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 29: Another Shock at the O2
It was a long day for gymnastics today with the women's qualification, but I skipped the first two sessions to meet up with a friend in central London. My meeting was on Regent Street, an area that must be a haven for the shopaholics, featuring stores from Burberry and Hugo Boss, to specialty boutiques for tea and candies... you get the picture. In addition, this location must be very attractive to the theater fans. While walking from the underground I must have passed by at least 10 theaters. Shows like "Les Miserables" must be packed with tourists every night.
The famous "Les Miserables" musical
Later in the day I had dinner at the O2, where I also watched the final session of the day featuring the teams from Romania and Japan. At the arena I bumped into so many gymnastics people. The great thing about it is they are everywhere, and a lot of the fans at the venue have no idea who some of them are! I chatted with former Olympic champion Yuri Titov and congratulated him on the good performances by the Russian teams so far. He was great to talk with and it was an honor to meet him again. If you think about it, the years when Titov was president of the FIG (1976-1996) were really the golden era of gymnastics.
With gymnastics legend Yuri Titov, FIG president from 1976-1996
I also ran into Brazilian native Nilson Savage, who is actually the personal coach of Venezuela's Jessica Lopez. Nilson told me that he was very pleased with Jessica's performance, since she placed 13th in qualification and will compete in the all-around final.
Me with Jessica Lopez's coach, Nilson Savage
I did my first Olympic apparel shopping at the gymnastics venue. The clerk was wearing this blue T-shirt, which he said is the most purchased item (£25). The lines are huge and customers are shopping with intensity! From this photo, you can see how enthusiastic the Olympic staff are. (I hope he works on commission!)
Olympic apparel for sale!
I also saw Anna Li, one of the U.S. alternates, and her parents/coaches Li Yuejiu and Wu Jiani. Anna had fallen from bars during training and damaged ligaments in her neck just a few days ago. She was in a brace and able to move her neck delicately, but told me that she was feeling OK, and that she has already scheduled treatments when she gets back to the U.S. Although she was really pleasant and I was happy to see her in London, from her body language I could tell she was feeling some pain. But you have to think she and her parents are relieved she was not more seriously hurt.
On the competition side, the big news was that the reigning world all-around champion and American superstar Jordyn Wieber did not qualify to the all-around finals. That is as big of a shock as it was for Kohei Uchimura and the Japanese men doing so poorly yesterday. My heart goes out for her and I still can't believe that she will not be able to even get a shot at the all-around gold. The two-per-country rule makes no sense and needs to go. You don't see this in other sports like swimming, track & field etc to prevent medal sweeps.
I also spotted two-time Olympic gold medalist Yelena Zamolodchikova from Russia! Yelena was always one of the smartest and hardest-working gymnasts on the floor, and now she's using that same work ethic working for the Russian gymnastics federation.
After today's full day of competitions it appears we will be set for some very competitive and interesting days ahead at the Greenwich Arena. The event finals look awesome with a lot with typical representation from China, Romania, Russia and the U.S.. But we also have the astounding Beth Tweddle on bars, Lauren Mitchell and Vanessa Ferrari on floor, and six-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina on vault.
Next is men's team finals. I think it may be the most exciting final in London, and I can't believe it's the only the first gymnastics medals of the Olympics. Not only is the gold up for grabs, there is a very real shot Great Britain will take a team medal.
Don't forget to tune in to IG Publisher Paul Ziert's live commentary on Facebook!