I’m not a NCAA fan. Really. Last year I tried hard to get into it. Apart from following some of my favorite former elites at UCLA, it just didn’t happen. But this year, I am pining away for gymnastics. So when I saw the NCAA meets for this weekend, I thought, I guess I will see how Bridget Sloan does tonight.
Hee hee, I am probably hooked. There are so many fun former elites to watch this year, I think I will end up watching many meets. Tonight started off Bridget’s NCAA career. She looks better than ever! Confident, poised, beautiful polish and awesome skills. She began the night with a 9.925 on vault and rounded it out with a 9.8 (and two small bobbles) on bars and beam. She also hinted that her new floor routine was better than anything she did as an elite. What a way to start! It is so wonderful to see her continue on!
Mackenzie Caquatto looked to be in better shape than ever. Seriously. Even in her elite career, I have never seen her look so physically fit, and so polished. She posted a 9.85 on bars and a 9.875 on beam. I can’t wait to see what she has to offer.
All in all, the Gators looked amazing. But I don’t care about that, right?! Just in case you are like me, and you don’t care but want to see some of your favorite elites, you can check out the weekend schedule here: http://www.thecouchgymnast.com/?p=7913.
“The US women winning gold. So nice to see this group live up to their potential!” -
I somewhat reluctantly bought my tickets to the Kelloggs tour of gymnastics champions. After all, how could I miss this celebration after following these girls with so much intensity for the past few years. On the other hand, after watching some of the major competitions in person, would I be satisfied in any way with the watered down gymnastics I knew would be presented at a tour?
The Kelloggs tour was everything I hoped – and expected- it to be. It was wonderful to see the Fierce Five. It brought more joy and emotion than I anticipated. The round the clock dancing has paid off for Aly and Gabby, who showed more dance prowess during their many numbers than I thought possible. And though I have enjoyed every minute of Nastia Liukin’s career as an artistic gymnast, seeing her as a rhythmic gymnast and cirque du solei performer had an incredible rightness to it.
In addition, men’s gymnastics live never disappoints. TV just cannot do justice to the incredible muscles they have. And there is no more exciting event than high bar to do a performance routine to. And the Kelloggs High bar, rings and parallel bars do not disappoint.
On the other hand, the tour was all I expected it to be. There is no way that the girls can maintain a high level of difficulty night after night with little training in between. In the show, tumbling is watered down. There are wobbles galore. After seeing all the girls can do, watching them perform is definitely a let down. And seeing the enormously talented Alicia Sacramone and Anna Li as back up dancers, I was seriously almost offended.
But all in all, it was a fun show celebrating all that was accomplished this year in gymnastics. I am glad that I went. And I am glad that they are doing the show. Watered down gymnastics or not, it is worth seeing! Seeing it on TV this weekend was even better! The camera’s and up close view brought a whole other dimension to the performances.
A few highlights for me. The sentimental fool that I am delighted in seeing Alicia Sacramone in the Olympic rings as she filled in for the injured McKayla Maroney. There was just a rightness to it. I also loved seeing the fierce all out gymnastics of Rebecca Bross. She was the star of the show in my opinion and her gymnastics left me hoping and wanting her continued participation in elite gymnastics. All in all, I loved seeing the joy that these gymnasts have in performing, and the fun they are having together. After a lifetime of work, they deserve it!
Feast then famine. After the 1996 Magnificent Seven won the team gold, we had a 4 year famine in USA gymnastics. Apart from the USA domination at the 1998 Goodwill Games, USA gymnastics had a drought in medals for the entire quad. This may leave many gymnastics fans wondering, what will happen after this USA team gold?
The USA Gymnastics program is in an entirely different place than it was in the 1990′s. The semi-centralized program that we currently follow has led to an incredibly strong USA team. And though the remarkable team we fielded this year was stronger than we could have ever hoped for, the future of USA gymnastics continues to look even brighter.
Gabrielle Douglas, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Kyla Ross of the Fierce Five have all declared strong intentions of staying in elite gymnastics and trying for the 2016 Olympics. Jordyn Wieber continues to say it is the back of her mind. On top of the most dominant gymnasts the USA has put forth, we also have a host of Juniors and 2012 Olympic hopefuls who will undoubtedly make a name for themselves in the upcoming quadreneum.
First and foremost are the Olympic Alternates. In one of the most competitive years of USA history, these girls almost made it. Many people believe that a USA “b” team, including these girls, could only be beat by USA’s “a” team. Sarah Finnegan and Elizabeth Price both show a great deal of promise of being shining stars in the next few years. Anna Li sustained a serious injury during training as an alternate to her neck. It is rumored that she will have to have surgery to continue pursuing her gymnastics dream. There is also Sabrina Vega, a beloved member of the 2011 World Championship team, who has declared her intentions of staying in gymnastics and trying for 2016. Brenna Dowell, who competed in the trials most recently won the Mexican Open, making her bid to be part of 2013 history. And don’t forget Kennedy Baker who showed much promise.
Then come our up and coming seniors; Simone Biles, Madison Desch, Katelyn Ohashi and current National Junior Champion Lexie Priessman. Simone shows one of the best amanars outside of McKayla Maroney and adds incredible tumbling and a decent bars set as well. Madison has shown herself to be a true GAGE gymnast with beautiful and consistent gymnastics. Katelyn is already an accomplished gymnast with the most difficult beam routine in the world and past junior national championships to her name. And Lexie is our current US Junior national champion.
As with the past two years, the USA will find themselves with an embarrassment of riches. The battle for national champion will be fierce – again possibly more so than any international battle. The upcoming world championships will only compete for all around and event finals. Only four gymnasts will be sent per country. Choosing those gymnasts from the plethora of incredible USA gymnasts will indeed be a challenge.
Out future is bright. And I can’t wait for it to start!
There is nothing like a weekend of gymnastics to pull us out of our post Olympic doldrums. We started out on Friday and Saturday with the Mexican Open. Sunday was a NBC highlight of the Kelloggs’ Gymnastics tour. And Monday will be a replay of the team and all around Olympic Finals.
Brenna Dowell of the USA had her breakout international performance this weekend at the Mexican Open, easily clenching the title with four solid performances. Brenna impressed me this year by competing at Nationals and the Olympic Trials with a broken hand. She has the clean lines and beautiful toe point of all GAGE athletes, and finally got her time to shine this weekend. Brenna has said that one of her favorite things about gymnastics is the feeling of accomplishment when you do well at a meet. Her goals for the year were to make the National Team again, to keep improving her skills and to compete in more international competitions. Check, check and check Brenna! Your first international title is quite an accomplishment.
Yessenia Estrada of Mexico came in second with some elegant and consistent gymnastics. Mexico represented themselves well at their home meet! We were also delighted with the beautiful offerings of Anna Dementyeva of Russia who, despite a fall on beam rounded out the podium in third.
To see all the routines from the Mexican Open, check out CICIGINASTICA’s youtube page.
Thanks be for new gymnastics to watch!
I have been quiet on the blogging front. I am in a time of intense personal focus as my family is gathered for my grandpa’s last days. But in addition to that, I, like many of you have been experiencing the post Olympic let down. Though I have never met these girls, I feel so connected to their stories, their gymnastics, their hopes and their dreams. And not just the USA girls. In competition, dreams come true, but many many more dreams are thwarted and hearts are broken.
Maybe it is the personal circumstances that I am in, but I have found myself dwelling on all the girls who experienced heart break and disappointment through these games. I think of Vanessa Ferrari, Lauren Mitchell, Viktoryia Komova, Jonathan Orozco and, of course, Jordyn Wieber. This preoccupation has not inspired me to write.
Last night I re-watched portions of event finals and the All Around Finals with my cousin, my sister and my brother-in-law. My cousin, who has become a big fan after going to Pac Rims with me, hadn’t gotten to see these competitions. My brother-in-law gasped in amazement over and over again at their skills and shook his head in disbelief. Oh yes, the part I had forgotten. Watching – and doing- gymnastics for the pure love of and amazement in the sport.
Frustrations with judging, with the rules and the endless analyzing the what ifs and should have beens sneak in and diminish the incredible enjoyment of just watching and enjoying our wonderful sport. Last night, prompted by my family, I just enjoyed the performances. Oh how wonderful they were to watch! What incredible gymnastics we were treated to this Olympics.
I have been looking forward to these Olympic for the past two years because I knew that the fierce level of competition would produce incredible gymnastics. What I was looking forward to was the gymnastics I knew I would be treated to. Somehow I lost that in these past two weeks.
Eventually I will move on to analyzing the rules and looking to the future. But for the next while, I want to spend time remembering the incredible gymnastics, and incredible champions of an incredibly exciting Olympic games.
So join me in remembering and celebrating the most memorable moments of our incredible sport.
Following tomorrows floor finals, I am sure the never ending debate about the loss of artistry in women’s gymnastics will once again take center stage. Has the ever increasing difficulty needed to be competitive in today’s gymnastics cut out all the artistry? Have we lost the artistic in artistic gymnastics?
People’s personal opinions of what is artistic often vary widely. But in general, when people are referring to artistry, they generally mean ballet like dance and movement. The classical, elegant and graceful movements usually reserved for the ballet stage including an incredible toe point, stick straight legs and graceful arms on every event.
Some people say gymnastics is heading in a great direction. If they wanted to watch ballerinas, they would go to the ballet. They love the incredible feats of tumbling and power. The more vocal contingent bemoans the loss of classical gymnastics and the beauty and grace combined with tumbling and power.
But how does the Code of Points, the rules governing the scoring of gymnastics actually define artistry? Here is how the code describes the deductions that can be taken for “Insufficient artistry of presentation throughout the exercise”:
- Lack of creative choreography (originality of composition of elements and movements)
- Inability to express idea (theme) of the music through movements
- Insufficient variation in rhythm – Music
- Poor relationship of music and movement
- Background music
- Inappropriate gesture or mimic not corresponding to the music or to the movements
You see, the code of points does not ask the gymnasts to dance like ballerinas. It asks them to PERFORM their routines. To create original elements, movements and themes and then to express and interpret their music well. Let’s look at some examples.
Viktoria Komova, an undeniably beautiful dancer with a dreamy toe point and graceful movements fits most peoples’ idea of artistry just perfectly. But throughout her senior career, Komova has often failed to perform her floor routine with feeling or expression and rarely did she interpret the music. She just went through the motions relying on her classical training with very little actual performance. This is not artistry! Now compare this to her performance in all-around finals. She hit every movement to the music. She had dramatic flair. You felt the beauty and the passion of what she did. Now THAT was artistry!
Aly Raisman, undeniably the best female tumbler in the world with a tumbling pass that shouldn’t even be possible does NOT fit most peoples’ definition of artistry. Even when her legs are actually straight, they look kind of bent and her toe point is far from dreamy. Her movements are all about amplitude and power not grace and beauty. But lets pass her routine through the checklist above. Creative composition and originality of movement: A modernized version of a Hebrew folk song used for Jewish celebrations – original, creative, celebrating her culture. Check. Expressing the theme of the music through movements: Aly actually does movements from the original dance in her routine. You feel like you could be at a Jewish wedding when you watch her! Check! Variation in rhythm: Check. Relationship of movement to music: Every movement is on beat and perfectly timed. Check. Aly may not fit our idea of a classical dancer. But according to the code, she is absolutely artistic.
The list could go on and on. Jordyn Wieber has some of the best musicality of this code. She interprets and expresses her music perfectly from her toes, to her eyes, to the energy in every movement. When you watched Ana Porgras of Romania, you truly felt like you had gone to the ballet. Aliya Mustafina in 2010 captured you with every movement, the look in her eye, the flick of her wrist. Lauren Mitchell brings some of the most original and creative floor work into this quad. All of these are great examples of artistry. All of these are very different types of artistry.
Perhaps what the true debate is over Soviet dominated gymnastics verses the addition of other major players. Ballet is at the heart of the Russian culture, the undeniable leader of women’s gymnastics for decades. Of course it would come through in gymnastics! Other countries followed suite to be competitive. But eventually, the cultures of other countries who were becoming major players began to creep in. A country like China is not known for it’s ballet, but for its high energy, dynamic and acrobatic movement. The USA is a country that celebrates variety and individual expression, but most of all power and athleticism. Romania loves to include routines that seem to show Romanian heritage.
There are many questions and controversies over what the code is and what it should be. But as we head into Floor Finals tomorrow, lets appreciate the various TYPES of artistry that we see. After all, that is what the Olympics are all about. Appreciating and experiencing many different cultures. Last year’s World Championships displayed one of the best Floor Finals in many years. Here is hoping this will be the same!
I am sitting here at the Visa National Championships immersed in gymnastics. Reading blogs, twitter and blogging myself as the junior men compete. A few years ago, I decided that I needed to stop following the crowd (my friends) and be willing to venture out on my own to do the things I wanted to do – even if it meant doing them alone. That decision eventually led me to this point.
As I have re-engaged in one of my lifetime passions, gymnastics, I have found a new part of myself. I have begun to meet people that share my passion. And I find myself alive in a whole new way. My overwhelming thought as I sit here today is that this is where I belong.
I am grateful for the new friendships that I am just beginning to form, for the newfound talents I am discovering and growing in and most of all for the world of gymnastics!
Maybe you have heard this word thrown around as if it were magical… the key to success. Right now in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, it just might be. The amanar is a vault – roundoff, backhandspring on to the horse, laid out 2 1/2 twist flip off. It is incredibly difficult, and as such is awarded with a very high start value. So high in fact, that it seems that the gymnasts who are able to do it are able to gain enough advantage on one event to be almost unbeatable.
As a whole, the USA values gymnasts who are POWERFUL, fast and agressive. It is the American way. Which means that while most countries can dance circles around us on beam and floor, we have many gymnasts who have successfully competed the amanar – and this year, none of the rest do. It gives the USA a huge advantage in the team competition and in the all around. Ironically enough, we have enough gymnasts who can perform the amanar yet do not have a second vault. Which means that we may be the best vaulting team in the world, but we may not send anyone that can qualify for vault finals. So sad.
McKayla Maroney, widely acclaimed to have the best amanar of all time, and Jordyn Wieber explain the vault.
Gymnastics has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I was a gymnast until I was 15 and then turned coach. I loved coaching gymnastics far more than I loved doing it myself. I left the world of gymnastics for my other passion- helping students and faculty discover a relationship with Christ. But I think after 10 years I still miss gymnastics as much as the day I walked out the door. Facebook has allowed me to stay connected to my former gymnasts… watching them grow up is such a joy. The internet lets me obsessively view start values, look at team line ups, and stay connected to elite gymnastics.
I dont have many people in my life currently who love gymnastics. I get to sit and listen for hours about football. So when I was waiting for the World Team announcement this last week, reading so many blogs and tweeting with others who love gymnastics was so refreshing. So I decided to jump in to the conversation by starting my own blog. I have never wanted to blog… so we will see where this takes me!