qualified to the all around finals (the youngest gymnast to do so) and finished a fantastic 13th.

7) Specialists
We saw many gymnasts competing as specialists this games, the most notable ones being McKayla Maroney, Maria Paseka, He Kexin and Beth Tweddle. McKayla, Maria and He only competed on one apparatus each throughout the whole of the games, but to great success. All three of them took home apparatus medals, McKayla taking Silver on vault, Maria getting the Bronze on vault and He taking the bars Silver medal. Beth Tweddle competed on two apparatus, floor and bars. On floor she was first reserve for the final and on bars she won the Bronze medal. What I found interesting was that Beth was the only gymnast to win a medal, throughout the whole of the Games, who was not part of the top four nations of USA, Russia, Romania and China.

8) Home crowd support
It must have been an amazing experience being one of the GB gymnasts competing in the London Olympics. The support from the crowd was absolutely fantastic and must have helped the gymnasts in their performances. It was wonderful to hear such support for British gymnasts and there were times when I wondered if the girls would be able to hear their floor music over the cheers of the crowd!

9) Coaches
So much is said about the greatness of the gymnasts that the coaches can often get overlooked. These people put in the most amazing effort to help their gymnasts achieve their best, keeping them calm when things are going well and keeping them going when things are not. None of these gymnasts could be where they are today without their coaches and I believe they deserve to be recognised and celebrated.

10) Leotards
Always a controversial issue, I have to say I was very impressed by the majority of the leotards worn at these Olympics. Team leotards generally reflected their country's colours but were relatively simple rather than overbearing and distracting. There were some very questionable leotards in some of the finals however, but I will leave those for another day . . .

11) Glitter
If there was a theme for the London 2012 gymnastics competitions it would have to be "Glitter". It is a long time since I have seen so much sparkle in one place! Honestly though, I have to admit that I liked it. The sparkle on the leotards and the glitter in the hair all combined to make the competition even more dazzling.

12) Expect the unexpected
"Glitter" may have been the theme for London 2012 but the motto has to be "Expect the unexpected". Would you have believed me if I told you even just a few months ago that Jordyn Wieber and Yao Jinnan would not qualify to the all around, McKayla Maroney would take Silver not Gold on vault, Larisa Iordache would finish the all around down in 9th or Giulia Steingruber would not be in the vault final? London 2012 has shown that absolutely anything can happen in gymnastics!

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