Monday, March 5, 2012

Beth Tweddle--a modern day Doris Fuchs-Brause?

After the American Cup in Madison Square Garden, I had the lovely opportunity to talk (gym) shop with a fellow gym blogger. And when the conversation turned to the  uneven bars, we both expressed admiration for Great Britain's Beth Tweddle, who has medaled numerous times on the event at the world championships, Europeans but not at the Olympics. A few days ago a profile of this athlete was published in which she described her disappointment after the Olympics in Beijing where she placed fourth on the event, just out of the medals and we talked about how wonderful it would be for Beth to medal on the bars in front of the home crowd in London.

I talked specifically about why I loved Beth on this event, above most of the other bar workers out there (though after seeing Douglas live on Saturday, she just shot way up my list), and above many of the Chinese because she moves dynamically from bar to bar and has (what I think is) the right ratio of pirouetting elements to release moves. While I don't deny the incredible difficulty of what the Chinese can do with all of the different turns and grips, I'm not exactly riveted by it. After two turns, I want some change in tempo, so to speak, whether it's a release move or a transition to the low bar. (On the other end of the spectrum are routines like the one Shayla Worley used to do--a series of unconnected release moves, all some form of straddle Tkatchev. Just as the routines with the endless pirouettes, this is also quite boring to watch.)

And then I came home to this video of Beth in my Facebook newsfeed from the English Championships:

As many other excited fans have noted, Tweddle has upgraded her dismount to a double twisting double somersault from the one with a single twist she did for the past decade, ratcheting up her difficulty in hopes that this will help her win the gold in London. (I sure hope it does.)

Though the dismount impressed me, I was once again blown away by her dynamism, how powerfully she moves from turns to release, from bar to bar. Given a lot of the more "static" routines out there, this is highly original work.

And in her work I saw a glimpse of the past--specifically Doris Fuchs-Brause's bar routine at the 1966 at the world championships in Dortmund. Her routine is revolutionary in that it moved swiftly from bar to bar at a time when pauses between moves were commonplace.

Unfortunately, Fuchs-Brause didn't even earn a spot in event finals, much less a medal. Here's hoping that Tweddle gets rewarded for her originality in her home country in five months.

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