Kyla Ross – The Empress of Elegance


by John Cheng, USAG

Kyla Ross has gone from the Queen of Clean to the Empress of Elegance. Last year, I was always so impressed with her beautiful lines and lightness of movement. But her gymnastics didn’t keep my attention. It didn’t inspire me. No longer. Kyla now commands my attention on every event.

The change is not only in her incredibly improved expression, artistry and dance on floor and beam. Her experience in Olympic competition, the media frenzy, fame and the incredible bond of her team has given her a poise, a presence, a confidence that shows in everything she does. From her interviews to her height, her bright red lipstick to her beautiful routines, Kyla has grown up.

Kyla stepped out onto the floor today in a beautiful red leo with red lipstick to match. She looked gorgeous. And fierce! She was raring to go, always the first one off from the line-up to prepare for the event.

She did a beautiful DTY, but not the best she can do. She had a much bigger hop on her landing than normal, but it is still quite a gorgeous vault.

5.800 (D) +9.366 (E)  = 15.166

Kyla’s has such a light and airy swing and competes bars with a calmness that is almost peaceful to watch. She is a little short on a few of her handstands, but other than that, it was a great routine. Stuck landing and all.

6.400 (D) + 8.733 (E) =15.133

Kyla competes beam like she is dancing in the clouds. Every movement is done with a lightness and a preciseness that just makes it look like she is floating. This was a great routine. She missed one of her connections and had the tiniest of wobbles. But this is a routine I will watch a few times.

5.900 (D) +8.666 (E) = 14.566

I really am falling in love with this floor routine. The choreography is beautiful, playing with little nuances and hits in the music and really expressing the music well. And Kyla is performing it so well. She has great musicality, expressiveness and of course, execution. This is undoubtedly the best floor routine she has ever done. And a stick on her last pass to boot!

5.700 (E) + 8.633 (D) = 14.333

And perhaps where she has grown the most is her ability to interview. She is delightful, humble, authentic and just fun to hear from.

What a great start from our Empress of Elegance!

Names to Know: Aliya Mustafina


In 2010, Aliya was a star. In fact, it seemed she was on her way to becoming one of the gymnastics greats. Had we ever seen someone who could vault with the power and amplitude she attained and dance like a prima ballerina on floor? Someone who’s beautiful swing on bars was only outdone by her lightness and sureness on beam. Aliya won the all-around. She led the Russian team to gold. She qualified in EVERY event finals and placed on the podium in all but beam, where she had her only mistake of the entire competition. She looked unstoppable.

Unfortunately, an injury has put a serious roadblock in her path to glory. In 2011, she tore her ACL at the European Championships while performing her famous amanar. Her recovery has been difficult. She has grown. But she has continued to train hard.

Aliya has yet to show the level of gymnastics and performance she attained in 2010 this year.  But Aliya has a competitive drive, a fierceness and focus on the competition floor like few others. She has that undefinable quality and mental drive that propels her to the front. I would not be surprised at all if she ends up on the podium.

Larisa Iordache Injured


Larisa Iordache talking to her coach. Photo Credit Gymnastike

UPDATE: The lastest reports say that she will compete in the All-Around in qualifications. 

There has been a buzz this week on the gymternet surrounding Larisa Iordache, Romania’s young star. Many sources reported that she was not training much and seemed upset yesterday. Here are excerpts from Gymnastike.

In observing training today in the North Greenwich Academy, Larisa Iordache’s status is in question. The Romanians began their training on floor where Iordache warmed up tumbling passes with her teammates…  Then, every Romanian gymnast except for Iordache practiced one full floor routine. She sat on the sidelines opposite of the rest of her team. She did not appear to be injured. She just sat quietly as her the rest of her teammates continued to train floor.

This is shocking because Iordache is one of the team’s best floor workers, could contend for a spot in the floor final, and is one of the favorites for the Olympic all around title. After missing World team medals the past two years, many consider the Romanians strong contenders for a medal here in London with an outside shot at gold. Larisa Iordache is a big factor in that.
The team then went to vault, again without their young star. Iordache instead got ready for bars and tried to stay busy stretching. She had a talk with the assistant coach and teared up. After vault, head coach Octavian Belu talked with Iorache for a few minutes. She looked upset, he appeared frustrated.

Today, The Couch Gymnast confirmed that she has a foot injury and will not be doing the All-Around in qualifications.

 As you wrote, it’s [plantar] fasciitis. Now she feels better because the doctors applied an elastic bandage which is more dense and managed to balance the way in which forces are applied in that area. But she will not be able to compete in the all around and we will see on podium training if she will be able to compete on uneven bars and maybe on balance beam for her to qualify for the event finals. – Mariana Bitang

Read the entire interview on The Couch Gymnast

A huge part of the frustration here (at least what I read in between the lines) is that plantar fasciitis is not something that happens overnight. The pain builds. Had Larisa come forward earlier that she was in pain, some therapy and the elastic brace plus a few days of rest probably would have allowed her to compete on Sunday.

At this point, I think they are thinking of the team. Letting her compete in qualifications will allow her to qualify for a few event finals. Not doing floor or vault will allow her recovery time to help the team on Tuesday’s team finals. She could still compete on every event during team finals and help her team to a medal. However, as Larisa had a legitimate shot at the all-around gold, not being able to compete all-around in qualifications – and therefore not qualifying for all-around finals must be devastating.

This is a huge blow for Romania, who desperately needs her to challenge for team gold and who would have loved the all-around medal she could have won. Hopefully the rest time will allow her to come back strong. It is also a huge blow for the gymnastics world, who were really looking forward to seeing this dynamic, spirited gymnast challenge for gold in the all-around. It won’t be the same without her.

Names to Know: Larisa Iordache


Larisa Iordache – Romania

Larisa made her senior debut this year at the AT&T American Cup. Her junior showings made her highly anticipated as the Romanian all-around contender at the Olympics and she has not disappointed. Each meet she goes out and gets better, more consistent and more polished.

Larisa has a charming floor routine, the most difficult beam routine that will be performed at the Olympics, a solid vault and a very decent bar routine. She has been shown doing Amanars in training videos, which would increase her standings. She competes with a delightful childlike air about her and if she continues on the trajectory she has been on her entire career, she will easily be in the mix for the gold.

Names to Know: Yao Jinnan


Yao Jinnan (China) 

Yao Jinnan placed third behind Jordyn and Viktoria at the 2011 World Championships. But for a fall on beam, she actually would have been first! Yao has not competed a lot this year, so it is hard to ascertain her current standings and level of difficulty. She is a long shot for gold, but it is definitely not out of the question if she hits her routines!

Did The Selection Committee Get it Right?


The 2012 US Olympic WAG Team. Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

One week ago today the seleciton committee holed themselves up in a room and chose our 2012 US Olympic Gymnastics team. The team and the replacement athletes were introduced with much ceremony and celebration. But did they get it right?

For the most part, I believe they did. This is the team that has risen to the top at every point over the last few months. After each major performance, I have added up the numbers and looked at the mental strength and performances of the main contenders. And though I didn’t expect it, each time these were the girls I chose. They were the most common team on the “gymternet”. In fact, by the second day of competition, they were so widely acknowledged as the likely team that predictions and discussions turned to the alternates instead. But here are a few sticking points.

Elizabeth Price had the meet of her career at the Olympic Trials. In fact, she beat Kyla Ross in the All Around. Many have asked why Kyla was chosen over her. In the end, when you look at the make up of the different teams and the different ways you can mix and match scores, the 5th spot did not need to be a strong all-arounder. Instead, this gymnast needed to be able to score high and contribute on bars and beam in the team finals. Elizabeth is good on bars, but her highest score of the season was a 15.3 on the night of finals. Kyla has been scoring between 15.3 and 15.65 all season. Elizabeth’s weakest event is beam. Kyla is a strong, steady beam worker who has scored between a 14.7 and 15.5 this season. For the hole that needed to be filled, Kyla fit the bill. Elizabeth is a fabulous replacement for vault should she be needed.

Speaking of replacement gymnasts, the biggest argument is if Alicia Sacramone should have been put in over Sarah Finnegan or Anna Li. When it comes down to it, we had to have a replacement athlete for bars. So Anna Li (or Bross or Liukin) had to go as replacements. Alicia obviously doesn’t fill this spot. I actually would have put her in over Sarah Finnegan. Sarah has still not had a meet without a lot of scary wobbles on beam. I would much rather have Alicia as a replacement for beam, and think that with four strong floor workers already on the team, as well as Elizabeth as a possible floor replacement, that Alicia was a stronger choice. However, in my previous article I noted that Sarah has a much higher start value, and her high scores and potential high scores are higher than Alicia. So I can understand the committee’s decision, even though it broke my heart not to see Alicia go.

All in all, I do think the selection committee got it right! What about you?