The C Score (2.0)

Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Bross

Rumor has it that after all the drama of the past months, and suggestions of transfers to AOGC and Chow’s, it appears that Ivana Hong has finally made her choice …

… and it is WOGA, training in Valeri Liukin’s group with Nastia Liukin and Rebecca Bross.

Honestly, I’m somewhat disappointed by the choice. Putting family and gymnastics politics aside (I’m sure that will be discussed elsewhere), I think that WOGA doesn’t complement Hong’s current strengths nearly as well as Chow’s, my first choice for Hong.

Ivana Hong

Ivana Hong

Firstly, I think it might have been useful to train in a gym in which elites train in a larger group — Shawn Johnson currently trains will all of the optional-level athletes. Hong is known as the consummate perfectionist, and I think it might have revived her love for the sport and muted the perfectionism a bit to be in a larger group with other gymnasts. There’s nothing like a little perspective.

Second, it is widely known that Johnson trains minimal hours a week for an elite gymnast — only 24 hours, compared to many other gymnasts’ tallies approaching 40. Again, perhaps a more “normal” schedule would have been good.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I think that Chow’s gymnastics style would have suited Hong. She is already known for her grace, elegance and lines. She lacks power and, in some cases, really big skills. Naturally, WOGA will be a great place for Hong to improve her bars routine, which has been a sticking point for her despite the previously mentioned clean lines and good form. But overall I would have liked to see Hong’s assets complemented by the power and difficulty of a Johnson-type style. It would be like taking Johnson and handing her over to WOGA for a bit more focus on flexibility and bars.

Anyway, naturally, we all wish Hong the best at WOGA. I certainly hope it will get her out of the funk she’s been in. You’ll recall that at the 2007 Nationals she was pegged as one of the next big things, and I don’t think that was a totally unrealistic prediction. Her gymnastics is absolutely gorgeous, and she clearly has the work ethic to achieve something big. I hope to see her back in competition at 2009 Nationals!

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No update on Anna Pavlova just now, but some news on Rebecca Bross, Deng Linlin, Beth Tweddle and Dariya Zgoba, who are all injured.

Rebecca Bross:

I have finally confirmed for myself the long-circulating rumor that Bross’s injury at the most recent training camp was not minor, as originally suggested, but actually a fairly serious injury that could have her out for all of next season. Also, as I understand it, it was not to the leg that has caused her trouble in the past, but was an acute trauma to her knee on her good leg. Too bad, especially since a lot of people were expecting a big senior debut at the American Cup.

ETA: I’ve since heard that the surgery was to remove a bone chip, but I can’t confirm that.

Deng Linlin:

Deng Linlin apparently had fairly serious surgery and will not be participating in any competitions for the rest of the year.

Beth Tweddle:

Tweddle recently had a shoulder operation according to British Gymnastics (see here), explaining her absence on the WCF roster.

Dariya Zgoba:

Slightly more interestingly, Zgoba had to scratch at the Glasgow Grand Prix and the DTB Cup because of an injury, and then was scheduled to have surgery. Either she had it in October and is sufficiently healed to participate in the WCF, or she has postponed it.

Honestly the Pan American Gymnastics Union event competitions are not that interesting from a U.S. perspective — there were really no other competitive gymnastics nations present except Brazil, but some of the Brazilians were in Europe for the Massilia Cup. Nevertheless, it’s a decent international opportunity for the rising generation of American seniors, and a good chance for us to see them compete against one another.

Rebecca Bross was scheduled to compete at PAGU but withdrew, reportedly because of a knee injury sustained at the most recent training camp. This left the Americans with Corrie Lothrop, Olivia Courtney and Samantha Shapiro. Incidentally, Bridget Sloan and Jana Bieger were both on the training squad for this event, but did not go. As it happens, early on Bridget Sloan announced that she would not be competing for the rest of the year, choosing instead to train for the new Code of Points. Meanwhile, it was initially rumored that Bieger had not been selected, but in fact it turns out that she made the same decision as Sloan. So Marta Karolyi hasn’t totally cast her aside yet.

Lothrop and Shapiro both performed impressively. Lothrop placed first on vault took silver on every other event, proving why Marta thought she was a valuable enough commodity to have as an alternate for the Olympics.

Shapiro competed a pretty massive 15.450-scoring routine on bars, placing her solidly among top U.S. seniors in bars scores. The next-highest score was Lothrop’s, over a point below Shapiro’s. Shapiro then went on to take beam with another very high score (15.775). She seems to have improved her difficulty fairly significantly.

The third American, Olivia Courtney (Shayla Worley’s teammate) also took home two medals: gold on floor (scoring in the low 15’s) and silver on vault.

Corrie Lothrop, Samantha Shapiro and Olivia Courtney at the PAGU Individual Event Championships

Corrie Lothrop, Samantha Shapiro and Olivia Courtney at the PAGU Individual Event Championships

Again, of course, this was basically an intrasquad competition with the slight twist of having to fly to Argentina first. But still, it’s nice to see some big scores from the next generation of U.S. gymnasts.

Full results are available here, although the site is down occasionally.

No videos yet.

Vault:

1. Corrie Lothrop (USA)
2. Olivia Courtney (USA)
3. Tarabini Ayelen (ARG)

Uneven bars:

1. Samantha Shapiro (USA)
2. Corrie Lothrop (USA)
3. Juliana Santos (BRA)

Beam:

1. Samantha Shapiro (USA)
2. Corrie Lothrop (USA)

Floor:

1. Olivia Courtney (USA)
2. Corrie Lothrop (USA)

We’re nearing the end of the year, so here’s some stuff that’s coming up. This includes “breaking” news coming out of the current U.S. national training camp, which ends tomorrow. The official announcement of U.S. assignments can be found here.

Big news:

  • The U.S. PAGU team has been named: Rebecca Bross, Olivia Courtney, Corrie Lothrop, Samantha Shapiro. The inclusion of Shapiro means she must have gotten over her elbow injury.
  • Diana Bulimar and Larisa Iordache of Romania will compete at Top Gym.
  • Nastia Liukin will perform an exhibition at Massilia Cup.
  • Amanda Jetter will be joined at the International Artistic Gymnastics Challenge by Olivia Courtney and Corrie Lothrop. The latter two will be at both PAGU and in Brussels. Cassie Whitcomb, who was originally named for this meet back in October, is now out.

PAGU:

First, the U.S. team for the Pan American Gymnastics Union (PAGU) Individual Event Championships has been chosen: Rebecca Bross, Olivia Courtney, Corrie Lothrop, Samantha Shapiro.

The big news is that Jana Bieger has once again been screwed over by Marta Karolyi. This seems to be a signal that USAG is done with Bieger; they’re moving on to the younger seniors. If this is the case, I hope Karolyi will release Bieger, and then maybe she could go compete for Germany. I think she would have fun with that, and Germany’s got some other good contenders, including Oksana Chusovitina, Kim Bui, Jenny Brunner, Marie-Sophie Hindermann …. Or maybe she’ll just move on to NCAA. (I always forget she can’t do NCAA because she randomly went elite in 2006.) Anyway, it doesn’t look good for her in U.S. elite gymnastics. The other people on the training squad who were not picked are Mackenzie Caquatto, Amanda Jetter, Bridget Sloan, and Cassie Whitcomb. News from Sloan was that she was going to train for the American Cup in 2009 and not bother with international competition before then. The weird thing is that Shapiro was not even on the shortlist, presumably because she was injured, so maybe she has gotten over that injury, bumping the other three new seniors.

Top Gym

Top Gym in Charleroi, Belgium, which will be attended by two strong American juniors — Jordyn Wieber and her Geddert’s teammate Kamerin Moore — adds two great Romanian juniors to its competition list: Diana Bulimar and Larisa Iordache. Bulimar was this year’s Category II champion at Romanian Nationals, with Iordache taking Category III last year, and placing second to Andreea Tufa this year. Presumably the Category I juniors, many of whom just moved to the Olympic squad at Deva, have more important things to do. In her most recent competition, at Blanc-Mesnil in France November 7-8, Bulimar took second in the AA to Ukraine’s Natalia Kononenko.

The other countries that have already released the names of their gymnasts aren’t sending any big names. However, I still haven’t heard about Russia’s gymnasts, and it’s possible it may be Anna Dementieva and Viktoria Komova, who will be in neighboring France for Massilia.

Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have announced their gymnasts. Italy will send Chiara Gandolfi and Giorgia Campana, and Holland will send Jocelynn Kraan and Yvette Moshage. A second Belgian team is yet to be named, as are the Slovenian, Slovakian, British and, as I mentioned, Russian teams.
Massilia Cup:

Rumor has it that Nastia Liukin will be performing an exhibition at the Massilia Cup in France on November 21-23.

The Massilia Cup consists of the Massilia Open for teams by country or gym, the Massilia Gym Cup by country-team, and the Top Massilia, an individual final for the highest scorers from the previous competitions.

For the Massilia Gym Cup, Australia will be sending Lauren Mitchell, who is doing quite the circuit right now, Ashleigh Brennan, and top junior Emily Little. For China, Jiang Yuyuan will be competing, which is exciting because she performed only on floor at the recent Chinese Nationals. The Chinese are also sending Wei Guo and Mengsi Tan (not familiar with the latter). Russia is sending juniors: the exciting Tatiana Nabieva as well as Anna Dementieva and Viktoria Komova, who throws some amazing skills for her age. Fantastic junior Youna Dufournet will compete on one team for France with two seniors, Angeline Serre and Manon Erre; and there will also be a team of juniors only: Chloé Stanic, Aurélie Malausséna and Eva Maurin. Brazil sends Ana Silva, Khiuna Dias and Bruna Leal.

Beyond this, some exciting competitors for the Open Massilia. There are a number of them, so I’ll highlight the ones I’m happy to see: Ambre Casanova, Marine Brevet and Justin Crosato of France (Saint-Etienne); Sarah Gusmaroli, Marie Gaffino (although rumor has it she has retired?) and Julie Pennachio also of France (Marseille); Britt Greeley, Tain Molendijk (who has been injured) and Tracey Penaluna of Australia; and three (!) WOGA teams: Briley Casanova, Sophia Lee, Rachel Holman, Alyssa Baumann, Hayley Sanders, Dana Ho, Belle MacFalane, Rachel Philipps and Charle Dembo; and a number of Canadian juniors: Caitlyn Keates, Rochelle Hurt, Dominique Pegg, Anysia Unick, Jessica Dowling, Melissa Downing, Madeline Gardiner, Anna Gamelo, Sabrina Gill, Mikaela Gerber, Briannah Tsang and Alysa Samaratunga (apparently there will be a selection after a training week in France). Léa Kemayou of France will also compete with her Toulon team, but I don’t know about the other competitors.

I’ve highlighted a number of these juniors in my Up-and-Coming Juniors series.

International Artistic Gymnastics Challenge

The Challenge, held in Woluwe Saint-Lambert near Brussels, will now feature Corrie Lothrop and Olivia Courtney in addition to Amanda Jetter and Cassie Whitcomb. This means that Lothrop and Courtney will be both at PAGU and at Saint-Lambert.

Bela Karolyi was in Chicago today to promote the American Cup, which will be held there in March 2009. There is a lot of good information coming out of these articles.

Bela at his ranch

Bela at his ranch

The Chinese age scandal

What, you thought it was going to go away?

Karolyi is still talking about the Chinese age scandal. He thinks the 2000 Olympics inquiry was perfunctory and is not convincing in the slightest:

“I think that’s just a cover-up. They’re trying to hold onto their reputation on this issue, when it’s one of the most blatant things we’ve ever seen.”

Karolyi says that he complained about the age question back in Sydney, saying that he pointed out that one of the girls (I assume Dong Fangxiao, but it could have been Yang Yun) had been a junior the year before and that it was impossible that she could have aged two years in one year. (He makes a good point.)

Interestingly, Karolyi was backed up by Steve Penny of USA Gymnastics more than usual. He said “Bela makes a good point when he says the Chinese kids went out there and did a good job. But there’s a rule that says you’ve got to be 16.”

My favorite part is where he added: “Here’s Rebecca Bross, two months short of being able to compete, sitting, crying in front of her TV, watching kids younger than her compete.” Really? Rebecca Bross was CRYING in front of her television?

It’s official: Marta’s staying

Bela confirms that Marta will be around at least through 2012. Interestingly, Penny says that the Karolyis (both of them) are “USA Gymnastics’ long-term plan.” Everyone loves the program (that Bela created, and that they hated at the time … no, I’m not bitter).

Bela then mentioned Kim Zmeskal as a possible successor!

Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Samantha Peszek continuing

Apparently Liukin was briefly at the trainign camp that just started, and told Bela she would continue competing.

Bela also said that while we lost all of our athletes after the 2004 cycle, at least Liukin, Johnson and Peszek will continue.

A little clue on Bela’s favorites?

When asked who the next big thing was, Bela answered Rebecca Bross and Jordyn Wieber. He called Wieber a “diamond” and compared her to Shawn Johnson (directly, and also by mentioning her ability to stay on the beam!).

And: one last (boring) article.

**Updated 10/12**

The most recent training camp took place at the Karolyi ranch this week, with all of the Olympians absent except for Bridget Sloan (sorry). Here’s the news I’ve gleaned, with some commentary:

Gymnasts present

Chelsea Davis:

Davis is apparently doing a double layout on floor! This is one of my favorite skills, and we didn’t see enough of it last quad. Apparently she also upgraded on bars, adding a Geinger and a Hindorff (for those who are unclear, a Hindorff is a free hip circle to Tkatchev, a pretty rare — and cool — skill). (ETA 10/12: Davis says that she verified the Hindorff only on the pit bar.) This is an important upgrade because she has nice lines and form on bar, but at Jesolo for instance was only competing a Jaeger release. ETA 10/12: Here is a great interview that Anne over at the great Gymnastike did with Davis about this camp.

This is Yulia Kut (USSR) doing a Hindorff (the first release in this routine), 1988:

Ivana Hong:

Hong is rumored to be at the camp but without a coach or gym. It’s hard to say where Hong will go now that she has left GAGE, but reliable guesses have her going to AOGC in California, her home state. If she went there, she would be training with Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro (and Hollie Mossett). Certainly that gym would complement her style well. Honestly, it’s hard to understand why she hasn’t shown up at WOGA, since her family is clearly willing to relocate. I’d like to see her go somewhere where she would be pushed to train tougher, harder skills — she’s got the form down — and I actually think either AOGC or WOGA would be good for that.

Amanda Jetter

Jetter now has a DTY and a Patterson dismount on beam, upgraded from a double back. Vault was Jetter’s lowest-scoring event at 2008 Nationals, so that is good news. And her beam is actually quite lovely, with a nice, clean standing Arabian.

Samantha Shapiro:

Had some kind of surgery, but is there.

Cassie Whitcomb:

Apparently Whitcomb has a very nice Hindorff. What’s with all the Hindorffs? Don’t know much about Whitcomb’s bars otherwise …

Jordyn Wieber:

The big news is that she is throwing an apparently solid Amanar. Now, one might think that the last thing a twelve-year-old junior needs is a giant vault leaps and bounds above the capacity of her competition, especially since it’s taxing and she’ll have to do it for three years before she even reaches senior age eligibility. On the other hand, her DTY was ofter over-rotated, suggesting she had extra power. Not sure what to think. Apparently she’s only training twenty-odd hours a week, so Geddert’s doesn’t seem to be breaking her, but on the other hand they seem to focus too much on skills and too little on form. Time will tell ….

Other people rumored to be at the camp but about which I have no information (besides assignments, below), sadly: Alaina Johnson, Mattie Larson, Randi Lau, Corrie Lothrop, Randy Stageberg, Shayla Worley.

Assignments

Top Gym: Charleroi, BEL November 28-30

Wieber and her Geddert’s teammate Kamerin Moore. Cute that they’re going together.

Pan-American Gymnastics Union (PAGU) Individual Event Championships: Buenos Aires, ARG November 19-23

A training squad of seven girls was picked: Jana Bieger, Rebecca Bross, Mackenzie Caquatto, Olivia Courtney, Jetter, Sloan, Whitcomb. Only four will go to PAGU.

NEW 10/12: Hints About International Competitions

Interestingly, Davis said in a recent interview (see above, or Anne’s comment) that she will not be participating in any international competitions until 2009, because of the new CoP. Not sure if this is a decision made by her coach, Kim Zmeskal-Burdette, or by Marta. If it’s Zmeskal-Burdette’s decision, it might be smart, except to the extent that it would provide Davis with international experience (though she seems confident about her place on the team right now, see the interview I keep referring to). If it’s by Marta, she probably is sending out gymnasts who have pretty set, high-scoring routines under this CoP. Davis is working on a lot of upgrades, so it would make sense that she would save them for use under the new CoP. So I’m expecting gymnasts with fewer upgrade plans to compete in the last few events of the year.

Thoughts

My impulse is to feel terrible for Bieger. It’s clear from her (rumored) request in 2007 to be released to Germany that she has had it up to here with USAG. It’s also clear from recent events that Marta Karolyi’s reaction (um … no) was justified: they keep Bieger around in case they need her after injuries. And that has worked out for Bieger in the past. Unfortunately, she’s clearly not one of Marta’s favorites, and that has worked against her. A lot. Now, if she is still going to camps, maybe there is a bright side: maybe she still wants to be involved. Certainly going to camps and accepting a possible international assignment means she isn’t trying to wait out the two years without international competition so that USAG has no more claim over her. Perhaps Bieger is being forgiving, and is sticking with the sport because she loves it ….

Worley is at camp. Her story eerily mirrors that of Chellsie Memmel in the lead-up to ’04 — will Worley stick around? It’s hard to imagine her doing so, what with all the injuries. At this point it seems like it would be a miracle if she could hang on. I’d like to know specifically what she’s been up to.

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


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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