perfection is possible

blatherings about gymnastics

Playing Catch Up

Posted by Rawles on March 10, 2009

So the American Cup came and went I did not say anything about it! Partially because there were shenanigans involved in me getting to see it at all, but mostly because omfg it was such a dull competition. I mean, congratulations to Jordyn for winning and to Bridget for still having the world’s best piked full-in but that was pretty lackluster as competitions go. I was entirely over it by the time I watched three gymnasts in a row fall off of beam AT LEAST twice each.

I know it’s early in the year, but seriously?! They also only bothered to show Becky Downie once and she had watered down and looked tired. I am hoping for better things for her at Euros, however!

Far more interesting things that have since been afoot are Russian National Championships where little Aliya Mustafina took the title over Ksenia Semenova, who’s still coming back from injury, and where The Other Ksenia, Afanasyeva, continued to depress us all by being a headcase. Sigh.

2009 Russian National AA Champion Aliya Mustafina. She is fourteen. LOL age rules.

2009 Russian National AA Champion Aliya Mustafina. She is fourteen. LOL age rules.

Then there was Gymnix which was a fairly disappointing competition in and of itself, but in a different way. Mostly in that there were so few people actually…competing in the World Cup portion of the event. BUT! Among them was my beloved Mattie Larson.

And she debuted a new floor routine which, as is common for her, excellent. Love love love her. Please let her not be broken for worlds. Please let her not be broken for worlds. Please let her not be broken for worlds.

She took floor and actually managed to stay on beam and win that. While another favourite of mine Sami Shapiro took bars. Only two girls even competed vault, but Charlotte Mackie won and I like her so, whatevs, congrats. Her 1 1/2 was very nice.

The upcoming Jesolo meet is actually shaping up to be interesting in that Italy, Romania, Great Britain, and Brazil all seem to be sending fairly A teams. *crosses fingers*

Beyond that I am just hoping Euros will be awesome (though with all the injuries who even knows). I would like to have something better to be excited about than Shawn on DWTS! She is doing well so far, barring the awful wardrobe choices and also tanorexia (though these things are par for the course on the show apparently), but uhm actual gym would be nice in my life.


Posted in Aliya Mustafina, American Cup 2009, Becky Downie, Bridget Sloan, Charlotte Mackie, Gymnix 2009, Jordyn Wieber, Ksenia Afanasyeva, Ksenia Semenova, Mattie Larson, Samantha Shapiro, Shawn Johnson | 5 Comments »

Modeling and the American Cup!

Posted by Rawles on February 15, 2009

So, while bb Shawn is dancing up a storm (or at least practicing in order to do same!), Nastia was walking in the annual Heart Truth Red Dress Collection at NY Fashion Week and looking lovely in her crazy robe dress.

Nastia models Max Azria for the Red Dress Collection

Nastia models Max Azria for the Red Dress Collection

Though more exciting (to me anyway): her Max Azria campaign is finally officially released and, keeping true to the few dribs and drabs over the last few weeks, is stunning. The full image book is available for viewing at as is a soft focus, strummy music, artistically shadowed video lovingly depicting Nastia taking the photos for the campaign.

Nastia stars in Max Azria's Spring 2009 campaign

Nastia stars in Max Azria's Spring 2009 campaign

So. Whee! In case you cannot tell, I enjoy seeing gymnasts doing all of this kind of stuff. Except for when Shawn makes me watch Dancing with the Stars. (I still enjoy it, just begrudgingly.)

Now, moving on to gymnasts doing actual gymnastics! The American Cup is THIS WEEKEND. I feel like I have been waiting an eternity for what is arguably the first BIG competition of the 2009 season. The full roster was released a while back:

Brittany Rogers, Canada
Youna Dufournet, France
Kim Bui, Germany
Rebecca Downie, Great Britain
Koko Tsurumi, Japan
Amelia Racea, Romania
Kristina Goryunova, Russia
Bridget Sloan, USA
Jordyn Wieber, USA
Jessica Lopez, Venezuela

I have already spoken on my excitement about Bridget (paticularly since reports that she’s been training a front triple twist!) and I’m sure Jordyn will do fine. It’s also nice to see Jessica Lopez back as I felt her floor was a standout last year. Plus, Koko Tsurumi is always good to see and Brittany Rogers is one of Canada’s outstanding new seniors. But I have to say that the person I am most excited about (hopefully) getting a peek at this comp is Becky Downie.

Great Britain's Becky Downie

Great Britain's Becky Downie

The British National AA Champion wasn’t super on my radar in previous years. I saw peeks of her at 2007 Worlds and heard about her getting into two finals at Euros last year. But it wasn’t until I was watching the full (full!) coverage of the Beijing AA that she really caught my eye. She was in the last group, having just sneaked into the final in 24th place after a rough prelims, and she worked herself all the way up to 12th. Also known as the highest Olympic AA placement for a British gymnast ever.

I was very impressed watching her, moreso even than various people in the 2nd and 3rd groups. She’s clean, has an entertaining and balanced floor routine, and a very nice DTY. She’s also second only to Beth Tweddle on bars in the UK and she hit an excellent set in the AA final (plus she does a Ricna which is just an awesome skill). I’m really curious to see what upgrades she might have and just her new routines in general. I think she could do some good things this year.

Though even more than I’m excited about her at the American Cup (dubious as I am about getting to actually see much of her in the broadcast), I’m excited to see what she might do at Euros. In Beijing, she dropped her second vault to concentrate on AA, even though she made vault finals at Euros. The field is minimized this year with both Chuso and Pavlova out with injury, so I’m curious about whether she’ll go for that, or continue concentrating on AA (or do both!). So, excitement everywhere. Main point being, I think she’s a talent that I would like to see grooow.

Now, let’s hope I didn’t jinx her!

Here’s Becky at the 2008 British National Championships. I WANTED to post her Beijing AA final floor (which was better), but I was thwarted in numerous ways.

Posted in American Cup 2009, Becky Downie | Leave a Comment »

Shawn Johnson shows off her moves?

Posted by Rawles on February 8, 2009

Or such is the rumor! More specifically, it is currently being reported that our Olympic beam champion is going to be on this season of Dancing With the Stars.

The thirteen stars taking part in Dancing With The Stars 8 are singer Belinda Carlisle, comedian and actor David Alan Grier, singer/songwriter Jewel, Olympic athlete Shawn Johnson, singer and actress Lil’ Kim, actor Gilles Marini, rodeo cowboy Ty Murray, comedian and actor Steve-O, entertainment anchor Nancy O’Dell, actress Denise Richards, NFL legend Lawrence Taylor, country singer Chuck Wicks, and computer icon Steve Wozniak.

Dancing With The Stars 8 premieres with a two-hour episode on Monday, March 9 from 8 PM to 10 PM on ABC. The first Dancing With The Stars results show airs on Tuesday, March 17 from 9 PM to 10 PM on ABC. The Dancing With The Stars season finale will air on Tuesday, May 19 from 9 PM to 11 PM ET.


If it proves true, it would certainly explain why she hasn’t been back in the gym.

Some people have expressed concern about this rumor given Shawn’s age (and she is indeed being touted as the youngest competitor yet on the show) and the show’s apparent lean towards highly sexual costuming and dancing.

I can’t personally comment since my profound lack of interest in Dancing With the Stars cannot be properly expressed in words or even real numbers. But good on Shawn riding the fame wave if that’s what makes her happy.

Posted in Shawn Johnson | 6 Comments »

Wieber to the American Cup?!

Posted by Rawles on January 11, 2009

According to her website that’s the case!

Saturday, January 10, 2009
American Cup Competitor
Jordyn will be competing in the 2009 American Cup competition which will be held on February 20th-21st in Chicago, IL. Jordyn will be joining 2008 US Olympian, Bridget Sloan. The United States will be naming two additional athletes to their squad and many international athletes are also expected to participate. The finals portion of the competition will be broadcasted LIVE by NBC Sports on February 21st at 3:00 CT.

This is a surprising twist given that the 13-year-old US junior national champion won’t be a senior international elite until 2011. Wieber’s camp has come under a certain amount of criticism and concern in the past from gym fans who worry that Wieber is doing too much difficulty too soon and will burn out if she isn’t paced better. These concerns weren’t alleviated by the fact that she’s been throwing Amanars at training camps for quite some time now.

Wieber at 2008 US Nationals

Wieber at 2008 US Nationals

Have juniors ever competed at the American Cup before?! For the last few years it’s basically been used largely by USAG as the coming out party for the new seniors that were expected to make a splash or a little ball in honor of the current It Girl. (ETA: Apparently various juniors have actually competed at SCAM in the past, though, unfortunately, very few of them ever went on to anything notable once they turned senior!) For this very reason, people, myself included, were very interested in who was going to get the rather plum assignment with all of the big names currently out of competition.

I don’t think anyone guessed that any juniors were in the mix at all. Especially with new, untested, and promising seniors like Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro about. If the announcement on the site is accurate (and not someone in her camp jumping the gun) then this is a huge vote of confidence in Wieber and definitely an investment in her being one of their big stars when the London Olympics are about to roll around.

It also means that Bridget Sloan, many people’s first choice for the headliner of this year’s AmCup (once again, myself included), is definitely getting the assignment that everyone expected her to. It also means that there will be prelims (an issue of much confusion even for people planning to attend) for the competition and two more open spots. Though whether everyone will get to compete in the broadcast final is still unclear. There were four American girls competing at 2008 SCAM though, so it’s a possibility.

Those last two spots, again assuming this update is accurate, will be interesting. I would think that the people really vying would be the aforementioned Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro; along with Chelsea Davis, coached by Kim Zmeskal, and who copped to upgrading at the end of last year in an interview over at the excellent Gymnastike; Corrie Lothrop, who exceeded all expectations (including her own) by becoming an Olympic alternate and got some assignments post-Olympics at which she performed well; perhaps Olivia Courtney who was also sent out a bit at the end of last year; and, of course, the ever dogged Jana Bieger. (Is Sam Pezsek back in shape? How’s her ankle? How is her transition to Sharp’s going? Does anyone know anything about what’s up with her?!)

Hell, since Wieber is, at the very least, in the mix, maybe even maybe Kamerin Moore, Wieber’s adorable bespectacled teammate, who brought home some hardware from Top Gym in late November, will make a run. Apparently this is already Crazyville!

I, for one, am quite interested to see how this situation further develops! Especially when gossip starts leaking from the upcoming National Team training camp.

(FTR, my picks for the last two spots with be Larson and Shapiro.)

Posted in American Cup 2009, Jordyn Wieber | 17 Comments »

The Beamers

Posted by Rawles on January 11, 2009

So, I’ve been mulling over posting for a while now. I hadn’t forgotten this blog or anything, but since it’s the off-season there’s not that much for me to talk about at any given time besides Nastia’s latest photo shoot (super fierce for Max Azria!) or Shawn’s latest charity event (oh bb that dress…NO) or somesuch, which other people do a good job of covering.

As a clarification, particularly since I just got a pretty hilarious comment on my previous post, I have no pretensions of being a gym news blog or offering you up-to-date “coverage” of anything in particular. Places like Triple Full have that well covered. Much like when this was just a tag on my personal LiveJournal, I post whatever I feel like posting about at any given moment. And though I still laugh at aforementioned commenter’s assertion that covering a single Nastia article makes this The Nastia Fanatic Blog…if that was what I wanted it to be, then it would and without shame and you would have my cordial invitation to suck it! <3

At any rate, what I have actually been mulling over posting about for all this time is the (weeks-ago) World Cup Final. Most specifically the beam final, but I’ll get to that.

First I want to note my ambivalence about the discontinuation of the final. I think that in theory it’s a great thing and probably was in the past, but in practice…yeah, not so much. Which I feel was most exemplified by the fact that to get a full roster for various apparatus they had to dip down into the teens and twenties in the rankings. I watched the Universal Sports coverage of the event in full (which I much appreciated) and, honestly, found it very lackluster.

Lots of falls on floor, the disappointing withdrawal of Yang Yilin from bars, and what seemed at the time an abundance of bad Yurchenko 1 1/2s (so many tucked final 1/2s wtf) in the vault final did not give me much to cheer about. Sure, I’m happy for Cheng Fei for a bit of redemption for her ridiculously heartbreaking Olympics (and also for Ariella Kaeslin and Aagje LastnameIcan’tspellorpronounce) along with feeling bad for poor, tired Sandra Izbasa and a disappointing third on floor.

What I did find most of my interest invested in was the beam competition and some genuine, serious surprised joy was evoked by Lauren Mitchell’s win. In my prior LiveJournal posts it’s been mentioned fairly often, though not previously here, but I am very fond of Lauren Mitchell. Particularly, every time she competes, I am always, always wishing for her to do well on beam. So there was EXCITEMENT! EXALTATION! she won a pretty, freaking prestigious beam title! (And had a really cute conversation with Cheng Fei!) Glee.

Such glee, in fact, that I cut her beam from the coverage and sent it to a friend. And when I did that, and as I talked to my friend about it, in essence, I prefaced my commentary with “She’s wobbly, BUT…”

And that got me to thinking. I think that on paper, Lauren’s 2008 beam set is one of my absolute favourites of the quad. I like the combinations she tries and that she does something different on the turn (even though I do not actually like the Humphrey as a rule because it is ugly imo) and there is just a certain quality of movement she has on beam that I like.

But, beam being my long time favourite event, it kills me that I have to caveat showing someone a beam champion’s performance with PLZ IGNORE HER WOBBLING EVERYWHERE. And I’m not picking on Lauren, who, as mentioned, I love, but I feel this is just so endemic to this quad and this code and I don’t know if I feel like there’s a solution.

In theory (in theory!), I actually agree with the goal of the 2006-2008 Code of Points when perfectly applied. I agree that there should be more separation between gymnasts. I think they should lower the number of counting elements (as they are in this year’s code) and there are various quibbles with certain skill and connection values, but the basic premise, to me, is sound. I do believe that someone doing something significantly harder (but still well within their ability!) should be rewarded more than the 10.0 allowed. I do believe that someone executing their exercises significantly better should be rewarded in a way that the open-ended system allows for when applied correctly.

In my ideal world, the code would ensure that someone doing an amazing beam set would not lose it on a single adjustment to someone with a significantly less amazing beam set. But what we actually get seems to be a lot of people contending while wobbling after half their skills.

I remember witnessing one conversation about Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson’s incredible consistency on beam in 2008, where neither of them missed a single beam routine the entire year. Many felt it was worth note (I agree!) and, in response, some people (not specifically talking about Liukin and Johnson) essentially wondered when we started giving people cookies for staying on the beam. Which is pretty valid I have to say.

And I’m no longer sure where I’m going with this, so I’ll just ask a question!

What’s your stance? Do you prefer it being decided by absolute perfection or can you stand a minor adjustment or two in an otherwise great performance taking the prize? Or something else entirely?

If you're wondering, her medal fell off!

If you're wondering, her medal fell off!

Posted in Lauren Mitchell, World Cup Final 2008 | 1 Comment »


Posted by Rawles on December 13, 2008

Behind the scenes.

Nastia on the set of her WWD shoot with a friend.

Nastia on the set of her WWD shoot with a friend.

And some outtakes.


Posted in Nastia Liukin | 6 Comments »

New Nastia Article [w/ pictures]

Posted by Rawles on December 12, 2008

So, in the course of her many appearances and interviews and suchnot since the Olympics, Nastia has mentioned modeling amongst things that she wanted to dip her toe into on the side. I always smiled to myself and tittered a little, good-naturedly. Maybe I went, “Aww, that’s cute,” since Nastia, though tall for a gymnast, is obviously quite petite for a real person. And for all her hardcore, glorious bitchfacing on the sidelines during competition, she seems very sweet and generally darling out of the gym when she’s not concentrating on visualizing her routines and whatnot. So I was unsure if she could port her competition fierceness over to any modeling work.


Nastia Liukin on the Cover of WWD Beauty Biz

Nastia Liukin on the Cover of WWD Beauty Biz

WWD Beauty handed her over to fashion photographer Guy Aroch to get some pictorial accompaniment for their piece on her and her marketing and endorsement adventures…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Nastia Liukin | 12 Comments »

Performances Worth Remembering

Posted by Rawles on December 7, 2008

So, I have this habit wherein I enjoy wandering around YouTube looking at vaguely obscure videos of gymnasts I know and/or like back when they were juniors or before anyone cared about them and suchnot.

In these travels, I occasionally come by videos containing really great routines or skills that I often didn’t know said gymnasts had done or were not widely broadcast, etc. This is fun! And exciting! To me, anyway. And in the hopes that it will be, at least, mildly entertaining to you, I’ve decided to share these as I encounter them. You may have seen them, you may not have, but either way, they’re worth remembering.
Few would accuse Carly Patterson of being an especially exciting gymnast and, truly, I would not be one of those few. She always seemed to lack a certain amount of feeling, to be a little robotic. Frankly, she just wasn’t that interesting. And while I don’t hold the fact that she parlayed her Olympic glory into a “singing career” against her in the way that some gym fans do, let’s face it: it is and probably always will be a very hilarious development. Not really in a good way. But one thing that I could never fault Carly Patterson for was her almost freakish ability on balance beam. Everything she did was so preternaturally light and floaty it was almost mesmerizing. This video is from a 2002 podium meet.

What’s most remarkable about this (besides her being like 13 and doing the double arabian dismount), I feel, is her back full (:16). Not only does she do it with actual, honest-to-goodness true full-in technique (i.e. doing a full twist and then the salto, instead of twisting during the salto), but it’s not even really tucked. I look at this and feel like she could have trained up to a full-twisting layout. But then when she dropped the tucked/piked back full for a plain layout, it wasn’t that great, so who knows. What I do know is that this is pretty awesome and that it’s disappointing that by the time Carly made her successful run for the Olympic AA title in 2004, there really wasn’t much left of interest in her balance beam routine outside of her bitching dismount. But, oh, there was a time!

Three more, after the jump!
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Posted in Bridget Sloan, Carly Patterson, Chellsie Memmel, Jana Bieger, Performances Worth Remembering | 6 Comments »

Inaugural Thinger

Posted by Rawles on December 5, 2008

So, I decided–after much internal debate–to go ahead and create a dedicated blog for gymnastics talk. The pros including, but not limited to, the fact that my television show, movie, animation etc. nerdery and fangirling can live uninterrupted yet again. I also feel more comfortable posting about gym as much as I want in a blog specifically for that, rather than my personal journal where the majority of people reading it either don’t know anything about it or don’t care.

At any rate, I shall dive right into The Latest.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in American Cup 2009, Bridget Sloan, Nastia Liukin, Rebecca Bross | 6 Comments »