25 reasons for which we love the 1999 Worlds (PART 1)

(34th World Championships Artistic Gymnastics Tianjin (CHN) October 9 - 16, 1999) 

1) The Team Finals: Romania vs Russia

Romania: Amanar, Raducan, Olaru, Presecan, Boboc, Ungureanu
Russia: Khorkina, Produnova, Zamolodcikova, Lobazniouk,Kovalyova, Kuznetsova

I still remember that morning: it was my first year of high school and I had classes in the after noon. Back then, I was a pretty easily distracted "scatterbrained" child so I was always late for school. That morning I had serious reasons to forget to leave the house: Russia - ruled by the most annoying gymnast I had ever seen in my life, which I also considered my personal ennemy (I had changed my opinion since)- was challenging the Romanians – a bunch of  inexperienced lambs led by the shy Simona Amanar. 

And the final begins at around 9-10 am with Romania on beam and two disasters (Amanar and Ungureanu). The Russians on floor, could not care less: they manage solid routines and my number one ennemy puts on yet another outrageous performance for which she gets a ridiculously high score. On the next rotation things look okish: Romanians manage to recover a big part of the gap - they do not put a foot wrong on floor while Russia faces some long-messy-legs – all-over-the-place related problems on vault. Next: Russia’s darling apparatus – UB- where everything goes according to plan for them, while Romania gets honorable scores on VT.

Final Rotation: Romania on UB… oh well, we know what that usually means. Not that day! Now, that I have re-watched the competition with more mature eyes, I can say that the judges must have been looking at some other apparatus… or maybe they were doing their nails.

Khorky - circa 1999-wearing one of
her most unfortunate leotards

Anyway, Russia does not have the same luck on BB but they are still ahead. And the last routine finally arrives: Sveta on Beam. Sveta the queen of long slow people. She needs a 9.4 (again, I know this because I watched it again a few weeks ago :P) And on her signature move, slowly, and gracefully steps outside the beam. A walk on air. And Romanians were champions again. And I was in the 9th grade and I got to school 30 minutes later only to find my colleagues in the courtyard waiting for the teacher who was late.
Coolest day of that fall :) 

2)Khorkina on UB
That year, unlike many other times, her favorite apparatus seemed to be on her side: qualifications, TF, AA, EF, she hit 4 good ones at the same competition!
Besides her Uneven Bars Gold, Khorkina also medalled on floor.
You can watch all her routines from the 1999 Worlds here.

3) Octavian Belu - at the height of his coaching wisdom.
It was around that time when Belu, who had already led Romania to three Team Golds in a row, started to be more transparent with his coaching philosophy. He was by then a very successful coach. Three times world champion is not an accident. He felt he had brought to the table the facts and now it was the right moment for him to speak comfortably about his team. He declared that his motto as a coach was "Never enough", that he was not satisfied and nor does he know the feeling.  

4) The Newcomers - the gymnasts that were for the first time at a World Championship had a great success that year: they won 4 out of five individual golds. Gymnasts such as Raducan, Zamo, Olaru, Olga Roshkupkina, Little Lobazniouk, Laura Martinez, Esther Moya, and many many more took the world by storm in the pre-olympic year. It was a feast of newcomers that shone through their artistry and brought the competition to a whole new level.

5) Elise Ray

She was the best US gymnast of the moment and much more than that. For me, Elise had all the qualities: pretty decent consistency, original skills, great technical abilities, some pirouettes and handstants on UB that were quite rare back then, a wonderful floor routine (nice choreo, good execution and a triple twist to punch front on the first pass) interesting gymnastics overall . Vault was the only piece of the puzzle missing.
She placed 8th in the all around and 7th in the Uneven Bars final. But it was a real shame she did not won a medal on floor... I would have given her the bronze over khorky:)

Watch Elise's Floor in the AA


ginny said...

Ah, I loved this: "Sveta the queen of long slow people"! Seems to me that you don't like her :D Neither do I. I never understood why she was considered ellegant. To me, she was bony, with no body fluidity because of that and sometimes even disgraceful.

Regarding the UB part.
I know very little about the CoP at that time, so I can't say anything about the scores. But don't forget that there where no handstand requirements after each element back then and the angle deductions were much less strict as well.

Bea said...

Hello Ginny, No I don't dislike Sveta now. This is how I saw things back then, it's the team finals seen through the eyes of a 9th grader. Now I appreciate her gymnastics more (I think I changed my mind about her around the Anaheim Worlds in 2003). Regarding the handstands, I am aware that that was the COP back then, I think that makes the gymnasts who did hit their handstands even then, remarkable.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bea

AFIK the USA withdrew from the last day of competition so Ray did not compete in the floor final. I never quite understood why - as you say she was definitely in the race for a medal. Yvonne Tousek got to compete instead and although she finished last she had a great routine with very difficult modern choreography that was totally out of the ordinary for its time (and indeed for now!).