Posts Tagged ‘Svetlana Khorkina’

Khorkina the politician

December 30, 2007

Two-type Olympic bars champion Svetlana Khorkina and Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion Alina Kabayeva have traded acrobatics for politics, The Times of London reported today.

VLADIMIR PUTIN has resorted to an age-old trick to capture the voters’ imagination: sexing up the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, with an array of glamorous new female recruits.

Ahead of this month’s rigged parliamentary elections, Putin was reported to have complained that there were not enough beautiful women in his United Russia party. The error was soon corrected with a platform of stunning ladies, including four former athletes who have starred in topless photoshoots and Svetlana Zakharova, the elegant principal ballerina of the Bolshoi.

Those four include both Khorkina, now 28, who posed for Russian Playboy after winning the world all-around title in 1997, and Kabayeva, 24, who apparently appeared somewhere “seminaked in a fur rug.”

Even among a bevy of sexy women, Khorkina gets top-dog status.

Top debutante among the new Duma intake (already being described as “Putin’s babes”) is Svetlana Khorkina, 28, a leggy blonde who was a seven-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast. She caused a scandal when she appeared nude in Playboy magazine with her unashamed “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” approach.

“I changed people’s attitudes,” she said. “It’s very good to be sexy.”

Some things never change.

The influx of athletes to provide a little star power in politics is not a new concept. How many professional football players have been elected to the U.S. House or Senate during the past 30 years?

Even Nadia Comaneci was reported to have been offered a position in the Romanian parliament earlier this year. Guess she chose to do Celebrity Apprentice instead.

It’s over.

November 17, 2007

If she throws an Amanar, Shawn Johnson is likely to win the all-around competition in Beijing.

That’s right. The 2008 Olympic all-around competition is over.

An interview with Chow Liang by International Gymnast Magazine editor Dwight Normile affirmed that Chow’s prodigy, 2007 World Champion Shawn Johnson, will soon be back to full training following treatment for a stress reaction in her right shin.

“World champion gymnast suffers slight injury, gets better, returns to training” isn’t the news. What is, as Normile gently reminds readers, is that Johnson has and may continue working on her Amanar — a Yurchenko vault with 2.5 twists — which she came within a few seconds of performing at the U.S. Championships in August.

Chow couldn’t say what changes, if any, he would make in Johnson’s routines for 2008, but we might see her upgrade to a 2-1/2-twisting Yurchenko on vault. After all, she almost competed it at the Visa Championships last August. “We did it during the warm-up,” Chow said. “I almost had her do it — almost. I probably felt one month short (of preparation) back then. I didn’t want to take any risk.”

Johnson probably doesn’t need to do an Amanar to win the all-around in Beijing. But if she does, it would put everyone else nearly out of contention to catch her.

The 2008 all-around champ -- and this event is why.

At the 2007 Worlds, Johnson won by 1.25 points over Romanian Steliana Nistor and was 1.325 ahead of bronze medalists Jade Barbosa and Vanessa Ferrari, both of whom would have placed above Nistor had Barbosa not fallen on floor and Ferrari on bars.

But even crediting Barbosa and Ferrari with eight tenths by assuming their mistakes were flukes, Johnson is still pacing the field by more than half a point.

Risk of injury aside, Johnson has almost nothing to lose by competing this vault. Whether or not she stands it up, if she can get credit for attempting an Amanar, her start value on vault will balloon by seven-tenths of a point. If does stand it up, even with a huge hop or lunge backward, she’s going to get a score that’s out of this world. They might as well mail the gold to Iowa as soon as her feet hit the ground.

Recall Barbosa’s 15.9 for a decent Yuchenko 2.5 during the all-around final. Johnson got a 15.175 for a nice DTY.

Jade Barbosa, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Vault:

Shawn Johnson, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Vault:

We may see silver and bronze contenders attempting two-and-a-halfs just to get the start value boost. It’s almost surprising we haven’t seen it yet. Of the top 10 in Stuttgart, only Johnson, Barbosa and maybe Ferrari look as though they have what it takes to land that vault on their feet.

Barbosa would be a threat, as her tumbling is equally difficult, but she’s proven less consistent on her better events, and the small form breaks she gives away on bars and beam will likely keep her chasing Johnson. Although this might be selling the 2006 World champ a bit short, it doesn’t seem like Ferrari has quite enough power to do an Amanar.

Vanessa Ferrari, 2007 World Championships Team Finals, Vault:

Why is it that vault, arguably the least exciting event, always seems to decide these things? In 1984, it gave Mary Lou Retton the gold and enduring fame. In 2000, it cost Svetlana Khorkina what was basically presumed to be “her” victory. In 2008, it may well seal Shawn Johnson’s.

It’s almost funny — if either Alicia Sacramone or Cheng Fei threw a triple twisting Yurchenko, their scores would be so high as to put them in contention for the all-around gold, despite the deficiencies both have on bars.

Yezhova makes her return

November 13, 2007

The latest comeback kid: Russian Lyudmila Yezhova (now Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova), who at 25 is no longer a kid.

Doesn’t seem so long ago when Fan Ye and Yezhova went 1-2 on balance beam at the 2003 Worlds in Anaheim.

Fan Ye's perfect sheep jump on balance beam, via Grace Chiu photos.

Fan’s routine in event finals, which received a whopping 9.812, was described by one as “the closest one has come to perfection” in a very long time.

Fan Ye, 2003 World Championshiops Event Finals, Balance Beam:

But Yezhova was no slouch either.

Lyudmila Yezhova, 2003 World Championships Event Finals, Balance Beam:

Both appeared again at last weekend’s Glasgow Grand Prix, where Grebenkova signalled her return to the international scene by taking top honors on her best event. It wasn’t quite the rivalry of 2003. Fan, eighth in the qualifying round, improved to finish fourth.

As she, Zamo and Khorkina proved at the 2004 Olympic Games, Russians are able to maintain top skills despite achieving a so-called “advanced” age. But if Grebenkova makes the 2008 Russian team, she’ll be one of the first to make her comeback and actually compete for the mother country.

Others who have been considered too old to contribute to traditional Eastern-bloc powerhouse teams have migrated to other countries — Oksana Chusovitina bounced from Uzbekistan to Germany (and trained for a short period of time in the United States), while Viktoria Karpenko and 1996 Olympian Yevgenia Kuznetsova emigrated to Bulgaria. Former Ukranian Alona Kvasha is rumored to be training for Australia.

Alona Kvasha, 2000 Olympics Team Qualification, Floor Exercise:

It’s worth noting that the mother country could certainly use someone like Grebenkova right now. Yelena Zamolodchikova looks more like a shadow of her former self every year, Svetlana Khorkina has finally disappeared, Anna Pavlova still lacks consistency, Nadezhda Ivanova retired with an illness, Yulia Lozhechko is off the team until further notice and many of the fabulous Russian juniors everyone spent 2006 reading about have been injured. The door is wide open.

Liukin: Young in spirit, if not in body anymore

October 31, 2007

Nastia Liukin

Two-time U.S. champion Nastia Liukin celebrated her 18th birthday by telling International Gymnast Magazine’s Amanda Turner that the 2008 Beijing Olympics might not be the swansong of her career.

“I am really focusing on this year coming up, but I’m definitely not thinking about retiring right away!” said Liukin, who lives and trains in Texas. “I can’t imagine my life without gymnastics right now. I would like to continue for as long as my body will hold up.”

Liukin has generally seemed pretty good about recognizing that the Olympics aren’t the be-all and do-all of one’s life, or even one’s gymnastics career. It’s a healthy attitude, and one that will help her out a lot if next summer doesn’t quite go as planned.

“My heart is in the sport more than ever, and I am simply loving what I do,” she said. “I feel like I have worked so hard and so long, and to just finish next year would be almost strange.”

Eighteen seems about the age when gymnastics commentators — if not gymnasts themselves — start thinking about retirement. The talk from the NBC trio at the 2007 U.S. Championships in August was fraught with the idea that Shawn Johnson will only be 16 in Beijing, while Liukin will be 18, nearly 19. Sheesh. Maybe that’s why younger gymnasts do better in international competition — they know nobody’s about to ask them what their retirement plans are at the post-meet press conference.

It should be noted that even in gymnastics, Olympic gold medalists don’t all come in young packages. Liu Xuan was 21 in Sydney. So was Svetlana Khorkina. Shannon Miller was 19 in Atlanta.

Shannon Miller, 1996 Olympic Games Event Finals, Balance Beam:

Liukin, who is tied with Miller for most medals won by any U.S. gymnast at the World Championship competition, might see that as oine reason to keep competing after Beijing. Breaking Miller’s record would be a unique accomplishment, and solidify her place as one of the greatest American gymnasts of all time.

Not that it needs much more solification — from here, eveything else should be looked at as icing on a very golden cake. Happy birthday, Nastia.

— Further reading: Liukin good at age 18 from NBCOlympics.com

Who says tall girls can’t do bars?

October 26, 2007

Russia's Svetlana Khorkina ranks as one of the sport's great tall barworkers.

Certainly not I. German Marie-Sophie Hindermann’s fourth-place finish on uneven bars at the 2007 World Championships is one more piece of proof that you don’t have to be short to have fluid swing, smooth transitions and graceful release skills on the event.

Marie-Sophie Hindermann, 2007 World Championships Event Finals, Uneven Bars:

Other tall gymnasts who were exceptional on bars include current World silver medalist Nastia Liukin, Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina, France’s Isabelle Severino, the Netherlands’ Verona van der Leur and former U.S. National Team members Alyssa Beckerman and Ashley Miles.

Severino’s hop-full, Def combination at the 1997 World Championships:

Khorkina’s signature originality on display at the 2000 Olympics:

Liukin’s intricacy at the 2005 World Championships:

Another innovation from Liu Xuan

October 4, 2007

China's Liu Xuan in flight.

Seven years after her retirement, China’s Liu Xuan continues to amaze me with her creativity. Xuan, who was considered too old by her coaches to be competitive at the 2000 Olympics, stunned everybody by striking gold on balance beam with the routine of a lifetime during event finals. Not to mention the bronze she got in the all-around when Andreea Raducan was stripped of her title.

Liu’s golden routine on balance beam from the 2000 Olympic Games:

Thanks to Aleksas Trotter’s Youtube channel, I discovered that Liu was perhaps the first to perform a Jaeger with a half turn on uneven bars, which countrywoman Li Ya amazed everybody with at Cottbus in 2006 by performing it in combination with a second Jaeger.

Liu Xuan on uneven bars at the 1998 Sagit Cup:

Li Ya on uneven bars at Cottbus in 2006:

Liu also pioneered a one-arm giant, which she performed in combination with a second one-arm giant into a Geinger in 1995 and 1996.

Svetlana Khorkina is given tons of credit for her innovations on all events, particularly bars, and deservedly so. But the Chinese gymnasts of the 1996 generation, especially Liu, deserve the same.