Posts Tagged ‘2012 Olympic Games’

A New Quadrennium

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

It’s always interesting to see how things pan out in a post-Olympic year. Sometimes the stars lose their brilliance, while the new kids on the block step up to prove their mettle. It’s always sad to see favourites retire, and sometimes you don’t even realize how much you like a gymnast until they’re gone.

Take Sandra Izbasa (ROM), for example. Unless Bellu and Bitang can lure her back, it looks as though she is finished with international competition. I feel like she’s been on the scene forever, but she’s really only 22 years old. She won floor at the 2008 Olympics with near-perfect tumbling runs and overcame serious injuries before grabbing gold on vault and placing 5th all around at the 2012 Olympics. Her floor routine was one of the most captivating in London, and it made me realize just how much I appreciate her presence.

Sandra Izbasa (ROM), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise Apparatus Final

Aw man, if only she hadn’t fallen on the last skill of her career!

Other stars are continuing on in the sport, and it remains to be seen how they will fare against the new crop of gymnasts. Viktoria Komova (RUS) displays what I think is the best combination of grace, form, difficulty and power the world has ever seen. I hope she’ll be able to maintain the same level of magic in the coming years.

Viktoria Komova (RUS), 2010 Youth Olympic Games, Floor Exercise

Kohei Uchimura (JPN) was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and didn’t seem to be in peak form at the 2012 Olympic Games. Of course, despite putting his hands down on floor, he still managed to win the all around by a whopping 1.659, the same margin that separated gymnasts 2 through 13. Usually I find myself rooting for the underdog, but I know I’ll always hope for King Kohei to maintain his throne. Looks like there are some new tricks up his sleeve:

Kohei Uchimura (JPN), Kovacs-Kolman-Kolman Combo

Now that Nikolai Kuksenkov has left the Ukrainian team in favour of Team Russia, it will be interesting to see how that shakes up standings on the international scene. Coach Igor Korobchinsky may deny it, but that is quite a blow to Ukraine.

Nikolai Kuksenkov (UKR), 2011 World Championships, High Bar

One gymnast I’ve been excited to see on the senior international stage is Katelyn Ohashi (USA) and she’s finally old enough!

Katelyn Ohashi (USA), 2011 National Championships, Balance Beam

Mykayla Skinner (USA) recently busted out a laid out double-double on floor. It’s been over a quarter of a century since a woman first showcased a full-twisting double layout, so this was a long time coming. Skinner may be selected for the 2013 Worlds team based on her floor tumbling alone!

Should be another great quadrennium. I hope it’s as exciting as the last!

2012 Olympic Games – Women’s All Around

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

The day we’ve all been waiting for – the day the new queen of gymnastics would be crowned! With many more potential winners here than in the Beijing All Around finals, this competition promised to be exciting from beginning to end. Early favourite Viktoria Komova (RUS) and new star Gabby Douglas (USA) were neck and neck all afternoon long, but in the end it was Douglas who reigned supreme.

Gabby Douglas (USA), 2012 Olympic Games, Team Final Balance Beam

Douglas and Komova each started the meet with an Amanar, with Komova suffering a wonky landing that ended up off the landing mat. When all was said and done, this error could have been enough to cost her the gold medal. Even the floor routine of her life (15.100) was not enough to catch up with Douglas, who had 4 fantastic performances to clinch the top prize.

Viktoria Komova (RUS), 2012 Olympic Games, All Around Floor Exercise

I really wanted these two on the podium along with Aliya Mustafina (RUS), so it was a major bummer when Mustafina fell from the beam after her Arabian landed a little crooked (my sister said she nailed it in the one-touch warm-up). After the fall, it seemed that the rest of the routine wasn’t quite a crisp as usual. It really was an uphill battle for Mustafina right from the beginning, since she started 0.7 behind the top contenders on vault; she performed a Baitova, as opposed to the Amanar she used to compete before her untimely knee injury at the 2011 European Championships. But in the end, the fall didn’t cost her a spot on the podium, as she would have been in the bronze medal position either way!

Aliya Mustafina (RUS), 2012 Olympic Games, Uneven Bars Apparatus Finals

I do feel very sorry for Alexandra Raisman (USA) who tied for 3rd but lost the bronze medal due to the tie-breaking procedure. That has got to be disappointing, especially after her uncharacteristically wobbly balance beam routine and after leaving out her punch layout front on floor. Sandra Izbasa (ROM), on the other hand, was fabulous on her 3 best events and probably would have been Olympic Champion if her bars had been on par. Dominique Pegg (CAN) rounded out a superb competition by hitting 4-for-4 (with some small wobbles on beam) for 17th, with a floor performance that started with a high-flying double layout. Poor Hannah Whelan (GBR) lost all hope of a Top 10 finish after crashing her Yurchenko-double-full for 0.000.

In the end, the results were as they should be. Congrats to Gabby Douglas! Over the past year, she has improved not only her gymnastics, but especially her consistency and her mental game. Congratulations are also in order for Viktoria Komova, who showed that she can fight right to the end, and to Aliya Mustafina, who displayed excellent sportsmanship with a positive attitude throughout the competition and in her support for her younger teammate.

2012 Olympic Games – Men’s All Around

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Kohei Uchimura Sets Sights on Olympic Gold

I woke up this morning like a kid on Christmas Day, and boy, did Santa deliver! Kohei Uchimura (JPN) had the gold medal wrapped up heading into floor. With pommel horse under his belt, it was smooth sailing through rings, vault (perfect 2.5-twisting Yurchenko for a 16.266) and parallel bars. He wisely removed the Kovacs from his high bar routine, staying on the apparatus for a 15.600. The only glitch of the day came on floor, where Uchimura put his hands down on the difficult 1.5-twist punch layout Randi. But after landing his final triple twist, he knew he would once again stand on the highest step of the podium. Some might complain that no one should win the All Around with a fall, but the fact of the matter is that he is just so superior across all six events that losing one point for a fall is not going to dethrone King Kohei from the top of the leader board.

Kohei Uchimura – Men’s All Around Final London 2012 Olympics

Halfway through the competition, I started to get excited over the idea of a Japanese 1-2. Kazuhito Tanaka, who replaced the injured Koji Yamamuro for the All Around final, was in 2nd place with a sizable lead heading into his final two events, but major errors on floor and pommels dropped him to 6th. Marcel Nguyen (GER) put up quite a fight, going 6-for-6 and ending up with a silver medal. He has been eclipsed by more famous teammates Fabian Hambüchen and Philipp Boy in the past, but today he emerged from their shadows. He should feel incredibly proud of coming in 1st of the non-Uchimuras. Danell Leyva (USA) demonstrated a fantastic high bar routine and moved from 7th to claim the bronze medal in the final rotation. I felt sorry for Mykola Kuksenkov (UKR), who once considered competing for Russia but decided against it in order to remain eligible for the Olympic Games. He finished 4th here, just as he did in the All Around at the 2010 World Championships, and just as his Ukrainian team did here in London.

David Belyavskiy (RUS) was a close 5th, starting his day with a gorgeous double-piked-full-in on floor. It was a bummer that the Brits both fell during the 4th rotation: Kristian Thomas over-rotated his Yurchenko double pike vault, while Daniel Purvis came off after a wayward element on parallel bars. Nevertheless, they fought hard and ended up in 7th and 13th place, and they will come away from the Games thrilled with their bronze team medal. John Orozco (USA) ended well with an awesome high bar routine for 8th. I really admire John and wish he could have returned to America with a little Olympic hardware. He seems like such a good guy who does all he can to help his family, and it was upsetting seeing how devastated he was after pommel horse.

So in the end Uchimura pulled it off, and all is right in the world of men’s gymnastics. Now that he has won the Olympic All Around gold medal and pretty much everything else in this quadrennium in such convincing fashion, perhaps he can officially be referred to as The Best Gymnast Of All Time.

CTV’s Rod Black: Is he the best ever?

Kyle Shewfelt (CAN), 2004 Olympic Floor Champion: He really is, and there’s a good reason for that. Everything he does is so difficult, but he doesn’t make it look difficult – it’s effortless. He does an incredible amount of skill, he’s talented, he’s gifted and it’s light and effortless and really the entire gymnastics community and everyone around the world should just bow down to him cause he’s the king.

Here’s a fun video of all the stuff Uchimura has been training. We already know he has tremendously difficult skills like the Ri Jong Song (triple twisting double back) on floor and the Fedorchenko (triple twisting double layout) off high bar under his belt, but check out these other amazing skills he’s working on:

0:41 Quadruple twisting double back

1:24 Yurchenko triple twist (yikes, careful with those knees!)

1:49 Shaham (1.5-twisting Kovacs)

1:55 Double twisting Kovacs!

2:11 Double Kovacs!!!

Kohei Uchimura – Unique Combinations and Skills

World Championships Tokyo 2011 – King Uchimura III (from FIG Channel)

2012 Olympic Games – Women’s Team Final

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire Team Final. Until the 4th rotation, that is, when it became evident that the USA was going to  earn the gold no matter what. The Fab Five went 12-for-12 in and ended up winning by 5 points! Even though McKayla Maroney only competed on vault, her Amanar was absolutely spectacular and she was awarded a 9.733 E score. It was out of this world, and I literally can’t imagine it being done better. Even one of the judges’ jaw dropped when she landed!

McKayla Maroney (USA), Team Final Vault

Jordyn Wieber put her All Around disappointment aside and showed her mettle by being a true team player, competing solidly on vault, bars and floor. Kyla Ross was steady and gorgeous on bars and beam, Gabby Douglas performed so well that she managed to score a total of 61.465 which could be good enough for gold in the All Around on Thursday, and Aly Raisman was a rock and ended the meet with a fantastic floor routine.

Alexandra Raisman (USA), 2012 Olympic Games, Floor Exercise Apparatus Final

The Canadians must have felt like they won the gold too. After placing 11th at the 2011 World Championships and having to compete at the Test Event to earn a team spot to the Olympics, they squeaked into Team Finals in the 8th and final position. Ellie Black, Victoria Moors, Dominique Pegg, Brittany Rogers and Kristina Vaculik all brought their A game and went 12-for-12 like the Americans. The highlight for me was Moors’s stellar floor routine. It’s a real shame that she will not be showcasing it once again in floor finals. Canada ended up in 5th, the best they could realistically hope for with powerhouses USA, Russia, Romania and China in front.

Victoria Moors (CAN), Team Finals Floor (gorgeous routine!)

Russia showed that they deserve to be back in the medals, despite costly errors on floor from Anastasia Grishina and Ksenia Afanasyeva, and no doubt Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina will come out swinging in the All Around. Romania hasn’t left the Olympic podium since Nadia Comaneci first mounted it in 1976. Catalina Ponor was back to usual self on beam today, and Sandra Izbasa performed her fab floor that could be worthy of a floor medal in a few days. It was great to see 6 different team flags raised in the North Greenwich Arena: China, Japan and Great Britain for the men, and USA, Russia and Romania for the women.

The next two rounds of competition will feature the gymnasts who qualified to the All Around. My picks? Watch for King Kohei to once again be crowned with gold. The media may be giving him flack for not showing the same level of perfection we have come to expect, but even with his funky pommel horse dismount in the Team Final he managed to earn a 92.048, a score that would have put him atop the prelim leader board by almost a point. After winning 3 consecutive Worlds by massive margins, it would be lamentable to imagine anything otherwise for these Olympic Games. On the women’s side, it seems there will be a tough battle between the top 4 qualifiers: Komova, Raisman, Douglas and Mustafina. Part of me wants to go out on a limb and predict the feisty Mustafina as the winner, even though I’ve been wanting Komova to win this for the past three years. Prior to the Olympics, it seemed as though Larisa Iordache would factor in a bit more, but between the plantar fasciitis and the judges coming down hard on bars, it’s beginning to look less and less likely. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned in all this, it’s never count out the Romanians!

2012 Olympic Games – Men’s Team Final

Monday, July 30th, 2012

What exactly is a handstand? In the 20 years I’ve been following gymnastics, it never occurred to me to ask such a simple question. The drama that unfolded surrounding Kohei Uchimura’s pommel horse dismount really got me thinking about the definition of this most common of skills. Must the body be completely vertical? Should there be no shoulder angle? Must the arms be straight, with weight equally distributed between the two? Well, ideally, yes. But luckily for the Japanese team, video review proved Uchimura’s handstand dismount to be just handstand enough for the silver medal!

The Infamous Handstand

While I was desperately hoping that the Japanese men could pull off the win, they simply made too many mistakes to challenge mighty China for the title. The worst part was Koji Yamamuro’s crashed vault, following which he hopped on one leg toward the sitting area. Kazuhito Tanaka then found himself performing on pommel horse with only the 30-second warmup under his belt. Not surprisingly, he fell early in the routine. Despite his botched pommel horse dismount, Kohei managed to score an all around total of 92.048, which would have placed him at the top of the leader board had he had this performance during prelims.

The American men must be deeply disappointed with their performance, given that they qualified in first place to the Team Final. Right off the bat, they didn’t seem to have the same confidence they exuded in prelims and they made several uncharacteristic errors. Ukraine, too, must be having a hard time sleeping tonight after the high of nailing difficult routines and celebrating an Olympic medal, followed by the low of having their placement reduced to 4th place with the change in Uchimura’s pommel horse score.

A Message from Jake Dalton and Jonathan Horton (USA)

On the bright side, China and Great Britain put together fabulous performances when it counted most and deserved their gold and bronze medals. It’s unbelievable to think that just last year Great Britain was 10th at Worlds and had to fight for an Olympic spot at the Test Event in January. Just look at them now! Kristian Thomas sure knows how to stick a landing; the crowd, which included Princes William and Harry, was going wild for the hometown boys.

Kristian Thomas (GBR), Team Final Vault – Yurchenko double pike – stuck!

One thing that really bothers me is the unacceptable size of the awards podium. For a team competition, it should be wide enough for all the team members to stand in a line. In one photo I have seen, Koji Yamamuro, Louis Smith (GBR) and Sam Oldham (GBR) are not even visible behind teammates, and Kazuhito Tanaka’s face is partially obscured. That’s not fair!

If the women’s competition tomorrow is anything like the men’s, we can expect the unexpected. Good luck to everyone!