Posts Tagged ‘Hiroyuki Tomita’

12 days of up-and-coming gymnasts, day two

December 24, 2008

Kohei Uchimura/UK Eurosport

Kohei Uchimura/UK Eurosport


Kohei Uchimura, Japan: If he stays healthy, I’m betting the Olympic silver medalist is the 2009 World all-around champion. See his picture in the dictionary under “complete package gymnast.”

This one is a no-brainer. Barring career-ending injury, this guy’s going to be a star. He’s already a star. He’s going to become a bigger one. And he’s not even 20.

Sorely needed right now in Japan, too, given the retirements of longstanding Japanese stars Hiroyuki Tomita and Takehiro Kashima.

Kohei’s sister, Haruchi Uchimura, is also a gymnast.

Time Magazine’s take:

If he wasn’t on the trampoline at home, he was doing long jumps into the sand pit at school. Uchimura trained with Athens gold medalist Naoya Tsukahara. When asked what attracts him to gymnastics, Uchimura has said he simply “likes twisting and turning.” His renowned coach, Koji Gushiken, says Uchimura excels at floor and vault due to his quick turning speed and sense of positioning, which helped him to win a gold medal in floor as a freshman at the World Student Games.

What struck me most during the Olympic Games was Uchimura’s humility, the way he bowed to the judges before and after vaulting during the Olympic all-around. Deeply respectful, and thoroughly respectable.

Kohei Uchimura, 2008 Olympic Games Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

Mitsuo Tsukahara on Kohei Uchimura: ‘Sooner or later, Uchimura will have his era, not only in Japan, but also in the world…” — via Hiroyuki & Kohei Fan Cafe

Apparently he hates vegetables and doesn’t have a girlfriend. One internet source says his parents own a gym in Nagasaki and young Kohei got his start bouncing on the gym’s trampoline. As his star rises, so will his public profile.

On the World Cup, day two

December 14, 2008

Once again International Gymnast leads the field in providing up-to-the-minute coverage of the World Cup. If you couldn’t catch it live, this is a very good alternative.

The home Spanish crowd got a nice boost when their countryman Issac Botella tied for the bronze on vault (with Russian Anton Golotsutskov, 16.075 each.) Botella showed a Kasamatsu 1.5 and a handspring double front. Golotsutskov showed a Tsuk double pike and the same second vault as Botella.

Olympic silver medalist Thomas Bouhail of France won the event, despite putting his hand down on his Tsuk double pike. He nailed his Dragulescu (16.575, the highest score of the competition thusfar, for a 16.225 average). Jeffrey Wammes of the Netherlands, a capable young gymnast who did not qualify for Beijing for various reasons, was second with a 2.5 Yurchenko and a handspring front double full (the same vault Raj Bhavsar used.)

On beam, up and coming Aussie Lauren Mitchell narrowly edged Russian Yulia Lozhechko for the title, 15.25-15.2. It’s nice to see Lozhechko, who was left off the Russian Olympic team for reasons that sounded like continuing discipline problems, is still competing, even if this wasn’t the 2007 European beam champion’s best effort. China’s Li Shanshan, who’s amazing when she stays on, suffered a few little wobbles and a low landing on her double pike to place third with a 15.15.

Other notable performances: Ukranian Daria Zgoba balked on her dismount, performing only a layout, Sandra Izbasa was OK but not spectacular for a 14.925, Cheng Fei looked completely distracted (13.825) and Brazil’s Daniele Hypolito may have received the lowest score of the final (13.425) but is probably relieved it wasn’t an 11-something like she had yesterday on bars.

On parallel bars, China’s young Feng Zhe turned in a spectacular 15.775, matched by French p-bar specialist Yann Cuchrat. Ukraine’s Valery Goncharov was nearly as good, scoring 15.675 for third. Every man in this final dismounted with a double pike.

Floor: Cheng Fei redeemed! The two-time world floor champ didn’t need to throw her biggest tricks (namely the Silivas) to outscore the field with a 15.375. Teammate and Olympic floor finalist Jiang Yuyuan threw a quadruple turn and dazzled everyone with her presentation for second (15.225). Tired-seeming Olympic floor champion Sandra Izbasa, who’s been in a hell of a lot of meets since the Olympics, was decent but not at her best (15.0, third).

Slovenian Aljaz Pagan, who unless he continues on to 2012 will always be the gymnast who really, really deserved to go to an Olympic Games, scratched from this WC final because of a back injury, a.

At his best, Pagan probably could have beaten Dutchman Epke Zonderland, an Olympic HB finalist who is just getting better and better. Zonderland took the title here with a 16.175, more than one-third of a point ahead of Philippe Rizzo of Australia (15.875). This one wasn’t even close.

In his final competition, Japan’s Hiroyuki Tomita finished a distant third after falling out of his double-twisting double layout dismount (15.325). It was not the way for one of the sport’s great champions to go out.

Hiroyuki Tomita plans to retire

November 10, 2008
Hiroyuki Tomita brought Japanese gymnastics back to the top.

Hiroyuki Tomita brought Japanese gymnastics back to the top.

Via Gymnastics Coaching. 2005 World Champion Hiroyuki Tomita was the undisputed leader of the resurgent Japanese men in 2004 and 2008. More than that, he often showed a personal courage that transcended competition.

Examples that come immediately to mind were his performance during the all-around final in Beijing where he continued, obviously in pain, after the scariest rings fall I’ve ever seen. Tomita wasn’t initially one of the two Japanese men to advance to the all-around final — teammate Koki Sakamoto, fifth in team prelims (Tomita was sixth) withdrew to make way for him — and he must have felt enormous pressure to do well.

Tomita displayed a similar attitude in the all-around final at the 2007 World Championships, where he struggled with fatigue after competing in the team final the day before to give the best of himself on every event, even after he had been eliminated from medal contention. This in comparison to Russian Maxim Deviatovsky, who many said gave up at the same competition once hope of a medal faded.

Like retiring teammate Takehiro Kashima, another stalwart of a great Japanese team, Tomita plans to coach. Both men leave the team in the young, extremely talented hands of newly-crowned national champion Kohei Uchimura.

One of Tomita’s finest moments was rising to the pressure during the 2004 Olympic team finals on the team’s last event and nailing a performance that gave Japan its first Olympic gold in gymnastics since 1984.

Hiroyuki Tomita, 2004 Athens Olympics Team Finals, High Bar:

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.

(more…)

Chinese men: Gold!

August 12, 2008
The Chinese men's team reacts to winning the team competition in Beijing.

The Chinese men's team reacts to winning the team competition in Beijing.

It was expected — and not.

Everybody saw the Chinese men grabbing gold in spectacular fashion in team finals. But few could have seen the American resurgence. This blogger predicted to a friend that the team would finish fifth — the same as in Atlanta in 1996.

Put aside the whole Chinese domination thing for a minute. We’ll get there. To me the most compelling, most unexpected, most redeeming story of the Games thusfar is that of the U.S. men’s gymnastics team.

Jonathan Horton reacts to a hit parallel bars routine in team finals. The U.S. men, sixth after preliminaries, captured a surprising bronze medal in team finals.

Jonathan Horton reacts to a hit parallel bars routine in team finals. The U.S. men, sixth after preliminaries, captured a surprising bronze medal in team finals.

A team bronze is better than anyone — except maybe the U.S. men themselves — could have anticipated. They were sixth after prelims with very few errors. Few could have forseen Fabian Hambuchen faltering on high bar on his Takemoto, or Russia’s dismal rings performance.

Still, it was the U.S. who powered their bronze-medal run. They earned it, rather than achieving it because other teams faltered, which may explain why the Japanese looked a little disappointed on the podium. But in another four years, Japan may be an Olympic competitor again.

Somewhere around rotation three, a Canadian commentator noted that the U.S. men loved reading media reports saying they had no shot at anything, particularly after injuries forced Paul and Morgan Hamm off the team. And there was plenty of that to go around.

Maybe this was a gathering of strength for the U.S. men. Jonathan Horton finally showed a level of maturity and quality to match the difficulty that’s always been there. Sasha Artemev finally seemed to shrug off his demons, step out of his father’s shadow a bit. Wild Justin Spring delivered big scores and solid performances. I hope all three continue. They could be the lynchpins of a huge U.S. team come London 2012.

For a second after the fifth rotation, it even looked like the U.S. had a chance of upsetting the Japanese, the only team expected to be able to challenge China. But a biffed pommel horse routine from Kevin Tan in team finals resulted in a dismal 12.775, effectively eliminating the U.S.’s three point lead after five. Raj Bhavsar followed up with a 13.7, and Artemev’s hit routine wasn’t enough to make up the deficit.

Still, we knew pommels were the weak link. Perhaps we underestimated how strong everything else could be. “Nobody expected this from them,” Kyle Shewfelt said. “This is redemption. This is them saying to everybody, ‘We are a very strong team. We are someone to be reckoned with.'”

Japan's Takehiro Kashima vaults during the Olympic team finals. Japan was a distant second behind China.

Japan's Takehiro Kashima vaults during the Olympic team finals. Japan was a distant second behind China.

Silver medalist Japan didn’t perform to the standard they expected. But they’ve certainly come a long ways from the drought that plagued them for 20 years after Japanese coach Koji Gushiken’s all-around victory in 1984 — beating Li Ning and U.S. star Peter Vidmar. It’s a big competition for 19-year-old Kohei Ujimura, who may well be the next Hiroyuki Tomita.

You can sort of see the sun setting on Tomita, who qualified in sixth place to the all-around behind two of his teammates. Because he’s the Hiroyuki Tomita, Japan is withdrawing fifth-place finisher Koki Sakamoto.

It may be a good decision, and it may not. Tomita was the tiredest-looking competitor at the 2007 World Championships during the men’s all around competition only a day after the team final.

As for China, it was simply one of the great Olympic performances, from start to finish. Home turf? Who cares. China Syndrome? What China Syndrome? By the end of the fifth rotation, China would have needed all of its gymnasts to fall off high bar, multiple times. Instead, they get still-relative-newcomer Zou Kai, who behaves like the Olympic veteran he is now, with a Paul Hamm-like finish — a stuck double-twisting double layout.

Expected for China, but still incredible. Not for U.S. fans, and even more amazing because of it.

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.

Sixteen years later…

April 16, 2008

Here’s 1992 Chinese Olympian He Xuemei, trying to make the Japanese Olympic team in 2008.

He Xuemei, 2006 Japanese Championships:


(more…)

Men’s artistic gymnastics: 12 to watch in ’08

January 16, 2008

Brazil's Diego Hypolito

For men’s gymnastics, the 2008 Olympic Games seem to loom as a competition where old scores are literally to be settled. The judging scandals that plauged the men’s events in Athens in 2004 — in the all-around, on high bar, parallel bars and still rings — seem to have kept many athletes in the gym and training for redemption in Beijing. (more…)

Hambuchen, China lead in Beijing

November 28, 2007

To the surprise of few, Germany’s Fabian Hambuchen is head and shoulders above the competition after the preliminary round of the Good Luck Beijing International Invitational.

German giant Fabian Hambuchen.

Hambuchen posted the highest all-around score in an all-around that isn’t being contested at the meet, and led event finals qualifications on floor exercise and high bar.

There are few of the sport’s top competitors there to challenge him. Japanese star Hiroyuki Tomita may still be recovering from exhaustion after the Stuttgart all-around, and Tomita’s teammate Hisashi Mizutori is absent as well. Also missing is the Chinese men’s A team, including two-time World champ Yang Wei.

The absence of China’s best male gymnasts didn’t stop the host country from dominating the first day of the team competition (363.625) over second place Japan (361.550) by more than two points. The Korean team (316.350) is right on their tails.

The U.S. men, competing with 2007 World team members David Durante, Sean Golden, and 2005 U.S. Champion Todd Thornton, along with Clay Strother, David Sender and Stanford standout Sho Nakamori, will likely want to better the 349.125 that left them in eighth after the first day.

(via International Gymnast Online)

The Worlds Awards

October 26, 2007

A new Longines Award?

Northernriver at Difficulty Plus Execution made a terrific observation about China’s Jiang Yuyuan in some comments about the latest issue of International Gymnast Magazine today:

…if Longines (also known as “That Watch Company in Cahoots With FIG”) ever made a “Prize For Cuteness” to go along with their “Prize For Elegance” (ha), I’d nominate “Yuanyuan” quicker than it takes Shawn to say “It’s such an honor.”

What else might Longines have given awards for at the 2007 Worlds? Below are a few suggestions, inspired by the absurdly named Longines Prize for Elegance, which was bestowed on Shawn Johnson in Stuttgart.

Don’t get me wrong: Johnson is dynamic, steady, inspiring, humble, immensely talented and a whole lot of fun to watch, but elegant is not an apt description of her abilities. It would be better if Longines had decided to replace the word “elegance” with “sportsmanship.” On and off the competition podium, Johnson certainly deserves an award for that.

Without further ado, here we go:

The Longines Award for Vaulting Without Actually Running: Beth Tweddle, who performs a respectable Yurchenko one and a half twist after about five steps.

Vaulting, yes. Running: Not really.

Honorable mention to Romania’s Razvan Selariu, gets a tremendous block off the horse despite doing little more than “trotting” down the runway.

Razvan Selariu, 2007 European Championships All-Around, Vault:

The Longines Award for Reputation Salvation: That goes to Nastia Liukin, who looked mostly like her indomitable old self despite an few floor mistakes and two falls on balance beam over four days of competition. Those who wrote Nastia off after the U.S. Championships will surely be reconsidering now. Honorable mention to the U.S. men’s team, who hauled themselves from 13th to fourth in the world rankings, showing a lot of naysayers that they are indeed clamoring for a place on the Olympic podium.

Nastia Liukin, 2007 U.S. Championships Prelims, Uneven Bars:

Nastia Liukin, 2007 World Championships Team Prelims, Uneven Bars:

The Longines Award for Falling: This is for Yang Wei, who took one of the more dramatic falls I’ve ever seen on high bar during the men’s all around final. And he wasn’t even doing a release move! Unlike some of the less muscular gymnasts, Wei seems to have some trouble doing in-bar elements and twisting his body around on this apparatus. That performance might be written off as a fluke, but one has to recall the disaster in Athens that cost him the all-around title.

Yang Wei, 2007 World Championships All-Around, High Bar:

The Longines Award for Longevity: There are so many gymnasts this award could go to: Russia’s Elena Zamolodchikova, Germany’s Oksana Chusovitina, France’s Isabelle Severino, Brazil’s Daniele Hypolito, Bulgaria’s Jordan Jovtchev,  or even Yang Wei himself, who competed at the American Cup nine years ago. My choice is the Czech Republic’s Jana Komrskova, a tall, elegant vaulting specialist who has competed internationally since 1998, when she was sixth in the all-around at the junior European Championships. Competing a relatively simple (for this code) Podkopayeva and a Yurchenko full, Kmorskova performed with dignity and grace during the vault final. And she stuck her landings.

Jana Komrskova, 2007 World Championships Event Finals, Vault:

The Longines Award for Most Consistently Overscored Routine: Steliana Nistor, balance beam. To Nistor’s credit, she should also receive the Longines Award for Graciousness: Throughout event finals, Nistor could be seen congratulating the other girls in the competition on their performances and accomplishments, whether they were her teammates or not. She’s an example of the way gymnasts should behave.

Steliana Nistor, 2007 World Championships Team Prelims, Balance Beam:

The Longines Award for Amazing Saves: Vanessa Ferrari, uneven bars, team finals. Ferrari, like some of the Ukranians, sports grips that appear to be nothing more than folded bits of tape. One of them actually came off her hand about halfway through her bar routine during finals, and Ferrari, in the middle of her inverts, basically just shakes it off and keeps going. Even though she had to improvise a little bit at the very end of the routine, it was a really nice job on her part. Rick at Gymnastics Coaching has already mentioned this in his blog. To use his words, “What a fighter!”

Vanessa Ferrari, 2007 World Championships Team Finals, Uneven Bars:

The Longines Award for Most Overused Word by American Commentators: That would be “gassed,” as said several times by both Bart Connor and Raj Bhavsar to describe the state of most competing in the men’s all-around final. Perhaps the best illustration of this is Hiroyuki Tomita’s reaction after falling from the pommel horse due to fatigue as much as anything else, when he walked over to the chalk bin and simply sat on his haunches for several seconds, the way gymnasts do when they’re, well, gassed.

Gassed?

The Longines Award for Most Impressive Yang Wei Performance: Still rings. Yes, he won parallel bars over a field of gymnasts that specialize in that event, but on rings Yang performed what looked like a swinging double layout and capped off the routine with a stuck double double layout dismount. Awesome. Honorable mention for his vault in team finals.

Yang Wei, 2007 World Championships Team Finals, Vault:

The Longines Award for Coolest New Trend: Double front dismounts off rings, particularly Hiroyuki Tomita’s double front pike with a half out.

Hiroyuki Tomita, 2007 World Championships Team Prelims, Still Rings:

The Longines Award for Endurance: Everyone who competed in both the men’s team competition and all-around, which were held less than 24 hours apart, but particularly to Korea’s Yang Tae-Young. The reigning Olympic bronze medalist was the only gymnast to do all six events at both competitions.

The Longines Award for Best Split Jump Ever: Japan’s Koko Tsurumi. It was the highlight of a beautiful balance beam routine.

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