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Stretching Out
Stretching Out

Written by Dwight Normile    Sunday, 11 October 2009 14:44    PDF Print
10 Things I Am Looking Forward to in London
(8 votes, average 3.25 out of 5)

IG Editor Dwight Normile kicks off his blog from the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships, which begin Tuesday in London.

1. Beth Tweddle: I am curious to see what type of response she will receive from a partisan crowd, and whether she will be affected by the IG cover jinx. Can Beth Tweddle win twice? I think she can.

2. Fabian Hambüchen: After injuring his foot in podium training, can the nicest guy on the planet win his first world all-around title? If he's a go, I'll have to give him the edge over favorite Kohei Uchimura in the experience department. (Update: Just learned Hambüchen ruptured ligaments in his ankle and is out of the meet. He reportedly will not need surgery.)

3. Uchimura: How will this 20 year old from Japan, a country deep in gymnastics tradition, handle the pressure and expectations?

4. Russia: I am interested to see how the rebuilding program is coming along, although I believe some of its top talent is still too young to compete in London. Still, the two Ksenias, Semyonova and Afanasyeva, have style to spare, but will it translate into gold?

5. Bridget Sloan: The Sloan I saw in Dallas looked much more confident and polished than what I remembered from 2008. London should be an excellent test to see what she has as a team leader instead of a role player.

6. Rebecca Bross: Aggressive and talented, Bross might have more difficulty to play with than Sloan, but she came unglued in Dallas. However, coach Valeri Liukin knows how to get the most out of his gymnasts.

7. The British Men: Louis Smith and Daniel Keatings are gymnastics stars in Great Britain, and each is in position for success at the O2 arena.

8. The American Men: Jonathan Horton seems to have found a comfort level in competing in big meets, so there is nothing holding him back right now, other than relatively weak pommel horse. I also can't wait to see the crowd react to Danell Leyva on high bar, and in particular, to his stepfather-coach, Yin Alvarez, who is just as entertaining on the sidelines.

9. China: The Chinese set a high standard last year in Beijing in terms of medals won. What can they do for an encore?

10: Fish and chips.

Gotta go. Plane about to leave from Houston to London. Until next time...

 
Written by Dwight Normile    Saturday, 15 August 2009 20:56    PDF Print
Sloan Surges to First Senior U.S. Title
(21 votes, average 4.33 out of 5)

IG Editor Dwight Normile blogs from the 2009 Visa (U.S.) Gymnastics Championships in Dallas, where the women's competition continued Saturday.

DALLAS — Bridget Sloan came from behind in the third rotation tonight to take a healthy lead at the U.S. Championships. One event later, she secured her first national all-around title with a powerful double-twisting Yurchenko.

The 17 year old opened her night with a 14.900 on bars (toe-on piked Tkatchev) and corrected the beam error from Thursday (tour jete-half), even if she failed to connect some of her combinations. For it was on floor where she showed her mastery of the sport, which is unmatched right now in the U.S.


2009 U.S. champion Bridget Sloan (Sharp's)

Coached by Marvin Sharp, Sloan displayed amplitude and excellent form throughout, and her floor routine was a definite meet highlight. She opened with a 1-1/2 twist through to triple twist, followed with a lofty piked full-in, and later tumbled an ambitious front handspring-randi. For an exclamation point, she stuck her double pike dismount to overtake Ivana Hong by .550 at that point.

Only vault remained for the top three all-arounders. First-day leader Rebecca Bross sat in third, having coming unglued on her first event, bars (one hand peeled off on a Jaeger, which led to an extra swing, and she slipped off altogether on her Pak), while Hong was having another solid night.

Hong, 16, stuck her Yurchenko-double twist to make Sloan earn her first national title, which she did easily with the same vault. Bross also did a Yurchenko-double twist and finished third, although she was less than a point behind the winner.

Final tally of the medalists: Sloan 117.550; Hong 117.250; Bross 116.600.

Well below the top three in fourth was Kytra Hunter (Hill's) with 113.750, but she showed considerable promise on floor (double layout, piked Arabian double, tucked Arabian double) and vault (Yurchenko-double twist). MacKenzie Caquatto was fifth with 111.950.

Olympians Nastia Liukin and Chellsie Memmel each performed only on balance beam, but both improved their efforts slightly from two nights ago. Liukin placed fourth on the apparatus. Their Beijing teammate Samantha Peszek looked solid on beam with a 15.100 (standing full, pike back), but her floor is still a bit watered down and she did not vault tonight.

Kayla Williams (Gym Nest) was the only gymnast to do two vaults (stuck Yurchenko-double twist, handspring-front half) and her floor tumbling was incredible: double layout, 1-1/2 through to double pike, triple twist, piked full-in). She finished seventh all-around, behind the athletic Jana Bieger, who improved much of her work from Thursday.

The championships were just the first in a three-step process for selection to the World Championships team, which will be finalized on Oct. 4.

Qualifying to the senior national team (top 10 all-around): Sloan, Hong, Bross, Hunter, Caquatto, Bieger, Williams, Cassandra Whitcomb, Alaina Johnson and Kaitlyn Clark. Plus: Liukin, Peszek, Memmel, Samantha Shapiro, Mattie Larson and Olivia Courtney.

Notes...

  • Nastia Liukin performed several combinations on uneven bars in the general warm-up, with her father-coach, Valeri Liukin, spotting attentively on most every skill. She did not compete bars, however.
  • Ivana Hong looked solid on bars, but it's a shame the German giants she used to perform aren't worth more in the Code. They really grab a crowd.
  • Georgia Dabritz (Ace) looks a lot like Daria Joura of Australia, and both perform a Comaneci on bars.

External Link: USA Gymnastics

 
Written by Dwight Normile    Saturday, 15 August 2009 14:42    PDF Print
Ross Stays on Top, Claims U.S. Junior Title
(5 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

IG Editor Dwight Normile blogs from the 2009 Visa (U.S.) Gymnastics Championships in Dallas, where the women's competition continued Saturday.

DALLAS — The women's junior competition concluded Saturday afternoon, with scores being added to Wednesday's competition to determine the winner.

And at this level, hitting all eight routines goes a long way. It just didn't happen for many in the final. First-day leader Kyla Ross fell from her first event, uneven bars, on a shoot-half to the low bar, but the 12-year-old from Aliso Viejo, Calif., managed to stay near the top after she hit balance beam.


Kyla Ross (GymMax)

Bridgette Caquatto, who placed 21st a year ago, took the lead after nailing floor (clean piked full-in) and vault (double-twisting Yurchenko). Then she threw the best bars routine of the meet (Stalder-Tkatchev, toe-on-Tkatchev; blind-Endo-pirouette Tkatchev; full-twisting double layout) with clean form and excellent technique.

With a 1.0 lead on Alexandra Raisman (Brestyan's) after the third rotation, Caquatto needed a hit beam set to claim the title. As first up on that precrarious event in the final rotation, Caquatto, who is coached by Chinese Olympians Li Yuejiu and Wu Jiani at Naperville Gymnastics, Caquatto looked to be in control throughout (front, flip-flop layout; back pike) but her roundoff double pike dismount traveled fairly far from the beam and she sat down. The door was open for Raisman or Ross, in second and third prior to the final event, to claim the title.

After hitting all of her tumbling on floor (Arabian double front; tucked full-in; 1-1/2 twist through to double twist; double tuck), Ross nailed a double-twisting Yurchenko to surpass Caquatto, 114.00-113.450. Then she was forced to await her fate until Raisman competed on floor.

With the scoring potential on floor much lower than vault, Raisman faced a tough challenge to overtake Ross. Her opening pass of 1-1/2 through to Arabian double front was superb, but she over-rotated her next run, a triple twist, so badly that she fell flat on her back. She finished strong, however, and finished in the medals in third.

Notes...

  • McKayla Maroney (Gym Max) hit her Amanar this time and scored 15.400.
  • Tiny Elizabeth LeDuc (Woodlands) performed her entire floor routine with a big smile.
  • Defending champion Jordyn Wieber (Geddert's Twistars) did not compete because of a sore hamstring, and her teammate Kamerin Moore (Geddert's) is out because of a torn labrum.

External Link: USA Gymnastics

 
Written by Dwight Normile    Friday, 14 August 2009 22:29    PDF Print
Horton Wins U.S. Championships
(8 votes, average 4.50 out of 5)

IG Editor Dwight Normile blogs from the 2009 Visa (U.S.) Gymnastics Championships in Dallas, where Jonathan Horton won his first national all-around title Friday.

DALLAS — On a night when the race to 2012 began for the U.S. men's program, Jonathan Horton earned his first senior national title and blitzed the field.

The recently married Houston resident started the meet by matching his 15.80 on rings from Thursday, and then proceeded to pad his lead with each rotation. He nearly stuck his handspring-double front for a 16.30, but the scores would be irrelevant for Horton tonight, who continued to rock each event. By the time he reached his final event, pommels, he had nearly a 5.0 lead over Tim McNeill. So when Horton fell before his dismount, he let out a wry smile. His weak event had got him, a glitch he will surely work on between now and the world championships in October. Still, his winning 181.900 was untouchable.


2009 U.S. champion Jonathan Horton

"As the meet went on I got more and more tired," said Horton, who promised he would be in top shape to challenge for a world all-around medal in nine weeks. "I'm really happy with where I am right now."

As good as Horton was, defending champion David Sender wasn't. In what was likely his final meet, Sender landed his Yurchenko-double pike on hands and feet and the collapse was on. He missed his free hip mount on p-bars, his layout Tkatchev on high bar, a punch front on floor and his pommel horse dismount. He closed his career with a hit set on rings and showed a relieved smile that a frustrating night — and perhaps his gymnastics career — was finally over.

"I was dealing with a lot of stuff today," said Sender, who had pulled his hamstring on Wednesday. "I had a sudden realization that this was the last time I was (competing), and it kind of distracted me."

Despite his 10th-place finish, Sender easily made the national team, from which he must officially resign if he indeed has retired. Afterward, however, he said he will still think about retaining that status as he begins veterinary school at the University of Illinois in September.

McNeill took advantage of the opening near the top by grabbing second with a 178.500 total, including a 90.00 tonight.

"I went in with the attitude that I was capable of finishing in the top three or even winning," said McNeill, who gives the U.S. a strong parallel bars and pommel horse worker. "So I had that in mind all through training and in preparation for this. That was always the hope, and I'm just thrilled that it happened."

Wes Haagensen, who moved to the USOTC after finishing at Illinois, placed third by going 10-for-12.

Named to the national team based on a points system: Horton (111), Danell Leyva (66), McNeill (64), Kyle Bunthuwong (60), Sender (55), Joseph Hagerty (53), Haagensen (51), Steven Legendre (50), Glen Ishino (38) and Tim Gentry (37). Five more gymnasts will be added to the team.

Cool Skills...

  • Sender (ShoNakamori.com): landed his Yurchenko-double pike with hands down and did not do a second vault this time. In the press conference on Thursday, he said it really hurts to land that vault low.
  • Gentry (Stanford): handspring-piked double front — for a fifth pass (out of six)
  • Brandon Wynn (Ohio State): running front-full, double front
  • Jake Dalton (Gym Nevada): Kasamatsu-double twist (Lopez)
  • John Orozco (World Cup): on p-bars, front 1-1/4 to front uprise reverse cut; tucked full-out

Notes...

  • Fifteen gymnasts will qualify for the national team: top 10 from an MPC-approved National Team Points System (based on individual event rankings); four will be selected by the Men's Program Committee; and one will be selected by the National Team Coordinator.
  • The crowd was relatively sparse for this meet, which was the most exciting of the week.
  • The men's field featured 38 gymnasts, twice as many as the women's field last night. Who said women's gymnastics was more popular than men's?
  • Sender flashed a big smile when he was introduced to the crowd as representing ShoNakamori.com, in honor of his good friend and former Stanford teammate, who is recovering from a torn ACL.
  • The new women's Code limits gymnasts to four tumbling passes on floor; but the men's Code only applies a time limit. The result? An average of six passes, rushed press handstands and no interesting corner transitions. Men's floor deserves better.
  • Yin Alvarez, the demonstrative coach of the Universal gymnasts, is very hands-on — and lips-on. He kisses his gymnasts on the head before each routine.
  • Legendre (Oklahoma) seems to be a combination of Justin Spring and Dmitry Karbanenko; powerful, quick and a triple off high bar.

External Link: USA Gymnastics

 
Written by Dwight Normile    Thursday, 13 August 2009 16:24    PDF Print
Ross Takes Lead at U.S. Junior Championships
(8 votes, average 4.38 out of 5)

IG Editor Dwight Normile blogs from the 2009 Visa (U.S.) Gymnastics Championships in Dallas, where the women began competition Thursday.

DALLAS — Often one of the most exciting divisions of the Visa (U.S.) Championships, the junior women took the floor Thursday afternoon in their first of two rounds of competition. With defending champion and heavy favorite Jordyn Wieber out with a sore hamstring, the rest of the field is no doubt aware that the title is up for grabs.

The session lacked the depth and polish of previous years, however, but this could be due to the post-Olympic regrouping all countries experience.


Kyla Ross (GymMax)

Standing out for their poise and polish were Amanda Jetter (Cincinnati) and Bridgette Caquatto (Naperville), but both experienced at least one major break. Jetter fell off beam on a standing full but hit her other three routines, and Caquatto slipped out of an Endo on bars, her last event, and dropped off. Prior to the mistake, Caquatto had caught a Stalder-Tkatchev and toe-on-Tkatchev.

The first-round leader was tiny Kyla Ross (Gym Max), who started her day with a clean double-twisting Yurchenko. She threw a Jaeger and double layout at bars and had only one wobble on beam (front tuck). She finished on floor with a tucked Arabian double front and tucked full-in to total 57.850 for the day.

"It's a dream come true to compete in the Visas," said Ross, a 12-year-old from Aliso Viego, Calif. "I've watched it since I was 7."

Ross, who has been coached by Howie Liang and Jenny Zhang for 4-1/2 years, will enter the seventh grade this fall.

Alexandra Raisman of Brestyan's (where Alicia Sacramone trained), finished second with 56.650. After a solid start on floor, she vaulted a double-twisting Yurchenko and stayed on bars despite a loose Gienger. She finished strong on beam, sticking a clean roundoff double pike.

After her bars mistake, Caquatto managed third with 56.350.

The champion — and junior national team — will be decided Saturday afternoon.

Cool Skills...

  • McKayla Maroney (Gym Max): Amanar vault (sat down in meet)
  • Keely McNeer (Elite); Briley Casanova (WOGA): tucked full-out on floor
  • Nicolette McNair (Gym Max): jam, dislocate, inverted giant, Jaeger
  • Gabrielle Douglas (Excalibur): standing full late in her beam routine. Sadly, she landed stiff-legged on her tucked Arabian double front on floor and grabbed her right knee in pain. Her coach carried off the podium. No word yet on the exact injury.

Notes...

  • Sequins are in; not a single leotard without some. The whole arena floor seemed to be sparkling.
  • Tough kid: Lexie Priessman (Cincinnati) caught her Jaeger too close, on the back of her legs and on the top of her wristbands. She did not fall off, but limped away in tears.
  • Ashley Lambert (World Class) used, er, unusual floor music, which sounded tropical at first (bird sounds) and evolved to just plain crazy. It was effective, though, as the entire audience was captivated.
  • Amanda Jetter (Cincinnati) opened floor with a high tucked Arabian double front and preceeded to show some of the best expression on floor exercise
  • Even though the competitive field was not up to par compared with previous years, the coaching ranks included gymnastics legends such as Valeri Liukin (WOGA), Li Yuejiu and wife Wu Jiani (Naperville), Kim Zmeskal (Texas Dreams) and Brandy Johnson (Brandy Johnson's).

Click here for detailed results.

 


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