Posts Tagged ‘Kohei Uchimura’


Monday, February 20th, 2012

It’s been too long since I last posted, and I’ve missed Gymbits! So many things have happened since I wrote my last article. Here are a few random tidbits that have crossed my radar recently:

1) Dominique Moceanu is coming out with a book in June, and I can’t wait! Sounds like it’ll be a good read with juicy details from her days training with the Karolyis. It sure is brave of her to get that stuff out there.

2) Less than half a year to go until the 2012 London Olympics and the excitement is in the air! Already there is some disappointment, though: rising Ukrainian star Maria Livchikova was injured prior to the 2011 World Championships and now has no hope of qualifying to the Olympics. The good news was the announcement back in 2011 that Kohei Uchimura (JPN) would be pre-qualified the Olympic team. Now he can just focus on training and peaking at the right time instead of bothering with the Japanese trials.

3) I am so glad the Canadian girls qualified to the Olympic Games in 10th place! This has got to be the best team we’ve had in years. With Peng Peng Lee, Kristina Vaculik, Victoria Moors, Madeline Gardiner, Charlotte Mackie, Brittany Rogers, Mikaela Gerber, Dominique Pegg, Jessica Savona, Talia Chiarelli and Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto all in the mix (am I forgetting anyone?), it’s going to be a fight for the 5 Olympic spots. Here’s Victoria’s floor routine from the London Test Event, complete with a double-double mount:

Victoria Moors (CAN), Floor Exercise Event Final, 2012 London Test Event

4) I was re-watching some of the 2011 World Championships recently and was appalled by the atrocious E-score (7.866) given to Jessica Lopez (VEN) in the qualifying round. Yes, she did flex her feet a few times and one handstand was a bit overarched, but she displayed great swing and amplitude.

Jessica Lopez (VEN), Uneven Bars Qualifying Round, 2011 World Championships

Alexandra Raisman (USA) managed to get a 7.100 E-score with flexed feet, leg separations, knee bends, two falls and a hop on the landing!

Alexandra Raisman (USA), Uneven Bars All-Around, 2011 World Championships

Let’s hope that the judges deduct fairly at the London Olympics!

5) And finally, what would I do without the GGMB (Gymnastics Gossip Message Board)?! It is the most entertaining forum out there. Heff and Betty crack me up, and I’m always amazed at the amount of knowledge the members have to offer. Now if only I’d post more often there, too….

Uchimura and Mustafina Win Worlds!

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Another World Championships has come and gone, and all is right with the (gymnastics) world! The Russian ladies (Ksenia Afanasyeva, Anna Dementieva, Yekaterina Kurbatova, Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabieva, Ksenia Semyonova) finally won the team gold for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s hard to believe it took them 18 years to stand atop the podium, especially thinking back to the 2000 Olympic team that was jam packed with so many heavy hitters: Svetlana Khorkina, Yelena Produnova, Yelena Zamolodchikova and Yekaterina Lobaznyuk. Mustafina undoubtedly played a huge role in their win, with incredible scores on all four events. The question loomed: could she sweep all six golds?

On the men’s side, the Chinese team (Chen Yibing, Feng Zhe, Lu Bo, Teng Haibin, Yan Mingyong, Zhang Chenglong) reigned victorious once again! I was pleased to see Teng back in top form after injuries, having put his troubles from the 2004 Olympic Games behind him. They managed to stay ahead of an elegant Japanese team and a surging German team led by Philipp Boy.

The FIG has put together some amazing montages that capture the excitement in Ahoy Rotterdam.

Women’s Team Final, 2010 World Championships

Men’s Team Final, 2010 World Championships

Defending champion Kohei Uchimura (JPN) and new senior Aliya Mustafina (RUS) dominated every phase of the competition and rightfully ended up with the All Around crowns. They both showed unwavering confidence and flashes of brilliance. Uchimura is only the second gymnast in history to defend the World title, but at this rate it seems the entire quadrennium must surely belong to him! He defeated silver medalist Philipp Boy (GER) by a whopping 2.283. American Jonathan Horton grabbed the bronze medal by just 0.033 over Ukrainian Mykola Kuksenkov.

Kohei Uchimura (JPN), All Around, 2010 World Championships

Perfect gymnastics alert! Just about everything he does is textbook perfect, with added flair and cool confidence. I don’t even know what young gymnasts should study most…the triple twist at 1:12, the Yurchenko-2.5 at 4:50 or the gorgeous Kovacs that opens to vertical at 7:38.

The women’s all around medals were more cut and dried; Mustafina won by 1.034 over Jiang Yuyuan (CHN) and Rebecca Bross (USA) was another point behind in the bronze medal position.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), Vault, Apparatus Finals, 2010 World Championships

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), Uneven Bars, Qualifications, 2010 World Championships

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), Balance Beam, All Around, 2010 World Championships

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), Floor Exercise, Apparatus Finals, 2010 World Championships

This routine is one beautiful element after another. She gets so much height on her Arabian double front, and her triple turn is amazing. I love the little piece of choreography starting at 1:03 and leading into the final tumbling pass. That little step out of bounds after the triple twist was Mustafina’s second largest error in 16 routines. Not bad for a newbie!

This hauntingly lovely music, Hijo de le luna, has been in my head ever since she first performed in the preliminary round! I’m not sure how I feel about floor music with vocals but this is the perfect music for Mustafina, worthy of a world champion.

I’ll highlight the apparatus winners next time, but for now I’d like to pay homage to a wonderful coach, Boris Pilkin. When national team coaches told him he was wasting his time, doubting that the tall Khorkina could achieve much success, Pilkin stood by his protégée and turned her into one of the best gymnasts ever. His ability to teach proper technique and to invent new skills allowed Khorkina to be celebrated in the international spotlight for an entire decade, winning numerous Olympic and World medals for Mother Russia. He passed away in the night at the age of 82, just hours after watching the Russian women claim their first gold medal.

Japanese Robot Performs a Kovacs!

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Part of my daily internet ritual involves logging on to the Gymnastics Gossip Message Board (GGMB) to see what’s new in the world of gymnastics. Recently, I was intrigued by a thread entitled “Japanese Gymnastics Robot” posted by aevera. I clicked on the video and was amazed by what I saw: a robot doing a piked Kovacs on high bar! The Kovacs, first performed by Peter Kovacs (HUN) on his way to a silver medal on high bar at the 1979 European Championships, has since become a staple on this apparatus. It is described as a double back over the high bar, but by the time the bar is released and caught again, it’s actually a 1.5 back flip.

Starting from a dead hang, the robot managed to gain enough momentum to swing some rapid giants with great tapping action. Then the moment we were waiting for: the release move! Well, it was almost a Kovacs…he released just a fraction of a second too early and didn’t quite manage to swing out of it, but I was still thoroughly impressed that he caught the bar!

There were many revisions made to the gymnastics robot before it attained the level of success that the 6th incarnation has achieved with the piked Kovacs. This one is able to do several giants (with rather strange technique). I love the tuft of hair!

Here’s an earlier attempt at the Kovacs where the robot had to be helped into the handstand position. Had this one caught the bar, he would have had a nice swing out of the release skill.

2000 Olympic All-Around Champion Alexei Nemov competed many high-flying release moves in his day. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, his high bar included both a piked Kovacs and a tucked Kovacs. You can see them at 0:15 and 0:32, respectively.

Alexei Nemov (RUS), 2004 Olympic Games, High Bar

There are so many different versions of the Kovacs being performed on the high bar today: tucked, piked, layout, a Kolman (tucked Kovacs with a full twist), a Cassina (Kolman in layout position), and even a double-twisting Kovacs, as seen here in this video of Igor Cassina.

Igor Cassina (ITA) in Training, High Bar

I recently witnessed a video of my favourite gymnast, Kohei Uchimura, training a DOUBLE KOVACS! He didn’t catch the bar, but the fact that he is even attempting this is unbelievable. Wow!

Kohei Uchimura (JPN) in Training

Let’s see if Uchimura can catch this release skill before a robot does!

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.

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:

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.

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.

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

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.

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)

Nastia Liukin or Shawn Johnson?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

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.