Posts Tagged ‘Shannon Miller’

Nastia Liukin on Gossip Girl

December 4, 2008

Nastia, of course, is not the only successful Olympic gymnast to land cameos on TV. Shawn Johnson also got hit on by a cute guy on The Secret Life of the American Teenager:

During the 1990s, Shannon Miller had a cameo on an episode of Saved by the Bell, although I couldn’t find a clip of it, and Kerri Strug did a bit on Saturday Night Live with a high-voiced Chris Kattan. Strug also, I’m told by commenters, did a cameo on Beverly Hills 90210.

Who was better the second time around?

November 27, 2008
Dominique Dawes was better in her second Olympics than her first.

Dominique Dawes was better in her second Olympics than her first.

“She was as good in her second Olympics as she was in her first. You can rarely say that about a gymnast.”

So go my thoughts on now injured Russian star Anna Pavlova, who blew out her knee at the DBT Cup earlier this month. Maybe that’s not quite accurate — Pavlova was in the hunt for an all-around medal in Athens (and probably would have gotten one, had she been competing in the leaders group in the all-around. Although in top form in Beijing, she made too many mistakes to really challenge for an all-around medal there.

Still, Pavlova’s achievement is pretty incredible: How many gymnasts look as good in their second Olympics as they did in their first? Few names pop to mind.

Americans Dominique Dawes and Shannon Miller come to mind, particularly Dawes, who didn’t come into her own in gymnastics before sweeping the titles at the 1994 U.S. Championships. (Dawes and Amy Chow looked OK in Sydney but perhaps suffered from a little lack of prep time before beginning very serious training in 2000. My opinion is both were better in 1996.) Kerri Strug came into her own in 1996.

China’s Liu Xuan looked far steadier and more experienced at the 2000 Olympic Games than she did in Atlanta. Lavinia Milosovich, Gina Gogean and Simona Amanar and their Olympic performances in 1992 and 1996 (Gogean, Milo) and 1996 and 2000 (Amanar) are the reason the Romanians have the reputation of consistency that they do.

Men’s careers are more easily traced by an arc, rather than a line from one Olympics to another the way the women are. American Blaine Wilson, who competed in three Olympic Games, reached his apex in his second in 2000. So did John Roethlisberger, who competed in Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney. Assuming he would have competed in 1996 had he not ruptured his achilles in Atlanta, Ivan Ivankov was best in his “second” games too, in Sydney.

Paul and Morgan Hamm were at their best in Athens, all grown up after Sydney. From the way Paul Hamm looked at the U.S. Championships in June before breaking his hand, he would be among the very few one could say looked as good in their third Games as they did in their second.

Then there are ageless types like Oksana Chusovitina and Jordan Jovtchev, whose gymnastics looked the same in 2008 as it did in 1996, and Italian ringmaster Yuri Chechi, who won the gold in Atlanta and made a surprising comeback to take bronze in Athens in 2004.

I’m always a bit suprised to see France’s Dimitry Karbanenko still on an Olympic roster, though. It was like watching 1988 Soviet team member Sergei Kharkov competing 10 years ago for Germany. Li Xiaoshaung got his greatest honor the second time around. Yang Wei took three tries to win an Olympic all-around.

Beth Tweddle, Daiane dos Santos and Daniele Hypolito seem not to age much, either. Svetlana Khorkina looked a tad young in her first games, best in her second and somewhat frightening in her third.

Who wasn’t better the second time around? Hmm — Henrietta Onodi. Yelena Zamolodchikova. Svetlana Boginskaya peaked around 1990 and wasn’t quite the same in 1992 or 1996. Vitaly Scherbo, but that’s a case of extenuating circumstances.

Sexy Alexei Nemov was perhaps less, um, enthusastic the second time around, but he got the big prize in the end. You got the sense that by his third time in 2004, it was just all about fun.

Anyone else?

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:

Nastia’s next move: London 2009

October 20, 2008

Olympic champion Nastia Liukin is being realistic about the possibility of her being on the elite scene in 2012.

In an interview earlier this week, however, Liukin said she will resume training in January with an eye to competing at the 2009 World Championships in London.

Liukin, who was named Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation, is tied with Shannon Miller for number of world medals won. Each has nine.

Liukin, who turns 19 this month, will resume training in January with a view towards competing in front of her home fans in Dallas in August and at the world championships in London in October.

“That’s what my next big goal is,” said Liukin.

“2012 is four years away, so it’s hard to say as far as what I’m doing,” she said about the possibility of defending her Olympic title in London.

The last woman to win back-to-back Olympic titles was Vera Caslavska of Czechoslovakia. In 1968.

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.

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.

A Tatiana Nabieva retrospective

April 9, 2008

The newly-crowned junior European Champion may seem like she’s got a long future ahead of her, but she already has quite a past. Youtube user Beechurst10 has videos of a nine-year-old Tatiana Nabieva at the 2003 Voronin Cup.

Tatiana Nabieva, 2003 Voronin Cup, Balance Beam:

Tatiana Nabieva, 2003 Voronin Cup, Floor Exercise:


What is this thing doing in my blog?

March 11, 2008

What does the so-called disappearance of a Renton, Wash.-based eye doctor have anything to do with gymnastics?

The doctor’s name happens to be Chris Phillips. And if that rings a bell somewhere in the recesses of the gymnastics fanatic’s mind, it’s because Phillips was once married to Shannon Miller.


Pressure’s on, Shawn

March 10, 2008

Shawn Johnson appears to be back on track.

After her first senior international defeat at last weekend’s American Cup, the Des Moines, Iowa native bounced back by winning her first all-around title of 2008 as the U.S. defeated Italy, Spain and Poland in a “fun” meet this weekend in Jesolo, Italy, about 20 miles northeast of Venice.

Johnson reportedly did not throw her Amanar vault, which she fell on at the Cup.

Not that she needed to. Her closest competition, 2006 World Champion Vanessa Ferrari, performed only a full-twisting Yurchenko and finished more than one and a half points behind Johnson, who apparently had some kind of stumble on floor exercise (15.0). Up-and-coming American Samantha Peszek, third at the American Cup, was third at this meet as well. Complete results are on International Gymnast Magazine’s website

More thoughts on Johnson’s performance at the American Cup, previously unposted:


Gymnastics as choreography

February 1, 2008

International Gymnast Magazine editor Dwight Normile posted a list of “Skills and Combinations I’d Rather Not See (Anymore)” on the magazine’s website last week.

I agree with almost everything he’s written, particuarly his critique of side somie on beam, which he characterizes as “better suited for the circus, where an acrobat does about 10 of them in a row as he circles the ring.” Amen.

Not too long ago, Normile also posted a list of skills and combinations he’d love to see more of. Among them: Full-twisting Arabian dive rolls on floor exercise (think Soviet great Oksana Omelienchik), an Ono to an immediate full pirouette to elgrip on uneven bars and dismounts directly after release skills on high bar.

Oksana Omelienchik, 1985 World Championships Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

What I feel is most lacking in women’s gymnastics today is real choreography on floor exercise. A twisting jump is not choreography. Nor is a roundoff, double full side pass.

Granted, not everyone has the balletic acumen of a Nastia Liukin.

But these non-balletic gymnasts have in the past made better use of simple gymnastics moves for choreography. A back handspring is unexpected, crowd-pleasing and fits very well into a lot of routines. Kim Zmeskal, for one, used it to great effect in her lively floor routines. So did Gina Gogean.

Kim Zmeskal, 1990 Goodwill Games All-Around, Floor Exercise:

Gina Gogean, 1997 World Championships Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

And who could forget Chellsie Memmel’s back-extension roll to headspring, or the showstopping finish to her 2003 floor routine?

Chellsie Memmel, 2003 World Championships Team Finals, Floor Exercise:

None of these three were exactly ballerinas. But their choreogprahers found gymnastics elements that fit the music. More of that, please.

Even Shannon Miller, who was something of a dancer, used a back handspring in the floor routine she used form 1992 to 1994. She also had a lovely (and fairly unnecessary) roundoff, full-twisting back handspring.

Shannon Miller, 1992 Olympics Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

In the NCAA, where pleasing the crowd and showing personality are given much more attention, flips that land on the belly are popular. Also understandable — even the most seasoned gymanstics-watcher can’t help but go “Wow!” when they fit the music.