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Random thoughts on the gymnastics world
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European Championships: Romania proved its superiority within European borders last week, but its winning total of 181.525 is still well shy of challenging for anything brighter than bronze at the Beijing Olympics. The U.S. won the 2007 World Championships with 184.400, with China second at 183.450.

Still, Romanian gymnasts should be highly motivated in August, since any Romanian Olympic champion will earn a bonus of 100,000 euros, plus a car. And if that’s not incentive enough, the women’s gymnastics team was recently proclaimed “our great hope for Olympic Games” by Traian Basescu, president of Romania.

Though a Romanian team victory in Beijing seems unlikely, we shouldn’t forget that this relatively small nation found a way to win the women’s team title at Athens 2004 over the U.S., which was world champion at the time.

United States: How deep is the U.S. women’s team right now? When the final six are chosen to compete in Beijing, the Olympic team could include four world champions who combined have won eight individual world titles: Nastia Liukin (3); Shawn Johnson (2); Chellsie Memmel (2); and Alicia Sacramone (1).

Olympic Wild Cards: The Olympic Creed states that “the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part,” which is a noble thought. And I agree. So when Nashwan Al-Hazari (Yemen) and Di Thi Ngan Thuong (Vietnam) received the final two berths to the Beijing Olympics, I understood that certain criteria factored into the selection process (geographical representation being one of them).

That said, I can only wonder how Greece’s Dimosthenis Tambakos received the men’s wild card to the 2004 Athens Olympics, since Greece already was represented by two-time high bar world champion Vlasios Maras.

When FIG Men’s Technical Committee President Adrian Stoica was asked in 2004 about a perceived home advantage for Tambakos, who won the Olympic gold on rings, he told IG, “Maybe the home advantage was set in the moment of the allocation of the wild cards!”

For the record, the women’s wild card in 2004 went to Bolivia’s Maria Jose de la Fuente, who placed 61st in Athens. That was special, because Bolivia isn’t exactly a hotbed for any sport other than soccer.

Gymnastics crowd at Utah
Is this seat taken? The University of Utah drew 15,447 spectators for its March 28 dual meet in Salt Lake City. It was the largest crowd in NCAA gymnastics history, and all the more impressive because it was not against a top team. The seats were overflowing (official seating capacity is 15,000 at the Huntsman Center) because of Senior Night, and the frenzied fans watched their beloved Utes defeat 29th-ranked BYU, 197.100-193.850.

Utah senior Ashley Postell, who has placed second all-around to Georgia’s Courtney Kupets at the NCAAs the last two years, is the top-ranked all-arounder for 2008. With Kupets out with a torn Achilles’ tendon, the title is Postell’s to win or lose. “I do think she’s the best all-around gymnast in college this year,” says Utes coach Greg Marsden of Postell, who is also ranked first on vault and beam. “But she has to have a great meet, because there are many good [gymnasts]. Anything can happen.”
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