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Written by dwight normile    Sunday, 10 July 2016 21:46    PDF Print
Biles Headlines U.S. Women's Team to Rio
(13 votes, average 3.85 out of 5)

Simone Biles earned the one guaranteed spot on the Olympic team by placing first all-around in San Jose Sunday, while Lauren Hernandez and Aly Raisman, second and third, respectively, assured themselves of berths to the team as well, based on their performances.

The only variables for the selection committee—Marta Karolyi, Tatiana Perskaya and Terin Humphrey—were erased during the competition when both Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian hit their routines on uneven bars.

MyKayla Skinner, Ragan Smith and Ashton Locklear were named the alternates after another night in which nerves played a role for certain gymnasts.

Even Biles was affected when she fell off balance beam on her front-half, which is more like a half twist to back tuck from a very tiny punch. She made up for it, however, with a 16.20 for her booming Amanar and a 15.55 on floor.

For the second day in a row, Hernandez outscored Raisman in the all-around, and she ranked first on balance beam, third on floor and fourth on vault. She also showed the cleanest form and most dynamic presentation of this Olympic team.

Raisman, who is in excellent shape, will contribute strong performances on vault, beam and floor. Her comeback, which began slowly, is definitely complete.

If there were any doubts about Douglas's chances of making the team because of her fall from beam on Friday, it was never going to be a factor as long as she hit bars again, which she did. And though she fell off beam again (standing full), she most likely will not be in the team final lineup on that event.

Even though she fell off beam on a standing Arabian, Kocian, a 2015 world gold medalist on bars, got the nod over Locklear since she's an all-around gymnast. Locklear will be an important backup to replace any of the bar workers should they get injured.

Skinner and Smith both scored 59-plus on Sunday to place fourth and fifth. Skinner ranked second on vault and Smith was second on beam.

Maggie Nichols outscored both Skinner and Smith tonight with her 59.35, but her highest ranking was fourth on floor exercise. That she wasn't in the top-three on any event might have doused her chances to be named to the team or as an alternate.

For complete results, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 08 July 2016 08:35    PDF Print
Despite Recent Injury, Dragulescu Ready To Shine In Rio
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Eight-time world champion and three-time Olympic medalist Marian Dragulescu of Romania told IG that not even a recent injury will distract him from vying for vault gold at next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The 35-year-old Dragulescu, who earned a vault berth to Rio when he won silver on that apparatus at last fall’s World Championships in Glasgow, tweaked his right ankle on a tumbling pass in training on June 23.

“I was trying to do three-and-a-half (twists) but I started the move very badly,” said Dragulescu, who has won four world titles on floor exercise and four world titles on vault. “I was over-rotated, I stopped at two-and-a half and the landing surprised me. I was feeling a lot of pain on my right ankle, and I was very scared because my ligaments were reconstructed and I have pieces of metal on my right ankle.”

Dragulescu, who won two silvers (floor, team) and a bronze (vault) at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, is confident that he can challenge for vault gold in Rio. He placed first on floor and vault at the Romanian Championships held July 1-3 in Cluj-Napoca.

“Nothing will stop me from getting to Rio and doing my best,” he told IG. “I need to shine at that very moment. I need to be close to perfection!”

Read “Golden Quest,” an interview with Dragulescu, in the January/February 2016 issue of International Gymnast magazine; and “Here and Now,” a cover story/interview on Dragulescu, in the May 2001 issue. To order back issues or subscribe, click here.

Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 06 July 2016 07:28    PDF Print
Ponor to Carry Romanian Flag in Rio Opening Ceremonies
(10 votes, average 4.40 out of 5)

Three-time Olympic champion Cătălina Ponor will carry the flag for the Romanian delegation at the Opening Ceremonies at the 2016 Olympic Games, it was announced Wednesday.

Cătălina Ponor (Romania) at the 2016 European Championships

The Romanian Olympic Committee's Executive Committee voted for Ponor over fellow gymnast Marian Drăgulescu, tennis player Simona Halep, handballer Cristina Neagu and sport shooter Alin Moldoveanu.

"Given that Cătălina Ponor was the proposal of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, she has been voted as the flagbearer for Romania," said Alin Petrache, president of the Romanian Olympic Committee. "Cătălina Ponor is a great gymnast and the athlete with the most Olympic medals of this delegation."

At last weekend's Romanian championships in Cluj, Ponor won balance beam and floor exercise. Two-time world all-around medalist Larisa Iordache won the all-around title, but is not yet 100 percent after undergoing two hand surgeries this spring. She withdrew from the floor exercise finals in Cluj because of back pain.

The Romanian Gymnastics Federation has yet to formally announce whether it will be Ponor or Iordache who will compete in Rio as the sole representative for the Romanian women, but previously stated the selection will come after two more competitions in the coming weeks.

Ponor won three gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games (team, balance beam and floor exercise), and two medals in 2012 (bronze with the team and silver on floor exercise). She was the only medalist for the Romanian women at the recent senior European championships, winning bronze medals on balance beam and floor exercise.

Ponor, who turns 29 on August 20, will be the first gymnast to carry the flag for Romania at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

Decimated by injuries and retirements, the Romanian women failed to qualify a full team to the 2016 Olympic Games for the first time since 1968. The team won a medal in every Olympic Games from 1976 to 2012, a streak unmatched by any other team in gymnastics.

Update: Following the announcement by the Romanian Olympic Committee, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation confirmed that Ponor has been chosen to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games. However, the Romanian Olympic Committee agreed to also send Iordache to Rio with her coach, in an alternate capacity. The federation released the following statement:

"After recent training and developments at the national championships, it was observed that the gymnast Cătălina Ponor is more advanced than Larisa Iordache as far as preparation, which is why the Romanian Gymnastics Federation agreed with the decision (by the Romanian Olympic Committee in favor of Ponor), and the ruling was discussed and accepted by the two gymnasts. However, to avoid any unforeseen situation, it was decided that Larisa Iordache should also make the trip to Rio, along with a coach, and the Olympic committee supported this idea."

External Link: Romanian Gymnastics Federation

Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 04 July 2016 06:02    PDF Print
Coach, Commentator Mitch Fenner Dies at 70
(7 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

British coach and BBC commentator Mitch Fenner, the head coach for the Dutch men's team, died Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer. Pictured: Fenner at the 2013 European Championships in Moscow

British coach and BBC commentator Mitch Fenner, the head coach for the Dutch men's team, died Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 70.

"It is a black day for gymnastics in the Netherlands, Great Britain and beyond," said Hans Gootjes, technical director of the Dutch federation.

Born Michael Anthony Fenner on March 25, 1946, he grew up in Falmouth, Cornwall, and studied at Cardiff College of Education in Wales. He founded the Bush Harlow Gym Club in Essex and was a top coach in Great Britain in the 1970s and early 1980s. His pupils included 1976 Olympian Jeff Davis and 1980 and 1984 Olympian Barry Winch. For many years he was a senior lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Fenner was a long-time, beloved gymnastics commentator for the BBC, becoming the "Voice of Gymnastics" for a generation. He joined the BBC in 1979 and commentated on every Olympic Games from 1984 to 2012. He also spent many years with the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to provide commentary for its global feed. With his warm Cornish lilt and infectious enthusiasm, Fenner's was a familiar voice beloved by gymnastics fans and experts alike.

"With the death of coach Mitch Fenner, gymnastics loses an unprecedented inspiration and the BBC a passionate gymnastics commentator," said Dutch commentator Hans van Zetten.

Fenner joined the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Federation as a technical consultant in 2010. In February 2012, he became head coach for the Dutch men's squad. Under Fenner's guidance, Epke Zonderland won Olympic gold on high bar in London, and the Dutch men climbed from 17th at the 2010 World Championships to 11th in 2015. In April, the Dutch men qualified a full team to the Olympic Games for the first time since the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.

Fenner was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2014. His illness left him unable to travel to Rio de Janeiro this April, when the Dutch team realized his dream of Olympic qualification.

"Gymnastics has always been an individual sport in the Netherlands, but Fenner believed in the team," said Dutch reporter Edwin Cornelissen. "He put an end to the rivalry between Heerenveen and Den Bosch and ensured that the gymnasts came to believe in the team's performance. He was a real motivator."

Tributes poured in online following news of Fenner's death.

"Last night came the sudden and sad news that our national coach Mitch has died. What a loss," Zonderland tweeted Monday.

Tweeted British Olympic medalist Louis Smith, "Truly saddened to hear of Mitch Fenner passing. I grew up hearing his commentary in gymnastics. He was such a good friend. I will miss you."

Retired Welsh shot putter Shaun Pickering, a 1996 British Olympian, posted a tribute to Fenner on Facebook. He shared a photo of his late father, athletics coach and BBC Sports commentator Ron Pickering, together with Fenner in the commentary box at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

"I found out about his passing on the Dutch sports news tonight as I am in Amsterdam for the European Athletics Championships," wrote Pickering, now the heavy throws coach for UK Athletics. "Such is a measure of the man and the respect he has here in the Netherlands, that his death was the lead story on the NOS Sports News, ahead of Dutchman [Max] Verstappen's 2nd place finish in the F1 GP, the European Football Championships and the Tour de France. He will be missed."

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, said: "For many years Mitch has used his first-hand experience of working within the sport to provide our viewers with an expertise and detailed insight that was second to none. He will be missed by all of us at BBC Sport and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time."

Written by John Crumlish    Tuesday, 28 June 2016 07:26    PDF Print
Melnikova: Confidence and Stability Will Be Key In Rio
(9 votes, average 3.11 out of 5)

As Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova readies for her 16th birthday next month and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, she told IG she is confident that Russia can challenge for a team medal in Rio.

Melnikova, the reigning Russian national all-around champion, notched the highest all-around total among gymnasts who competed on all four apparatuses at the European Championships in Bern earlier this month. No all-around final took place in Bern, where Melnikova helped Russia win gold in the team final and placed fifth on balance beam.

A first year senior, Melnikova was too young to compete at last fall’s World Championships in Glasgow, where Russia finished fourth. She thinks Russia has the potential for a podium finish in Rio, however.

“I think our team will try to perform with dignity and will fight for an Olympic medal,” she told IG. “We will need confidence and stability."

Read "Heaven Sent," a profile on Melnikova, in the June 2016 issue of International Gymnast magazine. The issue also features coverage of the women's and men's European Championships. To subscribe, click here.


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