Gymnix 2013 has come and gone for another year. Here are some of my sister’s observations:
-Romanian Andreea Munteanu stuck a very nice back-handspring to tucked-full on beam
-Heaven Latimer (CAN) did a very high back-handspring, back-handspring, layout-full on beam
It was even better here in this training video:
-my favourite floor routine was the very charming Maria Bondareva‘s (RUS) performance to music from “The Artist”…age appropriate cuteness and great presentation
-a French gymnast got no distance on her double pike bars dismount and clipped her feet on the bar…quite scary but she landed without injury (in a heap but not on her head or neck)
-Shallon Olsen‘s double-twisting Yurchenko was by far the best vault of the competition. Most gymnasts competed a Yurchenko-full and if they did a second vault, it was often a layout Yurchenko.
-prior to marching in for event finals, Russians Maria Bondareva and Anastasia Dmitrieva seemed to be chatting with Canadians Shallon Olsen and Aleeza Yu…I’m not sure how well they could communicate, but there were smiles and laughs aplenty!
-after the medal ceremonies, all gymnasts participated in a Flash Mob (some were more enthusiastic than others, but all seemed to know the choreography)
-Laura Jurca (ROM) and Marine Boyer (FRA) both suffered injuries on floor…Jurca hurt her ankle and had to stop her routine, while Boyer gave herself some major rugburn on her final tumbling pass
-Toni-Ann Williams from Jamaica showed some very difficult tumbling passes (double layout, full-twisting double back, two whips to double back) as well as a running double front dismount from beam. She will be a great addition to NCAA gymnastics next year!
-the three Romanians sported some very snazzy black leg warmers throughout the weekend
-2004 Olympian and former Gymnix competitor Amélie Plante was on hand to present awards, including one named after her
-the Japanese team displayed their trademark elegance and lovely presentation, and were hugely popular with fans, who rushed down to high five them whenever they walked by the bleachers
-the young team from Belgium showed very nice routines on all events and have tons of potential (remember, Belgium just missed out on full team qualification to the 2012 Olympics)
-the three Romanians (including the injured Laura Jurca) and the four Russians posed happily for photos after the competition
1. Russia (Maria Bondareva, Anastasia Dmitrieva, Ekaterina Sokova, Polina Spirina)
It’s always interesting to see how things pan out in a post-Olympic year. Sometimes the stars lose their brilliance, while the new kids on the block step up to prove their mettle. It’s always sad to see favourites retire, and sometimes you don’t even realize how much you like a gymnast until they’re gone.
Take Sandra Izbasa (ROM), for example. Unless Bellu and Bitang can lure her back, it looks as though she is finished with international competition. I feel like she’s been on the scene forever, but she’s really only 22 years old. She won floor at the 2008 Olympics with near-perfect tumbling runs and overcame serious injuries before grabbing gold on vault and placing 5th all around at the 2012 Olympics. Her floor routine was one of the most captivating in London, and it made me realize just how much I appreciate her presence.
Sandra Izbasa (ROM), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise Apparatus Final
Aw man, if only she hadn’t fallen on the last skill of her career!
Other stars are continuing on in the sport, and it remains to be seen how they will fare against the new crop of gymnasts. Viktoria Komova (RUS) displays what I think is the best combination of grace, form, difficulty and power the world has ever seen. I hope she’ll be able to maintain the same level of magic in the coming years.
Kohei Uchimura (JPN) was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and didn’t seem to be in peak form at the 2012 Olympic Games. Of course, despite putting his hands down on floor, he still managed to win the all around by a whopping 1.659, the same margin that separated gymnasts 2 through 13. Usually I find myself rooting for the underdog, but I know I’ll always hope for King Kohei to maintain his throne. Looks like there are some new tricks up his sleeve:
Kohei Uchimura (JPN), Kovacs-Kolman-Kolman Combo
Kohei Uchimura (JPN), Upgraded Vaults
Now that Nikolai Kuksenkov has left the Ukrainian team in favour of Team Russia, it will be interesting to see how that shakes up standings on the international scene. Coach Igor Korobchinsky may deny it, but that is quite a blow to Ukraine.
Nikolai Kuksenkov (UKR), 2011 World Championships, High Bar
One gymnast I’ve been excited to see on the senior international stage is Katelyn Ohashi (USA) and she’s finally old enough!
Katelyn Ohashi (USA), 2011 National Championships, Balance Beam
Mykayla Skinner (USA) recently busted out a laid out double-double on floor. It’s been over a quarter of a century since a woman first showcased a full-twisting double layout, so this was a long time coming. Skinner may be selected for the 2013 Worlds team based on her floor tumbling alone!
Random tidbits from the three days of Apparatus Finals, where 30 medals were up for grabs:
- There’s something about Enrique Tomas Gonzalez Sepulveda (CHI) that reminds me of a Soviet gymnast from the 1980s. It’s either the moustache or his stylish choreography on floor. He displayed a tremendous degree of difficulty and execution on that event and on vault, but was unlucky to end up in 4th place both times.
- As expected, Kohei Uchimura (JPN) had the highest execution score (9.100) amongst all the floor finalists, but Zou Kai (CHN) outdid him in difficulty. I love how fitting the name Kohei is for this gymnast: “peaceful flight”.
- The biggest shock was McKayla Maroney (USA) not winning vault, especially after that fabulous Amanar in Team Finals. She’s lucky to still have the silver after bottoming out on her Cheng. She didn’t look thrilled on the victory podium and hid her silver medal with her arms. Aren’t the internet memes hilarious?!
- Poor Elsabeth Black (CAN) scored a 0.000 on her first vault, injuring her ankle. She tried to prepare for her second vault, but wisely ran past the springboard when she realized she could be putting herself in a dangerous situation. She’ll have many more chances for apparatus finals in the future!
- There’s something really scary about Yamilet Pena Abreu’s Roche vault. When Yelena Produnova (RUS) performed it a decade ago, there was never any doubt she’d land on her feet. But I wait with baited breath when the gymnast from the Dominican Republic prepares to vault. There’s something wrong with the system when a gymnast either gets the highest score of the meet, falls to her bottom, or gets a zero, with nothing between. Hmm….
Yamilet Pena Abreu (DOM), 2011 World Championships, Vault Final
Hopefully the new Code of Points for the next cycle will discourage gymnasts from performing vaults that are not consistent and not safe. The last thing we want are injuries.
- Poor Louis Smith (GBR) earned the same winning score as Krisztian Berki (HUN) but was reduced to silver after the tie was broken (highest execution score). This must have been especially disappointing after qualifying in first place and receiving a Standing O from the hometown crowd. I was thrilled that Berki won it, however, after the nightmare of not qualifying to Beijing.
- Major props to Chen Yibing (CHN), who showed what he’s made of during the rings final. He looked as pleased as punch with his silver medal as he usually does with gold, despite the fact he has been dominant on this event since 2006 and is the defending Olympic Champion. He was a great sport toward all the other finalists and looked happy on the medal stand. It’s not easy to be a runner-up when your country places such an emphasis on gold. “To be honest, my heart hurts, but I’ve learned more than winning and losing in these four years. I can accept wins and I can accept losses. I have no regrets today. I’ve done everything I can.”
- Uneven bars was a stacked final! Thrilled for Beth Tweddle (GBR) to finally win an Olympic medal. Her combos are unreal! She probably would have won gold if it weren’t for her steps on the dismount, but she has got to be pleased with the results after a disappointing 4th place in Beijing.
Beth Tweddle (GBR), 2012 Olympic Games, Uneven Bars Final
- Viktoria Komova (RUS) didn’t look too happy after clipping her toes on the low bar and taking a step on the landing. Other than that, it was a perfect routine with gorgeous lines and great difficulty. Aliya Mustafina (RUS) performed a fantastic bars routine topped with a stuck 1.5-twisting double back to clinch the gold medal.
- Yang Hak Seon (KOR) stuck an exquisite Tsukahara triple twist, and even had time to open up a bit and spot the landing. The lone Yang on a team of Kims demonstrated a high level of difficulty on his vaults: a front layout triple twist, which proved insurmountable for the rest of the finalists, followed by the Tsukahara triple. Fellow competitor Sam Mikulak (USA) was so impressed he exclaimed, “Give me a hug, man. That was ridiculous!”
Yang Hak Seon (KOR), 2012 Olympic Games, Vault Final
- Igor Radivilov (UKR) earned his country their first gymnastics medal of the Games after booming two enormous vaults. Hopefully this will help make up for the upsetting turn of events in Team Finals.
- Isaac Botella Perez (ESP) held up a message of thanks written on the back of his towel after competing on the vault.
- Aw, I thought it would be really cool to see the two Tanaka brothers (JPN) 1-2 on the victory podium, but it wasn’t to be. Feng Zhe (CHN) performed with fluid motion and panache to earn the gold, ahead of Marcel Nguyen (GER) and Hamilton Sabot (FRA). Nguyen dismounted with a stuck full-twisting double tuck. Sabot couldn’t have been more delighted, and the smile never left his face from the time he realized he’d won a medal to the time he exited the arena after the awards ceremony. How wonderful to see three happy gymnasts receive their medals! Daniel Corral Barron displayed excellent form on parallel bars, and did well to represent his country, thus raising the profile of Mexican gymnastics.
- Parallel bars finals included 9 gymnasts, since there was a tie for 8th place in prelims between Zhang Chenglong (CHN) and Sabot. First reserve was Samuel Piasecky (SVK), a specialist on this event who must have been disappointed not to squeak into the apparatus final.
- Balance beam finals didn’t live up to their potential, with falls from Larisa Iordache (ROM), Gabby Douglas (USA) and Komova (twice). Then there was some drama when Alexandra Raisman (USA) filed an inquiry which raised her start value by 0.1, thus tying Catalina Ponor (ROM). This time it was Raisman who stayed in bronze medal position with her higher execution score, bumping Ponor from the medals.
- Sui Lu (CHN) was first up, and scored a fantastic 15.500, only to be outdone by 0.1 by her own teammate, Deng Linlin. She spent the rest of the final crying, and removed her medal before the photographers were even finished taking the official photos. Bad sportsmanship, or was there more to it than meets the eye?
- Epke Zonderland (NED) wins high bar in high-flying fashion! He may not have the most tidy form out there (German Fabian Hambüchen’s was the best of the medallists), but I literally shouted “Are you kidding me?!” after his Cassina-Kovacs-Kolman combination. Wow! It was a fabulous way to end the men’s competition, with all the gymnasts performing well under pressure.
Epke Zonderland (NED), 2012 Olympic Games, High Bar Final
- The fact that Ponor won the silver medal two Olympiads after capturing the gold in Athens is astounding. She looks to be in the same shape she was back when she was only 16 years old. I can’t believe she threw the full-in off beam in apparatus finals!
- I really wanted Ksenia Afansyeva (RUS) and Sandra Izbasa (ROM) on the podium – two experienced gymnasts with style, presentation and mature choreography. It wasn’t to be after Afanasyeva went out of bounds twice and Izbasa crashed her 2-5-twist punch barani dismount. At least Izbasa will go home with an unexpected vault gold.
Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise Apparatus Final
Sandra Izbasa (ROM), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise Apparatus Final
- Poor Jordyn Wieber (USA) had to wait a week to perform this one routine, and her floor exercise didn’t go according to plan. It was a successful Olympics by most gymnasts’ standards (Team Gold!) but I’m sure Wieber was expecting more.
- Lauren Mitchell (AUS) had some…interesting…music with really cool dance. She looked really pretty in that pink leotard! It’s a pity that Tweddle’s tumbling didn’t make it to finals (she was first reserve), but I think we can do without that dance!
Lauren Mitchell (AUS), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise Apparatus Final
What do you think of the music?
- Ugh. Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) was yet another victim of the tie-break system in place for the Olympic Games. She missed out on bronze even though she scored the same as Mustafina in floor finals. Ties are fine at World Championships, and it’s unfair that they aren’t allowed at the Olympics.
- I was pleased to see how Mustafina has matured into a great team player. She supported Komova in the All Around when they were waiting for Komova’s score to come up, and she looked genuinely happy with each of the four medals she won in London (gold on bars, silver with the team, and bronzes in the All Around and on floor). When she fell on beam in the All Around, I was expecting her to be more angry but she calmly sat down and prepared for floor. Bravo to Aliya for being the most decorated gymnast in London – yes, she even surpassed Uchimura’s total!
Interview with Aliya Mustafina (RUS)
- The level of gymnastics has been steadily increasing around the world. This time around, gymnasts representing 25 countries qualified to apparatus finals: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine and USA.
- Balance beam featured two Chinese, two Americans, two Romanians and two Russians. It was the least diverse final, whereas men’s floor and men’s vault were the most diverse with 8 countries represented amongst the 8 gymnasts.
- The women’s apparatus finals featured a gold medallist from each of the four superpowers: Romania on vault, Russia on bars, China on beam, and USA on floor.
- This was the best Olympic Games in a long time, in terms of the number of contenders vying for medals. I also though the judging was very accurate and they should be commended for placing the gymnasts in the correct order throughout the 9 days of competition.
And lets end with some awesome FIG photos from London 2012:
The day we’ve all been waiting for – the day the new queen of gymnastics would be crowned! With many more potential winners here than in the Beijing All Around finals, this competition promised to be exciting from beginning to end. Early favourite Viktoria Komova (RUS) and new star Gabby Douglas (USA) were neck and neck all afternoon long, but in the end it was Douglas who reigned supreme.
Gabby Douglas (USA), 2012 Olympic Games, Team Final Balance Beam
Douglas and Komova each started the meet with an Amanar, with Komova suffering a wonky landing that ended up off the landing mat. When all was said and done, this error could have been enough to cost her the gold medal. Even the floor routine of her life (15.100) was not enough to catch up with Douglas, who had 4 fantastic performances to clinch the top prize.
Viktoria Komova (RUS), 2012 Olympic Games, All Around Floor Exercise
I really wanted these two on the podium along with Aliya Mustafina (RUS), so it was a major bummer when Mustafina fell from the beam after her Arabian landed a little crooked (my sister said she nailed it in the one-touch warm-up). After the fall, it seemed that the rest of the routine wasn’t quite a crisp as usual. It really was an uphill battle for Mustafina right from the beginning, since she started 0.7 behind the top contenders on vault; she performed a Baitova, as opposed to the Amanar she used to compete before her untimely knee injury at the 2011 European Championships. But in the end, the fall didn’t cost her a spot on the podium, as she would have been in the bronze medal position either way!
I do feel very sorry for Alexandra Raisman (USA) who tied for 3rd but lost the bronze medal due to the tie-breaking procedure. That has got to be disappointing, especially after her uncharacteristically wobbly balance beam routine and after leaving out her punch layout front on floor. Sandra Izbasa (ROM), on the other hand, was fabulous on her 3 best events and probably would have been Olympic Champion if her bars had been on par. Dominique Pegg (CAN) rounded out a superb competition by hitting 4-for-4 (with some small wobbles on beam) for 17th, with a floor performance that started with a high-flying double layout. Poor Hannah Whelan (GBR) lost all hope of a Top 10 finish after crashing her Yurchenko-double-full for 0.000.
In the end, the results were as they should be. Congrats to Gabby Douglas! Over the past year, she has improved not only her gymnastics, but especially her consistency and her mental game. Congratulations are also in order for Viktoria Komova, who showed that she can fight right to the end, and to Aliya Mustafina, who displayed excellent sportsmanship with a positive attitude throughout the competition and in her support for her younger teammate.
I woke up this morning like a kid on Christmas Day, and boy, did Santa deliver! Kohei Uchimura (JPN) had the gold medal wrapped up heading into floor. With pommel horse under his belt, it was smooth sailing through rings, vault (perfect 2.5-twisting Yurchenko for a 16.266) and parallel bars. He wisely removed the Kovacs from his high bar routine, staying on the apparatus for a 15.600. The only glitch of the day came on floor, where Uchimura put his hands down on the difficult 1.5-twist punch layout Randi. But after landing his final triple twist, he knew he would once again stand on the highest step of the podium. Some might complain that no one should win the All Around with a fall, but the fact of the matter is that he is just so superior across all six events that losing one point for a fall is not going to dethrone King Kohei from the top of the leader board.
Kohei Uchimura – Men’s All Around Final London 2012 Olympics
Halfway through the competition, I started to get excited over the idea of a Japanese 1-2. Kazuhito Tanaka, who replaced the injured Koji Yamamuro for the All Around final, was in 2nd place with a sizable lead heading into his final two events, but major errors on floor and pommels dropped him to 6th. Marcel Nguyen (GER) put up quite a fight, going 6-for-6 and ending up with a silver medal. He has been eclipsed by more famous teammates Fabian Hambüchen and Philipp Boy in the past, but today he emerged from their shadows. He should feel incredibly proud of coming in 1st of the non-Uchimuras. Danell Leyva (USA) demonstrated a fantastic high bar routine and moved from 7th to claim the bronze medal in the final rotation. I felt sorry for Mykola Kuksenkov (UKR), who once considered competing for Russia but decided against it in order to remain eligible for the Olympic Games. He finished 4th here, just as he did in the All Around at the 2010 World Championships, and just as his Ukrainian team did here in London.
David Belyavskiy (RUS) was a close 5th, starting his day with a gorgeous double-piked-full-in on floor. It was a bummer that the Brits both fell during the 4th rotation: Kristian Thomas over-rotated his Yurchenko double pike vault, while Daniel Purvis came off after a wayward element on parallel bars. Nevertheless, they fought hard and ended up in 7th and 13th place, and they will come away from the Games thrilled with their bronze team medal. John Orozco (USA) ended well with an awesome high bar routine for 8th. I really admire John and wish he could have returned to America with a little Olympic hardware. He seems like such a good guy who does all he can to help his family, and it was upsetting seeing how devastated he was after pommel horse.
So in the end Uchimura pulled it off, and all is right in the world of men’s gymnastics. Now that he has won the Olympic All Around gold medal and pretty much everything else in this quadrennium in such convincing fashion, perhaps he can officially be referred to as The Best Gymnast Of All Time.
CTV’s Rod Black: Is he the best ever?
Kyle Shewfelt (CAN), 2004 Olympic Floor Champion: He really is, and there’s a good reason for that. Everything he does is so difficult, but he doesn’t make it look difficult – it’s effortless. He does an incredible amount of skill, he’s talented, he’s gifted and it’s light and effortless and really the entire gymnastics community and everyone around the world should just bow down to him cause he’s the king.
Here’s a fun video of all the stuff Uchimura has been training. We already know he has tremendously difficult skills like the Ri Jong Song (triple twisting double back) on floor and the Fedorchenko (triple twisting double layout) off high bar under his belt, but check out these other amazing skills he’s working on:
0:41 Quadruple twisting double back
1:24 Yurchenko triple twist (yikes, careful with those knees!)
1:49 Shaham (1.5-twisting Kovacs)
1:55 Double twisting Kovacs!
2:11 Double Kovacs!!!
Kohei Uchimura – Unique Combinations and Skills
World Championships Tokyo 2011 – King Uchimura III (from FIG Channel)