Posts Tagged ‘Sasha Artemev’

12 days of up and coming gymnasts, day eight

December 30, 2008

Alexy Bilozerchev, USA: A long time ago (OK, a little more than a year ago), when the Hamm twins were still making their comeback and it seemed Sasha Artemev was guarenteed a spot on the 2008 Olympic team, I theorized that Alexy Bilozerchev was going to be the next, um, Dmitri Bilozerchev.

Like father like son and all that.

Never mind that winning a junior national championship means even less if you’re a guy than if you’re a woman. Never mind that he competed with the seniors during the second day of competition and finished in 10th place. Never mind that nobody’s really seen what this kid looks like.

Alexy Bilozerchev is almost certainly the next great U.S. champion.

He’s a new face cloaked with an old name, and he could help bring the U.S. men back to dominance the way his father helped the Soviet Union achieve gymnastics greatness.

Alexy may very well be the next big thing in gymnastics, but coming off his 2007 U.S. Junior title, he was not one of the major stories of 2008. Oh, well, maybe in 2009.

There’s good reason to expect a lot from Alexy, even though he’s all of 17. Heck, by the time his father Dmitri was 17 (a reference I’m sure he hears a lot more than he wants to), he was a World Champion.

Dmitri Bilozerchev was one of the Soviet greats. His story is one of dominant victory, a literally shattering injury, victory again and finally Olympic almost-victory.

…if his career is anything like his father’s Alexy will one day wind up in the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

At age 16 in 1983, Dmitri Bilozerchev was the top gymnast in the world. He had class, he had style, he made it look so, so easy. But in 1985, just before the World Championships, he crashed his car into a tree, shattering his left leg. The only reason it wasn’t amputated was because a few minutes before the leg was to be removed, somebody recognized that he was the best gymnast in the U.S.S.R.

A more subdued, grown up Bilozerchev appeared at the 1987 World Championships in Rotterdam, Holland and reclaimed his world title. At the 1988 Olympics, Bilozerchev was poised to take the gold medal, but his coach told him not to water down his high bar routine to protect his lead. Bilozertchev made a small mistake and wound up third.

Alexy Bilozerchev, a freshman at Ohio State (where Dmitri is an assistant coach to Miles Avery) is tall for a male gymnast (picture his 5’9″ frame next to Jon Horton’s 5’3″ish one). His 2008 season was successful if not spectacular (fourth at the 2008 U.S. Men’s Qualifier, 10th at the U.S. Championships on vault and pommel horse.) I’m expecting more this year.

So, apparently, is Dmitri.

“It’s his sport,” Bilozerchev said of his son in 2007. “Of course everybody knows who I am. Or who I was. But he’s going to get what he deserves. He’s put in so much work. He makes it by himself.”

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.

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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.

Team prelims: A real show

August 10, 2008
uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.

Nastia Liukin qualified to three event finals: uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.

In the end, I cheated a little bit. On the U.S. west coast, we’re lucky to have in our cable packages the Canadian Broadcasting Network, which showed men’s and women’s team prelims basically as they were going on. Hence, whereas NBC is showing women’s team prelims tonight, I saw parts of the competition last night.

And boy, what parts.

Nastia Liukin sitting down her bars dismount. Chellsie Memmel missing her Tkatchev. Samantha Peszek not competing her best events. Alicia Sacramone, a tough but not stoic gymnast, looking focused but at times a little sad. The only person who looked like she was really having fun was the one who had the best day: reigning World champ Shawn Johnson.

The great thing about the Olympics is you can analyze and speculate about what’s going to happen, but you can’t know. Perhaps depressing is that more people seemed to have bad surprises than good ones: British favorite Beth Tweddle banged her foot — hard — on the low bar doing a giant. Italian star Vanessa Ferrari looked deflated and out of shape.

Aussie Dasha Joura, a total package gymnast and the best Oz has ever produced, had the worst meet of her life and didn’t qualify for the all-around or any event final.

It was different for the men. The U.S., rocked by the departures of Paul and Morgan Hamm, looked respectable if perhaps not medal-worthy. They made team finals. Aside from a botched rings routine by Sasha Artemev, who hit a great pommels set to make up for it, everyone “did their job,” as the commentators said. (Except perhaps NBC, whose job it is to show the competition, not a few myriad routines that gave every indication of being a highlight reel instead of real coverage.) It might have been worse.

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.

Making the case for Artemev

June 23, 2008

Nobody believes Sasha Artemev gave the performance of his life at the U.S. Championships or the Olympic Trials. But should the male Nastia, son of former Soviet great Vladimir Artemov, been named to the team anyway?

TCO makes an interesting case.

Rank within a seven member team, including Sasha:

name FX PH SR VT PB HB
Hamm, P 1 1 3 2 1 1
Horton 3 6 2 4 3 5
Tan 7 4 1 7 6 7
Spring 4 7 4 1 2 4
Hamm, M. 5 3 7 3 7 3
Hagerty 2 5 6 6 5 2
Artemev 6 2 5 5 4 6

The only event that Sasha is top 3 on is PH (only place where he helps over the current group).

Looking at replacing various team members with Sasha, we get the following score changes, based on best 3 up team:

gainPH lose VT lose HB change
Hamm M 0.3625 0.0125 0.4 -0.05

Tan gain PH loss SR change
0.725 1.8125 -1.0875

Horton gain PH loss FX loss SR loss PB change
0.725 0.1625 1.1 0.05 -0.5875

Hagerty gain PH loss FX loss HB change
0.725 0.175 0.65 -0.1

Spring gain PH loss VT loss PB change
0.725 0.0625 0.3 0.3625

Comments:

1. No point in looking at replacing Paul Hamm, as he is better at PH.

2. Replacing Morgan is almost neutral, but still a half tenth worse for the team as the under 4 thenths difference in PH scores of the two is neutralized by a 4 tenths HB loss (using Spring rather than Morgan). there is also a very tiny lowering of team vault from using Horton rather than Morgan.

3. Replacing Tan is a simple thing to think of, but robs the team of over a point of score. However, the substantial seven plus tenths benefit on horse is counterweighed by an incredible eighteen tenths difference of Spring and Tan on rings.

4. Replacing Hagerty is almost neutral, but still costs the team a tenth. The seven plus tenths on PH gained is counterweighted by almost 2 tenths lost on floor and six and half tenths on high bar with Spring replacing on each of those events.

5. Replacing Horton costs the team almost 6 tenths. The large benefit on PH is counterweighted by small damage (.16) on FX, very small damage on vault and over a point of damage on rings.

6. But looking at Spring last, we see over three and a half tenths benefit to the team from replacing Spring with Sasha. The seven tenths+ PH benefit is bigger than a very tiny vault impact and a more moderate PB damage of three tenths. In this scenario, Sash would be third on PBs, but Haggerty is almost the same.

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NET, NET: Just looking at this team, Sasha should replace Spring. This is based on a calculation that INCLUDES Sasha’s misses. Were he to hit, the result would be even more dramatic.

Great stuff. The only thing I’d add is that with Artemev on the team, there could be a draining aspect that doesn’t factor into score breakdowns. If Artemev goes up and falters, as he’s been known to do, the team momentum slows. In this scenario, perhaps the next guy doesn’t score as well as he might, even if Artemev scores better with a fall than whichever guy’s taken his place (especially on pommel horse.)

Anytime somebody falls, the pressure shifts to the next guy. The team as a whole gets a bit more nervous. Is that burden worth a couple tenths? The selection committee didn’t seem to think so.

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.

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.

2008 American Cup lineup and speculations

February 19, 2008

Paul Hamm International Gymnast Magazine has posted a complete lineup of the 2008 American Cup March 1 in New York City.

The American Cup, always one of the first international meets of the season, seems to take on added importance in the Olympic year. This year’s lineup will undoubtedly provide the speculation mill with fodder from now until August.

Gymnasts competing are:

Paul Hamm (Speculation likely to result: Whether or not Hamm has recaptured his best-in-the-world standing and will challenge Yang Wei for the Olympic all-around title.)

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