Posts Tagged ‘Anna Pavlova’

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?

10 things that should have happened during the Olympics….

October 7, 2008
Aussie Daria Joura deserved better than she got in Beijing.

Aussie Daria Joura deserved better than she got in Beijing.

…and didn’t.

1. The Australian program, which aside from Russia and China has the best combination of artistry and athleticism, should have made a bigger impact. The unfortunate injury to Aussie star Dasha Joura in team prelims undercut Australia’s chances of being a bigger hit at these Games. Hopefully Joura goes on in gymnastics, although her countrywomen have certainly been able to translate their gymnastics prowess into other sports. She’s the best Australia’s ever had, and could continue to have a big impact on sport in her country.

2. The Russian program, which aside from China and Australia has the best combination of artistry and athleticism, should have made a bigger impact. The elegant and classy veteran Anna Pavlova, who knows something about peaking during the Olympic Games, was robbed of medals on both balance beam and vault. At 20, she’s also a candidate for continuing, and can draw inspiration from her more aged elite teammates Yelena Zamolodchikova and Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova.

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Women’s All-Around predictions

August 15, 2008
Could this be the woman at the top of the podium after tonights all-around final?

Could this be the woman at the top of the podium after tonight's all-around final?

Generally the feeling is that the United States will be on the podium — but in what position(s), it’s very hard to say. This blog’s official prediction is that Nastia Liukin comes back with a vengeance to take the title. Jiang Yuyuan takes second with a clean performance, and Shawn Johnson gets the bronze after a small mistake…somewhere.

The problem with saying this right out is that Nastia is, although always near the top, a gymnast that tends to make small errors (steps on landings, lots of going out of bounds on floor.)

Nevertheless, she looked on fire, determined and capable through the first two nights. Johnson, though she smiled and performed well, somehow (again, my opinion only) doesn’t look as unbeatable as she did in 2007. Could she have peaked before the selection camp?

Those who could surprise: Ksenia Semyonova, who qualified in fourth place, Anna Pavlova, and Yang Yilin, China’s other gymnast in this event. Any could climb onto the platform.

Yelizerova, Klyukina grab last two spots on Russian team

July 26, 2008

Daria Yelizerova and Svetlana Klyukina have secured the final two spots on the Russian team headed for Beijing, International Gymnast Magazine reports.

Ksenia Semyonova Other members of the team are Ksenia Semyonova, Ksenia Afanasyeva, Anna Pavlova and Yekaterina Kramarenko.

The rebounding Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova has been named team alternate. Grebenkova, 25, has already vowed to continue training after 2008.

No Olympics for Lozhechko

July 22, 2008

Russian Yulia Lozhechko on her best event.

From International Gymnast Magazine:

While the Russian women’s Olympic team has yet to be officially announced, veteran Yulia Lozhechko won’t be going to Beijing, head coach Andrei Rodionenko said Monday.

Lozhechko, the 2007 European Champion on balance beam, has lost all chances for the 2008 Olympics. Ksenia Afanasyeva, Yekaterina Kramarenko, Anna Pavlova and Ksenia Semyonova already have secured berths, and Svetlana Klyukina, Daria Yelizarova and Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova are vying for the remaining two spots, Rodionenko said.

Good grief! OK, so Lozhechko’s been a bit up and down since winning the 2007 Europeans on beam, but when she’s on, she could make event finals on that event easily, perhaps even medal. There must be something seriously wrong for her to be eliminated at this stage.

Then again, Lozhechko has a history of disobedience:

Lozhechko, a World Cup gold medalist and three-time world team member, was given a three-month suspension from the team last fall for defying the coaches at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart. In the preliminaries, Lozhechko was instructed to dismount balance beam with a simple double tuck, but attempted a more difficult Arabian double front to increase her chances of getting into the beam final. She fell on the dismount and was an alternate to the final.

Lozhechko was criticized by the coaching staff for “mental problems” following her subpar finish at the Russian Cup. After finishing 12th in qualification, fifth in the final and third on beam, she was nevertheless given the final invitation to the training camp in Leninsk-Kuznetsky. However, her Olympic chances ended there, Rodionenko said.

Yulia Lozhechko, 2007 World Championships All Around, Balance Beam:

She evoked Svetlana Khorkina in bodyline and movement, although apparently Rodionenko is less tolerant of “mental problems” than former Russian coach Leonid Arkayev was (hey, the man put up with The Diva for a decade, although Khorkina seemed to win more than she lost.)

With the more experienced four of the training camp — Pavlova, Kramarenko, Semyonova and Afanasyeva — confirmed, what an interesting choice between Grebenkova, Yelizerova and Klyukina for the final spot.

Harmes to Olympics, van der Leur done

June 24, 2008

Suzanne Harmes

While the U.S. Olympic Trials were happening, across the world the Dutch were quietly determining their own women’s Olympic team at the Dutch Open.

They might have called it the Russian Open instead. Russia sent what may well be its Olympic team — Anna Pavlova, Ksenia Semenova, Ksenia Afanasyeva, Svetlana Kluykina, Yulia Lozhechko and Ekaterina Kramarenko to Amsterdam with the expectation that they would dominate, and they did.

The Netherlands’ one-woman squad will apparently consist of new mom Suzanne Harmes, the only Dutch gymnast to meet the selection committee’s standards, which are still a bit unclear.

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Return of the shaky balance beam routine

May 14, 2008

Balance beam is a shaky event.For many years, the balance beam has been seen as the hardest event in gymnastics. It’s nerve-wracking, those four inches, four feet off the ground. And gymnasts have to do so much these days.

One of the things that makes Olympic champions like Carly Patterson and Andreea Raducan great is the way they almost never seemed to falter on that most precarious of events.

Seems like these days more gymnasts have major problems on uneven bars. Great all-around prospects who had difficulties hitting bars in competition or getting a start value that didn’t deflate all-around possibilities? The ranks burst with them: Vanessa Atler, Alicia Sacramone, Cheng Fei, Anna Pavlova, Sandra Izbasa, Jana Bieger, Catalina Ponor, Gina Gogean, etc.

So it’s almost refreshing to see a gymnast whose worst event is the old classic balance beam, who makes you bite your nails and get so nervous during the routine that suspense movies hardly compare.

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The Anna Pavlova all-around analysis

April 14, 2008

Beijing all-around threat?She looked great on floor at last week’s European Championships.

She tried an Amanar vault (even though she “splatted” it, as Northernriver would say.)

She’s proven herself to be a good beamworker — an Olympic finalist with good rhythm and big skills.

So why isn’t Russian veteran Anna Pavlova, 20 years old in a sport where 20 is the new 16, considered an all-around threat?

Basically, it’s a bars thing.

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Bold statement from Anna Pavlova at Euros

April 6, 2008

The Romanians, as expected, won the 2008 European Championships team title. More exciting was Anna Pavlova’s floor routine, which includes the best double layout I’ve seen all quad. (The DL has gone out of fashion as of late. Seems like everyone’s opening up with full-twisting doubles of the tucked or piked variety.)

Also cool are the camera angles from above.

Anna Pavlova, 2008 European Championships, Floor Exercise:

So few slots, so many questions

March 7, 2008

In theory, by March of an Olympic year, we should be getting a better idea of who’s going to be on the Olympic team in most countries.

China is not most countries.

Here are Deng Linlin and Guo Weiyang, two from the People’s Republic whose success at the just concluded Doha World Cup may contribute to their own Olympic surge. Guo won gold on high bar in Doha. Deng won gold on beam and silver on floor.

She didn’t do too shabbily on vault, either, winning a bronze behind Germany’s Oksana Chusovitina and Russian Anna Pavlova.

Deng Linlin, 2008 Doha World Cup Event Finals, Vault:

Guo Weiyang, 2007 Chinese Nationals Event Finals, High Bar:

Ksenia SemyonovaMatters aren’t much clearer when it comes to the prospective Russian women’s team, either. Ksenia Semyonova is the reigning world champion on the uneven bars, but Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova keeps coming up with big results at smaller meets. Ksenia Afanasyeva had a great competition at last week’s Russian Cup.  

Add veteran Pavlova to the mix, as well as the stalwart Yelena Zamolodchikova, Svetlana Klyukina, Yekaterina Kramarenko, Polina Miller, Kristina Pravdina, Anna Grudko, Irina Isayeva, Daria Elizarova and Yulia Lozhechko. There’s no dearth of talent in Russia.

Who goes? Who stays? Who knows?

Good grief.