As Olympics Come Closer, Veterans Dominate

Once thought of as outsiders in a sport that many considered exclusively for underaged, underweight pixies, gymnastics veterans worldwide are dominating the podium so far this season. Today, two-time Olympian Beth Tweddle, 26, from Great Britain won the uneven bars gold medal at the Doha Cup in Qatar. Days earlier, Romanian 2004 Olympic medalist Catalina Ponor, 24, topped the qualification standings on the balance beam and placed second in qualification on the floor. The finals on those two events have not been held yet.

In Russia, older gymnasts also dominated the scene at their national championships, held on March 25. Anna Pavlova, 24, a two-time Olympian that many had written out after a series of injuries, won the gold medal on vault.

“Oksana [Chusovitina, 36] was born in [1975] and continues to vault brilliantly and earn medals at worlds, Europeans and the Olympic Games,” Pavlova said to International Gymnast magazine. “I believe age is not an obstacle. And Oksana has had plenty of injuries.”

Oksana Chusovitina, originally from Uzbekistan/the Soviet Union but now competing for Germany, has been at every Olympic Games since 1992 and is still going strong. Older gymnasts, like Pavlova, look to her as inspiration. Photo via NBCOlympics.com

At the same championship, Aliya Mustafina, 18, a World Championship veteran recovering from an ACL knee injury, easily won the uneven bars title by almost two full points. Ksenia Afanasyeva, 20, a 2008 Olympian, captured the balance beam gold.

As the Olympic Games draw nearer, other veterans, many coming back from serious injuries, are expected to be major contenders in competition. The USA’s 2008 Olympian Alicia Sacramone, 24, who is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, has announced her return to competition for this year’s Visa National Championships. Two other American 2008 Olympians, Shawn Johnson, 20, and Nastia Liukin, 22, also came out of retirement and are fighting for spots in the 2012 Olympic team.

Weiber Takes American Cup, Douglas Scores The Highest

Last year’s world all around champion, American gymnast Jordyn Wieber, defended her AT&T American Cup title this past weekend in New York City. Ironically, she was not the highest scorer of the competition – up-and-comer Gabrielle Douglas was. Since Douglas, who trains under the same coaches as 2008 Olympic silver medalist Shawn Johnson, only competed for exhibition, Wieber officially took the title.

the final standings, via International Gymnast magazine

The American Cup is now part of a series of competitions that comprise the International Gymnastics Federation’s World Cup series, a string of high-level meets held all over the globe on an invitation-only basis. As per World Cup rules, only two gymnasts are allowed to compete for a given country, which is why Douglas was never included on the competitive roster.

Gabrielle Douglas on the uneven bars, via BCK

Young Romanian gymnast Larisa Iordache won the bronze medal, via RomGym

Alexandra Raisman, Douglas and Wieber’s teammate, came in second, unofficially placing all three American gymnasts in the top three spots. Romania’s Larisa Iordache, new to the senior elite scene, won the bronze medal and brought in the highest score on the balance beam that night.