This was a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago but never actually put up because I’ve been in the process of moving…so here it is! Just some thoughts on some of the recent events in the gymnastics world, including the Romanian scandal, Samantha Peszek, and the Chinese women’s nationals (Chinese men’s nationals were in a previous post):
The Romanian scandal…I’ve actually been quite impressed with several of the Romanians in the last year. I’ve seen improved floor choreography, pretty strong tumbling and beam work, and several DTY’s on vault. They still can’t do bars, they still have form breaks on ANY twisting element they do (vaults, tumbling passes, and even overshoots on bars), and they still have “cookie cutter” gymnastics. Obviously they haven’t been the same team they once were since Forminte took over in 2005, but you have to admit their bronze medal in 2008 was nothing short of miraculous. Chelaru’s fall on a simple FULL TURN at the recent Blume Memorial really did represent the big difference between Romanian gymnastics today and Romanian gymnastics before 2005. Having Belu and Bitang back probably WILL be very good for the program, but I do hope that all three can find a way to work together. From Forminte’s last interview, it sounded like he was considering staying after all. The cool thing is it will be great for international gymnastics if they can get back on the same competitive level as the Russians, Chinese, and Americans. How awesome would it be to have a FOUR-HORSE race for gold in London, compared with the two-horse race from Beijing? And as for this year’s worlds, I’m fully expecting Russa, China, and the USA to be battling for medals, but let’s not forget the incredible history of this year’s worlds venue…Rotterdam. It’s where the Romanians upset the dominant Soviet women’s team to win the world team title back in 1987. Although I’m certainly not putting any money on a repeat-Romanian gold (or even a medal for that matter), you’d have to think this competition must be quite motivating for their entire program.
Samantha Peszek…From a recent article on Samantha Peszek, she sounded completely committed to training for the 2012 Olympics – while in college at UCLA. She even hinted at the possibility of competing at nationals this summer, although she also acknowledged that may be a bit overly ambitious. I think Peszek is one of the most talented gymnasts we’ve ever had, and unfortunately hasn’t gotten to achieve nearly what she’s capable of internationally. She was capable of medaling in the all-around in Beijing had the two-per-country rule not been in place (and had she not sprained her ankle of course), yet in both 2007 and 2008 she was forced into a “supporting role” on our powerful team. With today’s emphasis on specialists, I actually DO think it’s possible for a gymnast to train both college and elite at the same time…in fact I think our college programs have a MUCH healthier approach to training than most of our crazy elite clubs. And heck, if you look at our college gymnasts, they are WAY more powerful on floor and vault than elites…we see way more double layouts at the college level and MUCH more height on vault than we see at the world championships. And of course we all know they’re a lot more fun to watch in terms of floor choreography as well…I hope Peszek follows through with this because she could certainly be an asset to the U.S. team, though unfortunately it’s not on the event we really need – bars.
Chinese Women’s Nationals…A great look at China’s top stars about five months before the world championships. I was expecting to see Jiang Yuyuan back in competition, so still having her out leaves a big question mark for their team. I would say that THREE spots on the women’s side are locked up for worlds…He Kexin, Deng Linlin, and Sui Lu. He Kexin’s bars is as good as or better than ever, and there’s no way she won’t be the favorite for the bars title, as well as a huge score for the team on that event. Deng’s beam will still be her biggest contribution, though she very well could be one of their all-arounders as well. And Sui Lu probably just had the most successful competition of her career, winning the all-around and floor, and placing second on beam. She looked FANTASTIC and is finally coming into her own as not only a team member, but a team leader. I honestly would go ahead and throw Huang Qiushuang on the team as well, because no matter how many times she chokes on her beam routine, there is no question that she is the ONLY Chinese gymnast who could easily be used in the team final on EVERY SINGLE EVENT. Her vault is the best they have right now, her tumbling is probably second to Sui Lu’s, her bars is stunning (though consistently underscored), and her beam is potentially fantastic. Going into this meet, I would have expected the other two world spots to go to Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuan, but Jiang didn’t compete and Yang did two events and had two falls. Yang is really going to need to get it together in the next few months – her start value on bars is far below several of her teammates, and her fall on the double front (the first day) as well as on her vault – the other event China could use her on – didn’t help her cause at all. I would have guessed Wu Liufang would end up an alternate for worlds, but I’d have to say her chances are now looking very good. She is consistently hitting beam and bars, and her D-score on bars in particular is very high – 6.9 (Yang Yilin’s is 6.0 by comparison). If both Yang and Jiang don’t get it together very soon, Wu will be competing for China in Rotterdam.