Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Daria Joura (AUS)

Daria 'Dasha' Joura is a Siberian-born Australian gymnast. She competed at two World Championships and was part of Australia's Beijing Olympic Team in 2008. Dasha is best known for her expressive and innovative floor choreography, and her trademark salute, where she throws her head back. She was a great performer and a crowd favourite.

Daria Joura, Siberian-born member of the Senior Australian Team, 2006-2008 (photo credit: Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images)

Probably on of the best performers gymnastics has seen, Dasha has an amazing presence on the floor exercise. See the video below of her performance during the all-around competition at the 2007 World Championships. She gives the judges a cheeky wink before she begins her routine! She has definitely mastered the head-flick as well, whether it be upwards, or to the side, it helps adds drama to her routine. Many other international gymnasts have since used her music, but to me it will always be Dasha's!

Dasha competes in the all-around final at the 2007 World Championships

During the 2012 Olympic year, to the excitement of many fans, Dasha re-emerged onto the Australian gymnastics scene. She felt as though she could help Australia on vault, with her powerful double -turning Yurchencko (see below). Her 2008 Olympic experience was disappointing as a problematic qualifications round meant that Dasha did not advance to any individual finals. Dasha was not selected for the team, probably because steady all-arounders and bar specialists (Larissa Miller) were required.

Stuck DTY from Dasha in May, 2012

It was fantastic to see Dasha in competition again, after overcoming a 'career-ending' ankle injury that she sustained in 2009. I am unsure of her plans for the future, but would love to see more of her!

Dasha poses at the beam

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Danusia Francis: From British Elite to UCLA Freshman

"I'd always thought gymnasts who carried on competing past the age of 21 were crazy- now I'm one of them"- Blog post from Danusia on Metro Blogs

British gymnast Danusia Francis, 18 is one of UCLA's newest recruits. Known for her unique artistry and vivacious personality, Danusia has been a solid member of Team GB over the last couple of years. She was a member of the 2011 World Championships team and has performed well in two European Championships.
Danusia competes on floor exercise at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo (Photo credit:

Danusia on beam at the 2011 British Championships, showing off her unique style

UCLA showed interest in Danusia after they saw videos of her on Youtube (and who could blame them?). She commands attention when she performs and has a great overall presence on floor and beam, which is what you want in at the collegiate level. I cannot wait to see what Miss Val does with her floor routine for the 2013 season! Here is Danusia's routine from the 2012 British Teams Championships.

Danusia on floor exercise at the 2012 British Teams Championships

I am glad to see that more and more elite gymnasts continue their careers by competing in college gymnastics. In a sport that has been dominated by young girls (think 14 year old Nadia Comaneci), it is great to see it truly become 'Women's Gymnastics'. I hope that in the future, gymnasts will feel as though they can continue to be competitive, even after they have finished school at age 18- look at Vasiliki Missilousi, Catalina Ponor, Sandra Izbasa, Alicia Sacramone and Oksana Chusovitina.

"...I looked up to them but I never thought I would be able to do that [gymnastics] physically or psychologically. But being given this opportunity definitely inspired me to fell it was possible for me and that I could do it"- Danusia on competing past the age of 18

College gymnastics is fun to watch, teams become the gymnast's family away from home and meets are extremely competitive and hyped up by the media! It is great to see gymnasts from other countries competing alongside with the Americans such as; Becky Wing (GBR), Marissa King (GBR) and Shona Morgan (AUS). Congratulations to Danucia on being offered a scholarship to UCLA- we wish you well for your studies and competitions!

See also- The Couch Gymnast's interview with Danusia

Danusia's Blog Post on Metro Blogs

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Charlotte Sullivan (NZL)

This week's Sunday Spotlight features Charlotte Sullivan, a junior elite gymnast from New Zealand who trains at Christchurch School of Gymnastics. At 13, she trains 32 hours each week and has performed well in overseas competitions, finishing 3rd overall at the 2011 Victorian State Championships  and qualifying for the beam final at the 2012 Pacific Rim competition. New Zealand has a relatively small elite gymnastics programme, so it is fantastic to see girls like Charlotte doing well on the international stage.

Charlotte trains on beam at the Christchurch School of Gymnastics (credit: The Press, Christchurch)

She started gymnastics at age 6 and has been described as tenacious, hard-working and talented. Her best apparatus is beam, where she performs difficult skills including a cleanly executed split-change half-turn and a flic- back layout series. Here she is competing at the New Zealand National Championships, held in Blenheim this month.

Charlotte's beam routine from the 2012 New Zealand National Championships, Blenheim

She is a tidy and flexible gymnast and also shows some powerful tumbling on floor- she has alot of potential! The routine below shows her performance during the team final at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships. The team from New Zealand at this championship consisted of junior elites from the Christchurch School of Gymnastics. Their training had been severely impacted by the many earthquakes occurring in Christchurch at this time. However, the young an in-experienced team performed extremely well considering their circumstances and very much enjoyed the opportunity to compete against some of the best gymnasts in the world- Go New Zealand!!

Charlotte on floor at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships, Score: 12.500

Here is an interview with Charlotte and her team mates at the conclusion of the Pacific Rim competition. They are so talented and we wish them all the best for competitions in the future. Charlotte's aim is to make it to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. If she makes it, she will be New Zealand's first Olympic athlete in the sport to do so.

Andrea Joyce interviews the young team from New Zealand at the 2012 Pacific Rims

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Diana Bulimar (ROM)

Diana (Didi) Bulimar is one of Romania's younger team members who was part of the 2012 London Olympic Games. She was born in 1995 and competed in her first World Championships in Tokyo, 2011. Particularily strong on floor exercise and balance beam, Bulimar's talent was first recognised at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games where she competed against Russia's Victoriya Komova, China's Tan Sixin and Italy's Carlotta Ferlito. Low scores on bar and a few shaky beam routines kept her out of the running for an all-around medal.

Diana competes on floor at the 2010 YOG in Singapore, finishing second in the final (photo credit:wikia)

At the 2011 World Championships, Bulimar competed a new floor routine in the team final, showing great tumbling and plenty of charm. Bulimar was one of the many gymnasts to pull out of the floor final due to injury. Romania finished fourth in the team competition and sadly left Tokyo with a medal count of zero. Team coach Octavian Bellu described this competition as being 'Catastrophic'- see the Couch Gymnast's article from 2011 here:

Diana on floor at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. She was forced to withdraw from the floor final due to injury (credit: International Gymnast Magazine)

2012 proved to be a much better year for the Romanians, with a gold medal win at the European Championships, which proved to be a suprise for many. Romania was back with a bang! Diana was an excellent table setter for bars put up strong routines for the team on beam and floor. Her floor routine from this competition can be viewed below. The music and choreography suits her so well, the tumbling is high, clean and difficult to boot. I love the interesting arm movement in her leaps at 1:18, which add a bit of flourish to the routine. The huge smile at the end is so gorgeous!

Diana's floor performance during the team finals at the 2012 European Championships in Brussels. Team Romania took home the gold medal

Coach Octavian Bellu hugs Diana and Larisa Iordache, the youngest members of his gold medal winning team (credit: The Gymnastics Examiner)

Cata Ponor, one of the veterans of the team congratulates Didi after her routine- so cute! (credit: instagram)

Golden team: Sandra Izbasa, Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar, Raluca Haidu and Catalina Ponor (credit: tumblr)

During the team final at the Olympic Games in London, Diana put forwards strong scores on bar, beam and floor (14.066, 14.533 and 14.700 respectively). Romania managed to edge out 2008 Olympic Champions China to take the bronze medal. Bulimar's solid performances, along with the rest of the team allowed them to take this prize. Bulimar also qualified for the balance beam final. Unfortunately her coaches decided that Larisa Iordache would take her place in the final. This seems unfair to me, not only for Bulimar, but also for the other competitors who did not get a second chance to redeem themselves after a bad qualification round (eg. World Champion Jordyn Wieber missed the all-around final due to the two per country rule- she was beaten by her country women Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas in the qualifications round). It would be nice if the FIG could make it a rule that qualifiers must compete, unless of course they become ill or are injured (which must be approved by an FIG doctor).

Bulimar on floor in the team final at the London 2012 Olympic Games (credit: GSP)

I look forwards to seeing Bulimar around for many years to come, especially on floor and beam. She is a consistent and trustworthy member to have on your team! Over time, her and Iordache are likely to become the leaders of the Romanian team and I hope that they continue to perform strongly over the years to come! If only Romania could get their bar routines up to scratch with the rest of the competition, they would truely be a formidable team! I'd also love to see Diana get that beam medal that she so well deserves at the 2013 Worlds!

Article by @ImogenMireille

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Fav Floor Routines Part Two: Athens 2004-Beijing 2008

The second part of this blog covers floor routines from the 2004 Olympic Games held in Athens to the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing. Again, it was so hard to pick these so I hope you enjoy them! Feel free to comment if you feel there are any more worth a mention.

Svetlana Khorkina (RUS) 2004 Olympic Games, AA Final
Svetlana Khorkina (or Sveta) was one of the greats of Russian gymnastics. The Olympic Games in Athens was her third and her swansong, as she battled America's Carly Patterson for the Olympic all-around title. She was a favourite leading into the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but a hugely controversial technical error with the vault height on the first rotation meant that her competition was ruined. Khorkina was a passionate, ferocious and steely competitor, which earned her nicknames such as 'diva' and 'Queen Khorkina'. Her dance flows beautifully and she uses her height to her advantage and accentuates her long lines. Almost effortlessly, she engrosses the audience in her performance. I remember watching this routine as a kid, couldn't take my eyes off her. She showed innovation and originality by using a different end pose for both the individual and team competition.

Queen Khorkina perfoms in the all-around final at the 2004 Olympics in Sydney. She finished a close second to America's Carly Patterson

Cheng Fei (CHI) 2004 Olympic Games Team Final
The young Chinese star was a phenomonal tumbler from the get-go. Her opening pass of a double-twisting double sommersault gets a ridiculous amount of air- still one of the best I have ever seen. As with all Chinese gymnasts, she is incredibly precise with all of her movements. She also gets amazing height on her leaps for someone so small! The huge smile at the end is genuine and excellent to see, she understands the significance of competing in something like the Olympic Games and wants the world to see how proud she is to be there. She goes on to be one of the best floor workers over the next quad, and leads the Chinese team to their first Olympic Team title on home soil in Beijing, 2008.

Cheng competes in the Team Final in Athens, 2004

Alicia Sacramone (USA) 2008 US Olympic Trials, Day Two
American gymnast and 2008 Olympian Alicia Sacramone was another great floor worker of this quad. Her routines were sassy and oozed her personality. Check out her awesome arabian double sommersault. A mature competitor by 2008, you can see the concentration in her eyes as she performs (although she does celebrate with a smile after a stuck tumbling pass!). Alicia was a lock for the Olympic Team, with strong routines to offer on beam, floor and vault. Unfortunately, her Olympic performances were not what she had hoped for. On a side note, Aly Raisman, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist on floor trained at the same gym (Brestyan's), pretty damn good coaching I say!

Alicia competes in the US Olympic Trials, 2008. This competition would have been more nerve-wracking than the Olympics themselves

Nastia Liukin (USA) 2008 Olympic Games, AA Final
Oh Nastia, where to start? Anastasia Liukin, is about as close to gymnastics royalty as you can get. Her father, Valeri Liukin competed in the Olympics for Russia and her mother, Anna Liukin was a famous rhythmic gymnast (also for Russia). She inherited her father's power and determination and her mother's flexibility and grace. Her floor routines have always been balletic and equisite. She managed to pull everything together to take the all-around title in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. She had the competition of her life, finishing with another one of her marvellous floor routines. Only wish WOGA would stop recycling their poses!

Nastia wins bronze in the floor event final at the 2008 Olympic Games

Yang Yilin (CHI) 2008 Olympic Games, AA Final
China's Yang Yilin took the bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games behind silver medalist Shawn Johnson of the USA. A unique choice of music for the young Chinese girl suits her well. The rather tall yet elegant gymnast has very dramatic, yet effective choreography. I felt that her routine helped to intensify the mood during the last rotation of the competition. Yilin was an excellent twister, all of her tumbles were very precise, a joy to watch!

Yang Yilin creates suspense in the final rotation of the Women's AA final in Beijing, 2008

Anna Pavlova (RUS) 2008 Olympic Games, AA Final
Performed to 'Exodus', the routine from the Russian Anna Pavlova has to be one of the most beautiful pieces of gymnastics of all time. Her double straight sommersault is perfect, the dance flows beautifully and shows off her amazing flexibility. She combines power and elegance incredibly well. I remember reading somewhere that she was upset with the music choice and was not sure if she would feel comfortable performing her Olympic routine to it. You cannot tell at all by watching this routine. Unfortunately, Anna always seemed to end up in fourth place and I feel as though she has never really recieved the acknowledgement that she deserves!

Anna Pavlova of Russia performs to 'Exodus' in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Stay tunned for part three, which will cover routines from 2009-present!

Fav Floor Routines Part 1- Golden Oldies

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)