Posts Tagged ‘Elsa Garcia’

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….

Fashion

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.

Audience
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.

Finalists
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

Medallists
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

2009 World Champions

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

The 2009 World Championships in London have drawn to a close, and I must say I was extremely impressed with the quality of the gymnastics in this post-Olympic rebuilding year. This competition offered the first glimpse into the next Olympiad, which will culminate with the 2012 Olympic Games in the same O2 Arena.

Kohei Uchimura (JPN) was the undisputed king of the all-around, winning by a 2.575 margin. His form is simply impeccable, especially on the twisting skills. Even in slow-motion, you can see that his ankles stay together perfectly during this Yurchenko 2.5-twist. The direction was superb as well, as he landed square on the line. Note how he spots the ground while heading into the last half-twist.

Marian Dragulescu (ROM) returned from a brief retirement to claim the titles on his best events, floor and vault.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bZh5fv989Q

China showed off its enormous depth with three newcomers who won gold: Zhang Hongtao on Pommel Horse (an unbelievable 9.6 Execution score!), Yan Mingyong on Rings, and Wang Guanyin on Parallel Bars.

Here’s Zhang’s routine from the Chinese National Championships:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tds9yzXe-wo

Yan demonstrated unique ways of getting into the strength skills, and he continued to rack up the start value thanks to his jam-packed routine and his full-twisting double layout dismount. This routine was captured at the 11th Chinese National Games.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftLI0pgrfQc

Wang threw every trick in the book on his way to the gold medal:

Zou Kai (CHN) won high bar thanks to his 7.5 Difficulty score. This routine is from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where he also won gold.

American Bridget Sloan’s high level of difficulty and her consistent performances were the keys to her all-around success. In this routine from the preliminary round, highlights include the toe-on piked Tkatchev and the full-twisting double layout dismount.

Kayla Williams (USA) rose to the highest level of the sport in meteoric fashion as she won the vault title.

Chinese He Kexin, who has grown since the Olympics, won the uneven bars title by a massive 1.125 margin. Her D Score alone was 0.8 higher than the nearest competitor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5oIKEXz7wU

Deng Linlin (CHN) earned her country’s sixth gold medal of the Championships with this consistent routine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV6PsJSR1Tk

Beth Tweddle gave the hometown crowd something to cheer about with her victory on the floor exercise. It’s a pity she didn’t qualify to the uneven bars final, as she would have provided the only real challenge to He Kexin’s dominance. While her choreography was the least inspiring of all the finalists, her tumbling and landings were outstanding.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU6RmtQ6oAk

Honourable Mentions:

Daniel Keatings (GBR), for rallying to the silver medal in the all-around and making history for his country, and for earning the Longines Prize for Elegance.

Lauren Mitchell (AUS), for earning silver medals on both balance beam and floor exercise.

Koko Tsurumi (JPN), for proving that it’s not just the Japanese men who win medals! Her all-around bronze was the country’s first for a female since 1966.

Ana Porgras (ROM), for demonstrating a level of artistry not often seen from her country since the 1980s. How unusual to see a Romanian whose weakest event is vault and who swings a mean bar set!

Elsa Garcia (MEX), for being a very deserving winner of the Longines Prize for Elegance and for having a great sense of humour when she crashed her vault in a very ungainly position!

Youna Dufournet (FRA), for overcoming past inconsistencies and having a fantastic World Championships!

Timothy McNeill (USA), for overcoming so many injuries to place 7th overall in his first World Championships.

The BBC (GBR), for showing so many routines and discussing the technical aspects of the sport. I really appreciate how the commentators pointed out the differences in technique in the double-twisting Yurchenko vaults of Yekaterina Kurbatova (RUS) and Kayla Williams. It was also interesting to hear why the judges were deliberating so long over Ariella Käslin’s vault; in the end they gave this Swiss gymnast full credit for the layout position, even though she piked after blocking off the table to gain extra rotation.

No report on the 2009 World Championships would be complete without a tribute to Yuri Ryazanov, who achieved the greatest result of his career in London.

“The final started badly,” he said of Oct. 15′s all-around competition. “After my pommel horse routine the judges deliberated for a long time [because of a mistake on my dismount]. As a result, it reduced my A-score by 0.9. I was 21st of the 24 finalists. I was ashamed almost to tears. But I calmed down and I realized that I had nothing to lose. I said to myself, ‘Yuri, don’t give up, this is not your last worlds, try to look dignified.’ After that I decided to add more difficulty on the remaining five events. And although I had another mistake [on high bar], it was enough to win a medal in the end.” (International GYMNAST Magazine Online)

In a tragic turn of events, Yuri Ryazanov passed away five days later after a car accident in his native Russia. RIP.

(Photo from International GYMNAST Magazine Online)

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.)