Posts Tagged ‘Li Ning’

10 things that should have happened during the Olympics…

October 7, 2008
Nastia Liukin was fabulous in Beijing -- as it should have been.

Nastia Liukin was fabulous in Beijing -- as it should have been.

…and did.

1. Nastia Liukin should have won the women’s all-around. With a highly respectful nod to 2007 World Champion Shawn Johnson, only Nastia combined the balletic artistry that makes gymnastics a truly special sport with the difficulty that makes people say wow. Not only that, she stuck almost all her critical landings during the all-around final — on vault, off beam and on that tricky front-full, front double full first pass on floor.

Liukin’s performance in that all-around final was a throwback to the “perfectionist” gymnastics of old — and hopefully, an inspiration to the perfectionist gymnastics to come.

(more…)

Who stays, who goes?

September 19, 2008

After the Olympics there’s usually a flurry of discussion and speculation — who will continue, and who’s retiring? This ongoing post will attempt to chronicle that.

Staying. Chellsie Memmel, at least through the 2009 Worlds. Hard to blame her — despite the Olympic team silver, Beijing was hardly her dream competition.

Going. Alicia Sacramone, who has hinted she might try diving.

Staying. The bionic Oksana Chusovitina, who was given $20,000 Euros by Li Ning to help pay for son Alisher’s lieukemia treatment.

Staying. Beth Tweddle, who wants to compete in London at next year’s world championships.

Going. Romanian Marian Dragulescu, the — so close! — two time Olympic vault champ, who announced plans to become a coach.

Going. Morgan Hamm, who told the press that he’s done. M. Hamm plans to marry and attend chiropractic school.

Undecided. Paul Hamm, who apparently is trying to choose between an advanced degree in business administration or further competition. Hey, the MBA will always be an option, Paul — Olympic-caliber gymnastics won’t.

Undecided. Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, the big winners of the Games. Johnson has professed that she’d “give anything” to do another Olympics, while Liukin has mentioned 2012 in a few interviews but seems more focused on breaking Shannon Miller’s world championship medal count, which could happen in 2009.

Staying. Non-2008 Olympian Yelena Zamolodchikova and Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova, the grand dames of the talented but aging Russian teams.

Going. Aussie Olivia Vivian, to the talented and often under-appreciated Oregon State University.

Staying (likely). Yang Yilin. After her performance in Beijing, do you think the Chinese government is just going to let her retire? She could be even better in 2009.

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.