Posts Tagged ‘Dominique Dawes’

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?

Johnson unlikely for 2009

November 8, 2008

Shawn Johnson tells the Des Moines Register she’s unlikely to compete in 2009. Rick wonders if this means she’s retiring for good. Johnson even disclosed that she’s not sure whether she’ll return to her high school in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Like the comeback after a potentially career-ending injury, the comeback after a successful Olympics is long and grueling. How do you go back to four to six hours in a gym after you’ve been the face of McDonalds? It’s a question Johnson and Nastia Liukin are likely to be asking themselves. Despite Johnson’s claim that she’d “give anything” to feel more Olympic magic, she may not realize what four more years is really going to take from her.

Only a handful of female gymnasts in the past decade have come back from successful Olympic experiences, and only two — Shannon Miller and Dominique Dawes — have been American (Tasha Schwikert doesn’t count because you can’t really call 2000 a success for the American women). The others include Lilia Podkopayeva (though her return was so brief it was almost non-existent), Simona Amanar, Andreea Raducan and of course, Svetlana Khorkina, who always looked better the year after an Olympic Games. than she did at the Games themselves.

A scene from Podkopayeva’s short retrurn to international competition in 1997, at the European Masters:

Perfect 10: Gymnastics show picked up by ABC

October 29, 2008

The uptick in gymnastics interest after an Olympic Games often allows for some form of media to get produced. The U.S. women’s team’s dramatic gold in Atlanta helped launch a series of books about the lessons and trials a group of younger gymnasts faced in training and in life. (Dominique Dawes provided an intro to each story and a personal anecdote inside the cover of each book.)

After watching the Games in Athens, Jessica Bendinger wrote a screenplay about a rebellious teen gymnast that became “Stick It,” maybe the biggest girl-power film of 2006.

This quad’s concept sounds a bit like “Stick It,” albeit compressed into an hour and even less, um, realistic:

ABC Family has greenlit the pilot “Perfect 10,” an hourlong set in the world of competitive gymnastics.

…”Perfect 10″ follows a group of teen Olympic hopefuls as they train, live, love and get on each other’s nerves.

ABC also tried this after 1996 in the short-lived series Push, a drama about the super-intense lives of NCAA athletes, that included men’s and women’s gymnasts. Push was particularly unrealistic — in the pilot, the fun-loving main character smokes pot with the team’s new, good-looking assistant coach (That doesn’t really happen, does it?) then proceeds to mess up the season-opener.

The best look into the world of elite gymnastics that I’ve seen were the 25 episodes of “Behind the Team,” produced by AT&T between spring 2007 and the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. They’re still available here.

The Mag 7 hit The Today Show

November 19, 2007

…and 30 minutes later, The Today Show hit Youtube.

Kerri Strug would like the world to know that her ankle is doing just fine, thank you.

(via Gymnastics Coaching)

Mag 7 to ‘reunite’ on The Today Show

November 14, 2007

The Magnificent Seven during their finest hour.

The Magnificent Seven — Shannon Miller, Kerri Strug, Amanda Borden, Dominique Dawes, Dominique Moceanu and Jaycie Phelps — will be appearing on The Today Show Nov. 17, Moceanu’s website announced today.

Join Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Dominique Moceanu, Shannon Miller, Jaycie Phelps & Kerri Strug to see where they are now. This one of a kind segment will highlight portions of their trip to Atlanta, visiting the Georgia Dome, a team interview and a look back at the magical moment in their lives that made history.

It’s uncertain if this means the 1996 Olympic gold medalists will all be appearing in studio, or if it’s going to be some sort of news segment. I imagine getting all seven of them in one place at one time is a logistical nightmare. They have certainly come a long ways from the Wheaties Box days of Atlanta.

Dawes was President of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 2004 to 2006 and now sits on the Board of the Sesame Workshop’s Healthy Habits for Life program. (Sesame Workshop was formerly known as the Children’s Television Workshop — i.e. the people who brought you Sesame Street).

Miller graduated from Boston College Law School earlier this year and married Florida politician John Falconetti in August.

Strug, who graduated from Stanford, works in Washington D.C., while Moceanu coaches and is expecting her first child.

Borden runs her own gym in Tempe, Ariz., Chow is doing her medical residency in California with an eye to becoming a pediatrician and Phelps, who married 2004 U.S. Olympian Brett McClure, coaches in Colorado.

This terrific montage from Youtube user Doublelayout10 provides a wonderful summary of the 1996 Olympic team finals.

The nefarious full turn with leg held up

October 25, 2007

Amazing how this relatively low-value skill appears to be more difficult for many gymnasts than, say, a back handspring, layout stepout series.

In her commentary for WSCN at the 2007 World Championships, Tasha Schwikert noted that she’s seen so many people do full turns with their leg up on balance beam and either fall or take a major deduction that she’s wondering if it’s even worth the risk.

I agree. Few look truly calm doing this skill, even when they pull it off flawlessly. And that happens a lot less than one would think.

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

Yang Yilin, 2007 World Championships Team Qualifying Round, Balance Beam:

Xiao Sha, 2007 Chinese Nationals Event Finals, Balance Beam:

Ekaterina Kramarenko, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Balance Beam:

Vanessa Ferrari, 2006 World Championships Event Finals, Balance Beam:

More sympathy should be given to Li Shanshan, who fell doing a much more difficult variation of this skill during event finals at the World Championships. Ferrari also often takes a small deduction for it, but props to both for doing something truly difficult.

Li Shanshan, 2007 World Championships Event Finals, Balance Beam:

Vanessa Ferrari, 2007 European Championships All-Around, Balance Beam:

One of the most beautiful, albeit slightly overrotated, turns with the leg held way up was done in 2001 at the American Team Cup by China’s Kang Xin. What’s most impressive, I think, is the way she sold it — and the rest of this marvelous routine.

Kang Xin, 2001 American Team Cup, Balance Beam:

The subject of deceptively hard skills on balance beam brings to mind the compulsory beam set from 1992 to 1996. The cartwheels, forward rolls and fouette jumps gave four of the Mag 7 (and numerous others, including Simona Amanar and Kui Yuanyuan) all sorts of problems in Atlanta.

Jaycie Phelps, 1996 Olympic Compulsories, Balance Beam:

Amanda Borden, 1996 Olympic Compulsories, Balance Beam:

Dominique Dawes, 1996 Olympic Compulsories, Balance Beam: