Posts Tagged ‘Zou Kai’

12 to watch in 2009 — a recap

January 8, 2009

Japans Kohei Uchimura is likely to be very successful in 2009.

Japan's Kohei Uchimura is likely to be very successful in 2009.

Posted late last month and early into this one, here are my picks for who will make waves in 2009:

    Sabrina Gill, Canada
    Kohei Uchimura, Japan
    Jeffery Wammes and Epke Zonderland, Netherlands
    Viktoria Komova, Russia
    Fabian Hambuchen, Germany
    Larissa Iordache, Romania
    Samantha Shapiro and Jordyn Wieber, USA
    Alexy Bilozerchev, USA
    Tatiana Nabieva, Russia
    Nathan Gafuik, Canada
    Cui Jie, China
    Benoit Caranobe, France

Honorable mentions: Peng-Peng Lee and Charlotte Mackie, Canada; Becky Downie, Great Britain; Koko Tsurumi, Japan; Paola Galente, Italy, Ksenia Semyonova, Aliya Mustafina and Nailia Mustafina,  Russia; Sergei Khorokhordin, Russia; Alexander Vorobyov, Ukraine; Stephen Legendre, USA; Thomas Bouhail, France; Zou Kai, China; Louis Smith, Great Britain. Good luck to all in 2009.

10 things that should have happened during the Olympics….

October 7, 2008
Aussie Daria Joura deserved better than she got in Beijing.

Aussie Daria Joura deserved better than she got in Beijing.

…and didn’t.

1. The Australian program, which aside from Russia and China has the best combination of artistry and athleticism, should have made a bigger impact. The unfortunate injury to Aussie star Dasha Joura in team prelims undercut Australia’s chances of being a bigger hit at these Games. Hopefully Joura goes on in gymnastics, although her countrywomen have certainly been able to translate their gymnastics prowess into other sports. She’s the best Australia’s ever had, and could continue to have a big impact on sport in her country.

2. The Russian program, which aside from China and Australia has the best combination of artistry and athleticism, should have made a bigger impact. The elegant and classy veteran Anna Pavlova, who knows something about peaking during the Olympic Games, was robbed of medals on both balance beam and vault. At 20, she’s also a candidate for continuing, and can draw inspiration from her more aged elite teammates Yelena Zamolodchikova and Lyudmila Yezhova Grebenkova.

(more…)

A few thoughts on event finals

September 4, 2008
He Kexins uneven bars win was controversial, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

He Kexin's uneven bars win was controversial, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Belatedly posted due to post-Olympic hangover, I think.

It was an improvement over 2004 (almost anything would be), but in this blogger’s opinion only, the judges still got a few things wrong during the three nights of Olympic event finals.

Namely…

Women’s Vault: It was blatant partisanship, giving Cheng Fei the bronze after she fell on the vault named after her. Or that’s what I thought at first. One has to remember, however, that the Cheng vault has a much higher start value than Sacramone’s double-twisting Yurchenko; high enough that Cheng can fall and still place higher than Sacramone. Add in the fact that Cheng’s start value on her first vault, which was beautiful, was 0.2 higher than Sacramone’s.

So although I don’t think a gymnast should fall and get a medal, the judges didn’t mess that one up — the code of points is to blame.

Women’s Uneven Bars: Some will say Nastia Liukin should have won it. Some will defend He Kexin’s gold. I say this: Bronze medalist Yang Yilin should have won. It’s gymnastics scoring 101: If all routines are valued as having equal difficulty, the one that has the least visible errors should win. He went over on one of her handstand pirouettes and took a step on her dismount.

Liukin went over on one of her low bar handstands and had the perennial form issues, as always, on her dismount. Yang’s routine, though less spectacular than either Liukin’s or He’s, had none of those errors. Andrew Thornton on Gymnast.com agrees.

Balance Beam: This one I agree with. Shawn Johnson was cleanest and performed her tons of difficulty flawlessly, even if Liukin has the artistry and extension. She deserves a gold medal for consistency alone, for having performed that routine virtually flawlessly in every competition since the 2007 American Cup (2007 Worlds event finals notwithstanding.)

Might have been different had not Liukin had the big hop on her dismount. Too bad Li Shanshan had another meltdown — I’d like to see her win a World Championship. When she’s on, she deserves it.

Women’s Floor Exercise:The multitalented Sandra Izbaza, a championship handball player before she dedicated herself to gymnastics, proved that tradition dies hard. So, consequently, did Gabriela Dragoi on balance beam.

The Romanians really need to embrace the artistic component of this code, and perhaps add some more ballet to their training, which was obviously a component of their gymnastics regimens during the 1980s but seemed to disappear during the mid-90s.

Zou Kai displays form that could be improved on floor exercise.

Zou Kai displays form that could be improved on floor exercise.

Men’s High Bar: This one actually made me kind of mad. Seems like overnight Jonathan Horton has turned from an amateur into a professional gymnast — the sort who points his toes at all times, who can deliver in the clutch and whose extension has improved dramatically. In the space of literally one Olympics, he’s matured from the X Games kid to an adult gymnast. From here on out, it could be a whole new world for him.

Which brings me to the point: He should have been the Trent Dimas of Beijing. He had the tricks and he had the form. Nice as his laid-out Jaeger full was, Zou Kai’s extension and swing were a lot poorer than Horton’s, and he wasn’t penalized for it. If a gymnast from France or Italy or the U.S. had done the same routine as Zou, I can’t help feeling that his B score would have been much lower. Horton deserved the gold here.

When men’s floor was artistic

August 27, 2008

To watch the Olympic gymnastics with someone who doesn’t follow the sport is always an illuminating experience.

During the men’s all-around, my TV companion asked if men’s floor had always been a combination of really athletic moves with rather “sissy” elements like scales and awkward, deliberate steps into corners.

Absolutely not, I said, and called up this clip of China’s elegant, dynamic Tong Fei from the 1982 Rome Grand Prix.

Tong’s routine has real choreography and resembles a dance even though there’s no music. Despite his powerful tumbling and miraculous twisting ability, artistrically Olympic floor champ Zou Kai’s routine is downright dull in comparison.

Zou Kai, 2006 Asian Games, Floor Exercise:

Hopefully next code is better.

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.

Chinese Dominate Tianjin World Cup

May 16, 2008

Chinese floor specialist Zou Kai had a mistake on floor but won high bar at the Tianjin World Cup.Eight world cup golds. In a single competition. Out of 10 events. Goodness.

The Chinese are certainly putting on a display of strength leading up to Beijing. This week’s example is the World Cup, held in Tianjin, where the Chinese won everything, except men’s floor (that one went to Japan’s Kohei Uchimura and men’s vault, which was won by North Korea’s Ri Se Gwang.

The usual suspects won everything else. (Women’s vault, beam and floor went to Cheng Fei. Bars were won by Yang Yilin after teammate He Kexin withdrew from the competition, citing “exhaustion”. Li Xiaopeng won parallel bars, Xiao Qin won pommel horse, Zou Kai high bar, and Chen Yibing rings.

Youtube user Fanbutterfly has videos.

It’s a little deceptive, given the fairly weak field and the fact that the competition was held in China. Then again, Americans like me probably shouldn’t complain. It’s not like we don’t do the same thing every year.

(via International Gymnast Magazine)