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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

American Cup 2013: Artistry versus Uglistry

Between the American Cup and the Nastia Liukin Cup, I've been really pleased with the level of artistry in general.

Gabrielle Jupp was just lovely:


Katelyn Ohashi and Victoria Moors can both count me as a big fan. Not my absolute favorite choreography--and that's what sets Jupp apart--but such beautiful form, expression, and presentation. 

On the other end of the spectrum we have Elisabeth Seitz, whose dance is so cringe-worthy even clueless Al Trautwig took notice. The music is hardly music at all--no wonder the choreography is so bad.


That sounds a little mean, a little snarky...and that's something I truly do try to avoid (really!). I respect the hard work and dedication of all gymnasts. I do feel that it's justifiable to criticize this routine, however, because the blame lies not with Seitz, but with her coaches. A veteran elite athlete should not only be held to certain standards, but also provided with the means to achieve those standards. You have the best gymnast in Germany, and you can't call in a professional choreographer? Or spring for some decent music? If you are an elite gymnast, you shouldn't be level sixing your dance anymore than you should be level sixing your vault. (And for the record, I've seen much better dance and presentation from most level sixes). Elisabeth Seitz is a fantastic athlete, and she deserves better.

I couldn't help but notice that  Nastia Liukin, bless her heart, was providing very pleasant and informative commentary, until Trautwig remarked on the bad dance. She couldn't do it! She couldn't critique what was clearly an embarrassingly subpar performance. I don't think it's in the best interest of the sport to let that go. Good thing you have me to point it out.

USA Gymnastics: March 2, 2013 - Competition &emdash; Katelyn Ohashi
Katelyn Ohashi: Artistic expression from her fingertips to her toes.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Nastia Liukin Cup: More exciting than the American Cup!

USA Gymnastics: March 1, 2013 - Competition &emdash; March In

I've mentioned before how much I love the way my DVR records everything I need to see since I input the key word "gymnastics." The annoying part is that sometimes it records things I don't want to see, like every episode of American Ninja Warrior, and it also gets my hopes up by telling me it recorded things on channels that I don't subscribe to. Lucky for me, it DID record the American Cup, and unlucky for me, it lied and told me it had recorded the Nastia Liukin Cup, which airs on Universal Sports (a channel that DirecTV cruelly removed from my lineup).

But, great news! You can view the Nastia Liukin Cup in its entirety right here! In many ways I enjoyed watching this meet more than I enjoyed the American Cup. With Seniors in black leotards and Juniors in pink, it was fun to get a glimpse of the next generation of NCAA athletes and the younger hotshots that will soon give those seniors a run for their money. 

The announcers made the biggest deal, and rightfully so, of Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. That's a familiar name in the world of gymnastics--she's the daughter of Brandy Johnson, who my 13-year-old self worshipped as, like, the coolest gymnast ever. Sydney is possessed of a very natural and mature quality of movement, which makes her stand out so much more than so many of the other competitors, even those with more difficulty. It helps that she has choreography to match her exuberance--check out her floor performance here:


Although actually, I really prefer her Level 9 floor routine, shown in this montage:


Well heck, while we're at it, here's Level 8, which is equally fantastic (and contains some of mom's signature moves--gymnastics dorks like me can recognize these things) :


So if the gymnastics thing doesn't work out, looks like Sydney's got a future on Broadway. It's super hard to teach rhythm and movement to young kids; hers is just a natural ability. The choreography is so smart; it's engaging, difficult, intricate, and even comical at times. This should be a challenge to all gymnasts--no, to all COACHES. Performance matters. Choreography matters. Invest the time and effort. 

Clearly, Sydney grew up in the gym--a point I had to repeatedly emphasis to my own third-grader who, when I showed her the video, wavered between delight in seeing a cute young girl do amazing things, and sadness in feeling that there's no hope for a not-yet-pre-team 9-year-old when 12-year-olds are stealing the show at Level 10. I wish I could adequately convey to her how I know exactly how she feels. What motivation is there for all us non-child-prodigies? I guess we just have to get by on love of the sport. But that's another discussion for another day. 

More to come later on the other fine gymnasts at the Nastia Liukin Cup and the American Cup!