Tag Archives: Olympics

The Pressure is on…

So I have been thinking about all the pressure that must be amounting to gymnasts around the world right now. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; this isn’t football, where there are games every week, playoffs (NFL not NCAA which NEEDS a playoff system but don’t get me started on that and the BCS), and a yearly duel for the trophy.

Gymnastics as a sport I think is most comparable to soccer, in my opinion. I am not talking about the nature of the sport. But some of us Americans don’t realize that football around the world is soccer. And they actually call it football. Like gymnastics, the pinnacle of importance in the sport comes every four years (The World Cup as apposed to the Olympic Games). People lose their lives over soccer. It is absolutely crazy.

I can’t imagine the pressure people feel from sports like these. It’s not a “We’ll get em’ next season” kind of deal. This is your one shot for the title. I would be what the gym fans call a “headcase.” I used to perform in guard shows (where you throw a variety of equipment in the air) and almost always I was unable to have a “perfect” competition.

But anywho, I have been thinking so much about all these girls around the world and the pressure that must be mounting them…

Shawn Johnson– With news articles of million dollar earnings of endorsements, and the media on her every which way she turns, Shawn is experiencing the largest string of pressure through media. But beyond that she is heading into the Olympics after going pretty much 16 for 16 throughout Nationals/Trials. There is so much pressure with even THAT. She has the pressure riding her of, “Will she crumble during Beijing?” Shawn has possibly 3 AA competitions between prelims, team finals, and AA. (Though she probably won’t do bars in TF). And she must HIT. Prelims need to be hit to guarantee her spot into the AA (and I am hoping for beam and floor finals as well). Then there is still the pressure to do well for the team. How can a 16-year-old handle this? Shawn IS by far one of the most consistent gymnasts I have seen.

Nastia Liukin– For years she was hearing how that Beijing ticket has been in her hand. And maybe even the gold. But Nastia has been overshadowed the last couple of years. And the pressure to hit when it counts surely must be mounting more and more while Shawn garners more spotlight attention. To do well in the AA is Nastia’s biggest source of pressure I think. And the string of second place finishes she keeps receiving on bars the last couple of years (06′ Worlds, 07′ Pan Ams, 07′ Worlds, 08′ Pacific Rim) add more pressure. I think. Plus, Nastia has alluded in a couple of interviews that the AA is her biggest priority.

Cheng Fei– I wish I knew more about how the media in China. Gymnastics is a much more popular sport there and Cheng Fei I would assume is certainly the most popular and famous women gymnast in the country. No one has ever won 3 straight world titles in a quadrennium, but Cheng Fei has! There is not just pressure but “GOLD OR BUST” seems to be the Chinese way. She must be phenomenal in team finals, and phenomenal in vault and floor finals. She also is the leader of the team, and must be there for all her teammates. To add to the pressure, this is not only the best shot China has ever had for team gold (or even this many golds!) but with the entire Nation watching her do this on her turf, Fei is certainly going to have all the pressure in the world riding her shoulders. Will Cheng Fei do what so many other great gymnasts from China do….crumble under the most intense pressure?

Yang Wei– A silver in Sydney, a fall in Athens, a silver in Anaheim. And the first man in like 80-some years to win back-to-back World titles. I MUCH less about the world of MAG, but I am pulling really hard for Yang. Like Fei, I cannot imagine what the pressure must be like for him. I totally believe there is almost no way the Chinese Men will lose the gold, so I wonder if that factor will help or hurt the pressure on him. The whole country is looking for gold from this man, and that just can’t be easy.

Vanessa Ferrari– The 2006 World Champion has informed the gymnastics world that she will not be up to par for Beijing and I think that is sad. From a country where they aren’t one of the main players in the gymnastics scene, I know bringing home an individual medal from the Olympics would be a huge, huge deal for her. Ferrari is a good competitor, it will be interesting to see what she does. But injury or not, in the world of gymnastics in Italy, that girl must have a lot of pressure on her to deliver.

Steliana Nistor and Sandra Izbasa– This will be the first Olympics in a looooooong time that Romania may not get a team medal. Like the Chinese, team is first priority. But in this new age of Romanian gymnastics, medals in individual events would be a big deal for them in my opinion. So a country with a love for gymnastics looks to these two to help bring home any medals possible. Not only leaders of the team and the ones the other look up to, these are the only shots at individual medals that Romania has.

Beth Tweddle– Of any gymnast, I swear I can count more times for Beth than any other who receives a great many string of 3rd and 4th place finishes. Hailed as the best and most successful gymnast of Great Britain, Beth has been eluded a major title many times on bars, though she did nab the gold in 2006. As one of the bar front runners in this quadrennium, Beth also has joined the “I have higher than a 7.5 Bar Club” and knows she must hit like her life can depend on it. After all, several of the front runners have shown some inconsistencies this year. Although the lead Chinese bar workers He Kexin and Yang Yilin have been the MOST consistent this year, it has been an unfortunate Chinese tradition to crack under the pressure of the big events. And Beth knows that a mistake from any of the three main rivals (Kexin, Yilin, Nastia) can give her a huge advantage; an Olympic gold. I wonder how well she is doing under that pressure.

Jade Barbosa– One of the best gymnasts ever from Brazil, I actually wonder how the pressure is on her. I have seen many different things featuring her that suggest she is getting a lot of media spotlight, but she recently lost the National Title to Ana Claudia Silva. That is something that may either add or subtract pressure, I’m not sure which.

Dasha Joura– The very best of the Australian team must be feeling some enormous pressure. With people retiring and putting more pressure on the team, Dasha may be the only shot for a medal, and has Australian female ever won a medal in the Olympics? I am not sure, but I don’t think so. And Dasha seems to be doing a lot to promote the Olympics and seems to be getting definite media attention with her newspaper column and all.

Oksana Chusovitina– It’s her fifth Olympics and her only medal is the Unified Team gold in her first Olympics, 1992. A medal would be an amazing achievement as she has no individual title regardless of the many world medals she has. I think it is kind of a long shot considering her difficulty, but you never know who will mess up! Maybe Oksana doesn’t have pressure, she does have more Olympic experience than anyone out there!

Alicia Sacramone– You know she wants an individual medal. Well, everyone does. But Alicia is only capable of medalling if she is at her very best. She also has the amanar to consider. With that and her good execution scores, she is capable of gold if Hong Su Jong and Cheng have errors. Her disappointment last year at the floor final is a good indication that she will be fighting for a medal this year. But she also has to be careful because she must deal with the pressure of not getting injured. In addition, Chellsie Memmel‘s comeback could jeopardize her spot in the beam lineup for Team Finals. And she now has one of the lowest A-scores among the Americans on floor. Not good.

He Kexin– Um, is she aware of what is going on in the world of gymnastics? Does she know that half the fans believe she is ineligible? That would add a lot of pressure. Plus, she hasn’t competed on a stage as large as the Worlds or Olympics before. She also has the pressure to win the bars title.

The Entire Chinese WAG- With the strongest team ever and on their home turf, China legitimately has a chance to take all six gold medals. Team, AA (Yang Yilin I think has the best shot), vault (duh), bars (two more duhs, beam (Li Shanshan or even another between Yang, Cheng, or Deng Linlin). They have never ever been in this situation. I think Mo Huilan was capable of 4 or 5 gold medals in Atlanta. but nothing compares to how deep they are now. I can’t imagine what it must be like for them.

There may be others I haven’t included. All the reigning world champs want to earn their titles again, Ksenia Semenova is one I didn’t really dig into.

And the pressure is still on for all the American girls at home, fighting over spot number six…

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The He Kexin Age Debate Continues

Wow. Here is an article written in which it is stated that He Kexin in fourteen years old. Please check it out here. Now please keep in mind that this article also says that Nastia Liukin is a three time balance beam world champion (only two, 2005 and 2007) but it is quite interesting to see this.

My new thought about the age falsification is how it is unfair to the age eligible athletes on the team. What if this becomes a huge controversy and suddenly ALL the Chinese are banned from competing. All hypothetical, but it would be awful if suddenly Cheng Fei would be punished from being able to make history on vault and win Olympic medals.

Like I said, I think that the age rule is rotten. The best should be allowed to compete regardless of age, and the rule is unfair when you are not allowed to enforce it amongst everybody.

Who knows. Maybe this will become the “scandal” of the year with gymnastics. Let’s see:

2004- Paul Hamm/Yang Tae Young controversy over the AA gold. And let’s not forget the Men’s high bar where the insane crowd protest actually caused Alexei Nemov‘s score to be changed. Not to mention other scores that experts claimed wrong.

2000- Women’s AA vault set at the wrong height.  EDIT- Duh.  Andreea Raducan‘s gold medal being stripped.

1996- Crowd control? The fact that the cheering for the Americans was so loud Roza Galieva was unable to hear her FX music…TWICE. I am unfamiliar with anything that may have happened on the men’s side.

1992- ? Tatiana Gutsu being put into the place of Galieva? I am not sure if that meets the criteria.

So what will the controversy of 2008 be?

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Reflections, Thoughts, and Hopes of the Olympics

The history of my love for gymnastics plays like this:

I always loved watching gymnastics.  My earliest memories were the 1992 games in Barcelona.  Here, I remember rooting for Shannon Miller.  I was 10 years old, and even then I can remember that I had heard of Kim Zmeskal.   I was shocked at all I remember.  I remembered that Shannon scored a 9.912 in beam finals and got second.  I could remember the routine of Kim Gwang-Suk, and I remember the falls of Yang Bo and Lavinia Milosovici on beam, Milo and Lu Li‘s perfect ten’s, etc.

In Atlanta 1996, I remember watching it all and being so excited.  In 2004 I was flipping through the channels and landed on the qualifications.  I again got excited and made sure I watched Team Finals, AA, and EF.  It took me two days to realize why I had no memory at all of the Sydney Games; I was traveling across the country with Drum Corps International, another subjectively scored event.

This is where my obsession was born.  I wanted to know what happened in 2000, I wanted to see World Championships.  I consulted Ebay, where anything you want in the world you can buy.  I began buying burned DVD broadcasts and before long made an online friend who became my ‘gymnastics dealer.’  (Although many of my friends call her my crack dealer due to my obsession).  The more I came in possession of, the more I learned.  I own somewhere around 100 individual discs, and have watched them countless times.  Mostly while eating, and late at night to get my mind of school and analyze something that wasn’t ‘work’.  I watched them over and over to learn about scoring, why certain gymnasts would get deductions though nothing appeared wrong, etc.  (Yes, I am a huge dork, I know)   And now in the age of youtube, I can see whatever I need to see that I don’t have.

So this is the first time I will watch the Olympics with complete knowledge of what to expect, who will be there, who may win.  I can’t imagine how angry I would be if this upcoming Olympics was the Sydney Games.  I would go crazy over the incredibly poor coverage shown.  I would feel cheated.  And I can’t imagine this upcoming event I have waited for four years for to contain a controversy such as the All Around Vaulting Debacle.  I realize I haven’t and can’t prepare for what is out of my hands.  Will there be scoring controversies?  That seems inevitable, as I can’t think of any World or Olympic event that doesn’t contain at least one.

And so now, here are some things in the past that I have been thinking about.

  • Mohini Bhardwaj.  Two things about her.  1.)  She is why I keep reiterating the bubble gymnasts  needed consistency throughout Nationals and Trials.  But Bhardwaj wasn’t even a factor at Nationals.  I wonder if this will happen with anyone else.  2.)  Who else thinks there may have been a scoring error with her FX during Athens qualifications?  9.525 I thought was too high.  Especially since the two performances after that garnered 9.3ishes.  I have conflicting pieces of what her SV was.  From 9.7 to 9.9.  And as far as I know, weren’t all three performances pretty much the same?  (Although sometimes I do not catch flubbed or short dance moves/combos.)  Any thoughts on this?  
  • Courtney McCool.  1.)   Did anyone else think a 9.112 in qualifying was too low on beam?  Yes she bent the hips and broke form on the switch leap- Onodi- sheep jump combo.  But like, that was it.  Anna Pavlova made a break on her Kotchetcova-BHS-layout combo in EF.  Though the  break was not a bend the waist type, she did have the break in her connection, and got a 9.587 and I believe a 10 start value.  2.)  I think she should have been in beam finals over Bhardwaj. 
  • Vanessa Atler.  Would have put her on the 2000 team.  I know she was a headcase and had a major meltdown at trials, but I really think she would have brought in some big scores on vault and floor.  I wonder if it would be different if she were in the now.  This quad.  She is in some ways, the Alicia Sacramone of this quad.  She wouldn’t have had to deal with bars.  And oddly enough, Sacramone used to be a headcase type, but has now transformed into one of team USA’s rocks.  And one thing I would have to say about Atler is on floor when she did dance combos and leaps, her feet STOPPED.  She did not have to take a step or another fluffy jump out of it.  She had nice grace too.   
  • Svetlana Khorkina.  I hate to say it, but I think she was one of the most overscored gymnasts of all time.  And when I say this I mean floor.  Again, she looked so sloppy to me.  She got the benefit of the doubt just too many times.  Her floor score in the 2003 World’s AA (9.675) was ridiculous to me.  I often wondered  if it were more than a coincidence that one of the sponsors was the company that Khorkina modeled for.  Hmmm.  And I think she is crazy if she thought she should have beat Carly Patterson in Athens.  I never cared for Patterson’s attitude, but I always respected her gymnastics.  I did feel bad for her for the Sydney Games.
  • Give Andreea Raducan her medal back.    
  • 2000 Olympics again.  Okay, so Elena Zamolodchikova gets a 9.725 on bars during the AA, and then Elise Ray scores a 9.750 when she throws the never-competed-before layout double double?  Uhhhh, right.  And Elise Ray had some of the most beautiful style and form I have ever seen.  I am not hating on Zamo, she is one of my sentimental faves, and one of the best vaulters of all time.
  • I have never understood what was so great about Ling Jie.  Bar Finals in Sydney she misses handstands, looks sluggish, hops on the dismount.  She always had this sluggishness that I didn’t like and thought looked bad.  Something about how she did her kips bothered me too.  In EF, she hops on the dismount.  Now Yang Yun I thought should have had the silver.

These are just some random things I have always questioned.  By all means, give me insight I am lacking.  In closing, here is my wish list for Beijing…

  • NBC- Please show EVERY American competing during all events.  Do the same for China.  I want the broadcasts for Team and AA to be 2 hours + long.  Yes.  Please Al Trautwig, shut up for the most part and don’t say anything dumb.  Andrea Joyce, please refrain from asking the following questions, “Can you take us through the night?  How did you feel?”  “Did you ever expect this?”  And don’t start trying to get people to talk junk about another.  Oh, I also want some nice fluff pieces.  And show ALL EIGHT finalists during EF.
  • A Team and AA Final where the top 6 hit.  I can dream.
  • No scoring garbage please.
  • Set the equipment right.
  • Cheng Fei, please do well.  I want you to have that vault gold very much.
  • Shawn Johnson not to fall and make AA, BB, and FX finals.
  • Chellsie Memmel to make the Olympic Team and maybe even bar finals.  By the way, for the greatest written piece about Memmel’s story click here at Polish 101 who wrote a SUPERB piece on her.
  • Anna Pavlova and Elena Zamolodchikova to make the team and vault finals.
  • Daiane Dos Santos to come back to peak form and make FX finals.  I would love it if she medaled.
  • Vanessa Ferrari back in peak form.  With her double-double.
  • Yang Wei to win the AA.  ( I like him.  Sentimental fave.  Don’t keep up as much with MAG, but this year will be exciting!)
  • Dasha Joura to perform like never before.
  • Oksana Chusovitina to win a vault medal.

That’s all I can think of right now.

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The “Who Will Be…in Beijing” Series

So when I feel like it I will make a ‘Who Will Be (add event, team, etc. here) in Beijing ‘ I will do different countries and do updates as well.

Well will start of course with USA Team

Virtual Locks

1. Shawn Johnson – Well, you don’t go to the Olympics without the All-Around World Champion. Duh. Other than her impressive resume, Shawn brings one of the highest A-panel scores, and the ability to compete. Team Finals- VT, BB,FX. (UB depending on who gets the other spots)

2. Nastia Liukin– Nastia has another long resume. But she has the ability to bring 16+ scores on bars and Beam, which is huge. She is also a fierce competitor. Team Finals- UB,BB

3. Alicia Sacramone– Alicia will contribute huge on floor and vault. And as of right now, I would also put her beam as a result of how rock solid she has been. The only factor I can see changing that is someone proving more consistent with a higher A-score. Team Finals- VT,BB, FX

The Other Three Spots

Chellsie Memmel- With Chellsie’s reputation, should she be healthy and consistent, as well as bring a decent set of A-scores, I see her as a part of the Team. She fills the bars gap, as well as the third floor spot. With her double yurchenko back, she would be good there. (If Pezsek makes the team no VT.) If she is hitting beam and above Sacramone’s 6.6 A-score, that would also help. But bottom line, a healthy and high difficulty Chellsie can be used anywhere. Team Finals- UB,FX (VT depending)

Samantha Pezsek– I love this chick’s gymnastics. But I have yet to be shown good signs of consistency. She is a solid 3rd vaulter, and would be good at filliing in the missing spot on floor (if no Memmel). Her bars needs only hit handstands. If she had a super bar set, she would be on the team for sure as she would fill in the gap on UB and VT. Team Final-VT,FX.

Shayla Worley– The only thing I see Shayla for is bars. I like her. We need that bars set. Beam and floor have been a little iffy to me. Vault she has been wonderful on in my opinion, but she needs a better vault. If Shayla finishes top 3 at Nationals Olympic Trials, I would take her in a heartbeat. Consistency is the name of the game for her from here on out. (Well, I guess it is for everyone!)

Ivana Hong– Why does she get clobbered so badly? I know some reasons, but the judges take a little too much off sometimes. She can fit the bill on the UB gap if she cleans up some of her form problems. She has a good double yurchenko. She needs a higher A-score one beam. Right now, I would say she isn’t going.

Jana Bieger– 2006 All Around silver medalist. Vault isn’t difficult enough. Form is sloppy. If she was in 2006 form I would put her in there though. When she’s on, she can contribute huge to floor. Test out her bars during the qualifying rounds, see what happens. I;m not sure what to think. Her Pacific Rim A-score for floor was 5.9, where’d that 6.4 go? Maybe. Don’t know.

Bridget Sloan– I don’t know. While I like her form and whatnot, right now I think her A-scores are just way to low to be competitive. With major upgrades by the Nationals I will rethink Ms. Sloan’s chances. Right now, I’d say it ‘s a no.

So right now based on analyzations of my ramblings, here is who and what order the would compete in team finals:

Team: Johnson, Liukin, Sacramone, Memmel, Pezsek, Worley with Bieger as the alternate.

VT- Pezsek, Sacramone, Johnson

UB- Worley, Memmel, Liukin

BB- Sacramone, Liukin, Johnson

FX- Memmel, Sacramone, Johnson

That’s it for now!

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Why Cheng Fei Rocks

Cheng Fei As hoping to high hell that Shawn Johnson wins the AA in Beijing, I will also be hoping in the same manner that Cheng Fei takes home the vault gold medal. I may be mistaken, but I believe for the entire quad Cheng Fei has remained undefeated on vault. Either way, who else has won the same world title each WC throughout the quad? Especially in this day and age?

Cheng Fei supplied a heartbreaking moment in the Athens floor final. I couldn’t believe her score as well. It almost looks as if she steps out of bounds twice. After she steps out, she strikes a pose on one knee and her foot is over the line. I can’t find any evidence that suggests that she was penalized for 2 out of bounds. I have heard that she botched some dance combos or something. That is all pish posh to me. Cheng Fei rocks.

I also want for Cheng Fei to take home a medal on floor. I can’t make up my mind weather I want her or Shawn Johnson to bring home the gold on that one. Of course I also want medals for Alicia Sacramone and Daiane Dos Santos. Of course, granted Sacramone ups her difficulty a bit and Dos Santos is throwing some of her bad assery in the event.

Sigh, I can’t wait for August.

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First Gymnastics post. Why Shawn is my favorite.

First off, I have a sentimental reason for loving Shawn. The first (and only as of yet) elite competition I have gone to was the American Cup 2007. As we know, also Shawn’s senior debut. It is so very awesome to me that I got to view her firstvictory.

I knew very little of her before I saw anything, I had watched a couple of videos on youtube, but I knew her 06′ Nationals score would have won over the seniors. I was looking forward to see her, but was NOT prepared for what I saw 🙂

Shawn in Gator Colors

When she threw her dismount I jumped up and screamed and almost burst into tears, it was that pure of a moment for me. (For the record, I LOVE crying when I watch competitions, there are moments in my 100 DVD’s of broadcasts in which I still tear up when I see certain parts that tug at the heart). I can also remember the moment while watching her on floor that I thought, ‘OMG! She is it! The gymnast that I have been waiting for!’

I favor gymnastics that are high skill level with clean form. Well, despite what I hear (and do see) about her split leaps, I think her form is beautiful. What other gymnast has three “G” valued skills? One on each apparatus (minus vault of course, but she is capable of doing one of the hardest). And as far as her form goes, those legs are always GLUED together. Even Nastia the great, (and I am not bashing her) has leg separations on bars.

But you know what I love most of all? I love her attitude. It is soooo refreshing. She enjoys what she does and it seems to rare to witness happiness in today’s gymnasts. Her answers to questions are also refreshing. At the AA ceremony in Germany (which can totally be seen on WCSN, haven’t looked on youtube for it) she is asked if she ever expected to become World Champion and her reply is, “I never expected to go elite!” So much different than the typical, “It’s a dream come true,” answer.

I say the attitude thing because whereas I love Carly’s gymnastics so much, I did not care much for her attitude. It bothered me.

So needless to say, I want Shawn to win the AA soooooo bad. I also want a gold for her on beam and floor, though as long as she gets medals on those I will be fine. Besides, I also want Cheng Fei to win floor too and they can’t both win. (Doesn’t the Olympics break the ties now?) My next gush will be why Cheng Fei is my other favorite gymnast. 🙂

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