Luck Of The Draw

According to International Gymnast magazine, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) conducted the draw for the 2012 London Olympic Games this past Friday. The draw determines the time that different teams (or, in the case of athletes that qualified to the Olympic Games without a full team, mixed groups of athletes) will compete during the qualification round at the Olympic Games. The selection was completely random, just as it is every four years.

the 2012 draw, via International Gymnast.

Although this news might seem relatively unimportant, for years, there have been unwritten rules about the way that the draw affects a gymnastics competition. Gymnasts that compete last tend to receive higher scores, which is why countries usually try to ensure that their best gymnast performs last. The same applies to the entire team: The team that is first to compete tends to score lower. In addition, each subdivision is judged by different judges, so the qualification round does not exactly provide an even playing field.

Out of the teams that are expected to challenge for a medal, the United States is competing in the third subdivision, followed by China and Russia in the fourth subdivision, and Romania in the fifth subdivision. The home team, Great Britain, is competing in the third subdivision.

2012 Season Has Started

The 2012 gymnastics competitive season is finally underway. In order to prove that they are deserving of one of the five coveted spots on their country’s Olympic team later this summer (a change that was recently implemented – prior to 2012, gymnastics Olympic teams have always included at least six members), gymnasts from around the world are trying to impress the coaches and judges at national and international meets.

This February, the members of the Russian team, a favorite to win the 2012 Olympic team title, participated in the Moscow Championships. This event marked 2010 world all around champion Aliya Mustafina’s return to elite competition after tearing her ACL last spring. Although she did not compete to her full capacity, she is still very much a threat for other gymnasts at the Olympic Games. Other gymnasts also unveiled new elements in their routines. First-year senior gymnast Anastasia Grishina impressed numerous fans worldwide with her increased difficulty and grace. Viktoria Komova, the 2011 World Championships all around silver medalist, showed significant improvement for the first time in about a year, when she broke her foot. She even brought back her Arabian double front dismount off the balance beam, one of the hardest skills in competition today.

Meanwhile, in Plano, Texas, gymnasts from various different countries competed at the 2012 WOGA Classic. American Olympic hopeful Rebecca Bross returned to competition after dislocating her knee cap at last year’s National Championships. Although she struggled throughout the meet, it seems that she is on the right track with her recovery.

Although this is it for February, March will be a packed month for gymnastics, with athletes competing in the American Cup, International Gymnix, and the French International.

a more complete list of events is available at InternationalGymnast.com

Who Will Set Records In 2012?

In nearly every Olympic sport, it is when athletes set new records that the competition becomes truly memorable for years to come. In gymnastics, it is no different: in 1976, Romanian newcomer Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to ever score a perfect 10.00 in competition. Today, she is a celebrity in the gymnastics and sports worlds. In 1984, American Mary Lou Retton became the first woman from the United States to win the all around Olympic gold medal. Since then, she has become a media star and was even the first woman whose photo appeared on a Wheaties cereal box, a tradition that before then only included male Olympic champions. In 1988, Romanian Daniela Silivas failed to win the all around gold medal against Soviet gymnast Yelena Shushunova, but she redeemed herself in the event finals, winning four gold medals – one for each apparatus. Today, avid gymnastics fans consider Silivas – not Shushunova – the star of the 1988 Seoul Games.

Nadia Comaneci changed the sport of gymnastics in 1976 (photo via Sarah Gregg Millman’s blog)

The message is loud and clear: medals are great, but setting records is even better.

International Gymnast fans are eagerly awaiting the 2012 London Olympic Games and trying to predict possible new records. These include:

“If Daiane dos Santos makes floor finals, she’d become the first woman to ever make three Olympic floor finals.” – IG reader Penguin888

“If Russia wins team, finals, it would be the first Olympic title for Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union.” – IG reader Penguin888

“If Romania doesn’t win a team medal (it is realistic), it will be the first time they won’t be up on the podium since 1976.” – IG reader Judith

“If Beth Tweddle wins gold on the bars, she would be Britain’s first ever Olympic champion in the sport.” – IG reader mckenna

New Skills For 2012

Since the development of the modern sport of gymnastics, it has become a tradition for the International Gymnastics Federation (also known as the FIG) to name new skills after the gymnasts that have unveiled them. For example, the most popular style of vault performed in elite competition today, the Yurchenko vault, was named after Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko, who first performed it in the early 1980s.

The protocol to submit a new skill is quite simple: at a world championship or Olympic competition, the gymnast must announce prior to the start of the event that she plans on completing a new skill, which must then be described in detail. If the gymnast is able to perform it successfully, the FIG will name the new element after her last name.

List of new elements named after the 2011 World Championships, via the FIG’s website

Naturally, gymnastics fans are excitedly anticipating the new skills that will possibly be unveiled at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Although everything in gymnastics is unpredictable, it can be interesting to predict what new elements gymnasts may have up their sleeve.

Makayla Maroney, USA. Photo by Adam Pretty.

For example, some expect American Makayla Maroney to unveil the impossibly difficult triple twisting Yurchenko. For several years, Alicia Sacramone, also from the United States, has been hinting at working toward a front handspring double full on the vault: a front flip with two twists in the air. Unfortunately, Sacramone recently tore her right Achilles’ tendon, which significantly lowers her chances of ever successfully completing this skill.

One positive aspect of the FIG’s skill naming process is that it is a great way for gymnasts from less powerful gymnastics nations to gain recognition. Perhaps a gymnast with no real chance to win a medal will still earn her way into the FIG’s Code of Points in 2012.

International Gymnast Fans Vote On Favorites For 2012

Nations participating in the 2012 London Olympic Games may claim that their main priority is to earn a team medal, but every seasoned gymnastics fan knows that there is no more prestigious award in the sport than the Olympic individual all around gold medal. Recently, International Gymnast, the most popular and respectable gymnastics magazine in the world, conducted a poll via its online forum titled “Who Would You Like To See Win AA.” The following gymnasts took the top three spots:

(1) Aliya Mustafina, Russia

Photo via Sports Club

Mustafina, 2010 world all around champion, has become a fan favorite over the past four years due to her confidence, great sportsmanship, outstanding difficulty, and beautiful presentation. Unfortunately, last April, Mustafina tore her ACL while vaulting at the European Championships. Whether she will be in top shape come the Olympics is still up in the air.

(2) Viktoria Komova, Russia

Photo by Mark Dadswell

The 2010 Youth Olympic Games all around champion, Komova has so far failed to live up to her expectations among the senior ranks, perhaps due to a foot injury that just does not seem to want to heal. Many fans think that Komova, only 16, is too young to handle the pressure and is not yet capable of dealing with loss with maturity and grace. However, if Komova returns to her top 2010 shape, she will be the gymnast to beat in London.

Finally, also tied in second place, is Jordyn Wieber, from the USA.

Photo via Bettor.com 

What Wieber lacks in artistry and grace, she makes up for with tremendous power and consistency. Wieber is the 2011 world all around champion, where she beat Komova by a tiny margin. Although Wieber’s form is not as stellar as Mustafina’s and Komova’s, she is the only gymnast in the world that can challenge those two in difficulty.

The Olympic Journey Begins

The countdown begins: in just 186 days, the 2012 London Olympic Games will be in full swing. For gymnasts and gymnastics fans alike, this is exciting news. What is even more exciting is that, to many, the competitive field for the 2012 Games is deeper than it has ever been since the introduction of the open ended Code of Points in 2006. And according to numerous other fans around various online forums, the pool of competitors has not been this good since the 2000 Olympic Games.

Because of the nature of the sport, many top teams are already dealing with a few unpleasant surprises, which could significantly impact the outcome of the competition. For instance, Russia, which many consider to be the top team at the moment, both in terms of difficulty and artistry, is dealing with injuries from its two top athletes. Aliya Mustafina, the 2010 world all around champion, tore her ACL this past spring. Without her and her fierce competitiveness, Russia could be facing major trouble at the Olympic Games. And even though Viktoria Komova is only 16 years old, she is often considered the top gymnast in the world right now. Unfortunately, she has dealt with a foot injury for over a year, which cost her the 2011 World Championship title.

Viktoria Komova. Photo by Bernard 

It is not only Russia that is dealing with unforeseen obstacles. Romania, always a top team, recently received the news that its top gymnast and 2010 World Championship balance beam champion Ana Pogras decided to retire from the sport for personal reasons. This could very well affect Romania’s performance in London.

The United States is also dealing with its fair share of injuries. Most notably, Rebecca Bross, a bronze medalist at the 2010 World Championships, dislocated her knee in the summer of 2011.

Another unexpected factor has come into play for the United States: Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Olympic all around champion, recently decided to fight for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team. If she is able to prepare in time, Liukin could help the United States win its first Olympic team gold medal since the 1996 Olympic Games.