Posts Tagged ‘Kim Zmeskal’

Joura feels the call of London

October 12, 2008
Dasha Joura is full throttle for London in 2012.

Dasha Joura is full throttle for London in 2012.

Daria Joura, arguably the best Australia’s ever had, hasn’t been beaten down by her sub-par Olympic experience.

The darkhorse all-around contender who many would have placed in the top 10 if not the top three, had a nightmare of a Games — injured during team prelims, competed on one event in team finals, where she fell and apparently had to leave the arena with a bloodied nose. Didn’t even make the all-around cut.

Even Kim Zmeskal’s Olympics wasn’t that bad.

But Joura hasn’t spent much time feeling sorry for herself. Check out the interview in PerthNow:

Despite all of her bad luck, Joura said she enjoyed every minute of her Olympic experience and has already set her sights on competing in London in 2012.

“I could sit here and say ‘oh, poor me’ and just throw everything away but I’m choosing to take this experience and use it to motivate me for the future,” she said.

Good for her. See you in London, Dasha.

Those controversial Moceanu statements

July 24, 2008

A very young Dominique Moceanu.

Paul Hamm isn’t the only one saying controversial stuff as The Olympic Games approach.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu called for Bela and Martha Karolyi to be shown off the U.S. Team selection process.

Former U.S. Olympian Dominique Moceanu, who at 14 was part of the 1996 gold-medal team, said Tuesday night that USA Gymnastics team coordinator Martha Karolyi once grabbed her by the neck and slammed her face into a phone, and that former coach Bela Karolyi twice berated her about her weight in front of national teammates.

Moceanu, in a telephone interview with The Times, expanded on comments she made on an “HBO Real Sports” report that first aired Tuesday night in which she called for the Karolyis to be removed from their positions with the national team.


Pressure’s on, Shawn

March 10, 2008

Shawn Johnson appears to be back on track.

After her first senior international defeat at last weekend’s American Cup, the Des Moines, Iowa native bounced back by winning her first all-around title of 2008 as the U.S. defeated Italy, Spain and Poland in a “fun” meet this weekend in Jesolo, Italy, about 20 miles northeast of Venice.

Johnson reportedly did not throw her Amanar vault, which she fell on at the Cup.

Not that she needed to. Her closest competition, 2006 World Champion Vanessa Ferrari, performed only a full-twisting Yurchenko and finished more than one and a half points behind Johnson, who apparently had some kind of stumble on floor exercise (15.0). Up-and-coming American Samantha Peszek, third at the American Cup, was third at this meet as well. Complete results are on International Gymnast Magazine’s website

More thoughts on Johnson’s performance at the American Cup, previously unposted:


Tiffany Tolnay, Gym Dog in the shadows

January 31, 2008

Courtney Kupets is the darling of the Georgia Gym Dogs -- and deservedly so.At the 2006 NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Corvallis, Ore., Courtney Kupets won almost everything in sight.

She was literally everywhere, competing on every event for three consecutive days, hitting solidly and more often than not winning with whatever high score she put up.

The most impressive of those performances seemed to come during event finals on the third and final day of competition. On the balance beam, Kupets gave a performance that, had it been done during the all-around finals at the Athens Olympics, might have put her in the top three.

Back handspring to two layout stepouts. Perfect. Punch front. Floated. Switch leap, gainer layout. Not a wobble within a mile of the arena. Two back handsprings to a stuck double back. She’s going to get a 10, I thought.

Kupets didn’t quite get the 10, but she did win the title. Which she also did in the all-around and on bars, tying Utah’s Kristina Baskett.

Georgia's Tiffany Tolnay.Another Georgia freshman was in that group on balance beam in event finals — Texan Tiffany Tolnay, who, coached by Kim Zmeskal an Zmeskal’s husband Chris Burdette, had won the Level 10 National all-around title three years in a row.

Tolnay’s beam routine in Oregon in 2006 looked as impressive as Kupets’; in fact, she used many of the same skills: the flight series, the punch front, the dismount. No wobbles from her, either.

Like Kupets, Tolnay has extremely clean lines and both seem to have the same measured, athletic way of moving that seems both fluid and staccato at the same time.

It seemed the only reason Tolnay, who was fourth in the beam final in 2006 didn’t get a comparable score to Kupets was because she went up first. Since then, she’s continued to put up high numbers for the Gym Dogs, finishing fourth  in the all-around at the 2007 NCAA Championships, just as she did in 2006.

But she’s remained somewhat in the shadows, perhaps becuase if you’re an excellent gymnast and you’re a Gym Dog, you’re in very good company. Kupets is one of the best ever to compete in the NCAA. In addition, South Carolinian Grace Taylor’s charm and clean gymnastics got a huge response during her freshman year. Katie Heenan and Kelsey Ericksen were the rocks, the upperclassmen leaders. Courtney McCool gave the Gym Dogs another Olympian, and more to intimidate with.

By comparison, Tolnay, decidedly second to Kupets but whose performances have often equaled or bettered her more famous teammates, has always seemed in the distance. I wonder why.

Tiffany Tolnay, 2008 Georgia Sneak Peek, Balance Beam:

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

January 3, 2008

Shawn JohnsonFor so long, the Gymnasts to Watch have come from four countries of the world: The United States, China, Russia and Romania. As we move into 2008, it is quickly becoming apparent that the best gymnasts are not exclusively from these four nations.

With the help of coaches who have migrated from South America to New Zealand, Korea, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, Great Britain, etc., international gymnastics is flourishing in ways it never has before.

Some of those who will be contenders for numerous Olympic medals aren’t mentioned on the following list. We know who they are. But sometimes the stories of the underdogs are equally compelling. Oksana Chusovitina’s fifth Olympics? Come on. That’s an achievement even those who snap up most of the gold in Beijing will never accomplish.

Shawn Johnson, USA: The 2007 World Champion will have all eyes on her this season, but she’ll be dealing with maintaining her position at the top of the podium instead of simply claiming it, as she did in every contest she entered last year. Many fans may watch Johnson with apprehension. After all, Johnson’s idol Kim Zmeskal, whose gymnastics greatly resembled Johnson’s own, looked darn unbeatable too going into 1992.

Shawn Johnson, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Floor Exercise:

Beth TweddleBeth Tweddle, Great Britain: The most decorated gymnast in British history (a term I never thought I’d hear again after Shannon Miller retired) Tweddle is going into 2008 with what seems like all of England marching behind. Freak injuries in podium trainings and the like have robbed Tweddle the opportunity to compete her best at so many competitions.

Beth Tweddle, 2006 World Championships Event Finals, Uneven Bars:

Jiang Yuyuan, China: She’s China’s rising star and a potential late-blooming all-around threat. With the Olympics being held in Beijing, it’s hard to imagine that Jiang won’t do well.

Jiang Yuyuan, 2007 World Championships Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

Aisha Gerber, Canada: She looked like the next Yvonne Tousek at the 2006 American Cup. After a tumultous 2007, with new coaches Kelly and Sue Manjak cheering her on, a revitalized Gerber wants to compete for Canada in Beijing. In order to do so however, she’ll have to prove she’s more worthy than Kristina Vaculik and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs.

Aisha Gerber, 2006 American Cup, Floor Exercise:

Vanessa Ferrari, Italy: The competitive spirit obviously rages inside this one. The question will be if she can hit all of her events — in the same day.

Vanessa Ferrari, 2006 World Championships All Around, Floor Exercise:

Daria Joura, Australia: She’s been a spunky and well-choreographed presence on the international scene since 2006. If she does everything she’s capable of in Beijing, she could be in the top five on several events.

Daria Joura, 2007 American Cup, Floor Exercise:

Hong Su Jong, Korea: Despite their particular prowess on vault and uneven bars, the Koreans have gone relatively unnoticed internationally. But at the 2007 World Championships, Hong showed the same vaults as Cheng Fei — an Amanar and Cheng’s own signature vault, which some argued Hong did better in Stuttgart. With Brazilian Jade Barbosa also performing the Cheng, it will be a battle to determine who’s going to do what in 2008.

Hong Su Jong, 2007 World Championships Event Finals, Vault:

Anna PavlovaAnna Pavlova, Russia: The gymnast once deemed Svetlana Khorkina’s successor on the Russian team has limped along since Athens, which was the last competition she really looked alive at. The rudderless Russian team has looked thrown for a loop most of the quad as well, despite immense depth and talent from upcoming juniors. The thing is, Pavlova nearly pulled off the upset of the quad in 2004 (many argue she should have had bronze), and there’s a feeling she does have more to give. If she puts the extra effort into her performance in Beijing as she did in Athens, we could see more from her and the Russians this year.

Anna Pavlova, 2004 Olympic Games All Around, Floor Exercise:

Bridget Sloan, USA: One of the USA’s “Bubble Girls,” the 2007 World Championships alternate is getting attention for her clean gymnastics, personality, consistency and self-choreographed floor routine.

Bridget Sloan, 2007 Beijing Test Event All Around, Floor Exercise:

Cerasela Patrascu, Romania: With veteran Catalina Ponor gone for good, this girl could be the top Romanian in Beijing. Her form is good, her skills are difficult and her presentation has a wonderful quality to it. Expect her — and not teammate Steliana Nistor, deserving as she is — to be the one to watch this year.

Cerasela Patrascu, 2007 World Championships Team Prelims, Uneven Bars:

Yulia Lozhechko, Russia: She’s got the long bodyline — if not the sass — of Khorkina, and her quality and steadiness on balance beam is thoroughly impressive. After being unceremoniously thrown off the Russian national team for disobeying her coaches in Stuttgart, one can only hope Lozhechko put her head down and kept training.

Yulia Lozhechko, 2007 European Championships Event Finals, Balance Beam:

Oksana Chusovitina, Germany: It’s taken four Olympiads, three countries and one child for Chusovitina to get to this point. Regardless of how she performs, whether or not she qualifies for vault finals, how could anyone not cheer for this woman?

Oksana Chusovitina, 2006 World Championships Event Finals, Vault:

Shawn Johnson Day

October 12, 2007

Mary Lou Retton got a Wheaties box.

Carly Patterson got a Wheaties box, the talk show circuit and a fledgling singing career.

Shawn Johnson doesn’t have the Wheaties box yet, but she’s doing the talk show circuit and she’s already got something neither Olympic champions Retton nor Patterson did: A day.

Iowa governor Chet Culver will personally welcome the newly crowned world all-around champ to the Iowa State Historical Building Oct. 17 for what the Des Moines Register calls “Shawn Johnson Day.”

Forget day. 2007 has clearly been Shawn Johnson year. She’s been American Cup Champion, American Classic Champion, Pan American Games Champion, U.S. National Champion, World All-Around Champion, World Floor Champion, all within the span of about seven months. 

It’s worth noting that Johsnon only lost one meet as a junior in 2006 as well.

2007 World All-Around Champion Shawn Johnson performing the floor routine the solidified her title.

With all the positive energy swirling around her, one has to wonder what’s in store for the 15-year-old dynamo in 2008. When Kim Zmeskal became the first American woman to win a world all-around title in 1991, there were few media appearances and those focused on what the Olympic year would bring.

To paraphrase a Sports Illustrated article written four years later, after the 1991 Worlds in Indianapolis, the doors of Karolyi’s gym were open and herds of reporters were asking, “How many golds will you get in Barcelona?”

How things have changed in a decade and a half. Everyone’s so stoked about Johnson’s win in Stuttgart that Beijing still seems very far off. Johnson’s also been featured on ABC News as Person of the Week, and she just did a spot on Ellen Degeneres’ daytime show. Nobody’s really talking about Beijing, and when they do, it’s about whether or not she’ll make the team, not how many medals she’s worth.

That’s as it should be. Charmed as her life may seem, Johnson’s going to be under pressure like she’s never known next summer. She should get the opportunity to savor her latest triumph without having to focus on the unknown future.

Johnson on Ellen:

And as ABC News’s Person of the Week: