The C Score (2.0)

Posts Tagged ‘2008 European Gymnastics Championships

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.

Today: France and China

France

1. Youna Dufournet

This girl is France’s biggest hope at the beginning of the new quad. She wound up third in the all-around at this year’s Europeans, but she could have easily won silver. She went on to win bars and vault with a silver on floor. Actually, Dufournet’s a major threat on beam with an A-score (in 2008) of 6.9, including an Arabian, which observers wouldn’t have noticed at Europeans because she wound up with a fall in EF. But her score of 15.700 in qualifications led the rankings, and she probably would have wound up with an even higher score in EFs without the fall. (She took third in BB in EFs in France, competing against seniors, as early as 2006.) Beam is probably her weakest event though, as she competes tough skills but with a lot of balance checks and some flexibility issues (also true on floor). Dufournet’s vaults are right up there: a DTY and a piked Omelianchik, although her scores were actually low despite her victory on that apparatus. On UB, she’s very solid. She has the occasional form breaks (in her Jaeger particularly) and randomly does two Shapashnikovas. She’s not the most graceful bar worker, but she’s strong and consistent, somewhat like a Chellsie Memmel (not a useful comparison if you’re one of those who doesn’t like Memmel, which I do). In addition to the Jaeger, she does a good Geinger and a double-layout dismount. Her EF score was an impressive 15.625. On FX, I think Dufournet is suffering from a choreography problem more than anything — put simply, it sucks, and she could probably handle much more sophisticated stuff. Otherwise, she has kind of a Vanessa Ferrari feel, and does a nice piked full in and an Arabian, plus a 5/2 twist. Let me be clear: this girl is a major threat. She wins absolutely everything she competes in in France, including the “Coupes,” or junior championships, and the Championnats, which are for the top two age groups of juniors. Except the one time she didn’t compete earlier this year (just before Europeans), she won all of these in 2007 and 2008, including recently in June, and placed 6th in the Championnats in 2006. In the May championships by team, her Avoine team placed third, but Dufournet had the highest score of any competitor, including Laetitia Dugain, Marine Petit, Pauline Morel and Marine Debauve (all Olympians). She had the highest score on VT, UB and FX. What I’m saying is that at 14, Dufournet is better — or soon to be better — than all of her country’s 2008 Olympians. Watch out!

Youna Dufournet

Youna Dufournet

Chloé Stanic

I enjoy Stanic, but we are now moving into a more expected level of French gymnastics. Stanic finished 13th overall at this year’s Europeans and finished second at Coupes in 2007 and third at this year’s Championnats in June. In the same team meet mentioned above where Dufournet placed ahead of all the current seniors, Stanic placed a very respectable 7th (no junior besides Dufournet placed higher). Stanic’s other international experience is pretty limited, though she placed a respectable fourth in a France/Switzerland/Germany/Netherlands meet in early 2008 (Dufournet, unsurprisingly, took first there). On FX, Stanic has a decent Arabian, but otherwise she has Nistor-like splits (feet flexed … not a fan) and not enough difficulty. Her vault is probably her weakest event right now, as she’s competing only a Podkopaeva, as far as I can tell. She is pretty shaky and labored on BB, although she does have what I think is supposed to be a combination of a standing back pike to back tuck, which is interesting. Her bars are just alright, though she has a high Tkatchev and a decent straddled Jaeger. At Europeans, she fell on her dismount — otherwise, she would have easily qualified to EFs. However, I’m not sure whether there’s tremendous potential for growth in her bar set, but she does have room to at least tidy things up.

3. Aurélie Malausséna

Malausséna has oddly been given very little international experience by the French powers-that-be, which is curious because she regularly places second or third in national competitions, alternating with Stanic. She placed third in the 2007 and 2008 Coupes, and second in this year’s Championnats (she was ninth in 2006). Her only international experience has been a France/Switzerland match, in which she placed third, and a small international tournament before she reached elite. The likely problem is that Malausséna so far does not shine on any particular event, though she is consistent across all four. She has a Chellsie-Memmel like quality in some ways, though she appears to lack the extreme flexibility. She would also have a decent FX if someone would change her choreography, and if she upgraded a few passes — the most interesting one is a double pike. On BB, she throws some decent skills — a punch front and a standing tuck — but otherwise it’s kind of a yawner. Her key to success might be UB, on which she has thrown a piked Jaeger, if she could add some difficulty (right now she’s in the mid fives).

Honorable mention:

I should probably start with Marine Brevet, who charmed a number of observers at this year’s Europeans. From afar, she looks not unlike Nastia Liukin, which might be one of the reasons. Up close, I don’t really see it, though she does have long lines. She has absolutely terrible bars — even beyond the more complex skills, she cannot do a kip without major leg separation. Internally, she has had somewhat of a meteoric rise. She is a 1994 kid, and was ranked fourth in her age group in 2007, during which time she placed sixth at Coupes and second at the Championnats in the category below junior elite. This year at Championnats, she placed sixth. Her best event right now may be BB (she qualified to EFs at Europeans, though she placed last), but there her most interesting skill is a split jump to arabesque. On FX, she just doesn’t have the difficulty yet, and one of her four passes is a 1/1 twist. Ultimately, she seems to have the form to improve upon, but we’ll have to wait and see if she does it.

The only two other French gymnasts I’ll mention are Marie Gaffino and Léa Kemayou. Gaffino placed fifth at this year’s Championnats, and eighth in 2007. She placed first in 2007 at one of her only international events, the Tournoi International du Pas de Calais, and was a member of the 2008 Europeans team. Right now her two best events are BB and FX, where she uses a modified version of Daria Joura’s music. She does some good twisting and is reasonably expressive. On BB she does a nice standing back pike (and a back tuck, like Stanic). Finally, Kemayou is France’s current power gymnast. She’s a strong vaulter and a decent bars worker, though she sometimes looks a bit clumsy. She’s one of the most aggressive beam workers the French have, and she seems confident. I think she actually has serious potential on BB (maybe a la Alicia Sacramone?).

The French team:

What we’re looking at here is Italy in 2006 — an assortment of fairly talented, but not internationally competitive, girls — plus a stand-out who pulls off pretty impressive showings in international competitions. Though I don’t think Dufournet will get the same form criticisms Ferrari got. She’s actually downright impressive. Otherwise, I don’t see much change in the potential standings of the French team. In addition to some form issues, the real problem is difficulty level. Few of their girls are even doing Yurchenko vaults, much less the type you need to stay competitive. They have a handful of good releases on bars, but nothing fancy. Same problem on beam. On floor, their choreography is very hit-or-miss. Overall, we’re still waiting for a team breakthrough. (Incidentally, the French run their program very much like the Americans, though their best gyms are state-run: they have decentralized training with occasional verifications. The difference being, of course, that there are around six times more people in the United States than in France ….)

China

1. Cui Jie

Cui Jie is the obvious choice for the next big thing coming out of China. Though she looks young — whatever that might mean about her — she is 14 and will be able to compete as a senior in 2010. Her biggest meet to date was the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships, in which she placed seventh AA. She would likely have placed much higher, however, if it hadn’t been for a fall on her dismount on bars leading to a score of under 13. She qualified to two EFs and placed sixth on vault and first on beam with a score of 16.025 (a tie with Rebecca Bross). At the Chinese Junior Nationals that took place last week in Yunnan province, Cui took second in the AA to the little-known Chen Chuyan. More importantly, at last year’s nationals, competing against seniors — including the eventual 2008 Olympic team — Cui took seventh on BB on fifth on FX, placing 11th AA. Already in 2007, Cui tied for sixth on FX and qualified 13th to the AA. FX is widely considered to be Cui’s best event. She has a good routine, despite a needed choreography upgrade, and sells it well. She performs an Arabian double front, a Rudi, and nice twists overall. She also does a nice twist to layout punch front and has very precise landings. She also does a double leg-up turn. On BB she general scores very high (see above), and does some big skills: punch front to Rueda, Korbut, double tuck dismount. She also performed a 1 1/2 turn at Intercity Games in 2007 instead of the ubiquitous leg-up turn, but had switched to the latter by Pacific Rim. Would be great to see her do a double turn in the future. Cui could stand to upgrade her UB, although she generally speaking has nice lines and good form. She does a nice Tkatchev and a decent Jaeger, and also has a lovely Pak. Had she not fallen on her double front at Pacific Rim, she likely would have received a respectable score. VT is Cui’s weakest event, as she still competes a Yurchenko full regularly, but I assume she is planning to upgrade. Overall, I think this gymnast is currently the best junior in China. She has good form, nice presentation, and is solid on three events.

2. Huang Ying

It says something about the low visibility of the Chinese juniors that I have put second a gymnast who has placed in recent competition only in EFs at Pacific Rim (she has not placed in any Chinese national competition that I know of, except perhaps at the most recent Junior Nationals, for which I do not yet have full results). In the Pacific Rim format, teams compete in a 6-5-4 format, and Huang was used only on beam and floor. However, she eventually placed 3rd on BB, with a score of 15.925 (15.750 in team competition), and 5th on FX. I’m actually not at all familiar with Huang on other events, but she is excellent on these two (as opposed to Wenli Guan, below, who is reasonably solid on all four but a stand-out on none). Huang has beautiful dance and high leaps on floor, and also does a 5/2 twist and a 1 1/2 punch front full. Her best event is BB, where she starts with two flip-flops to layout to Korbut, and an Onodi back tuck. Her dismount is a decent double pike. I can see this gymnast becoming an excellent specialist.

3. Wenli Guan

I’m going to take a risk here and put Wenli here despite the fact that we have not seen her since Pacific Rim, including at the Chinese Nationals that took place in June and the Chinese Junior Nationals that just concluded. I was unable to find any information about why that may be. Wenli, until Chen (see above), is the only junior who has beaten Cui in competition. She took sixth at this year’s Pacific Rim, also placing fifth in UB event finals. So far, Guan has not stood out on any particular event, though she does do a standing Arabian, a flip-flop to back tuck and a double full dismount on BB, and looks able to upgrade other skills on that event. She has long lines on UB, and placed a respectable 5th in EFs at Pacific Rim, but needs to seriously upgrade. Same problem on FX and on VT (Yurchenko full). I’m not in love with this gymnast, but she seems solid enough, though I think she has trouble with power skills. Although actually that may not be so bad with the new CoP.

Honorable mention

The data on Chinese juniors is scant at best, but I’ll mention a few more to look for. First, I suppose, is Chen Chuyan, who took the all-around over Cui in Chinese Junior Nationals. I unfortunately know basically nothing about this heretofore larely unknown gymnast, though she did place 16th in the AA at last year’s nationals (behind Cui).

Of more interest, to me at least, is Li Lijun, who placed third at the most recent Chinese Junior Nationals, behind Chen and Cui. She is already reasonably solid on three events, particularly FX and UB. Before this competition, Li was only vaguely known, as a pretty gymnast not unlike Fan Ye. She is extremely poised on FX, and does some nice, controlled tumbling, although it is largely twists. She seems relatively tentative on BB, and doesn’t do any superbly challenging skills, and has the same problem on VT, where she does a Yurchenko full. So far her best event is likely UB, where she has nice lines and does a strong Jaeger and Tkatchev, a nice Pak, and a good double layout dismount.

The Chinese team:

The Chinese juniors really have not seen enough international competition for us to be able to rank many of them with any consistency. This on top of the fact that reports of the outcomes of national competitions are extremely hard to come by. Cui is by far the most interesting of the upcoming juniors, but there are a few others who will be good specialists at the very least. Among them, however, my main concern is that there are no powerful gymnasts to replace people like Cheng Fei. (On the other hand, the relatively small Jiang Yuyuan can do an Amanar, which was not always the case, so there’s nothing to say the others won’t upgrade. Especially because vault comes last for a lot of juniors.) Perhaps the best thing for the Chinese team is that a number of gymnasts from the 2008 Olympic team — including the great Cheng Fei, who has suggested she will continue through 2009 and has not ruled out 2012 — are likely to continue, including He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan, and Yang Yilin (the last of whom has a shot at gold at Worlds in 2009). This does not even include a number of other gymnasts, including Li Shanshan, Xiao Sha and Sui Lu, who were all contenders for the team but did not make it for various reasons. There’s also Huang Quishuang, a new senior who competed well at Pacific Rim, placing fifth in the AA, second on BB and fourth on FX (though her vaults need serious upgrading). That is to say, China remains deep on the senior level, and likely has plenty of juniors waiting in the wings (even just demographically speaking!). This gold was not a flash in the pan.

Up next: Italy and Great Britain

With this quadrennium winding down, and speculation still flying about who will continue — Cheng Fei? Shawn Johnson? Nastia Liukin? Anna Pavlova? Jade Barbosa? — the big question is, who is the next big thing?

I addressed some of my preliminary guesses for the Americans, who have a great crop of juniors. But The Couch Gymnast has an absolutely great round-up of some of the top gymnasts from other countries. Definitely a must-read, especially if you don’t usually follow the juniors.

Below I give my top three picks for current juniors from all of the major countries. It doesn’t include recent additions to the senior roster, who will also be major players in the next quad (people like Daria Elizarova, the 2007 junior European champion, who was bumped from the Beijing line-up to alternate).

Pretty much every gymnast on this list, however, faces one major problem: big skills with less-than-stellar execution. Nearly everyone here tends to be pretty sloppy, which is going to be a much bigger problem in the new Code, which is clearly an attempt to mitigate the effect of large skills. It’ll be interesting to see what their respect coaches do about this. Finally, although this is fairly common among juniors, their vaults lag behind their other events — here’s hoping they can all concentrate on this (especially with reference to form) a little more.

Today: Russia and Romania

Russia

1. Tatiana Nabieva (RUS)

This one’s easy. Nabieva, who won’t even be eligible for senior competition until 2010, placed first in the AA at the junior Europeans, and qualified to all of the event finals, taking gold on floor and silver on beam, vault and bars. She’s been around the international scene since 2003, at the age of 9! She’s progressed from being an adorable pixie-type gymnast to having a really graceful body type and great form. I am most impressed by her UB — she was cleaner at Europeans than Dufournet, who took first. She has great handstand positions, clean lines, great transitions, including a nice Pak. Her FX is still a little sloppy, but she nailed her double Arabian without cowboying it, and often sticks her triple twist, which at Europeans was a 2.5 twist. She’s got a pretty decent front with a half on beam and her leaps on beam are good. Her VT is probably her weakest event right now, with inconsistent form in the air (then again, she still placed second at Europeans). She’s neither way on the graceful side nor way on the powerful side, but this actually means that she’s a balanced gymnast — good tumbling and dance, maybe a la Anna Pavlova. She hasn’t been around at many other competitions — she was not, for instance, at Gymnix 2008, but in 2007 at that event she placed first in the AA and medalled in every EF, taking first on bars. This is one major AA threat.

Tatiana Nabieva at 2008 Europeans

Tatiana Nabieva at 2008 Europeans

Aliya Mustafina (RUS)

Mustafina is a dancer’s gymnast. She’s still a little immature on floor, and needs to grow into her choreography a little, but her dance already exhibits beautiful lines and hints of graceful greatness. I love gymnasts of the Shawn Johnson variety — I tend to prefer them — but Mustafina totally won me over. She needs to beef up her FX tumbling skills level, which explains a fourth-place finish on that event at Europeans, but she is amazingly graceful. I would say she will eventually have Nastia Liukin beat on this front, because I think Mustafina can manage to pull out some clean and elegant tumbling too. Because she’s a slightly less powerful gymnast, Mustafina is also not totally competitive on VT yet, in terms of constistency, where she competes a 1.5 Yurchenko. But I think she has the potential to do it like Liukin does — stuck, with perfect form in the air. On BB she shows great flexibility and has some nice strength moves. And for all the talk of her having fewer big tumbling skills, she does a standing back with a half — not too shabby. On UB, she has — unsurprisingly — nice lines, and good pirouetting skills. She has a tendency to arch in handstand though, which I think is a result of trying to make them too perfect — this happened to Liukin once, notoriously (I think in 2007 Nationals, but I could be wrong). At Europeans she qualified only to two EFs, placing fourth in both. In 2007, she was second to Nabieva at Gymnix and placed second on every event at the International Junior competition in Yokohama in 2007 (to Rebecca Bross, who swept gold in the AA and all four EFs). Overall, gorgeous gymnast.

3. Viktoriya Komova

If I were Elfi Schlegel, I would start here by mentioning how Viktoriya Komova is the daughter of Soviet gymnast Vera Kolesnikova, and therefore has loads of gymnastics DNA. Instead, let’s talk about how Komova placed third at Pacific Rim and the WOGA Classic this year. She also qualified for all four EFs at Pacific Rim, though she finished out of the medals in all of them (and the dreaded fourth in two of these). Her best event may be the vault, where she does a strong but inconsistent DTY. Her floor is not too shabby either — it includes a 1.5 twist to double Arabian and a triple twist dismount, and actual choreography that her dance actually stands up to. Again, some problems with consistency — two falls at WOGA — but if she gets rid of those, she’ll be a powerhouse. Her BB is packed with difficulty, including handspring to two layouts and a standing Arabian. She’s a high jumper too. She’s actually solid and aggressive on bars too, where she does a big piked Jaeger and a nice Geinger. A great all-around gymnast. Incidentally, she’s only thirteen.

Honorable mentions:

The tiny Anastasia Grishina is up first here because, well, she’s strong and talented and … twelve. She placed second among juniors at the 2007 Friendship Classic and sixth at Gymnix 2008. She also won the 11-14 Russian all-around competition in 2007 (none of the above three participated). At Gymnix 2008, Grishina’s biggest international event so far, she placed second on bars, fourth on beam and fifth on floor in EFs. On UB she struggles on her low-to-high transition, but she also is generally aggressive and does a high-flying Tkatchev to Pak. Even in the past year she has improved tremendously on floor, and is quite graceful and shows good flexibility, though she needs to up the difficulty a bit.

Grishina’s my pick for the biggest stand-out beyond the three I’ve already mentioned, but I’d also add Violetta Malikova, one of the Russian juniors at the Pacific Rim Championships in 2008, and Eleonora Goryunova, who placed eighth at Gymnix 2008. Malikova is a solid gymnast. On BB, she has a strong Arabian and good, light tumbling. She actually qualified to UB finals at the Pacific Rim, but after a form break on her Tkatchev to Pak and a fall on the dismount, she finished in seventh. So far, my favorite event for her is FX, where she has a strong, expressive routine, and almost always completes her twists. Goryunova is not a stand-out in terms of scores on any event quite yet, but she is competitive on all four of them, and qualified to EFs in three of these at Gymnix. But I think eventually she will be an excellent floor worker. She has superb dance and choreography, but unlike the other young Russians, also throws big skills, including a 5/2 twist to punch layout front. Incidentally, Malikova and Goryunova finished second and third, respectively, to Grishina at the Moscow Championships last year.

Finally, there are three other Russians who participated at Europeans, all of whom deserve mention: Anastasia Novikova, Anna Dementyeva, and Tatiana Solovyeva. All three placed strongly at last year’s Moscow Championships, with Novikova and Dementyeva placing second and third on vault after Nabieva, and Dementyeva taking second and third on FX and BB, respectively. Solovyeva is an excellent beam worker (though not at the level of Mustafina and Nabieva — though she did place third at Moscow Championships), and Dementyeva is actually a reasonably good bar worker.

ETA 10/7: I should also mention the sister of Mustafina, Nailya Mustafina, who placed third at Gymnix this year, and 12th at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships. She also placed second (to Bross, suffering her sister’s fate there!) at the 2008 WOGA Classic, beating Komova, who placed third. She is also only 12, but will be eligible for senior competition for the 2012 Olympics. She is more compact and stronger than her sister. On BB, she does a back handspring to back with a full. Despite falling on this skill at WOGA, she wound up with a 15.600. She also outscored Bross on FX. Her floor is unbelievable, especially for her age (great combination twists).

The Russian team:

This was the easiest ranking to do because the Russian juniors, led by Nabieva, are unbelievably strong. These gymnasts are not only talented, they have international experience, which makes a direct national ranking less important. Nabieva has routinely beaten Mustafina, mainly because her difficulty levels are higher, although actually — and especially compared to many other juniors — Nabieva has quite good form. The one problem I can see is that there are not as many Russian juniors floating around internationally as there are even Romanians. Either way, these three are excellent — all operating at least on some events at a senior level. Perhaps more importantly, the junior Russians participate internally in a number of competitions that include things like compulsories and work on a single bar, which give them a lot of work on basics at a high level of competition that other girls in other countries simply don’t have. Providing they stay healthy, I think we might need to acknowledge the resurgence of the “Russian threat,” especially if people like Semenova and Afanasyeva stick around. They also have a talented crop of very young juniors, including Grishina, who will be of the perfect age for 2012.

Romania

1. Amelia Racea:

Racea’s one of the only juniors of note on the Romanian team right now, which is a major problem. She placed fourth at this year’s Europeans, taking second on balance beam and third on floor. She’s not the most graceful of gymnasts, but she’s got pretty big skills. Her floor reminds me of that of Daniela Druncea, which means good tumbling with light, stuck landings, and questionable dance. Her beam is similar, composed largely of acrobatic skills and fewer dance elements (this will be problematic with the new code). Floor and beam are her best events, but she’s decent on vault too. In fact, in addition to taking the all-around title in Category II (1993-1995 births) in the Romanian junior nationals last year in September, she took gold on all three of those events. On UB she is Romanian — by which I mean low-scoring — but, in the only routine I’ve seen of hers (from Jesolo 2008), she actually had decent form and good handstand positions. UB is the only event in which she did not win gold — she took silver — last year, where her score also beat that of the Category I winner Diana Chelaru (see below). At the most recent Romanian Championships in Ploeisti, in July, she placed second to Chelaru on vault and second on beam. Unfortunately, like the other Romanians I’ll be discussing, she has limited international experience — in fact, it’s pretty much entirely from Europeans. Fortunately, though, she is on the younger side for this quad, so she still has time.

Amelia Racea at the 2008 Europeans

Amelia Racea at the 2008 Europeans

2. Ana Porgras

Porgras placed ninth at Europeans, and second to Diana Chelaru in Category I last year. She also had the highest score in team finals of any Romanian at Jesolo, and placed eighth (the highest Romanian placement) in the all-around. Porgras placed second on floor and first on UB and BB in the Junior Nationals in 2007, with a massive 16.450 on BB (she also won BB event finals at this year’s Europeans, with a 15.700). Her floor is solid, and I really appreciate that she flies high (instead of far) on her twists. My standards for Romanian bars are tremendously low right now (see below) so I’m quite pleased that she has decent form and only the occasional loss of tightness in her back. She’s not the biggest daredevil on BB, but she does the really nice Romanian-style acrobatics, combined with a fair amount of grace. She does one of the best aerials to arabesques of anyone, junior or senior, on the Romanian team (even though I’m not a huge fan of that skill). She looks like a senior on this apparatus. It’s not clear to me, however, where she was during Championships in early summer 2008. Here’s hoping she’s not seriously injured.

3. Diana Chelaru:

Chelaru was last year’s Category I champion in Romania, though she later scratched on event finals because of an injury. This year at the Romanian Championships, she placed first on vault and qualified to the other three event finals, proceeding then to place dead last in two of them. Not sure what was going on there. Chelaru has little international experience, which is a major problem. She actually was not at Europeans, and did not place at Jesolo. She was, however, the third highest-scoring Romanian at that competition in team finals, after Racea and Porgras, and was the only Romanian to compete at DTY. Presumably, the other juniors will be updating their vaults eventually, and I’m thinking Chelaru could go up to an Amanar. Chelaru’s also solid on beam and floor — though she needs to clean up her landings on the latter — and is prepared to compete on all four events, which is unfortunately more than I can say for the other Romanians below. Her weakest event, unsurprisingly, is bars — she scored only a 13.500 on that event at last year’s Nationals, and had major errors plus an A-score of 5.000 that gave her an 11.200 on that event at Jesolo.

Honorable mentions:

There are some interesting Romanians lurking around, but like the three I have already mentioned, they have limited international experience.

Larisa Iordache won Category III (1995-1997 births) last year. She’s tiny, and extremely young (she turned 12 in June), so it’s hard to say how she will hold up, but so far she shows amazing potential. We didn’t see too much of her at Nationals this year, but she did have the second-highest overall score on her Dinamo team during team finals (after Elena Chiric, a senior). She’s also among the more polished of these gymnasts, with especially nice form — and flexibility — on floor (where she placed second in 2007) and beam (first). She actually reminds me of a young Andreea Raducan.

Loredana Sabau, who placed third in Category I last year, was also strong, taking first on floor and vault and second on beam and bars. At this year’s Nationals, however, she only placed in one event final — third on bars — though she did compete respectably for Deva in team finals. She has not really shined yet in international competition, with a disastrous 11.700 on bars (B-score in the fives — she lost her swing on a giant, ending in a dead hang not once but twice) keeping her out of finals in Jesolo, and a sixth-place finish at Europeans (with only one qualification to EFs, on floor). Honestly, her floor is pretty terrible right now on dance, but she has good form in tumbling, particularly twists. Good form (and Dominique Moceanu’s mount!) but a lot of balance checks on BB.

Finally I would mention Diana Trenca and Madalina Neagu. Trenca placed second to Racea in Category II last year, and took two silvers, one bronze and one gold (on bars) in event finals. This year, at Nationals, she took second on bars among all juniors. In fact, I would say she’s probably the best bars worker among Romania’s juniors (though she had a major mistake at Jesolo. Neagu is a floor specialist, though she also placed second all-around in Category III last year. She has won both FX finals she has competed in Romania, and apparently got the biggest reaction from the crowd of any performance at Junior Nationals in 2007. She’s dynamic and only needs a little work on expressiveness. She’s also no slouch on other events, placing in EFs on both beam and bars (though the bars thing is relative).

The Romanian team:

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Romanian team, and I am seriously concerned about them. To be fair, their juniors rarely see the light of day before they become seniors, so the lack of international experience may not be so terrible. On the other hand, their juniors are exhibiting the Druncea symptom slightly — precise, big skills with almost no style (exceptions include many of the ones listed here, including Iordache and Neagu). The biggest problem here is going to be bars. Recently a big problem for this team has been that they have not kept up with the trends in bars. But from what I’ve seen of these juniors, the problems go much deeper — in Jesolo and at the Pre-Olympic Youth Cup in Bergisch-Gladbach (GER) we saw major form break after form break, falls, dead hangs, extra swings — and this from the girls I have mentioned here, including Neagu and Sabau. Really bad news.

Still to come: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, United States

Up next: France and China


About The C Score

First there was A score and B score, now D score and E score. Where is the C score? Right here. In the form of my random thoughts about women's artistic gymnastics.

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