Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Horton’

Geez, everyone’s getting married

November 7, 2008

Latest person to get engaged: 2008 U.S. Olympian Justin Spring.

From The Daily Illini, the student paper at Spring’s alma mater:

The World Tour of Gymnastics Superstars brought more than just athletic entertainment to the crowd at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night.

Former Illini and Olympic gymnast Justin Spring proposed to his girlfriend onstage during the event’s intermission. After speaking to the crowd about his return to Champaign, Spring announced he had one more order of business to take care of.

Spring then proposed to his girlfriend, who agreed to marry him.

“I’ve won an Olympic medal, but this is the most exciting day of my life,” Spring told the crowd before getting down on one knee before his bride-to-be.

And yes, there’s video of Spring and his new fiancee’s big moment:

In addition, Jonathan Horton popped the question to longtime girlfriend Haley DeProspero, an OU senior gymnast, this summer.

Meet Jonathan Horton’s fiancee

October 19, 2008
OUs Haley DeProspero is engaged to Jonathan Horton.

OU's Haley DeProspero is engaged to Jonathan Horton.

…otherwise known as Oklahoma standout Haley DeProspero, who will graduate after the coming NCAA season.

Horton, never one to bow to pressure, proposed to her between the 2008 U.S. Championships and the Olympic Trials. It’s a cute story. So’s the one about how they began dating.

The two gymnasts met on her recruiting visit to Oklahoma. Horton was a hot-shot freshman, but DeProspero was none too impressed.

“She actually didn’t like me at all at first,” Horton said.

“But,” DeProspero said, “I gave him my number against my first intuition.”

She smiled.

“I’m glad I did.”

Haley DeProspero, 2008 OU vs. Nebraska, Balance Beam:

She moves a bit like Alicia Sacramone up there, wouldn’t you say?

2009 men’s NCAA preseason rankings

October 18, 2008

It’s that time again:

1. Stanford (10 first place votes)
2. Oklahoma (2 first place votes)
3. Ohio State (1 first place vote)
4. Illinois
5. Penn State
6. Michigan
7. California (1 first place vote)
8. Minnesota
9. Iowa
10. Nebraska
11. Temple
12. UIC
13 Air Force
14 William & Mary
15 Navy

So Stanford, which spent most of 2008 in the no. 1 slot before being upset (at home, no less) by Oklahoma at last year’s NCAA Championships, is in the top spot again. Don’t underestimate Ohio State or Cal, though — the Bears have a lot of talent and may well deserve their hype. Oklahoma without Jonathan Horton and Taquiy Abdullah-Simmons may be forced into a rebuild this season. But who knows? The Sooners might just have the depth to take it all again.

(via Stick It Media)

Decrying Title IX

October 9, 2008
Jonathan Horton shattered a school record to become the most decorated University of Oklahoma gymnast in history. Oklahoma is one of the few schools to have a highly successful and popular mens team.

Jonathan Horton shattered a school record to become the most decorated University of Oklahoma gymnast in history. Oklahoma is one of the few schools to have a highly successful and popular men's team.

Stick It Media, which blogs about men’s gymnastics, commented on an earlier article posted on the Saving Sports blog.

What’s aggravating is that men’s gymnastics is always given prime-time network exposure every four years at the Olympics. Not to mention the fact the ratings for that coverage are always very high. The fact that the NCAA doesn’t bend over backwards to champion more collegiate opportunities for male gymnasts is maddening. Men’s gymnastics is a PREMIER Olympic sport.

Stick It goes on to call out California, Texas and Florida schools for not having much in the way of Divison I competition. There’s no doubt that Title IX, which stipulates that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” has hurt men’s collegiate gymnastics. In the U.S. today there are fewer than 20 Division I men’s NCAA gymnastics programs.

But the unfortunate thing is that in most places, Utah, Oklahoma and the Southeast excepted, gymnastics brings little revenue to the universities that have it. Equipment and coaching is expensive. Meet attendance is tiny.

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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.

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A few thoughts on event finals

September 4, 2008
He Kexins uneven bars win was controversial, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

He Kexin's uneven bars win was controversial, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Belatedly posted due to post-Olympic hangover, I think.

It was an improvement over 2004 (almost anything would be), but in this blogger’s opinion only, the judges still got a few things wrong during the three nights of Olympic event finals.

Namely…

Women’s Vault: It was blatant partisanship, giving Cheng Fei the bronze after she fell on the vault named after her. Or that’s what I thought at first. One has to remember, however, that the Cheng vault has a much higher start value than Sacramone’s double-twisting Yurchenko; high enough that Cheng can fall and still place higher than Sacramone. Add in the fact that Cheng’s start value on her first vault, which was beautiful, was 0.2 higher than Sacramone’s.

So although I don’t think a gymnast should fall and get a medal, the judges didn’t mess that one up — the code of points is to blame.

Women’s Uneven Bars: Some will say Nastia Liukin should have won it. Some will defend He Kexin’s gold. I say this: Bronze medalist Yang Yilin should have won. It’s gymnastics scoring 101: If all routines are valued as having equal difficulty, the one that has the least visible errors should win. He went over on one of her handstand pirouettes and took a step on her dismount.

Liukin went over on one of her low bar handstands and had the perennial form issues, as always, on her dismount. Yang’s routine, though less spectacular than either Liukin’s or He’s, had none of those errors. Andrew Thornton on Gymnast.com agrees.

Balance Beam: This one I agree with. Shawn Johnson was cleanest and performed her tons of difficulty flawlessly, even if Liukin has the artistry and extension. She deserves a gold medal for consistency alone, for having performed that routine virtually flawlessly in every competition since the 2007 American Cup (2007 Worlds event finals notwithstanding.)

Might have been different had not Liukin had the big hop on her dismount. Too bad Li Shanshan had another meltdown — I’d like to see her win a World Championship. When she’s on, she deserves it.

Women’s Floor Exercise:The multitalented Sandra Izbaza, a championship handball player before she dedicated herself to gymnastics, proved that tradition dies hard. So, consequently, did Gabriela Dragoi on balance beam.

The Romanians really need to embrace the artistic component of this code, and perhaps add some more ballet to their training, which was obviously a component of their gymnastics regimens during the 1980s but seemed to disappear during the mid-90s.

Zou Kai displays form that could be improved on floor exercise.

Zou Kai displays form that could be improved on floor exercise.

Men’s High Bar: This one actually made me kind of mad. Seems like overnight Jonathan Horton has turned from an amateur into a professional gymnast — the sort who points his toes at all times, who can deliver in the clutch and whose extension has improved dramatically. In the space of literally one Olympics, he’s matured from the X Games kid to an adult gymnast. From here on out, it could be a whole new world for him.

Which brings me to the point: He should have been the Trent Dimas of Beijing. He had the tricks and he had the form. Nice as his laid-out Jaeger full was, Zou Kai’s extension and swing were a lot poorer than Horton’s, and he wasn’t penalized for it. If a gymnast from France or Italy or the U.S. had done the same routine as Zou, I can’t help feeling that his B score would have been much lower. Horton deserved the gold here.

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.

Artemev’s Olympic dream comes true

August 7, 2008

Morgan Hamm on pommel horse at the 2007 U.S. Championships.

Morgan Hamm on pommel horse at the 2007 U.S. Championships.

New U.S. Men’s team: Bhavsar, Tan, Spring, Horton, Hagerty…and Artemev.

From International Gymnast Magazine:

Two-time Olympian Morgan Hamm withdrew from the Olympics in Beijing on Thursday because of an ankle injury, and has been replaced by alternate Sasha Artemev.

“I have been dealing with this for the last year and it has gotten worse here in Beijing,” Hamm said in a statement Thursday. “Right now I am unable to perform my tumbling skills at the level that I need to. This has an impact on my ability to contribute to the team’s goals and I believe by continuing I would be putting myself at further risk.”

During podium training on Wednesday in Beijing, Hamm’s ankle was clearly bothering him. He tumbled only one pass on floor exercise, a 2 1/2 twist, and fell on it. He watered down on vault as well, performing a double-twisting Tsukahara instead of his usual 2 1/2.

U.S. men’s head coach Kevin Mazeika said he needed to be able to see a full floor routine from Hamm during Thursday’s practice.

It’s a very sad ending to what began as a hugely promising comeback for the twins who literally did half the work in the 2004 Olympic team finals. Paul and Morgan’s comeback was supposed to herald the return of U.S. men’s gymnastics as a true international contender — at least for these Games.

It’s hard to know what to expect from the two they’ve been replaced by, except form errors (and thus lower B scores) from Bhavsar and inconsistency from Artemev — the most notable things about each one’s gymnastics, respectively.

This seems a slightly more advanced prototype of the team that finished a respectable fourth at the 2007 World Championships. It’s strength on rings is excellent thanks to Bhavsar and Tan, and Artemev, provided he hits his pommel horse routine in team prelims, has a good shot at moving to finals on that event.

Artemev, who once said in an interview that Paul Hamm’s return took the pressure off of people like him to be as “perfect”, is a brilliant gymast on nearly every event. His lines, form and artistry are truly Olympic-caliber. Even with a fall, he’ll carry in a better score on pommels than literally everyone else on this team.

Two withdrawals before anyone even salutes a judge in competition is a lot, and even with alternate David Durante still waiting in the wings, one wonders if it wouldn’t behoove the U.S. to fly another person out to Asia to train — just in case. David Sender, anyone?

Getting to know Joey Hagerty

July 3, 2008

Joey Hagerty proved that he’s got the skills at the 2008 U.S. Championships and Olympic Trials, but the 26-year-old came out of nowhere so quickly that it’s hard to sum him up.

Putting the rest of the team in a nutshell is far simpler. Example:

Paul Hamm — U.S. savior
Morgan Hamm — Like Paul Hamm, but not as many events and with that cool new floor skill
Jonathan Horton — Short daredevil
Justin Spring — Slightly taller daredevil
Kevin Tan — That rings guy

What about Hagerty? Obviously, he’s got an artistic streak.

Joey Hagerty, 2008 Olympic Trials Finals, Floor Exercise:

Otherwise? Hard to tell. Here’s some personal stuff:

– Trained at Gold Cup Gymnastics in Albuquerque, the same gym that produced 1992 Olympic high bar champion Trent Dimas

– Father Mike Hagerty was in a terrible car accident in March and had to be cleared to fly to Philadelphia to watch his son at the U.S. Trials

– Three older sisters, including former level 10 Alena Ziska

– Told his parents he made the team via text message

– Was attending the University of New Mexico, but gymnastics has taken precedence for the time being

– Now trains in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and was spending weekends commuting between it and New Mexico to visit his father

U.S. men’s team is…

June 22, 2008

Jonathan HortonFrom NBCOlympics.com:

1. Paul Hamm

2. Jonathan Horton

3. Kevin Tan

4. Justin Spring

5. Morgan Hamm

6. Joseph Hagerty

Alternates: Raj Bhavsar, Sasha Artemev, David Durante

For a U.S. men’s program, this is probably the best of all possible combinations. Hagerty and Hamm will make excellent lead-off men on almost any event, Paul Hamm can be put anywhere, Tan can contribute on pommel horse and of course rings, and Spring and Horton provide flair and extreme difficulty on nearly all their events.

As for the alternates, it’s where Durante, “the ultimate filler” probably belongs. Too bad his flair and elegance won’t see Olympic competition, but hopefully even from the alternate’s seat his leadership will be given a role.