Posts Tagged ‘Lilia Podkopayeva’

Johnson unlikely for 2009

November 8, 2008

Shawn Johnson tells the Des Moines Register she’s unlikely to compete in 2009. Rick wonders if this means she’s retiring for good. Johnson even disclosed that she’s not sure whether she’ll return to her high school in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Like the comeback after a potentially career-ending injury, the comeback after a successful Olympics is long and grueling. How do you go back to four to six hours in a gym after you’ve been the face of McDonalds? It’s a question Johnson and Nastia Liukin are likely to be asking themselves. Despite Johnson’s claim that she’d “give anything” to feel more Olympic magic, she may not realize what four more years is really going to take from her.

Only a handful of female gymnasts in the past decade have come back from successful Olympic experiences, and only two — Shannon Miller and Dominique Dawes — have been American (Tasha Schwikert doesn’t count because you can’t really call 2000 a success for the American women). The others include Lilia Podkopayeva (though her return was so brief it was almost non-existent), Simona Amanar, Andreea Raducan and of course, Svetlana Khorkina, who always looked better the year after an Olympic Games. than she did at the Games themselves.

A scene from Podkopayeva’s short retrurn to international competition in 1997, at the European Masters:

Twenty years later…

June 23, 2008

…and Olympic gymnastics is still a matter of power vs. elegance.

Remember this?

Daniela Silivas, 1988 Olympic All-Around, Floor Exercise:

Elena Shushunova, 1988 Olympic All-Around, Floor Exercise:

Daniela SilivasIt is perhaps a trifle unfair to label Silivas, the first woman to throw a double-twisting double back on floor, as the just “the elegant one,” and Shushunova, who had a well-choreographed Olympic floor routine, as just “the powerful one.”

Still, it’s an easy category to slip most standout gymnasts into, because it’s one of the two things that makes said athlete stand out. 2008 is unique because it’s the first time since the Seoul Games that the disparity between the two all-around front-runners has been quite this pronounced. Still, Gutsu vs. Miller. Khorkina vs. Raducan. Patterson vs. Khorkina — in nearly every Olympiad since 1984, it’s been there.

In 1992, it was the trickster Tatiana Gutsu, perhaps the least elegant gymnast to come out of the old Soviet system, who won over fragile-looking American Shannon Miller.

Lilia Podkopayeva, the 1996 Olympic champion, possessed a rare combination of power and grace. There’s never been another quite as good on both fronts as she was, even though Svetlana Khorkina may have in places done more difficult gymnastics.

Andreea Raducan had a poorly choreographed beam routine but was one of the few to really dance on floor. Few would make the mistake of calling Carly Patterson’s choppy style balletic.

More of Darlene Hill’s story

April 7, 2008

Mt. Laurel, N.J.’s Darlene Hill possibly solidified her status as an Olympic team contender with gold on the floor exercise at the Pacific Rim Championships two weeks ago.

The South Jersey Courier Post, which ran an initial article on Hill back in October, figured her win merited another one. It’s here that we actually learn a little more about her.

1996 Olympic Champion Lilia PodkopayevaShe’s got a terrific story, and this one undoubtedly won’t be the last done on her.

Hill aggravated a shoulder injury during training and rolled her ankle the first day she got to San Jose, Calif., where the three-day [Pacific Rim] competition was held. She did not compete on the uneven bars, another strength area, in order to rest her shoulder. But her stellar performances on floor and vault contributed to the team gold. All told, the U.S. men and women collected 15 gold, five silver and four bronze for a total of 24 medals.

“The competition was pretty much me having to prove to the world that I am ready for the Olympic team,” said Hill, a 2007 Lenape High School graduate who attends Burlington County College. “I felt honored being on that team and the crowd was behind me for the first time. It was a lot of fun.”

Soft-spoken and stoic, Hill didn’t discuss the mental burden she was carrying during the competition. Her grandmother, Eloise Dixon, who had raised her and supported her Olympic dream, had died just three weeks earlier.

“She was devastated,” [coach Kim] Bonus said. “It was really rough. But what a victory to show herself what she can do even in the worst of times. I always knew she could do this. I had complete faith in her.”

Shades of Lilia Podkopayeva, yes?

Russians dominate Junior Europeans

April 4, 2008

2008 Junior European Champion Tatiana Nabieva of RussiaAll of a sudden, gymnastics team competitions are being won by the margins of basketball games. And not even close basketball games.

The Russian juniors held off second-place France by more than 10 points to capture the Junior European team title today in Clement-Ferrand, France, International Gymnast Magazine reported.

Ridiculous. If the Russian juniors, once they became Russian seniors, held as much dominance, well, the team picture come Beijing might look a bit different than it does at the moment.

As it is, it appears Russia will fight the Romania for the team bronze. It might be the biggest team fight of the Games in women’s gymnastics. Neither country has done particularly well against the Chinese and Americans this quad.

But imagine if the Russian juniors, perennial champions at competitions like the junior Europeans, could do as well in the senior ranks. For some reason, they don’t. The two big breakout Russian stars from the 2006 Europeans, Irina Isayeva and Daria Elizarova, simply haven’t competed much during the past two years.

Elizarova, whose form reminded some of the great Lilia Podkopayeva, was the alternate for the 2007 World Championship team and didn’t compete. Isayeva has been plauged by injuries and in the few competitions she’s been in has seemed to struggle with endurance.

As it is, add 13-year-old Tatiana Nabieva to the list of Russian up-and-comers for 2012. Nabiyeva, (60.850) bested teammate Aliya Mustafina (60.3) to take the junior all-around crown in France, while Frenchwoman Youna Dufournet won bronze (60.225).

Tatiana Nabieva, 2007 Gymnix International, Floor Exercise:

The best male gymnast of all time?

February 11, 2008

Belarus' Vitaly Scherbo is considered one of the best male gymnasts of all time.The best female gymnast of all time question is debated on message boards here and there, but Amy Van Deusen, an International Gymnast Magazine correspondent who recently launched About.com’s gymnastics website, is the first I’ve seen to examine men’s gymnastics in the same way.

In the women’s category, the answer flits between Nadia Comaneci (first perfect 10 in Olympic competition) and Lilia Podkopayeva (one of the most “total package” gymnasts of all time, who was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame last week) Lavinia Milosovici, a highly consistent and successful Romanian from 1992 to 1996 and Russian Svetlana Khorkina, who is known for her longevity, daring, unique skills and high temper, might also deserve honorable mentions.

On about.com, Van Deusen throws out some likely candidates: Valeri Liukin (first ever triple back on floor), Nikolai Andrianov (lifted the Soviet men’s team from obscurity to world dominance during the 1970s) and Mitsuo Tsukahara, the Japanese innovator who introduced the Tsukahara vault and won five Olympic gold medals.

Van Deusen’s vote goes to Belarus’ Vitaly Sherbo, who won a whopping six gold medals at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Hard to argue with that. As a gymnast, Sherbo had it all — great form, great power and an innovativeness that was expressed on all events, particularly vault and still rings. He also had an “it” factor that was almost uncomparable.

And unlike some of the sport’s greats, he didn’t retire immediately after achieving the pinnacle of Olympic success. He returned to training months before the 1996 Olympics after quitting to be with his wife Irina, who lapsed into a coma after a devastating car accident.

His comeback story includes four bronze medals in Atlanta, which seemed reflective of his limited preparation time but not lack of skill.

Vitaly Sherbo, 1994 World Championships, Vault:

Elizarova: Beijing spoiler?

November 21, 2007

Of all the Russian juniors who seem to have disappeared off the face of the Earth, I wonder most about 16-year-old Daria Elizarova, who was on the start list for the 2007 World Championships but did not compete.

Elizarova’s toepoint and presentation are reminiscent of the great Lilia Podkopayeva’s.

Lilia Podkopayeva, 1996 Olympic Games All-Around, Floor Exercise:

Daria Elizarova, 2006 Junior European Championships Team Final, Floor Exercise:

The obvious competitiors for all-around gold in Athens have presented themselves: Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Vanessa Ferrari, Jade Barbosa, Steliana Nistor and Pang Panpan if she’s in her 2006 form.

Gymnastics fans will now spend the winter months exhausting every possible upset scenario before the American Cup in March gives a better picture of how things stand.

Elizarova, who will be competing at the mini-Olympics that the Good Luck Beijing test event is turning into, should be scenario number one.