Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Women's Team Finals - American Success

They did it! The USA Women's gymnastics team earned the gold medal today by over five points. Twelve nearly flawless performances clinched the gold for the exceptionally young team including literally the most beautiful vault I've ever seen. To watch the women hit routine after routine was incredibly satisfying. The Fierce Five were as fierce as ever.

Why is the US Succeeding? I personally like to think that it's our "melting pot" and "best of both worlds" structures that provide everything and the kitchen sink to the American athletes. The Women's US Olympic Gymnastics Team is coached by individuals from each of the top 4 gymnastics nations, if you consider the old USSR & Russia one and the same. Rather than having a distinct weakness like some other teams, the varied coaching styles present different strengths amongst Americans. For instance, Aly Raisman is coached by Romanian Mihai Brestyan seemed to inherit the nation's weakness on bars but their strengths on beam and floor. Kyla Ross, Gabby Douglas and US Alternate Anna Li have all been nurtured by Chinese Coaches and seem to prevail on bars. Of course, many coaches are present within a young gymnast's career and other factors influence success besides coaching, but I thought it was worth noting that the US relies on a melting pot environment to hone a strong team.

I do think that we all need to applaud Marta Karolyi. For all the slack that we as fans give Marta, we should realize that she does have some earthly idea what she's doing. The USA's never earned lower than silver at the Olympics under her direction and today they not only earned the gold, but it was by a fairly hefty margin. At the end of the day, Marta has the majority of the control over who makes the team and on which events they compete.

But of course, the real indisputable reason for the win was the USA's performances. When competing that level of difficulty that impressively, they were nearly uncatchable. The USA stayed solid while competing some of the most difficult routines in the world. Ultimately, THAT'S why they won. I've already heard many people saying, "Well, if the Russians would have hit, they'd have the gold." Not only is that irrelevant, it's also untrue. I did a little experiment wondering if Russia had the opportunity to take the higher scores between prelims and finals for each routine, if they could beat the USA's performances today. The numbers that are crossed out are Team Finals results replaced by qualifying scores.

Komova- 15.833
Mustafina- 15.225
Paseka - 15.3  15.533

Grishina - 14.7 
Komova - 15.766  15.833
Mustafina - 15.7

Komova - 15.033  15.266
Mustafina - 14.533  14.7
Afan - 14.833 15.066

Floor - 
Grishina - 12.466 14.066
Mustafina - 14.8
Afan - 14.333  14.833

Russian Olympic High Score Total : 181.555
USA's Actual Team Total : 183.596

The bottom line is, it doesn't matter. The USA simply out performed Russia in both Prelims and Finals. Grishina & Afan's Floor Mistakes, Paseka's step on vault, as well as Komova and Mustafina's beam struggles were all frankly irrelevant. It wouldn't have mattered. It was the USA's competition to lose and they didn't budge. 

It was an exciting event and until Grishina's floor mishaps, I wondered if the USA would falter and Russia would prevail. The pressure was on the USA's shoulders and they rose to the occasion.  

Pictures all property of ESPN.

Twas the night before finals...

Twas the night before finals and all through the net, 
The gymnernet waited and started to fret.
Filled with excitement, knowing drama's ahead, 
Visions of Amanars, danced through my head.  

While lying awake, I started to think, 
What will they wear? Will the leos be pink?
Will Jordyn stay strong? And with Gabby on beam, 
Can the USA Women fulfill such a dream?

To win the team gold, it will sure be a fight, 
with the USA's lead just ever so slight,
Russia could overcome with their fabulous bars,
Either team could win big and become the new stars.

When thinking of this, I started to shake,
and decided to stop and just take a quick break,
So to twitter I headed and started to read,
and quickly found bitching about Aly's lead.

"She sucks", one girl wrote, "Ew, her toes!" another read,
 And yet still a few more were just tweeting with dread,
about Marta's choices, the rules and results,
a few more went on and sent Douglas insults.

As I kept reading tweets, I just had to yell "FUCK!"
Can you not just be funny and make jokes like Buck?
It's okay to be funny, without being a dick,
But to hate on sweet Gabby? You're just fucking sick.

As I read and I read I became more enraged,
With the BS on twitter, the girls are upstaged!
This is the Olympics! It's about the sport!
We shouldn't be hating, we should give support.

It's McKayla, Gabby, Kyla, Aly & Jo,
These girls are so fierce even with a bad toe.
While the placements have changed these girls still are on top,
We don't know if they'll stay there, or whether they'll flop.

We'll find out tomorrow, when finals begins,
 which countries will fail or will earn their first wins,
I can't believe that tomorrow the day will arrive,
when I'll get to cheer for my favorite Fierce 5.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Code Fun with Prelims Routines

By request, here's some code analysis... I'd like to remind you that I'm not a judge and this is just my take on routines that were asked for. I'm just answering the questions asked. :)

Jordyn Wieber's Beam
Split Mount (A)
Front Layout (D) + Back Handspring (B) + Back Layout Stepout (C) (.2 CV)
Front Handspring (B)
Back with a Full (F)
Back Handspring (B)
Switch Leap (C) + Back Pike (C) (.1 CV)
Side Aerial (D)
Side Somi (D)
Split Leap (A) + Sissone (A)
Johnson (C)
Full Turn with Leg Up (C)
Back Handspring (B) + Back Handspring (B) + Layout 2.5 (D) (.1 CV)

CR: 2.5
Acro: F+D+D+D+D= 2.2
Dance: C+C+C= .9
CV: .4

You'll notice that this was .3 lower than Jordyn got at Trials. That's because her Front Handspring to Full to Back Handspring wasn't credited as a connection. Her E score was 8.7, which seemed pretty straight forward to me.

Jordyn Wieber's Floor
Double Double (G)
1.5 (C) through to Triple (E) (CV .2) (I wouldn't credit the leap)
Triple Turn Downgraded to a Double Turn? (B)
Switch Leap (B) + Johnson Half (C)
2.5 (D) + Split Leap (A) (CV .1) 
Split Leap 1.5 (D)
Front Layout (A)
Double Pike (D)

CR: 2.5
Acro : G+E+D+D+C= 2.3
Dance : D+C+B= .9
CV : .3

I could be wrong here, but my guess would be that Jordyn's downgrades came with the icky turn she fell out of and the OOB/sketchy stag leap.

Victoria Moors's Floor
Double Double (G)
Split Leap 1.5 (D)
1.5 (C) Through to Triple (E) (CV .2)
Full Turn (A) (I think that's how this is credited?)
Front Layout (A) + Full Turn (A)
Switch Ring (C) + Split Leap Half (C)
Layout 2.5 (D)
Double Tuck (D)

CR: 2.5
Acro : G+E+D+D+C= 2.3
Dance : D+C+C= 1.0
CV : .2

Here's my take on the E score, and this is just my opinion.
-Low Chest Landing on Double Double (.3)
-Lunge on Triple (.3)
-Insufficient Arch Ring Leap (.1)
-Lunge on 2.5 (.3)
-Low Chest on Double Tuck (.3)
-Step on Double Tuck (.3)
MY E SCORE : 8.4 
Actual E Score : 8.1

It was probably a stupid deduction like "excessive preparation" on passes. The 8.1 does seem low to me, but I will emphasize that I'm not a judge.

Gabby Douglas's Floor
1.5 (C) through to Triple (E) (CV .2)
Double Arabian (E)
Switch Ring (C) + Split Leap 1.5 (D)
Double Turn with Leg at Horizontal (D)
Double Tuck with Full Twist (E)
Double Back (D) + Split Leap (A) (CV .1)

CR: 2.5
Acro : E+E+E+D+C= 2.2
Dance : D+D+C= 1.1
CV : .3
The actual D score : 5.7

After talking with several people, the conclusion is that her leg may have dropped below horizontal on the turn, the With Ring didn't have a front leg reaching 45 degrees before flying back. I personally would have appealed though. Granted, it didn't really end up mattering.

Catalina Ponor's Beam
Split Mount (A)
Switch Ring (E)
Double Turn (D)
Onodi (D) + Back Handspring (B) + Layout to 2 Feet (E) (.2 CV)
Front Layout (D) + Back Handspring (B) + Layout Stepout (C) (.2 CV)
Switch Leap (C) + Omelianchick (D) (.1 CV)
Wolf Jump (A) + Split Jump (A)
Roundoff (B) + Double Pike (E)

CR : 2.5
Acro : E+E+D+D+D= 2.2
Dance : E+D+C= 1.2
CV : .5

My Opinion on E Score:
-Front Leg Below Horizontal on Switch Ring (.1)
-Wobble on Switch Ring (.5)
-Wobble on Layout Stepout (.3)
-Low chest on dismount (.3)
-Step on dismount (.3)
Actual E Score : 8.633

Larisa Iordache's Beam
Stoop on Mount (A)
Back Handspring (B) + Tucked Full (F) (.2 CV) 
Double Turn (D)
Switch Leap Half (D)
Front Aerial (D)
"Chicken" (D)
Switch Leap (C) + Back Tuck (C) (.1 CV) 
Split Jump (A) + Sissone (A)
Roundoff (B) + Back Handspring (B) + Triple (F) (.2 CV) 

CR: 2.5
Acro : F+F+D+D+C = 2.3
Dance : D+D+C= 1.1
CV : .5

My Opinion on E Score :
-Wobble on Tucked Full (.5)
-Wobble on Double Turn (.1)
-Hips not square on Switch Leap Half (.1)
-Toes not precise on Switch Leap Half (.1)
-Wobble on Front Aerial (.3)
-Chest Position on Front Tuck (.1)
-Step on Dismount (.3)
Actual E Score : 8.4

Women's Qualifying - A Closer Look

Yesterday the women kicked off their Olympic experiences with an, all things considered, fairly uneventful day. The four top teams finished in their expected positions with the exception of Romania who seemed to have some uncharacteristic struggles. Romanian proclaimed "Future Olympic All Around Champion" Larisa Iordache was expected to be left out of the All Around due to plantar fasciitis but was thrown back in after a shitload of tape on her foot supposedly alleviated the issues. Apparently the tape didn't work its magic  as Larisa qualified 9th in the All Around and failed to qualify for any event finals. Her teammate Catalina Ponor, the 2004 Balance Beam & Floor Exercise Olympic Champion, had some issues as well, bobbling significantly on beam and balking a tumbling pass on floor, although her scores were still high enough to qualify her for the event finals on both apparatuses. China just had a really shitty day, lead by the mistakes of 2011 World All Around Bronze Medalist Yao Jinnan who fell on three of her four events. 

Japan & Canada both placed surprisingly well although Canada struggled with falls throughout the day. Regardless, they qualified the women for their first team final in Olympic History. Great Britain also seemed to rise to the pressure of competing on home turf rather than crumbling. Italy, who didn't qualify to team finals in 2011 yet placed 1st at the test event qualified to the team finals as well. 

Russia and the USA will be the two major contenders for the Gold Medal with each team lead by 3 strong all arounders. Russia seems to be closing the USA's difficulty gap with upgraded vaults. Historically this quadrennium, the USA's had an advantage on vault that Russia had the potential to overcome with their Uneven Bar scores. While each team gets stronger on every event, the winner may come down to small performance errors. 

Of course, the media portrayed the biggest story of the day as Jordyn Wieber's failure to qualify for the All Around Finals. I feel like people are making it a lot less cut and dry than it really is. It's been the rule since 1976 that a set number of gymnasts from each country are allowed into each final. (The number was 3 until 2004, now it's 2). You'd have thought that someone had murdered Jordyn Wieber with the way that people were talking. Phrases like "horrific" and "something she'll spend years coming to terms with" are the way that I hear violent attacks described. In reality, Jordyn was simply met with the same fate that many expected Aly Raisman to be faced with. People tend to forget that every member of the 2011 World's team would have qualified without the "2 per country rule" and that Gabby Douglas qualified just 1 place lower than where Wieber sits currently. Where were the cries of outrage then? I understand that Jordyn is the reigning World Champion and my heart goes out to her, but to be frank, I worry that the outrage is more about being bummed that a "favorite" is out than wanting actual "fairness" within the sport. 

People keep saying "The Olympics is supposed to be the best gymnasts in the world competing." Is it? If that were true, the IOC wouldn't have 2 Egyptian gymnasts competing rather than extra gymnasts from the USA, Russia, Romania & China. Certainly had Alicia Sacramone made the team, she'd be in Vault finals. Fifteen American Seniors scored higher than the 54.232 needed to qualify for this year's Olympic All Around Finals this season. Some of those girls didn't even qualify for the US Olympic Trials such as Amanda Jetter, Brianna Brown, Mykayla Skinner and Abigail Milliet. It's just a fact that the Olympics are NOT simply the best in the world competing. Although many of the gymnasts are the strongest, the entire field is never present for every competition as there are injuries, politics, age limits and limits on team size which prevent that.

It's not just gymnastics. A competitive swimmer recently told me on Twitter that her freestyle times were faster than numerous Olympians. Yet, she wasn't even close to qualifying for her country's team due to its dominance within the sport of swimming. If the Olympics were just for "the best of the best", the USA would have 20 female artistic gymnasts and no rhythmic gymnasts. (Yet we seem to be celebrating Julie Zetlin's inclusion by the IOC.) I suppose It's important to ask ourselves what the reaction would be if Aly were the gymnast left off the All Around roster.   

All in all, it's sure to be an interesting final. In my opinion, if the USA hits it will be difficult for Russia to catch them, but it's important to remember : This is gymnastics; anything can happen. 

Pictures property of Grace Chui (1&2), NBC Sports (3) & Sports Girls Play (4) 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My thoughts on USA's Podium Training...

Okay, so I just watched podium training, as I was at work while it was airing live. (Don't worry! I'll be able to watch everything else live!) Here are my thoughts on the American performances, as those were the only ones that I, like most of you, were able to see.

NBC Sports
-This whole thing was fierce. If the USA wins, this will be why. They are head and shoulders above everyone on this event. I mean, in my opinion, Paseka was put on the Russian team for an Amanar about as strong as our WEAKEST vaulter, Kyla.
-I was pleased to see that McKayla is vaulting like herself, which I anticipated. Even though she is dealing with a minor foot injury.
-I wish that there were a reason for Kyla to compete her vault that DIDN'T involve anyone else getting kicked off the lineup due to injury/whatever. That DTY is gorgeous and often stuck.

Uneven Bars: 
-NBC really bugged me with their coverage here. I suppose I should be grateful for anything but I do NOT want to see people chalking up over a Dougie release EVER.
-I honestly worry about Jo struggling on bars in TF and hitting at other points. Call me crazy, but her whole situation reminds me of Carly Patterson.
-I love how different Kyla and Gabby are on this event, and yet they're both so strong!
-To those of you freaking out, the whole point of this training is to get used to the equipment. It's not surprising that they fell some.

-I LOVED how quickly the women worked on this event. The second one girl was of, the next was on.
-Kyla Ross should do a press to handstand mount on beam. It could be really pretty.
-Super proud of Kyla & Gabby for not missing a fucking beat when they turned the lights off.
-WAIT! Somone's floor music is the song from the P&G mom commercial! Or is that just what they play in the background?

-The thought that Kyla will likely go up on FX in prelims makes me die a little bit inside. She seems like a really sweet girl, but that floor... ugh.
-Gabby's floor seemed more appropriate for the venue than I expected. Maybe it's the hot pink podium?
-Jordyn seemed less... connected than usual. Maybe it's nerves? Maybe it's because there's no crowd.
-Weird front tuck instead of front layout from Aly. I wonder if she was worried about getting it around or if that's the new plan?

Random Thoughts: 
NBC Sports
-I have to be honest, I didn't dislike the leotard, but it reminded me of a sparkly pink pot leaf.
-The pink podium looks great on camera, but does indeed clash with the Gymnova mats.
-It's really pissing me off that people feel the need to pit Jordyn & Gabby against each other saying things like "they haven't interacted at all." Jordyn doesn't interact with people on the podium really. That's just not how she rolls. It's bad enough for 12 year old girls to make up vicious rivalries, it's worse when members of the associated press do it.
-Pink is a good color on Marta.

You can watch a replay of podium training here : http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/gymnastics/gymnastics-podium-training-u-s-women.html

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"The Way it Used to be"

Property of EMF
As the Olympics approach, I hear more and more people talking about "the way it used to be". From  "I miss the perfect 10" to "Artistry isn't what it used to be", it seems as if everyone surrounding the sport is upset about what Artistic Gymnastics has become.

I'm not upset. In fact, I'm pleased with the new developments in the the sport.

Yesterday evening, I was talking with a friend about gymnastics when Cathy Rigby came up. I watched her silver medal winning beam routine from the 1970 World Championships and was happily with the stylistic beauty throughout her routine. (That press handstand, OH! I love it!) But the more and more I looked at routine, the fewer skills there were and the more poses I noticed.

Just because something is pretty, doesn't make it better. Cathy (and the other Olympic caliber gymnasts of that era) were all fabulous, but the fact is, they'd all be eaten alive by today's standards. And maybe that's okay. Both sets of gymnastics live in independent spheres.

For example, As much as I respect Nadia, there's no such thing as perfection. Even in her classic bar routine, she shuffled her feet, in a landing that Tim Daggett would deem "not a stick". Seven times during the Montreal Olympics Nadia earned a so called "Perfect 10" and each every time she made at least one mistake. She'd never receive a 10 on those routines today,  and with the exception of a very few vaults, no one would even have a chance.

Property of Herald.net
There's all this ongoing talk about the sacrifices of artistry for difficulty. I don't think that's fair. Ana Porgras was named queen of the balance beam in 2010 with a tremendous amount of artistry (defined by the WAG COP as creativity in choreography, ability to express theme/music, sufficient rhythm). Nastia Liukin is our reigning Olympic All Around Champion. And like it or not, the reigning World Champion, Jordyn Wieber's floor routine is one of the most audience captivating and artistic sets I've seen. There is plenty of artistry around these days which, believe it or not, is able to coexist with difficult tumbling passes.

Change isn't necessarily a bad thing. If nothing ever changed in gymnastics, Gymnasts would still have to climb a rope in competition and the hardest skill in Aly Raisman's floor routine would be a roundoff back handspring. Is that really what you want? Difficulty and artistry can coexist, and all things considered, I think that today's gymnasts are doing a pretty good job at incorporating both. We live in a world where 9 (yes, 9!) American gymnasts can hurl themselves over a giant table, do 1.5 flips and 2.5 twists and often land flawlessly. Is that not enough of a trade off to miss out on a few "prettier" skills?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The 2012 US Olympic Gymnastics team is...

"It's not just like a puppy that you want for Christmas, it's the Olympics." - McKayla Maroney.

Since 2009, many have been calling Ms. Jordyn Wieber of Dewitt, Michigan a "lock" for these Olympic games. While I never went that far, I was not even a little bit surprised to see her named. . Jordyn will likely go up on all four events, arguably contributing most on vault and floor. Not only will she contribute significantly, but she'll also work it in the All Around final, where she won the gold at last year's World Championship. Wieber trains at Geddert's Twistars in Lansing, MI.

Gabby Douglas who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, won tonight's Trials, securing her spot on the 5 person squad. After tonight's performance, Gabby will likely be put up on vault, bars and possibly floor. She, like Jordyn, will also likely end up in the All Around final and if she qualifies, the Uneven Bars finals. Gabby is coached by Liang Chow, who coached 2008 Olympian Shawn Johnson.

Aly Raisman, who's arguably been the consistent performer on the US team since she turned Senior in 2010 was also unsurprisingly named to the US Team. Aly won a bronze medal on floor at last year's World Championships. The US will certainly be used on Beam and Floor, and perhaps vault, depending on how she performs in training leading up to the games. Aly is coached by 2008 Olympian Alicia Sacramone's coach, Mihai Brestyan.

The newcomer to the team, Kyla Ross, is a first year senior with something to prove. At only 15 years old, Kyla is one of the USA's strongest bar workers and will most likely contribute to the team on beam. Kyla's only weakness is her lack of international experience in comparison to the other girls on the team, although she hasn't let it stop her before. Kyla trains at Gym-Max in Costa Mesa, CA.

The fifth member on the team (which was the biggest one up for grabs this evening), went to McKayla Maroney, who is the reigning world vault champion. She'll likely only go up on Vault (and compete in the Vault final), although her floor routine could help the USA. McKayla trains at All Olympia Gymnastics Academy in Los Angeles, CA.

Alternates are Elizabeth Price, Sarah Finnegan and Anna Li.