Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

Top 10 Floor Routines Ever

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

When I first set out to create a Top 10 list of the best floor routines ever, I had no idea what a task it would become. How could I leave out gymnasts such as Svetlana Boginskaya, Oksana Omelianchik, Maria Filatova, Natalia Ilienko? Believe it or not, I did consider making this a Top 10 Soviet Routines from the 1980s list…well, anyway, here is a compilation of ten of my favourites. Enjoy!

10. Lauren Mitchell (AUS), 2009 World Championships

I like this routine because Mitchell presents a style unlike any other. The music is cool, and the dance matches the music very well. Mitchell shows that you don’t have to have balletic elegance to create a memorable performance. I think she should have won the gold medal.

9. Lilia Podkopayeva (UKR), 1996 Olympic Games

I have to include Podkopayeva because she’s one of my favourite gymnasts ever and her double front-half out mount is just amazing.

8. Mo Huilan (CHN), 1994 World Championships

This is one of the few “cutesy” routines that I can really appreciate. Only a gymnast like Mo could pull off a routine set to typewriter music.

7. Shannon Miller (USA), 1993 Hilton Challenge

I can’t blame Miller for using this routine for three years. It was just about perfect and it helped her win silver all-around at the 1992 Olympic Games and gold all-around at both the 1993 and 1994 World Championships.

6. Tatiana Groshkova (URS), 1989 Chunichi Cup

Groshkova must surely be the best gymnast never to snag a spot on a World or Olympic team. She mounts with a double-full-in…unbelievable!

5. Svetlana Lebedinskaya (URS), 1986 Goodwill Display

With so much competition amongst her Soviet teammates in the mid-1980s, Lebedinskaya never had a chance to make much of a name for herself internationally. It’s such a shame, because she definitely had the talent!

4. Irina Baraksanova (URS), 1985 World Championships

A typical Soviet routine that exemplifies the grace, power and musical interpretation that made her team unbeatable. Nearly any gymnast on this Soviet team could have won the all-around gold at these World Championships, but Baraksanova and Olga Mostepanova (fresh off her 40.0 win at the Friendship Games!) were withdrawn in favour of eventual co-champions Omelianchik and Yelena Shushunova…but who’s to say that was the best decision?!

3. Silvia Mitova (BUL), 1991 European Cup

This next video includes not just Mitova’s inimitable Blues for Klook routine, but also the routines of five other gymnasts who used this music after her. No matter how creative a gymnast is with the interpretation, it seems to me that it’s never a good idea to use such a well loved piece. The thing is, many of those other routines would have been perfectly good if only I could stop myself from thinking of Mitova and her wonderful choreography the entire time.

2. Anna Pavlova (RUS), 2008 Olympic Games

I just love this routine, and Pavlova performed it to perfection in the all-around. All her fourth place finishes make me sad.

1. Natalia Frolova (URS), 1986 Kraft Invitational

Hands down my favourite routine ever. I can’t believe it has been 24 years since Frolova performed this; the tumbling would be world-class even today, and the choreography is exquisite.

So what makes a floor routine great, anyway? For me, it’s the combination of captivating music and lovely choreography, with a dose of difficult tumbling on the side. I know there are so many fantastic routines that I haven’t included. Please add a comment and tell me your favourite floor routines of all time.

Next up: the Top 5 Worst Floor Routines Ever!

UPDATE: Click on Comments to see the favourite floor routines of other gym fans!

Japanese Robot Performs a Kovacs!

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Part of my daily internet ritual involves logging on to the Gymnastics Gossip Message Board (GGMB) to see what’s new in the world of gymnastics. Recently, I was intrigued by a thread entitled “Japanese Gymnastics Robot” posted by aevera. I clicked on the video and was amazed by what I saw: a robot doing a piked Kovacs on high bar! The Kovacs, first performed by Peter Kovacs (HUN) on his way to a silver medal on high bar at the 1979 European Championships, has since become a staple on this apparatus. It is described as a double back over the high bar, but by the time the bar is released and caught again, it’s actually a 1.5 back flip.

Starting from a dead hang, the robot managed to gain enough momentum to swing some rapid giants with great tapping action. Then the moment we were waiting for: the release move! Well, it was almost a Kovacs…he released just a fraction of a second too early and didn’t quite manage to swing out of it, but I was still thoroughly impressed that he caught the bar!

There were many revisions made to the gymnastics robot before it attained the level of success that the 6th incarnation has achieved with the piked Kovacs. This one is able to do several giants (with rather strange technique). I love the tuft of hair!

Here’s an earlier attempt at the Kovacs where the robot had to be helped into the handstand position. Had this one caught the bar, he would have had a nice swing out of the release skill.

2000 Olympic All-Around Champion Alexei Nemov competed many high-flying release moves in his day. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, his high bar included both a piked Kovacs and a tucked Kovacs. You can see them at 0:15 and 0:32, respectively.

Alexei Nemov (RUS), 2004 Olympic Games, High Bar

There are so many different versions of the Kovacs being performed on the high bar today: tucked, piked, layout, a Kolman (tucked Kovacs with a full twist), a Cassina (Kolman in layout position), and even a double-twisting Kovacs, as seen here in this video of Igor Cassina.

Igor Cassina (ITA) in Training, High Bar

I recently witnessed a video of my favourite gymnast, Kohei Uchimura, training a DOUBLE KOVACS! He didn’t catch the bar, but the fact that he is even attempting this is unbelievable. Wow!

Kohei Uchimura (JPN) in Training

Let’s see if Uchimura can catch this release skill before a robot does!

A Look Back at the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships: A Spectator’s Perspective

Monday, December 7th, 2009

In October, I had the opportunity to attend the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships, held at the beautiful O2 Arena in London, England.  I attended four sessions: women’s qualifications, women’s all-around, and both days of event finals.  Gymbit has asked me to share some of my observations from the stands….


Over the course of the competition, several competitors’ choice of attire was noteworthy.  Ariella Käslin wore a variety of butterfly-themed leotards, while Tina Erceg caught everyone’s attention in a black leotard complete with a purple tie and white collar and cuffs.  Sleeveless leotards were popular, but in my opinion, they make the gymnasts look less polished, although they do highlight the gymnasts’ toned arms and athletic builds.  The abundance of blinding sparkles on many gymnasts’ leotards made me wonder why flash photography was forbidden, but I liked the variety of bright colours worn.  One final fashion statement was made by Ana Porgras, who donned black-and-white striped socks pulled up to her knees to keep warm between rotations.

Ariella Käslin (SUI)

TIna Erceg (CRO)

Ana Porgras (ROM) and her stripy socks

Successful Returns
Three female gymnasts made remarkable returns to competition.  Elsa Garcia (winner of the Longines Award for Elegance) and Veronica Wagner, both of whom missed out on competing at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, qualified to AA finals and looked happy and fit.  Both crowd favourites, I am sure their gymnastics careers are far from over as they look better than ever.  Still a relative newcomer to international competition, first-year senior Youna Dufournet looked much improved from her form earlier this year.  She appeared happy and confident, and was much better able to execute her difficult routines.  She placed an outstanding 5th AA and looked genuinely thrilled with her surprise bronze medal on vault.

Elsa Garcia (MEX)

Veronica Wagner (SWE)

Youna Dufournet (FRA)

Jordan Jovtchev
As most of the gymnasts in the competition were born in the late 1980s or early 1990s, it was quite funny to see Jordan Jovtchev’s 1973 birth date appear on the screen!  He had already competed in his first of five Olympic Games (Barcelona 1992) before many of the female competitors were even born!

Jordan Jovtchev (BUL)

Delegation Support
The large Japanese contingent was out in full force for all sessions of the competition, while the French delegation was vocal and enthusiastic in its support for the French gymnasts.

The competition had a fantastic turnout and the British crowd was encouraging to the gymnasts and excited to be hosting such a high-level event.  Though there was seating set aside at one end of the arena for delegations, many gymnasts (most wearing their team jackets or even competition leotards) were seen scattered around the arena watching other sessions and cheering on their teammates.

It is interesting to note that all eight French gymnasts in attendance (Samir Ait Said, Thomas Bouhail, Benoît Caranobe, Yann Cucherat, Youna Dufournet, Pauline Morel, Danny Pinheiro-Rodrigues, and Cyril Tommasone) all qualified for either the all-around or at least one event final.  All four American women (Rebecca Bross, Ivana Hong, Bridget Sloan, and Kayla Williams) left London with an unforgettable souvenir: a World Championships medal.

Bross’s Forgotten Bronze
During the women’s uneven bar award ceremony, Rebecca Bross lined up with the other medallists but was left standing on the floor when the announcer failed to call her up as the joint bronze medallist (tied with Ana Porgras).  As the other three medallists stood on the podium, about to receive their medals, a member of the U.S. delegation rushed over and frantically flapped her arms at the announcers to alert them of the oversight.  Finally, Rebecca was called up to the podium to stand next to Ana, and the crowd rewarded her patience with loud applause.

Uneven Bars Medallists: Rebecca Bross (USA), Ana Porgras (ROM), He Kexin (CHN), Koko Tsurumi (JPN)

Sports Acrobatics
Sports Acro is quite a popular sport in Britain, and several of its top pairs and trios gave demonstrations prior to the medal ceremonies.  They wowed the crowd with their strength and flexibility, and no doubt gained more fans in the process.

O2 Arena
The arena is part of a beautiful complex situated right on the Thames in eastern London.  There are several restaurants, movie theatres, and an exhibition hall located within the complex, and the large lobby featured an area for children to try out some basic gymnastics equipment.  Overall, this was a fantastic venue for the World Championships and will be perfect for hosting events of the 2012 Olympic Games as well.

Outside the O2 Arena

Inside the O2 Arena

13 different women claimed the 16 medals awarded (Rebecca Bross, Lauren Mitchell, and Koko Tsurumi each won two), while 19 different men won the 21 medals awarded (Marian Dragulescu and Zou Kai were the only men to win two medals).

So there we have it…another world championship in the record books.  I had a brilliant time and made many wonderful memories.  See you in Rotterdam for the 2010 World Gymnastics Championships!!

Elsa Garcia (MEX) & Ariella Käslin (SUI) share a chuckle

Pic Picks

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Last week I celebrated the first anniversary of Gymbits! I thought I would mark the occasion by picking out some of my favourite photos that I’ve collected throughout the years. I originally wanted to do a Top 10, but I simply couldn’t narrow it down. So here are 29 of my favourite pictures!

Shun Fujimoto (JPN) poured his heart and soul into the team competition at the 1976 Olympic Games, concealing his fractured kneecap while earning a 9.7 on Rings. Japan would not have won the gold medal without his clutch performances.

Olga Korbut (URS) was the first gymnast with the acrobatic style that epitomizes the sport today. She captured hearts with her smiles and her tears at the 1972 Olympic Games.

Four years later, Nadia Comaneci (ROM) showed that she was perfection personified with her seven Perfect 10s. Korbut and Comaneci put gymnastics in the spotlight at the 1976 Olympics, and it has been a main event at the Olympic Games ever since.

Korbut looks on as Comaneci’s score of 10.0 registers on the scoreboard as a 1.00.

Yelena Mukhina (URS) continues the string of Soviet dominance by winning the 1978 World Championships…but at what cost?

Svetlana Boginskaya’s career spanned three Olympic Games where she represented the Soviet Union, the Unified Team and Belarus. This gymnast is remembered for her unique style and her passion for the sport.

The classic Romanian style was demonstrated by their stars of the 1980s, Daniela Silivas (shown) and Aurelia Dobre.

Some of the most difficult skills of the 1980s were performed by Tatiana Groshkova. Groshkova, Natalia Frolova and Lyudmila Stovbchataya highlight the depth of the Soviet team, as these excellent gymnasts never managed to represent their country at a World Championships or Olympic Games.

Yang Bo (CHN) demonstrates exquisite form on her signature skill on the balance beam. A very similar photo appeared on the cover of the book released by the FIG, Gymnastics: The Art of Sport.

Vitaly Scherbo (CIS) was the Michael Phelps of the 1992 Olympic Games, winning 6 gold medals. At the following Games, he won 4 bronze medals.

Lilia Podkopayeva (UKR) is one of my favourite gymnasts ever. The 1996 Olympic all-around champion combined perfect form with tricky skills. I chose this photo because I was fortunate enough to be present when it was captured.

I like this photo of Dina Kochetkova (RUS) because of the colours, lighting and angles. I really miss the Fab Four of the mid-1990s: Kochetkova, Svetlana Khorkina, Yelena Grosheva and Oksana Fabrichnova.

Yelena Zamolodchikova (RUS) had a gymnastics career that spanned many years, and she had an excellent fighting attitude and accepted her role as a leader for younger teammates. She is particularly known for her vaulting.

No photo compilation would be complete without The Queen, Svetlana Khorkina (RUS). Her elegance and her innovative skills allowed her to win 3 all-around titles at the World Championships.

This photo captures Americans Nastia Liukin and Chellsie Memmel as they realize they have tied for the top spot at the 2005 World Championships. You can tell by the expressions on their faces which gymnast was relegated to all-around silver due to a mathematical rounding issue.

Despite the 2005 disappointment, Liukin went on to win the 2008 Olympic Games and ended up modelling for Max Azria.

Li Ya (CHN) shows off unique skills on uneven bars.

Pang Panpan (CHN) was not on the world stage nearly long enough, but she does feature in two fantastic photos.

Liang Chow produced a well-rounded gymnast in Shawn Johnson (USA) while training significantly fewer hours than the competition. He seems like such a kind coach who truly wants the best for his athlete.

Johnson sports a leotard with her name in Chinese on the sleeve.

The stoic Yang Wei (CHN) lets loose with a wide grin after finally winning an all-around gold medal at the 2006 World Championships.

Yang’s team wins top honours in front of the hometown crowd at the 2008 Olympic Games. This team dominated the standings in almost every event.

I love this photo of Anna Pavlova (RUS).

I was overjoyed to discover that the rumour was true: Li Ning (CHN) had indeed been selected as the athlete to light the Olympic Torch high above the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. It was an exciting moment as he “ran” around the stadium high in the air with the fiery torch. Li Ning, winner of 6 medals at the 1984 Olympic Games, is perhaps now best known as an entrepreneur for his sports apparel company.

Other Chinese gymnasts who were part of the Opening Ceremony included Li Xiaoshuang, the 1996 Olympic All-Around Champion, and his Olympic teammate Huang Liping, who took the oath on behalf of all the judges and officials.

A Body Worlds 2 exhibit of a gymnast on rings.

Let’s end on a funny note! Kellie and aevera of GGMB posted many hilarious pictures following Kanye West’s outburst at the 2009 Video Music Awards. I’ll post two of my faves here.

(I’m sorry I am unable to credit the photographers. Please tell me if you captured one of the photos and would like to receive credit.)

Taking a Tumble

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Gymnasts display so many difficult skills with such grace that it’s easy to forget just how tricky the sport really is. There are times, of course, when things don’t go quite as planned and a Blooper is born….

Note to Gymbyte: don’t watch 0:16! I know you can’t stand to see this. Oh yeah, and there’s a close-up of the same thing at 3:27.

Funniest Bloopers:

Bronze: American Kristen Maloney loses her air sense while warming up a triple twist and kicks out of it (1:07).

Silver: A gymnast fights hard to stay on the beam (3:17). Who is this? I feel like I’ve seen this before. It also reminds me of a funny beam fall by Soviet Natalia Frolova at the 1986 Kraft International.

Gold: At 3:20, the uneven bars come crashing down as Lyudmila Tourischeva from the Soviet Union completes her dismount at the 1975 World Cup (see “Raise the Bar”). She managed to win despite this apparatus malfunction.

Most Heartwrenching Bloopers:

Bronze (3-way tie): Yelena Zamolodchikova of Russia (1:10) finds herself travelling backwards during this punch front at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. This error cost her the All-Around Gold medal. Ukrainian Viktoria Karpenko (1:33) trips over her own toe after successfully landing an Arabian double front, punch front at the same competition. Chinese Yang Bo falls yet again during a beam event final that she could have won, this time at the 1992 Olympics (1:38).

Silver: Vanessa Atler of the United States (0:20) lands slightly out-of-bounds on her double layout, and hurts her ankle while punching into the front tuck. Despite being a favourite throughout the quadrennium for Olympic glory, this injury and subsequent mental blocks proved to be too much. The 2000 Games went on without her.

Gold: At 3:55, Soviet Olga Strazheva injures her knee at the 1988 Olympic Games, ending her competition.

Most Horrifying Bloopers:

Bronze: Guy doing a triple back “dismount” on to the high bar (2:14). This video is probably second only to Brian Meeker as the most-watched gymnastics blooper on the internet (4:14)!

Silver: At the Dortmund Team World Championships in 1994, Romanian Gina Gogean (0:16 and 3:27) suffered a horrendous fall on the balance beam, but came back a couple of days later as a leader in the Gold medal effort.

Gold: Yukio Iketani of Japan is lucky he wasn’t seriously injured when he missed this Gaylord at the 1991 World Championships in Indianapolis (3:29).

Most Ghastly Technique in a Blooper:

Bronze: Hmm…any contenders? Perhaps Puerto Rican Eileen Diaz (3:45) with her botched full to leap at the 1996 Olympics.

Silver: Allana Slater of Australia, at 0:05, deserves the benefit of the doubt, though, given the vault situation at the 2000 Olympic Games.

Gold: The double layout at 2:11. I have no idea who is performing this.

Textbook Falling Technique in a Blooper:

0:46. Chinese Fan Ye at the 2003 World Championships. It’s a pity she finished last in the bars finals…she has such exquisite form!

Here’s another video showcasing some funny falls. I hope no one was hurt. A first for me: seeing a high bar snap in half at 0:31!

Gymnastics bloopers are only funny as long as the gymnast was not injured in any way. Of course, mistakes can still be devastating if they occur at a major competition for which the gymnast has trained long and hard. Here are two bloopers that are not the slightest bit amusing. The first is Hwang Bo Sil, a gymnast from North Korea. This accident took place in 1989. Fortunately, she made a full recovery and went on to compete at the 1992 Olympic Games. The second video is of a Chinese male (I haven’t been able to identify this gymnast!). Three-quarter saltos such as these are now banned in women’s gymnastics, but the men continue to train and perform the popular Thomas salto. You’ll notice that the gymnasts continue to struggle when they should have been instructed to lie down and stay still in case of spinal injury or concussion. I find it appalling that the male was allowed to complete his routine.

Here’s another neck injury where the coach knew exactly what to do, and Cosmina Paulescu was immediately immobilized after crashing her double pike bars dismount at the 2005 Romanian National Championships. She has since recovered.

With all the difficult skills being performed in this sport today, it’s amazing that it is still a rare occurrence to hear of a permanent spinal injury. Knock on wood…let’s keep it that way!