Posts Tagged ‘Larisa Iordache’

Excitement Builds With One Month To Go!

Saturday, July 9th, 2016



Things are getting exciting with the 2016 Olympic Games just around the corner! Most countries are in the process of selecting their representatives. The Japanese men always seem to be the first squad announced, and their team is stacked: Kohei Uchimura, Ryohei Kato, Yusuke Tanaka, Koji Yamamuro and Kenzo Shirai. Wow. I would love to see this team stand atop the team medal podium as they did 12 years ago.

Five gymnasts on a team is certainly not enough, especially for the men who have 6 events to cover. It will be interesting to see if there is room on teams for specialists such as Louis Smith (GBR) and Ashton Locklear (USA). Both gymnasts could win medals on their respective events, pommel horse and uneven bars, but if they are to be selected then only 4 spots remain to cover the rest of the events. Some teams, such as the U.S. men, stack their weakest event (pommel horse) the best they can. On the other hand, the Belgians chose a women’s team which bolsters their strength: the uneven bars.

Louis Smith (GBR), 2016 British Championships, PH AA

Ashton Locklear (USA), 2016 Pacific Rim Championships, UB TF/AA

I was happy to see Chris Brooks (USA) named to the Olympic team. Going 24-for-24 across nationals and trials is no mean feat, and his consistency deserved to be rewarded. I feel bad for Danell Leyva and Donnell Whittenburg, who didn’t quite show the best versions of themselves. It’s interesting that the selection committee chose to leave behind the only two guys who won medals at last year’s Worlds!

Chris Brooks (USA), 2016 P&G Championships, HB Day 2

The FIG really dropped the ball (…or should I say missed their hands on the vault?!) by not giving a nominative spot to Larisa Iordache when she won bronze AA at the 2015 Worlds. Why should apparatus medalists receive a spot but not AA medalists? Even if you don’t expect such a scenario to play out where an AA medalist comes from a team that is not in the top 12, couldn’t that provision still be part of the rules? And it wasn’t totally far-fetched anyway. It could have happened to Guilia Steingruber (SUI) and very nearly did happen to Manrique Larduet (CUB)….

Iordache and Catalina Ponor (ROM) both deserve to be in Rio and it’s heartbreaking that there is only room for one. My sentimental favourite is Iordache. She carried a declining team the entire quad, and did so with awesome gymnastics and a delightful personality. Ill-timed injuries have forced her into this predicament. I do think that at this very moment, though, Ponor is the most deserving of this spot and the most likely to win a beam and/or floor medal. And we all know how rock-solid she is in competition!

Catalina Ponor (ROU), 2016 European Championships, BB TF

I was thrilled when the Canadian ladies exceeded expectations and finished in 5th place at the London Olympics. I think they can do it again! Ellie Black and Brittany Rogers are on the team again, and they will be joined by Isabela Onyshko, Shallon Olsen and Rose-Kaying Woo this time around. Scott Morgan will represent Canada on the men’s side.

I love the way Belgium announced its Olympic team!

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?

Apparatus Finals, Day 2 – 2013 World Championships

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Men’s Vault

1. Yang Hak Seon (KOR) claimed the world title with a booming handspring triple-twisting front now named the Yang, and a Tsukahara triple-twist. I don’t know how he manages to twist so quickly!

2. Steven Legendre (USA) vaulted a superb Dragulescu with just a bit of a low landing that required a small hop to the side. He looked happy with his second vault, a high Tsukahara double pike with a step back.

3. Kristian Thomas (GBR) stuck his first vault, a Yurchenko double pike, and showed the fantastic form he is known for on this event (E=9.500, the highest of the final). Next he vaulted a tucked double front with just a hop backward.

Rounding out the Top 8: Kenzo Shirai (JPN), Sergio Sasaki Junior (BRA), Diego Hypolito (BRA), Marius Berbecar (ROU) and Oleg Verniaiev (UKR).

Balance Beam

1. Aliya Mustafina (RUS) pulled it all together when it counted most, earning the gold medal on beam with a beautiful routine that included a switch split half to immediate Onodi. It was nice to see her supporting her younger teammate, Anna Rodionova, who is so elegant on the beam but unfortunately fell on her ff, Arabian.

2. Kyla Ross (USA) was spot on, and displayed beautiful lines on all elements. I enjoyed seeing her aerial front-sheep jump combination. After filing an inquiry, her score was raised to 14.833, just short of Mustafina.

3. Simone Biles (USA) also filed an inquiry following her beam routine and saw her score increase just enough to surpass Vanessa Ferrari (ITA). Love her full-in dismount. It reminds me of the old days. This is her routine from podium training:

Rounding out the Top 8: Vanessa Ferrari (ITA), Carlotta Ferlito (ITA), Shang Chunsong (CHN), Larisa Iordache (ROU) and Rodionova. Unfortunately many of the best beam workers ended up at the bottom of the pile, but that’s often the way the cookie crumbles on beam.

Parallel Bars

1. Lin Chaopan (CHN) & Kohei Uchimura (JPN) competed early on in the 9-man final, and boy did they impress! Lin was first up, and he and teammate You scrambled to chalk the rails after presenting themselves to the judges. His routine included the exciting Bhavsar and a nailed double pike dismount. Uchimura, not to be outdone, swung a nice giant to double pike and also stuck the same dismount (with a little arm swing!). The two gymnasts ended up atop the medal podium, each with 15.666 (D=6.700, E=8.966).

3. John Orozco (USA), returning from a knee injury, did a great set complete with tucked and piked double backs and a large Tippelt for the bronze medal. A door opened for Orozco, as his performance came on the heels of some disappointing routines by Vasileios Tsolakidis (GRE), Anton Fokin (UZB) and Brandon Wynn (USA).

Rounding out the Top 9: You Hao (CHN) with his smooth movements and fabulous double front-half out dismount, Epke Zonderland (NED), Marius Berbecar (ROU), Wynn, Tsolakidis and Fokin.

Women’s Floor Exercise

1. Simone Biles (USA) shone on floor as she executed her energetic choreography and trademark tumbling: tucked double-double followed by the Biles. Despite some hops on landings, she won in convincing fashion: 0.367 over the nearest competitor!

2. Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) flipped her way to silver with a tucked double double, a full-in to back tuck, a double tuck and a double pike. All landings were stuck except for a little hop forward on the first pass.

3. Larisa Iordache (ROU) commanded everyone’s attention and delivered such a spunky routine with tricky elements. I think everyone in the arena was disappointed when a 14.600 was flashed on the scoreboard. It did hold up, however, and Iordache found herself wearing the bronze medal around her neck. I was hoping she would win, because we haven’t seen this kind of artistry and enthusiasm in a long time. She is quickly becoming one of my favourites!

Rounding out the Top 8: Mai Murakami (JPN), Giulia Steingruber (SUI), Kyla Ross (USA), Sandra Izbasa (ROU), Ellie Black (CAN). I hardly recognized Izbasa with all that makeup(!), but I’ll really miss her once she retires. It’s too bad she fell at the end of her routine, but she got up with a smile. Her attitude is second to none, and she always shows such great sportsmanship. Murakami (quadruple turn) and Black (2.5-twist through to triple twist!) showed amazing tumbling and will hopefully finish on the podium in the near future.

High Bar

1. Epke Zonderland (NED) repeated his Olympic win in Antwerp with his usual amazing combinations. His 7.7 D score had him starting 1.3 ahead of Ryohei Kato (JPN), who of course had the misfortune of having to perform directly after the Flying Dutchman. While I do love seeing his extraordinary release moves, I do think his E score is a tad too high compared to gymnasts like Jossimar Calvo Moreno (COL) and Andreas Bretschneider (GER), who each scored lower.

2. Fabian Hambüchen (GER) seems like such a nice guy. I always see him in the background congratulating Uchimura on his All Around wins, and at the London Olympics and today in Antwerp he took the time to congratulate Zonderland on his win. Hambüchen looked thrilled after nailing his laidout double double dismount.

3. Kohei Uchimura (JPN) was flawless except for a hesitation in handstand following his Takamoto full. Through his 15 routines of these Championships he made nary a mistake and he came away with 4 medals, just like Simone Biles.

Rounding out the Top 8: Sam Mikulak (USA), Calvo Moreno, Bretschneider, Kato, Lin Chaopan (CHN). What a way to end High Holy Week!

Simone Biles Wins Worlds

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Simone Biles and Kyla Ross teamed up for an American 1-2 in much the same fashion as Kohei Uchimura and Ryohei Kato did for Japan. Ross lead after the third rotation by the slimmest of margins, but Biles proved unbeatable with her amazing floaty tumbling: tucked double-double, double layout half-out (the Biles!), 2.5-twist punch layout front, tucked full-in. Ross demonstrated her trademark consistency and good form on her way to silver.

Simone Biles (USA), AA, 2013 World Championships

Kyla Ross (USA), AA, 2013 World Championships

Aliya Mustafina (RUS) managed to pull herself together for the bronze medal after a dismal qualifying round. She has an uncanny ability to capture a crowd’s attention, and her gymnastics really looks fabulous with the exception of her form on the triple twist on floor. Iordache would have been in a tight race for bronze if not for the unfortunate fall from beam, arguably her best event. I’m sure she’ll be seeking revenge in beam finals on the weekend.

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), AA, 2013 World Championships

It’s a pity Jessica Lopez (VEN) withdrew from the All Around, allowing Vasiliki Millousi (GRE) in, because she qualified in 11th spot and would have been even higher if not for a fall from one of her best events, the uneven bars. Here’s her routine from preliminaries.

Jessica Lopez (VEN), Qualifying Round Uneven Bars, 2013 World Championships

Victoria Moors (CAN) will have her layout double-double named after her, having successfully completed it in the All Around. The 14.633 awarded for her stylish floor routine was the third highest of all gymnasts today, behind Biles and Larisa Iordache  (ROU). She did well to finish in 10th place, but could have placed much higher if it weren’t for the 12.300 beam score. Teammate Ellie Black (CAN) had a great beam routine for 14.133 (5th highest score) but just couldn’t put it together on her signature events, vault and floor, for 13th place all around.

Victoria Moors (CAN), AA Floor Exercise, 2013 World Championships

Larisa Iordache (ROU), AA Floor Exercise, 2013 World Championships

And the 2013 Longines Prizes for Elegance are awarded to…drum roll, please…Kohei Uchimura and Kyla Ross!

Longines Prizes for Elegance, 2013 World Championships

L’International Gymnix 2010

Monday, March 29th, 2010

The 2010 edition marked the third time I have attended the Gymnix International and Junior Cups, and while the field was not quite as deep as in years past, it was still lots of fun for me, my sister and our friend Catherine. This year I recognized two judges, Romanian star Gina Gogean and Pam Collett of Canada, who judged me when I was a high school gymnast!

Judge Gina Gogean (ROU) Marches In

The highlight was seeing the up-and-coming juniors from Russia and Romania, but truth be told, the Canadian juniors showed just as much potential! For the most part, they displayed great form and adequate levels of difficulty. With all these fantastic gymnasts, I couldn’t help but wonder why the Canadian ladies haven’t been so successful on the world stage in recent years (with the exception of Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs’s medal on beam at the 2006 World Championships, of course!). Maybe this new generation is the one that will launch Canada into contention for team finals at Worlds.

Madeline Gardiner won the all-around portion of the competition ahead of Riley Cholod, who was fresh off her victory at the Nadia Comaneci Invitational. In third place was Maria Karpova, the youngest of the four Russian gymnasts. Rounding out the Top 10 was a talented field: Diana Bulimar, Ekaterina Baturina, Ekaterina Shtronda and Mikaela Gerber (tie), Victoria Moors, Alena Marchenko and Shae Zamardi. It’s interesting to note that Cholod, Gardiner and Gerber allowed for a Canadian sweep of the uneven bars medals!

Madeline Gardiner (CAN), Uneven Bars, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Riley Cholod (CAN), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Mikaela Gerber (CAN), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

I particularly enjoyed the floor exercises of the Russian gymnasts, as they displayed the polish that has become the hallmark of their national program. Their technique on even the most basic skills was beyond compare, but these gymnasts are so young that they won’t be eligible for senior competition until 2013 and 2014.

Maria Karpova (RUS), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Ekaterina Baturina (RUS), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Alena Marchenko (RUS), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

It was interesting to see how high Ekaterina Shtronda set before pulling around the delayed double back. You can see it in the video, but it seemed even more dramatic live.

Ekaterina Shtronda (RUS), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Young Maegan Chant showed great potential with difficult skills including a double layout mount on floor exercise followed by a full-in. She is coached at World Class Gymnastics by Cristina Bontas, who achieved much success for Romania in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With just a little more polish, Chant will be a major player on the Canadian scene.

Maegan Chant (CAN), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

I was looking forward to seeing the Romanian juniors that I’d heard so much about: Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar, Ana Maria Baicu, and a new name for me, Tatiana Geamparoiu. They suffered a few falls on balance beam, but as usual they shone on floor exercise. I enjoyed Iordache’s piked full-in off bars.

Larisa Iordache (ROU), Balance Beam, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Diana Bulimar (ROU), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Ana Maria Baicu (ROU), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Tatiana Geamparoiu (ROU), Vault, 2010 Gymnix Junior Cup

Unfortunately, the International Cup portion of the competition wasn’t very well attended this year. Apart from the Canadians, the only gymnasts from abroad were some Parkettes (coach Donna Strauss was spotted with a knee brace of her own!), two Finnish girls and a South African.

Kristina Vaculik (CAN) was in a league of her own, winning the all-around by more than four points, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. I had a chuckle when I saw her coach, 1980 Olympic Champion Yelena Davydova, judging her on balance beam. Vaculik later went on to achieve great success (two golds and two silvers) at the Cottbus World Cup in Germany.

Kristina Vaculik (CAN), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix International Cup

Olympian Nansy Damianova (CAN) showed off a nice Spanish floor exercise to place third.

Nansy Damianova (CAN), Floor Exercise, 2010 Gymnix International Cup

Anysia Unick (CAN) performed well in her first year as a senior, winning the gold on vault and the silver on floor exercise. Cynthia Lemieux (CAN) always manages to gather quite a collection of medals, and this time she brought home silver in the all-around and bronze on uneven bars. Annika Urvikko (FIN) was the only foreign athlete to break into the medals with her third place on vault.

During the awards ceremony, former Olympians and Gymnix alumnae Cathy Giancaspro, Mylène Fleury, Julie Beaulieu, Amélie Plante and Nansy Damianova were on hand to present the medals to the winners. After the competition, the gymnasts and the audience enjoyed a performance by Cirque du Soleil (during which the Romanian gymnasts munched on apples!).And so, another year of Gymnix has come to an end. I hope that by next year the field will be prestigious enough to include a Women’s World Cup event to go along with the Men’s World Cup.