Posts Tagged ‘Raj Bhavsar’

On the World Cup, day two

December 14, 2008

Once again International Gymnast leads the field in providing up-to-the-minute coverage of the World Cup. If you couldn’t catch it live, this is a very good alternative.

The home Spanish crowd got a nice boost when their countryman Issac Botella tied for the bronze on vault (with Russian Anton Golotsutskov, 16.075 each.) Botella showed a Kasamatsu 1.5 and a handspring double front. Golotsutskov showed a Tsuk double pike and the same second vault as Botella.

Olympic silver medalist Thomas Bouhail of France won the event, despite putting his hand down on his Tsuk double pike. He nailed his Dragulescu (16.575, the highest score of the competition thusfar, for a 16.225 average). Jeffrey Wammes of the Netherlands, a capable young gymnast who did not qualify for Beijing for various reasons, was second with a 2.5 Yurchenko and a handspring front double full (the same vault Raj Bhavsar used.)

On beam, up and coming Aussie Lauren Mitchell narrowly edged Russian Yulia Lozhechko for the title, 15.25-15.2. It’s nice to see Lozhechko, who was left off the Russian Olympic team for reasons that sounded like continuing discipline problems, is still competing, even if this wasn’t the 2007 European beam champion’s best effort. China’s Li Shanshan, who’s amazing when she stays on, suffered a few little wobbles and a low landing on her double pike to place third with a 15.15.

Other notable performances: Ukranian Daria Zgoba balked on her dismount, performing only a layout, Sandra Izbasa was OK but not spectacular for a 14.925, Cheng Fei looked completely distracted (13.825) and Brazil’s Daniele Hypolito may have received the lowest score of the final (13.425) but is probably relieved it wasn’t an 11-something like she had yesterday on bars.

On parallel bars, China’s young Feng Zhe turned in a spectacular 15.775, matched by French p-bar specialist Yann Cuchrat. Ukraine’s Valery Goncharov was nearly as good, scoring 15.675 for third. Every man in this final dismounted with a double pike.

Floor: Cheng Fei redeemed! The two-time world floor champ didn’t need to throw her biggest tricks (namely the Silivas) to outscore the field with a 15.375. Teammate and Olympic floor finalist Jiang Yuyuan threw a quadruple turn and dazzled everyone with her presentation for second (15.225). Tired-seeming Olympic floor champion Sandra Izbasa, who’s been in a hell of a lot of meets since the Olympics, was decent but not at her best (15.0, third).

Slovenian Aljaz Pagan, who unless he continues on to 2012 will always be the gymnast who really, really deserved to go to an Olympic Games, scratched from this WC final because of a back injury, a.

At his best, Pagan probably could have beaten Dutchman Epke Zonderland, an Olympic HB finalist who is just getting better and better. Zonderland took the title here with a 16.175, more than one-third of a point ahead of Philippe Rizzo of Australia (15.875). This one wasn’t even close.

In his final competition, Japan’s Hiroyuki Tomita finished a distant third after falling out of his double-twisting double layout dismount (15.325). It was not the way for one of the sport’s great champions to go out.

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.

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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?

Headlines of the day

July 17, 2008

“American gymnast Memmel still roaring in her twenties” — Story from USA Today. Very clever.

News is Chellsie’s planning to upgrade her vault and floor routine at the Olympic selection camp this weekend.

“She’s looking better,” her father says. “I can’t wait to show them at camp.”

And oh yes, Morgan Hamm will be in Beijing, despite the doping flap and some people’s thoughts that Sasha Artemev or Raj Bhavsar are perhaps more deserving of the team’s sixth spot. USA Gymnastics told USA Today that barring injury, the team that was named is the team that will compete.

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.

Sean Townsend out of U.S. Championships

May 22, 2008

Sean TownsendThe 2001 World parallel bars champ has a shoulder injury, USA Today reports, and will petition to the U.S. Trials.

Too bad — Townsend, who shares digs with Raj Bhavsar and Sean Golden and trains under Kevin Mazeika at Houston Gymnastics Academy, would likely have been one of the home crowd favorites.

Eight 2008 American Cup observations

March 4, 2008

Shawn Johnson1. Shawn Johnson looked far more nervous at this event than she did in any meet in 2007. Even before her fall on vault during the first rotation, the big smiles were gone, and she often looked strained saluting the judges. By all indications, the pressure seems to be getting to her a little. Nonetheless, better to fall on an Amanar at the American Cup than in Beijing.

2. The judges seem to be finally loosening up on giving high execution scores. Still, a 9.525 B-score for a 1.5-twisting Yurchenko with a step to the side from Nastia Liukin? Her form, which is impeccable about everywhere else, did not likely deserve a 9.525. And above a 15 for that vault? Has that happened yet this quad? Maybe they were rewarding her for just standing it up.
 
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