Posts Tagged ‘gymnast’

North Korea Vaults to New Heights

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Over the years, North Korea has produced many fantastic gymnasts. Kim Gwang Suk scored a Perfect 10 on the uneven bars on her way to the gold medal at the 1991 World Championships. This was the last Perfect 10 the world will ever see at a World Championships due to the current open-ended Code of Points.

The highlight of Kim’s routine was the Tkatchev-Counter Kim combination at 0:11 and the lightning-fast 1.5 pirouette to Jaeger at 0:24.

Kim Gwang Suk, Uneven Bars, 1991 World Championships

Olympic champion Pae Gil Su competed in the same era, dominating the field on the pommel horse. Pae exhibited a smooth swing and difficult one-pommel work late in the routine. It was very touching to see the South Koreans waving flags as he dismounted the apparatus.

Pae Gil Su, Pommel Horse, 1992 Olympic Games

Pae was accomplished on high bar as well. Here he performs a Def at 0:19, a Gaylord at 0:26, a full-twisting layout Jaeger at 0:34, and the whole spectacle is topped off with a really cool dismount (it’s a surprise!).

Pae Gil Su, High Bar, 1991 Universiade

More recently, North Korean gymnasts have surprised the world with great success on vault and uneven bars. At the 2003 World Championships and the 2004 Olympic Games, Kang Yun Mi (vault) and Pyon Kwang Sun (uneven bars) scored well in their respective event finals. Kang returned home from the 2003 Worlds with the silver medal.

Kang Yun Mi, Vault, 2003 World Championships

The following year, Ri Jong Song managed to pack many difficult skills into the floor routine he prepared for the Athens Olympics. He started with a triple-twisting double back, ended with a double-twisting double layout, and added some interesting choreography in between (particularly at 0:30). It’s a pity he just missed the event final!

Ri Jong Song, Floor Exercise, 2004 Olympic Games

Current competitors include Hong Su Jong and her younger sister Hong Un Jong, and male teammates Ri Se Gwang and Ri Jong Song. All four qualified to event finals at the 2007 World Championships, with Hong Su Jong earning the silver medal on vault and Ri Se Gwang winning bronze on the same event. Though the men were absent from Beijing, Hong Un Jong represented her country well by out-vaulting the likes of Oksana Chusovitina, Cheng Fei and Alicia Sacramone for the Olympic gold medal.

Hong Un Jong, Vault, 2008 Olympic Games

And now for the vault that inspired this blog! Ri Se Gwang’s name set message boards abuzz after his Kasamatsu full-in back-out was captured on film. This skill was awarded a massive 7.2 A score, giving him a great chance at the gold medal at the upcoming World Championships, even with a landing similar to this one.

Ri Se Gwang, Vault, 2009 Universiade

A New Cause for Dawes

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

In the 1990s, Dominique Dawes captured the attention of gymnastics fans around the world with many fantastic skills: a Hindorff on bars, three consecutive layouts on beam, two flip-flops to a full-in dismount, and back-to-back tumbling on floor. Though her lengthy competitive career spanned three Olympic Games and five World Championships, Dominique’s most successful competition was undoubtedly the 1994 U.S. Championships where she won all five available gold medals (Shannon Miller won all five silver medals, leaving only the bronze medals for all the other gymnasts!). Coached by Kelli Hill in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Dominique was the first Hill’s Angel to achieve national prominence.

“Awesome Dawesome” was on target to win all-around medals at the 1993 and 1994 World Championships and at the 1996 Olympic Games, but untimely fluke falls from this consistent gymnast prevented her from reaching the top of the record books. In 1996 Dominique was part of the Magnificent Seven that claimed gold in the team event in Atlanta.

In the years that followed, Dominique toured around the States with her Olympic teammates and then played the role of Patty Simcox in the Broadway version of Grease. The gym was calling, however, and Dominique regained top form in time for the 1998 Goodwill Games. She retired for good after helping her team to a fourth place finish at the 2000 Olympic Games.

Dominique’s most recent accomplishment was her induction into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, alongside other legends in the sport: the late Viktor Chukarin, Octavian Bellu, Elvira Saadi and Vitaly Scherbo. These days, Dominique puts her talents to use as a motivational speaker encouraging young people to live healthy and active lives. Organizations Dominique has worked with include the Girl Scouts, YMCA and YWCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) (International GYMNAST, July/August 2009).

Check out Dominique’s routines from each of the four events:

Vault, 1996 U.S. National Championships

Uneven Bars, 2000 Olympic Games

Balance Beam, 1996 Olympic Games

Floor Exercise, 1993 Hilton Challenge

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!

“Next on Uneven Bars, Pauletta Huntescu!”

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Just for a bit of fun, let’s look back at gymnastics comedian Paul Hunt. He was at his competitive peak in the early 1970s, but took to a different kind of performance in the 1980s: creating parodies of women’s gymnastics. He performed in exhibitions under such names as Pauletta Huntescu (ROM) and Paulette Huntinova (URS).

The following beam routine is set to the floor exercise music of Oksana Omelianchik, who was present at the 1988 USA vs USSR meet. Paulette Huntinova is also wearing the yellow leotard of her Soviet team.

Look carefully in the audience and you’ll notice stars Natalia Laschenova, Oksana Omelianchik and Mary Lou Retton enjoying the comedy.