London Calling Blog: Shock at the O2
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2000 Bulgarian Olympian Christian Ivanov continues his blog, "London Calling," for International Gymnast Online, through which he will be sharing his experiences visiting the Olympic host city.

July 28: Unexpected Action at the O2

Today and tomorrow are the busiest days for gymnastics as both men and women have to compete through qualification which in total is eight subdivisions of competition. So, most of the happening for me was around and inside the O2 arena. Right from the morning you could tell how much busier that place was relative to the past few days. Queues were long, restaurants were full and in general it seemed that it was crowded everywhere. The Olympics are here and everything is open for business.

First below is a pic of the uniforms of the 70,000 volunteers helping around London. These guys are everywhere, wearing the exact same thing... Say what you will about the bright colors of these Olympics but I personally like this outfit, which is made by adidas!

Olympic volunteers, representing the very diverse population of London

I had a chance to be at the USA and Japan session, the second of three subdivisions of qualification. Everyone I've chatted with about the competition is shocked but let me tell you it was even more shocking seeing that in person. The absolute favorite team to win, Japan, began with four missed routines on high bar, followed by another several mistakes on pommel horse in rotation three. I was stunned. Kohei Uchimura, possibly the greatest gymnast ever, missed his last release move on high bar (Kolman at the end of the routine, a skill he also had problems with at podium training) and then after a fall in the beginning of his pommel horse set, he completely collapsed for his dismount and didn't even attempt to press to a full handstand. His score was 12.466, a three full points lower than what he is capable of. In addition, to Uchimura's unusual day of errors the entire Japanese team seemed unsettled. The sixth place finish for them, and ninth for Uchimura in the all-around, after qualifications that is, are numbers that no one would have predicted. It seemed like it took five rotations to get them going and we finally saw what they are capable of in the sixth rotation, when they blew everyone away on parallel bars. This is the team that we expected to see today - will they show up for the team final?

The view from my seat at the O2

By the way there is a very cool aerial exhibition prior to every session, an incredible treat for the audience. Here is a video of a few seconds of it:

Team USA posted the highest score after a great competition, and Danell Leyva is the top qualifiers. I believe the only mistake they had to count was a routine by John Orozco where he missed on his peach half on parallel bars, but covered it up well (Horton had fallen twice earlier in the rotation). The Americans looked confident and ready, they were impressive!

I was also surprised by some misses of the specialists today! Vlasios Maras fell on his Pegan, Diego Hypolito mistimed 1 1/2 to Randi and landed entirely on his side, Berki had a wobbly set on pommels but still bumped into the final. Dmitry Kasperovich missed his second vault and is the first alternate. No finals for Yann Cucherat either!

But Jordan Jovtchev did amazing, grabbing the eighth and final spot into the rings final. He was lucky enough this time to be in the final session, so he had plenty of time to recover from carrying the flag in the opening ceremonies. He said if he hadn't been in the final session, he would have had to turn down the offer of carrying the flag. I'm still so incredibly proud of him. He is just a machine!

Overal, Russia looked really good, their youngsters are in second after prelims and they grabbed lots of spots in finals. German star Fabian Hambüchen also looked good! Enjoy the pic bellow of the two supporters of Fabi I spotted at the O2.

Hambüchen fans prior to the last subdivision!

So, after day one of competition I still consider USA and Japan the best teams on the field, but in the three-up-three count as we all know anything can happen. As far as all-around I think it will depend on who avoids large errors. Whoever hits is who will go home with the medals. Unless of course, you are Uchimura, who I believe still has a capability of winning with one fall.

Looking forward to the five subdivisions of women's qualifications tomorrow! Don't forget to follow Paul Ziert's commentary on Facebook!

Comments (1)add comment

Jess said:

I am enjoying your blog but am sad you didn't even mention the amazing achievement of the team GB boys!
July 29, 2012
Votes: +1

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