Archive for the ‘2007 Worlds’ Category

Breaking down gymnastics costs

December 10, 2008

An illuminating little slice of life about struggling to afford gymnastics from NWhiker:

Maybe some day I’ll tally up the actual costs… or maybe not. Because it’s not just the $300+ per month of classes, it’s the booster club dues for meet fees, runs a few thousand a year, the leo and sweats, an other $500, wristbands and dowels and grips and… That’s not counting travel meets.

We decided not to go on the big travel meet of this year. All the other levels got Vegas and Malibu, for AC’s level, I guess something didn’t work out for the Malibu meet, and Vegas? Ummm… No. We’re skipping, and we’ll make a family weekend out of the other travel meet, which is down south of here at one of those cool waterparks. Still, that’ll be almost $1000 when all is said and done.

We also don’t let her run a “tab” at the gym concession. No way, no how. There is nothing even moderately healthy there, and it’s expensive.

We don’t do private lessons! Well, the occasional one or two per year, but not as a weekly thing like some of the girls get. And it does show, unfortunately. I can see how much she improves in the weeks after a private. But I’m paying for private school, folks!

I was there when the mom of one of the really good girls paid her gym bill. It was over $900, because of privates. She used three different credit cards. Sorry, but… ummm… no.

If your child is a potential NCAA-caliber gymnast, the up-front costs could be offset by a college scholarship. As Patti Kupets said in an interview with IG a couple years ago, by the time they were about 15, both Ashley and Courtney Kupets understood that they couldn’t really quit the sport, Patti told the magazine, because the Kupets’s would not be able to pay their college tuition. The equivalent of their daughters’ college savings had been spent on gymnastics.

It will be interesting to see whether gymnastics clubs suffer in the present economic downturn.

The Worlds Awards

October 26, 2007

A new Longines Award?

Northernriver at Difficulty Plus Execution made a terrific observation about China’s Jiang Yuyuan in some comments about the latest issue of International Gymnast Magazine today:

…if Longines (also known as “That Watch Company in Cahoots With FIG”) ever made a “Prize For Cuteness” to go along with their “Prize For Elegance” (ha), I’d nominate “Yuanyuan” quicker than it takes Shawn to say “It’s such an honor.”

What else might Longines have given awards for at the 2007 Worlds? Below are a few suggestions, inspired by the absurdly named Longines Prize for Elegance, which was bestowed on Shawn Johnson in Stuttgart.

Don’t get me wrong: Johnson is dynamic, steady, inspiring, humble, immensely talented and a whole lot of fun to watch, but elegant is not an apt description of her abilities. It would be better if Longines had decided to replace the word “elegance” with “sportsmanship.” On and off the competition podium, Johnson certainly deserves an award for that.

Without further ado, here we go:

The Longines Award for Vaulting Without Actually Running: Beth Tweddle, who performs a respectable Yurchenko one and a half twist after about five steps.

Vaulting, yes. Running: Not really.

Honorable mention to Romania’s Razvan Selariu, gets a tremendous block off the horse despite doing little more than “trotting” down the runway.

Razvan Selariu, 2007 European Championships All-Around, Vault:

The Longines Award for Reputation Salvation: That goes to Nastia Liukin, who looked mostly like her indomitable old self despite an few floor mistakes and two falls on balance beam over four days of competition. Those who wrote Nastia off after the U.S. Championships will surely be reconsidering now. Honorable mention to the U.S. men’s team, who hauled themselves from 13th to fourth in the world rankings, showing a lot of naysayers that they are indeed clamoring for a place on the Olympic podium.

Nastia Liukin, 2007 U.S. Championships Prelims, Uneven Bars:

Nastia Liukin, 2007 World Championships Team Prelims, Uneven Bars:

The Longines Award for Falling: This is for Yang Wei, who took one of the more dramatic falls I’ve ever seen on high bar during the men’s all around final. And he wasn’t even doing a release move! Unlike some of the less muscular gymnasts, Wei seems to have some trouble doing in-bar elements and twisting his body around on this apparatus. That performance might be written off as a fluke, but one has to recall the disaster in Athens that cost him the all-around title.

Yang Wei, 2007 World Championships All-Around, High Bar:

The Longines Award for Longevity: There are so many gymnasts this award could go to: Russia’s Elena Zamolodchikova, Germany’s Oksana Chusovitina, France’s Isabelle Severino, Brazil’s Daniele Hypolito, Bulgaria’s Jordan Jovtchev,  or even Yang Wei himself, who competed at the American Cup nine years ago. My choice is the Czech Republic’s Jana Komrskova, a tall, elegant vaulting specialist who has competed internationally since 1998, when she was sixth in the all-around at the junior European Championships. Competing a relatively simple (for this code) Podkopayeva and a Yurchenko full, Kmorskova performed with dignity and grace during the vault final. And she stuck her landings.

Jana Komrskova, 2007 World Championships Event Finals, Vault:

The Longines Award for Most Consistently Overscored Routine: Steliana Nistor, balance beam. To Nistor’s credit, she should also receive the Longines Award for Graciousness: Throughout event finals, Nistor could be seen congratulating the other girls in the competition on their performances and accomplishments, whether they were her teammates or not. She’s an example of the way gymnasts should behave.

Steliana Nistor, 2007 World Championships Team Prelims, Balance Beam:

The Longines Award for Amazing Saves: Vanessa Ferrari, uneven bars, team finals. Ferrari, like some of the Ukranians, sports grips that appear to be nothing more than folded bits of tape. One of them actually came off her hand about halfway through her bar routine during finals, and Ferrari, in the middle of her inverts, basically just shakes it off and keeps going. Even though she had to improvise a little bit at the very end of the routine, it was a really nice job on her part. Rick at Gymnastics Coaching has already mentioned this in his blog. To use his words, “What a fighter!”

Vanessa Ferrari, 2007 World Championships Team Finals, Uneven Bars:

The Longines Award for Most Overused Word by American Commentators: That would be “gassed,” as said several times by both Bart Connor and Raj Bhavsar to describe the state of most competing in the men’s all-around final. Perhaps the best illustration of this is Hiroyuki Tomita’s reaction after falling from the pommel horse due to fatigue as much as anything else, when he walked over to the chalk bin and simply sat on his haunches for several seconds, the way gymnasts do when they’re, well, gassed.

Gassed?

The Longines Award for Most Impressive Yang Wei Performance: Still rings. Yes, he won parallel bars over a field of gymnasts that specialize in that event, but on rings Yang performed what looked like a swinging double layout and capped off the routine with a stuck double double layout dismount. Awesome. Honorable mention for his vault in team finals.

Yang Wei, 2007 World Championships Team Finals, Vault:

The Longines Award for Coolest New Trend: Double front dismounts off rings, particularly Hiroyuki Tomita’s double front pike with a half out.

Hiroyuki Tomita, 2007 World Championships Team Prelims, Still Rings:

The Longines Award for Endurance: Everyone who competed in both the men’s team competition and all-around, which were held less than 24 hours apart, but particularly to Korea’s Yang Tae-Young. The reigning Olympic bronze medalist was the only gymnast to do all six events at both competitions.

The Longines Award for Best Split Jump Ever: Japan’s Koko Tsurumi. It was the highlight of a beautiful balance beam routine.

Koko Tsurumi, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Balance Beam:

The World(s) in four minutes

September 25, 2007

Those who want to know what happened on the women’s side at the recent World Championships in Stuttgart but don’t have time to watch the hours of excellent coverage provided by WCSN might like this instead.

Consider it Worlds Cliffsnotes. To Celtic music.

Worlds absentees

September 23, 2007

It’s hard to watch a world championships without thinking about who’s not there and how those people could have impacted the results.

Although this year there weren’t as many absentees as in 2006, it seems fitting to pay tribute to those who might have been on the teams were it not for injury or whatnot and wonder what’s in store for them come 2008…

Anna Pavlova: Although she’s never won a major championship, Pavlova has hung with the Russian team since 2003 and proved in Athens that she has what it takes to win during major competitions. Many still think she deserved the bronze — if not silver — in the Olympic all-around. Most recently, Pavlova competed at the 2007 Shanghai World Cup, where she looked in great shape and turned in a most impressive beam routine.

Anna Pavlova, 2007 Shanghai World Cup, Balance Beam:

Jana Bieger:

Jana Bieger

It must have been a terrible disappointment for Jana Bieger not to make the 2007 World team, given that the championships were held in Germany, a country she has strong ties with. A foot injury kept Bieger from giving her best performance at Nationals, and she was not among those Martha Karolyi chose to train for the world championship. Bieger might actually improve her chances of making the Olympic team if she were to compete for Germany, but according to the NBC commentators at the U.S. Championships, she nipped that idea in the bud as soon as it was mentioned.

Jana Bieger, 2006 World Championships All-Around, Floor Exercise:

Justin Spring: Spring, who excels on vault, high bar, parallel bars and…well, everything except pommel horse, tore his ACL on vault at the U.S. Championships two weeks before Worlds. The injury means Spring, who competed for the University of Illinois in college, won’t be at full strength for a good six months. Fortunately, he won’t have to prove himself ready for the Olympics for about nine.

Justin Spring, 2007 U.S. Championships, High Bar:

Ashley Preiss: Priess, who trains at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, chose to sit out U.S. Nationals — and consequently the world championship selection process — while she recovers from injury. Preiss made a strong showing at the 2006 Worlds, where she placed tenth in the all-around. Some may be wondering if Preiss can compete with the depth of the U.S. team, but it’s hard to count her out.

Ashley Preiss, 2006 World Championships All-Around, Uneven Bars:

Chellsie Memmel: Memmel has had a rough couple of years after winning the 2005 World All-Around championships. A nagging shoulder problem has made it hard for her to train her best event, the uneven bars, for several months, and at Nationals she went to compete on floor exercise for one night only. Memmel showed true grit during the team competition at the 2006 Worlds where she sustained an injury while competing on uneven bars during team finals. She fought through what must have been a fair amount of pain and finished the competition, helping the U.S. to a silver medal, then withdrawing from the all-around. Given the preliminary results, a healthy Memmel would have been in good shape to defend her championship in Aarhus. It remains to be seen what a healthy Memmel would be able to contribute to in 2008.

Chellsie Memmel, 2006 World Championships Team Finals, Floor Exercise:

Kyle Shewfelt:

Kyle Shewfelt

Shewfelt, the backbone of the Canadian men’s team, fractured both of his knees in training in Stuttgart and watched the competition from a wheelchair on the sidelines. The reigning Olympic floor champion has been noted for his grace and class both on and off the competition floor. Note his reaction, as recorded by the Winnipeg Sun to not being able to compete at the 2007 Worlds:

“I don’t want to come back and come 50th at the Olympics or maybe not make the team,” said an emotional Shewfelt. “I want to be able to have my best performances in Beijing just like I did in Athens. I want to contribute to this team and individually do well there.

“It’s going to be a hard journey back I’m sure. I’m ready for the challenge. I’m so ready for this fight.”

Kyle Shewfelt, 2006 World Championships, Floor Exercise:

Pang Panpan: This young Chinese gymnast came within a hair’s breadth of winning the 2006 World all-around title, only to miss her very difficult double-twisting Yurchenko vault on her last event of the competition. Pang was left off the Chinese team this year due to injury, but I think she could be a major contender in 2008 if she remains healthy.

Pang Panpan, 2006 World Championships All-Around, Floor Exercise:

Ana Maria Tamarjan: This Romanian newcomer fractured her leg during podium training and was unable to compete in what would have been her first world championships. Tamarjan is part of an emerging team of young Romanians whose future is somewhat undefined.

Ana Maria Tamarjan, 2007 Romanian Nationals, Floor Exercise:

Irina Isayeva: Isayeva made a big impression at the 2006 Europeans before succumbing to an injury later in the season. She made an appearance at one competition in 2007 but was left off the Russian team for the Stuttgart worlds. Isayeva is one of the much-talked about Russian juniors who are now infiltrating the senior ranks of competition, but Russia has yet to put together a team of its youngsters for a major competition.

Irina Isayeva, 2006 European Championships Team Finals, Floor Exercise:

Marian Dragulescu: Dragulescu, a veteran of the bronze medal-winning Romanian men’s team in 2004, cracked his lumbar vertebra in training to defend his titles on vault and floor exercise at this year’s worlds, International Gymnast Magazine reported prior to the competition. No matter. If he recovers properly, Dragulescu will almost certainly be a force to be reckoned with come next summer.

Marian Dragulescu, 2006 World Championships Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

Shavahn Church:

Shavahn Church

Church, who was a member of the U.S. junior national team before deciding (rightly, I think) that she would have a better chance of making the Olympic team were she to go compete for England, has had a rough couple of years as well. Injury prevented Church, who trains in California, from competing with her team, which qualified to the Olympics even without her. With Church, Beth Tweddle and newcomer Rebecca Downie, the Brits could be the upset of Beijing. Top five, anyone?

Shavahn Church, 2005 World Championships All-Around, Uneven Bars:

With Ponor and Patrascu, the Romanians are moving forward

September 13, 2007

Two bright spots on a Romanian team that was otherwise seemed to be lacking in form and spirit at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart were 20-year-old veteran Catalina Ponor, back in shape after post-Olympic partying and a bout in retirement, and 15-year-old newcomer Cerasela Patrascu. Both displayed a lot of style — in Ponor’s case, there was even passion — for being from a country known for its unionspiring routines.

I admired both Ponor’s floor, somewhat old-school for having only three tumbling passes, as well as Patrascu’s beam, which featured the ususal Romanian difficulty but with attractive lines and arm movements — none of this slashing at the air with one’s arms and calling it choreography. Both, particularly Ponor, showed a lot of style, something that seems to be in short supply on the Romanian team.

Ponor on floor in Stuttgart:

Patrascu on beam in Stuttgart:

Patrascu is also somewhat unique to the Romanians in that she has a nice swing on bars. She didn’t receive top billing on the Romanian team, and could stand to up her difficulty a smidge (her beam dismount, after all, was only a double full) but together, she and Ponor could both be sleepers in Beijing.

Patrascu on bars:

And just for good measure, some vintage Ponor (was it really only a little more than a year ago?)

Ponor is what sometimes happens to a country going through an off quad, where its depth is depleted and its program is in transition: An older star reemerges and vows to try and restore the program to its former greatness. The same thing happened in the United States during the run up to the 2000 Olympic Games, when no fewer than four of the Magnificent Seven came out of retirement to try and help the floundering American team.

Gymnasts behaving badly

September 11, 2007

In the gymnastics world, suspension is the equivalent of national team members being told “Go to your room!” by their respective federations and, occassionally, the International Gymnastics Federation. This means, really, that they aren’t allowed to go out and play at international competitions until they are deemed to have learned their lesson and are “ungrounded” by whoever punished them in the first place.

It seems to be more of a problem for hyperflexible rhythmic gymnasts than artistic ones (see entries for Chaschina, Irina and Kabayeva, Alina.) The only example I can think of involving an artistic gymnast doping is poor Andreea Raducan, who was given a flu medication containing a banned substance by the Romanian team doctor hours before the all-around competition at the 2000 Olympics. Everyone and their coach agrees that Radcuan was not at fault for the error and that the substance did not help her performance.

Raducan’s story:

Returning to the present: Russia self-sanctioned team stars Maxim Deyvatovsky and Yulia Lozhechko, arguably the country’s two top all-around performers, respectively, for “their respective behavior at the World Championships,” according to International Gymnast Magazine. The reasons had nothing to do with doping.

Deyvatovsky was suspended for his behavior during Friday’s all-around competition, when he left the arena before the sixth rotation. It is a violation of FIG rules for a non-injured gymnast to leave the competition area before the end of the tournament.

In the all-around final, Devyatovsky had been second in the rankings before he fell on the parallel bars in the fifth rotation. He did not finish his routine and he received a score of 3.725. Rodionenko said the team doctor examined Devyatovsky and, finding no injury, cleared him to compete on the high bar.

Devyatovsky, however, having lost all chance of a medal, shrugged off the last event, saying, “I don’t have any interest in finishing outside of the top three. There’s no difference to me between seventh place or 24th.”

[Russian head coach Andrei] Rodionenko said the national team coaches declared Devyatovsky’s attitude “unworthy” of the Russian team. He singled out 2005 world champion Hiroyuki Tomita (Japan) as an example of a gymnast who performed with dignity in the men’s all-around final. In the sixth rotation, Tomita fell heavily from the high bar, and yet finished his routine despite also having no hope for a medal.

“(Tomita) finished the way you’d expect from a world champion,” Rodionenko said in an interview posted on the Russian Gymnastics Federation’s official Web site. “Maxim just doesn’t have these same qualities. He could have finished an honorable 24th place, and now it is a shameful 24th place.”

Lozhechko has apparently been disciplined for not obeying her coaches in throwing a planned Patterson (double arabian) dismount on balance beam during team qualifications. She fell on the dismount and didn’t make event finals.

[Rodionenko] said her goal was to reach the individual final and that she instead ended up costing the team points.

Rodionenko, a senior trainer for the Soviets in the 1970s and 1980s, said the current generation of Russian gymnasts needs to understand that the team comes first.

“I have come to the conclusion: if athletes are unable to put aside their personal interests for the sake of the team, they need to leave,” he said. “To keep up team moral is much more important than the whims of a single, even a very talented, individual.”

The competition in Stuttgart is obviously not going to medal in the World Championships of Sportsmanlike Conduct. In addition to the Russians’ antics, American Alicia Sacramone ruined what was otherwise a fantastic competition for her by crying when her score on floor exercise during event finals was announced, then looking sullen on the medal stand. She had finished second to compatriot Shawn Johnson.

Sacramone on floor during event finals:

It’s too bad for Sacramone, who at 19 was the oldest female member of the U.S. team in Stuttgart, to end her competition by acting like spoiled seven-year-old and not the supportive leader she appeared to be during team finals, where the American women as a whole won the gold medal.

Add China’s Li Shanshan, who tied with Steliana Nistor for silver on beam, to the list of criers. Shanshan, who fell off on her exquisite full turn with her leg held up, was apparently in tears after learning American Nastia Liukin’s score. Liukin won her second world title on the event.

Liukin herself was the subject of some controversy after narrowly losing the uneven bar final to Russia’s Ksenia Semyonova. Nastia’s father and coach Valeri Liukin and National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi both blamed an Australian judge for giving Liukin too low of an execution score, which ranked her seventh out of the final’s eight competitors.

Natsia Liukin won her second balance beam world title in Stuttgart over the weekend. She did not win the uneven bars, which has caused some tongue-wagging among her coach and National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi.

According to this L.A. Times article, Liukin and Karolyi are crying foul play.

“It’s cheating,” Valeri Liukin said, “and it’s been going on this whole competition.”

Nistor’s vault form

September 9, 2007

Just how bad is Steliana Nistor’s form on vault? When you break her movement down into a series of still photography images, one of them looks like this.

That’s pretty bad.

Stuttgart AA: A successful quest for Johnson, Wei

September 9, 2007

Congratulations to new world all-around champion Shawn Johnson, who capped off her whirlwind 2007 season in high style Friday by winning the biggest prize of them all.

Scratch that: Second biggest prize of them all. But if Johnson continues to improve the way she has, she’ll be a shoo-in to defend this world all-around title in Beijing.

Shawn Johnson, the 2007 World all-around champion. 

Being exposed to the best in the world in Stuttgart has certainly been good for the 15-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa. Her bars and beam routines during the all-around show improvement from the first day of competition. During the all-around, she seemed to move a bit more calmly, more maturely even. She also seems to be taking greater pains on her extension, which is very important, especially for a gymnast her size and shape.

Johnson on bars during the all-around:

And on beam:

Johnson, who had mistakes in team qualification and team finals, proved her mettle by completing the all-around competition (the third day she’s competed all four events) without having to count a fall (or even major wobbles, save a few small ones on beam.) That’s something 2006 champion Vanessa Ferrari, who tied for the bronze with Brazilian newcomer Jade Barbosa, didn’t accomplish last year.

She was certainly better than silver medalist Steliana Nistor, who wobbled her way through her own beam routine. Her scores are confounding, especially on vault. The technique on her double twisting Yurchenko is incredibly sloppy. Her one and a half isn’t better.

DTY:

The 1.5:

Nistor on beam during the all-around finals:

American Nastia Liukin, who also demonstrated a huge improvement from the U.S. Championships in August, finished fifth after having problems on balance beam.

While Johnson is the newcomer who’s in the middle of a magic rookie season, China’s Yang Wei is at the other end of the spectrum. Yang first gained international attention at the 1998 American Cup, where he placed fifth. He’s won about everything under the sun since, except, of course, for an Olympic all-around title, which seems to be what’s keeping him going.

2007 World all around champion Yang Wei.

Yang made strong strides toward his ultimate goal Friday, winning the all-around for the second year in a row. German gymnastics giant (relatively speaking) Fabian Hambuchen was second and Japan’s Hisashi Mizutori placed third. American Jonathan Horton apparently had the competition of his life to finish fourth.

Horton on High Bar during team finals:

Yang Wei’s vault in slo-mo during team finals (16.525!):

Chinese men take gold at world team finals

September 7, 2007

It was a masterful performance, a clinic in how gymnastics should be performed.

And for the Chinese men’s team, who dominated the world team finals, winning over Japan by more than four points, it was only the dress rehersal.

The stage has been set for Beijing; there, the greatest teams in the world will be trying to catch what is far and away the greatest team in the world, which will be competing on its own turf.

Not an easy predicament by any means.

 Yang Wei and the rest of the Chinese men's team has set the standard for gymnastics in Beijing.

There isn’t too much too much to say about the Chinese men that hasn’t already been said. Every team member except one scored above a 16 on something during the team final, the high coming appropriately from Yang Wei’s 16.525 vault. 

Closer to the Games, people may begin to have greater doubts about whether the Chinese won’t succumb to the pressure of Olympic competition, as they have at times in the past. But for the moment, all should enjoy the beauty of their accomplishment, and relish the praise that comes with it.

The Japanese men turned in a highly respectable performance for second place. Hisashi Mizutori put in almost a full day of work, competing on all events but parallel bars. The German team, boosted by a home crowd that sings and claps, took the bronze medal, and the U.S. sustained falls on high bar from Sasha Artemev and newly anointed national champion and team leader David Durante to finish fourth.

Japan's Hisashi Mizutori

Romania, despite finishing in eighth place, displayed three of the best vaults in the competition and scored a whopping team total of 48.850 (Daniel Popescu tied Wei’s 16.525) on that event. If there was a world team championship just for vaulting, Romania would have it locked up.

With this result, the U.S. can carry on as though Aarhus never happened, although no one is ever going to let them forget that 13th place finish in 2006. The team seems to be back where it was before 2006 — among the best in the world, but never the best. Always the bridesmaids, right guys?

Their highlight was Sean Golden, who posted the team’s highest score by registering a 16.1 on vault. Golden is one of those guys who has hung around on the national team for a few years but has yet to really make a mark, but he may have signalled here that his time begins now. With a team berth to Beijing in its pocket and a Hamm brothers return on the horizon, there’s no telling what this team could be capable of next year.

Complete results of the men’s competition can be found here.

Ziert’s top 10 from the women’s team final

September 6, 2007

Here’s International Gymnast Magazine publisher Paul Ziert’s take on the women’s team final in Stuttgart:

Wednesday, September 5

10. The Romanians is not quite where they want to be, but they are showing their usual signs of gaining momentum toward the Olympics. It seems bars will not be the Achilles heal for them in Beijing because Nistor and Patrascu are excellent, and I’m sure they will find another bar worker, or find some way to remotivate Izbasa, who was just not herself here.

Cerasela Petrascu on bars during the team final:

9. The British team smartly rested Beth Tweddle today. Beth will compete again in the all-around and two apparatus finals, so resting her gave some of her very young teammates a few extra chances to proudly represent Britain at the world championships. The team had already accomplished its primary goal of Olympic team qualification, so team finals was a chance to put more girls in the spotlight.

Beth Tweddle on floor exercise during the preliminaries:

8. Ksenia Semyonova, the lone bright spot in Russia’s unfortunate team final, reminds of what this program is still capable of. The youngest member of the Russian team at just 14 years old, Semyonova nailed her extremely lengthy and exciting bars routine again today for a 16.325. Too many of Semyonova’s compatriots from the spectacular Russian junior team are currently injured or have been forced to retire from injuries over the past two years. I think she will be a very big factor in Beijing!

7. The B-Panel judges must be drug tested. If our athletes are drug tested, why not the judges? They have taken a very bad Code and made it worse. If they can’t see how much we need to reward the Chinese on bars, they are enemies of our sport. ow I understand politics and I understand power ego trips, but what I don’t understand is stupidity. We can only survive this Code if the people putting it into play ie the judges use it to direct gymnastics in the right direction. The Chinese set an unbelievable standard for the direction bars should go, so please, to those four B Panel judges, get a very big stick and spank yourself!

Chinese on bars during prelims:

6. Yelena Zamolodchikova who gave her all here like she always does for Russia, but this time Kramarenko made a very silly error that threw away a bronze medal. She ran up to the table and instead of running around it or stopping without touching it, put her hands on the table to stop herself. As the rules state, she received a zero. Poor Zamo had to vault next knowing that no matter how well she did her Yurchenko double twist, her team would finish dead last. She charged down the runway with tears running down her face. This might be the last major competition we see her, and, I sure, she didn’t want to end this way. She has “the heart of a real champion.” How trite, but really true in her case.

Zamo on vault during team finals. knowing it didn’t matter:

5. Coordinators Marta Karolyi and Kathy Kelly for staying in the background and allowing the girls’ personal coaches do the coaching. This team looked much happier that the one in Aarhus, and, of course, they got the job done. I personally think than by the competition, all the coordinating and managing should be done. It’s time to execute, and the girls do better with their own coaches pushing their buttons.

4. Brazilian Jade Barbosa who turned in the highest All Around score today, 61.225. I wasn’t able to watch any of her routines because I was totally focused on the American/Chinese battle, but you can count on my watching her in the All Around finals.

Barbosa on beam during qualifying:

3. Newcomer Li Shanshan who after standing on the podium for more than 7 minutes while the judges argued over Cheng Fei’s score, stepped up and nailed her routine for the highest score on Beam and the third highest score of the entire Team Final – 16.275.

The third highest score of the entire Team Final:

2. The Italian team that quietly ended in 4th place using their star, Vanessa Ferrari in only vault(15.1) and bars(14.775). Although she usually scores higher on bars, it was remarkable that she was able to finish this routine considering that her cloth hand guard came loose near the end of her routine. She is really something to marvel at!

Ferrari loses her grip (and then really loses her grip!):

1. Alicia Sacramone was the star of the team finals. What a tough young lady she is! She did the best vault she has done so far here in Stuttgart (15.75), led off beam with a very solid routine under these conditions (15.60) and nailed her floor routine(15.325) with a little extra spice after leap series when her choreography has her rubbing her leg in the corner.

Alicia caps off team finals with a marvelous performance on floor: