The C Score (2.0)

Archive for the ‘Skills’ Category

The WTC has posted a new update to the 2009 Code of Points, which goes into effect officially in nine days, making this tremendous timing for people studying for brevet exams and gymnasts tweaking routines. Anyway.

Some of the changes are ones that were rumored a while ago (including reducing the dance passage on floor from three elements back down to two, sigh). Some others are pretty stunning though.

Potential game-changers:

  • The back double tuck has been upgraded to a D from a C. This is a big deal. The CoP specifies that the dismount is considered the last salto performed that is rated D or above. This means that gymnasts will likely now be performing double tucks as dismounts much more often. The double tuck (or pike, as it is now worth the same as a tuck) will probably be found more often inside routines, especially in combination.
  • The composition requirement for a turn on beam (worth .5) no longer requires the turn to be performed on one foot. This had been rumored. It also means that turns can be performed in handstand or on any other part of the body.

Reversions to previous CoP:

  • Root limitations on bars elements have been deleted. This new rule would have prohibited gymnasts from performing more than two elements from the same “root” skill (e.g. Stadler).
  • The requirement that dance passages on floor consist of three elements has been removed. We’re back down to two.

CV and deduction changes:

  • The formula for direct connection on bars that required that the D skill contain flight for the D+C connection has been changed. Now both the D skill and the C skill can contain flight or a minimum 1/2 turn, allowing for CV for turn combinations. (Note: some people have suggested that this means that suddenly a D+C CV requires flight or turn. In fact, it makes the original requirement easier. The previous edition required the D element to be flight, while the C element could be either. Now, both can be either.)
  • Many deductions added for pre-flight form problems on vault, including a maximum of .5 for bent knees or arms; and for second flight phase problems, including bent knees or arms (also maximum .5).
  • The maximum deduction for a deep squat or body-posture problem on vault has been reduced to .3 (from .5).

Skills removed:

  • Varga dismount on bars, though note that a double back with 1/1 twist (considerd the same skill by the FIG) remains. I think this has to do with the difficulty of performing this skill correctly.
  • Turns with leg at 45 degrees on beam (e.g. 3.203), meaning that if a turn is not performed at horizontal, it is devalued to a turn without leg up (at all)
  • 2/1 turn in scale on floor (leg behind). (My guess is that this is the same reason as for the Varga dismount.) Note, however, that the Ksenias’ 2/1 pirouette with back attitude has recently been added to the CoP.

Difficulty-value changes:

  • 4/1 turn on floor: D to E
  • 2/1 turn with leg in scale (Memmel) on floor: C to D
  • 2/1 turn with leg at horizontal on floor: C to D
  • 2/1 Wolf jump on floor: C to D

Those appear to be the big changes. I’ll update as I go through the document more. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out the July CoP changes, and what they’ll really mean. It’ll be hard to know before they are used in competition.

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This is very cool, and has inspired a new series: Sweet Skills, skills that are not (yet) in the Code of Points!

This is the kind of innovation we are really looking for in this sport. It’s not even a brand new skill, just a twist (ahem) on an old one. But it is cool, and different, and extremely well-performed.

I would much rather see a routine with a lower A-score and some innovative skills than a routine with a high A-score full of Stalder-pirouette combos. Yawn.

It is … a full twisting Shapashnikova.

Word has it that this is a Desert Devil, but no ID yet:

Day 2. Let’s do it. Big surprises on beam, with Lauren Mitchell taking gold. Fei made it two golds on floor after major problems on beam. I managed to get a bit of live-ness from Brazilian TV station BAND, so I saw from Zamolodchikova on on floor: scroll down for my thoughts.

Beam:

In a bit of an upset, Mitchell took the gold on beam in the World Cup Final while the two highest-ranked competitors, Cheng Fei and Sandra Izbasa placed out of the medals.

Lauren Mitchell, Yulia Lozheckho, Li Shanshan

The beam podium: Lauren Mitchell, Yulia Lozheckho, Li Shanshan

Actually, the whole podium is somewhat of a surprise: Yulia Lozhechko was second, and Li Shanshan placed third. Sanne Wevers unfortunately scratched at the last minute with an elbow injury.

Fei, who I totally expected to win, fell off the beam on her sheep jump and put her hands down on her front tuck to finish with a 13.825, placing her sixth. Overall, a wobbly routine, rated “not her best effort” by the live commentators at IG. Isbaza was a different story. Her routine was fine but watered down, with a 5.9 start value (including a 2/1 twist dismount) in a field of 6’s; she finished with a 14.925, which actually placed her fourth. Not bad considering she had the second-lowest start value of any gymnast.

The lowest start value award goes to Dariya Zgoba, who has been dealing with a foot injury — **she apparently had surgery but is still recovering — and started at only a 5.4. To give you a sense, her dismount was a round-off-layout. Sad. On the other hand, despite this, she finished above Cheng — the two falls did her in — and Daniele Hypolito, who also finished poorly in the vault finals. Hypolito had a fall on her mount (a round-off layout). Without this, she would have finished ahead of Cheng and Zgoba. Too bad.

Mitchell had the highest start value (6.6), and a seemingly nice routine, but with a few wobbles. Lozhechko actually had the second highest (6.4), a tenth above Li, which made the difference — their scores were only .5 apart. She apparently almost fell on her standing Arabian, and somehow managed to cowboy a back double tuck, but the rest of her routine appears to have been consistent. Li did her flic-flic-layout-Korbut series and a double pike dismount.

I’m totally distraught that Wevers wasn’t in this final. I really wanted to see her leg-up double turn. It is amazing. Would have been named after her too. On the turn front, though, at least we got Zgoba’s full turn with leg at head, which is awesome. By the way, since I’m using this as an opportunity to consider the level of originality on the apparatus, let’s consider mounts, shall we? Hypolito fell on her round-off-layout, Zgoba did her great planche, and everyone else did a hop up. It’s tragic. While we’re at it, dismounts were 2/1 (Cheng and Izbasa), double backs (Hypolito and Lozheckho) and double pike (Mitchell and Li). Interesting statistics: 7/7 did a switch jump (6/7 did it in combination); 6/7 did a switch leap; 5/7 did a front tuck (Mitchell did hers standing). Only one (Lozheckho), thankfully, did an aerial to scale. Also thankfully, only two did side somis: Lozhechko and Izbasa. Lozheckho was also the only one to do an Arabian. Naturally, there was an epidemic of full turns with leg at horizontal, although Zgoba does her awesome turn with leg at head, and Mitchell did hers with leg in lunge.

Cheng Fei, Jiang Yuyuan, Sandra Izbasa

The floor podium: Cheng Fei, Jiang Yuyuan, Sandra Izbasa

Floor:

Redeeming herself after beam, Fei took first on floor with an excellent, precise routine (15.375), ahead of Jiang Yuyuan (15.225) and Sandra Izbasa (15.000). Fei and Jiang had the best routines of the night: Fei’s was precise and clean, Jiang’s was happy and bouncy, as usual. Izbasa looked tired.

Tragically, Suzanne Harmes injured herself during her routine, twisting her ankle (gruesomely) on a front handspring. She wound up having to end her routine early, and somehow still wound up with a 12.650. Overall, alot of falls on floor. Besides Harmes, Koko Tsurumi fell on her double pike dismount and Elsa Garcia fell on her tucked full-in.

Live-ish commentary:

I actually finally scored a live feed of this final after some trouble with the plug-in. From Zamolodchikova on, I actually saw it with my own eyes. Nice.

Zamolodchikova looked good — and happy! She landed low on her double pike dismount, and stuck her 3/1 (despite crossed legs, which I hate). I had the same reaction to Hypolito: relief. Her routine was very good, she had good presentation and seemed into it, and she stuck her dismount (double pike — what else?).

First thought on Garcia was: I miss her old routine. She has quieter music now; I thought the old music suited her better. She fell to her hands on her full-in, but her mount of an Arabian double-front was good. After what seemed like a really low score for Garcia, the judges were on the phone for a while. At this point, the Brazilian commentators started going on and on about how Hypolito was in third place, as if they were unaware of the reputations of Izbasa, Cheng and Jiang on floor.

Anyway. Izbasa takes the floor. Sadly, she looks really tired. Still a good routine though. Her triple turn was only OK, and she underrotated her 3/1 dismount, but everything else was fine: 15.000. She just didn’t seem to want it as much as …

Fei is precise today. Very nice two first passes: piked full-in, whip-to-triple. You can tell from the first seconds that she is going to take this. And she does: 15.375.

Jiang was great. The presentation was somewhere between the level of TF and AA at the Olympics. Very very nice. Besides landing a bit short on a 5/2 and on a 3/2-3/1, her tumbling was very good. Great ending to the women’s competition. How can you not love her? And she takes silver! 15.225.

Other floor things:

Naomi Ruiz competed as the nominee from the host country, with what IG described as a routine with “no expression,” but she still managed to place fifth (13.900). Zamolodchikova’s 14.075 placed her fourth, nearly a point out of the medals, but ahead of everyone else. That is to say, eveyone else struggled: pretty significantly. Of course, Harmes finished last after ending her routine early. Tsurumi had a disappointing day, falling, as I mentioned, on her double pike dismount. Fortunately she still has that shiny bronze from the bars final.

Best presentation was by Jiang, Cheng and Garcia, at least of the ones I saw. Zamolodchikova looked better than she has. I was disappointed by Izbasa. Hypolito was good, but not great.

Cheng had the highest start-value (6.3), followed by Izbasa and Jiang (6.2). Garcia had the next-highest, 6.1, but still finished 8th after some sloppiness and the fall (which also went out-of-bounds). Everyone else had a 5.7/5.8.

Naturally, we saw a lot of double pikes: seven of them, to be precise, and Harmes didn’t finish her routine, so that could have made it eight. Of these, all were dismounts except Garcia’s. We saw two 5/2-punch front layouts, one of my favorite combination passes (if the layout doesn’t look like the gymnast is about to fall backwards). Lots of full-ins (six of them, to be exact, two of which were piked). Besides Cheng, everyone who did a 3/1, in combination or not, was short. This is a perpetual problem on this skill. Perhaps the best skill of the day was Jiang’s quadruple turn. I liked it.

The IG commentary is here.

Beam:

1. Lauren Mitchell (15.250)
2. Yulia Lozheckho (15.200)
3. Li Shanshan (15.150)
4. Sandra Izbasa (14.925)
5. Dariya Zgoba (14.000)
6. Cheng Fei (13.825)
7. Daniele Hypolito (13.425)

Floor:

1. Cheng Fei (15.375)
2. Jiang Yuyuan (15.225)
3. Sandra Izbasa (15.000)
4. Elena Zamolodchikova (14.075)
5. Naomi Ruiz (13.900)
6. Daniele Hypolito (13.700)
7. Koko Tsurumi (13.575)
8. Elsa Garcia (13.175)
9. Suzanne Harmes (12.650)

MostepanovaFan on youtube has posted a great series of video guides to the 2009 Code of Points for beam and bars. A great visual tool for us all as we wind down our time with the 2005-2008 CoP and move on to the 2009 version. Speculation is that the Australian Youth Olympic Festival may be the first major competition to use the CoP in the new year ….

ETA: MostepanovaFan told me that there will be more videos to come — including some stuff on floor and vault! I’ll add them here when they’re up.

Uneven bars:

Mounts:

Beam:

Mounts:

Acrobatic elements:

Dismounts:

MostepanovaFan also has a series of montages of E+ difficulty skills, which you can find on her youtube page here.

I did not think that it would take me this long to come up with my list of top 8 bar routines of the quad. In fact, I thought it would be significantly easier than floor. But, as it happens, bars were pretty boring to watch this quad. (Though perhaps not as boring as vault.) In sifting through all of these routines, there was just simply no denying the beauty of the Chinese bar workers. They swing bars like no other.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that bar workers can be divided into two types: those who work smoothly and calmly (Nastia Liukin, most Chinese gymnasts); and those who work bars aggressively (I think the epitome of this is Chellsie Memmel or Hong Su Jong, but also Ksenia Semenova, Shawn Johnson, etc.). As it happens, I like both.

First, two eliminating criteria:

  • No feet touching the bar without the hands also on the bar
  • No dead hangs

The first affects gymnasts like Dariya Zgoba. The second affects mainly the smaller Chinese gymnasts (who wound up on the list anyway!).

Here were my criteria, in approximate order of importance:

  • A clear style: either aggressive or smooth
  • Sensation of flying and/or high release skills
  • Innovation or at least creativity in composition
  • Good handstand positions
  • Stuck or nearly stuck landing

Three 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 between now and December!

And here we go:

8. Chellsie Memmel, 2005 Pan American Games, Rio de Janeiro (BRA):

This is the same routine that won Memmel the all-around in Melbourne, but done better. For me (and statistically), 2005 was Memmel’s best year, and it shows on bars. I really like the composition of this routine. Which starts with a clear hip circle to Tkatchev. She does a really great Shapashikova, and in fact all of her transitions are really dynamic. And then of course there is the jam to handstand to double front, her signature dismount. And for once, she sticks the landing. Score: 9.643. Highest score in all-around, first all-around and in event finals.

7. Jiang Yuyuan, 2008 Olympics all-around, Beijing (CHN):

Tim Daggett’s commentary make generally be a combination of the trite, uninteresting and hyperactive use of the word “Wow!”, but I agree with him that Jiang’s routine makes her look like she’s flying — and having a good time doing so. She floats more than pretty much anyone. Like so many of the Chinese, she is an amazing pirouetter, doing more one-arm turns than I can count. Unlike some other pirouettes, moreover, Jiang’s are tightly controlled. And she has two good release skills: a fairly dynamic Tkatchev and a really great Jaeger (that went nearly out of the arena during the 2008 Olympics team finals). And of course the standard double layout dismount. A-score: 7.0. B-score: 15.975.

6. Anastasia Koval, 2008 European Championships qualification, Clermont-Ferrand (FRA):

Koval knows how to hit a handstand. Her work really demonstrates precision, and a rhythm that clearly displays her perfect balance on this event. She does an enormous toe-on Tkatchev, and later a second Tkatchev that is slightly more flat, but still quite well done. She does great Stalder work, has good transitions, and good, controlled (if not special) pirouettes. Dismount is a double front tuck. A-score: 6.9. Score: 15.575. Qualified in third to event finals, placed fifth.

5. Beth Tweddle, 2008 European Championships team final, Clermont-Ferrand (FRA):

Tweddle is not my absolute favorite bar worker, but you’ve got to hand it to her for the difficulty of the individual skills she’s performing. She’s been doing that Markelov to immediate Gienger forever. It’s quite impressive. You’ve also got in this routine her newer Tkatchev with one half to immediate transition to low bar, which just looks amazing when she hits it. Full-in dismount. A-score: 7.0. B-score: 16.075. Second-highest score in team final, later took fourth in event finals.

4. Yang Yilin, 2007 World Championships all-around, Stuttgart (GER):

Yang’s difficulty may have gone up before Beijing, but she was at her cleanest at Worlds the year before. The pirouettes here are stunning and so light. She also does a decent Tkatchev, a huge straddled Jaeger, and a just gorgeous laid-out Jaeger. And she sticks the landing. A-score: 7.0. Score: 15.575. Eight-highest bar score, sixth all-around.

3. Ksenia Semenova, 2008 European Championships team final, Clermont-Ferrand (FRA):

Everyone was stunned when Semenova beat Liukin during the 2007 Worlds on this event, but honestly I love her style and thought she deserved it. And her 2008 routine was even better. We’re talking a Tkatchev to full pirouette, a straddled Jaeger, and a Deltchev. Not to mention the great aggressiveness through the entire routine. If it hadn’t been for the dismount — a piked double Arabian, which I think always looks kind of weird — and Liukin’s grace, Semenova would probably be second. A-score: 7.2. Score: 16.200. Highest score of team final, later took first in event finals.

2. Nastia Liukin, 2005 World Championships event final, Melbourne (AUS):

You had to be wondering where Liukin would fit in on this list. Obviously I love her bar work. But her routines from 2007 on are really marred for me by the new dismount, which I just can’t stand. Maybe it’s silly, but I couldn’t rank one of those routines the highest. So I chose a different stunning routine, from the 2005 Worlds. At the time, Liukin was still competing a double layout, and it was gorgeous, consistent with the rest of her routine. Amazing lines, beautiful handstands, a one-arm pirouette into endo, a high Gienger, and one of the most gorgeous Pak saltos I’ve ever seen her do. And she sticks the landing. This routine is quite nearly perfect, actually. Score: 9.662. First.

1. He Kexin, 2008 Doha World Cup event final, Doha (QUA):

She could be 12, 16 or 60, either way this routine by He was my favorite routine of the quad. Obviously her routines at the Olympics were stunning, but she is actually more dynamic here, particularly on her low-to-high transition, which was often a problem in Beijing (even in event finals). What is there to say? The Li Ya combination is potentially better than Li Ya herself ever did it. Beautiful laid-out Jaeger (that is actually laid-out and not piked-ish) and Pak salto. The pirouettes are gorgeous. I don’t think there’s a handstand she didn’t hit. And the Tsukahara dismount with just a small step. A-score: 7.5. B-score: 16.550. First.

Today: Canada and Australia

Canada

I’m going to do something a little bit different with Canada. Three of Canada’s juniors, Charlotte Mackie, Peng-Peng Lee, and Brittany Rogers — are already exceedingly well-known on the international scene (at least on this side of the pond) and already compete with seniors at internal Canadian events. And though none of the three were age-eligible for the Olympics, they all competed (quite well) in the senior Canadian championships. At that event, Lee placed third, Rogers sixth, and Mackie seventh. So I’m going to focus on girls who are currently competing junior-level Canadian gymnastics in an effort to see who is the next big thing.

1. Dominique Pegg

Pegg is this year’s big winner from the Canadian Junior Championships, where she took the all-around title and placed first on vault and bars, second on floor, and third on beam. Of the second tier of Canadian juniors (that is, those below the three I mentioned above), she is among those with the most experience. Last year, she placed fifth at Championships, behind the three above plus Sky Corbett-Methot, a member of the junior national team who has not been seen in major competition in 2008. In 2006, as a novice, Pegg took the silver in the all-around. Internationally, Pegg’s experience is fairly limited, though she did place sixth in the all-around at Junior Pan Ams in 2007 and fourth in the all-around at the 2007 Romanian International junior competition. By far Pegg’s best placement is in vault: she has placed first on vault at 2006, 2007 and 2008 Championships, and took first on vault at both of her big international competitions. She hasn’t attended Gymnix since 2006, when she placed 12th. Pegg has a very nice UB routine, where she does a nice, high Jaeger and a double tuck dismount with a full twist. Even at last year’s Championships, she had great amplitude and form. Of those I’ll cover here, Pegg is the only one (in addition to Lee, Mackie and Rogers) who will be of senior age next year.

Dominique Pegg

Dominique Pegg

2. Ti Liu

Liu placed third at this year’s Junior Championships, and first on beam. (I am pretty sure she qualified on bars, but for some reason she did not compete.) At last year’s Championships she placed ninth. At the 2007 Elite Canada, she placed second all-around, first on bars and beam, and second on floor. Her international experience has been limited: sixth on bars at the Massilia Cup (this year’s edition is coming up), and 13th at Gymnix in the all around, with a fourth-place finish on beam and a bronze on bars. She also competed at the 2007 and 2006 editions of Gymnix, in which she placed ninth and 14th, respectively, and at the 2007 Pan American Games. Liu is an elegant but strong bar worker, and does some nice Staldler work and a big straddled Jaeger. She needs to upgrade, though, particularly on her dismount, currently a piked double back. She’s a natural beam worker, though she still has some wobbles, and does, among other things, a double turn on BB, which we rarely see.

3. Caitlyn Keates

Pegg and Liu are both more further along than Keates, but she shows promise. She placed fourth at Junior Championships this year, and qualified to all EFs except vault. She placed only 14th at Gymnix this year, but in 2007 took second on beam and fifth on bars. She was the 2006 Novice champion at Elite Canada, and placed second on beam at that competition in 2007.

Honorable mention

Coralie Leblond-Chartrand of the Gymnix club placed fifth at junior championships this year, and was the only gymnast to qualify to all of the event finals, thoughs he didn’t place in any. At Elite Canada, Leblond-Chartrand placed fourth in the all-around and took third on beam. She has attended two Gymnix competitions, placing sixth in 2007 and 11th in 2008. Anysia Unick has even less experience on the elite level, but surprised observers by placing second at Championships this year. Finally, Jessica Dowling was the only other competitor at this year’s Championships to qualify to more than one event final: she qualified to three and placed in all of them, taking third on bars and floor and second on beam.

The Canadian team

Here’s where I’ll mention the big three. They are pretty excellent, wth AA scores routinely in the mid-to-high 50’s. Rogers took second at Gymnix this year, and placed seventh in 2007. She also placed sixth at Pacific Rim, where she also nabbed the bronze on vault and bars. Internally, she placed first at last year’s Junior Championships, taking the silver on bars. Mackie had the best showing at Pacific Rim this year, placing fourth, and also took fourth at Gymnix, along with a gold on vault and two bronzes on beam and floor. She also took third at the 2007 Yokohama Championships. Lee may be the best of the three. Lee was second to Rogers at last year’s Championships, but took fifth in the all-around and second on bars, both over Rogers, at this year’s Pacific Rim. She also placed fifth at 2007 Pan Ams. Recently, Lee’s gym closed and she is now training privately, but observers don’t seem to think this is affecting her.

The one problem for those looking for Canada to move to the next level is that Rogers, Mackie and Lee consistently get the choice international assignments, so the rest of their team has little experience. This could prove problematic in building a strong Worlds team, but on the other hand 2009 Worlds consist only of individual competitions. Even as we move into the quad, the new 5-3-3 format means that smaller teams with fewer all-star competitors may actually do quite well. With these three competing at the level of many juniors from top countries, Canada could be looking to place itself squarely in the top eight. For this to happen, however, those juniors still competing at that level will need to upgrade: no one is vaulting anything above an A-score of 5.2, and floor A-scores average around a 5.0.

Australia

1. Britt Greeley

Greeley will become a senior in 2009 and is currently, by my calculations,t he most outstanding junior. At the Australian Nationals in May, Greeley took second to Emily Little (see below), but generally speaking she is the best performer on the team, especially internationally. Despite the second-place finish in the AA, Greeley medaled in three EFs, taking gold on bars, silver on beam and bronze on floor. At the 2007 National Clubs meet, Greeley took fifth in the junior AA and second on beam. She was seen in international competition as early as 2005, taking 11th in the AA at the WOGA Classic. She took fifth at the 2008 edition of the Classic. She has also been sent to the Pacific Alliance (2006) and Pacific Rim (2008) meets. In the latter, she took 10th in the AA and finished seventh in beam EFs. Greeley’s best event may be BB, although she is actually more of a steady competitor than a trickster on that event. At WOGA this year, she competed only a layout full dismount, which may be evidence of trouble on (what I assume is) her higher-difficulty dismount. On UB, Greeley is a bit labored but has very nice lines, and the former would probably go away with a little strength training. She does a nice full twisting double tuck dismount. Greeley’s FX music makes me want to stick a screwdriver in my eardrum (it is a combination of “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” the techno version like in Shawn Johnson’s 2005 FX AND “Careless Whisper). She competed a back double tuck at this year’s Nationals, and does some nice twisting work. Good precision.

2. Emily Little

Little took the gold from Greeley at this year’s Australian Nationals. She competed Australian Level 10 through 2007 Nationals, but then competed as a junior international elite at the 2007 National Clubs, where she placed second in the AA (above Greeley), and took three EF medals: gold on floor, silver on vault and bronze on bars. At this year’s Nationals, she took home two golds on beam and floor. Little has really competed only at one major international event, the 2008 Pacific Rim, where she finished 11th in the AA and took fifth on VT. I haven’t seen much of Little’s work, but her FX is cute enough, with bouncy almost circus-like music, a double pike mount, and a pretty 3/2 twist dismount.

3. Chantelle Turnbull

The Australian juniors have very little international experience, and Turnbull in fact has none. However, she is currently rising fairly quickly through the junior ranks, and placed fourth at this year’s Nationals with a third-place finish on bars. She made several mistakes in that competition and likely would have placed higher otherwise. At last year’s National Clubs she took sixth in the all-around and third on vault. In fact, I chose Turnbull for third in front of several other contenders precisely because of her vault: she is currently competing a 3/2 Yurchenko, and I believe she is the only Australian junior to do so currently. Turnbull is a fairly powerful gymnast, clearly, and shows it also on floor, where she has decent tumbling that includes a nice full in double back. Inexplicably, however, her music choice is a techno remix of “Dragostea din tei.” The British would say the Australians were never known for their taste ….

Honorable mention

Two injured gymnasts deserve mention. Mary-Anne Monckton, who placed fifth and took silvers on beam and floor in a strong field at last year’s Nationals, was injured for the 2008 season. She also competed in 2007 in the Australian Youth Olympics, a relatively important competition for juniors from Commonwealth countries, placing 24th and taking second on floor. She also competed at Massilia in 2006. She is quite tiny and needs some work on bars and vault. Another injured junior of note is Tain Molendijk, who was 13th in the AA at the 2007 AYO and traveled to the Pacific Rim Championships in 2008 only to have to withdraw beacuse of injury. Finally, Karina Brooks took third at this year’s Nationals and medaled in three EFs, with two silvers and one bronze in EFs (silvers on bars and floor, bronze on beam). She was seventh at Nationals in 2007.

The Australia team

Australia looks to have a quite strong team for the future. While we are not sure about all the retirements yet, we do know that the famed Dasha Joura is planning to continue, for now at least, after a disappointing Olympics. There is also a whole set of new seniors who were not quite ready for the Olympics but competed well against the Olympians. (They are the Corrie Lothrops, Chelsea Davises and Mattie Larsons of Australia.) First is Emma Dennis, who won the 2007 Junior Nationals and placed sixth at this year’s combined Nationals/Olympic trials. Dennis was seventh at the 2007 AYO and third at Yokohama in the AA and on floor. She is a decent vaulter and quite good on beam. I like Dennis best on FX. She does a high full in, some nice twisting, a decent double pike, and is quite elegant. She also uses a classical piece for her music, which you don’t see much of anymore. She does a 3/2 Yurchenko vault. Dennis was on the Olympic team training squad and was the alternate for the 2008 Olympic team. Amber Fulljames was also a member of the 9-gymnast Olympic training squad and was second at 2007 Nationals and eighth in 2008 at her first senior Nationals. Last year she laced in three of four EFs, missing only on FX. Fulljames was 13th in the AA at the 2006 Pacific Alliance Championships, 11th at Yokohama, and ninth in the AA in the senior division of the 2008 Gymnix International. Finally, I would also mention Yves Berryman, third at 2007 Nationals and 10th this year, and Larissa Miller, a good UB worker who placed fifth in 2007 and 12th in 2008. The junior gymnasts have a ways to go, but I think that if these new seniors choose to stick around, Australia will actually prove to be quite competitive in the next quad.

Up next: Brazil and the Ukraine

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.