Thursday, 22 November 2012

Coaches Corner: Coaching Is Not An Exact Science-It's An Art!

As a coach, there are two main types of feedback that you can give to your gymnasts- praise or criticism. Obviously, if a gymnast has made improvements and progress, positive feedback is appropriate. However, especially for older gymnasts who are already performing skills well, some structured criticism regarding technique will help them to perfect their skills.

Younger gymnasts require constant positive feedback to boost their confidence levels

How a coach handles each individual gymnast also depends upon the gymnast themselves. Talented gymnasts who learn new skills quickly will require critical feedback in order for them to polish the skills and perform them to the best of their ability. However, gymnasts which struggle to get certain skills will require much encouragement and positive feedback while they learn. Each gymnast is unique and should be coached in a way that works best for them. Coaching is not an exact science, it's an art!

It is easy for a coach to become quickly frustrated when gymnasts are not making the changes they ask for. It is important for the coach to remember that the gymnast is probably just as equally frustrated. At times like these, the coach should provide positive feedback as well as reminding the gymnast of what they need to fix. For example,

"That vault had lots of power, but you still need to think about leaning back on the beat-board".

"Cool, that's one of your better kips today, but remember to keep those legs close to the bar".

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Deng Linlin (CHI)

Deng Linlin is a two-time Chinese Olympian. She has won two Olympic gold medals, first with the team at the 2008 Beijing and secondly in the beam final at the 2012 London Olympics. It is amazing that she remained competitive at such a high level for two Olympic cycles. This makes her one of China's most successful gymnasts. Her strongest event is definitely beam, where she was also World Champion in 2009.

Deng happy after she finished her gold-medal beam routine at the 2012 Olympics

Deng was selected to train with the Chinese national team in 2004, where at the ripe age of 12, she moved away from home to concentrate on making the 2008 Olympic team. She was the third best Chinese all-arounder in 2008 (at both the Chinese Nationals and Olympic Qualifications) behind Yang Yilin (who won the bronze medal in the all-around competition) and Jiang Yuang. Deng was heavily relied upon in the team final, where she contributed fantastic scores on vault, beam and floor (15.250, 15.925 and 15.150 respecitively). Twenty minutes before the competition, the coaches decided to put her in the vault line up instead of Jiang Yuang. She did a fantastic job, sticking her DTY vault beautifully.

Deng Linlin's 15.250 DTY in the Team Final during the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Although other members of China's gold medal winning team from Beijing continued to train after 2008, Deng was the most persistent (and did not undergo a large growth spurt like Yang Yilin!). She claimed the beam title at the 2009 World Championships in London. Her acrobatic skills are crazy high, she shows of her flexibility (especially in the shoulders) and she is very precise. Chinese gymnasts are notoriously inconsistent, especially on beam. Deng in one of the more consistent Chinese gymnasts, and I believe that is precisely why she took the gold at this year's Olympics over her compatriot Sui Lu. Here is one of Deng's best routines from the Team Final at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam.

Deng Linlin performs on beam during the team final at the 2010 Rotterdam World Championships

The podium for the beam final at the 2012 London Olympics. Sui Lu (not impressed), Deng Linlin and Aly Raisman (delighted)

Deng has brought pride to her country once more, by bringing home an Olympic gold medal this summer. In honour of her achievements, the 'Deng Linlin rest and exercise centre' has been constructed in her hometown. Deng is very thankful for this and hopes that her achievements will encourage people to take care of their health and that her community will continue progressing. I am uncertain if Deng will choose to continue in gymnastics but nevertheless  she has had a very successful career and should be extremely proud of what she has accomplished. It is not easy to understand just how much sacrifice and dedication it takes to remain successful in the sport of gymastics for two Olympic cycles. China should be incredibly proud of their star!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Fav Floor Routines Part Four- Floor workers of the future!

The final part of the Fav Floor Routine posts includes routines from up-and-coming juniors. It is great to see such artistic and creative routines from gymnasts so young! With the FIG favouring more artistic routines, it is good to see these athletes focusing on artistry.

Angel Romaeo (GBR)
Angel's floor routine has been one of my favourites for a long time. She has very memorable choreography and is a great performer. She trains in Cardiff and is a great prospect for British and Welsh gymnastics. Angel qualified into the all-around competition at this year's Junior European Championships. I love her dance sequence at 0:50!

Angel on floor at the 2012 British Championships, floor final

Simone Biles (USA)
This girl is probably the most powerful tumbler on the US Junior Team. Her opening pass of a double layout to a stag leap is stunning. Her choreography is very bubbly and fun, which suits her personality well. I look forwards to this girl turning senior (she also has a great Amanar to boot!).

Simone on floor, day 2 of VISA Nationals 2012

Maria Kharenkova (RUS)
This young Russian trains alongside Anastasia Sidorova and is already strong on floor and beam. She has the elegant Russian lines, style and exquisite toe point. I love the piece of music that she uses, with the warbly vocals. Another powerful tumbler, she is a great hope for Russia.

Maria winning the floor final at this year's Junior Europeans

Enus Mariani (ITA)
Enus is the Junior European all-around champion from the 2012 European Championships. She also has great style and performs her skills cleanly. Her dance is innovative, daring and exciting- very fun to watch! Italy has been making great advances in the past few years with the likes of Vanessa Ferrari  Carlotta Ferlito and now Enus Mariani. Hopefully she will lead Italian gymnastics in the next few years.

Enus Mariani on floor at the 2012 Junior Europeans

Lexie Preissman (USA)
Lexie is my favourite floor worker on the US Junior National Team. Her 2012 floor routine was performed to 'Zumba' and it is fantastic. Her choreography is playful and upbeat and she allows her personality to shine through. Did I mention that she has a double-double as an opener?! Lexie has some great tumbling in her routine and I feel that she will be one of the US's best floor workers in the coming years.

Lexie performs her floor routine on Day One of the 2012 US Nationals

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Rebecca Tunney (GBR)

This Sunday Spotlight features British gymnast Rebecca Tunney, who was the youngest member of Great Britain's 2012 Olympic Team. Born in '96 she was just 15 when she competed in London and finished a very respectable 13th place in the all-around final. She trains at Liverpool Gymnastics and is coached by Claire Duffy (who also coached Beth Tweddle, Hannah Whelan and Jennifer Pinches).
Rebecca Tunney, now 16 years old trains at Liverpool Gymnastics (photo credit: Guardian UK)

Her gymnastics has improved rapidly over the past year. At the start of 2012 she competed in the American Cup where she had significant problems on beam. However, the youngster learned from her mistakes and came back to win the British Championships. Later in the year, she produced solid beam routines in front of a home crowd and enormous pressure at the Olympic Games. Her coach Claire Duffy is happy with how Rebecca has handled the pressure of an Olympic Games.
 "She takes everything in her stride. She's used to big occasions and she will treat it as just another competition. She knows that she has to be ready to deliver the routine to the best of her ability" (from the Observer, UK).

Tunney on floor exercise during the Qualifications round at the 2012 Olympic Games (photp credit

Rebecca has beautiful lines and executes her routines very cleanly. She is probably most well known for her bar routine where she has excellent rhythm and a variety of different skills. Her floor routine is also a delight to watch, she has such style for a gymnast so young. The tumbling is not bad either! Beth Tweddle has much praise for this young gymnast. 
“Rebecca is a great gymnast, so mature and grounded considering she’s not 16 yet and she’s got a great future.” (LiverpoolEcho, UK)

Tunney's routine from the London Test Event where she qualified to the bars final

Rebecca's floor routine from the 2012 British Championships where she won the all-around competition

Rebecca describes the Olympic Games as a 'surreal experience' but she is very proud of her achievements. On the sacrifices she has made to get to London, she says 
"It's been worth it. This is the best experience of my life. Not many people can say they've been to an Olympics at the age of 15 so it is an achievement"
She is absolutely correct! What an amazing achievement for Rebecca, I am sure that her coach and family are incredibly proud of what she has accomplished at her young age!

Tunney plans to shoot for Rio in 2016, although she is well aware that things do not always go to plan.
"To be honest with you, it depends on how fit I am, how many injuries I have had. See how that goes," she said. "I would like to think that I will stay on. But you never know what will happen in the future." (Guardian, UK)
Rebecca, we hope to see you continue in the sport. British gymnastics is undergoing an exciting period, with the success of Beth Tweddle and the Men's team (took home bronze in the team final, their first team medal at the Olympic Games). British gymnastics needs young talents like Tunney to continue the legacy!

Double pike dismount from Tunney in the all-around final at the Olympic Games (Photo credit: Guardian)

British Gymnastics advert for Tunney

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Coaches Corner: Developing Tap Swings

A fundamental skill for Junior gymnasts is developing swinging techniques on both the low (glides) and high bars (tap swings). It is important that they become confident with simple moves like these in order for them to develop the strength and skills to progress with more difficult skills. One of the most difficult things to teach young gymnasts are fundamental body shapes that they must make while swinging. Conditioning of both the dish (hollow) and arch shape is necessary and must be repeated and reinforced with every training session.

The Youtube video below gives some excellent conditioning tips and drills that can be performed on the bars themselves.
Tap Swing Drills Video

Many young gymnasts find it difficult to find the correct swing rhythm, lack the strength or are too scared to go high. A slow progression through these drills should help gymnasts with any problems.

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)

Fav Floor Routines Part 3- 2009 to London 2012

Sorry the third part of this has been so long coming. Where to start? We have been treated to so many artistic and expressive floor routines over the last quad, ranging from the beautiful balletic style of Ana Porgras to the powerful (and in my opinion, equally as artistic) Jordyn Wieber. A gymnast that links powerful and cleanly executed tumbling with difficult spins and leaps will get a good mark. However, the gymnasts that set themselves apart from the rest of the field do so by portraying their own unique style and flair to the audience and judges. Artistry generally ripens with age, but some young gymnasts have 'it', such as Victoria Moors (Canada) and Anastasia Grishina (RUS). I'm not even sure what kind of style I enjoy, but I have put together a list of my favourite floor routines from the last quad.

Ana Porgras (ROM)
The young Romanian appeared on the international stage in 2009 at the World Championships held in London (same venue as the 2012 Olympic Games). Romania is not particularly well-known for their artistry on floor, but Ana was in a class of her own. She has lovely long lines and performs well to a waltz piece. She had an extremely well-polished routine for a gymnast so young. Unfortunately Ana retired before the Olympic Games in 2012, due to ongoing injuries. She would have been a huge asset to the Romanian team on beam and bars in particular.

Ana showing off her gorgeous lines during the floor final at the 2009 World Championships in London (tied for 5th place with Rebecca Bross)

Ksenia Semenova (RUS)
I've said it before and I will say it once again. Semenova's '09-'10 routine is simply divine. The choreography gels perfectly with the music and her routine is entirely her own. I have never seen a gymnast perform as she does, she captivating and tells a story with her routine. Note the interesting spins with the leg held behind the head. Love love LOVE this routine.

Semenova's routine at the 2009 Memorial Gander Competition. 

Sui Lu (CHI)
This Chinese gymnast deserves to be on the list for her stellar tumbling alone. She is always so clean and has one of the best triple twists I have ever seen (except for perhaps Larisa Iordache!). Sui has since gotten a new routine, but I prefer the older one for some reason. I mean, who couldn't love her with her cute Chinese choreography and little white gym shoes? Check out her awesome, cleanly executed spins too.
Bronze medal floor routine from Sui Lu at the 2009 World Championships in London

Aliya Mustafina (RUS)
The 2010 World Championships were Aliya Mustafina's and Team Russia's time to shine. She was at her peak and was the best gymnast in the world at this time, and she knew it! Her floor routine was totally captivating. She has the classic Russian lines, the sass and the tumbling to boot. She performs as though she owns the place! I especially love her close-to-the-floor dance section, it changes the tempo of the routine and builds suspense for the final tumble.

Mustafina's floor routine in the 2010 World Championships Team Final, where Russia took home gold for the first time in history

Jordyn Wieber (USA)
Many people complained about the lack of artistry in Jordyn Wieber's routines, the World all-around champion from 2011. I was also sceptical, but found myself loving her new floor routine performed to 'Wild Dance'by Ruslana. Jordyn may not have the classic lines of the more elegant gymnasts, but her floor routine suits her body type and personality so well. She performs with great energy, shows beautiful control and even looks as though she is enjoying herself out on the competition floor. I love the bit before her last tumble run, where she sweeps her arms around towards the audience, this routine interprets the music extremely well. Another great thing about Jordyn is that you know that she will always land on her feet! Unfortunately the same can't be said for a lot of gymnasts out there (particularly Russia!)

Jordyn on floor at the 2011 Visa National Championships

Ksenia Afanasyeva (RUS)
This Russian veteran was the 2011 World Champion on floor. Her routines have always been beautifully artistic but this one was a step above the rest. She has beautiful choreography, great turns and powerful, clean tumbling. She pays attention to detail and always finishes dance skills on toe point. Like Mustafina, she is captivating and absolutely stunning to watch on floor. Well deserved gold medalist on this event!
Afanasyeva wins the floor at the 2011 World Championships

Victoria Moors (CAN)
One of my general rules is that gymansts shouldn't reuse floor musics. However, Victoria's interpretation of Aussie Daria Joura's music is fantastic. Man this girl can dance! Her confidence is extremely impressive in someone so young! (At 15 she helped Canada to their 5th place finish at the Olympics this year). Also check out the air that she gets on her double double opening pass. Victoria is a very exciting newbie for the Canadian team and I'm sure that she will medal in World Championships on floor exercise in the coming years.

Victoria's floor routine from the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships

Aly Raisman (USA)
Aly has developed into this routine over the '11-'12 period. At first I disliked it, but it has grown on me over time. She is, without a doubt one of the most powerful and clean tumblers of all time. Her opening pass is a jaw-dropper, double-piked arabian to immediate layout punch-front, I'm not sure how this is even possible, this girl is a machine. Like Jordyn, Aly proves that you do not have to have a classical, balletic style of gymnastics to be successful. Check out the best floor routine from the 2012 Olympic Games. I was so pleased that she got her individual gold medal at these Games, she is extremely hard working and deserves to be in the spotlight and have her talent recognised. I really hope Aly continues to stick around, I'd love to see her compete again at a World Championships and see her get that all-around medal she deserves. 

Golden Girl Aly performs in the floor final at the 2012 Olympic Games

Stay tuned for part 4 which will include recent junior routines!

See parts 1 and 2 below
Fav Floor Routines Part 2- Athens 2004 to Beijing 2008
Fav Floor Routines Part 1- Golden Oldies

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille on Twitter)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Oksana Chusovitina- A Gymnastics Legend

If you're a hard-core gymnastics fan, then you will know Oksana Chusovitina, who is a 6-time Olympian, which is practically unheard of in the sport of gymnastics especially on the Women's side. At her first Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, she won the Team gold for the Soviet Union. She is an 11-time World medalist and at the 2008 Olympic Games of Beijing, was a silver medalist on vault. She now competes for Germany, where she lives with her husband and son. She is extremely well respected in the gymnastics community, the photo below says it all! 

Chusovitina is acknowledged as a competitor at the 2012 European Championships in Brussels. She was competing before the majority of her competitors were born (Credit: Master's Gymnastics)

Although she is most well-known for her powerful vaulting, she is also a very powerful tumbler and has made many floor finals in the past (and was World Champion on floor at the 1991 World Championships!). Her floor routine in the  final at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is shown below, along with her silver medal performance at the 2008 Olympics. In her more recent beam and floor routines, you can see the old-fashioned Soviet style of gymnastics from this era- love it!

Chuso competes in the floor final at the 1992 Olympic Games. Check out the air she gets at 1:10!

Chusovitina wins silver in the vault final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Oksana's young son was diagnosed with leukemia in 2002 at the age of 2. This was when the family moved to Germany so that their son, Alisher could receive better medical care. The gymnastics community rallied to offer her support and she claims that she has tried to "compete well for people to thank them what they've done for me". Alisher is now a reasonably healthy child, thanks to the excellent medical care he has received. It must have been an extremely stressful couple of years for Oksana and her husband, while taking care of their sick child and being a full-time elite gymnast. It is a tribute to her tenacity and strength as a Mother and a gymnast.

Chusovitina and her son Alisher in 2008 (Photo credit: NBC Sports)

Oksana has recently announced her plans to continue training for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. For a 41-year old gymnast competiting at the Olympic Games, it seems to be a bit of a long shot. But I believe that she can do it! She is an amazing person and a great ambassador for the sport of gymnastics. Truley one of the all-time greats of gymnastics, she deserves some kind of award.

 "... I have not ended my own sportive career. I am planning to continue until 2016 in Rio de Janeiro! -from

NBC interview from 2008:

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Ksenia Semenova (RUS)

Ksenia Semenova (now retired) was a key member of the Russian team from 2007-2010, participated in three World Championships and the Beijing Olympic Games. She was often under-rated as she was Queen of the dreaded 4th position not unlike her fellow Russian Anna Pavlova. 

A young Semenova on floor in the all-around Olympic competition where she finished 4th place (Photo credit: Getty Images, Jeff Gross)

However, she was a champion in her own right, winning the uneven bars title at her first World Championships in 2007 outshining fellow competitors Nastia Liukin (USA) and Yang Yilin (CHI). She became the first uneven bars World Champion since Khorkina. Here is her gold medal performance at the 2007 World Championships. She swings extremely efficiently and moves very quickly  through her routine. Note the Rebecca Bross-like toe point! She perhaps lacks some difficulty and there is a bit to be said about her technique.

Ksenia wins the uneven bars title at the 2007 World Championships (aged 14!!)

She underwent a growth spurt after the 2008 Olympics and really matured as a gymnast. Her personality flourishes in her 2009-2010 floor routine which is one of my all-time favourites. The choreography fits her and the music so perfectly and she performs it with such passion! I also love the unique turns (foot held up behind her head). With strong routines on floor, beam and bar, and with a decent vault she became the European all-around champion in 2009, she was at the peak of her career in 2009. Here is her excellent floor routine performed at the Memorial Gander competition in 2009.

Ksenia's 2009 floor routine (best quality video I could find!)

Ksenia helped the Russian team to win gold in the Team competition at the 2010 World Championships for the first time EVER alongside Russian star Aliya Mustafina. Semenova contributed with beautiful balance beam routine. It is amazing what Team Russia can accomplish when they are confident!

Semenova's beam routine helped Team Russia to gold at the 2010 World Championships

Semenova has since retired from gymnastics due to on-going injuries and further growth spurts, she is now pursuing her studies in law. She is still involved in the gymnastics community and helps with coaching at her old club. Ksenia should be immensley proud of her gymnastics career, she has contributed much to Russian gymnastics and will be remembered! World Champions are forever, afterall.

Semenova hanging out with Aliya Mustafina and Ksenia Afanaseva in 2012

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Coaches Corner: Gymnastike's Technique Tuesdays

I have been a gymnastics coach for around 4 years and in my time I have coached both rec and competitive. An ex-gymnast myself, I have come to realise that coaching is an excellent way to stay involved in the sport. It can be challenging and frustrating some days, especially when the kids become tired. But then there are those moments when a kid learns a new skill or does really well in a competition, and you know all of that hard work has paid off. And it's the best feeling ever!

The hardest part for me is coming up with drills that will help with new skills and techniques such as; kips, powerful vaulting, roundolfs and flic-flacs (back handsprings). There are many useful resources on the gymternet which give coaches like me great ideas. An example are the 'Technique Tuesdays' which can be found at gymnastike. Highly trained coaches give advice on specific skills across a range of levels (eg. good handstand---> Tchatchev drills) and for both competitive and recreational gymnasts. I seriously recommend checking them out if you haven't already!

I often find that the equipment used is quite high tech and expensive, but many drills are adaptable!

Article by Imogen Browne (@ImogenMireille)