Posts Tagged ‘John Roethlisberger’

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?

Little siblings — big potential

November 25, 2008

Family acts are fairly common in gymnastics. Parents tote all their kids, not just one, to the gym to wrench out energy at a young age, stuff like that.

Seems like good gymnastics runs in families too — one need only look to the Hamms (Betsy Hamm, Paul and Morgan’s older sister, was an NCAA Champion for the University of Florida during the late 90s) and the Roethlisbergers (John’s big sis Marie was a contender for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team) and a few others (the Khorkinas, Svetlana and Yulia, the Dantzchers, Jamie, Jalynne and Janelle, the Mackies, Gael and Charlotte, and on and on) for affirmation.

Here are a few new faces with “old” names poised to make a splash during the coming quad (although whether their splash will be as big as those their siblings have made is TBD).

Dasha’s sis Natalia Joura, International Level 10, Floor Exercise:

Chellsie’s sis Skyler Memmel, 2008 PKI Elite Qualifier, Balance Beam:

The incredible Nailia Mustafina, younger sister of up-and-coming Russian junior Aliya Mustafina, 2008 WOGA Classic, Balance Beam:

On the men’s side, there’s Glen Ishino, Allyse’s younger brother.

Glen Ishino practices parallel bars in the Cal Bears gym:

Missed anyone? Drop me a comment.

David Durante at the U.S. Championships

May 22, 2008

David Durante doesn’t talk like a guy who won a U.S. Championship a year ago.

David DuranteIn an interview with Inside Gymnastics Magazine, the 2007 U.S. Champion, who admits that he thought he would retire five years ago, also mea culpas to not being his best at the 2007 World Championships and, frankly, to not being the U.S.’s biggest talent.

I have to say that I’m definitely not the most talented guy. These guys are unreal. But there are a lot of factors that play into being a great gymnast and it’s not just talent. I feel like I bring other things to a team, and leadership is one of those things.

Durante has a history of leading, but not always delivering, under pressure. Is leadership a valuable enough reason to put him on the Olympic team? Then again, the U.S. men’s program has a history of being sentimental when it comes to picking their Olympians — it might be argued that’s why John Roethlisberger made the team in 2000 and Blaine Wilson did in 2004.

The good: David Durante, 2007 U.S. Championships Finals, Floor Exercise:

The bad: David Durante, 2007 World Championships Team Finals, High Bar:

Introducing Danell Leyva

February 27, 2008

So the high-flying release moves aren’t really present in his 2008 Winter Cup high bar routine. Nonetheless, 16-year-old Danell Leyva, the 2006 U.S. Junior Champion, is certainly worth a second look.

Danell Leyva, 2008 Winter Cup, High Bar:

The intricate in-bar work reminds one of the stylish routine John Roethlisberger performed in Sydney in 2000.

Roethlisberger’s take: Hamm looks good, Wilson a question mark

February 6, 2008

Paul HammThree-time U.S. Olympian John Roethlisberger attended one of Paul and Morgan Hamm’s workouts with coach Miles Avery at Ohio State University. He blogged about the experience for Inside Gymnastics Magazine.

The upshot: Paul looks great. Morgan, recovering from a torn pectoralis in his right bicep, is a few weeks ahead of schedule, and Blaine Wilson, who is training with the twins at OSU, is “in great shape as well, although he struggled a little bit on his routines.”

He’s amazing though. His body has been through the wringer, but somehow he keeps going. Even with the struggles, he showed flashes of what made Blaine a three-time Olympian. If he makes his fourth, it will be an amazing feat, and if anyone can do it, Blaine can.

Blaine WilsonP. Hamm and Wilson are competing in the Winter Cup in Las Vegas this weekend. So is nearly every other U.S. man trying to make the Olympic team.

The newly-engaged Morgan posted an announcement and some post-injury training videos on the Hamms’ website, For him, the recovery began a long time ago, but the journey is far from over.

From The New York Times — U.S. Olympians Vying to Defeat Beijing’s Smog

January 24, 2008

Oh, this doesn’t have international incident written all over it.

COLORADO SPRINGS — As the lead exercise physiologist for the United States Olympic Committee, Randy Wilber has been fielding one bizarre question after another from American athletes training for the Beijing Games.

Should I run behind a bus and breathe in the exhaust? Should I train on the highway during rush hour? Is there any way to acclimate myself to pollution?

Mr. Wilber answers those questions with a steadfast, “No.”

“We have to be extremely careful and steer them in the right direction because the mind-set of the elite athlete is to do anything it takes to get that advantage,” he said. “If they thought locking themselves in the garage with the car running would help them win a gold medal, I’m sure they would do it. Our job, obviously, is to prevent that.”

Preventing that, Wilber and colleagues go on to say, means wearing specially-designed masks for breathing the city’s polluted air. Chinese officials have vowed that the air in Beijing will be clean for the 2008 Games, pledging to halve traffic, but skepticism remains.


Is Wilson a factor for 2008?

January 17, 2008

Five-time U.S. Champion Blaine Wilson

Blaine Wilson was never the type to be all talk. Nevertheless, the fact that he’s made the announcement that he’s training for Beijing and nobody’s seen any skills seems a little suspect.

Even in Shannon Miller’s excellent recent interview on her show Gymnastics 360, there’s no in-the-gym footage, the way there is of Shawn Johnson and Paul Hamm.

Then again, not everyone is as nice about updating the public on their training progress as the Hamm twins are.

But now it appears that Blaine is ready to take his comeback public. He’s on the start list for the 2008 Winter Cup, vaulting in the same lineup as Paul Hamm.

So is almost everybody else who’s somewhat healthy (*cough*Justin Spring*cough*) and trying to make the Olympic team. That includes Jonathan Horton, Guillermo Alvarez, Alexy Bilozertchev, David Sender, David Durante and Sasha Artemev. Sean Golden is the only member of the 2007 World team not represented.

Longtime U.S. champion John RoethlisbergerWilson did a toned-down, almost soulful (as soulful as Blaine Wilson gets, anyway) interview with Miller, invoking U.S. great John Roethlisberger and the Rocky-like heart he put into every competition. Seems like life as a single father and struggles with drinking has mellowed him. A lot.

I like to win and the passion to be on the floor and look around and say, ‘Hey guys, take this all in because you may never be here again…I miss gymnastics, and I think it was a little premature as far as retiring and stuff. So I’m giving it another shot.

Blaine Wilson, interviewed by Shannon Miller:

Justin Spring: Not fully recovered, but training nonetheless

November 9, 2007

Less than two months after surgery to repair his torn ACL, Olympic hopeful Justin Spring is back in the gym.

Training but not healed.

Training on a newly repaired ACL means Spring can’t do some things, like dismounts. But according to a Washington Post article, Spring attempted to train on parallel bars last week. Post writer Eli Saslow provided a harrowing anecdote of how that went.

…Spring dismissed the risks and lifted himself up onto the parallel bars during his practice last week. He flipped upside down and extended into a tenuous, elevated handstand. As his coach sipped coffee and watched, Spring tried to spin from one bar to the other and accidentally over-rotated. His hands slipped. His legs coiled. He started to plunge toward the ground.

In midair, Spring weighed two choices: He could push himself away from the bar, jump to the ground and land comfortably on his feet, thereby chancing his fragile ACL. Or he could accept his fate, slam back onto the bars and risk ending up mangled.

Spring chose the second option, and his right thigh slammed against the bar with a thud. He screamed and lifted his shorts to check the damage. On his upper thigh, a red mark the size of a softball had started oozing blood.

“Oh, man,” Spring said. “Oh, God. I think I’ve got a bone bruise here. I feel like throwing up. But at least I didn’t hurt my knee.”

Later, the article mentions that Spring has had some “minor tendinitis in the knee as a result of over-working early in his recovery.”

Foolish? Ask again early next summer. If Spring recovers and is able to make the Olympic team looking as good as he did in San Jose before he vaulted on night two, he’ll be lauded as a gritty hero in the mold of Blaine Wilson in 2004, when he ripped his left biceps tendon apart at the 2004 American Cup, and John Roethlisberger in 1998, when he tore his ACL during prelims at the U.S. Championships on his third event and kept on competing. Both went on to make the Olympic team for their respective quadrennium.

On the other hand, if Spring reinjures his knee before or at the Olympics, people will say he didn’t give himself enough time to heal.

Power to Spring for implementing a regime designed to not just maintain strength but build it. Power to him for not moping but using the opportunity to better himself on rings and pommel horse.

Power to him for training with a still-healing knee? No. But only he can decide if the risk is worth the reward.