Monday

Romania in the News: December 5th to 11th

The most important event of the week for Romanians was the Italian Grand Prix held in Catania where Larisa Iordache and Catalina Ponor competed. There were various articles with results but nothing fancy: GSP, Prosport, Romgym .
What concerns me is that they are mentioning Larisa Iordache had a small injury that kept her from competing for several months. Prosport goes as far as five months of break after a foot "intervention" for Larisa and small leg injury for Catalina. How come we didn't we know that?

GSP: Nadia was awarded the key of the city of Acapulco at Mexican Open Gymnastics Championship. (article HERE)

Libertatea: Saint Nicholas filled the shoes of the gymnasts that train at Izvorani with gifts, "especially sweets", as Mariana Bitang mentioned. (HERE)


Sunday

Larisa Iordache returns to competition

As she placed second on UB (after Komova) in a Grand Prix meet in Catania, Italy.
Aside from a few legs separations, She looked strong, better even than last summer:


Also, Catalina Ponor placed second on BB. The combo of pirouettes is a nice addition to her routine:



More routines from the competition on javiercollados's youtube channel.

Tuesday

Romania in the News: November 28th to December 4th of December

Prosport: Anca Grigoras about the reasons why Romanian gymnasts did not compete at Ostrava (HERE) ("they are in a different stage in their preparation", "It was something they applied for months ago", " "It's better so sign up for it in advance and then withdraw then not to do it and regret", you know, the good stuff)

Adevarul: Interview with Catalina Ponor (HERE) "Worlds were disappointing... no.. extremely disappointing" yes, she's said that many times but I guess people just don't have other questions for her, although this interviewer does try to find out a little bit more about Catalina, we must at least give her that.

... and the video version (HERE)

Messagerul Hunedorean: about Alpen Adrian Cup and Top Gym (HERE)

The Couch Gymnast: interview with Nicolae Forminte and Liliana Cosma (HERE)

Cris asks a good question: "Why is everybody leaving?" of the junior team that represented Romania at 2010 Europeans only Diana Bulimar and Larisa Iordache are still training. My question is, is Stoica asking himself these questions?

TVR: a renown Turkish physician has examined the gymnasts at Izvorani (HERE) - includes some training footage.

Libertatea: interview with Marian Dragulescu (HERE) - although libertatea is not AS ridiculous as other times, the interview is still extremely silly: "are you rich?", "what do you think about Marius Berbecar's 0 at worlds?"* and in the chapter "superstitions" we have warming up before competing.

*I am not sure if you are aware but, Marius Berbecar, who is a Romanian gymnast, and a pretty good one too, got a 0 for a vault at worlds. He could not perform the vault so he chose to land safely on his back - the result - a well deserved but far from unheard of - 0 mark. But the Romanian press is so moronic that the episode was presented as THE news from Worlds (maybe "Returning home without medals" was a bit bigger, not sure). I remember even reading something like "From Nadia's 10 to Berbecar's 0, 30 years of Romanian gymnastics". Yes. This is the press we have in Romania.

Romanians at Top Gym

Paula Tudorache - BB:


Paula Tudorache UB:



Paula Tudorache  FX:



Paula Tudorache VT:



Stefania Stanila UB:



Stefania Stanila FX:



Stefania Stanila BB:



Stefania Stanila 1st VT:



Stefania Stanila 2nd VT:



Thank you, Dutchfan33 for uploading these!

Missing Sandra Izbasa

because she is not boring without ever being over the top:
 "I want to thank the people that are following us in competitions. Gymnastics is a sport for intelligent people. You have to understand how the code of points works and why the judges give 14's, 15s or 13s. Because when they don't get it, people don't watch". She is glad when she sees fans shaking banners . She salutes them in the gym because she doesn't have a Facebook account or a personal site. (full article HERE)

I cannot stop wondering where the team would have been in Tokyo with a healthy Sandra Izbasa throwing vaults like these:


Monday

Romania in the News: November 21st to 27th

The Couch Gymnast: Italian Juniors dominated the meet against Romania, Germany and Finland held  in the weekend 19th-20th of November (HERE)

Prosport: Nadia and Bart visited Disneyland for Thanksgiving (HERE)

Adevarul: Catalina Ponor opens up about  2011Worlds and being a gymnast in Romania (HERE) ! Bonus: A very good translation by Fangymnastics (HERE)

Gazeta Sporturilor: Bela Karoly's reaction to an article published in the Romanian press saying that it was in fact another coach, Marcel Duncan, that discovered Nadia (HERE)

Fangymnastics: Paula Tudorache and Stefania Stanila place 14th and 18th respectively at Top Gym (HERE)

Jurnalul National: Complete list of sportsmen and women that medaled at Olympics, Worlds and Euros and benefit of the financial reward that was re-re-debated two weeks ago- includes the monthly pay in Romanian Lei (HERE)

Fangymnastics: A translation of an older interview with Catalina Ponor (HERE)

Evenimentul zilei: The gymnasts want to be the "golden girls" again - article featuring Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa (HERE)

A poll for Romanian Gymnastics

Fangymnastics is starting a project to support Romanian Gymnastics. The preliminary phase consists of gathering some essential info from other gymnastics enthusiasts. If you want to help this initiative, please follow one of the links:

English version here!

Romanian version here!

Wednesday

Team Romania - (Worlds) Qualification Videos - Vault and Bars


Vault

Ana Porgras (13.90/5.0)


Diana Chelaru (14.633/5.8)


Amelia Racea (14.4/5.8)


Raluca Haidu (14.366/5.8)


Catalina Ponor (14.766/5.8)


Uneven Bars
Diana Bulimar (12.433/5.4)


Raluca Haidu (13.833/6.0)


Amelia Racea (13.666)


Ana Porgras (12.666/6.0)


Diana Chelaru (13.533/5.5)


Over-scored... nothing really
Underscored: plenty... absolutely all the vaults. One question: what was wrong with Ana Porgras's vault?
The highlights: Diana Blimar's UB dismount, Pitic nailing all combinations,
My gymnast of the second half: Raluca Haidu.

What did you think of the scores?



Team Romania - (Worlds) Qualifications videos - Beam and Floor

The qualifications videos have finally arrived (thanks to piibuna on youtube). I was extremely curious how harsh were Romania really judged. After seeing the videos, I can say that they were sometimes underscored, rarely over scored and most of the times very fairly scored.

Balance Beam
Amelia Racea (14.733/ 6.1 D)


Diana Bulimar (14.066/6.3)


Catalina Ponor (15.00/6.3)


Ana Porgras (14.4/6.5)


Raluca Haidu (14.533/6.2)


Floor Exercise

Raluca Haidu (13.733/5.5)


Diana Chelaru (14.233/ 5.8)


Ana Porgras (13.866/5.6)


Diana Bulimar (14.4/5.8)


Catalina Ponor (14.2/5.8)


- The most over-scored in this batch was Raluca Haidu's BB;
- The most under-scored was Diana Bulimar's floor;
- The highlights were Raluca's and Amelia's opening passes on BB as well as Diana Bulimar's BB routine (except for the fall);
- My favorite gymnast so far - Diana Bulimar.




Monday

Romania return home without medals



Bellu: "Some drastic measures must be taken...  Because this counter performance, for which I take full responsibility, must be left behind. Probably we made a wrong assessment and we were mistaken thinking some of the girls are able to do more and want more. For me the problem that remains is how these girls are doing so well in training and are unable to keep the rhythm during the competition and cannot regroup in order to overcome the mistakes they make.
It is a catastrophic result, let's not revolve around small words. I am waiting for the federation to draw some conclusions, I take responsibility for the failure although it is very difficult considering the amount of work we have put in this. We have a recipe that worked before Sydney and Athens but maybe the girls are made of a different dough. We will return to the gym and we will give up the label that the girls are unable to cope with a harsh training schedule. The ones that can cope with it will remain, the ones who cannot cope will not."
Ana Porgras: "I am glad I managed to focus and have a good (AA) final. I am thinking about London but I know that we must wake up after these Worlds and work hard in the gym. The elegance prize is nice, I feel honored but a medal in the event finals would have been better."

Source: Prosport

Friday

Nelson Savage Interview (Gymnastike.org)


Watch more video of World Gymnastics Championships Tokyo 2011 on gymnastike.org



"...there are a lot of great professionals out there, they know the girls that have passed through, they know the ones that have done quality gymnastics... I expect they will keep the scores the way they started until the and and that is all we can hope for"



Bad day for Romania at Worlds

My heart breaks for these girls...
Photo by Brigid McCarthy

Tuesday

So far so good...


Anna Li
photo credit: Brigid McCarthy
Anna Li is injured and although she is trying to think positive and she says she may compete and keeps pushing, I don't see  this happening.
But who's up for USA on bars? Vote here------------------------------>
Aly:
Watch more video of World Gymnastics Championships Tokyo 2011 on gymnastike.org


McKayla:
Watch more video of World Gymnastics Championships Tokyo 2011 on gymnastike.org


Sabrina:
Watch more video of World Gymnastics Championships Tokyo 2011 on gymnastike.org


I am positive Marta will put in TF the top three scores from qualifications, so of course that stage will be decisive. But's let's play this little game :)

Wednesday

Defining success in the pre-Olympic year




For Romania, a successful pre-Olympic World Championship does not necessarily equals winning the most medals. This is a story of building a strong team. Tokyo is not the finish line but merely a part of the process.
I do not expect anything but with my (limited) understanding of this process here are a few of the things I want Romania to achieve in this stage (in no particular order):

The team to go like clockwork in qualifications… Bellu is a master in preparing his teams to compete their best when the big one comes. Simulations of the qualifying competition have been the focus ever since Nationals so they are ready; what’s left is just for the gymnasts to rise to the occasion and make Bellu a happy coach;
Amelia Racea to manage two all around competitions without major errors and to achieve her full potential D score. When 2012 comes, Ama might get the chance to play the steady all arounder for Romania. This is her chance to prove she is mentally strong;
Porgras to shine on floor… Some say this routine looks a lot like her old one, I think she is able to perform it so well that it becomes a separate story;
Two gymnasts in the beam and floor event finals respectively;
Pitic to hit bars… and break the 14.0 barrier every time she competes her bars set;
Ponor to be glued to that beam… not as much as a hair has to move;
A surprise vault... and I will not say more :).

For some, this may seem little after more than a year under B&B. People may be disappointed if they don’t win a team medal and by the looks of it they will have it. I do think there will be the occasional surprises, good and bad. But no achievement will be greater than leaving Tokyo with 7 healthy gymnasts hungry for medals and enthusiastic to make it to London. 

What are your hopes for the Romanian team in Tokio? I am really interested to find out how you feel! 

Monday

Romania in the News - Week August 30th - September 4th

Ana Porgras - Prosport
Short interview with Ana Porgras after Romanian Nationals - in Prosport (read it HERE)


Marian Dragulescu is back and wants to win the gold medal at the Olympics - an interview by GSP (read it HERE


Fangymnastics published the second part of Beatrice's journal (read it HERE)
Brigid at The Couch Gymnast wrote a great piece about Catalina Ponor's career (HERE)


An interesting article about former Romanian gymnasts Simona and Camelia Renciu (from the same generation as Ecaterina Szabo) who are currently living and coaching in Luxemburg (HERE)


And Andra000lumi uploaded many videos from Romanian Nationals - from WAG, MAG and juniors- on her youtube channel.

Sunday

Gent Challenger Cup - Finals - Photos of the Podiums

Uneven Bars: Jiang Yuyuan, Vika Komova and Wu Liufan

Maria Livchikova, Wu, S Bismpikou, Luisa Galiulina

UB and BB podiums

Floor: Wu, Livchikova, Dos Santos

Vault: Maksiuta, Barbosa, Nunez Gomez

FX and VT podiums

the rise of Maria Stepanova

 Gent was fun. One of the reasons was watching Maria Stepanova.






Photos by Luisa B.


I am also uploading Maria's floor routine on my youtube account but it's taking ages.

Saturday

Wu Liufang - Balance Beam


or watch it here

Gent Challenger Cup - Qualifications - Pictures (3)






Victoria Komova - Beam - Qualifications



or Here

Gent Challenger Cup - Qualifications- Live blogging - Part 3

Maria Stepanova - FX: 13.150 (5.3)
Roni Rabinovitz (BB): wobble on her aerial walkover, many pauses in her routine 12.5 (4.9)

Komova (BB) - fell on the standing arabian in warm-up; she has fantastic form and good amplitude.

Kristina Vaculik: 13.25 (55)

Jiang Yuyuan: front tuck, flic- layout on two feet, almost fell on the back tuck(?)  and then again on the sheep jump, nice switch ring, flick - flick- 2 1/2 twist on the dismount. 13.125 (5.7)

I think Jessica Lopez will not compete on floor anymore.
Dos Santos FX 13.7

Elizaorova FX: 13.475

Bismpikou (BB) 14.150 (6.0)
Maksiuta on BB 14.025 (5.6)

Demyanchuk (BB) - starts with a  fall... but after that, I think she managed everything.; a very characteristic routine for her 13,575

Viktoria Komova (BB): only a few wobbles. very small, the most notable on a double spin. Stuck dismount.
15.175 (6.1)
Maria Paseka (FX) 13.325 (5.4)

WU Liufang: successful BB for her; she had a few wobbles, almost fell on a sheep jump. Looks good! 14.850

Milousi: hands down on dismount - 13.9 (6.1)
Jade Barbosa - BB 13.500

Wu Liufang - Uneven bars


Or watch here

Gent Challenger Cup - Qualifications - Pictures (2)







Jiang Yuyuan 0 Uneven Bars



or here

Gent Challenger Cup - Qualifications- Live blogging - Part 2

Paseka – UB – 12.375 (5.5) - with a fall
Alina Fomenko - VT - 1 1/2Y - 13..8? ... she got around 13 for the second vault for a total of 13.432

Jiang Yuyuan - warm-up - she looks very good (even though she fell twice) - nice double lay-out dismount
Very nice routine for her - other than a few slight leg separations, no major deductions.14.95 (6.3).

Jade Barbosa - UB: she didn't quite hit those handstands and was a bit slow, but a successful routine for her. 13.625... she didn't even wait for her score - immediately moved to VT to help out Adrian Nunes Gomes who was up next.

Adrian Nunes Gomes: first vault 14.075 (5.3) Didn't see the second vault. Her final score is 13.9..

Homolova on UB - 12.975 (5.1)
Paseka VT - 14.775 (DTY) and  13.35 for her second vault (half on front straight) average: 14.062- 3rd
Livchikova UB 13.65 (5.4)
Vasiliki Miloussi: 14.325 (5.9) a bit high if you ask me :)

Wu Liufang (UB): beautiful routine. I thought she had lost it before the piked Tkachev but she recovered very well and stuck the landing! 15.35 (6.8)

S Bismpikou (UB) - 14.125 (6.1)

Diane Dos Santos(UB) - 13.6 (5.6)
Jessica Lopez is on 8th at the moment with Elizarova, Demyanchuk and Galiulina still to go.

Luisa Galiulina (UB) - falls on the high bar to low bar transition; a big step on the dismount. Pretty good other than that. 12.65 (5.6)

Results thus far:



Vault:
1 - Jade Barbosa: 14.45
2 - Alexa Citlali Moreno Medina: 14.212
3 - Austin Lee Sheppard: 13.687
4 - Hiu Ying Angel: 13.525
5 - Valeria Maksiuta: 13.512

Uneven Bars:
1 - Victoria Komova: 15.3 (6.7)
2 - Ida Gustafsson: 14.125
3 - Jonna Adlerteg: 14.100
4 - Jessica Lopez: 13.825
5 - Kristina Vaculik: 13.725

Jessica Lopez - UB

aaaand here it is Victoria Komova on UB



or watch here

Pics from Gent - Qualifications





Gent Challenger Cup - Qualifications- Live blogging

Jessica Lopez just finished her UB routine. It was fantastic! except for the dismount (double front) - which she sat. Other than that, great form and 4 releases, including a laid-out jaeger.

L. Lo on UB: 13.825 (6.1 D)

Komova warming-up her UB - good form - hands down on dismount.

Results so far: Jade Barbosa leadung VT with 14.550.

UB - on first is Ida Gustavson from SWE:  14.125

Komova just finished her UB routine. It went... well ok. She just seems a little slow and had a few form breaks.
Still waiting for Komova's score... UPDATE 15.3 (6.7)

Brittani Rogers of Canada on UB: 13.45 (5.6)

Kristina Vaculik - on UB 13.725 (5.6)

Monday

Romania in the news - week 22 - 28 August

Catalina Ponor (Photo source HERE)

National Championships:

Complete results on the Romanian Federation's website (WAG HERE, MAG HERE);
The Queen is Back - short interview with Catalina Ponor for ProSport (HERE);
Marian Dragulescu - competing AA again to help the team qualify for London Olympics - from GSP (HERE);
GSP also noticed how Ponor and Porgras dominated the Podium at nationals (HERE);
Results and brief analyses in Gymnastics - No Ceiling - All Around, vault and bars, beam and floor;
Pictures from Sportlocal (HERE)

Videos - from serenenz - most of the EF and second half of AA
dracsor - AA complete, vault and UB, some BB
Mihaitza48 - started to upload junior's BB


Unrelated to the National Championships:

Andreea Raducan Interview - which I missed in my previous post (read it HERE)

An opinion piece about Bellu and Bitang's absence from the competition floor I wrote for TCG (read it HERE)

Romanian Nationals 2011 - Part three

Balance beam

1 Ana Porgras and Catalina Ponor (tie)
3 Amelia Racea



I think the judges first gave it to Porgras then to Ponor only to make it a tie in the end. Ana had more wobbles but Catalina messed her double spin. Ana had better form but was a bit rushed while Catalina had better rhythm and seemed more confident. I wouldn't have wanted to disappoint any of them so I was glad both of them were happy.
Amelia Racea continues to deliver on beam though she wobbled on her tucked full. 
Gabriela Dragoi also had a good routine. If she adds back her spin combo and a more difficult dismount she can be an option for the team.
Diana Bulimar and Raluca Haidu both fell on artistic elements.








Floor
1 Ana Porgras
2 Catalina Ponor
3 Diana Bulimar

Porgras' DLO brought her the floor National title, even with the slightly bent knees on landing she seems to handle that pass very well. I wonder if they will put her full in back in the routine somewhere. At this point, I doubt anyone knows for sure. Probably are still looking for the most comfortable combo of acrobatic elemets.
Ponor was fantastic, even better than in the first day, though she still  has form issues on the triple twist. She gets closer and closer to sticking those landings.
Didi Bulimar did not have the same fantastic routine she managed to do in qualifications (OOB on the first pass, a double layout). She looked tired after three days of competitions.
I like how Racea's new floor is choreographed, I think it will do wonders for her. (HERE)







More videos on serenenz's channel on youtube.

Sunday

Romanian Nationals 2011 - The videos

Ana Porgras - AA FXBB, EF VT UB
Catalina Ponor - AA BB FX, EF VT
Amelia Racea- AA FXBB, EF VTUB
Raluca Haidu - AA FX, EF VT UB
Diana Bulimar - AA FX, EF VT UB
Diana Trenca - EF UB
Dana Andrei - EF UB, VT
Gabriela Dragoi - EF VT UB
Maria Balea - AA FX,

Special thanks to Serena and Alina for uploading these!

Saturday

Romanian Nationals 2011 - Part two

Racea and Haidu win two medals each

Vault


1 Ponor - with a great 1 1/2TY.
2 Racea - with an average DTY
3 Haidu - DTY - a bit lacking in power

In Izbasa's absence, vault final was uninteresting before it started. The gymnasts were required to do only one vault. Unsurprisingly, the difficulty level was underwhelming: only three vaults of over 5.3. Also not surprising was that most of the gymnasts did Yurchenko vaults, except for Bulimar (half on, front pike) and Balea (Tsukahata tucked). 









Uneven Bars


1 Amelia Racea - with a successful routine, better than yesterday I thought (14.595)
2 Raluca Haidu - good routine for her too 14. 325
3 Diana Trenca - 14.00 a surprise here, she had many small deductions but showed good rhythm and attack
Uneven bars final was more interesting to watch. The overall level was not as bad as expected. Maria Balea was the only one who fell, on the same skill as yesterday - is always too far to catch the bar  and then she had another fall on the dismount. Gabi Dragoi and Dana Andrei had mistakes on their pirouettes and had to do extra giants to finish their routines so they were heavily deducted. Porgras had a bit of a disappointing routine - she must have incurred one point in deductions on her dismount only (two large steps and bent knees and legs apart).





Romanian Nationals - Part one: All around and Qualifications



It's been a good one...
Ana Porgras won, with a fall on the UB dismount. Her beam routine is not as artistic as it used to be, the choreo is almost all gone but it looks rock solid. The floor on La Boheme is great. There are a few elements of her old choreography in it but as she will compete it, this new routine will have its own "personality" . On vault - only did a FTY, she will probably never be a gymnast to throw DTYs in all competitions but I don't think she will hesitate to show it in a Worlds AA final. On UB - she is back to her old routine and she had improved execution compared to this spring. 

Amelia Racea was second. I think her beam routine is my favorite of the Romanians at the moment because it's not as watered down on choreography and her leaps and jumps are perfection. On floor, they seem to be trying everything to make her dance more. She looks as bored as ever. It's heartbreaking really because she is such an elegant gymnast - to me that this is only a mental thing. On vault - she still has that bent knee on the second flight phase. On uneven bars she looks good, better than last spring. I hope she can add one tow tenths in difficulty on time for worlds.

Raluca Haidu hasn't improved much really. But she had a good AA competition: her beam was good (though watered down), on floor she has the same music - the artistic elements are as good or better than last year but her acro series are not as well executed. Vault was good, comforting that she still has the DTY. her uneven bars set is increased in difficulty which is good but the execution is still not there - gosh she has such nice lines it could be brilliant.

Diana Bulimar came back to competition after more than a year. She was not allowed to step with her injured foot for about four months as we shockingly found out from Cristian Moldovan (who was the commentator along with Alina Alexoi). Diana was up first on beam and though she looked very good, she fell on a front salto. She had the most fantastic floor (5.8 D score) which I didn't manage to see but Moldovan, who was also the coach that accompanied her at last year's YOF, said her artistic leaps and jumps were much improved and that she had worked a lot to solve these issues because she had understood that last year she lost to Tan Sixin because of the artistic part. They did not manage to correct her piked position on handstands on uneven bars but her transitions and dismount are nice. Unfortunately Moldovan said that the incorrect position was something that they also struggled for 3 yeas to correct while she was in the junior team.
Dana Andrei is still beautiful - but not yet the gymnast that can make it to a World championship.

Gabi Dragoi - is still far from what she could become. Uneven bars can still place her in the National team should the circumstances allow it. It's good that she still has four events.

I didn't see much of Diana Trenca - but she doesn't seem changed compared to last year.

Maria Balea fell on uneven bars again, other than that she looked good but tired.

Catalina Ponor showed some exciting gymnastics: beam was very good, better than in 2007 really; her floor routine although with some execution errors, looked solid. And her Yurchenko 1 1/2 was fantastic. The TVR commentator Alina Alexoi said that she landed a DTY on podium training the previous day. 

As a conclusion, Romanians had a good day overall, but the two "problem" events are still lacking. Beam was fantastic with three routines scoring above 15, on floor the coaches and choreographer are trying to find routines that are pleasant to the audience and suit the gymnasts' personalities -way better than in the Puia's era; Vault  was not so good - only two DTYs and a one and a half TY. Uneven bars have improved slightly compared to last year as there are now four routines with around 6.0 D score, but the same execution errors are still there.



Friday

about Bellu and Bitang's absence from the competition floor...

Photo credit Luisa B
Read my article in The Couch Gymnast and let me know what you think. Will they finally be there in Tokyo?

Their appearance at Worlds would be a sign for the rest of the world, especially judges, that they are 100% behind the team. And for this Romanian squad to be a winning one, their presence on the competition area will be vital. Because Romania, without Bellu and Bitang on the podium, is like a masterpiece without an autograph and a golden frame: still brilliant, but not as bankable.

Thursday

Izbasa, Chelaru, Iordache to miss Nationals


According to TVR, Iordache is out due to a muscle lesion, Izbasa felt pain in her tendon (but not the one that was injured in 2009) and now has a special training regimen, while Chelaru is still recovering her routines after an older injury kept her off the apparatus for a while. 

Prosport goes further and reveals that Diana underwent surgery on her abdominal muscles in order to remove a hematoma that appeared after a fall off beam at 2009 Euros.

I am sad. This should have been the third Romanian Nationals of Larisa Iordache. Izbasa's vaults and floor routines would have been among the top gymnastics moments of the weekend. Diana Chelaru could have consolidated her position as an all arounder.
So yes, I am saddened by the news but I am not worried. Romanian Nationals are not a high stake competition.

If anything, it is good that the gymnasts are not rushed back.

Wednesday

Russia still has Heart and Hope


By which I mean Demy and Komova respectively.

The Russians had a successful national meet last week which has resulted in nominating the national team.
Ksenia Afanasieva qualified first (complete results) but as it often happens she did not have a great competition afterwards and the AA was won by a consistent Anna Dementyeva followed by Vika Komova (AA results). The individual titles went to Anna Pavlova (vault), Vika Komova (uneven bars and beam) and Ksenia Afanasieva (floor)  (event final results).

As a result, the squad for Tokyo is composed of: Anna Dementyeva, Victoria Komova, Iulia Belokobylskaya, Ksenia Afanasieva, Tatiana Nabieva, Maria Paseka - the alternates being Alyona Polyan and Iulia Inshina.

On the whole, this seems to be the only alternative for a team and very few gymnasts that could potentially contribute have been left out: Ksenia Semenova and Anna Pavlova being the more notable examples. I understand that Semenova was not in shape - she seems to be getting there but it is already late and she is lacking in difficulty while the few extra pounds have a damaging effect on her E scores. But Anna Pavlova is an odd case. Alexandrov seems to be discouraging her to continue on purpose. 

However, this will be a strong team:
Vika Komova will be a fantastic asset on beam and uneven bars especially because she has proved to be quite the competitor in the team finals and all around. With her D scores in the high mid 6's on uneven bars and breathtaking execution she will be approaching that 16 barrier on the apparatus and will also be one of the favorites for the event finals. On beam, although her D score is somewhere around 6.3 at the moment - her good execution and beautiful lines will help her score above 15.

European AA champion will also be in the spotlight as she is becoming quite the star gymnast - from the cute newcomer she was in 2010. Demy will be one of the favorites for the AA, as she now has a DTY (although not yet brilliant), her UB D score above 6 now, with a beam out of 6.7 and a floor of around 6 D score, all topped with polished presentation and a charming presence on the podium.

Let's not forget Iulia B - she's fantastic on floor (was third at Euros in the EF) and although did not manage to make a name for herself as an UB or BB worker, I can assure you she can surprise one or two people with her difficult routines (both of over 6.0 D).

Afanasyeva has a new floor routine. Much like her last year's routine, I love it because through her dance and choreo she manages to interpret the music, to "translate" it. On beam and uneven bars she is as inconsistent as ever and her DTY is not looking brilliant.

Photo credit: Brigid McCarthy
When I think about Nabieva, and I know it's such a clichee, I imagine this little stubborn face and Alexandrov telling her - "if you give me just one Amanar and one decent uneven bars number you are free to do whatever you want to do". I am sure she wants it too, but I am not sure she will be able to return to where she was last year, much less to top that. But stranger things have happened.

Paseka will be a mistery to me until Ghent CC. I will tell you more about her after that.

The alternates are quite strong too:  Alyona Polyan -  we saw she was good enough for a world team - at least as an alternate - at the Summer Universiade. Long story short, she was third in the AA and won floor. She is capable of 14+ scores on both FX and BB ( and this happened in an international competition!), has a weak uneven bars set.

Iulia Inshina was fifth AA, on BB and UB and second on floor at Russian Cup last week, Here is her uneven bars set:

So provided everybody does their job at Worlds, Russia will be more than just covered in all the right places. It's early so say if they have a shot at gold this year but they sure will be an extremely beautiful and balanced team.

Tuesday

US Nationals - highs and lows


First and foremost, I wish Rebecca Bross speedy recovery and I hope she will be back in shape and competition ready in spring 2012.
Here is my take on the best and worst from US nationals, leaving Becca out of the discussion:

Vault
Best three were as expected: McKayla Maroney’s Amanar - I don’t believe there is any point in having debates on who has the best Amanar ever but this is as good as it gets, especially the one from Day 2 was up there with her most successful ones; Jordyn Wieber’s Amanar: although not as good at Maroney’s, this vault is very reliable too; Alicia Sacramone’s Rudy (Day 1)- power, amplitude, execution, just the step on the landing which will always be there so we have gotten used to it by now.

Gray area: Gabby Douglas’s DTY (the vault she did at Jeloso), Macko’s DTY – you never know when they can go wrong.

Disappointments: provided that Aly Raisman sticks to the DTY (which looks nice) there are no routines that are thought of as contenders for a TF or a Qualifications scenario and are not decent.

Uneven Bars

Best three were - Wieber - I hate the beginning of that routine. I am far from being an UB “specialist”, so don't mind me, but those kips look labored and she looks as if she is managing all elements with force rather than swing. But it gets the job done.
 Macko (day 2)– Yes, 6.0 SV is not good for an event specialist. Except that Macko is past the event specialist status so as long as she gets the 9.0s and 8.7s for execution  (granted in a home competition) she is guaranteed a high mid 14’s mark at worlds too!
Shawn Johnson - her routine from night one was where she wants to be at this point. She will add more difficulty in the next weeks especially now that she gained so much confidence.

Gray area: Gabby Douglas – I love Gabby Douglas’s bars but on this event too she always seem to have 50/50 chances of success (day 2). 
Memmel: I think Chellsie looks good on UB and I thought she could add 3-4 tenths and make it a nice one. But the shoulder incident in night two indicated the chances of improving are actually slim. (day 1)

Disappointments : Anna Li – It would have been nice but she was doubting herself too much (day 1, day 2).
Bridgey – she seemed Anna Li’s little sister (in terms of nerves and fear of competing) rather than Macko’s :) (day 1, day 2).

Balance beam
Best three: Wieber's - a routine of average D score (at a World scale) but a routine she handles really well. Respect for the way she managed to stay up there on day one! (day 1, day 2
Sacramone: Despite having a few wobbles on the second day of competition, Alicia’s beam is still a strong event for her. (day 1, day 2)
Shawn Johnson: Dear SJ, thank you for listening to your instincts and keeping the sheep jump out! Your routine is very enjoyable without it! (day 1, day 2)

Gray area: Memmel, because she is a rock on beam BUT she seems to be taking the “trick - paaaause - trick” to a new level. (day 1, day 2)

Disappointments – no obvious ones. You are disappointed when people don't perform at the level that was expected, but I don't feel it was the case.  Douglas (with her difficulty - at Jeloso) and Anna Li (with her artistry - day 1) do come to mind in this category but it's more about what I wished it could happen and less about their possibilities. 

Floor

Best threeWieber, again is champion of consistency on floor. And she may not be the most gifted dancer but she does not look embarrassed nor out of place. On the contrary – she manages to show excitement and does not hide the fact that she likes her music; she sells the routine. (day 1, day 2)
Raisman – her major challenge is to stay in bounds on the first pass, which is great and is worth the risk. She too seems comfortable with her music, though not as successful in conveying the feeling of excitement. (day 1, day 2)
Sabrina Vega: I like the music and choreography and she is consistent. (day 2)

Gray area: Sacramone - success is not guaranteed but it does not look like she will not get there in the next 6-8 weeks. I like the music but every time I watch her routine I expect a little more from the choreography. (day 1, day 2)
Maroney: because she is inconsistent. And who does an arabian double front as a last pass anyway? (day 1, day 2)
Chellsie's routine - although she is getting there difficulty wise and has good tumbling, there is not much artistry in it (day 1day 2).

Disappointments: the overall level on floor was a bit disappointing, as TCG also pointed out, there are simply too many steps taken, OOBs, uncontrolled landings, things that hurt the final score.

Based on this, the US team would be: Wieber, Maroney, Sacramone, Raisman, Macko, Johnson
Alternate: Memmel/Vega

What is your team?



Monday

Romania in the news - week 15 - 21 August



Deva are aiming at winning the Senior National title in Onesti, where Romanian Nationals are starting on Friday. The team will be composed of: Raluca Haidu, Diana Trenca, Amelia Racea, Beatrice Margarit and Maria Balea ( source: Mesagerul Hunedorean, article HERE)

Catalina Ponor's birthday was last week, on the 20th. She told Libertatea she will not have much time for partying and that a 24 year old gymnast sees things differently. (Source The Couch Gymnast - from Libertatea; articles: HERE and HERE).

Ana Porgras interview (by Curaj Romania) - HERE

Last interview of the Curaj series - Sandra Izbasa HERE

A few articles on Romanian Gymnastics Federation website about the Summer Universiade where the Romanian MAG team have won five medals. This year's big goal is qualifying a full team for London Olympics. (www.romgym.ro; articles here and here)

Fangymnastics have started a series called Beatrice's Journal - written by a former Romanian gymnast who retired from gymnastics at a young age (from what I understand). (source: fangymnastics.com; article HERE )

And Catalina Ponor posted what seems it will be her floor music on her facebook page. It needs a bit of editing because the original piece is over five minutes long, but it suits her well:


Tuesday

Summer Universiade - China's Xiao Kangjun wins AA

the medallists from left to right:
Mai Yamagishi, Xiao Kangjun, Alena Polyan 

The favorites of this AA final seemed to be Yana Demyanchuk (European Beam champion in 2009, multiple finalist at worlds and europeans), Xiao Kangjun (because she was the Chinese:P), Alena Polyan of Russia, Jo Hyunjoo of North Koreea (finalist on various events at Worlds) and the two Japanese Mai Yamagishi and  Yu Minobe  (because they had contributed to Japan's victory in team finals).
It was an interesting competition to watch. 
Xiao Kangjun was the leader after the first rotation an maintained her position throughout the competition, with brilliant bars (15.00) and solid beam (14.20). 

Alena Poyan looked very happy with her performances. She seemed fit and competition ready from the beginning; her only weakness were bars where she struggled with the transitions and with hitting handstands. Other than that she was very confident and poised. This may be a long shot but it looks  she would be able to help that depleted Russian team at Worlds in Tokyo. 

Mai Yamagishi and Yu Minobe had similar performances with one notable exception that was the difference between second place and fourth place: Yu's fall on the UB dismount (lovely routine otherwise). They presented low but acceptable FTY's, good uneven bars routines, showed confidence and grace in their beam work.

Yana Demyanchuk did not look like herself yesterday. From the beginning, from her laid out Yurchenko, she was a bit off (12.75), then she fell on UB. I did not see her beam routine but by the score - 13.95 compared to 15.2 in the first day of competition- it incurred a big deduction, probably for another fall.

The surprise of the competition was Kristina Palesova who had one of the highest marks of the day on UB 14.05 and successful, though easy, beam routine (13.65). Low difficulty on floor and VT dropped her on 5th. 

Jo Hyunjoo started well with a 14.05 on vault but she withdrew after a nasty fall on uneven bars.

The complete All Around results are HERE

Sunday

Romania in the news - week 8 - 14 August

Your weekly fix of all things Romania!

(It's about time Romania had an article a week with links to all noteworthy articles, clips and other goodies published in the last seven days, right?)

- Ecaterina Szabo spoke to Jurnalul National about her bitter experience as a Hungarian native in Communist Romania. Original article HERE and translation by Fangymnastics HERE.

- Andreea Isarescu recently got married and of course her old team mates were there for her on the joyous occasion. Read the article HERE.

- An interview with Catalina Ponor who looks super-slim and determined by Curaj Romania, watch it HERE.

- Also by Curaj Romania, on Facebook, an album of over 50 photos from Izvorani, check it out  HERE.



- The Romanian MAG team won the bronze medal in the team competition at the Summer Universiade. Article HERE.

- From Romanian Gymnastics Federation - the schedule for Romanian nationals - HERE.

- This week's episode of The Medal Factory (one of the best so far!) was about Sabina Cojocar. Read a translation by Fangymnastics HERE.