Saturday, 25 October 2014

Dear Mr. Grandi- Artistry is not dead

The FIG’s president Bruno Grandi has been throwing his toys out of the cot in protest over the state of artistry in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, after the most recent World Championships held in Nanning, China. He is lamenting the magical days of the 10.0 scoring system and presumably the classic execution and balletic finesse that echos the Soviet era of gymnastics. I’m sorry to say, Mr. Grandi that it’s now 2014, and many things have changed since the 80’s and 90’s- or whenever it was way back when we had the perfect 10.

Brundi Grandi reckons the magic has gone (credit: International Gymnast Magazine)

Of course artistry is embedded in execution, which encompasses the fluidity of a routine (bars, beam and floor), and overall expertise and control demonstrated by an athlete. Evidently execution should be criteria for the evaluation of ‘artistry’. Similarly, balletic flair as we’re so used to seeing from the classic training of the Soviets obviously can contribute towards producing aesthetic body lines, pointed toes etc. However, classical ballet training merely is associated with artistry, rather than being a necessary component. Artistry should rather be considered as an expression of performance, where the spectators and the gymnast herself live though the performance and experience emotion and feeling of some description.

Grishy is an absolute pleasure to watch (credit: International Gymnast Magazine)

Artistry is difficult to pin down, but you’ll know it when you see it. You sit back, and feel at ease watching an ‘artistic’ gymnast perform, with utter confidence that the athlete has mastered their routine to the best of their capacity. Yes, this means that artistry is subjective, as is the entire sport of gymnastics where athletes are judged on arbitrary criteria, such as loosely defined ‘artistry’. That’s why we have a panel of judges, a democracy in a way, where each individual judge can subjectively score a routine. But the system seems to be failing, according to Bruno Grandi.

As fans, we all have our own favourite routines that we like to put forward as examples for what we think embodies ‘artistry’. Floor is perhaps the easiest apparatus to consider, since gymnasts perform to a unique piece of music, with choreography specifically tailored to the gymnast. In an artistic floor performance, the gymnast is observably engaged in their routine (think of Simone Biles/ Catalina Ponor portraying enjoyment, Catherine Lyons/ Aliya Mustafina / Rebecca Bross as being more ‘focused’), and are giving a performance. It’s great to see gymnasts ‘grow’ into artistry as they become more mature- consider the transition in Sandra Izbasa’s floor from 2008-2012; a completely different gymnast, but producing routines that are as equally engaging.
Princess Catherine's narative choreography has reduced several fans to tears- including her own father (credit: Sports Visuals)

Beam and bars are different altogether. Typically it’s about the long, elegant lines and having that ‘International look’, a term probably coined by Tim Dagett. To me, I consider artistry here to equate to fluidity, and how fundamentally different components of the routine (dance and acro elements for beam) blend together for the overall effect. Part of the appeal on bar and beam are the ‘wow’ skills, which again when executed well are just as impressive as over-extension on leaps or exquisitely pointed toes. Most of the time we freak out when someone comes along with an original and innovative combination- that should surely get artistry points as well.

Ruby should obviously get bonus points for her crazy awesome bar routine

It seems to me as though Mr. Grandi needs to revamp his ideas about what constitutes artistry, before any proposed changes to the code are made. Perhaps the judges need to have a forum and decide how to tackle this problem of adequately ranking gymnasts in terms of artistry- I do have faith that they will have valuable suggestions. Obviously execution is embedded in artistry, but the ideas around it have become so convoluted and desultory over the years that I’m not sure anyone, not even the President of the FIG can come up with an adequate definition. Times have changed, it's as simple as that- doesn't mean that the magic is gone. At least we know artistry and experience artistry when you see a gymnast that’s got it.

Opinion piece by Imogen Browne (@Iflip4gymblog or @ImogenMireille)

Monday, 14 July 2014

Glasgow Bound- The Blackflips (NZ Women's Gymnastics)

Five young ladies from the Christchurch School of Gymnastics left for Glasgow yesterday, en route to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, undoubtedly the biggest event of their lives so far. The New Zealand Women have not won a Commonwealth medal in gymnastics since the 1994 Commonwealth Games (that was Sarah Thompson on bars), but this year's crop of gymnasts have the talent to claim spots on the podium- especially in event finals. All five girls have competed internationally, including Gymnix in Montreal and the Pacific Rim Champs, in preparation for the games.

This is the strongest Women's team that has ever been sent to the Commonwealth Games, which reflects how far NZ Gymnastics has come in the past few years. Our International Development Program (IDP) adopted from Australia has helped to select and develop elite athletes, but there are also some high level gymnasts coming in from the STEP program (Kenzie and Anna for example). Many of the skills that these girls are competing have never been done in New Zealand before, which is pretty exciting for our gymnastics community!

The Blackflips from left: Kenzie Slee, Courtney McGregor, Charlotte Sullivan, Brittany Robertson and Anna Tempero (photo credit-

I had the chance to see all girls compete at the Christchurch School of Gymnastics Classic held last weekend, where I was very impressed with the level of difficulty presented. They are very close as a team, especially now that all gymnasts train together at CSG (Kenzie made the move from the Hutt Valley, Brittany from Auckland and Anna from Blenheim), under coaches Svetlana Sazonova and Jozsef Ferencz. I'll give a quick overview of each gymnast and how they can help the team in Glasgow

Courtney McGregor
From: Christchurch
Club: CSG
Age: 15
Strengths: Vaulting, Floor, All-around
Routines at CSG Classic: Beam Floor

Earlier this year, Courtney made history by being the first New Zealander to qualify to a World Cup Final in Doha. She then went on to win a silver medal in the Pacific Rim Championships with her DTY and a tucked Podkopayeva. These vaults are looking strong and she will contend for a medal in Glasgow. She is also looking great on beam, with a front tuck mount and a double tuck dismount. Hopefully she will make floor finals as well, where she has really improved her difficulty. I would expect to see her competing on all events during the team final, and hopefully the all-around final. If she has a clean competition, she should place well.

Courtney's 4th place finish in the Vault finals at Doha, 2014

Charlotte Sullivan
From: Christchurch
Club: CSG
Age: 15
Strengths: Bars, Beam, Floor, All-around
Routines at CGS Classic: Beam

Charlotte is another strong all-arounder and is especially good on bars (where the team is weak) and on beam. She also made floor finals at Pacfic Rims this year (along with Courtney). She is very elegant and consistent and has good difficulty. Like Courtney, she will probably compete all events for NZ in the team final. Her vault is a FTY, and hopefully we will see her in the all-around final!

Anna Tempero
From: Blenheim
Clubs: Blenheim Gymnastics, then CSG
Age: 19
Strengths: Beam, Floor, Consistency
Routines at CSG Classic: Floor Beam

Anna is the eldest member of the team and only recently became an elite gymnast, having come out of the STEPs program. She is a very powerful gymnast and has many cool tricks up her sleeve (including a standing arabian on beam!). She can definitely help the team out on beam and floor in particular.

Kenzie Slee
From: Upper Hutt, Wellington
Age: 16
Clubs: Rimutaka Gymsports, Hutt Valley Gymsports, now CSG
Strengths: Floor, Vaulting, Beam
Routines at CSG: Floor

Kenzie is a clean and powerful gymnast, and learns new skills very quickly. Perhaps the most inexperienced of the group, but can come up with the goods when it counts. At CSG's she unveiled a full-twisting tsuk to go with her FTY, so perhaps she can make vault finals with that. She also could help out the team with clean beam and floor routines.

Brittany Robertson
From: Auckland
Age: 17
Clubs: North Harbour Gymnastics, WOGA and CSG
Strengths: Beam, Floor and Execution
Routines at CSG: Beam Floor

Brittany is the most experienced member of the team and has competed internationally as a junior elite. She also has spent some time training overseas at WOGA. She is a very artistic and elegant gymnast and excels particularly on beam and floor. I am not sure of her bar, since I haven't seen it in a while, but hopefully she will be able to compete this for the team.

The girls with their coaches, Svetlana and Jozsef (

I'll do a quick break down of their DV's on each apparatus:
VT: 5.8 (Courtney), 5.0 (Kenzie and Brittany), 4.7 (Charlotte), 4.2 (Anna)
UB: 4.7 (Charlotte), 4.5 (Courtney), 3.0 (Anna)
BB: 5.7 (Anna and Courtney), 5.6 (Kenzie), 5.5 (Charlotte), 5.2 (Brittany)
FX: 5.7 (Courtney), 5.4 (Kenzie and Charlotte), 5.3 (Brittany), 5.0 (Anna)

They will struggle on bars with those low DV's, but should do well elsewhere... Best of luck girls, and do us proud!

See you on tele- go hard! (CSG Facebook page)

In the media:

Breaking the medal drought in gymnastics -History of NZ Gymnasts at the Commonwealth Games
Article about the entire gymnastics team to Glasgow
Anna Tempero in the Marlborough Press
Brittany in 2012

Article by Imogen Browne (Follow on Twitter @IFlip4GymBlog)
Videos by Olivia Browne

Saturday, 17 May 2014

New Zealand WAG Commonwealth Games Trials

The selection process for the New Zealand women's artistic gymnastics team to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland are well underway. Two days of trials were held in Auckland on May the 9th and 11th. There were six girls from Christchurch School of Gymnastics, Pacific Rim competitors Courtney McGregor, Charlotte Sullivan and Anna Tempero, as well as Mackenzie Slee, Hanna Malloch and Brittany Robertson. Samara Maxwell of Tristar, Auckland also is vying for a spot. Commonwealth Games veteran Jordan Rae has withdrawn due to injury. In other news, Jordan has been offered a place at Bowling Green in collegiate gymnastics starting in 2015. Junior Millie Williamson (also CSG) joined the seniors to trial for the Youth Olympic Games.

NZL Commonwealth Games hopefulls from left to right: Charlotte, Mackenzie, Anna, Courtney, Millie, Brittany and Hanna (From Mackenzie Slee's Instagram)

All gymnasts will compete in the Australian Nationals in Melbourne later on this month before the teams will be named. Below are the results from the trials:

1st- Charlotte Sullivan 52.833
2nd- Courtney McGregor 51.933
3rd- Brittany Robertson 49.80
4th- Mackenzie Slee 47.800
5th- Anna Tempero 46.50
6th- Hanna Malloch 45.767
7th- Samara Maxwell 41.767

VT Top 3- McGregor (14.167), Slee (13.90) and Maxwell (13.70)
UB Top 3- Sullivan (12.367), McGregor (12.033) and Robertson (11.667)
BB Top 3- Sullivan (13.70), Slee (12.60), McGregor and Robertson (12.00)
FX Top 3- McGregor (13.733), Sullivan (13.133) and Robertson (12.467)

1st- Courtney McGregor 53.133
2nd- Charlotte Sullivan 51.533
3rd- Anna Tempero 49.633
4th- Brittany Robertson 49.233
5th- Hanna Malloch 47.933
6th- Samara Maxwell 39.933
NB/ Slee did not compete AA

VT Top 3- McGregor (14.10), Maxwell (13.90) and Robertson (13.677)
UB Top 3- McGregor (11.60), Tempero (11.40) and Sullivan (11.30)
BB Top 3- McGregor (14.067), Sullivan (13.933) and Malloch (12.967)
FX Top 3- McGregor (13.367), Tempero (12.867) and Sullivan (12.80)

Courtney McGregor had a stunning Day Two and topped every single apparatus with standout marks on vault and floor. She will without a doubt be on the team and has already gained some valuable international experience this year as well as a silver medal on vault at the Pacific Rim Championships- a first for NZ! Charlotte is also a consistent performer and along with Courtney made the floor finals at Pacific Rims. She is NZ's best bars worker, an apparatus where we are quite weak. Robertson has also had some international success and is a very elegant gymnast strong across all apparatus. She has also spent some time training at WOGA where she met some of the greats!

Brittany meets Olympic Champions Carly Patterson (2004) and Nastia Liukin (2008) (source: WOGA website)

Courtney and Brittany working their split leaps on beam (source:

Anna is a powerful gymnast and could be used across all apparatus in a team final. She is a little older than the other girls and like Mackenzie has come from the levels or 'Step' program in NZ, rather than the International Development Program. Her maturity and experience would be good for such a young team. Mackenzie is also new to elite and has been rapidly upgrading and improving across all apparatus. She is strong on vault, floor and beam. Hanna is a very elegant gymnast and could help the team on beam, floor and perhaps vault. Samara is also strong on vault and floor.

Never before has NZ had so many worthy contendors for the CWG, best of luck to all girls trialing! 

Australian Nationals will be held in Melbourne from the 21st of May to 1st of June.

Monday, 13 January 2014

2014 Gymnastics Wishlist

I can hardly believe it's 2014 and that we are already half-way through the next Olympic Cycle! It is an exciting year for gymnastics with the Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympic Games both being held this year. Here is my wishlist for 2014, enjoy!

New Zealand's Jordan Rae, hoping to compete at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games

10. Australia sends an entire team to Worlds
I don't know about you, but I was quite disappointed not to see any Aussies at the 2013 World Championships. While they may not be one of the top teams, they have great innovation and style (think Canada) and are fun to watch.

The Aussie girls had a disappointing Olympics and failed to qualify to the team final (credit: The Australian)

9. Stanford makes the top five
Currently ranked #8 I reckon Stanford can do much better! They had a good start to the season, winning over the Georgia Gymdogs.

The 2014 SWG team (credit: SWG Facebook page)

8. No more ACL tears!
I know this isn't really possible, but I am fed up with gymnasts getting this injury, that takes them out for the season. To name a few: Gabby Jupp, Kim Janas, Peng peng Lee, Julie Crocket and Sam Peszek.

7. A Triple Turning Yurchenko in Competition
Will it be Biles, Maroney or someone else?

6. Dowell and Price on the Worlds Team for USA
These girls are both phenomenal gymnasts and should be given the chance to represent the US at Worlds. 2013 does not count for Brenna.

Brenna and Ebee with Kyla, McKayla and Simone (credit: USA Gymnastics)

5. Nush to win beam for UCLA at NCAA's!
I mean, that dismount. Have you seen it?

4. For Russia to get it together!
Russia had a very up and down year, with the illness of Komova, the issues over Grishina, Afan's injury, the dismissal of Pavs, the retirement of Demy and Nabs. I know we can't expect world domination like in 2010, but somebody has to challenge the Americans!

Anna Rodinova- Russia's hopes for the future?

3. For Roxana Popa to win Spain's first AA medal since I don't know when
This girl is looking good, and she's only going to get better!

2. A strong performance from the Kiwi girls at the Commonwealths
This team will be our strongest team ever, things are looking exciting for NZ elite gymnastics!

Some members of the NZ Commonwealth Games squad (credit: CSG gymnastics)

1. That Viktoria Komova transitions gracefully through her growth spurt
The young Russian has grown up since the Olympics (let's hope in terms of maturity also!). Hopefully the extra height will make her even more graceful than she is already.

Anyone else miss this? I sure do!

That's about it. Can't wait to see if these come true!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Future of British Gymnastics: Glasgow Espoir Competition

A handful of Britain's young gymnasts descended on Glasgow last weekend, to take part in the 2013 Espoir competition, a meet held adjoined with the World Cup. All girls competing were either 12 or 13 years old. I was fortunate enough to watch both the all-around competition and the apparatus finals which were held on Friday and Saturday evenings respectively. I did not know much about the competitors, with the exception of Catherine Lyons and Teal Grindle, so I was content to sit back and become familiar with the athletes. I was very impressed with the maturity of the performances of many of the young athletes, and was delighted to see many expressive, confident and creative routines.

All-around competition
1st Catherine Lyons (Europa) 56.20
2nd Teal Grindle (Sapphire) 55.65
3rd Lucy Stanhope (City of Liverpool) 50.25
4th Louise McColgan (Largs) 50.15
5th Latalia Bevan (St. Tydfils) 49.60
6th Claudia Barkes (South Durham) 48.85
7th Alice Kinsella (Park Wrekin) 48.80
8th Maisie Methuen (Phoenix) 48.10

Lyons and Grindle were really a league above everyone else, with the two of them claiming the top two spots on every apparatus. Both girls had falls on bar, but in the end it was Catherine who claimed the top overall score. Nevertheless, it is obvious that these two young talents have a bright future ahead. Catherine has gorgeous lines, dynamic releases on bar and beautiful beam and floor choreography. Teal has already mastered many difficult skills across the board and has clean execution to boot! She is a confident performer and a very determined young lady- after a very nasty fall from bar on the second day she got back up to finish and performed a fantastic full-twisting double back dismount.

All-around medalists from the 2013 Glasgow Espoir competition, Catherine, Teal and Lucy

Here is Catherine's bar routine from the all-around final, the height on her geinger is amazing! Score 12.60

Teal's charismatic floor routine from the all-around competition. Score 13.75

Bronze medal winner Lucy Stanhope from City of Liverpool is another strong all-arounder and a very clean and elegant gymnast. See her here in the beam finals. Many of the Espoirs were doing this mount, I am unsure of the difficulty rating, but it certainly looks cool! Also doing very well was Scottish Louise McColgan. Also a very neat gymnast, she is especially fun to watch on floor. You can see her routine here.

Apparatus Finals

Teal warming up on floor

Catherine warming up on beam

Louise McColgan showing great flexibility in her leaps

Bronze medal winner Holly Jones on floor. Holly is another gymnast with gorgeous long lines!

1st Catherine Lyons 13.95 
2nd Teal Grindle 13.65
3rd Maisie Methuen 13.55

1st= Catherine Lyons and Alice Kinsella 13.00
3rd Teal Grindle 12.7 (fall)

1st Catherine Lyons 14.90
2nd Lucy Stanhope 13.60
3rd Amelia Montague 13.55

1st Catherine Lyons 14.75
2nd Teal Grindle 13.70
3rd Holly Jones and Latalia Bevan 13.50

Most of the vaults being performed were piked/ layout yurchenkos, Teal and Catherine both did FTY as their first vaults. Saw a few tsukaharas as well as one handspring front. Most of the girls are too small to be performing difficult vaults, but I'm sure they will come as they get older- they are only 12 and 13!

Overall I was very impressed by the talent on bar. Britain now has a strong reputation for bar, thanks to the likes of Beth Tweddle, Becky Downie and Ruby Harrold who have done very well on the world stage. This batch of Espoirs can definitely follow in their footsteps. Beams were also good, with reasonable difficulty. Catherine had a great routine, for which she was rewarded with a 14.90!

Most impressive of all were the floor routines. All finalists showed very polished routines, there were no major mistakes. These girls already look like professional gymnasts and have real artistic flair! I think that allowing gymnasts at such a young age to compete on a podium (in an arena like the Glasgow World Cup one) is a great experience for them, and really will help to build their confidence for the coming years of senior competition.

Catherine's winning floor routine

Article by Imogen Browne (follow on twitter @Iflip4gymblog)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Larisa Iordache wins the 2013 Glasgow World Cup!

The 2013 Glasgow World Cup took place this weekend at the Emirates arena, and I was lucky enough to attend! It was tight at the top, where defending champion Elizabeth Price (USA) fell uncharacteristically on her Amanar vault, leaving the door wide open for Larisa Iordache (ROM). A fall from Iordache on her layout 1/1 on beam was not enough to prevent her from taking the title over Price, winning by a margin of 0.6 points. 23-year old Vanessa Ferrari of Italy was again impressive, taking the bronze medal with a respectable total of 56.633.

Our view from the top of the Emirates Arena

1st- Larisa Iordarche 57.932 (ROM) 2nd- Ebee Price 57.365 (USA) 3rd- Vanessa Ferrari 56.633 (ITA) photo credit: Larisa Iordache Official FB page

The fall from Ebee on vault I guess was a lapse in concentration, she normally has no problems with it and had indeed successfully completed an Amanar in warmups. But a lower score of 14.233 compared to Larisa's 14.766 for a clean DTY put her at a disadvantage from the start. The youngest competitior, Spanish Roxana Popa also ran into trouble on vault where she only performed a layout yurchenko instead of a (double twisting?) that she is capable of. Ferlito (ITA) was also clearly injured, she was having problems with on of her ankles in all of the warmup vaults. Asuka Teramoto from Japan debuted a new vault, which she spent much of the general warmup time perfecting. She was the only competitor not to compete a yurchenko.

Ebee's warmup Amanar

Teramoto's vault

Bar was a disappointing rotation for both of the British girls, Ruby and Raer who both peeled off. Ferlito who was clearly having an off day also fell. Was really nice to see her helping straight afterwards prepare the bars for Vanessa. Both girls also pulled each other's springboards away- they hardly needed a coach on the floor! Iordache again scraped through another routine, Popa and Teramoto were good, but the highlight was definitely Ebee. That girl is so powerful and so strong that she makes it look easy! She was rewarded with a 14.833 for this routine. I reckon she should be in the lineup for bars at the 2014 Team World Championships.

Ebee rocking bars

Good routines from both British girls here, although sadly not the difficulty to bring in the big marks. Iordache received the top score here, 14.10 even with the fall on the layout 1/1. I guess the difficulty and the 'wow' factor is worth the risk for her. She also seems to have trouble with this pass when there is no twist, so why not chuck it in? Price and Ferrari were also impressive here.

Clean and stylish routine from Ruby, but lacking in difficulty to bring in the big numbers. Great experience for her though, and the crowd loved it!

Another professional and confident performance from Ferrari, she just keeps getting better!

The excitement was high in the last rotation, with Men's high bar running simultaneously. The audience was very involved and clapped many of the gymnasts through their routines. I would like to give a special mention to Ferrari. I like her floor routine and I enjoy watching videos. But at the top of the stands I was captivated by her! She really performs the routine, which makes a difference to some other gymnasts who just go through the motions. She was captivating! Also worth a mention is Larisa's artistic routine, where the leaps and tumbling stand out. I also love the choreography and all of the smiles! Ebee was her usual impressive self with dynamic tumbling and powerful dance. Popa is also very expressive for such a young gymnast and has great tumbling. I'm so pleased for her success this year and am looking forwards to seeing her grow over the next quad.

Roxana (in a fabulous leotard) on floor

Larisa tumbling, smiling and leaping her way to gold

Vanessa's impressive floor performance and a well deserved bronze medal!

1. IORDACHE, Larisa (ROM) 57.932
2. PRICE, Elizabeth (USA) 57.365
3. FERRARI, Vanessa (ITA) 56.633
4. TERAMOTO, Asuka (JAP) 54.866
5. POPA NEDELCU, Roxana (ESP) 54.532
6. FERLITO, Carlotta (ITA) 51.866
7. HARROLD, Ruby (GBR) 51.432
8. THEAKER, Raer (GBR) 50.632

The biggest congratulations has to go to Iordache, who has had a grueling month of back-to-back competitions and managed to put it all together to win in Glasgow. She did have a disappointing fall on beam, but her overall difficulty and consistency prevailed in the end- well done Larisa! 

Was pleased to see Ebee up there as well, it hasn't been an easy year for her, having to recover from injuries to both hips. Expect her to be back in full force for 2014!

Also to Ferrari- what a competitor! Although it seems as though she is at then end of her career, she seems to be getting better and better- such an inpiration! We hope to see her continue, Italy needs her consistency and leadership.

To top things off, I was lucky enough to meet Beth Tweddle, my favourite (sorry everyone else) British Olympian! We were stoked.

Shona, Beth and I after the competition

Article by Imogen Browne (Follow on twitter @ImogenMireille)

Saturday, 2 November 2013

New Faces: Roxana Popa (ESP)

Roxana Popa is a Romanian born first year senior who made her debut competing for Spain at the European Championships and the World Championships this year. She showed promise as a Junior and competed well at the 2012 Junior European Championships, where she qualified to the vault and all-around final (11th place).

Romanian-born Popa competes for Spain (credit: FIG)

Roxana was one of the standout rookie gymnasts at the 2013 World Championships held last month in Antwerp, Belgium. She was particularly impressive on bars where she has a strong swing and and floor where she shows much class and charisma for a young gymnast. She finished in 12th position with 53.366 behind Italy's Carlota Ferlito and Canada's Victoria Moors. Not bad at all for a first year senior!

Here she is on bars at Worlds

Here is her qualification floor routine from Worlds

Roxana is a very strong gymnast, which is clear from her bar work and her powerful vaulting and tumbling. She is also a strong all-arounder and is a great hope for Spain (who qualified strong teams to the Olympic finals in 2000 and 2004). It is lovely to see another Spanish gymnast achieving good results on the World stage. We hope to see you at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Roxana, keep up the great work!

Also see her responses to The Couch Gymnast's 15 Questions here

Article by Imogen Browne (Follow me on Twitter @IFlip4GymBlog)