The C Score (2.0)

Posts Tagged ‘2008 Olympics

Nansy Damianova

Nansy Damianova

Nansy Damianova, one of two gymnasts who represented Canada at the 2008 Olympics, will continue through 2009 and possibly through 2012.

Damianova told IG in a recent interview that her Olympic experience made her realize she wanted to continue in international competition, definitely for the 2009 Worlds, and possibly through the 2012 Olympics. It’s especially nice since Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, Canada’s other Olympic qualifier, is now at UCLA.

Damianova, who trains at Gymnix, says she is aiming for good finishes at Canadian Championships, Worlds and the new Gymnix World Cup.

About her new teammates, including Brittany Rogers, recent champion at Elite Canada, Damianova says:

“I think it will be very exciting to help leading Canada’s new generation of seniors in the new year because I know the girls pretty well. I have competed with a few of them on the same team when I was in my last year as a junior, and we get along very well. It will definitely be a new and different experience, being the oldest and helping the team. Before, I was usually one of the youngest and less experienced on the team. We also have some pretty strong and interesting girls coming up, so we should have an interesting team in the coming years. It will be fun to see the team evolve.”

Nastia Liukin is still making the most of her win in Beijing four months ago. Here’s some news:

Liukin is pursuing a bit of modeling

Liukin is pursuing a bit of modeling

IG article:

Liukin talked to IG about some of the stuff she’s been up to (see article here) and — this is the big one — confirmed her plans to compete in 2009. As Liukin also mentioned on her Web site, in addition to the Tour of Gymnastics Superstars, the Vanilla Star contract, and all of the TV appearances, she also participated in two exhibitions — one at the Massilia Cup (where she did one of her routines from the Tour) and Alexei Nemov’s (apparently annual) gala. Apparently she will be at the Valeri Liukin Invitational at WOGA this weekend, and will also attend the Cowboys-Giants game.

More importantly (for me, at least), she said of her gymnastics plans:

“As far as my competition plans go, I’m not quite sure. We are taking it one step at a time. I haven’t been home too much, which is the one thing that I wish I could change. I never thought I would say it before, but I miss being in the gym seven hours a day. I am so ready to be back training and getting ready for next year. The Visa (U.S.) Championships are going to be in Dallas in 2009, so I am looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd!”

She goes on to say that she is “creating new goals and dreams” for herself.

Finally, Liukin also had some nice words for Marta Karolyi:

“Also, (U.S. team coordinator) Marta Karolyi — I have so much respect for her and what she does. Without her, I wouldn’t have had a chance to try to accomplish my dreams. She always made me believe in myself, especially when times were tough.”

Nastia Liukin modeling in the pit

Nastia Liukin modeling in the pit

Article in WWD:

Liukin was the subject of this WWD Beauty article.

The article has a good summary of all of Liukin’s endorsement deals, along with the obligatory comments from her agent and others on how the field will eventually dry up. Also of note, Liukin owns equity in several of her projects.

In other news of which I was unaware, Liukin’s central message is promoting healthy lifestyles for women, specifically with respect to obesity. Was this clear? I thought her message was about fashion. Honestly. That would still fit in with her agent’s goal of “put[ting] her in a position where her success isn’t tied to sports.”

Liukin has always had an interest in modeling, and she did some shots for WWD, all of which appear to have been shot in a gym, which is cool. I actually really like them. The one I’ve shown here is my favorite. I find the black-and-white one distinctly less interesting. Andrea at Live.Breath.Love.Gymnastics has the rest.

Note: the title of the article, “Strength Training with Nastia Liukin,” is deceiving. It’s not about strength training at all, at least not in the athletic sense of the term. It appears to be a somewhat reaching reference to her motivation and drive.

Finally, this tidbit: “Prior to the Olympics, Liukin capped off her girlishly loopy autograph with a heart; now she includes the five Olympic rings incorporated into 2008 with the word “Gold” written underneath.” I … have no words. Sorry.

NL UGGs, currently valued at $1,100

NL UGGs, currently valued at $1,100

Hope, faith and UGGs:

All I have to say about UGGs is ugh. I hate them. They’re bulky, people wear them during the summer despite the fact that they are clearly meant for winter, they’re not actually waterproof, and they cost a fortune! Enough said. Anyway, apparently every year UGG Australia does a charity fundraiser in which they ask celebrities to decorate a pair of UGGs for auction. This year both Liukin and Shawn Johnson participated. Johnson went with a pink and green peace-based them (surprise, surprise) and Liukin went for an all-black hope-and-faith thing.

Abigail Breslin put the faces of furry animals on hers. Rachael Ray wrote YUM-O on one of hers, and if you didn’t want to kill her already, that should push it over the edge. Kelly Ripa did a bedazzled number, Christian Siriano of Project Runway covered his in fur, Ashlee Simpson drew some weird stick figures and Whoopi Goldberg did fringe. (My favorite is T.R. Knight’s — he did a kind of cool vine-y drawing.) Interestingly, SJ’s are currently bidding at $2,000 while NL’s are at $1,100. Neither of them can touch Ripa at $2,700 or Ray at $2,235. Basically, these bids are clearly uncorrelated with level of obnoxiousness.

Nastia Liukin continues to rack up the honors. She has been nominated as the United States Sports Academy Athlete of the Year.

If you’d like to vote for Liukin, you can do so here. She’s competing against 11 other female nominees and 12 male nominees. She could win both Female Athlete of the Year and Athlete of the Year.

I personally think that she should win for this vault alone (from the Beijing all-around, obviously!):

Ana Maria Tamirjan is recovering from a cracked femur, an injury apparently sustained before the Olympics in Beijing.

Apparently Tamirjan took a bit of a break after the Olympics, but Nicolae Forminte told Pro Sport here: “Ana is progressing very well, and she’s very motivated.” She is now training with the American Cup in mind! Apparently she even refused to go on winter vacation!

The Romanian gymnastics team will be in the mountain retreat Poiana Brasov for winter vacation from the 18th to the 19th.

Video is Tamirjan on floor in prelims in Beijing:

It’s no secret, in the Nastia/Shawn rivalry, Shawn Johnson wins for me every time. International Gymnast has a nice retrospective of all of the team competitions at the Olympics here.

Her toes are always pointed.

Some of my favorites:

The Karolyis win again … and it’s not a medal or a title … it’s a … business award? The Karolyis were awarded the “Houston International Executive of the Year” award by the Kiwanis Club, according to this press release by USA Gymnastics.

Probably the most exciting part is that you can buy tickets to the celebratory luncheon (see press release for details). Not a bad lunch break for Houston natives!

According to the press release, this is the 22nd edition of this award:

The International Executive of the Year recognizes an outstanding business person who has demonstrated the global leadership that continues to make Houston a center of international business.

Certainly the Karolyis have a thriving gymnastics empire down there, but are they really contributing to Houston’s renown as an international center of business?

More interesting is that they were awarded this honor *together* despite the fact that Marta took over the reigns from Bela as national team coordinator nearly eight years ago. (Then again, to be fair, the camp makes its money off of the stuff they do for younger gymnasts, a program in which Bela is intimately involved.) Anyway, this got me thinking about how Marta’s been doing since 2000, and whether it was really important for Bela to go.

I am coincidentally rewatching the 2000 Olympic Trials right now. It’s interesting to hear Al et al. go on and on about how much everyone hates the Trials process, when in fact we are using practically the same system now.

The major differences between 2000 and 2008 are:

  • The top two from Trials are “guaranteed” spots on the team
  • There is an Olympic training camp following Trials
  • The selection committee consists of three, not four, people

Otherwise, Marta and company are free to be just as despotic about their decisions as Bela was. The important differences are not institutional, they are cultural. Firstly, it was widely thought that Bela did not implement his plan in a way that bought the affections of gymnasts’ coaches. Second, and I think more importantly (given that Marta is not exactly the most friendly and conciliatory type either), is that coaches have gotten used to the system. Yes, there was an uproar after Sydney because the system failed to deliver, but then the system itself was not replaced, and the architect of said system was replaced by the person most like him! All of this, to me, is evidence that the uproar against Bela was probably unjustified.

Moreover, the data from the resulting Olympic teams of the three quads we have experienced under this system are illuminating. Of any single Trials between 2000 and 2008, the 2000 all-around results are the best at predicting the ultimate Olympic team. Only one person was skipped in the all-around order and that was (truly sadly) Vanessa Atler. In 2004 you have to go down to 11th to find Annia Hatch and in 2008 you have to go down to 15th to find Bridget Sloan. Now, of course, the fact that specialists were much more required by the 6-3-3 format of Athens and Beijing makes the choice of fewer all-arounders more likely.

On the other hand, this does not deny the fact that ultimately the 2000 Trials probably led to a selection that few would have rejected if Sydney had not gone so poorly. A system based entirely on an athlete’s finish at Trials would have given practically the same team, replacing Dominique Dawes with Atler. It’s not clear what, in their move to remove Bela, coaches would have preferred. In any case, the opaqueness of the process may have irked them, but the outcome was probably no different from what would have resulted from the selection process they would have preferred!

Personally, Bela has always seemed like a better motivator to me. But, well, now he’s got his llamas.

Sydney:

1. Elise Ray
2. Amy Chow
3. Kristen Maloney
4. Morgan White
5. Jamie Dantzscher
6. Vanessa Atler
7. Dominique Dawes

Athens:

1. Courtney Kupets
2. Courtney McCool
3. Carly Patterson
4. Tabitha Yim
5. Allyse Ishino
6. Mohini Bhardwaj
7. Terin Humphrey
8. Tasha Schwikert
9. Carly Janiga
10. Liz Tricase
11. Annia Hatch

Beijing:

1. Shawn Johnson
2. Nastia Liukin
3. Chellsie Memmel
4. Samantha Peszek
5. Ivana Hong
6. Jana Bieger
7. Mattie Larson
8. Chelsea Davis
9. Corrie Lothrop
10. Olivia Courtney
11. Randy Stageberg
12. Alaina Johnson
13. Alicia Sacramone
14. Shayla Worley
15. Bridget Sloan

According to this article, Ksenia Semenova, reigning World uneven bars champion and fourth-place finalist in the all-around in Beijing 2008, is currently hurt and unable to train. The article says that she may miss the World Cup Final in Madrid in December.

Apparently Semenova saw a German doctor about this hand/wrist problem, but the recovery time is unclear and she is now taking medication for the pain. The article mentions that they have been working out some new routines, but that they are essentially completely sparing any possible trauma to Semenova’s hand.

Ksenia Semenova

Ksenia Semenova

This really is too bad. When Semenova won over Nastia Liukin at the 2007 Worlds, lots of people seemed bitter because they thought Liukin’s routine was more refined. But Semenova had higher difficulty and prevailed. By the time of the Olympics, Liukin and several others had passed Semenova in difficulty level. But honestly the last laugh was Semenova’s, because she had been dismissed as a bar-and-beam specialist, and then wound up stunning us with a fourth-place finish in the all-around. Her floor was actually quite adorable, if a little immature and with a music selection not to my taste. I seriously want her back in competition!

The DTB Cup starts on the 14th, and the start list reveals the first truly big-name competition since the Olympics. Naturally, the Americans are going to go ahead and send … no one … but here’s some people to look forward to:

Australia:

  • Lauren Mitchell: An Australian with a skill named after her in the upcoming CoP! (It’s a jump to chest stand to chest roll with a 1/2 turn. She performed it at the Olys.) Mitchell’s a star on beam: she matched Monette Russo’s fifth-place finish at a Worlds on that apparatus, and earned a silver at the Good Luck Beijing event. She also took silver on this apparatus at last year’s DTB! Mitchell underperformed on BB in qualifications at Beijing, but scored a respectable 15.550 in TF.

Brazil:

  • Daniele Hypolito: Well, Brazil has sent someone to DTB despite a fairly major scandal a-brewing back home. Of course, Hypolito left the national training center at Curitiba to train in Rio. But the girl is a legend: seven world championships, including Brazil’s first medal, and three Olympics. She wasn’t on FX in Olympic TF, so I’d be glad to see it.

China:

  • Cheng Fei: Everyone breath a collective sigh of joy/relief. The great Cheng has not yet retired! Honestly, of anyone, she inspires very little but admiration in the gymnastics community, which is saying a lot for people who curse each other over their disagreements about Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. As Sandra Izbasa said in a recent interview, Cheng is an exceptional athlete and a perfectionist, and on top of that she has heaps of character.” And her FX is great, and I can’t wait to see her vault up to par again. After the Olympics, it became widely known that Fei had been on a punishing diet for nearly a year leading up to 2008. Hopefully this is no longer the case.
  • He Ning: Coming off her win at the Swiss Cup, Olympics almost-ran and member of the 2006 world-champion Chinese team, He brings solid UB and FX to this competition. Note that she was also second in the AA at Chinese Nationals only a few weeks ago. (The Chinese seniors are *deep*!)
  • Yang Yilin: I’m excited to see the newly crowned Chinese national champion and great UB worker Yang return to international competition. Best Chinese finish in the Olympic AA, taking bronze, despite really little international experience. ‘Nuff said. At her first WC event since the Olys, she took first on UB and second on FX.

Russian

  • Yulia Lozhecko: Lozhecko was last seen at Worlds in 2007 watering down her routine on BB (thereby losing her chance at EF qualification) and earning herself a ban from training camps for the rest of the year. She then came bouncing back at her first national competition in February to take gold over the likes of … well, the future Olympians. It’ll be great to see her back.
  • Anna Pavlova: I can’t wait to see some nice floor. I’m so psyched that Pavlova — considered to be the most classical Russian gymnast out there — will be continuing. She’s had a hard career, fourth in the Olympics in 2004, the scratch on the vault for a 0.000 and last-place finish in the 2008 EF, the fourth-place finish on BB. She took first on BB at this competition in 2006, and first on VT in 2004. Honestly, the girl is a solid three-event gymnast, and a powerful and elegant one at that. She’s great.
  • Elena Zamolodchikova: She’s baaaa-ack! She’s never been my favorite, but talk about longevity. Two Olympics, neither of which was 2008. She was in decent form at 2007 Worlds, but the lasting image of her there was sticking her vault after Ekaterina Kramarenko scratched on that apparatus, taking a 0.000 and leaving Russia in 8th. She didn’t quite make it to her third Olympics … is this evidence that she’s considering a FOURTH quad? (Too soon to tell.) She competed at DTB in 2002, taking second on BB and VT; in 2003, taking first on VT; in 2004, taking second on VT; and in 2006, taking third on VT. So basically, it’d be freaking awesome if she won VT again.

Ukraine

  • Anastasia Koval: Koval’s got a great UB routine and a decent start score, though she’ll face stiff and likely insurmountable competition from at least Ning and Yang. She’s young and a good one to watch — only sixteen, and with big international competitions limited so far to 2007 Worlds, 2008 Euros, and the Olympics.
  • Alina Kozich: Kozich is coming off a third-place finish on BB and a first-place finish on FX (with a beautiful routine, although curiously in that French leo with the silly slit down the front) at Glasgow. 2004 Olympian and European champion, and a nice second-place finish on BB at this year’s Euros, but she’s struggled a bit in the past quad. I hope this means she’s continuing!
  • Daria Zgoba: Zgoba has been floating around since 2004, and we know she’s good, but her competition has been really inconsistent. Still, she can be a great UB worker: first at the 2007 Euros, third at the 2008 Euros, and … first at the 2007 DTB! (Not to mention third at the 2006 World Cup Final.)

The full roster is available here.

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.

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

The Hongs spoke with NBC Action News in this article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivana Hong

Ivana Hong


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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