The C Score (2.0)

Archive for the ‘Gymnastics politics’ Category

Today, Globoesporte published an article about how Oleg Ostapenko is returning to the Ukraine, leaving Irina Ilyashenko in charge of the burgeoning dynasty they created together.

Oleg Ostapenko working with Daiane dos Santos

Oleg Ostapenko working with Daiane dos Santos

In fact, according to this press release, Ostapenko has accepted an offer to be the new junior women’s coach for Russia — this despite the fact that earlier reports had him turning down an offer from the Russian Gymnastics Federation. (Edit: IG has a short story in English.)

This new move has Ostapenko working alongside Alexander Alexandrov, the new Russian women’s head coach, who is himself returning to Russia after fifteen years in the United States.

Everyone was psyched when Ostapenko announced he was returning to the Ukraine. At the time, Igor Korobshinsky, the head men’s coach, said that Ostapenko’s decision was the beginning of the return of all of Ukraine’s best athletes.

This is a huge coup for the Russians. This is a guy who coached Viktoria Karpenko, Natalia Kalinina, Tatiana Lysenko, even Lilia Podkopaeva.

On the other hand, disaster strikes for the Ukraine. The Russians start their training camp on January 8th, and I can’t imagine the Ukrainians would be too far behind. That gives them less than a month to find a replacement for Ostapenko.

In the longer-term, after their disappointing performance at the Olympics, the Ukrainians were really looking to find a new way. I’m hoping it will still happen, because I do love them. But they need a strong coach and, more importantly, a good advocate for better training conditions and equipment. Otherwise, could Ukraine wind up going the way of other Soviet states and satellites, like Belarus and Hungary, that have seen their stock fall dramatically in the past 20 years?

This will be brief brief brief because I have to study biochemistry (which is clearly going very well).

On December 1st, the Times published an article citing evidence that gymnasts suffer “a broad constellation of injuries” to joints causing inflamed cartilage and stress fractures, things that could lead even to necrosis.

Anyway, some doctors wrote in from the National Osteoporosis Society to report on their own study, which shows that girls 8-17 engaged in “high intensity gymnastic training” had bone densities 13-28 percent higher than matched controls. They also didn’t find evidence of stunted growth or that gymnasts were not receiving adequate nutrition.

Overtraining is a real risk in gymnastics because of the early start age. You don’t see many football players being home-schooled. But honestly, I haven’t read the American study, and media reports about studies tend to be misleading at best. In either case, I think it’s telling that they then go on to say that “Previous studies have suggested that the rate of injury in gymnastics is almost as severe as that in contact sports.” Almost as severe? Sounds to me like gymnastics is still better!

On the other hand, one should also be skeptical of the other study (and of any study that one hasn’t read — someone recently found that some massive percentage of medical studies were misreported in the media). Naturally, the “stunted growth” question is a sticking point in the gymnastics community — it’s the classic chicken-or-egg question: which came first, gymnastics, or short height? But there is conclusive evidence that high-level sports delay puberty, and I think that suggesting that elite-level gymnastics has no effect on development is laughable.

And finally a place to sneak in this tidbit: while Chellsie Memmel has been on her fruit-and-chicken diet, what has Beth Tweddle been eating? According to this article, lunch might be lasagna, spaghetti bolognese or sweet-and-sour chicken. Dinner could be soup-and-sandwich or a “chicken and bacon salad.” It’s never been clear to me that the level of intensity and craziness of American gymnastics has reached across the pond, and on that note, who were the subjects of the NOS study? It’s not clear that British gymnasts have been subjected to the same harsh diets we see in some American gyms, and certainly former Soviet gyms, so it’s not clear to me how translatable the findings might be. Certainly it’s interesting that the positive findings come out of Britain while the negative ones come out of the the United States.

As has been recently noted on a few message boards, the USAG Junior Olympic Committee recently revised the 2009-2013 Junior Olympic Code of Points (see preview of changes here) to reflect the fact that the FIG has recently changed the dance passage requirement on floor in the new CoP from 3 back to 2.

Which leads us to the obvious question: why is the FIG still making changes to the 2009 CoP when 2009 is exactly 22 days away?

Now, given the posting by USAG, it seems that the FIG has in fact made this change, although that is not reflected in the most recent edition of the 2009 CoP available for download from the FIG Web site. (That link may or may not work. It’s temperamental.)

But the real question floating around message boards is whether the FIG has decided to scrap the new eight-element requirement on bars, beam and floor to return to the 10-element requirement of the previous quad. A lot of gymnastics fans heralded this as an attempt by the FIG to reemphasize good choreography and dance. But rumor has it that because MAG didn’t want to change from 10 to 8, the FIG may have decided to keep WAG at 10 for consistency’s sake.

The first passage at hand concerns an A-panel (now D-panel) requirement on floor exercise. In the previous CoP, a dance passage was required that featured “at least two different elements one of them with 180° cross split position. The leaps or hops had to be connected directly or indirectly, without jumps or turns because these are considered stationary. The other requirement was that the first leap or hop had to land on one foot.

In the most recent CoP, the dance passage requirement is worded the same but requires “a dance passage of at least 3 different elements …” (emphasis mine). Now, both the first and second elements must land on one foot. The only other difference is that there is now .5 points specifically awarded for this element as part of the “Composition Requirements” (formerly “Element Group Requirements.”

However, if the J.O. CoP is to be trusted (note that the wording is very similar to the FIG wording), the FIG has reverted to “A dance passage of at least two (2) different leaps or hops.”

Both this and the 8 element requirement were theoretically attempts to incentivize an emphasis on good dance. Is the FIG reneging on its word?

The truth is, I care much less about that than I do about the fact that there is no official CoP despite the fact that January is just around the corner! I know running a World Cup Final is hard and all, or whatever, but come on. I assume coaches and federations have better updates than the rest of us, and it goes without saying that brevet judges definitely do, but still. But inquiring minds want to know!

USA Gymnastics has announced the election of Peter Vidmar as the chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, which as decreased in size from 48 to 20. (FYI, USAG, 20 people is still a lot of people to be running anything. It’s why most countries have one-member executives. Anyway.)

Peter Vidmar, new chairman of USAG

Peter Vidmar, new chairman of USAG

I find it a little diasappointing that USAG has chosen another man to replace outgoing chair Ron Froehlich. Generally speaking I’m pretty neutral on the normative superiority of female political representation, but it’d be nice to have someone who comes out of WAG instead of MAG. That is, if it were a WAG coach that would be fine too.

There are also now three new “public-sector members”: Mary Lou Retton, Bitsy Kelly and Jim Morris, who join Frank Marshall. The rest of the board consists of athlete and discipline representatives and some officers.

Who is Bitsy Kelly, you ask? Well, she is the president of both Outrigger Activities and Bitsy Kelley Outdoors, a multi media company. Frank Marshall is the founder of Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg; he’s a movie producer. And Jim Morris is the president of the Pacers.

Peter Vidmar, of course, was a member of the 1984 gold medal-winning Olympic Team, and is also a Famous Mormon. Do you have to wear the underwear while you do gymnastics?

Anyway.

USA Gymnastics Board of Directors

Chairman: Peter Vidmar, Coto De Caza, Calif.
Vice chairman: Paul Parilla, Lake Forest, Calif. (non voting position)
Secretary: Gary Anderson, Hillsboro Beach, Fla. (non-voting position)
Treasurer: Jim Morris, Indianapolis, Ind.

National Membership Directors

Tom Koll, Omaha, Neb., women
Steve Rybacki, Covina, Calif., women
Yoichi Tomita, Tucson, Ariz., men
Russ Fystrom, Minneapolis, Minn., men
Dr. George Drew, Three Rivers, Mich., trampoline and tumbling
Tonya Case, Yucaipa, Calif., acrobatic gymnastics
Brooke Bushnell Toohey, Lake Placid, N.Y., rhythmic gymnastics

Advisory Council Directors

Mike Burns, Minneapolis, Minn.
Ron Ferris, Austintown, Ohio
Mike Lorenzen, Mountain View, Calif.

Athlete Directors

Karl Heger, Rockford, Ill., trampoline and tumbling
Jessica Howard, New York, N.Y., rhythmic gymnastics
Michael Rodrigues, Livermore, Calif., acrobatic gymnastics
John Roethlisberger, Knoxville, Tenn., men
Kim Zmeskal, Lewisville, Texas, women

Public Sector Directors

Bitsy Kelley, Outrigger Activities/Bitsy Kelley Outdoors, Portland, Ore.
Frank Marshall, entertainment producer, Santa Monica, Calif.
Jim Morris, Pacers Sports and Entertainment, Indianapolis, Ind.
Mary Lou Retton, former Olympic champion and motivational speaker, Houston

Amidst the turmoil of a major gymnastics coaching scandal, the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation has made a largely lateral move in electing Maria Luciene Resende as its new president. Resende replaces Vicelia Florenzano, who has been president of the CBG for 17 years. The news is announced here by Globoesporte

Vicelia Florenzano, right, with Simona Amanar and Yelena Davydova, at the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, where she received the International Order of Merit in 2007

Vicelia Florenzano, right, with Simona Amanar and Yelena Davydova, at the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, where she received the International Order of Merit in 2007

Resende was previously the president of the Sergipe Gymnastics Federation and has served as Florezano’s second-in-command as vice-president of the CBG since 2006. To be fair, the other choice, Marco Martins, is the current president of the Brasilia Gymnastics Federation (of the capital city of Brasilia, not to be confused with the CBG) and was vice-president of the CBG until Resende took over, so neither choice would have been radical.

Resende won by 13 votes to 5. This might not be surprising given that Martins was the previous vice-president of the CBG, leaving in 2006 due to differences of opinion, presumably at least partly with Florenzano.

Naturally, the main goal for Resende will be to “clean up” the image of the CBG following Jade Barbosa’s accusations that she had been submitted to an overly difficult training regimen (amongst other things), an accusation that was backed up by Daiane dos Santos and Lais Souza. Barbosa has since moved from Curitiba, site of the national training center, to train with Daniele Hypolito, amongst others, in Rio de Janeiro.

Resende has said that dialog is the best soution to the problem. On the other hand, Resende is up for leaving Irina Ilyashenko, Oleg Ostapenko’s former assistant coach, in charge of the national team. (Ostapenko returned last month to the Ukraine after declining an offer from Russia.) She also was less eager than Martins to devolve power to the regional clubs. Like Martins, she has also been quite praising of Florenzano, which would have made sense earlier — given that it was under Florenzano’s leadership that Brazil took its current place on the gymnastics map — but seems somewhat discouraging given recent events. Usually one tries to distance oneself from incumbents that have presided over scandal. Then again, if gymnastics politics can be described as anything, it would be as a patronage system.

If you want to compare the views of the two candidates, you can do so here, from UOL Esporte. Martins has been much more detailed in his proposals, with Resende’s limited to finding new talent, choosing good gymnasts, and having good coaches and referees (um, duh?).

Either way, it seems we’ll have to wait to see what changes Resende will bring, since she was even less forthcoming than Martins about how she would like to restructure the CBG and the training program.

For those who are still sketchy on the details of the Brazilian coaching scandal, it goes like this: Barbosa accused her coaches of overtraining her in preparation for the Olympics. These allegations were substantiated by dos Santos and Souza. Meanwhile, Ostapenko took off for Ukraine, leading somewhat of a leadership void — at least in the gym — anyway. Then Barbosa moved to Rio de Janeiro. Barbosa, dos Santos and Souza are are all injured. The only one who seems to have escaped both scandal and injury is Hypolito, who will compete at the World Cup Final next week. For the full drama, see And Now a Brazilian Scandal and The Brazilian Scandal: Part II on Triple Full.

A new article from Pro Sport announces more bad news (and brief good news) for Russian gymnastics.

Alexander Kiryashov has said that Liudmila Grebenkova-Ezhova will not compete in the World Cup Final in Madrid in December. Why? Ironically, a knee injury.

Liudmila Grebenkova

Liudmila Grebenkova at the 2008 Olympics

Grebenkova was qualified in 13th place on beam. This leaves the Russians with few people for the WCF — Anna Pavlova (qualified on beam and vault) is out with torn knee ligaments suffered at the DTB Cup earlier this month; and Ksenia Semenova (qualified on bars and beam) has an elbow injury. Elena Zamolodchikova (qualified on vault and floor) is back — she was at the DTB Cup — but not performing at the highest level.

Enter Yulia Lozhecko.

Yulia Lozhecko at last year's World Championships

Yulia Lozhecko at last year's World Championships

According to this same article, Lozhecko has experienced “psychological problems” after not being selected for the Olympic team. But things are going better, according to Kiryashov. She has been training again at Round Lake since November 6th and her chances of attending the WCF are “more realistic” now that Grebenkova cannot attend.

The whole thing is a little ironic given that Lozhecko is actually ranked 12th to Grebenkova’s 13th on beam, but so national gymnastics politics goes. I’d be very happy to see Lozhecko at this year’s WCF, and given her 12th-place ranking, she should have no trouble qualifying. (Pavlova, ranked above her, is out. Nistor is retired, Liukin and Johnson will undoubtedly not attend, etc.)

For the record, Semenova is ranked 23rd on beam, with Ksenia Afanasyeva 26th. Other than Zamolodchikova and Pavlova, the Russians have no one in the top thirty on vault. Irina Isayeva is the only Russian other than Semenova who is in the top thirty on bars. Zamolodchikova is ranked 14th on floor, with Ekaterina Kramarenko tied for 29th.

According to this article in Globoesporte, Jade Barbosa is happily training in Rio de Janeiro after leaving what she claims was an abusive atmosphere in Curitiba. She was also recently told by doctors that her wrist has good chances for recovery.

She says:

Technically, it is not different from Curitiba, but I am closer to my family and friends, and that makes all the difference.

Sounds like she really has quite the life now, hanging out with the Hypolito siblings, going to the spa, going shopping.

Daniele Hypolito and Jade Barbosa

Daniele Hypolito and Jade Barbosa

I’m happy to hear it. I really like Barbosa, and I’d be very happy to see her back competing soon.

I haven’t really done justice to the Brazilian scandal, but Triple Full has some great stuff on it. Read it here.