The C Score (2.0)

Posts Tagged ‘Alicia Sacramone

Unsurprisingly, China has named Cheng Fei, He Kexin, Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan and Li Shanshan to participate in the 2008 World Cup Final in Madrid. (See here.)

This FIG press release also confirms the participation of Sandra Izbasa, Elena Zamolodchikova and Suzanne Harmes. But it also notes the absence of Anna Pavlova and Oksana Chusovitina. I also assume that Ksenia Semenova won’t be present, but can’t confirm that at this point.

Some thoughts:

Vault:

With Chusovitina (who is ranked first) and Pavlova (ranked third) out, Cheng has the vault nearly locked up unless Zamolodchikova has massively improved since her performance at the DTB Cup. Alicia Sacramone is also up there in this ranking, followed by Jade Barbosa — neither will be there. Hong Un Jong may be the only real competition. And if that’s the case, I think Cheng can assume that this one is in the bag.

Uneven bars:

He is ranked only sixth right now on bars, but she’s the front-runner, with Yang second unless Beth Tweddle shows up. Nastia Liukin will obviously not be there, and I’m pretty sure Semenova is out as well. Dariya Zgoba is ranked high (second) but can’t truly compete against the Chinese start values.

Beam:

I think at this point, I might consider calling this for Cheng too. Pavlova, Johnson and Liukin are among the top eight, and won’t be there. Steliana Nistor is also out, and wouldn’t have taken first anyway, in all likelihood. Catalina Ponor, who is currently ranked first, hasn’t shown up in international competition in a while, so I don’t know what kind of shape she is in. Cheng’s biggest competition is likely to come from other Chinese women, and notably Li.

Floor:

This will likely be the most interesting battle, and it will probably play out among Cheng, Izbasa and — to a lesser extent — Jiang. Harmes is ranked tenth on floor, but I don’t think she has a chance at the podium with these players, unless we see a major mistake. Zamolodchikova could also theoretically compete on floor, but only if she’s in much better shape by mid-December.

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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

When I posted about the provisional new elements submissions I didn’t realize that in fact the final decisions had already been made!

Contrary to my expectations, Nastia Liukin did not get credit for that pike to scale, which I maintain was not a pike nor a scale anyway, kind of like Coffee Talk from Saturday Night Live. Un Jong Hong did not get her Yurchenko 3/1 because she didn’t compete it. That means no new vaults — what a shock, what with nearly everyone doing one of two vaults (vault has gotten so boring, thank god vault finals still exist to give us some variety).

And the winners are:

  • He Kexin/Yang Yilin for the 1 1/2 in reverse grip on UB
  • Beth Tweddle for the straddle Hecht with 1/2 turn to L-grip (she does definitely own that thing, even if it isn’t always beautiful)
  • Lauren Mitchell for this silly jump to chest stand to chest roll with a 1/2 turn, but good for her anyway (it’s an A skill)
  • Anna Pavlova/Ksenia Afanasyeva for a pirouette with back attitude (I’m a dancer, so I like what the Russians are doing here)
  • Ksenia Semenova/Ksenia Afanasyeva for double pirouette with back attitude!
  • Daiane dos Santos for that Arabian double layout (a G element!)

    I’m a little bummed for Alicia Sacramone, although her request was tenuous. I’m not sure what is going on with that aerial walkover to arabesque, which is everyone’s favorite new skill (10 people did it, 11 if you count Liukin). Despite assuming it would happen, I am relieved to find out that Liukin hasn’t been credited with her skill.

A whole slew of new elements in the Provisional WAG New Elements document.

I guess the most important thing, since we’ve been discussing it for a while, is that Nastia Liukin could get credit for the Liukin/Nistor front piked to arabesque (Nistor was doing it tucked anyway, and isn’t doing it anymore) … only … she gets credited with a front piked to scale, while the front aerial to arabesque (credited to 10 different gymnasts) is not ever listed as to scale. Does anyone think this thing is a scale? (See approximately 1:26. This one is also tucked, and Liukin herself said it wasn’t as piked as she wanted. On a side note, I think it looks like a cross between a tuck and an aerial, it’s not really salto-ish enough.)

Other provisional new skills of note include:

  • Un Jong Hong’s Yurchenko 3/1, with a difficulty value of 7.2.
  • He Kexin’s 1 1/2 turn before handstand in reverse grip on bars (also credited to Yang Yilin). What happens if He’s medals get taken away?
  • Alicia Sacramone’s split jump with a 2/1 turn on floor — good for her!
  • Daiane Dos Santos’ Arabian double layout
  • Oksana Chusovitina’s double back layout with legs separated in the second salto, although it has the same number as an existing skill. Is this some kind of record for the oldest person to which a skill has been attributed in the CoP? Maybe not, given the average age of gymnasts back in the day.

You can access the new elements document from this page at USA Gymnastics. The full Code is available from the FIG Web site.

Edit: See this post to read about the confirmed skills.

Some of the routines from the Tour, which features Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone and Shannon Miller, have been appearing on YouTube.

I’m definitely going to the Tour once it reaches my neck of the woods. It’s not my favorite gymnastics event, but it’s still fun to watch once every four years. I’ll be more excited to see what Johnson and Liukin do after it’s over!

If it’s not yet clear, Shawn Johnson was my favorite gymnast from this quadrennium, so here’s her floor routine. Most of the passes are pretty simple (two front layouts, e.g.) but there’s also a double pike (which she is clearly capable of doing in her sleep) in there at the beginning. Cute:

Up next in considering how you achieve fame after the Olympics — it’s not just based on gold — is the obvious case: Alicia Sacramone.

After she fell on beam, the first rumblings on the Internet were not positive. (Apparently she got hate e-mails. Unbelievable.) But the campaign to prove that the fall on beam didn’t make the difference in the team-final outcome, and the fact, apparently, that Alicia Sacramone is hot, has made her into the third-hottest commodity from the team. Pretty impressive.

As this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune explains:

You know her as the U.S. gymnast who fell off the balance beam in Beijing with the gold medal on the line in the women’s team competition. As the one who landed on her rear end in the floor exercise. As the one who bit her lower lip and tried to fight back tears as hundreds of millions of people worldwide watched on live television. But the point is, you know her. You know Alicia Sacramone.

She has big endorsement deals with Bank of America and Cover Girl (along with Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson).

I’ve always loved Sacramone as a gymnast. Honestly, I was never really into the “sexy” parts of her floor routine, but otherwise, I love an explosive gymnast, and Sacramone is an amazing example of that.

And in interviews and appearances she is charismatic and upbeat, and overall a great personality. (She’s also been the most candid about whether the Chinese girls were underage — she points out in one interview that one of them was missing baby teeth. I think it’s probably best not to comment, but then we knew she was going to be outspoken.) I know Liukin has some interest in the entertainment industry, but if anyone is going to make it there, it’s Sacramone. Not to mention that she trained at the elite level and did college gymnastics at Brown for a full year (before she had to give up college gymnastics to train for the Olympics).

Best quote ever (from Best Damn Sports Show Period): “Silver’s classier.” (Which is true!)

By the way, she all but confirms in the BDSS interview that she will be retiring.

Two cute post-Olympics interviews:

Some Fox show:

Best Damn Sports Show Period:

This L.A. Times piece from back in August asks who the next big thing will be for women’s gymnastics.

Of course, the spin they put on it is that a number of L.A. girls are in the running. Two of the girls mentioned in this post are Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro (both from All-Olympica in L.A.), both of whom are obvious contenders for 2012. Larson was old enough this year, made it to trials, but had a stress fracture (and, in all honesty, didn’t contribute so much that she should have been put on the team). Shapiro was too young. (Mattie Larson will be on the old side in 2012, at 20 — but same age as Alicia Sacramone and Chellsie Memmel this year.)

But who else? My comments on Larson and Shapiro, plus a few more:

Rebecca Bross
This is an obvious one. The girl was junior all-around champion at Visa Championships in 2007, and took first on three of the four event finals (the only event on which she wasn’t first was beam, where she took second). On floor, her choreography is great (it is WOGA after all), and she handles some pretty mature dance beautifully. She also does a lot more twisting than other gymnasts (her last pass isn’t a double pike!), which reminds me of Nastia Liukin, except I think that Bross is a better tumbler, and manages to be graceful even in the non-dance segments of her routine (can’t say that for Liukin).

Chelsea Davis
Not the best timing for Davis, who will be 19 for the 2012 Olympics. On the other hand, she was fourth at Nationals in 2007, sixth at Jesolo, and first at the 2008 Gymnix competition (senior), although frankly her only other true competition was Mattie Larson, who placed second, and Kristina Vaculik, who only competed two events. And, of course, she was eighth in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. On the other hand, her A-scores aren’t the highest, especially given that she’s among the oldest in this group.

Mattie Larson
Larson will be 20 for the 2012 Olympics, which is not ideal. Then again, she is strong and graceful, and had a good chance of making the team before her injury. On the other hand, her contributions weren’t staggeringly amazing, with a DTY and only a 5.8 A-score (last I checked) on bars.

Samantha Shapiro
People love Shapiro, and with good reasons. Like Larson, she is graceful but also strong. Her bars and beam are both really high-difficulty, and will only get better. Shapiro’s weakest event is the vault, but that’s less of a concern because we need help other places more. One of those places is bars, and Shapiro is at All-Olympia, which has a great coaching staff for bars. I think she’s a candidate to stick it out, even though her age isn’t ideal.

Jordyn Wieber
She has some growing up to do, but she’s already done quite a bit since she burst onto the national stage at the age of 10 (although she wasn’t on the national team until 2006). At the age of 12, she placed 3rd in the all-around at Nationals. Her floor is not very mature yet, but I think part of that has to do with her club (Geddert’s) choreography. Her bars are actually quite clean even though she’s a pretty powerful gymnast (the type you might expect to be sloppy on bars). And I think she could eventually update to a 2 1/2-twisting Yurchenko. And she’ll be the perfect age for the 2012 Olympics.

I actually don’t have the highest hopes for people like Bridget Sloan or Davis simply because of their ages. Of course, Memmel and Sacramone proved that you can be 20 and still make it onto the U.S. team, but then their Olympics didn’t turn out quite as they had imagined. And then there’s the fact that the next big thing for four years down the road doesn’t usually surface quite this early.

I’ll discuss this more later, but our big problem right now is obviously bars, and we need someone who really stands out on that event. Actually, we need at least two people, if these Olympics prove anything.

Bross is really up there for me right now. I can’t wait to see her in senior competition. Here’s her floor from the 2007 Pan Ams:


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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