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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Your daily dose of gymnastics: Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller has recently recovered from cancer, and if you watched her throughout her career you probably had no doubt that a gymnast so consistent, confident, and hard-working would put away the cancer as surely as she put away the competition.

Frankly, I've always thought she should have had the gold in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics over Tatiana Gutsu, but scores had crept so high that differentiating between first and second place was nearly impossible.

Here's Shannon on her final event at the 1992 Olympic all-around final:

And here's Tatiana's to compare:

Granted, there were three other events to consider and Gutsu was also a very talented gymnast. However, it did come down to the vault and I think Shannon's is better.

Anyway, here she is when she was teeny tiny (well, really teeny tiny) and already just crazy talented:

And here is she earning the gold on beam at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics:

And just to show what a great all-arounder she was, here's a bar routine for good measure. It's also worth noting that Shannon, coached by Steve Nunno and Peggy Liddick at the height of the Karolyi era, had a much more innovative and diverse repertoire of skills than the Karolyi girls, who were known for safe "stock"routines, particularly on bars.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Have you been inspired lately?

Chelsea Werner is a special athlete in more ways than one. I am so impressed with her skill level! I've read in the past that children with Down Syndrome tend to be flexible--if that's true, then gymnastics is the perfect sport. What a shining example she sets for people with special needs, and what a great representative she is of the sport of gymnastics.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gymnastics in the News

This is the sort of thing you hate to read.... coach Don Peters of SCATS, the southern California gym known for cranking out quite a few high caliber gymnasts in the 1980s, is accused of sex abuse against at least three gymnasts. (This story sounds familiar....did I read it in Jennifer Sey's intriguing memoir? I could be wrong. I'll have to check.)

The most notable accuser is the very pretty and talented Doe Yamashiro, whose picture I recall cutting out of a magazine for a fourth grade collage. Here she is in 1986:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Your Daily Dose of Gymnastics: Katelyn Ohashi

International Gymnast  claims that US junior Katelyn Ohashi currently has the best beam routine in the world. I'm inclined to agree! I love a memorable mount, and the tumbling is so quick and confident. All that remains is to clean up the leaps a bit...

Unfortunately for us all, she's too young--born in 1997-- to be eligible for next year's Olympics. Unfortunately for me, I seem to be older than dirt. 1997, are you kidding me? Yeesh.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Cute Factor

Oksana Fabrichnova: how cute was she?

The cute factor is diminished a bit in this weirdly skanky leotard. BUT, it's easy to forgive because of the cradle. What is a cradle, you ask? Catch it at 0:45 and let me know if you've ever seen anyone else do that neckbreaker of a skill.

But speaking of cute. Mo Huilan made a big impression as China's first really solid all-arounder, and she did it as the owner and proprietor of this supremely cutesy routine:

Normally, I don't care for cutesy one bit. But I guess if you're gonna go cutesy, you should go full-on-cutesy. If you're not careful, you could veer dangerously close to cringe-worthy, as seen in this sad Kerri Strug routine. I feel sorry for her every time I watch it.

It's almost as if a mistake was made. Like maybe someone left her choreographer the music with a note attached but part of the memo got lost:
"I've found the perfect music for circus poodles on unicycles!"

But we don't want to remember Kerri like that, do we? Because she looks miserable. She was 15 years old, and doing a 5-year-old's routine, on national television. Poor kid. But don't worry, 1992Kerri, just tippy-toe and shuffle-step your way to 1996, where you will be the hero of the whole Olympics, and no one will ever even remember that one humiliating cutesy routine until youtube is invented.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Your Daily Dose of Gymnastics--Vaulting Through the Years

This nifty little montage (complete with appropriately cheesy montage anthem) is a nice demonstration of the evolution of women's vault. The 1950's and 60's vaults sure look pretty similar to what you might see in a low level, local gymnastics meet. But note the springboard in the earlier clips--they didn't always have springs, you know.

To me, the dividing line between the older style of gymnastics and the powerful modern standard is Elena Shushunova.


Among those lost on September 11, 2001, was newly appointed UC-Santa Barbara coach/former Iowa State gymnast Mari-Rae Sopper.

Read about her life here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Your daily dose of gymnastics--70's weirdness.

This routine is so weirdly sloppy. She does a weird little skip into her weird little dismount. Front aerial, weirdly difficult compared to the rest of the skills. There's a theme here.

Sometimes the really obscure performances give the best glimpse into a particular era of gymnastics.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

If I wrote the code...

If I wrote the code, one rule I'd change would be the deduction for stepping out of bounds. As long as a tumbling pass is executed well and the movements are well-controlled, why penalize a gymnast for stepping a few inches further?

I'd much rather see a controlled step out of bounds than a clumsy struggle to stay in the blue. And truly, taller gymnasts are automatically at a disadvantage. A double layout is going to cover more distance when you're 5'6" than when you're 4'9". If a step out of bounds happens with lack of control or a fall, there will be a deduction anyway. And that's what should separate the best gymnasts from the lesser competitors, not the location of their feet.

Your daily dose of gymnastics: Brandy Johnson

Brandy Johnson was a particular hero of mine. Known for powerful tumbling and vaulting, she was a great dancer that delivered a total-package routine with style. This routine was just about the coolest thing ever to pre-teen me:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Your daily dose of gymnastics--Dominique Dawes

I've always been a big fan of Dominique Dawes. When she first broke out on the scene she was best known for her fast tumbling, lots of back-to-back passes with fun combinations. (Let's resurrect that trend, by the way--it's so fun to watch a great tumbler just tumble.) This was probably the first time I saw her:

Here she is, at only 12 in 1989. Bless her little heart, pulling out a full-in for her last pass and not quite making it around:

And despite being known for tumbling, she turned out to be a really great all-arounder. This 1996 beam routine is not only beautiful, it's full of risk.

Finally, she's still going strong at the 2000 Olympics. What a career, what a gymnast, what a role model.

Another nice thing about Dominique was that she stuck with her coach, Kelli Hill, throughout her gymnastics career. At the time, Karolyi was at the height of his teenage gymnast manufacturing operation and there was a lot of gym-hopping amongst elites. But Dominique knew what worked for her and I dig loyalty.

When I was 14 I had a friend who loved writing fan letters to gymnasts. She gave me an address for Dominique and that was my one and only fan letter. Dominique replied with a really long, super nice letter, and at the bottom said, "P.S.--where did you get this address?" Oops....got it from my friend, Dominique. Sorry, hope you didn't think I was a crazy stalker. Just a happy little gymnast.