Friday, May 2, 2008

April Gymnastics News Round-Up

Above: He Kexin, the breakout Chinese sensation due to her mind-boggling ability on the uneven bars. However, there is much speculation of whether she is age-eligible for the games.

The month of April had several events including the European Gymnastics Championships, Cottbus Cup, Maribor World Cup, and NCAA Gymnastics Championships. Because the Pacific Rim Champs were at the very end of March and I wasn't blogging at this time, I will include thoughts on that competition as well. Without further ado:

The Good

  • Nastia Liukin's new beam set is looking FANTASTIC. It is perfectly composed, she looks very much at ease and calm with it and THANK GOD she took out the back pike at the end of her acro series. Her 2.5 twist dismount looks very easy for her now, so we may just see her go back to a triple twist come nationals/oly trials. Also, her insanely difficult UB set (7.7 A-score) will help her cause out in the AA and UB finals as well as the U.S.'s hopes for team gold come Beijing.

  • He Kexin's bars set is incredibly difficult (7.7 A-score too) and yet she makes her work look like she's competing the easiest routine in the world. Her jaeger1/2-jaeger combo makes me think that she could do it in her sleep. She is also incredibly consistent on that event despite her unimaginable difficulty.

  • Sandra Izbasa's new floor routine is lovely. It is not balletic, but it suits her calm yet powerful style perfectly. This is the first time that I've ever seen her emote or smile in a floor routine, and I find hers to be one of the best Romanian floor routines since the days of Silivas (when gymnasts actually had time to dance). Her tumbling is superb and I would sooo love for her to win FX gold in Beijing.

  • Xiao Sha showed much confidence at the Cottbus Cup. She fell twice in the warm-up for beam finals. The first competitor up, she hit both skills she missed in warm-up PERFECTLY and ended up winning gold their and also the bronze on FX. One of Xiao Sha's trademarks is her one-arm solute after she finishes a front skill on beam, and for me this shows much more attack and confidence than a regular two-arm solute or no solute at all.

  • Samantha Shapiro was very composed after the music stopped early on in her floor routine at the Pacific Rim champs. She is a bit of a shaky competitor, so this should help her out with confidence.

  • Darlene Hill showed much courage by winning FX gold at the Pacific Rim just weeks after her grandmother, who raised her, passed away.

  • There were several strong performances from the Chinese at a pre-olympic trials meet in China; the U.S. is going to have to watch out for the strong A-scores of the Chinese girls if they want to win olympic team gold.

  • Oksana Chusovitina is likely going to compete in her 5th olympic games, I believe a record for a gymnast of any kind. Oksana is looking great so far this year, winning vault golds at Cottbus, Europeans, and at the Doha World Cup in March.

  • Elizabeth Tweddle's new Toe-on Tkatchev 1/2 is extremely innovative.

  • Ksenia Semionova's improved UB form and dismount.

  • NBC's new olympic site.

  • Georgia overcoming the loss of Courtney Kupets to win their 4th consecuitive NCAA title at home.

The Bad

  • Elizabeth Tweddle losing a medal to Dariya Zgoba (UKR) due to the judges not crediting her new bars release (that I mentioned earlier) because of missing her straddle back to handstand afterward. Actually, Beth didn't even miss the straddle back; she made it to handstand, taking an involuntary 1/2 turn and recovering quite well afterwards. Discrediting Beth of this skill was most uncalled for.

  • Inconsistency from the potential top 2 European AAers, Steliana Nistor and Vanessa Ferrari. I mentioned both of these girls in my AA outlook post, and right now both of their outlooks don't look good. Nistor appears to be in good physical form but has suffered several mistakes so far this year, particularly at the Cottbus Cup. Ferrari looked terrible at the beginning of the year in regional Italian meets posted on YouTube. She improved for Europeans, but still left the competition empty-handed. If Nistor and Ferrari show up to Beijing looking the way they have lately, the European judges will likely lobby to get Nastia's ex-soviet style toward the top of the medals stand.

  • So far this year we have yet to see Alicia Sacramone or Chellsie Memmel. This is not neccessarily bad news on Sacramone's part, but for Memmel's olympic chances it is. Even the ever-optimistic Chellsie mentioned on her WCSN blog that the recent Karolyi camp "didn't go quite as I planned." No word yet on what that means, but Chellsie's current condition is likely still not where she needs it to be to go to Beijing. I do still think she will make the team, albeit barely.

  • Li Shanshan has been looking shaky on balance beam, her absolute money event to make the Chinese olympic team. Shanshan's grace, power, and composition on beam is truly worthy of an olympic gold medal, and it would be a shame to see her not go to Beijing.

  • Jade Barbosa looking shaky on every event except floor at Cottbus. Like Steliana and Vanessa, Jade has gotten her year off to a somewhat shaky start and may not get the olympic momentum in terms of political favor with weaker performances prior to the games.

  • Daiane dos Santos didn't show anywhere near her full difficulty at Cottbus, despite her saying that her injuries are fully behind her. As the past has proven, Daiane tends to let the pressure get to her, even when injury-free.

  • Irina Krasnyanska being bumped-off the European team in favor of Dariya Zgoba, who only competed bars.

The Controversy of the Month

Is He Kexin really old enough to compete at the 2008 olympic games? It's been an ongoing rumor that apparently the Chinese coaches upped her birthdate a year so that she would be eligible to compete in Beijing. Whether it is true or not, the Chinese coaches have good reason to do this, with He being an early favorite for UB gold at the olympics. There is no legitimate proof for her being too young, and she certainly doesn't look even close to being as young as Kim Gwang Suk did in 1991-1992. The Chinese delegation, in my opinion, will let He Kexin go to Beijing EVEN IF they know they are doing something very illegal. The pride of China is at stake especially in the women's team final, and without Kexin China could potentially be deprived of two possible gold medals. What the FIG will do, if anything, remains to be seen. Pending charges from the FIG of her being too young before the olympic games are unlikely; the FIG likes to be sneaky in their political tactics. I mentioned in my team final post that the Chinese have tended to get lower-than-deserved scores in team finals at the previous two worlds, which means that the judges might be very strict with the scores awarded to Kexin and the Chinese girls in general for this age controversy. Not sending Kexin to the olympics basically admits to everyone that she is indeed too young, and this shows unneccessary weakness on China's part towards the judges. The FIG might be incredibly stupid, however, as there were Romanians (Goegan, Marinescu) that were too young to compete in the '92 and '96 olympics, respectively, and yet no one noticed until about a decade later and by that time it was WAY too late for anybody to do anything. If He Kexin is really too young, this is unfair to the U.S. team who can't send Rebecca Bross, Samantha Shapiro, or Jordyn Weiber; any of whom might fix the USA's current drought on uneven bars. The Chinese will obviously do anything to win, but I really do hope that Kexin is age-eligible. I don't want another scandal overshadowing the competition that these athletes have trained their entire lives for.

What are your thoughts on Kexin's supposed age falsification and the current outlook of the gymnasts?

Next Post: Chinese women's olympic team selection outlook

That is all.

1 comment:

Young said...

I hope He Kexin hits at the Olympics. Pressure at Beijing will be significantly higher than any World Cup meet.