Friday, September 27, 2013

McKayla's Vaults, 2009-2013

Here's a montage of McKayla Maroney's vaults from 2009 until present day. The progress she made between 2009 and 2010 is nothing short of astounding.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Last Pass: Double Layout

At the junior international in Japan this week, Japanese gymnast Sae Miyakawa performed an extraordinarily difficult floor routine--the form on the front tumbling first pass was reminiscent of Ivana Hong's perfect double front--and ended her performance with a double layout that nearly bounded out of the floor area.

Check it out:

A double layout as a final pass has rarely been seen in women's floor exercise though back in the early 90s two female gymnasts had used it as a final pass.

Here's Tatiana Gutsu in 1991 at the world championships:

Are there any other female gymnasts who have done a DLO as a final pass? I thought Cristina Bontas had also done it but I couldn't find a video of her performing it as a last pass. If you know of any other gymnasts, let me know in the comments.

UPDATE: One commenter correctly noted that Daiane Dos Santos performed a DLO last pass in 2011 at Worlds.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Grand Theft Auto Will Teach You Hebrew Swear Words

You know how when you learn a new language, you learn the curse words first?

Well, the makers of GTA are doing their part to make sure the populace learns some rudimentary Hebrew by naming the hospital "Mount Zonah." "Zonah" translates to "whore" in Hebrew so now users are well on their way to becoming fluent in this Semitic language. It's just like Rosetta Stone!

I can only imagine the type of childlike jokes this name will inspire if users are familiar with the meaning of the word. Not that I'm going to suggest any here--not because I find them offensive but because all the ones I can come up with are far too cheap and easy. 

I guess the "Mount" part is of the hospital name is supposed to be a reference to that famous hospital that also begins in "Mount"--"Mount Sinai." But unlike that famous mountain where rules to live by were handed down, the name of the GTA hospital feels more like a judgement than a proscription for healthy living.


Here's hoping that Mount Zonah offers comprehensive STI screening. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Is Brenna Dowell this quad's Jana Bieger?

I'm pretty excited that Brenna Dowell was selected for this year's world championship team. Not that I wouldn't have been happy to see Peyton Ernst in that spot--she also deserved it and would've gotten some much needed experience if taken to Antwerp. But Dowell massively upgraded her difficulty between 2012 and 2013 that you know that she must've really worked her butt off in the gym. (And I love her piked double front on floor.)

Dowell is in the same position in 2013 that Jana Bieger was in 2005. Bieger was fourth fiddle on a world championship team that included Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, and Alicia Sacramone. With those three in the mix, there was no room for Bieger to even make a final, which she didn't. Instead, she got her competitive feet wet and watched as her teammates raked in the medals, almost sweeping the golds with the exception of vault, which went to Cheng Fei.

Dowell, similarly, is not expected to final on any apparatus if she competes at all. (Martha Karolyi hasn't said definitively whether or not McKayla Maroney will do AA or just compete on her specialties, floor and vault. I hope the seemingly injury prone Maroney decides to take it easy and just do two events. I really want her to last through the whole quad.) And even if she gets the go-ahead to compete, she will be not be entered on her strongest pieces, floor and vault, but instead on beam and bars since the U.S. has a glut of power tumblers. While Dowell has a difficult bar routine with some unique elements, she has yet to hit it in competition. And even so, she's unlikely to beat her teammates (which she has to because of the 2-per country rule) or squeeze into one of the toughest final fields. The Russians, Chinese, and Brits are bringing some incredible bar workers to worlds. It is likely that Dowell will watch AA and event finals from the stands--just as Bieger did in 2005.

The two also share similar styles--big tricks but sometimes lacking in form and finesse. (This is especially surprising coming from Dowell, who trains at GAGE, which is typically known for producing athletes with precise form. Evidence: Ivana Hong's double front on floor and Courtney McCool's anything on any event.) Dowell got hit pretty hard on her execution scores at National Championships. It'll be interesting to see what international judges do with her performances.

I've always felt bad about how the quad ended for Jana Bieger. She had been a big part of the early years of the quad, stepping up in 2006, an admittedly weak year competitively for the entire world, winning medals when favorites Liukin and Memmel were hit with major injuries. She had some original skills on beam and some massive tumbling on floor. True, she wasn't a good dancer and her form left something to be desired. But she was a team player and hit under pressure.

In 2007, she was out due to injury and that was the year the younger generation entered the fray. Shayla Worley, Samantha Peszek, Ivana Hong, and of course, Shawn Johnson went to worlds, joined by Sacramone, Liukin. By the time Bieger reentered the fray in 2008, there didn't seem to be much room for her and all the chatter was pretty negative about her chances. It almost felt like she had been kicked out of the clubhouse.

Bieger was named as an alternate to the team but wasn't used despite two team members being injured in Beijing.

So what does it mean for Dowell if she follows in Bieger's footsteps? A team contributor and player in 2014 and some mid-quad success, but will probably get overlooked once the juniors enter the senior ranks in 2015 and 2016 if she sticks around and doesn't go to college.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

White Men Aren't Good At Listening

I was reading through the comments on Marjorie Ingall's beautiful essay in Tablet about her abortion--big mistake, I know--and the one idea that seemed to be recurring in the negative responses was whining about how unfair it is to men that their views aren't valued on the subject of abortion.

I'm a white woman. I can't tell a person of color about what is or isn't racism. I can try to understand how racism limits the opportunities for people of color, but ultimately I have to listen and defer to those who have the life experience of racism. I'm not even close to being the final word on the subject.

As a woman, I have experience with not having my views considered and valued. But white men do not have this sort of experience. And here they are being told left and right--whether from feminists or people of color or LGBTQ activists or some combination thereof--that when it comes to certain subjects and experiences, they are not the authorities anymore. Their opinions aren't as valuable as the person experiencing a particular form of oppression. They just aren't. And this isn't sitting well with them.

I can sympathize a bit--this is pretty new for them. Poor Ari Hart wrote (yet again) about how he transforms the meaning of a misogynistic blessing with no consideration and input from the women who claim that this oppresses him. Why? Because he's a rabbi and a man and can decide what is and isn't oppressive for an entire group of people. (Nevermind the fact that his authority is, in part, derived from his maleness and that is part of the reason he possesses the platform to mansplain to others. When he utters "she lo asani isha" perhaps he should keep in mind that part of his male privilege in ignoring other people's feelings comes from being a man. So really he is thanking God for the opportunity to not consider other people's perspectives.)

Obviously, I don't mean that all white men are terrible at listening. But those who are good allies--listening to members of the marginalized group and being respectful and supportive--have accomplished despite the weight of history pressing against them, telling them that they are the be all and end all on all subjects. No small feat.

It's interesting to note how differently the two parties argue. Ingall argues for the validity of her own perspective on her own experience. She asks to be treated as an individual. She doesn't wish to tell other women how to interpret their experiences. The men, on the other hand, want the validity of their opinions recognized despite the fact that they have no individual experiences to back them up. And in the case of lawmakers, they want those unqualified opinions imposed on others. If you dare suggest that they don't really have the authority to weigh in, they whine like the babies they think that all women want to carry in their uteruses. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Christy Henrich Beam Originality

Christy Henrich's name has become synonymous with eating disorders. The first time I ever heard of her was in the early 90s in conjunction with anorexia and the coaching abuses/excesses of that period. I had never even seen her do gymnastics.

Well, this morning after tumbling a little bit down the YouTube gymnastics hole to watch some 89 Brandy Johnson, I clicked on a suggested video and watched Christy Henrich compete at the 89 world trials on the beam. And I was pleasantly surprised by some charmingly original elements.

In this routine, she does a back handspring to two layout stepouts, but after she lands the last move, she quickly as a half turn and goes right into an immediate gainer back handspring. In terms of difficulty, I'm not sure how much harder the extra turn upon landing makes the series, but it was definitely different.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Chinese Bars Are Getting Awesome

In the past, I haven't been a fan of the Chinese on the uneven bars. I could recognize their technical mastery--from the myriad of grips to the pencil straight handstands to the complicated pirouettes--but I didn't enjoy watching them on this event. Their swing seem labored, transitions ended in dead hangs and muscled cast to handstands, and the endless parade of turns bored me. I much preferred the style of a Beth Tweddle--dynamic release moves, moving from bar to bar, powerful swing. The Russians also did a pretty good job combining releases, transitions, and release moves with fluid swing.

But perhaps due to changes in CoP, this newish crop of Chinese gymnasts have much better routine composition, more exciting skills, and more dynamic swings.

(h/t Gymnastics Coaching)

Shang Chusong

Huang Huidan

Yao Jinan

She fell in her finals routine on the Mo salto and had some other troubles but this a monster of a routine in terms of difficulty. I hope she gets it under control for Antwerp.

I really do hope that they get these sets consistent by Worlds because they (and the British girls) are doing some of the most exciting bar work right now. The Russians, given what we've seen in 2013, aren't nearly as innovative as the Chinese and Brits. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Cameraman Has Beam Skillz

Why is it that when gymnasts do the talk show circuit, the hosts wobble on the balance beam like it's a high wire...

...but this cameraman (@1:12) manages to both walk and move quickly across the beam with a large camera in tow without issue? I'm sure that he has just as little gymnastics experience as Ellen.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Most Crowd Pandering Choices in Floor Exercise Music

This past weekend, I've binged on YouTube gymnastics videos from 1991, which reminded me about Cristina Bontas' masterpiece from the same year. That year the world championships were held in the U.S. and she chose a medley of Americana that started and ended with the Star Spangled Banner and included bits of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" and "Yankee Doodle." This is my choice for the most pandering choice in floor exercise.

But Bontas is not the only one to try to win the crowd over in such an obvious and heavy-handed way. Back in 1996, Dominique Moceanu won the crowd in Atlanta over by using an instrumental version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." I would say it went over pretty well with the partisan crowd:

Back in 2004, Svetlana Khorkina used "Goodbye My Love, Goodbye" by Greek singer Demis Roussos that seemed quite familiar to the home crowd:

And most recently in 2012, Russian gymnast Viktoria Komova used a musical medley that included "We Will Rock You" from British band Queen and snippets of Brit Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good." (I don't think this was the best musical selection for Komova but I will never complain about anything that includes Amy Winehouse. You know how I feel about her.)

I don't fault a gymnast for choosing music that will give her an edge in scoring. But the national anthem of the host country? Why not recite "The Pledge of Allegiance?"

Or how about not. Gymnasts, it's a floor routine, not a citizen ship test.

(This is list by no means exhaustive. Please suggest other extremely pander-y floor routines.)