Sunday, 26 May 2013

Gymnastics Legends: Elena Produnova (RUS)

I thought I would start a new series of post on famous gymnasts from the past, that some of the younger generation ought to know about!

My earliest memories of watching gymnastics came from the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney. This was back when gymnasts were scored out of a 10.0 and the vault was much narrower than it is today. Team competitions were always a tight battle between the Russians and Romanians and China was really starting to become good. There were some great gymnasts of that era, including Russia's Svetlana Khorkina, Ekaterina Lobazniuk and Romania's Simona Amanar (who performed the yurchenko 2.5 twist on the old vaulting horse) and Andreea Raducan.

One of the standout performers for me was red-haired Elena Produnova of Russia. Practically raised by her coach (her only father figure in her life), she was an extremely powerful gymnast with a lot of attitude. She was the first woman to perform the Prudonova vault (a handspring with two flips), and not only was she capable of performing this extremely difficult vault, she did it well. No other gymnast since her has managed to compete in even nearly as well as she did.

Produnova competes her vault in 1999
She can be described as a proud Russian. When her team made mistakes in the team final at the Olympics, she was not afraid at showing her disappointment. Her own performances has been extremely solid- she really has nerves of steel when she competes. She and her team mates had the capability to be the best in the world, but failed to prove it on team finals night. Mistakes on bars from Khorkina and from Lobazniuk on beam cost Russia the gold medal (it was won by the more consistent Romanians).

NBC on the Russian and Romanian Teams at the Sydney Olympics

She made gymnastics her job and got much pleasure out of showing the world what she could do. For her, the Olympics was it and she retired after the 2000 Olympic Games, after winning a silver in the team final and a bronze on beam. Gymnastics was a very different sport at this time. Powerful gymnasts such as Produnova thrived under this code of points, where there was less of an emphasis on artistry and more of an emphasis on difficulty and clean execution. Many of the routines and combinations were similar, but Produnova helped to break this mold with her unique forwards tumbling skills.

Produnova competes in the beam event final in Sydney (bronze medal). Check out the amazing dismount!

Article by Imogen Browne (Follow me on Twitter @Iflip4gymblog)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

A word on Italian Gymnastics...

Looking through my posts I was shocked to find that I have posted nothing on the Italian gymnasts. Not sure why, I think they are excellent and have some of the best artistry out there. They are making a name for themselves by producing serveral great all-around gymnasts including 2006 World Champ Vanessa Ferrari and 2012 Junior European Champ Enus Mariani.

1/ Vanessa Ferrari '90
Any discussion of Italian gymnastics has to begin with Vanessa Ferrari. She suprised the world as a young gymnast by becoming world all-around Champion in 2006, and in my mind, put Italy on the radar. She was (and still is!) an extremely powerful (yet short) athlete. She just goes to show that size isn't everything! She competed at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, one of only a handful of gymnasts to do so. Her tenacity and fierceness is admirable, in every competition she gets her game face on, and has always performed like a seasoned competitor. She has been a great leader for the Italian team over the past few years and their most consistent all-arounder. She placed 8th at last year's London Olympic Games, a testament to her hard work over the last quad, and an improvement on her 11th place finish four years earlier in Beijing.

Vanessa on floor at the 2012 London Olympics

The most amazing thing about Vanessa is her competitive spirit and her obvious love for gymnastics. She continues to compete and (hopefully!) will shoot for Rio in 2016, where she may finally win a medal on floor. She is best to watch on floor, where she has wonderfully expressive dance, some of the best tumbling you'll ever see and she even has a unique leap named after her in the code. To be honest, she is pretty good everywhere! She has that 'get the job done' approach, and can be counted on to produce a consistent performance anywhere- a great person to have on your team! Plus, she likes to keep us entertained with her interesting choice of leotard- see below!

Vanessa Ferrari competes on floor in the EF at the 2012 Olympic Games- she was devastated to finish outside of the medals in 4th place

2/ Carlotta Ferlito '95
Another prominent name in Italian gymnastics is the charismatic Carlotta Ferlito. She first drew attention at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games, where she placed 3rd in the all-around, 3rd on vault and 2nd on floor. She, like Ferarri is a good all-arounder, but her best event is beam. It has always slightly unnerved me how confident and natural she looks up there! She consistently makes beam and floor finals, and she is great to watch on either piece. She is an incredibly clean and athletic gymnast, with many more competitive years in her yet!

Carlotta Ferlito, another of Italy's great all-arounders

Carlo's beam from the EF at the European Championships held last month

Trademark balance at the start of her routine, London 2012 (photo credit: Zimbo)

3/ Elisabetta Preziosa '93
Elisabetta (or Betta) is a beam specialist and her routines are absolutely gorgeous, thanks to her beautiful flexibility and poise. She also competes on other events, but her best marks are by far on beam. If she is to make the team in the future, she will be a beam specialist (which will be tough because it seems that all Italians are great on beam!). Nevertheless, she is certainly something special.

Betta shows off her amazing flexibilityat the 2009 World Championships

Another beautiful position- I could fill up the whole page with beautiful pictures!

One more will have to do- I do love Italy's leotards! (photo credit: televisionado)

4/ Erika Fasana '96
Erika was a member of the 2012 London Olympic team, who is a great team player and another consistent all-arounder. She finished 13th in qualifications at the Olympic Games, another victim of the 2-per country rule. Vault is probably her best piece, she is another power gymnast with a Ferarri-type build. In my opinion, she has not yet reached her full potential and I am excited to see what upgrades she will make over the next couple of years.

Fasana getting ready to compete (photo credit: La Provincia)

Fasana in the vault final at the 2012 European Championships

5/ Elisa Meneghini '97
Elisa is part of the new crop of gymnasts, she turned senior this year and just missed out on the last Olympic Games. She is again great on beam (I see a common theme here) and performed very well in the beam finals at this year's European Championships in Moscow. She is a very clean gymnast from what I have seen and I am unsure about her all-around potential. But it will be interesting to see how she develops over the next quad, and how her performances can help the team.

Elisa Meneghini, happy to be on floor at the 2012 Junior European Championships (photo credit: Federation Francaise de Gym)

Elisa representing Italy in the beam final at the 2013 Moscow European Championships

6/ Enus Mariani '98
Enus will become a senior next year. She impressed many by taking the Junior European all-around title in 2012, and helped her team to a silver medal (bearing Romania, which is HUGE). She impressed me with her wonderfully expressive floor routine. She has a rare gift for artistry and has almost taken it to the level of interpretive dance. Her style is not for everyone, but I love that she is so daring and is not afraid to be herself at such a young age.

Enus at the 2012 Junior Europeans (photo credit: Federation Francaise de Gym)

Enus with her fantastic floor routine. Love it! Do you?

I can't wait to see what the Italian squad can produce over the next quad. I would love to see them upset for a team medal. I believe that Enus potentially could challenge for all-around medals in the coming years. How great would it be to see an Italian up on the podium again??

Article by Imogen Browne (Follow I Flip For Gym Blog on Twitter @IFlip4GymBlog)

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Sunday Spotlight: Elsa Garcia (MEX)

Elsa Garcia is one of Mexico's most prolific gymnasts. She has represented her country as an individual at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Elsa Gracia trains for the 2012 London Olympics (photo credit:

Elsa has lovely long lines and what she lacks in difficulty, she makes up for in execution. At the 2009 World Championships in London, she was awarded the Longines Prize for Elegance. At this competition she placed 12th in the all-around and qualified to the vault final.

Elsa with her prize at the 2009 World Championships in London

She is good on all events, a great blend of elegance and power. Mostly I enjoy her balance beam routines. She has quite a unique style and performs her skills very precisely. Here is her routine from the 2010 American Cup.

Elsa scored 13.7 for this routine

Her floor routines have great choreography and music. Here is one of her better ones from 2007. Gymnastics was a minor sport in Mexico at the time, and Elsa's success no doubt helped the sport gain popularity and funding. Check out the great tumbling!

This scored a 14.925 (easier scoring back then??)

Due to an injury prior to the Olympic Games in London, Elsa was only able to compete floor and beam in the qualifications. Her ultimate goal was to compete at these Olympics, and now she has achieved that, it is unsure what she will decide to do in the future. She participated in the 2012 Mexican Gala, a display event alongside many great gymnasts including; Catalina Ponor (ROM), Rebecca Bross (USA), Marian Dragilescu (ROM) and Jessica Lopez (VEN). Here is her floor routine performed to 'Pretty Woman'.

I have very much enjoyed watching Elsa's performances over the years. She is currently studying fashion design, and plans to release her own line of leotards! She also would love to compete at the Olympic Games in 2016. 

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

Friday, 17 May 2013

Beaming Under Pressure

The balance beam is arguably THE most difficult event to perform under pressure. It requires intense concentration, accuracy and most importantly, the ability to steel your nerves when it counts.  Firstly, the things that gymnasts are able to perform on the beam (which we should be reminded is only 10cm wide) are insanely difficult, but perhaps even more challenging to perform in competition in front of huge crowds of people. Gymnastics truly is both physically and mentally challenging.

In my mind, there are only a handful of gymnasts who have managed to produce beautifully executed routines under the pressure of competition. I have included four of my favourites here (although there are certainly others who should be included on this list). These gymnasts are particularly admired for their consistency and mental toughness. For any gymansts out there, if you need motivation before a competition, watch these routines!

1/ Shannon Miller (USA), 1996 Olympic Games Event Final
In my mind, Shannon is one of the most precise beam workers of all time. I'm a big fan of the two backwards rolls to handstand performed out of the controlled handstand. It's refreshing to see gymnasts perform something different and it is also rare to see an entire routine executed as cleanly as she does it.

Shannon Miller (USA) on beam at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games

2/ Catalina Ponor (ROM), 2004 Olympic Games Event Final
This woman is a machine. In true Romanian style, she performs her beam routines with immense confidence and precision. When I watch her, I am simply able to sit back and enjoy her routine. She makes everything look easy, which proves that she truely has mastered her routine. I have to think hard to remember a time when she has fallen during competition. It just doesn't happen.

Cata Ponor's beautiful gold medal routine during the 2004 Athens Olympics Event Final

3/ Samantha Peszek (USA), 2009 US Nationals
I was watching this competition the other day, and was reminded of Sam, a 2008 Olympian (who now competes for UCLA). She was an incredibly solid beam worker and boasted some amazing skills such as a 1/1 standing back tuck. In 2008 she was very much overshadowed by Nastia and Shawn, the superstars of her own team. But this routine should remind everyone that Sam was an amazing gymnast in her own respect, and did her job for team USA quietly in the background. She soon recovered from elite gymnastics after this competition, but what a great way to go out.

Sam's great routine from Day Two at the 2009 US Nationals

4/ Jordyn Wieber (USA), 2011 World Championships All-around Final
After this routine, I think that I became a true Wieber fan. After a shaky bar routine, Jordyn had lost the lead over Russia's Viktoria Komova. However, Weiber didn't let this phase her and responded with this super beam set which helped her to become a World Champion by fractions of a point. This is the classic example of why you should never give up until something is over- anything can happen if you are determined enough.

Jordyn makes the performance of her life at the 2011 Tokyo World Championships

This list could have gone on much further! Comment below and tell me what your favourite beam routines of all time are.

Article by Imogen Browne (Follow me on twitter @iflip4gymblog)