Posts Tagged ‘Dwight Normile’

Destiny 2012 — Is it Rebecca Bross’s turn?

October 12, 2008
2007 U.S. Junior Champion Rebecca Bross performs on balance beam.

2007 U.S. Junior Champion Rebecca Bross performs on balance beam.

The pressure on Rebecca Bross is going to be intense during the next four years. She’s the up-and-coming WOGA superstar, already with one U.S. Junior Championship to her name, from a gym that has produced the last two Olympic champions.

Heck, after the performances of Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin at their respective Olympic Games, anything less than the all-around crown is going to be a letdown. What a standard!

International Gymnast editor Dwight Normile gave the briefest of updates on Bross in his latest column.

I see 2007 U.S. junior champion Rebecca Bross, a transplant from Michigan, swinging through routines on the bars. She missed the nationals last summer with three broken bones in her foot, but is looking sharp here. I realize that, for most of the people in the gym at this hour, gymnastics is their life. It is not just an afterschool activity. The pace of practice is unhurried but steady. Few coaching comments are heard. Many of the gymnasts seem to be on autopilot, their workouts comfortably shaped by habit, driven by ambition.

It may be only a matter of time before Bross is anointed as USA Gymanstics’ next great hope. She and current U.S. junior champ Jordyn Wieber may play out the Shawn Johnson/Nastia Liukin rivalry of the next quad.

So what do you think? Does the U.S. have a potential gold in the hole with Bross?

Rebecca Bross, 2007 Pan-American Games Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

The other six…

June 10, 2008

Mattie LarsonEveryone who watched the U.S. Championships last weekend saw Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin and Chellsie Memmel dominate the competition. Samantha Peszek was fourth, Ivana Hong fifth, and Jana Bieger sixth.

Shayla Worley was out. Alicia Sacramone competed her three good events.

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Larson got some camera time. So did Bridget Sloan.

Here’s how the other half fared:

7. Mattie Larson 118.850
8. Corrie Lothrop 117.650
9. Randy Stageberg 116.000
10. Mackenzie Caquatto 114.850
11. Olivia Courtney 114.100
12. Alaina Johnson 113.000
13. Christa Tanella 112.800
14. Britney Ranzy 112.750
15. Ashley Stott 111.850
16. Katelyn Mohr 111.450
17. Kimberly Jacob 110.850  

A few, like Stageberg, are heading off to college, etc. But watch them. They’ll be on your NCAA teams. They’ll be the ones competing for spots on the 2009 World team.

Christa Tanella, 2008 U.S. Classic All-Around, Floor Exercise:

International Gymnast Magazine editor Dwight Normile posted his thoughts on the men’s and women’s U.S. Championships on the magazine’s website. The most interesting point, I thought, was that Liukin bested Johnson during day two of the competition.

Dead heat: Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin could go 1-2 or 2-1 at the Olympics. Their A Scores across four events on Day 2 were 26.20 (Johnson) and 26.10 (Liukin). Liukin actually beat Johnson on the second day, 64.20-64.05, but her fall and out-of-bounds deduction in prelims proved to be the difference in the end. If both hit in Beijing, I honestly couldn’t pick a winner — they’re that close.

Normile’s picks for the women’s Olympic team: Johnson, Liukin, Memmel, Sacramone, Peszek and…either Worley, Sloan, Ivana Hong or Jana Bieger. Dead right. Men: Paul Hamm, Kevin Tan, and, um…

Jennifer Sey: Speaking up

May 1, 2008

Jennifer SeyWith her new book Chalked Up, 1986 U.S. Champion Jennifer Sey expounds on what is by all appearances a long and painful struggle with depression caused by thr rigors of elite gymnastics training.

The book’s title says it all: Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics’ Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders and Elusive Olympic Dreams.


Gymnastics as choreography

February 1, 2008

International Gymnast Magazine editor Dwight Normile posted a list of “Skills and Combinations I’d Rather Not See (Anymore)” on the magazine’s website last week.

I agree with almost everything he’s written, particuarly his critique of side somie on beam, which he characterizes as “better suited for the circus, where an acrobat does about 10 of them in a row as he circles the ring.” Amen.

Not too long ago, Normile also posted a list of skills and combinations he’d love to see more of. Among them: Full-twisting Arabian dive rolls on floor exercise (think Soviet great Oksana Omelienchik), an Ono to an immediate full pirouette to elgrip on uneven bars and dismounts directly after release skills on high bar.

Oksana Omelienchik, 1985 World Championships Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

What I feel is most lacking in women’s gymnastics today is real choreography on floor exercise. A twisting jump is not choreography. Nor is a roundoff, double full side pass.

Granted, not everyone has the balletic acumen of a Nastia Liukin.

But these non-balletic gymnasts have in the past made better use of simple gymnastics moves for choreography. A back handspring is unexpected, crowd-pleasing and fits very well into a lot of routines. Kim Zmeskal, for one, used it to great effect in her lively floor routines. So did Gina Gogean.

Kim Zmeskal, 1990 Goodwill Games All-Around, Floor Exercise:

Gina Gogean, 1997 World Championships Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

And who could forget Chellsie Memmel’s back-extension roll to headspring, or the showstopping finish to her 2003 floor routine?

Chellsie Memmel, 2003 World Championships Team Finals, Floor Exercise:

None of these three were exactly ballerinas. But their choreogprahers found gymnastics elements that fit the music. More of that, please.

Even Shannon Miller, who was something of a dancer, used a back handspring in the floor routine she used form 1992 to 1994. She also had a lovely (and fairly unnecessary) roundoff, full-twisting back handspring.

Shannon Miller, 1992 Olympics Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

In the NCAA, where pleasing the crowd and showing personality are given much more attention, flips that land on the belly are popular. Also understandable — even the most seasoned gymanstics-watcher can’t help but go “Wow!” when they fit the music.

It’s over.

November 17, 2007

If she throws an Amanar, Shawn Johnson is likely to win the all-around competition in Beijing.

That’s right. The 2008 Olympic all-around competition is over.

An interview with Chow Liang by International Gymnast Magazine editor Dwight Normile affirmed that Chow’s prodigy, 2007 World Champion Shawn Johnson, will soon be back to full training following treatment for a stress reaction in her right shin.

“World champion gymnast suffers slight injury, gets better, returns to training” isn’t the news. What is, as Normile gently reminds readers, is that Johnson has and may continue working on her Amanar — a Yurchenko vault with 2.5 twists — which she came within a few seconds of performing at the U.S. Championships in August.

Chow couldn’t say what changes, if any, he would make in Johnson’s routines for 2008, but we might see her upgrade to a 2-1/2-twisting Yurchenko on vault. After all, she almost competed it at the Visa Championships last August. “We did it during the warm-up,” Chow said. “I almost had her do it — almost. I probably felt one month short (of preparation) back then. I didn’t want to take any risk.”

Johnson probably doesn’t need to do an Amanar to win the all-around in Beijing. But if she does, it would put everyone else nearly out of contention to catch her.

The 2008 all-around champ -- and this event is why.

At the 2007 Worlds, Johnson won by 1.25 points over Romanian Steliana Nistor and was 1.325 ahead of bronze medalists Jade Barbosa and Vanessa Ferrari, both of whom would have placed above Nistor had Barbosa not fallen on floor and Ferrari on bars.

But even crediting Barbosa and Ferrari with eight tenths by assuming their mistakes were flukes, Johnson is still pacing the field by more than half a point.

Risk of injury aside, Johnson has almost nothing to lose by competing this vault. Whether or not she stands it up, if she can get credit for attempting an Amanar, her start value on vault will balloon by seven-tenths of a point. If does stand it up, even with a huge hop or lunge backward, she’s going to get a score that’s out of this world. They might as well mail the gold to Iowa as soon as her feet hit the ground.

Recall Barbosa’s 15.9 for a decent Yuchenko 2.5 during the all-around final. Johnson got a 15.175 for a nice DTY.

Jade Barbosa, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Vault:

Shawn Johnson, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Vault:

We may see silver and bronze contenders attempting two-and-a-halfs just to get the start value boost. It’s almost surprising we haven’t seen it yet. Of the top 10 in Stuttgart, only Johnson, Barbosa and maybe Ferrari look as though they have what it takes to land that vault on their feet.

Barbosa would be a threat, as her tumbling is equally difficult, but she’s proven less consistent on her better events, and the small form breaks she gives away on bars and beam will likely keep her chasing Johnson. Although this might be selling the 2006 World champ a bit short, it doesn’t seem like Ferrari has quite enough power to do an Amanar.

Vanessa Ferrari, 2007 World Championships Team Finals, Vault:

Why is it that vault, arguably the least exciting event, always seems to decide these things? In 1984, it gave Mary Lou Retton the gold and enduring fame. In 2000, it cost Svetlana Khorkina what was basically presumed to be “her” victory. In 2008, it may well seal Shawn Johnson’s.

It’s almost funny — if either Alicia Sacramone or Cheng Fei threw a triple twisting Yurchenko, their scores would be so high as to put them in contention for the all-around gold, despite the deficiencies both have on bars.