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)

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