Posts Tagged ‘Kenzo Shirai’

A mother-daughter tribute

Monday, March 23rd, 2015



I haven’t posted lately because I’ve been busy with my little daughter who was born last summer. I’ve still kept up with the world of gymnastics, though, and while there are some exciting things that have happened during the past months, artistic gymnastics seems to be going through a bit of a dry patch, particularly on the women’s side. Gone are the days when 10 or 15 gymnasts were legitimate contenders for all around medals. Simone Biles and Kohei Uchimura are dominating right now, as they deserve to, and they appear set to continue their trends of defending their crowns in upcoming competitions. The men’s side is a lot more exciting with all the apparatus specialists, but if the FIG reduces teams to 4 members then we can say goodbye to a lot of that excitement too.

Here are some bright patches I’ve come across lately:

The mother-daughter duo of Natalia Laschenova and Sasha Tsikhanovich performed floor routines with matching choreography 26 years apart. I love it! That 1989 Soviet team is one of my all-time faves, and it’s wonderful to see Tsikhanovich’s tribute to her mother.

Natalia Laschenova (URS), 1989 World Championships, Floor Exercise, All Around

Sasha Tsikhanovich, University of Bridgeport, 2015 Floor Exercise

Kenzo Shirai, Japan’s twisting machine, was criticized in the past for winning floor titles without showing any double saltos. Well, he has been working on several new tumbling passes, including a triple twisting double layout and a whip immediate triple-double. Wow! Oh, and he also throws a front full punch front 3.5 and a whip immediate quadruple twist….

Kenzo Shirai (JPN), training

Romania looks to be back in the running for Rio with the comeback announcements of Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa, and with Larisa Iordache looking great on all events. This team is more and more stylish all the time. Never count Romania out!

Larisa Iordache (ROU), 2014 Glasgow World Cup, Uneven Bars

Catalina Ponor (ROU), 2012 European Championships, Balance Beam, Qualifications

Sandra Izbasa (ROU), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise, Team Final

Diana Bulimar (ROU), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise, Team Final

Andreas Bretschneider (GER) has mastered the double twisting Kovacs on high bar! Here he is performing it in his home country. The sky’s the limit!

Andreas Bretschneider (GER), 2014 DTB Cup, High Bar

And finally, a shout out to one of the most underrated gymnasts of this era: Jessica Lopez (VEN)!

Jessica Lopez (VEN), 2014 World Championships, Uneven Bars

Jessica Lopez (VEN), 2014 Glasgow World Cup, Floor Exercise

Did anyone else think the “Aging Beauty” headline on her International GYMNAST cover was a tad bizarre? I mean, she hardly looks like she’s “aging.” She may be 29, but you’d never guess it looking at her gymnastics, and she appears more physically fit than some gymnasts half her age! Oh well…at least the cover also said she “has never looked better.”

What other cool stuff has caught your eye lately?

From Japan: 4.5 Amazing Twists And A Super Mario Bonus!

Friday, March 7th, 2014

There has been some cool stuff coming out of Japan lately. First, get a load of this 4.5.-twist punch barani from Kenzo Shirai. I can’t believe how much control he has and how quickly he twists. It’s out of this world!

Whoa!

And then there’s the hilarious flashback to the 1980s, with a Japanese gymnast in costume flipping around to the familiar tunes of Super Mario 1…complete with the power-up star and the flagpole at the end!

Apparatus Finals, Day 1 – 2013 World Championships

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Men’s Floor Exercise

1. Kenzo Shirai (JPN) won the qualifying round by such a margin that the gold medal was his to lose. The best was saved for last, and Shirai performed 18.25 twists with fantastic landings before nailing his QUADRUPLE twist at the end of the routine. He looked elated at the end, and even King Kohei was on his feet for this one. Score: 16.000.

2. Jake Dalton (USA) won the silver medal with great form and some high-flying tumbling including a layout Arabian double front and a whip immediate piked Arabian double front. Video from prelims.

3. Kohei Uchimura (JPN) earned the bronze medal thanks in large part to his exemplary technique and his extraordinary landings. Interestingly, he had the lowest D score and the highest E score (9.100) in the 8-man field. I was wondering if he would pull out the triple twisting double tuck in the finals, but that tricky skill turned out to be a gamble not worth taking.

Rounding out the Top 8: Daniel Purvis (GBR), Digeo Hypolito (BRA), Steven Legendre (USA), Fabian Hambüchen (GER) and Scott Morgan (CAN). Poor Legendre had to compete with a butterfly fluttering around the floor mat!

Women’s Vault

1. McKayla Maroney (USA) was on a mission after her Olympic disappointment. It’s such a cliché to say she makes it look easy…but she does! Maroney threw down two excellent vaults (Amanar, Mustafina) to edge out her teammate.

2. Simone Biles (USA) came really close to Maroney’s vaulting average (15.724 to 15.595) and she too performed a superb Amanar as a first vault. Biles’s layout Podkopayeva second vault earned a 9.658 E score, but the D score just wasn’t high enough to beat the defending World Champion.

3. Hong Un Jong (PRK) performed a fantastic Amanar with a large step forward on the landing, and a RO-half-on layout Rudi with a large step back. Her high start values were enough to capture the bronze medal.

Rounding out the Top 8: Giulia Steingruber (SUI), Oksana Chusovitina (UZB), Phan Thi Ha Thanh (VIE), Yamilet Pena Abreu (DOM) and Chantysha Netteb (NED). Pena fell on both of her vaults, and poor Netteb hurt her knee on her first vault, a Yurchenko double twist.

Pommel Horse

1. Kohei Kameyama (JPN) proved there’s more than one Kohei on the block, and now they both have the same number of World apparatus gold medals: one! Kameyama displayed some really nice scissor to handstand combinations and one-pommel work at the beginning of his routine.

2. Daniel Corral Barron (MEX) and Max Whitlock (GBR) tied for the silver medal on this event. Corral Barron is the first male gymnast from his country to qualify to a World final (he also placed 5th on parallel bars at last year’s Olympic Games), and therefore the first to win a medal for Mexico. He swung high above the horse. Whitlock, who won pommel horse bronze medals at the Olympics and at the Europeans earlier this year, lost rhythm as he came down from a handstand, but managed to stay on and finish up well. His D score of 7.200 certainly helped him stay in the medals.

Rounding out the Top 8: 2009 champion Zhang Hongtao (CHN), Alberto Busnari (ITA), Robert Seligman (CRO) with the highest E score, Matvei Petrov (RUS) and Prashanth Sellathurai (AUS).

Uneven Bars

1. Huang Huidan (CHN) displayed gorgeous pirouettes, difficult transitions and a nice piked Jaeger topped off with a stuck full-twisting double back. It would have been a Chinese 1-2 with Huang in the silver medal position if Yao Jinnan had caught her Mo salto.

2. Kyla Ross (USA) had the highest E score of the competition despite some loose leg form in the first half of the routine. Nevertheless, she showed lovely lines and solid handstand positions and a stuck double layout dismount. Video from qualifications.

3. Aliya Mustafina (RUS) has added a Stalder-full toe-on full-twisting Shaposhnikova (Seitz) combinations to her routine since the Olympic Games and she nailed it here. She did the same 1.5-twisting double back dismount that helped her win Olympic Gold, but unfortunately this time she had to shuffle her feet upon landing.

Rounding out the Top 8: Simone Biles (USA), Sophie Scheder (GER), Yao Jinnan (CHN), Ruby Harrold (GBR), Beckie Downie (GBR).

Rings

1. Arthur Nabarrete Zanetti (BRA) showed some tremendous strength holds and he did a fabulous full-twisting double layout, but it seemed the rings were swaying back and forth ever so slightly throughout much of his routine.

2. Aleksandr Balandin (RUS) made a press to planche from a still hang look easy! He used his long lines to his advantage in his swing elements, and took a slight hop back after the same dismount as Zanetti.

3. Brandon Wynn (USA) made the most of his 6.700 D score, the lowest of the 8 finalists, and clinched the bronze with a good effort and a stuck full-twisting double layout of his own.

Rounding out the Top 8: Liu Yang (CHN) was fantastic on the apparatus but landed a bit too low to grab a medal, Lambertus “Yuri” van Gelder (NED), Samir Aït Saïd (FRA), Koji Yamamuro (JPN) and Danny Pinheiro Rodrigues (FRA). Pinheiro Rodrigues had a great routine going, complete with two of his signature Victorians, but unfortunately got caught up in the air on his full-twisting double layout and ended up falling. I felt so sad for Yamamuro, last to go, watching him pray for a medal while waiting for his score to come up. He did an amazing job, complete with a decent landing on a very difficult double-twisting double layout dismount, only to end up in 7th. This just goes to show the quality of the field.

2013 Worlds – Qualifying Rounds

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

It’s that time of year again! The World Championships have begun, and the best gymnastics from around the world is on display in Antwerp, Belgium. After watching the qualifying rounds, it is evident that the competitive field is so much stronger for the men than for the women in this post-Olympic year, and it’s just not the same without top contenders Viktoria Komova (RUS), Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS) and Diana Bulimar (ROU). But the show must go on!

As usual, one of the highlights was the All Around domination of Kohei Uchimura (JPN), 2.392 ahead of American Sam Mikulak. Uchimura managed to qualify to the finals on floor, parallel bars and high bar as well, the most of any male gymnast. He is looking to win his fourth consecutive World Championship, a record he surely deserves. I love rooting for the underdog, but I just can’t this time. With his exceptional technique, form and level of difficulty across all six events, King Kohei deserves to go down in the books as the undisputed best gymnast ever. On the women’s side, Simone Biles (USA) led the field by 0.935 and made it to all four apparatus finals! I am most impressed by her double double followed by a double layout half-out on floor.

Here are some of the most exciting and upsetting moments of prelims:

I really wanted Victoria Moors (CAN) to make it to the floor finals. She has great music, great dance, and a laid out double double! It’s a bummer she put her hands down. Fortunately she has another chance to have this tremendously difficult skill named after her during the All Around finals on Friday.

Zeng Siqi (CHN) was a breath of fresh air on the balance beam. Her routine began with an effortless press to handstand, and she was so solid on everything until a simple aerial cartwheel left her standing next to the apparatus. Add a point to her score, and she would have qualified in second place behind Larisa Iordache (ROU).

Wow! Kenzo Shirai (JPN) can really twist! Not only does he perform a Yurchenko triple twist on vault, but he finishes his floor routine with a quadruple twist…STUCK, for a 0.633 lead on this event.

I’m so disappointed that Japanese native Naoya Tsukahara just missed out on qualifying to the All Around. The son of legend Mitsuo Tsukahara is quickly becoming a legend himself, having won medals in the 1990s and 2000s including the 1999 World All Around Silver and the 2004 Olympic Team Gold. Now at age 36, he represents Australia.

Darn it! Too bad Sanne Wevers (NED) fell off the beam on her full-twisting backhandspring mount and later put her hands on the beam after an intricate pirouette sequence. She has completely mastered the pirouetting skills on this event, and I was keeping my fingers crossed that she would make the beam final. How about we have a look at her routine in Osijek a few weeks ago instead?!

Mai Murakami (JPN) will finally have the chance to showcase her exciting floor routine in the event finals this weekend. She begins with a double layout and a double double, performs a controlled quadruple turn, and ends with a triple twist. Check out her reaction at the end!

Oh no! I was really looking forward to a Korean North vs South showdown on vault, but that will have to wait for next year. Poor Ri Se Gwang (PRK) had to miss the 2012 Olympics when his federation was banned, and he just barely missed the final after falling on his piked Dragulescu first vault (D=6.4). He did a great job on his half-on, full-in back out (Tsukahara-Tsukahara?!) second vault (D=6.4), though, and ended up only 0.479 from first place. If only he had held back a bit on the difficulty in order to ensure a spot in the final….

At age 29, Vasiliki Millousi (GRE) is still going strong. Her stylish beam routine seemed a little underscored at 13.833 (D=5.9, E=7.933), and she just missed out on qualifying to the All Around by 0.098. Hmm….

Perhaps the worst time was had by Igor Radivilov (UKR), as he was injured on his Tsukahara piked double back vault after sticking a Dragulescu. He will be missed in the vault finals.

McKayla Maroney (USA) proved once again that she is the one to beat on vault. Both her Amanar and Mustafina vaults were fantastic in the air and she qualified in first place despite the large steps forward. Look for her atop the medal podium in finals.

Stay tuned for the All Around and Apparatus Finals!