Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Tan’

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.

(more…)

Women’s team final: More China gold

August 13, 2008
Alicia Sacramone fell on balance beam and floor exercise, taking away any chance of the U.S. women's winning team gold.

Alicia Sacramone fell on balance beam and floor exercise, taking away any chance of the U.S. women's winning team gold.

Oh, how sad. What a way to win a silver medal. Like the Japanese men last night, only worse.

Silver is the most bittersweet medal for people used to being the best, or expecting to be the best, and the American women for the past quad have tended to be both.

Given his less than stellar routines in Beijing, particularly his 12.775 pommel horse performance in team finals, some may question whether Kevin Tan should have had a place on the bronze medal-winning U.S. men’s team. (The answer is yes he should have, because his rings score was still so high it offset wherever else he was lackluster, and he should not have been put up on pommels at all in team finals.) But there was never, ever any question that Alicia Sacramone had what it took. She was a talent whose start value on vault couldn’t be replaced, a former World champion on floor and a gymnast whose balance beam routine had stood the test of the U.S. Championships and Olympic Trials.

Sacramone didn’t lose the gold for the U.S. Her performance was bad — particularly on floor exercise, where she opened up a little too early on her Arabian double front while trying to stick the landing. The emotional look on her face throughout the rest of the routine didn’t help matters either.

But even if Sacramone hadn’t fallen on beam and floor and nobody had stepped out of bounds, even if Chellsie Memmel’s jam through to her double front had been credited on uneven bars, China still would have won by more than half a point. The U.S. didn’t hand the gold to anyone. It was China’s to lose all along.

Nevertheless, this whole competition probably hurt the highly-touted U.S. team. A lot. Bela Karolyi’s comments on NBC, blatantly accusing the Chinese of age falsification, may roil some bad feelings as well. Whether or not the Chinese really were all 16, we’ll never know, unless some team members make like Yang Yun and say on TV they were 14. The FIG and the International Olympic Committee have expressed no interest in exploring the issue.

I don’t feel like harping on this competition too much, except to say also that the Romanian women should be as thrilled with their bronze as the U.S. men were. Hopefully they will adapt better to the new code next quad. For Russia, another disappointment, and a shame for a country that produces such wonderful gymnastics.

On to the all-around final, which should be a great battle between Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson. Given the way both have performed in this competition, it’s anybody’s guess who’ll take gold, although Liukin seems to have a better shot than many would have expected even a few months ago.

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.

2008 U.S. men’s team prediction

June 22, 2008

The final four members of the team will be announced Sunday. Gymblog’s prediction:

Justin Spring2008 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team:

1. Paul Hamm
2. Jonathan Horton
3. Kevin Tan
4. Justin Spring
5. Morgan Hamm
6. Sean Golden

Alt. 1: Raj Bhavsar
Alt. 2: David Durante

This is not going to be fair. One way or another, someone deserving is going to get burned.

U.S. men’s Olympic trials, night one

June 20, 2008

Results from International Gymnast Magazine (this is the combined scoring, taking day one and day two of the U.S. Championships into account):

1. Jonathan Horton 63.255
2. Joseph Hagerty 63.165
3. Sasha Artemev 62.825
4. Raj Bhavsar 62.800
5. David Durante 62.430
6. Guillermo Alvarez 57.910
7. Tim McNeill 57.230
8. Justin Spring 47.335
9. Morgan Hamm 42.645
10. Kevin Tan 42.225
11. Yewki Tomita 33.870
12. Sean Golden 32.675
13. Sean Townsend 26.415

But on this night, Artemev and Horton were the real 1-2, Associated Press reports:

Paul Hamm isn’t the only American gymnast with skills. With the reigning Olympic champion recovering from a broken hand, Sasha Artemev and Jonathan Horton made their cases for trips to the Beijing Games on Thursday night. Artemev and Horton finished 1-2 Thursday night, the first of two competitions at the Olympic trials, and Horton has the lead when scores — including those from last month’s national championships — are weighted and combined.

Justin Spring overcame immense back pain (since when was he having back pain?) to put up a very impressive showing on five events. But the depth — or is it the specialization? — of the U.S. men’s team showed in the event placings: Sean Golden won vault, Artemev was the best on pommels, Kevin Tan placed first on rings,

Three of the top five, plus two of the specialists, will likely make the Olympic team (that Paul Hamm will be on the team seems to go without question.) Question is, which three, and which two?

Seems that Morgan Hamm and Jonathan Horton, by virtue of past performances and difficulty, will also make the team. Joseph Hagerty is a darkhorse who has little international experience but seems to be peaking when it counts.

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…

Quick men’s NCAA update

April 10, 2008

Jonathan Horton has become the most decorated gymnast in University of Oklahoma history.By all indicators, the 2008 NCAA men’s championships be a battle between three schools: Stanford, Oklahoma and Penn State.

Oklahoma has a strong one-to-three punch in Jonathan HortonSteven Legendre (Hypolito on floor!) and Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons. The team also has strong traditions, having nabbed four of the last six NCAA team titles. Oklahoma showed its strength by defeating no. 1 Stanford at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships last weekend.

Horton, now the most decorated gymnast in OU history (he’s even eclipsed double Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner) scored a 16.000 on rings at the MPSF Championships and walked away with his third Gymnast of the Year award. 

Penn State, although its roster boasts no realistic U.S. Olympic hopefuls (unless you count assistant coach Kevin Tan), has some speed going in as newly crowned Big 10 champions.

And Stanford? Well, they’re ranked no. 1.

Canadian Casey Sandy, who gained valuable experience at the 2007 World Championships in September, is has been ranked the top NCAA all-arounder all season. Also in the hunt are Stanford’s David Sender and Illinois’ Wes Haagensen, currently ranked second and third.

David Sender, 2008 Windy City Invitational, Vault:

The NCAA men’s gymnastics championships will be hosted by Stanford April 17-19.