Archive for russia

dahling, please don’t go breakin’ my heart.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 26, 2009 by debster03

Over the years, I’ve learned not to expect anything from junior gymnasts. Nada, zilch, zero, nothing. The truth is that the least of promising-juniors-that-turned-out-to-be-disappointing-seniors is pretty endless: Kristal Uzelac, Nadazhda Ivanova, and Sabina Cojocar, to name a few (and from three different countries, too!). Honestly, in all my years as a fan (which I admit haven’t been very many, considering I’m young), I feel that the only gymnast who has truly managed to live up to the hype is Nastia Liukin, and the cynic in me believes that that’s probably only because people were writing her off by 2007.

I’ve also learned not to expect anything from zee Russians. I mean, really. If the Fab Four (I mean, Yelena Produnova, Svetlana Khorkina, Yekatarina Lobaznyuk, and Yelena Zamolodchikova) were not even capable of kicking some major Romanian booty in Sydney, what hope is there for the rest of them? Even when they’re at their best, there is always that unforseen extremely unfortunate factor that ruins the all fun (e.g. the vault was set too low; Anna Pavlova experienced momentary amnesia and forgot her floor routine, resulting in self-destruction; Yekatarina Kramarenko miscalculated her run to the springboard; Pavs really had to pee and just could not wait for the darn green light).

So there you have it. Extraordinarily successful juniors and zee Russians are cursed. There’s no other way around it.

You know what the worst possible combination is? Yes, you got it! Russian juniors! Oh, God. The more talent these little pixies show, the more terrified I become that something’s gonna break them.

There is one Russian junior, in particular, that I’ve grown to love, despite all my best efforts: Viktoria Komova, daughter of 1986 Goodwill Games champion Vera Kolesnikova. Check out this beam – it’s insane (sure, sure, she falls, but BHS-layout stepout-arabian!? Holy moley!)!

In addition to being quite the trickster, she’s got wonderful presentation for a teeny junior and nice lines as well. She could grow to be quite elegant, which is just what the sport needs right now! Hopefully she’s getting all the falls out of the way early on, because if this girl does not make it to 2012 as a serious medal threat, then I will cry.

You should check out her floor, too. She’s too adorable.

Davai, Vika!

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Grebenkova better watch out!

Posted in just for fun with tags , , on November 6, 2008 by debster03

Since my laptop finally decided to self-destruct this afternoon (it was about time, really, with the way it had been acting out), I’m actually borrowing my sister’s computer, so this will be a short, (mostly) meaningless post…but I really couldn’t help myself (I just had to show you this)! Do not fear, though – I’ll be back with some more of the good stuff soon enough, I promise!

Anyway, anyone remember this? Try to ignore Lyudmila’s hideous outfit for a minute and enjoy the…dance?

Well, if you think that’s amusing (albeit slightly odd…), you better check this out! Apparently, this is what the Russian athletes did at the Olympic Village (hmm…perhaps Pavs was too hung over to remember to wait for the green light? Just kidding)! Look at the coach go! Poor Anna and the two Ksenias look absolutely mortified! I’m kind of embarrassed for them too!

So what do you think guys…does Lyudmila Grebenkova still own the dance floor? It looks like the coach (whatever her name is) is up for the challenge!

God, Russia. I love you.

10 gymnasts I’m excited about

Posted in lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2008 by debster03

1. Ksenia Semenova (RUS)

Not only is she cute as a button, but she’s just an exciting gymnast to watch. I hope we didn’t see the last of her in Beijing. She’s spectacular on bars and beam (it’s one of my favorite routines from this quad, actually). She might be a little weaker on floor (her choreography this year was superb, though) and vault, but there’s clear room for improvement (even though her Yurchenko 1.5 is not the best, there’s hope. Carly Patterson had a so-so 1.5 but developed a solid DTY within a year). Even her coach said that they didn’t upgrade as much as they could’ve before Beijing because she had a growth spurt. She also needs to work on her form a little bit, but that all comes with time. Nevertheless, she’s extremely consistent (a novelty for a Russian gymnast). I love me some Semy!

2. Viktoria Komova (RUS)

I think she’s so lovely to watch, and I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I would love to see her excel as a senior. Not only is she very elegant (Kramarenko-style, I think), but she throws some pretty big skills, like a 1.5 through to an arabian double front and an arabian on the balance beam (she’s also trained a back handspring-back layout stepout-arabian series and an arabian double front dismount!). I’d hate for her to burn out, since she’s so young. Anyway, she’s a joy to watch. Her floor routine even reminds me of Omelianchik’s “Birdie” routine in the ’80s.

3. Mattie Larson (USA)

I think Mattie is great. I really like her style. She’s got very nice lines and you can feel the passion out on the floor, especially during her floor routine. She’s also a fairly good tumbler, and I’m excited to see how she can upgrade in the future. She might not have been ready for Beijing, but I really think she should stick it out for the next for years, because she could be spectacular!

4. Nailya Mustafina (RUS)

She’s the younger Mustafina sister, and she’s just adorable. Does anyone know if she’ll be eligible for London 2012 (I’ve heard that she will be but I’ve also heard the opposite, so I’m not sure)? If she’s not, I can definitely see some major burnout occurring, since she’s already training some pretty big skills! Anyway, she’s very graceful (her floor routine is really nice) and can throw some huge tricks (like a back full on beam). I can definitely see that she’ll grow up to be the powerful Mustafina, while her sister will probably be the more elegant one.

5. Samantha Shapiro (USA)

Oh, if Sammy could just get rid of her floor music, I would love her forever (I don’t understand what the big deal about Blues for Klook is. In fact, the only deal I see there is that my ears BLEED whenever I hear it, even if it is the great Silvia Mitova that’s dancing to it). Anyway, she’s not very powerful, but she does have some very nice lines and some nice choreography (which I would appreciate if she did it to better music!). I really like her beam routine, especially the Eremia-style mount. I definitely see room for improvement in this gymnast, and I’m excited to see what she can come up with in the future.

6. Rebecca Bross (USA)

I know I’ll be rooting for her this quad (how funny would it be if she won the 2012 all around? Three in a row for WOGA! Although that’s gotta be a lot of pressure for her…). She’s powerful, so I know she’ll be able to come up with a few exciting skills in the future (she already does a Patterson dismount on beam!). She’s also got good form, which I appreciate, and though she isn’t the most gifted dancer, she tries and can make it work, unlike many others.

7. Jiang Yuyuan (CHN)

Does anyone not think that she’s just a joy to watch? Maybe it’s her smile. Before she even starts dancing, you know you’ll love what she does (which is a lot – she’s got some pretty cool tricks up her sleeve!). Although I’m not glad she was injured in Beijing, at least I’m happy that that is probably the reason behind her less-than-stellar performance and not the fact that she is a headcase (I hate it when gymnasts crumble under pressure! It’s so frustrating). I hope we haven’t seen the last of her and that she can get her Amanar back, because it was beautiful!

8. Aliya Mustafina (RUS)

So far, I like her sister better, but Aliya’s got some very, very elegant lines. She’s not much of a trickster, but she’s a fabulous dancer, even at this age. Hopefully she’ll be able to upgrade some more so that she can really challenge in the future.

9. Tatiana Nabieva (RUS)

What I really like about her is that she is a pretty solid all around gymnast. However, one must not forget the dreaded “Junior European Champ Curse,” which has plagued many former greats (or coulda-been-greats) in the past (really, it seems to strike from out of nowhere. Remember Sabina Cojocar? As I recall, she was on her way to a very successful senior career, and then…BOOM! The Curse shall conquer all!). Anyway, one of my favorite things about Tatiana’s gymnastics is her barani on beam. Usually, I hate that skill, but she makes it look sick (as in, cool sick). Also, she’s pretty elegant, like a good Russian girl.

10. He Kexin (CHN)

The girl was not at her best at Beijing. She’s capable of so much more. What a shame! Did the pressure finally get to her? I hope not, because when she’s 100 percent on (on bars), she’s unstoppable (and probably unbeatable, too). Anyway, since I’ve heard the Chinese coaches are hoping to make her an all around gymnast by 2012 (yay! Long live the all around!), I can’t help but do my happy dance (it mainly consists of hopping up and down, alternating legs, and waving my hands in little circles). She’s already got a DTY and nice floor choreography. Her weakness is beam, but she’s Chinese…I’m sure they can work with that.

So that’s it. Does the list smell of too much Russia? Who cares? What does Russia smell like, anyway? Vodka?

Davai, Rossiya!

a tribute to my favorite quad

Posted in going down the memory lane with tags , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2008 by debster03

Now that the 2005-2008 Olympic cycle is nearly over, I am impatient to leave this horrible quad behind. It has probably been my least favorite four years ever, gymnastics-wise, and that is saying something, because 2001-2004 wasn’t all that dandy, either. Of course, there have been moments of brilliance throughout the past eight years (Pavs Pavs Pavs! Cheng Cheng Cheng! And a few others…), but that is nothing (and I repeat: nothing) compared to what we saw back in the day, and, well…let’s just say I’m feeling a little bit nostalgic. Here’s a tribute to my favorite quad.

The Sydney Olympics may have been a bust, but 1997-2000 (even with the elimination of Compulsories) was nothing short of spectacular. The Code, although not flawless, was interesting enough, and there seemed to still be time for personal expression and dance, given the high number of standout choreographies we saw. I particularly liked the Code when it came to beam and vault.

The beam routines were characterized by plenty of skills in combination, which usually involved an acrobatic element and a jump. At the same time, the gymnasts often chose to do a few of those little, simple skills that I love so much (such as handstands or back walkovers). There were many great beam workers throughout the quad, including Ling Jie, Liu Xuan, Kui Yuanyuan (who was absolutely robbed off the beam title at the 1997 Worlds), Yekatarina Lobaznyuk, Andreea Raducan, Dong Fangxiao, and Elise Ray (among others).

Kui’s lovely beam:

I really think that this was the best vault quad in the history of the sport. Double twisting Yurchenkos were valued at a 9.9, which made them pretty popular, especially among the top athletes, but, at the same time, there was always that possibility for more difficulty (and 0.1 more points in Start Value). For that very reason, vault finals often included double twisting Tsukaharas (one of my favorites!), as well as Khorkinas (I and II), and Podkopayeva-style vaults. Yang Yun impressed us with her lovely front layouts, and, of course, there was Yelena Produnova’s legendary handspring double front.

Produ was so fierce. If I’d been a judge back then, I would’ve been scared of her. I’m sure she could make them cry (or at least kick their asses if they didn’t score her fairly).

There were some good bar moments as well. The Code wasn’t particularly spectacular in this area, but many of the gymnasts certainly were. Of course, Svetlana Khorkina reigned over the event (thanks to her fabulous originality), hence the nickname “Queen Sveta” (although this can also be attributed to her very, um…over-confident personality). However, the Chinese gymnasts usually put up a good battle (especially the exquisite Ling Jie, who popularized inverted bar work), and some American and Ukrainian gymnasts were great to watch too.

Even though the full in dismount started to disappear from the floor exercise (with the exception of power gymnasts Yelena Zamolodchikova, Simona Amanar, and Viktoria Karpenko), we still saw some great combination passes, and double layout mounts and triple twist dismounts were quite common among the top gymnasts. The annoying middle passes involving front fulls and Rudis that we had seen so much of in the previous quad were practically nonexistent by 2000. Most importantly, this was the last quad where we had real dance from the majority of the athletes, even those who weren’t particularly balletic or elegant (e.g. Jamie Dantzscher, Ludivine Furnon, Vanessa Atler, etc.).

The list of fabulous floor workers was endless, and they came from a large number of countries (nowadays, most “dancers” come from either Russia or China and a few from Australia). Also, we were blessed (even though we didn’t know it yet) by the absence of those horrid double twisting jumps and side passes.

Although I was never really a Vanessa Atler fan, this is one of my favorite routines from that quad:

The most incredible thing about 1997-2000 had nothing to do with the Code of Points, though. It was the fabulous gymnasts in it. I do not remember any other quad where there were so many gymnasts capable of fighting for major all around titles or medals. However, there was certainly no shortage during this time: Andreea Raducan, Simona Amanar, Maria Olaru, Dong Fangxiao, Yang Yun, Viktoria Karpenko, Svetlana Khorkina, Yelena Produnova, Yelena Zamolodchikova, and Yekatarina Lobaznyuk. Even gymnasts like Lisa Skinner, Allana Slater, Elise Ray, and Liu Xuan were considered to have an outside chance (and, indeed, Liu Xuan was awarded the bronze medal in Sydney after Raducan was stripped off her gold). In contrast, only Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Yang Yilin, and perhaps Jiang Yuyuan had a real shot at an all around gold (or medal of any color, really) in Beijing.

It’s a shame the Sydney Olympics were such a disaster, because they could have been the perfect way to culminate four wonderful years. There’s so many things that should have happened that didn’t. Vanessa Atler should have been mentally prepared at Trials and should have qualified to the Olympic team. Yelena Produnova should have been healthy. The Russians should not have crumbled in the team final (whether you are a Russia fan or not, you have to recognize that they were inarguably the superior team in terms of gymnastic ability). The vault should not have been set at the wrong height (even though that means my precious Andreea Raducan would probably not have won the all around final)! Raducan should not have been stripped off her gold (or, at least, she shouldn’t have had a cold!). Karpenko, Zamolodchikova, and Khorkina should have stayed on their feet in the all around. Lobaznyuk should have performed up to full potential. There are probably tons of other things that I can’t think of right now.

Really, for such a great quad, Sydney was a waste.