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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

US Gold--Predicted, Deserved, and Won

Oh live internet feed, I love you. I was able to ignore find ways to occupy my kids and glue myself to the computer for a couple of hours today, because I knew I wouldn't be able to avoid the news before prime time!

I decided to take a few notes throughout the competition.

Victoria Moors: Definitely one of the best floor workers in the world--a great example of beautiful choreography that flows well with the tumbling passes. I so wish she had qualified to floor finals! And she would have, if she'd scored in prelims how she did here in team finals. Bummer.

I love Russian bars. However, I still don't care for their giants: Nastia-style arch/knee bend over the low bar. I don't know why this isn't considered bad form.

Catalina Ponor: I'm not a fan of the Romanians' manic, swingy-arm dance style, but wow, solid beam routine.

Beth Tweddle: Big moment at home, so why the silly choreography? It's sort of bad. Good thing she has bars to make us forget the cringe-worthy dance.

It was at this point that somebody's big boy underpants got wet and that took a bit of time out from my notes.

Then, my kids decided they actually needed lunch in the middle of gymnastics. Silly children.

So my play-by-play didn't make it up to International Gymnast standards, but then they're not trying to view AND potty train.

At any rate, I at least had to include a little fashion commentary.


Leotards:

USA: More red. Again, not my favorite. I wish they'd come up with something a little more sleek and color-blocked and slightly less bedazzled. 


 Russia: I still don't love red. But I do like the way their leo picks up the traditional style motif that we're seeing on their warmups and apparel, and applies it in a sweetheart design. 


 Great Britain: I like the blue. The sparkly bits aren't too distracting. Not my favourite (see what I did there?) British leo ever, but it may be the best overall of this finals. 


Italy: I find the blue an odd choice. I know red/white/green can be a tricky combination to translate to apparel. But adding blue is not the answer.


Japan: A little too busy for my taste. They love lots of graphics. The zebra stripes down the arm were a bit much. 


 China: China rarely strays far from the red leotard with yellow stars or accents, a color combination that always reminds me of McDonald's. At least this time it looks like the material's a bit of an upgrade: they're frequently seen sporting cheap-looking crushed velvet. 


 Romania: Two things are always certain about Romanian leotards: a) the sleeves will be pushed up, and b) I won't love it.


 Canada: Red. I like when the Canadians get a little crazy and go with different colors, but...it's just... red. And bedazzling. 


USA Team Warmups. I find these a little sad. But when you're biting a gold medal, who cares?!

Seeing Red

I don't often post about men's gymnastics, just because it's not really my area of expertise. But even though the pommel horse is a complete mystery to me (where does each skill start and end??) I DO love to watch it. One thing I am qualified to comment on is attire, and there was lots of red going on. Red may be my least favorite color for gymnastics apparel. Specifically, red pants. It's just too much.

Red pants for the Brits:

And the Chinese:


And the Japanese:


And the Germans:


And the Americans:


Ukraine: A nice change (I hated seeing them realize they wouldn't medal after all):


I DO like the US men's tanks. Sporty, not too embellished.


But I'm calling for a moratorium on red pants. Try a neutral. Try navy. Then if you still like your red, don't let me stop you. But really. Red is very...RED.

Anyway, disappointment for the US team, but these guys are young. Plus, there is a huge accomplishment in that every team member is qualified to a final. That's impressive.

The highlight of the competition was definitely the remarkable performance from the British team. It's a great lesson to athletes of all sports that often bronze is the greatest victory.

Monday, July 30, 2012

For the greater good of the sport, it's time for some changes

Anastasia Grishina is another gymnast that missed qualifying for the All-Around Finals because of the two-per country rule. 


I'm loving all this gymnastics coverage! I know we're not even into finals yet, but my crotchety old-lady self can't help but think that of a lot of rules and trends that need to be overhauled, big time.

Obviously, the 2-per-country rule is ridiculous. If you want to determine the best gymnast in the world, shouldn't you include the 4th place finisher from prelims before you'd include the 25th place finisher? Not so long ago--early 90's??--it was a 3-per-country rule. The Soviets could easily sweep the medals. And they were that good, so didn't they deserve to? But with the breakup of the USSR, the depth of the individual republics' teams gradually diminished. Frankly, I think there was some sour grapes going on--if we can't sweep, no one will. My friend had a suggestion I liked--top ten make it regardless of country, below that, apply the rule of two.

The main rule I hate is the 5-3-3 team format--5-man team, 3 gymnasts compete, 3 scores count. The ideal team format is what we saw in Atlanta--7-6-5: 7-man team, 6 compete,  5 scores count. The advantage of the 5-3-3 format goes to the countries without a lot of depth. Again--in Atlanta you were still seeing products of Soviet training; now that those republics (as well as other formerly-strong small nations--Bulgaria, Hungary, etc) can't field deep teams, of course they're happy that a "team" means only three scores.

In the grand scheme of things, it benefits the sport to put as many athletes as possible in the Olympics. How many swimmers are there, for crying out loud? With all the different stroke/distance combinations, it seems like there are a hundred swimmers on the US team alone. When the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) chooses to bring fewer and fewer gymnasts to the world stage at a time when the public is clamoring for more, they are shooting themselves in the foot! These small teams also reduce the odds that teams will bring specialists like the great Oksana Chusovitina (who is still able to compete BECAUSE she can focus on her specialty) and the complete badass McKayla Maroney. They need to take a cue from swimming and enable as many gymnasts as possible to participate, because it brings more publicity for the sport. Let each country bring a team PLUS specialists, if they choose. Now THAT would be interesting.

Now that I've fixed all the regulations in Perfectworld, let's talk gymnastics specifically. A certain husband asked me, "Why do they do all that stupid dance? Why don't they just tumble? That's what everyone wants to see." Well, I LOVE a well-choreographed routine and a gymnast who can dance--it's part of the history and evolution of the sport. But I see his point, because not only are the routines not engaging, but the TV production of recent years is not allowing the music to be heard!! Back in the long-long-ago, like 1989, the best floor routines had a seamless flow from tumbling to dance. Lately, most of the routines are so crammed full of tumbling and jump requirements that the "dance" consists of a few choppy poses. So instead of seeing three excellent tumbling passes connected with graceful dance, you're seeing three excellent tumbling passes, one additional unimpressive tumbling pass, and lots of running around and robot moves.

The stupid jumps and back tucks out of big tumbling passes have got to stop. I'd much rather see a nice controlled lunge--also an integral part of traditional women's gymnastics. Bring back the lunge finish!

Know what I want to see on beam? A three-skill tumbling pass. Twenty years ago, every gymnast had a flip-flop-layout-layout pass--except the really great ones that did flip-flop-flip-flop-layout-layout or even flip-flop-layout-layout-layout. Routines from twenty years ago shouldn't look harder than routines being done today. Also, I wanna see a pretty handstand. Or a lovely valdez. Something. Anything. Anything other than trick, stop, trick, stop, trick, stop.

Now I don't want to be a complainer--there are totally great things going on at these Olympics. McKayla Maroney's rafter-grazing vault in prelims made even aforementioned cynical husband exclaim, "WOW!" The hours dedicated to gymnastics coverage are a real treat (now if we could just get that type of coverage in between Olympics). I love seeing ground-breaking, beautiful gymnastics, no matter who's doing it. But for the sport to progress, the rules and regulations need to progress.





  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Meet the US Women's Gymnastics Olympic Team

The Olympics are so close now, I can't stand it! I thought I'd offer this handy dandy primer for the not-so-gymnastically-inclined as a preview of who to look for as we head to London.
The gymnasts selected for the Olympic team--Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, and alternates Sarah Finnegan, Anna Li, and Elizabeth Price--are no big surprise. What IS surprising is the defeat of Wieber by Douglas at the Olympic trials. Very interesting! 
Still, Wieber's probably going to win the whole darn thing. She's coming in as World Champion and she's a rock solid all-arounder with high difficulty, more powerful than balletic, not unlike Shawn Johnson and Carly Patterson before her. 

Douglas hasn't shown the consistency, but she's peaking at the right time. She exudes personality and charisma, in that Mary Lou sort of way. Even if she doesn't beat Wieber, she could end up as the media darling (see: Nastia Liukin vs. Shawn Johnson).


Here's what's interesting about McKayla Maroney: pretty much everyone in the sport of gymnastics agrees that she is the best vaulter in the world. And yeah, she IS the reigning world champion on vault, but it's more than that. It's that every time you watch her vault, it's the best vault you've ever seen. Unfortunately she's not consistent on anything else--but when you make hardened old geezer coaches swoon with one skill, you earn your spot on the team.


Aly Raisman is almost a great all-arounder, but for her weakness on bars. Her strength is her intricate and difficult tumbling--in particular, her opening pass, 1 1/2 twist through to double Arabian, front layout, makes her memorable, and that's really important when you're performing for judges who have seen it all. All gymnasts should be striving to make themselves memorable.


Kyla Ross has been on everybody's radar for a while now as a junior. So she's the youngster of the bunch, but she's consistent and overall a very lovely gymnast.


Factor in the Romanians, Chinese, and Russians--and the US is the team to beat.




Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Team Dowdy


I know there are only so many variations on Opening-Ceremony-Americana-style, but I'm a bit disappointed. The guys, I guess they're ok. But the poor girls. That skirt? With that blazer? That's the silhouette that women of a certain age and certain size wear that's sold at JC Penney as a pastel-colored  twofer.

And OH, THOSE SHOES.

I mean, I know they need comfortable shoes for the opening ceremonies. Lots of walking and standing, and we can't have our best athletes messing up their feet. But those things look like 1940's toddler shoes. Maybe up close they look better?


Okay then.

No.

I guess once you commit to that heavy outfit, it's not like cute summer sandals would go. So maybe next time they should start with shoes--say, cute summer sandals--and work their way up. And then figure out what would go--a fun little dress, maybe. Something that you could dress up or down. Something that doesn't look like a Love Boat crew uniform.

That polo pony logo--I know Ralph Lauren fancies himself and his logo as The Style of America! or whatever, but funny how when it's time to give yourself credit with your big old honking logo, there's no such thing as over-accessorizing.

There are some items in the line that are a little less frumpy, like this little dress which has an even bigger polo pony.

It skews a little casual, but if it were up to me, I'd go with something like this for the Opening Ceremonies. But then I'm not gazillionaire Ralph Lauren.