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Friday, August 26, 2011

Dagmar Kersten and the Awesome 80's Overalls-Leotard

Dagmar Kersten was a fixture on the international scene in the late 1980's. At a time when East German gymnasts were sort of interchangeable and unremarkable, she was elegant and just so darn cute.

So here she is, I think there may have been some tumbling in this routine, but I can't remember because the image of her spectacular overalls-leotard is seared into my memory and overwhelms any other thoughts I might have had at the time of viewing. The fluffy hair, polka-dot bow, and choreography complete the whole look. I'm fairly certain my 11-year-old self thought this was the coolest style ever. 

Here she is again, if you want to see how compulsory bars looked in 1988...always interesting, to me, anyway. (Excellent quality video by the way.) This leotard is also weird, what with the random placement of "DDR" on her front hip there. Weird ugly, as opposed to weird interesting like the fabulous overalls. 

And this leotard is just all happiness and rainbows and makes me want to ride a unicorn into the sunset:

And finally, a decent leotard with a scary vault. Maybe she should have worn the overalls.

Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: What They Wore

Gymnastics apparel has been in a rut for, oh, like 15 years now. I just hate where it's gone. It's like the leotard plant has two giant machines: one to slap some rhinestones on and one to apply some snaky shapes. Voila! Your finished product!


Let's check out some of the competition leos seen at Nationals, shall we? 

Jordyn Wieber, not bad:

Snaky patterns? Check. Rhinestones? Check. But not terribly busy so I can live with it. 

Shawn Johnson, hmmm:

My rule of thumb for sleeves is, if they're going to be different, keep them solid. Even still, I thought, "Well, at least it's not terribly busy." Then I got a closer look:

Turns out it IS covered in crystals and those crystals are applied in funny little shapes on one side. Bummer. 

Alicia Sacramone, it's not like she ever looks bad, but:


Three-quarter sleeves on leotards are bad news. They make your arms look stumpy. Also, here the rhinestones themselves are applied in snaky shapes!! And I really can't decide if that makes it better or worse. 

The combined talent in this conversation is off the charts:


But the fashion looks like someone's mom just hit the scrap bin clearance at the spandex store and then got assaulted with glitter on the way out. 

How about elegance? How about athleticism? How about a friggin simple stripe to accentuate the line of the arm? I'm waiting for the backlash when the leotard manufacturers discover that less is more and we return to a more athletic style. Till then, you may have to create a shoebox-solar-eclipse-viewer to endure the likes of this:


Botched landings, busted knees, and Karolyis

When a gymnast is injured, who's to blame?

In Saturday's US Championships, defending national champion Rebecca Bross dislocated her knee upon landing her double-twisting Yurchenko vault:

Ugh, why did I watch that again? It's awful.

Interestingly, some contend that this injury was completely preventable. Check out Blythe Lawrence's opinion piece and the ensuing comments for to see if you agree that Bross's injury is the fault of her coach Valeri Liukin and national team coordinator Marta Karolyi for allowing her to compete a skill that, according to Lawrence, had been giving her trouble all week.

Who's at fault? The suspects:

Marta Karolyi: Marta serves as the national team coordinator--she and Bela no longer produce top gymnasts themselves--and is frequently criticized for her training camps and selection procedures.

Valeri Liukin: Surely Liukin, one of the top coaches in the world, wouldn't hesitate to use his own judgment, even under the watchful eye of Marta. Even though Marta is disliked by many, I can't imagine she held a gun to Valeri's head and made him order Rebecca to do the skill.

Rebecca Bross: I feel like an 18-year-old national champion is capable of making at least some of her own decisions in competition. This would include watering down skills or safely bailing out of a trick with a wonky takeoff. It's easy to blame Marta, especially when so many dislike her handling of the national team. But I would hope a gymnast's personal coach would be able to stand up to her in matters of safety. It's easy to blame Valeri, because he could have told her to water down her vault if, as reported, she had been having trouble with it all week. But isn't there still a chance that Rebecca herself insisted that she was fine to do the vault? She is 18 after all, and a national champion and tough competitor. In the end, it's up to her.

Regardless of who's to blame, this may be a good opportunity for everyone involved in Rebecca Bross's gymnastics career to assess how decisions are made. USA Gymnastics needs to examine whether Marta Karolyi is helping or hurting. Valeri Liukin needs to examine whether he and his gymnast are communicating well. And Rebecca Bross's parents--because's even though she's "an adult," she's still a teenager--need to examine whether she needs encouragement to make some of her own decisions, even if it means questioning a coach.

Or, maybe the whole injury was just a fluke and she's all cool with it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

2011 Nationals, Finals!

Well finals turned out much better than prelims, it's nice to see that most of the gals can pull it together in a pinch. Some notes:

  • Well-deserved win for Jordyn Wieber. Maybe her consistency will wear off on her teammates. 
  • Rebecca Bross, what a heartbreaking injury. When you see a gymnast go down like that, suddenly she's not this athletic machine, just a kid that needs her mama. Hope she can recover quickly.
  • I could watch McKayla Maroney vault all day. I could also watch her walk away from her vault all day. She looks like she's trying to play it cool, but is close to busting out laughing about how awesome she is.
  • Alexandra Raisman: she's so pretty! But sort of missing something....she needs to find a way to be memorable.
  • Alicia Sacramone. I so dig her, and her first vault too. I want all these teenagers to hang in there and keep improving and evolving like she does. Plus, it's so important to have a great personality out there; she's a great ambassador for the sport. 
  • Chellsie Memmel, also a great veteran. She was known for her more unusual skills, like an illusion on beam: now that she's been doing them for years, I'd love to see her come up with some new interesting tricks. 
  • Gabrielle Douglas: I see great potential. She was all over the place, but she's young. She makes me want to watch her. 
  • Team Caquatto: I'm not blown away by the sisters, but something's right about their coach or their genes or both. 
  • Shawn Johnson, almost forgot her! I've always liked Shawn and I'm happy she's back...now I wanna see an all-around, please. 
  • Who else am I forgetting?
  • Oh! Sabrina Vega. Nice choreography. I think that was her anyway. I was reading a magazine and texting and watching and had the volume down. 
Now let's see a comparison of Simona Amanar doing her own vault:

And let's all thank FIG for introducing the vault table so that McKayla Maroney could make it look this much better:

(Why it needs the cheesy music, I'm not sure, but there ya go.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

And another thing.

IG is killing me with their website. The continuous loop of video is more ads than routines, and the mute doesn't always work! And if you click on a link that opens up a new window, you've got two of those un-mute-able ads playing! I love Universal Sports, and I love International Gymnast, but this needs an adjustment.

Also IG, you were monopolizing my Facebook page with your updates so I had to hide you. I've never been able to get into the whole gymnastics play-by-play thing. It's a visual sport and reading a routine just gets boring. Maybe they should post an image with each routine description to catch my attention.

And finally, maybe there's hope for me yet...read about the very awesome Tina Wise. If I get started now, maybe I could be a 42-year-old level 9 too!


So I was happily watching all the gymnastics on TV the past two evenings, not always completely paying attention. Three kids and a husband often prevent, for various reasons, the viewing of gymnastics for more than two or three consecutive routines.

At some point the commentators agreed that 13.5 was too low for a particular routine. Was it? I don't know. Not because I didn't see it, but because I still have no idea if a 13.5 is good or bad. Or is it all relative?

So I'd like to reiterate my stance on the scoring system: Eliminating the 10.0 ceiling alienates the viewers. 
Let's review from a previous post:

I've been a gymnast, I've been a coach, I've been a fan for most of my life. Heck, I've even been a judge (albeit a mediocre compulsory level judge who couldn't seem to pass the level 7/8 written test). BUT STILL. I can claim to be a judge. And I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A GOOD SCORE IS IN THIS CODE. Is a 14.9 good? Is a 16.0 good? I couldn't begin to tell you, but more importantly, I've given up trying. 
The ten-scale isn't just about achieving the elusive perfect score...it's pretty much the basis of mathematics. So when you remove the ten-scale, what you're taking away is the ability of the average person to associate the given score with the routine they have seen and to then compare that score and routine with subsequent routinesA score of 15.4 means about as much as an amp that goes to 11. 
At first I wasn't totally opposed to the new open-ended system. But the more I watch, the more it bothers me. Gymnastics as a sport is perpetually fighting for media attention and recognition. It would be in the best interest of the sport to be more viewer-friendly. Am I just too lazy or stubborn to go over the new system? I guess so. But there's got to be a better way. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

2011 Nationals, Day 1

Out here in Skeetersville, we have to get DirectTV to have decent cable service. And finally, FINALLY, DirectTV has picked up Universal Sports.

LIVE gymnastics...on a THURSDAY...with pre-game & post-game shows?!!! I'm in gymnasticsdork heaven. Even though the competition was pretty darn sloppy overall. Here's hoping it improves for the big day--Saturday.

Not sure how I feel about this leotard. Is it gold? Is it yellow?

I do know how I feel about that handspring. How much better would it look with that free arm straight?


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Set the DeLorean to 1981

YouTube is great for a gymnastics enthusiast like me because I'm usually focused on looking for a particular routine or skill, and I don't have to watch the fluff pieces or downtime or slow motion replays or score deliberation. However, I've really enjoyed watching the 1981 National Championships, which someone has posted in its entirety, divided into different video clips.

Watching the whole broadcast, you really get a feel for the skill level and style that the US was working at in 1981. I'd compare it to a decent level 9 meet today. Maybe level 10. Julianne McNamara and Tracee Talavera seemed to be ushering in the 80's with a more dynamic style and improved technique than what had been seen in the '70s.

Tracee, at only 14, had a such a mature presence and great form and confidence. Julianne already was swinging bars in a more modern way--although I hate how the very first thing you see is a bent arms.

There are lots of scary falls too--double tucks that were lucky to be face-plants instead of broken necks. Shari Mann's balked bar dismount--a free-hip-back-- was a near disaster, but it didn't seem to faze her. The rest of her routine is really fun to watch though--old school '70's style, full of beats and twists. Viewing the entire field, it's pretty clear that the big difference between then and now is improvement in proper technique. When you see them run for the roundoff backhandspring, you already know that the double back--or whatever-- is going to be a disaster.

Here's part 1, with parts 2 and 3 following.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Daniela Silivas, My Favorite Romanian With or Without a Perm

Daniela Silivas was super-cute, super-talented, and in the 1988 Olympics, super-permed.

But we've all had our bad hair moments, and it's easy to overlook when you're watching a great floor routine. I picked that floor music for my [sad, lumbering] optional routine solely because she was one of my favorite gymnasts. Perhaps I was not as successful because I didn't have a fab '80's perm to propel me to victory. Or maybe it was because I have the air sense of a turtle.

Here she is in 1985, before the perm added 8 inches to her height.

Unfortunately, the Romanian gymnasts that followed this era always seemed to lack the grace and presentation of the '80's stars like Silivas and her teammate Aurelia Dobre--the last of the great Romanians.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quick clip: 1992 Olympic Compulsories

I've been searching and searching for a clip of the 1992 compulsory floor. It's a beautiful routine, but every clip I see is very poor quality. So while I'm still looking, enjoy some grainy footage of Henrietta Onodi.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'd like to apologize to 1986 for underestimating it.

When I think of 1986, I picture bad hair, ugly jeans, and Poison. But apparently that year does have some redeeming value.

How haven't I heard of this one? I honestly had no idea this beam routine was going on in 1986. Standing full? Full-in dismount? Yes and yes! In 1986 I was only just beginning to obsess over gymnastics which explains why I haven't ever heard of Alevtina Pryakhina. She's all over the place, but the skills must have blown people away. Clearly she enjoys full twists, however sloppy.

I'd also like to take a minute to thank the Japanese for being so far ahead of the game in quality of video. If you want to see great gymnastics from the 1980's, search "Chunichi Cup" for the most watchable clips.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hilariously bad choreography for your entertainment

I try not to be too mean-spirited in critiquing gymnastics in a public forum. But in this case I figure the statute of limitations has run out.

On the other hand, the following montage contains some recent and even current gymnasts, but it's too funny to not include while I'm on the subject. College gymnastics choreography especially can be pretty entertaining for better or for worse. So many girls have routines that must have seemed cute or funny in practice among friends, but  look completely ridiculous when performed in a competition leotard and sandwiched in between decent tumbling passes.

I don't think that EVERY gymnast shown is a bad dancer. In fact, in many cases the blame needs to go squarely on the coach. Still, mime in a floor routine? Awesome.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Like putting lipstick on a side somi

Hooray, DirectTV finally picked up Universal Sports, so I actually got to watch the Covergirl Classic! On a shallow note, I recall the last time I saw a meet sponsored by Covergirl I was left wondering why they didn't make up the girls a bit. It's national television, we've got HDTV these days, somebody needs to tell these girls to slap on some lipstick because they'll thank you for it later. Anyway, I noticed more effort this time around. Bravo, Shawn Johnson with your smoky eye. Although listen girls, Covergirl makes this lipstick that lasts ALL DAY till you have to scrape it off in the shower. Look into it.

As far as general impressions, here are a few:

Let's devalue side somis on beam because they are so ugly. OR reward someone who can figure out how to make it look good (is that possible in the scoring system? I'm still not sure). 

I've been a gymnast, I've been a coach, I've been a fan for most of my life. Heck, I've even been a judge (albeit a mediocre compulsory level judge who couldn't seem to pass the level 7/8 written test). BUT STILL. I can claim to be a judge. And I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A GOOD SCORE IS IN THIS CODE. Is a 14.9 good? Is a 16.0 good? I couldn't begin to tell you, but more importantly, I've given up trying. 
The ten-scale isn't just about achieving the elusive perfect score...it's pretty much the basis of mathematics. So when you remove the ten-scale, what you're taking away is the ability of the average person to associate the given score with the routine they have seen and to then compare that score and routine with subsequent routines. A score of 15.4 means about as much as an amp that goes to 11. 

I found a lot of the beam routines to be lacking in fluidity. I know you're trying to cram a lot of skills in, but there sure were a whole lot of clunky steps, choppy movements, and flat foot pivots--can I get a high toe please? Please? It's such a cop-out for an elite gymnast to work flat-footed just because she's scared of a random bobble. Also, a side aerial is a basic skill for an elite gymnast--that's one skill that should always be stuck solid.  

My current favorite gymnast is McKayla Maroney. She's a bit like a 1980's era Soviet total-package gymnast: lots of power with a natural, balletic quality of movement--think Natalia Laschenova or Tatiana Groshkova--and refreshingly, she's cute but not given to cutesy-ness. She's still a bit all over the place, so I really, really hope everything will click in to place in time for next year's Olympics. (I also hope someone will tell her to point her toes instead of digging in with her heels when she runs for leaps.) 

Here she is, all stumbles but so full of potential!

Here's her vault from last year that I like so much: