Good news: Anna Pavlova has a new country, and it’s Azerbaijan!!!
When I think of gymnastics in Azerbaijan, only Valeri Belenki comes to mind (as well as a few rhythmic gymnasts that I don’t know anything about!). Belenki was a member of the CIS Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics that totally dominated the gymnastics scene, earning the bronze medal in the All Around. Here’s his routine on parallel bars when he was forced to compete as an “Unattached” gymnast the following year since the newly formed Azerbaijan was not yet a member of the FIG.
Valeri Belenki, 1993 World Championships, Parallel Bars Finals
Anyway, from now on Pavlova will represent her adopted country internationally, which means we should see her at the World Championships once again. Woohoo! In the past few years, the powers that be in Russia weren’t even considering her for a spot on World and Olympic teams, which was a real tragedy for gymnastics purists everywhere. Now we’ll get to see her in major competitions as she displays her elegant floor routines and aims for a medal on the balance beam. Here are some of her recent routines that were only seen in minor competition:
Anna Pavlova, 2011 Vault
Anna Pavlova, 2013 Uneven Bars
Anna Pavlova, 2012 Balance Beam
Anna Pavlova, 2013 Floor Exercise
Azerbaijan also picked up a couple of other top Russians, Konstantin Pluzhnikov and Yulia Inshina. Pluzhnikov was replaced as Russia’s rings specialist by Alexander Balandin at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds, so hopefully he will be able to contend for medals under a new flag. Inshina won a silver medal with her Russian team at the 2011 World Championships, but now that she represents Azerbaijan, she will have no trouble qualifying to Worlds and other major events.
Konstantin Pluzhnikov, 2011 European Championships, Still Rings Finals
Yulia Inshina, 2011 World Championships, Balance Beam Finals
UPDATE: December 4, 2013.
Anna Pavlova represented Azerbaijan for the first time at the 2013 Voronin Cup in Moscow this week, placing 2nd in the All Around behind Ukrainian Alyona Vasilyeva. Pavlova’s teammate, Marina Nekrasova, finished 3rd AA.
UPDATE: March 7, 2014.
Azerbaijan has recruited 15 more gymnasts, headlined by 2012 Olympian Oleg Stepko of Ukraine. Stepko won the gold medal on parallel bars at the 2013 European Championships and two golds and two silvers at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. This blow to Ukraine comes on the heels of Nikolai (Mykola) Kuksenkov’s move to Russia.
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.)
Hello everyone! I am pleased to see that I’m getting a fair amount of traffic to my blog, and I want to give a special shout out to my friends from St. Catharines, Tallahassee, West Hollywood and New York City!
There are a few important tidbits of news circulating in the gymnastics world this week. To begin with, it has come to light that former gymnast Emilia Eberle (now known as Trudi Kollar) and choreographer Geza Pozsar are writing a book describing the alleged physical and emotional abuse they suffered or witnessed in Romania at the hands of Bela and Marta Karolyi. They have American Dominique Moceanu in their corner, too. She has been speaking out against the Karolyis’ training methods since before the Beijing Olympics, and has now encouraged others to do the same. More to follow when the tell-all book is eventually published….
Emilia Eberle, 1979 Chunichi Cup, Uneven Bars
Now for a bit of bad news: over the weekend, Anna Pavlova (one of my favourites!) tore her ACL on her 2.5-twist Balance Beam dismount at the DTB Cup in Stuttgart, Germany. She was carried off the podium by her coach/mother. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
Here’s a montage which highlights her career up to and including the injury. Interestingly, it’s set to her Floor Exercise music from the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Nastia Liukin or Shawn Johnson? Svetlana Khorkina or Carly Patterson? Daniela Silivas or Yelena Shushunova?
The list could go on forever. The rivalry at the recent Olympic Games was the epitome of the Artistry vs. Power debate. Both Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson had a 66.1 Start Value, possessed nerves of steel, and represented the same country. But that’s where the similarities end.
The race for Olympic All-Around Gold was going to be interesting, to be sure. Either of these Americans could have won the most prestigious accolades of the quadrennium, with their most fierce competition coming from Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan, Ksenia Semyonova, Anna Pavlova, Steliana Nistor and Sandra Izbasa. Johnson held the advantage on Vault thanks to her consistent Amanar, but Liukin more than made up this deficit on Uneven Bars with a whopping 17.7 Start Value. As Balance Beam and Floor Exercise were roughly equal in terms of Start Value, the title was going to be determined by who performed to the best of her ability and who most impressed the international judges.
It seemed that Johnson could do no wrong in the eyes of the American judges. Her consistency had allowed her to finish at the top of the scoreboard in almost every competition she entered leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games, including the at 2007 World Championships. Liukin, on the other hand, struggled more despite winning the ever-decreasingly prestigious American Cup. Johnson surely thought that if she could just compete to the best of her ability, the Olympic crown would be hers.
The international judges, however, demonstrated a preference for Liukin’s more artistic style, resulting in the largest margin of victory in an Olympic All-Around in decades. Liukin’s routines were more reminiscent of the old school gymnasts of the 1970s and 1980s, all the while managing to pack in the highest level of difficulty.
Nastia Liukin Balance Beam Montage
There’s no denying Johnson’s amazing tumbling abilities. Her opening double-double always seems to float through the air with excellent form, and her Balance Beam routine is always so rock-solid.
Shawn Johnson Montage
There were two other gymnasts from these Olympic Games whose combination of power and artistry I truly admire: Anna Pavlova, with her classical Soviet style and high level of difficulty, and Cheng Fei, with her perfect form and cutting edge vaults (Amanar and RO-half on, layout Rudi). I was so disappointed that Pavlova narrowly missed a medal at these Games, especially in light of her 4th place in the All-Around at the 2004 Olympic Games. I was also hoping Cheng would win Vault, having won the World Championships in 2005, 2006 and 2007, but it was nice to see North Korean Hong Un Jong mount the highest step on the awards podium.
Anna Pavlova, 2008 Russian Championships, Floor Exercise
Cheng Fei, 2008 Olympic Games, Vault
There have been several gymnasts over the years who have managed to integrate beautiful and relevant choreography into their Floor Exercise routines while simultaneously showcasing the highest level of tumbling. In fact, it seems that almost all the Soviet gymnasts from the 1970s and 1980s were able to do so. My favourite routine ever belongs to Natalia Frolova, a gymnast who never competed in a World Championships due to the tough competition from her Soviet teammates. Watch as she intertwines dance with some exceptional tumbling: 1.5-twist through to piked full-in, whip to triple twist, and double tuck.
Natalia Frolova, 1986 Display, Floor Exercise
Another personal favourite of mine is Silvia Mitova’s Floor Exercise from 1991-92. She chose unique music and some bizarre dance elements that just seem to flow together. Many gymnasts have used this cut of music since, but none have quite managed to capture the same magic as Mitova.
Silvia Mitova, 1992 European Championships, Floor Exercise
It’s not just the female gymnasts who are able to display such artistry. During the Beijing Olympics I was stunned by the exquisite form of Kohei Uchimura. It was so disappointing when he fell from the Pommel Horse in the first rotation of the All-Around. By not giving away form deductions, however, he managed to climb his way back up to the Silver medal position behind the clear favourite, Yang Wei. Could his triple twist dismount be any more solid?!
Kohei Uchimura, 2008 Tianjin World Cup, Floor Exercise
Let us not forget Olympic Gold Medallist Xiao Qin. This Chinese gymnast demonstrates perfect form, fast swing and great height above the apparatus in his Pommel Horse routine, resulting in his utter dominance on the event in the past four years. At the 2007 World Championships, Xiao won Pommel Horse with a whopping 0.6 margin of victory!
I think I’ve saved the best for last. I’d like to know where the judges found 0.3 in deductions in this next routine. And since when does a crowd ooh, aah and applaud during a Pommel Horse routine?!
Xiao Qin, 2007 World Championships, Pommel Horse
Oh, and as for the original questions…as much as I love watching the risky tricks performed by the others, I’m sticking with Liukin, Khorkina and Silivas.