Posts Tagged ‘Gina Gogean’

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?

Well, that’s it

October 1, 2008

The FIG announced Wednesday that it had concluded its inquiry into the age of Chinese gymnasts at the 2008 Olympic Games, finding no evidence of age falsification.

The federation said it confirmed the gymnasts were of legal competition age in Beijing. At the FIG’s request, the Chinese Gymnastics Association provided official documents including passports, identity cards and household registers that supported their age.

…”Asians have different figures than people from the West, so that’s what caused their suspicion,” said Huang Yubin, head coach of the men’s team, when asked about the controversy. “They shouldn’t be suspicious.”

The federation said it is still looking into the ages of 2000 Olympians Yang Yun and Dong Fangxiao. China won the bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, which concluded eight years ago Tuesday.

Yang said in an interview that she was 14 in Sydney, but explained later it was a slip of the tongue.

I guess we’ll never really know.

Other gymnasts known to have competed with false documents, according to IG: Romanians Gina Gogean, Daniela Silivas, Alexandra Marinescu and Lavinia Agache as well as Soviets Olga Mostepanova and Olga Bicherova.

A youthful, Moceanu-like Lavinia Agache on beam at the 1981 American Cup:

(via International Gymnast Online)

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.


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.