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
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)
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)
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 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.
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
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