Posts Tagged ‘Yang Wei’

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?

Yang and Yang’s wedding spectacular II

November 12, 2008
Yang Wei and Yang Yun wed in an ultra-lavish ceremony.

Yang Wei and Yang Yun wed in an ultra-lavish ceremony.

Olympic gymnasts Yang Wei and Yang Yun had, like, the most amazing wedding ever. (Details, including the hot air balloon and the speedboat, are on the hip new blog Triple Full, as is an incredibly deatiled post about the unhappiness of the Brazilian women’s team.)

Too bad it’s being criticized for the corporate sponsorship that helped pay for it.

From The Vancouver Sun:

The wedding drew fire from Chinese Internet users after local media reported companies ranging from fashion designers to travel agencies sponsored the entire affair.

Pictures of the couple, splashed in newspapers and glossy magazines, showed the bride wearing a golden wedding dress, which reports said was valued at 30 million yuan ($5.19 million) and had been loaned from a Japanese designer.

“Without Yang Yun’s encouragement, I may not have been able to cope during 2008, much less achieve my Olympic dream,” the 28-year-old [Yang Wei] said on his blog.

“Having borne this huge pressure with her, I pledged to hold a romantic wedding for her. As a man, I felt it my responsibility.”

Yang said he was grateful that “friends and companies” had helped him organize the wedding given time constraints.

He was reported to have been staying in a 30,000 yuan-per-night ($5,195) suite in Hainan.

“Actually this was their way of expressing their love for us,” Yang said.

The couple also gave a press conference the morning after the festivities, explaining that they did not mean to offend anyone.

I did raise my eyebrows when I read on Gymnastics Coaching that the golden wedding dress Yang Yun is pictured in for a photo shoot cost approximately four million U.S. dollars. Then again, Yang and Yang worked unimaginably hard to earn their success.

If only the Chinese government, oft-criticized for its brutal, Eastern-bloc training practices, would rewarded all of its athletes who put up with as much as Yang and Yang — not just the ones who earned gold medals and Olympic glory. They deserve it.

Yang and Yang’s wedding spectacular!

October 29, 2008
China's most famous gymnastics couple did a wedding spread with Chinese Cosmo magazine.

China's most famous gymnastics couple did a wedding spread with Chinese Cosmo magazine.

More pictures, courtesy of Chinese Cosmopolitan magazine, can be found here.

Yang, in a poudy white dress, and Yang, in a very shiny suit, frolic in a gymnastic sort of way for the Cosmo photo shoot. I especially loved the floaty dresses Yang Yun was photographed in.

Gymnastics writer Diane Pucin of the L.A. Times notes that apparently Yang Wei had to get his coach’s permission to marry.

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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Nastia Liukin, Olympic Champion: Wow!

August 15, 2008

Nastia Liukin salutes the judges after her balance beam routine, en route to the all-around gold in Beijing.

Nastia Liukin salutes the judges after her balance beam routine, en route to the all-around gold in Beijing.

With elegance, style, poise, her signature pink leotard and a ton of flawlessly performed difficulty, Nastia Liukin captured the women’s all around gold medal, living up to promise and expectation that’s surrounded her since she won her first junior national championship in 2003.

Shawn Johnson took silver, while China’s Yang Yilin proved her all-around mettle, leading after two rotations and finishing with the bronze.

It was a class field that performed wonderfully. There was nary a huge mistake, save Jiang Yuyuan on vault. Yang, given her relative lack of experience and the enormous pressure to follow up Yang Wei’s heroics before the home crowd, also had the meet of her life. Her bronze was well deserved.

Liukin, however, was the class of the field, putting together the four best routines she’s done in years and not giving an inch to her competitors. So she was underscored on vault. Maybe Johnson was a bit underscored on bars. Maybe Yang was overscored on beam. The best woman still won. That’s all that matters right now.

What I liked most about this competition was that Liukin in some ways did something that seems almost relegated to old school gymnastics — she stuck her landings on vault, her beam dismount, and on that very difficult first tumbling pass. She polished every movement. She made it look easy. Johnson, despite sticking her bars dismount cold, did not. They talk about that a lot in gymnastics these days, but we so rarely see it now, particularly on vault.

When Liukin retires (and I hope it’s not this year) she’ll be remembered as one of the greatest American gymnasts ever — for her heritage, for her elegance, for her innovations (she was gutsy enough to attempt a quad on floor), for competing as a senior elite for three long years before the Olympic Games, for not listening to people who said she was too old, for not listening to people who said she was a two event gymnast, for not letting that ankle injury consume her, for maintaining a healthy rivalry with Johnson, a gymnast who is day to her night, and continuing to believe in herself.

She’s not the new Mary Lou. She’s nothing like Mary Lou, except in spirit. Maybe in 20 years some artistic kid will come along and they’ll wonder, “Could she be the next Nastia?”

Fantastic, Nastia. Just fantastic.

Was Yang Yun 14 in Sydney?

July 27, 2008

From The New York Times article that makes waves about the ages of Chinese gymnasts slated to compete in Beijing.

Yang Yun of China won individual and team bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and later said in an interview on state-run television that she had been 14 at the time of those Games. A Hunan Province sports administration report also said later that she had been 14 when she competed in Sydney.

If she really was 14 in Sydney, the charismatic Yang, reportedly the girlfriend/fiance of Olympic favorite Yang Wei, fooled a lot of people. He Kexin doesn’t look her reported age, but Yang did.

Yang Yun, 2000 Olympic Games Event Finals, Uneven Bars:

If Yang wasn’t old enough to compete in Sydney, who else wasn’t either?

Weekend update

May 13, 2008

News you can use from publications all over the country:

Deep in the Heart of Texas: Shawn Johnson completes her Amanar with no trouble at Karolyi camp

This again: A New Zealand-based article on how difficult gymnastics is

Canadian Kyle ShewfeltBruised and battered: Canadian Olympic team members

Russia rules: The 2008 Men’s European Championships

Under the radar: A feature on Bridget Sloan

Samantha Peszek drives a luxury vehicle. Guillermo Alvarez does not.

A third of the people who won gold at the European Championships: File under “Not Going to the Olympics”

Yang WeiGetting up there: International Gymnast Magazine with Russian French gymnast Dmitry Karbanenko

New Olympic favorite: With a spectacular Amanar, Jiang Yuyuan captures the Chinese Championships

We suspected it already, but: Yang Wei is the best gymnast in China

More on Memmel: With optimistic comments from Martha

Russian men on top at European Championships

May 9, 2008

Nikolai KryukovThe usual suspects — including Fabian Hambuchen, Yuri van Gelder and Nikolai Kryukov — all did very well during team qualifications at the Men’s European Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, International Gymnast Magazine reports.

Going into team finals, the picture looks like this:

1. Russia 273.175
2. Germany 268.000
3. Ukraine 267.025
4. Romania 266.275
5. Belarus 265.150
6. Switzerland 264.800
7. France 263.300
8. Italy 262.950

Russia seems likely to win the team title, but some good races are shaping up for event finals, particularly on rings, where would-be Olympic rings contender van Gelder will go up against Jordan Jovtchev. 2007 World high bar champion Hambuchen will go up against 2001 World high bar champion Vlasios Maras of Greece in event finals as well.

Some surprises though: Veteran among veterans Kryukov is leading on parallel bars and pommel horse. I think of Kryukov as the veteran among veterans not because he’s 28, but more because he’s been around since 1996, when at 16 he was the youngest member of the gold-medal winning Russian team in Atlanta.

The best male gymnasts of the past 10 years — Li Xiaoshaung, Alexei Nemov, Ivan Ivankov, Alexei Bondarenko, Li Xiaopeng, Yang Wei, Yevgeny Podgorny, Rustam Sharipov, Marian Dragulescu, Hiroyuki Tomita, Paul Hamm — Kryukov’s gone up against all of them. And the 1999 World Champion has proven that he’s among the best too.

In other news, the Russians appear to have let Maxim Devyatovsky back onto the team after his stint of bad behavior at the 2007 World Championships.

Devyatovsky competed all six events and was the top individual, though the all-around will not be contested in Lausanne.

Hamm wins Winter Cup

February 11, 2008

Paul Hamm won the Winter Cup this weekend in Las Vegas.It was hard to say how well Paul Hamm would do returning to competition. He certainly appeared to be getting better and better, based on the training videos posted on his and brother Morgan’s Making the Olympics website.

But how well would he stack up against many of the nation’s best in a real live all-around fight?

Hamm’s performance at the Winter Cup this weekend is likely to put all nay-sayers to rest. Despite falling on his Kasamatsu one and a half vault — the same vault he fell on in the Olympic all-around — Hamm was so dominant, so perfect everywhere else that in the space of 12 routines he went from being a likely contender to the likely contender not only to make the U.S. Olympic team, but to challenge his old nemesis Yang Wei for an all-around gold. Again.

AP sportswriter Eddie Pells released this glowing article about the 2004 Olympic champ Saturday:

Yes, it’s still very early, but the giddiness is palpable among the Americans, who now officially have Hamm as part of their 14-man team, which will be culled to six for the Olympics.

After watching him perform in preliminaries Thursday, 2006 national champion Sasha Artemev called Hamm the man to beat at the Olympics and said his presence pushes the U.S. team into gold-medal contention.

Granted, no gymnast ever comes to Winter Cup at the top of his game. But that includes Hamm, who is coming back after a 2 1/2-year break, and the fact that he’s this good at this point can only be viewed as a positive sign.

Raj Bhavsar at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials.Raj Bhavsar made a strong statement for his inclusion on the U.S. team in Beijing as well, finishing second all-around with a 178.6. Perhaps most redeeming for Bhavsar is the fact that he finished ahead of Artemev, who is as brilliant as he is inconsistent. Reigning U.S. champion David Durante was fourth, followed by Joey Hagerty and David Sender.

Inside Gymnastics Magazine reported along with its coverage of the meet that Bhavsar will join Hamm and 2007 American Cup champion Jonathan Horton as part of the U.S. contingent at the 2008 American Cup March 1 in New York City.

Men’s artistic gymnastics: 12 to watch in ’08

January 16, 2008

Brazil's Diego Hypolito

For men’s gymnastics, the 2008 Olympic Games seem to loom as a competition where old scores are literally to be settled. The judging scandals that plauged the men’s events in Athens in 2004 — in the all-around, on high bar, parallel bars and still rings — seem to have kept many athletes in the gym and training for redemption in Beijing. (more…)