The C Score (2.0)

Archive for October 2008

In shocking news, Nastia Liukin was named FIG Athlete of the Year. The FIG, with their ever stellar Web presence, has so far only posted a press release, but USA Gymnastics has a little blurb about it too.

Liukin won the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year award earlier this fall. According to this USAG press release, she’s the first U.S. gymnast to do so since Mary Lou Retton, which leaves Carly Patterson the odd woman out. She was also named USOC’s Athlete of the Month in August.

She hasn’t won USAG’s Athlete of the Year award yet, but of course she will. She already won it once, in 2005, and tied with Chellsie Memmel for the award in 2006. Shawn Johnson, naturally, won the award last year.

In an effort to sum up the quad for myself before the next one really gears up, I’m going to do some Top 8 lists about this quad. Below, a list of my favorite floor routines from this quad.

Perhaps on floor more than on any other apparatus, gymnastics fans have wildly different opinions about what constitutes a “good” floor routine. So in an effort at transparency, here are my criteria, presented in more or less the order of importance:

  • Big, powerful tumbling
  • Precision and good form on tumbling and dance elements
  • Personality
  • Choreography that complements appropriate and engaging music
  • Control on tumbling and dance elements
  • Lightness, neither tumbling nor choreography appear labored
  • Constant movement/no unnecessarily lengthy pauses
  • And occasionally, some dramatic back story

Two other caveats:

  • Gymnasts can only appear once on the list
  • The quad (obviously) begins January 2005 and ends December 2008
  • I reserve the right to modify the list and/or add a ninth routine betwee now and December!

II’ll admit immediately that my evaluation of FX routines is subjective. Judging the start value of the routine is a far less interesting debate, obviously. And I’m not using the CoP to make these judgments. I don’t have a huge preference for artistry over other things, and I don’t think that a routine needs to be balletic to be aesthetically pleasing. Some of my favorite routines have music that is not conducive to classical ballet movement, and that’s fine by me. This does not mean that I discount dance, and especially does not mean that I discount dance elements, specifically turns and jumps/leaps/hops. There are some extremely balletic floor routines that I enjoy, but I don’t necessarily prefer them, particularly if the tumbling is mediocre.

So here they are:

9. Ekaterina Kramarenko, 2007 World Championships team final (Stuttgart, GER):

Especially given the vault disaster (in which Kramarenko touched the horse on a false start in her run-up and scored a 0.0000 for the Russian team), I was delighted that Kramarenko competed a great floor routine in these team finals.  In addition to being extremely precise on her tumbling passes here, Kramarenko also has good dance, and — this clinched it — <em>smiles</em>.  I also like her music choice, also Monette Russo’s floor music in 2005.  Nice Tsukahara as the opening pass.  Not the highest difficulty.  A-score: 5.7.  Score: 14.375.

7. Steliana Nistor, 2007 World Championship all-around final (Stuttgart, GER):

Plenty of people will disagree with me on this one, but I generally enjoy Nistor’s floor, and I really loved this routine.  First, the music — “Stairway to Heaven”?!  That is awesome.  Then, there’s the awesome first two passes: her double layout is one of my favorites, and she sticks it cold; then she does a great Tsukahara.  Overall, clean routine.  This routine was also performed last in the AA competition when Nistor needed a 16.225 to beat Shawn Johnson.  She obviously didn’t get that, but she did score high enough to nab the silver over Jade Barbosa.  A-score: 6.0.  Score: 14.975.

5.  Anna Pavlova, 2008 Europeans event final (Clermont-Ferrand, FRA):

As they say, Pavlova is the closest on the Russian team to doing traditional Russian floor, a combination of great dance and tumbling.  Of any competitor, I think she is the one who best combines elegance and precision in both tumbling and dance.  Her main problem is that her difficulty is a little low; otherwise, she would be pretty hard to beat.  In this routine, she nails her mount, a double layout, and comes back with a beautiful whip-to-triple twist.  A-score: 5.9.  Score: 14.875.  Fifth.

5. Cheng Fei, 2006 World Championships event finals (Aarhus, DEN):

Cheng is everything you want on floor: strong tumbling, great dance.  I don’t absolutely love her choreography, but I do enjoy it, and she has everything else.  In this immensely clean routine, she opens with a double double and ends with a piked Tsukahara.  In between, she does a great whip-to-triple twist that is far better than most under-rotated triples we’ve been seeing.  A-score: 6.4  Score: 15.875.  First place.

4. Jiang Yuyuan, 2008 Olympics team final (Beijing, CHN):

One of the most memorable moments of the team final was the absolutely delightful performance by Jiang on floor, when the outcome had pretty much already been decided and the Chinese girls used their floor routines as a sort of victory celebration.  Awesome triple-twist mount followed by a Tsukahara.  Cute choreography with clear Chinese influence (without being too cutesy) and great personality shining through.  And despite the cute, still very elegant.  Seriously, I haven’t seen a gymnast have this much fun on floor in a long time.  A-score: 6.3 (?).  Score: 15.200.

3. Jade Barbosa, 2008 World Cup (Cottbus, GER):

This routine was just the most precise thing ever, which is often (though not always) true of Barbosa’s floor.  I actually think the music suits Barbosa and her tumbling very well.  Precise, clean landings on every pass, including the double-layout mount and piked Tsukahara.  Even considering the amount of double pikes we’ve seen this quad, I think she lands them better than almost anyone.  Almost no form breaks.  And I think the whole choreography, music, tumbling combination has a quite intensity that suits her perfectly.  A-score: 6.0.  Score: 14.625.  Second.

2. Shawn Johnson, 2007 Worlds all-around (Stuttgart, GER):

Plenty of people will disagree on this one as well, but I absolutely loved Johnson’s 2007 routine.   I thought the music and choreography suited her personality and her gymnastics style perfectly.  (I’m among those who don’t understand the 2008 routine.)  Honestly, I think I enjoyed this routine almost every time it was performed, but during the all-around final at Worlds, she was really relaxed and enjoying herself.  She was also more precise on this routine than she was during event finals.  What can I say?  Double double, Tsukahara, good twisting (not always true, sometimes she gets a little knee bendy).  Love it.  A-score: 6.2.  Score: 15.425.  First in all-around, highest FX score.  Also took first in floor EF.

1. Sandra Izbasa, 2008 Olympics event final (Beijing, CHN)

Of course, she’s the Olympic champion on floor, so it’s not shocking that I absolutely adore this floor routine by Izbasa. The music choice is excellent, and I love the choreography. And check out the difficulty: piked Tsukahara, Tsukahara, two-and-a-half twist to full twist, one-and-a-half to one-and-a-half twist, triple twist. Unbelievable. Gorgeous dance, great style, and she looks really into it every time. I had to watch all of her routines a million times to finally settle on her gold-medal winning routine at the Olympics. She stuck her piked Tsukahara and all of her twists cold, it’s unbelievable. A-score: 6.5. Score: 15.650. First.

Here is her (also gold medal-winning) floor in the 2008 European Championships event finals. (I had a hard time deciding between these two anyway!) Score: 15.775.

Octavian Belu and Maria Bitang, the two formidable coaches of the Romanian team through 2005, have apparently gotten married.

Belu and Bitang at the 2004 Olympics

THEN: Belu and Bitang at the 2004 Olympics

I think this is great/hilarious.  It initially came out as a rumor in a tabloid in Romania, but now some legit news sources are covering it, so I think it’s actually true.  See for instance here.

Belu and Bitang with their kids (from previous marriages)

NOW: Belu and Bitang with their kids (from previous marriages)

By the way, don’t their kids look FUN?

We’ve finally heard something from Ivana Hong, one of the alternates for the 2008 Olympic team. She’s been the subject of rumor since she left GAGE, where Al Fong has trained a number of Olympians, including Courtney McCool and Terin Humphrey.

The Hongs spoke with NBC Action News in this article.

It was pretty clear that something or other was wrong with Hong in the months leading up to Trials, both mentally and physically. Fong said:

“It became blatant she flat-out quit. It was almost as we were taken down a deep dark path.”

In fact, according to the Hongs, Fong discouraged Hong from seeking advice about a nagging ankle injury, which was in fact a fracture. Hong continued training anyway. But according to the famous Mrs. Hong, Fong stopped teaching Ivana.

This is quite something. Everyone thought Fong had kind of reformed since the whole two-girls-who-trained-with-him died fiasco.

On the other hand, Mrs. Hong is known for her somewhat heavy-handed relationship with her daughter’s coaches and her gymnastics training, and Ivana is said to be a difficult gymnast to train. So we’re left wondering if this was just a bad match in coaching, gymnastics and parenting styles.

As for GAGE, it’s been having financial troubles — Fong wrote about it on the GAGE Web site earlier this year. They are also looking for at least one coach for their team. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe they’ve redesigned their Web site since I was last there, and it no longer lists their team gymnasts.

The weirdest thing about this article, hoewver, is that there is no mention of where Hong is going next. Rumors have her going to Chow’s in Iowa, AOGC in California … remains to be seen.

Ivana Hong

Ivana Hong

After a short hiatus …

Today: Britain and Italy

Britain

1. Nicole Hibbert

Hibbert has been improving steadily over the past year or so — her first as an international elite, culminating in this year’s first-place finish in both the British Junior Championships (June) and the English Junior Championships (held in early October). At British Championships, she placed first on both vault and beam, and third on floor. Notably, Hibbert scored higher than any other competitor (a la Shawn Johnson in 2006). Competing against seniors, she took fifth in the all-around at this year’s British Teams. Internally, in fact, Hibbert had competed quite well in past years, placing second in 2006 and third in 2007 at British Espoirs (the level below international elite, perhaps equivalent to the American “elite” status, and obviously equivalent to France’s Espoir program), where she also medalled in three EFs. At Junior Europeans, she placed 23rd after a fall on beam, but qualified for the VT and FX finals, placing fourth on VT. Her other international competition has been fairly limited, but she did place first at the 2007 GB vs. Switzerland friendly meet (the British, unsurprisingly, swept the top three spots). She placed fifth two years ago at the GB vs. France friendly meet, and fourth this year after Youna Dufournet (FR), Danusia Francis and Jennifer Pinches (below). Hibbert is an extremely powerful gymnast, and is quite tidy, but needs to do some maturing in terms of performance. One problem is on FX, where she does a double Arabian and a double full-in, with a nice twisting combination pass and good turns, but has terrible choreography. I actually like her on UB, where she does a huge Tkatchev and a Shapashnikova, with a double front dismount (major upgrades since 2007). Actually, it’s not only her dismount that reminds me of Chellsie Memmel on this event — she’s strong and aggressive. On VT she does a 1.5 Yurchenko and a what I believe is a piked Omelianchik. I’m sure she’ll be upgrading to a DTY. BB is maybe Hibbert’s biggest problem area — she totally fell apart on this appartus at Europeans, falling three times. She does a solid set though, including a standing back tuck and a standing back pike, and certainly has proven with her later medals on this apparatus that she is no slouch.

Nicole Hibbert

Nicole Hibbert

2. Jennifer Pinches

Hibbert and Pinches were really close in this ranking, especially given that Pinches outplaced Hibbert at Europeans. On the other hand, Pinches placed only fourth at the most recent British Championships and, curiously, was not present at the English Championships, both of which Hibbert won. Pinches is really an amazing all-around gymnast. She trains with Beth Tweddle at the dominant City of Liverpool club, consistently the first-place finisher at the British Teams championships, after moving from The Academy. Pinches’ biggest international competition by far was at this year’s European Championships, in which she placed a very respectable eighth, though she did not qualify to any event finals. She also placed second in the all-around in a 2012 Olympic hopefuls even in the Czech Republic, and third all-around in a Great Britain vs. France friendly meet after Youna Dufournet (see this post) and Danusia Francis (see below). As an Espoir-level gymnast, Pinches was not as flawless, taking 15th her first year and 9th in her second. That same year, however, she placed first in the UK School Games, a major competition for pre-international elite gymnasts. This lead-up culminated in a first-place finish at the English Championships in 2007. This year at her first appearance at British Championships, she placed fourth, behind both Hibbert (above) and Francis (below). However, she went on to medal in every EF, with gold on UB. It’s not clear why Pinches wasn’t present at English Championships, though I do know that she is currently in training for the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, and was away for part of August in Beijing as part of a delegation of young athletes sent by the British Olympic Committee to observe the Olympians in training (a big endorsement by the BOC). Pinches is known probably best for her floor and beam, although she tends to place quite well on bars too. On beam, she’s a smooth worker, but needs some serious upgrades. She may have a Shawn Johnson-type problem on bars — the inner part of her routine is extremely clean (except a questionable Tkatchev) but with not the highest difficulty, but IIRC, she can do a double-twisting double dismount! Some upgrades, and she would be hugely competitive. On VT, she gets a good block off the horse and some good air time, but needs to upgrade (like almost every other junior). I like her best on FX: she is a precise tumbler, and does a beautiful double Arabian. She’s not at all a bad twister either, and does a nice double twist and a 2 1/2 (I think) in combination. The choreography could stand to be upgraded. I think this girl could be a decent AA threat, though it’s not clear yet whether she’s the one who can take Britain to the next level.

3. Danusia Francis

Francis placed seventeenth in the all-around at Junior Europeans and 2nd at the GB vs. France friendly meet in March, behind only Youna Dufournet. In internal competition, Francis was notably the second-place finisher at British Championships this year, and was the 2007 British Espoir champion. She competed solidly as early as 2006 (at the age of 11), when she was the British Espoir silver medalist and the British Teams champion. Overall, she has been at the top of the British competition in her age group for quite some time — even as far back as 2003, she was the Level 4 Champion. (For American readers, the levels work differently in Britain. Level 4 is the equivalent, skill-wise, of maybe Level 7. Level 3 is higher than Level 4.) I would say that her two best events are floor and bars. On bars, she does a really great Jaeger, and has been known to do a full-twisting double back dismount. She has good amplitude, but some form deductions (particularly leg separations on her shootover). On floor, she’s clearly powerful, and does a good double pike mount and a 2 1/2-twist dismount. Her main problem is the choreography, which is terrible (the music is Flight of the Bumblebee, which could be OK in theory). She’s quite wobbly on beam, although I haven’t seen much of it. On VT, she currently does a decent full-twisting Yurchenko.

Honorable mention

Niamh Rippin also represented the British team at 2008 Junior Europeans, where she placed fifteenth in the all-around (above Francis and Hibbert). For the time being, at least, she is — like the others I have mentioned above — competitive with juniors from big gymnastics teams, and notably the Romanians (of course, as I have mentioned, the Romanian juniors are quite weak overall right now). At this year’s British Championships, Rippin placed third in the junior division, behind Hibbert and Francis and above Pinches, and qualified to all four EFs. Rippin’s best event is floor, and she is also decent on bars, and qualified into finals at British Championships with the highest score on both events (she also took first on floor and third on bars at last year’s British Espoir Nationals). Ironically, she didn’t medal in either event in EFs, but did take the bronze on both vault and beam. On FX, Rippin’s first pass is a double Arabian front, and she does a combination pass of a 1 1/2 to triple twist, which is totally impressive. I absolutely love this girl’s floor. She has good dance, some big tumbling (bigger than any other junior on the British team), and with a current A-score of 5.8 with some upgrading and tidying up, she could really contend on this event. On UB, she does a big Geinger and a nice Pak, though she needs to work on consistency a bit. Rippin has some consistency issues on BB too, but she does currently have an A-score of 6.0. If it weren’t for consistency issues, I would likely have ranked Rippin higher, because I think she is one of the most promising gymnasts coming out of Britain.

The only other British junior I would mention is Jordan Lipton (Rippin’s teammate), the fifth-place finisher at the GB vs. FR friendly and at British Championships this year. She went on to take the bronze on bars in Championships EFs and placed fifth on beam. Lipton was also the 2006 Espoir champion, and is a two-time Scottish champion. She has been on the Scottish senior team (not sure how that works) since the age of ten, when she helped Scotland win gold at the (little-known) Northern European championships. On UB, she does three big releases, a Geinger, a Tkatchev, and a toe-on Tkatchev, and does a full-twisting double front dismount.

The British team

I’m pretty into these girls, and I particularly like the styles of both Pinches and Rippin. I don’t see them contending against the really big names, but then again, many of them currently have AA scores that outshine those of the Romanian juniors (who, Nicolae Forminte has said, are really behind, so perhaps now that they are all moved to Deva, they will catch up). I think that they will compete well against the second-tier gymnastics nations, like the Italians and the French. Note for instance that the British team beat France — by three points — at the most recent GB vs. France friendly match (in which the above girls took individual places 2 through 5). I suspect that they will probably perform considerably better as a team than did the current crop of British seniors.

Italy

1. Paola Galante

Galante has been attracting the attention of international gymnastics observers since the 2008 Junior Europeans, where she placed fifth, and took fifth on bars. She is known for her immense flexibility and her gorgeous turns, and has competed extremely well against current Italian seniors. At 2008 Italian Nationals, in which juniors competed with seniors, Galante took third in the all-around, first on bars, and sixth on floor. She also qualified to event finals third on vault and floor. Internationally, beyond Europeans, she placed third at Jesolo 2008, and took second at the 2007 Lugano Trophy meet behind Ceralesca Patrascu and in front of Youna Dufournet (my choice for top French junior) and 2008 Olympian Gabriela Dragoi of Romania. Perhaps most interestingly, she placed fifth all-around at the May 2008 Friendship International Exchange Competition with the United States, where she beat, among others Corrie Lothrop. She also placed ninth on beam and took third on bars, above Lothrop but also Ivana Hong and Mattie Larson. As I mentioned, Galante’s especially well-known for her turns. She does two Memmel turns on FX, where she is very expressive but needs to seriously upgrade her tumbling. On BB, she does a 1 1/2 leg-up turn, a switch leap to back tuck, and a nice straddle handstand mount with a full turn. Curiously, she actually has significant form problems on leaps, particularly on BB. As far as I know, Galante competes only up to a Yurchenko full in competition, but then she’s not known as a power athlete. Her best event is certainly UB, where she has a 7.1 A score and has some great skills, including a back clear piked circle to a reverse Hecht straddled to hang (F value), and a decent Tkatchev. Unfortunately, her B score does not match up to her difficulty score (which is not uncommon amongst juniors). Galante is very different from Vanessa Ferrari, the 2006 World Champion (not without some controversy), but she may have the chops to be as successful as Ferrari, or even more so. Certainly she’s been attracting a lot of attention for her grace, lines, and flexibility.

Paola Galante

Paola Galante

2. Elisabetta Preziosa

Preziosa also competed at the 2008 Europeans, though she finished only in 19th place and did not qualify to any EFs. She also competed at Jesolo, where she placed third, but besides that does not have much international experience to speak of. She consistently places just behind Galante, including at nationals, where she placed fourth in the all-around and on floor, and first on beam (recall that seniors, including the Italian Olympians, competed). Preziosa is great on BB, where she an extremely light lander and also displays good flexibility. She does a nice switch leap to back tuck, a very pretty scale, and a decent leg-up full turn. She needs to upgrade the dismount, which is currently a double back. Like Galante, she displays good expressiveness and flexibility on FX, where she does a leg-up double turn, and has been known to perform a Memmel turn. She also does a quite nice layout full to front layout. Although she has some serious deductions on UB, she does a good Jaeger and a Pak, and, full twisting double back dismount. (Her A score, however, is only 5.4.) Preziosa is not unlike Galante style-wise, but she needs to boost the A scores. I think she has the best chance on beam, where her A score is currently 6.3.

3. Andrea La Spada

La Spada placed a respectable seventh at Europeans, where she also took fifth on floor, her best event. She also tied Samantha Shapiro to come in fifth at Jesolo. La Spada took second on floor at Nationals, where she only competed in two events (she qualified to beam EFs in sixth). She is very precise on that event, where she does a clean double pike and 3/2 and 5/2 twists. Her combination pass is a front layout to layout front with a full. La Spada definitely needs to upgrade and clean up her UB, though she does a front double pike, which is at least nice for being somewhat rare. La Spada is far more powerful than either of the above two, landing high on her double pike and taking her twists very high. I appreciate that. I haven’t actually see her on BB, but that is supposedly her second-best event.

Honorable mention

Serena Licchetta is a more compact gymnast than Galante and Preziosa, but also has good flexibility (and also does a Memmel turn on floor — it’s apparently a requirement). Licchetta is not up there with these two, however, at least results-wise. Licchetta also competed at Europeans, and placed tenth at Jesolo and sixth at Lugano. At the Friendship Competition in Texas, she placed fourth on FX (thought out of third by over a point). She placed eighth at Nationals. She’s Ferrari-esque on BB — even down to the planche mount — where she does a standing back pike and a 2 1/2 twist dismount, but is sloppy overall. She does a mount to immediate Jaeger on UB, but I’ve seen her fall on it more than once, and she has some pretty major form deductions. She also has form problems on FX, though she is a decent twister. (She has a more peppy style than Galante or Preziosa, with cute if annoying music.)

Finally, a quick mention of Eleonora Rando, who competed on both the European and Jesolo teams. Rando has not been particularly competitive overall (she was tenth at nationals, and placed seventh on floor, her best event). But I actually really like her floor, which is precise, and is the only Italian floor routine among juniors to include two double saltos (piked and tucked). She is also not inflexible, and does both a Memmel turn and a leg-up full turn. She could be a good specialist (though given the size of its team, Italy really needs more all-arounders).

The Italian team

As far as I know, the Italian team currently has seven juniors, most of whom I have mentioned. As a team, they placed fifth at Europeans, and took second at Jesolo. Overall, they compete extremely well against their country’s own seniors. Though the Italian seniors are not the strongest competition, the fact that these juniors compete well against them bodes well. Many of their AA scores wind up in the higher 50s, which is more than can be said for many of the Romanian juniors, for instance. If the Italians can keep improving, I can see them actually being fairly competitive. (They have already been fairly competitive even against the strong USA juniors, particularly for what is not known to be the strongest gymnastics nation.) It’d be nice to see Italy move up a bit more in the team rankings. Galante certainly has the ability to contend for the AA if she continues upgrading and stays healthy. To be continued …

Up next: Australia and Canada

The Chinese national championships just ended, providing us with at least a glimpse into the depths of the Chinese gymnastics program.

Five of the Olympians placed in at least one event, although a number of them did not compete AA but rather focused on specific events. For me, this is the best news because it means Cheng Fei is sticking around, at least for now. If she stayed the whole quad, she could (I think) be the first Chinese woman to attend three Olympic Games. But I think it’s also possible she’s sticking around for a shorter amount of time, perhaps even just until the World Cup Final, at which she has a good shot at winning in two events (VT, where she currently ranks second and FX, where she ranks third). Cheng is the only one of the Chinese team to have a mature gymnastics style (no comment about what that says about age, particularly since Cheng has always had a more mature style …) and even though I like many of the other girls very much, she provides some good balance.

Yang Yilin took the title at this event, and took third on the UB finals. This may be the biggest news from these championships. Without placing in any other EFs, and with a UB routine watered down to a 6.7 A score (from 7.7 at the Olympics), Yang still beat her competition. This definitely bolsters the case of those who think she will be *the* major all-around contender from China, at least for the foreseeable future. (Third place at the Olympics doesn’t hurt either!)

As for other Olympians, Jiang Yuyuan competed only FX, but won there, beating Fei, who took third, and He Ning. He Kexin, unsurprisingly, took first on UB, where He Ning took second. Cheng of course won on VT. Deng Linlin tied for first on BB with two non-Olympians, Xiao Sha and Guo Wei. (Incidentally, Deng only competed this event.) Li Shanshan is conspicuously absent from any top three ranking, though rumor has it that all six Olympians were in attendance …

As for other gymnasts, the medal distribution should remind us that China had some pretty strong back-ups for the Olympics. Second in the AA was He Ning, who also took second on both UB and FX. She has been in the spotlight since 2006 when she took first in Doha and was a member of China’s first team to win gold at Worlds, and was an alternate for Beijing. Xiao Sha, the first Olympic alternate, has made somewhat of a comeback, taking first (in a three-way tie) on BB, as I mentioned. Not sure if she competed other events; she was apparently sick. The third alternate from Beijing, Sui Lu, who took first on BB and FX back in the May national championships, was absent as far as I know.

As for newcomers to the senior scene, a number of them performed quite well. (I have some comments on Chinese juniors in my Up-and-Coming Juniors series.)

The major deal is Chen Chuyan, who beat the better-known Cui Jie for the junior AA title earlier this year, and placed *third* in the AA at this event, though she did not medal in any EFs. This girl is clearly improving exponentially right now. Something to watch. I find her gymnastics a little boring, but certainly strong.

Cui, incidentally, was around, but didn’t break into the top three on any event. She did qualify to FX finals in third though (she has a great floor routine). Guan Wenli, who placed sixth as a junior at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships but then disappeared for much of 2008, is back, qualifying fifth into UB finals.

The last thing that I’ll mention is that the overall scoring was pretty low at this event. Contrast most UB scores in the 15’s to He Kexin’s 17.325 at the nationals in May. This could mean either or both of two things: the girls are coming down from their peaks (which definitely seems to be evidenced by for instance Yang’s UB A score), or that in May the Chinese judges were artificially inflating scores. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I think pretty much everyone at least suspects that national gymnastics federations artifically inflate their national competition scores right before a big international event. It makes sense. Anyway, it’s interesting.

Yang Yilin, He Ning, and newcomer Chen Chuyan

The AA medalists of the Chinese national championships: Yang Yilin, He Ning, and newcomer Chen Chuyan

The final standings:

AA
Yang Yilin
He Ning
Chen Chuyan

VT
Cheng Fei
Deng Shaojie
Shi Xiapeng

UB
He Kexin
He Ning
Yang Yilin

BB
Xiao Sha
Deng Linlin
Guo Wei

FX
Jiang Yuyuan
He Ning
Cheng Fei

A number of last year’s top juniors from Romania were recently promoted to the so-called “Olympic team” at Deva.

The list includes the three girls I included in my choices for top three of Romanian juniors in my Up-and-Coming Juniors series.

Romanian head coach Nicolae Forminte says that their overall scores need to be raised by 5-8 points (they all typically score in the mid-50 range right now).

Gymnasts coming from Cetate Deva include Raluca Haidu, Amelia Racea, Loredana Sabau, Diana Trenca and Claudia Voicu. The only two “outsiders” are Diana Chelaru coming from Onesti, and Ana Porgras from LPS Galati. Racea, who placed fourth at Europeans this year and took the Category II (1993-1995 births) title in Romania last year, is among those who won’t even be eligible for senior competition next year. Trenca was second to Racea in Category II. Chelaru, Porgras and Sabau placed first, second and third at the Category I championships last year. Sabau and Porgras were also both at Europeans, where they placed sixth and ninth, respectively. I don’t know much about Haidu, but she was fifth in Category II last year. Voicu, if I remember correctly, was not at the 2007 AA nationals, but took first on bars and beam and third on vault in the June 2008 event final nationals. She was also 18th in the AA at Europeans last year.

The main problems these gymnasts are having are, unsurprisingly, on bars and vault — bars because they’re Romanian, vault because they’re juniors. I think having them train with more experienced athletes is probably a good move on the part of Forminte, who I’m sure wants a much more solid and deeper team for the next quad.

Some up-and-coming Romanian juniors, pictured with several senior gymnasts and Romanian head of sport and gymnastics legend Octavian Belu

Some up-and-coming Romanian juniors, pictured with several senior gymnasts and Romanian head of sport and gymnastics legend Octavian Belu