Posts Tagged ‘Svetlana Khorkina’

I’ve been waiting years for this

December 23, 2008

Ohmigosh! A Shaposhnikova-full on bars! Here’s former Utah recruit (she never competed for the Utes) Chelsey Colman doing the first I’ve ever seen.

Other variations of the Shaposhnikova include Svetlana Khorkina’s signature element on bars, basically a Shaposhnikova-half, and Nicole Harris, who did a toe-on Shaposh in 2004.

The Khorkina from its creator at the 1997 World Championship Event Finals:

Harris’s take, from the 2004 American Classic:

And of course, the original, from Natalia Shaposhnikova at the 1977 USSR Cup:

The ante’s upped now. Who’s going to be the first to do the Khorkina with an extra full twist?

(via Gymnastics Coaching)

Aliya Mustafina’s bars

November 29, 2008

Aliya Mustafina’s bars are great. Line and swing similar to Nastia Liukin’s. But Aliya, now 14, already looks as tall as Nastia at 18. Is she going to become a Svetlana Khorkina? Can her body take it if she does?

And could someone please tell me why the Russian juniors are always collectively so great but so rather underwhelming once they become seniors?

Aliya Mustafina, 2007 Voronin Cup, Uneven Bars:

Nastia Liukin, Uneven Bars, 2004:

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?

Little siblings — big potential

November 25, 2008

Family acts are fairly common in gymnastics. Parents tote all their kids, not just one, to the gym to wrench out energy at a young age, stuff like that.

Seems like good gymnastics runs in families too — one need only look to the Hamms (Betsy Hamm, Paul and Morgan’s older sister, was an NCAA Champion for the University of Florida during the late 90s) and the Roethlisbergers (John’s big sis Marie was a contender for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team) and a few others (the Khorkinas, Svetlana and Yulia, the Dantzchers, Jamie, Jalynne and Janelle, the Mackies, Gael and Charlotte, and on and on) for affirmation.

Here are a few new faces with “old” names poised to make a splash during the coming quad (although whether their splash will be as big as those their siblings have made is TBD).

Dasha’s sis Natalia Joura, International Level 10, Floor Exercise:

Chellsie’s sis Skyler Memmel, 2008 PKI Elite Qualifier, Balance Beam:

The incredible Nailia Mustafina, younger sister of up-and-coming Russian junior Aliya Mustafina, 2008 WOGA Classic, Balance Beam:

On the men’s side, there’s Glen Ishino, Allyse’s younger brother.

Glen Ishino practices parallel bars in the Cal Bears gym:

Missed anyone? Drop me a comment.

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:

No Olympics for Lozhechko

July 22, 2008

Russian Yulia Lozhechko on her best event.

From International Gymnast Magazine:

While the Russian women’s Olympic team has yet to be officially announced, veteran Yulia Lozhechko won’t be going to Beijing, head coach Andrei Rodionenko said Monday.

Lozhechko, the 2007 European Champion on balance beam, has lost all chances for the 2008 Olympics. Ksenia Afanasyeva, Yekaterina Kramarenko, Anna Pavlova and Ksenia Semyonova already have secured berths, and Svetlana Klyukina, Daria Yelizarova and Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova are vying for the remaining two spots, Rodionenko said.

Good grief! OK, so Lozhechko’s been a bit up and down since winning the 2007 Europeans on beam, but when she’s on, she could make event finals on that event easily, perhaps even medal. There must be something seriously wrong for her to be eliminated at this stage.

Then again, Lozhechko has a history of disobedience:

Lozhechko, a World Cup gold medalist and three-time world team member, was given a three-month suspension from the team last fall for defying the coaches at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart. In the preliminaries, Lozhechko was instructed to dismount balance beam with a simple double tuck, but attempted a more difficult Arabian double front to increase her chances of getting into the beam final. She fell on the dismount and was an alternate to the final.

Lozhechko was criticized by the coaching staff for “mental problems” following her subpar finish at the Russian Cup. After finishing 12th in qualification, fifth in the final and third on beam, she was nevertheless given the final invitation to the training camp in Leninsk-Kuznetsky. However, her Olympic chances ended there, Rodionenko said.

Yulia Lozhechko, 2007 World Championships All Around, Balance Beam:

She evoked Svetlana Khorkina in bodyline and movement, although apparently Rodionenko is less tolerant of “mental problems” than former Russian coach Leonid Arkayev was (hey, the man put up with The Diva for a decade, although Khorkina seemed to win more than she lost.)

With the more experienced four of the training camp — Pavlova, Kramarenko, Semyonova and Afanasyeva — confirmed, what an interesting choice between Grebenkova, Yelizerova and Klyukina for the final spot.

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.

Alina Kabayeva engaged – to Vladimir Putin?!

April 15, 2008

Russian rhythmic Olympic champion Alina Kabayeva has posed for Russian playboy. Lucky Vlad!

Nope, not a joke. Well, maybe it is a joke. Could it be a joke?

From the Department of Things That Make You Go Hmmm: International Gymnast Magazine, whose website seemed to be down for a few hours this afternoon, has posted a newsflash that Russian rhythmic superstar Alina Kabayeva is going to marry soon-to-be former Russian President Vladimir Putin, 55.

Putin divorced his wife two months ago. The couple is reportedly planning a June wedding. Putin’s second term in office expires in May.

(more…)

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:

Khorkina’s mixed-grip madness

January 17, 2008

Russian Svetlana Khorkina unveiled many new and innovative skills on the uneven bars.If you know gymnastics, you know that like her or not, Svetlana Khorkina did some of the most original and innovative bar routines in the sport’s history.

She (or rather, her longtime coach Boris Pilkin) is credited with some very original moves, including what International Gymnast Magazine Editor Dwight Normile recently described as “that crazy, whirling Shaposhnikova she used for years.”

In 1993, Khorkina debuted an early version of that skill. It’s a Shaposhnikova to a mixed grip, with a 180 degree turn after she catches the bar. And it’s fabulous.

I’ve never seen anyone do that before (or since.) Mixed grips on bars are great, and perhaps under-utilized.

Svetlana Khorkina, 1993 French International, Uneven Bars: