Posts Tagged ‘Alexei Nemov’

Who was better the second time around?

November 27, 2008
Dominique Dawes was better in her second Olympics than her first.

Dominique Dawes was better in her second Olympics than her first.

“She was as good in her second Olympics as she was in her first. You can rarely say that about a gymnast.”

So go my thoughts on now injured Russian star Anna Pavlova, who blew out her knee at the DBT Cup earlier this month. Maybe that’s not quite accurate — Pavlova was in the hunt for an all-around medal in Athens (and probably would have gotten one, had she been competing in the leaders group in the all-around. Although in top form in Beijing, she made too many mistakes to really challenge for an all-around medal there.

Still, Pavlova’s achievement is pretty incredible: How many gymnasts look as good in their second Olympics as they did in their first? Few names pop to mind.

Americans Dominique Dawes and Shannon Miller come to mind, particularly Dawes, who didn’t come into her own in gymnastics before sweeping the titles at the 1994 U.S. Championships. (Dawes and Amy Chow looked OK in Sydney but perhaps suffered from a little lack of prep time before beginning very serious training in 2000. My opinion is both were better in 1996.) Kerri Strug came into her own in 1996.

China’s Liu Xuan looked far steadier and more experienced at the 2000 Olympic Games than she did in Atlanta. Lavinia Milosovich, Gina Gogean and Simona Amanar and their Olympic performances in 1992 and 1996 (Gogean, Milo) and 1996 and 2000 (Amanar) are the reason the Romanians have the reputation of consistency that they do.

Men’s careers are more easily traced by an arc, rather than a line from one Olympics to another the way the women are. American Blaine Wilson, who competed in three Olympic Games, reached his apex in his second in 2000. So did John Roethlisberger, who competed in Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney. Assuming he would have competed in 1996 had he not ruptured his achilles in Atlanta, Ivan Ivankov was best in his “second” games too, in Sydney.

Paul and Morgan Hamm were at their best in Athens, all grown up after Sydney. From the way Paul Hamm looked at the U.S. Championships in June before breaking his hand, he would be among the very few one could say looked as good in their third Games as they did in their second.

Then there are ageless types like Oksana Chusovitina and Jordan Jovtchev, whose gymnastics looked the same in 2008 as it did in 1996, and Italian ringmaster Yuri Chechi, who won the gold in Atlanta and made a surprising comeback to take bronze in Athens in 2004.

I’m always a bit suprised to see France’s Dimitry Karbanenko still on an Olympic roster, though. It was like watching 1988 Soviet team member Sergei Kharkov competing 10 years ago for Germany. Li Xiaoshaung got his greatest honor the second time around. Yang Wei took three tries to win an Olympic all-around.

Beth Tweddle, Daiane dos Santos and Daniele Hypolito seem not to age much, either. Svetlana Khorkina looked a tad young in her first games, best in her second and somewhat frightening in her third.

Who wasn’t better the second time around? Hmm — Henrietta Onodi. Yelena Zamolodchikova. Svetlana Boginskaya peaked around 1990 and wasn’t quite the same in 1992 or 1996. Vitaly Scherbo, but that’s a case of extenuating circumstances.

Sexy Alexei Nemov was perhaps less, um, enthusastic the second time around, but he got the big prize in the end. You got the sense that by his third time in 2004, it was just all about fun.

Anyone else?

Russian men on top at European Championships

May 9, 2008

Nikolai KryukovThe usual suspects — including Fabian Hambuchen, Yuri van Gelder and Nikolai Kryukov — all did very well during team qualifications at the Men’s European Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, International Gymnast Magazine reports.

Going into team finals, the picture looks like this:

1. Russia 273.175
2. Germany 268.000
3. Ukraine 267.025
4. Romania 266.275
5. Belarus 265.150
6. Switzerland 264.800
7. France 263.300
8. Italy 262.950

Russia seems likely to win the team title, but some good races are shaping up for event finals, particularly on rings, where would-be Olympic rings contender van Gelder will go up against Jordan Jovtchev. 2007 World high bar champion Hambuchen will go up against 2001 World high bar champion Vlasios Maras of Greece in event finals as well.

Some surprises though: Veteran among veterans Kryukov is leading on parallel bars and pommel horse. I think of Kryukov as the veteran among veterans not because he’s 28, but more because he’s been around since 1996, when at 16 he was the youngest member of the gold-medal winning Russian team in Atlanta.

The best male gymnasts of the past 10 years — Li Xiaoshaung, Alexei Nemov, Ivan Ivankov, Alexei Bondarenko, Li Xiaopeng, Yang Wei, Yevgeny Podgorny, Rustam Sharipov, Marian Dragulescu, Hiroyuki Tomita, Paul Hamm — Kryukov’s gone up against all of them. And the 1999 World Champion has proven that he’s among the best too.

In other news, the Russians appear to have let Maxim Devyatovsky back onto the team after his stint of bad behavior at the 2007 World Championships.

Devyatovsky competed all six events and was the top individual, though the all-around will not be contested in Lausanne.