Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Shewfelt’

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.

Brandon O’Neill injured in Beijing

August 5, 2008

Canadian gymnast Brandan O’Neill’s Olympic quest just got a little more perilous.

The 27-year-old from Alberta suffered ankle ligament damage while training on floor yesterday. O’Neill was treated at a local hospital, but his readiness for Saturday’s men’s team prelims seems a bit up in the air, The Toronto Star reported.

It’s a blow to what many consider the best Canadian men’s team ever put together for an Olympic competition, but British Columbia native Ken Ikeda is poised to step in if O’Neill has to withdraw.

“As far as his ability to compete, we won’t make any decisions until the last possible moment,” coach Tony Smith told reporters here Tuesday. “No one is panicking right now. We’re pretty optimistic about what’s going to happen and Brandon’s ability to be able to compete.”

O’Neill, along with teammate Kyle Shewfelt, seems to be a shoo-in for floor finals, so long as he gets through the first round. Fellow Canadian Rick McCharles, who runs the excellent Gymnastics Coaching blog, picked O’Neill to be a surprise contender for floor gold.

Brandon O’Neill, 2006 Arthur Gander Memorial, Vault:

Canadian women name Olympians

June 10, 2008

Nansy DamianovaIn the midst of the media frenzy that was the U.S. women’s championships, the Canadians quietly held their own Nationals and named Nansy Damianova and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs as the two who would wear the Maple Leaf in Beijing.

Left out is 2007 Canadian champion Kristina Vaculik, a waif-like 16-year-old who is excellent on bars and beam but a bit weak on vault and floor.

Hopfner-Hibbs, who had been concentrating on her specialties (bars and beam) made an impressive return to the all-around to win the Canadian title over Vaculik and young Charlotte Mackie. Young Peng-Peng Lee was also impressive, winning the senior beam and floor titles.

Adam Wong won the Canadian men’s title, although his victory was somewhat overshadowed by the continuing saga of Kyle Shewfelt, who made a media splash even though he didn’t compete.

Most were betting that the two to go would be Hopfner-Hibbs, the only Canadian woman in about two decades to have won a World medal (bronze, balance beam, 2006), and Vaculik, who was sent to the Olympic venue for the Good Luck Beijing International Invitational in December.

Damianova has been viewed as no. 3 to Vaculik and Hopfner-Hibbs in international exposure, media coverage and probably readiness — everything but the complicated, confusing system Gymnastics Canada Gymnastique installed to choose its Olympians. A month ago, Damianova led the qualifying, having racked up 32 points to Hopfer-Hibbs’ 30 and Vaculik’s 19.

Vaculik has become the first of what will undoubtedly be several women who are Olympic-caliber but will not be granted an berth to the Games because their countries didn’t qualify a full team or because the wildcard process screwed them over didn’t work out for them.

We already know who many of these people are on the men’s side: Krisztian Berki, Vlasios Maras, Yuri van Gelder, Jeffrey Wammes, Philippe Rizzo, Yernar Yurimbetov and others (for full list, see Gymnastics Coaching.)

Damianova was impressive at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships in April.

Nansy Damianova, 2008 Pacific Rim Championships, Floor Exercise:

Aisha Gerber to become a Bruin

May 23, 2008

Aisha GerberAisha Gerber, the expressive Canadian who was third at the 2006 American Cup has signed a letter of intent to compete for UCLA next winter, NCAA.com reports.

In a statement, UCLA coach Valorie Kondos-Field compared Gerber to former Bruin Yvonne Tousek, one of the most expressive and unique gymnasts of her generation.

“Aisha embodies all that we pride ourselves on at UCLA. She is a brilliant and serious student of academics as well as of gymnastics. She also exudes confidence, poise and elegance, much like her fellow Canadian and past Bruin Yvonne Tousek.”

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On Diego Hypolito and other Injured

March 27, 2008

2005 and 2007 World Champion Diego HypolitoTwo-time World floor champion Diego Hypolito has undergone surgery to repair a modial meniscus rupture in his right knee, the Malaysia Sun reported today.

The short article goes on to speculate whether the injury will affect the Brazilian’s chances to bring home a gold medal on floor in Beijing.

‘It will obviously harm (Hypolito’s preparation). He will miss practices, and practising is always important. He will have to get over it,’ said coach Renato Araujo.

…The procedure took about 80 minutes and was ‘successful’, according to orthopaedist Joao Granjeiro Neto, who carried out the surgery.

I recently spoke with a gymnast who’s torn her meniscus twice. Her experience is that it takes about six weeks before you can pound on it again in training.

So add Hypolito to the list of gymnasts attempting to make miraculous recoveries in time for the summer Olympics.
 
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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…)

Gafuik returns to claim Elite Canada title

December 17, 2007

Canada's Nathan Gafuik

From International Gymnast Magazine:

After a year-long absence, Nathan Gafuik made a strong return to national competition by winning the senior men’s all-around at Elite Canada, held Saturday night in Abbotsford, B.C.

Although he competed at the 2007 World Championships and the recent Olympic test event in Beijing, Gafuik spent most of the past year recovering from injury. He missed both the 2007 Canadian Championships and the 2006 Elite Canada competition.

“It’s important for me to get out and compete because I’m a little bit rusty,” Gafuik said.

Gafuik, who totaled 89.900 to Ikeda’s 88.250, placed no lower than third on any event during the second night of competition. The 22-year-old from the University of Calgary turned in the highest scores of the meet Saturday night on vault (16.100), high bar (14.900) and floor exercise (15.550), and placed first on parallel bars with a combined score of 29.700.

Ken Ikeda
, an Abbotsford native, placed second all-around, first on pommel horse and second on parallel bars and high bar.

Halifax’s Hugh Smith was third with 84.400. Capital City’s Jared Walls won the rings title with 14.750.

Gafuik, the alternate to the 2004 Olympic team, is optimistic about the team’s chances in 2008 — if the gymnasts are healthy. At the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, veterans Kyle Shewfelt and Adam Wong missed the competition because of injuries.

“For me and a lot of other team members it’s about getting healthy,” Gafuik said. “We’re hoping for big things, and I can only hope we compete well.”

The Canadian men placed 11th in Stuttgart to qualify a full team to the 2008 Olympics. Ikeda said that while the team was pleased with the result, it hopes to qualify for team finals in Beijing, as it did at the 2006 World Championships.

“We didn’t do as well as we were hoping we’d do [at the 2007 Worlds], but I think it works out better that way,” Ikeda said. “Hopefully by Beijing we’ll have everyone back in top form and surprise everyone again.”

Jessica Savona of Mississauga won the junior women’s all-around over Montreal’s Ti Liu (Gymnix). British Columbia’s Sky Corbett-Methot (Omega) won the bronze.

Twelth in 2006, Kevin Lytwyn of Ontario’s Burlington B.G.’s won the junior men’s title. Calgary’s John Hall finished second ahead of Saskatchewan’s Anderson Loran.

2006 junior champion Jayd Lukenchuk was absent, having torn his ACL at the “Good Luck Beijing” test event earlier this month.

Silas Radies, who played a Hungarian gymnast in the 2006 film “White Palms,” won the men’s novice all-around.

The triumphs and frustrations of Kyle Shewfelt

October 23, 2007

Despite breaking both legs before the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, 2004 Olympic floor champ Kyle Shewfelt is determined to be ready for Beijing.

A friend turned me on to Canadian star Kyle Shewfelt’s blog a couple days ago, and I’ve been drinking in his impressions of life as an elite gymnast as well as his detailed perceptions of his recovery from breaking both legs training a laid-out Arabian double front at the 2007 World Championships.

Shewfelt, the 2004 Olympic floor champ and star of the supposedly exceptional gymnastics movie White Palms, writes with a dash and candor few gymnasts have been able to muster. Not since Vanessa Atler has a gymnast’s blog been so honest about his or her delights and frustrations with training and rehabbing from injury.

Shewfelt on being wheelchair-bound and completely dependant on others:

I have been sitting around for almost a month, patiently waiting for my legs to heal, trying to be totally positive and optimistic, but now I am finding myself going a little psycho.

A bit of Shewfelt humor:

First, I must apologize for not posting in the past few weeks. I’m not going to make any excuses…although “I broke both of my legs” could be a really good one!

Shewfelt on his comeback potential:

will be in Beijing. I’m gonna be there!

I kind of feel like I have been in a dream world for the past few weeks, just waiting to wake up and be able to walk and go to the gym. Today I feel more alive…more clear that my mission for the next year is going to be tougher than I thought. I am ready to fight though…I am so ready!

Shewfelt on Canadian Thanksgiving, which apparently happens in October:

I’m gonna pig out on turkey, mashed potatoes and pie and then probably feel sick because I ate too much, but that’s what this day is all about.

The talented Kyle Shewfelt, floor exercise, 2006 World Championships, Event Finals: