Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Alicia Sacramone Biography

Alicia Sacramone Biography

DOB: December 3, 1987

Representing: USA

Head Coach: Mihai Brestyan

Best Event: Alicia has won many medals on vault, including a national and world title. I would say without a doubt, vault is Alicia's strong suit, but she is pretty strong all around and contributed to a team silver at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Best Known For: I want to say Alicia is best known for being so outspoken in her interviews. She also definitely comes across to me as the Amanda Borden type teammate who is a little bit older than some of the other girls and super supportive of everyone. She is sort of like the voice of the team. Alicia is also recognized as an inspiration to anyone who started gymnastics a little later than most competitive girls; she began gymnastics at age 8 and began competing elite after only 7 years of training.

Currently: After a brief retirement post-2008 Olympics, Alicia came back from a shoulder surgery and has had quite a bit of success competing elite again. She recently won three medals at the 2011 CoverGirl Classic in Chicago and continues to train elite.

Interesting Fact: Alicia attended Brown University and has considered transferring to Harvard to finish school. She plans to continue her education when she has the time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cool Nastia/Nadia Commercial

This is pretty old, I had forgotten about it. Someone on the Chalk Bucket reminded me of it, and I thought I should share it. Such a fun ad.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Covergirl Classic 2011 - Results and Highlights

A few days belated, here are the results of the 2011 Covergirl Classic meet and some thoughts on how it went.

In the senior division, Alexandra Raisman took first All-Around with a 57.250. Chellsie Memmel came in close second following Aly by three tenths, and it was Chellsie's second meet back since the Beijing Olympics. For Aly to take first with a couple big mistakes on bars is pretty phenomenal - there were a lot of good competitors out there, but it also says a lot about how few senior girls actually competed on all four events. For a lot of the gymnasts, CG was about testing out a couple of routines and earning a spot at Worlds, not about trying for all-around. Regardless, a great job to the top scoring AA girls in both divisions. Kyla Ross took all-around in the junior division by eight tenths, scoring in the top 4 in every event. No huge surprise there.

A few Olympic veterans returned for the CG meet. Shawn Johnson was back for her first big meet in three years. It had been since Beijing for Shawn. She had a fall and a few uncharacteristic bobbles on beam and a tough landing on bars, but overall I think she did a great job for just getting back out there. She'll be making a strong comeback. Chellsie of course scored well in the all-around and had a solid meet on floor. Alicia Sacramone continued her comeback with this meet, as well. She had some excellent routines - first on beam and vault - and showed her usual strength and power.

CG also served as Jordyn Wieber's first senior meet. She took first and second on the two events she competed on (bars and beam, respectively), so she's definitely somebody to watch out for in the future. Lots of difficulty in her routines.

Inside Gymnastics has posted both junior and senior rankings for all-around and all four events, along with scores. The Covergirl Classic is available to watch on online here if, like myself, you didn't have access to Universal Sports to watch the meet live.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mattie Larson Biography

Since Mattie Larson is everywhere these days, I decided to make her my gymnastics biography of the month. :)

DOB: May 20, 1992

Representing: USA

Coaches: Galina Marinova, Artur Akopyan

Best Event: Mattie has definitely racked up the most gold medals in floor, winning first place at the Junior Pan Am games, WOGA Classic, and US National Championships (2010). She has contributed to quite a few team medals throughout her career.

Best Known For: She's probably most recognized as one of the up-and-coming gymnasts a lot of people were expecting to see at the 2012 Olympics in London prior to her decision to pull out of elite gymnastics and compete with UCLA instead. Due to an injury to her leg, Mattie lost the opportunity to compete with the 2008 Olympic team. After about two years of recovery, she made a comeback and so far has had a lot of success. She has said that there is a chance she may make another comeback into the elite scene after competing college gymnastics.

Currently: Mattie will be going to school this fall, 2011, and training with the UCLA Bruins. She's keeping her options open as to whether or not the 2012 Olympic Games are going to be part of her plan in gymnastics.

Interesting Fact: Her talent for gymnastics was evident very early on in her training. In her level 5 season, Mattie became California state champion on both vault and beam. In levels 6 and 7 she became All-Around state champ and earned first place on beam, floor, and vault.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mattie Larson Bars

Lovely routine by Mattie Larson on bars that the USAG youtube channel just posted. Thought I'd share for those of you who haven't seen it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Gymnastics Story

By request I decided to share my gymnastics story with all you readers so you can get to know me a little better, since I am lucky enough to know all you lovely people quite well by now. :) This should be fun! I always like thinking back on being in the gym. Some of those practices and meets will always be the best times (though also undoubtedly the most difficult times) of my life and it's fun to share them with people who have the same enthusiasm for the sport. So here we go.

I started gymnastics when I was two years old in the toddler class. I had just recently gotten out of the diaper stage at that point, and only because my mother accidentally brought home blue diapers from the store instead of pink ones and I refused to wear "boy diapers" so ta-dah, I was potty trained, but that's another story. The point is I was very young when I started, and even though the toddler classes were mostly about jumping up and down and crawling on things, I loved it from the very beginning. I was coached by a wonderful lady who had just opened the gym with basically just a few scrap mats, some foam, and an old rope. She accumulated quite a few beams and bar sets pretty quickly, but my parents really enjoyed being a part of the gym as it was just starting to grow, primarily because it was her love for gymnastics and for kids, not any fancy equipment, that made the gym successful. We all had tons of fun there. But, as you can see from these pictures, I was VERY SERIOUS and focused when it came to gymnastics. I've always been that way.

In these photos I was a little older - these are basically the only photos I have - but you can get an idea for what the gym was like and how into gymnastics I was.

And of course I have to share a smiley photo or two, also, because I really did have a blast in her class. I have a few memories of cartwheeling around on the mats and just having a ball. Sorry if this is photo overload, but I'm having a good time reminiscing. :)

Check out my cool Team USA leotard, too!! Best present I ever received. I felt very cool in that leo, haha.

Okay, now getting back to the story. When I was in kindergarten my family moved to another state. My parents were so sad to leave the gym, but I ended up in the perfect situation in the new state. We moved within 10 minutes of an up-and-coming gym which seemed like the obvious choice. At that time my parents had no idea what USAG even was (for a long time even after I joined the team, my dad was calling it USGA :P). Competitive gymnastics was not at all on their radar. They just put me in a class at the new gym because they knew I loved it. My older sister took the class with me for a while but gymnastics was not at all her thing, bless her heart, and she quit pretty early on. No worries, though, she turned out to be an excellent long-distance runner :) But anyway, the class my parents put us in was literally the "level 1" class. Very simple stuff. We were barely doing cartwheels and handstands, and that stuff came very naturally and easily to me. Luckily, within the first few weeks that we were there, the owner of the gym spotted me in my class. Later that day he went up to my parents and said...

"Hey, is that your kid? Does she like gymnastics?"

And my parents of course were like, "Yeah, she seems to really enjoy it."

And he said, "No, I mean, does she REALLY, really enjoy it? Is she cartwheeling down the hallways at home or does she prefer to stand on two feet?"

And my mom explained that the walls in our hallway were constantly dirty from my feet and that I was always flipping off the couch.

That day the owner talked to all the coaches at the gym and immediately had me skip two levels up to what the gym called the "training team," which was really level 3/4 since my gym chose not to have a level 4 team and instead started with level 5 in competition. It was quite a step up from what I had been doing. Four or five hours a week instead of one, the coach was a lot more serious, and we started doing some really serious conditioning. I think that's when my parents realized I might actually be good at gymnastics and it might turn out to be more than just an activity I enjoyed in kindergarten, but when I went into first grade, I took a lot of time off from gymnastics. I was in a high potential class that was meant to challenge me more than the normal first grade class, and I think I just needed a break from some of the extra-curriculars. I was also taking violin and swimming lessons at that time, and if I needed a break, my parents were more than supportive in allowing me that. Gymnastics was the thing to drop since it took up the most of my time. I actually have no recollection of deciding to take time off of gymnastics or even not being in gymnastics during those couple of years, which is the weird part.

I took up the sport again in third grade, I guess, and had to work back into it. I was ready to go by fourth grade, which is when I tried out for the team. I have such clear memories of that. I didn't even particularly want to be a part of the team or have any clue what it entailed, but I tried out because everybody else did at the end of the session in training team. The rules were that you got 3 points if you could do a skill by yourself, 2 points if you could do the skill with a coach standing there (or if you could do a floor skill on your own but on the trampoline), and 1 point if you could do it with a heavy spot. You had to reach a certain number of points by the end of the test to make the team, but no matter how many points you had, if you didn't have your kip, you didn't make the team. Period. That was the #1 rule, and definitely the scariest rule, too. Especially because I didn't have my kip...

EXCITING PART IS COMING! DON'T FALL ASLEEP YET! I know this is getting long. I will provide an intermission soon that will be sure to wake you up. :)

So. The test was going pretty well. I had taken a liking to the head team coach and wanted to impress him. This was all before I learned that he was the devil, but I'll get to that later. No, he really wasn't the devil, he was a great guy, but MAN was he tough on his gymnasts. Rumor had it that he was trained under Bela Karolyi and had adopted Bela's style, but I had no idea who the Karolyis were at the time so the gossip didn't scare me. It should have. Haha. Anyway. He liked my gymnastics and I liked him, and, being a perfectionist, I wanted everything to go smoothly so he would know I was really trying. I was basically good to go points-wise, but I still had to do my kip.


We had practiced kips before in pre-team but not too much. When you're only going twice a week, it's hard to pick up the timing on a kip, as I'm sure a lot of you know. Everybody had three tries to get it during the test. I took my first two and came really close but didn't make it all the way up. I was on my third try and I was very, very, very nervous. Everyone kept saying it was my last chance. Well, I went, and guess what? I missed again. But the coach really wanted me on the team so he said, "Do it again. One more try." I missed again. He said, "Do it again. This is the last time." I missed. He said, "Okay okay, one more time, but this is seriously the last time. You make it this time, you're on the team. If not, we'll see you again next year." This was probably the most horrifying moment of my life. I was, like, 9 years old and it was all very intimidating to me. I had to really steady myself. I did the glide, brought my feet to the bar, did the pull-up-your-pants thing, and found myself with my chest to the bar (about at my collar bone) and my arms horribly bent. From there, I muscled my way up to front support, and my brand new coach decided that it counted and I was welcomed to the team. :D Kinda cheap, but hey, I did get my straight-arm kip sometime in the near future and didn't have to waste another year doing the same old thing. My coach knew that I was already a little old for level 5. I turned 10 that year and he saw a lot of potential in me, so he wanted me to get as much time as I could to make it as far as I could in the sport.


Tell me that didn't make you almost pee your pants. So funny. Now continuing with the story.

I remember walking out of the first day of team practice feeling like my legs would never be the same again after all that conditioning. It was so much more than I ever expected. The conditioning list was usually something like 30 pull ups, 60 push ups, 15 skin-the-cats, 3 sets of 30 left lifts, etc. That was crazy to me, but they whipped me into shape very quickly. My 8-pack formed in a very short amount of time :P It was okay, though, because I became fast friends with all the wonderful girls on the team. They really were so welcoming, and that's something I will always be very grateful for. This is about to be really sappy, but it truly was more than a team; it was a family. I know all the team parents were so kind to my parents as newcomers, as well, which is something that seems kind of rare these days. I was very lucky to have been a part of that team in particular. I think it worked out so well because the coaches had a strict no-nonsense policy. If you had an attitude problem or if you weren't kind to your teammates, you were off the team, and once you quit or were kicked off you were not allowed back on under any circumstances.

Of course it wasn't all happy. I was a bit of an easy crier because I would get so frustrated with myself, and I recall being told once after getting upset, "You're 10 years old now, it's time you started acting like an adult." I also remember being told at a meet after falling during warm-ups that if I was going to perform like crap and embarrass the gym then I might as well go home. There was a lot of yelling from the coaches and a whole lot of tears from the gymnasts. There were hollow holds until half the team had burst out in tears from the pain. There was a lot of, "Oh, you think you broke your finger? Go to vault." My parents had a lot of problems with some of those kinds of techniques and really did come to the coaches with an ultimatum at one point. It was either they changed their ways with me, or my parents were pulling me out. I was SO sensitive, and as a coach now I can see how that must have been really frustrating for my coaches, but I needed different techniques. I was already so hard on myself that having someone else giving me all criticism and not very much positive feedback (or so it felt to me) was too much to handle. We often considered pulling me out of the sport all together. To complicate things more, I had Sever's disease in my heels, which made tumbling incredibly painful and lead to a lot of problems with my Achilles.

Despite all that craziness, I had a pretty solid level 5 season. I wasn't winning every meet, and I was still getting really nervous every time I competed, but it wasn't horrible. In level 6, I started winning. In the beginning of the season I would win floor and bars at every meet, and slowly I started winning every event, every time. I had a lot of All-Around medals from that season, and my biggest accomplishment probably of my whole "career" was winning the National Invite in level 6. That's me getting my AA medal. :) That was a really fun meet. It was a travel meet, which was always a good time. We loved staying in hotels with our teammates and coaches. We'd always have a pool party before the meets started and a lot of times the hotel would host a party for all the gymnasts. It was so cool. Do you guys go to travel meets often? Oh, another thing about my gym was that we were really into uptraining, so during the summer after my level 5 season I was learning my Yurchenko and my standing arabian and all that good stuff. That was also a lot of fun.

Then, unfortunately, my family moved again and I had to leave the gym that I loved so, so much. When I left I realized that even though my coach could be incredibly tough, he did want the best for me and to this day remains the most influential person in my life. He taught me my work ethic, he taught me motivation, he basically taught me everything. Not just gymnastics. I wish I had been able to stay and see where I could've gone in the sport with him as my coach. He used to talk about me and a few of my teammates being his little group of future elites. He would say, "you're going all the way to the Olympics" and then add something about how we would go through every level and win the Olympics never once using grips (haha, he hated them). I'm sad I never got to see that day, though sometimes I doubt whether I would've had the mental capability to go elite even if I had stayed at his gym. I knew I had the potential physically, I knew I was strong enough (my nickname quickly became "Beast" once I joined team... *sigh*), but mentally it was really hard on me. I think I was too fragile to go all the way in the sport. Plus, my Sever's was getting worse all the time, I had horribly weak joints, and I found myself in an out of physical therapy quite often.

Once we moved we realized there were not many good gyms in the area. The closest gym - the one I ended up at - was about a half an hour away, which was tough on my mom. Bless her for taking me to and from practice every day. Lucky for her, the hours decreased from 24/week at the old gym to 9/week at the new gym. The new gym's philosophy was very laid-back, basically the girls coach themselves and just try to enjoy what they're doing. That was what I was looking for at that point in my life. I needed to take it down a notch in intensity. I chose it, but I sometimes regret it now. The coach did not spot the gymnasts. Ever. It was tough for me to compete as an optional without having a coach to correct and spot me. He was basically just there to oversee practice. I only had maybe ten teammates in total, and I was one of two optionals. We didn't ever play music in the gym. We could get drinks whenever we wanted. We rarely conditioned. We only vaulted once a month (yes, you read that right). We could even sit down during practice *GASP*. It was just a very different vibe. It works really well for a lot of girls, especially in compulsories, but it didn't work so well for me.

I taught myself my BHS BHS series on beam, my giants on set, everything that I needed in levels 7 and 8. I competed but didn't win. Occasionally I placed in individual events, but without any correction, I formed a lot of bad habits I didn't even know about. I basically just faded out of the gymnastics world. Unfortunately I was never able to compete my level 9 season, but I feel like I did the best I could with what I had available to me, and I'm proud of what I accomplished. It was a good way for me to gradually slow down when it came to gymnastics and slowly realize that there were other important parts of my life that I wanted to focus on. It made quitting so much easier. I was 13 or 14 when I quit, partially because I couldn't go any further in the sport under that coaching style, partially because of my injuries, and partially because I was just done. I miss it very much. I still go to open gym at that same gym I competed optionals in. And I can still do a RO BHS layout half on the tumble trak! :)

Gymnastics was and still is a huge part of my life. I really believe that if you're once a gymnast, you're always a gymnast. Someday I want to open my own gym. For now, I'm happy coaching a recreational class of outstanding kids. I'm hoping that I do the same for them as my old coaches did for me; I just want them to enjoy the sport. I want them to learn more than just how to do a pretty back handspring. I want them to learn that hard work pays off, that it's important to be a good teammate, and that self-motivation is priceless. I'm getting a little cheesy now, but I think a lot of you girls who read this blog will feel the same way someday.

I love talking to all of you about this sport and am so glad you love it as much as I do. If you got to the end of this, you're a champ! I wasn't expecting it to be this long. I guess gym is a bigger part of my life than I even knew! And I could've said so much more about it. If you've got questions or comments on any of this, of course, hit up the comments section. Thanks for reading and I hope this has helped you all get to know me and my experience in gymnastics a little better. :) XOXO

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mohini Bhardwaj Biography

Mohini Bhardwaj biography
September 29, 1978

Country Represented: USA

Coaches: Chris Waller, Galina Marinova, Val Kondos-Field, and Rita Brown

Best Event: Based on her scores and placements at US Senior Nationals, Mohini's two best events were vault and beam. She was a consistent gymnast on all events and has earned quite a few All-Around titles at big meets.

Best Known For: Mohini was part of a silver-medal team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. She nearly missed out on participating at the Olympic trials due to an elbow injury and financial troubles, but, with the help of many part-time jobs and a $20,000 grant from Pamela Anderson, Mohini was able to attend the trials and impress the Karolyis so much that she was named US team captain.

Currently: Mohini retired from gymnastics in 2005 at the age of 26. She is currently coaching at Cascade All Star Gymnastics in Oregon. She is married to a Marine and has a son born in 2009.

Interesting Fact: Before much of Mohini's elite career took off, she took a scholarship to become one of the standout members of UCLA's gymnastics team. This is where Mohini increased the difficulty level of her skills and re-focused to go on to the Olympics, where she became the first Indian-American to win an Olympic medal.

Photo Copyright J. Bierbaum. Thanks for the great pic!

June Questions and Comments

As usual leave questions, comments, and topic requests here. :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner guest star on "Make it or Break it"

Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner guest starred on Monday's episode of "Make it or Break it!" So far, they've featured Nastia Liukin and Bela Karolyi, as well as Carly Patterson's floor music on the show.

If you missed the episode, you can catch it on Hulu.com or ABCfamily.com. The episode is 2x20, and it's called "Worlds Apart." The girls compete at World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and of course there is a lot of other drama with boys, teammates, parents, the whole bit. Nadia and Bart's roles are as commentators, where they both seem to feel very natural! It's a fun episode, so don't miss it!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gymnasts - Best athletes in the world

That's right! I found this video to be really interesting and I hope you all enjoy it too.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chellsie Memmel Biography

Chellsie Memmel

DOB: June 23, 1988

Country Represented: USA

Coaches: Andy Memmel (that's right, her father, who talks about what it's been like to coach his own daughter all the way to the Olympics here) coached Chellsie at his gym, M&M Gymnastics, at the beginning of her career. For a while Chellsie was coached by Jim Chudy at Salto Gymnastics before returning to M&M to be coached by her father again after the 2004 Olympics.

Best Event: Having dealt with many injuries throughout her career, Chellsie often had to scratch certain apparatuses, so determining Chellsie's best event is difficult. She is known to be great on beam and bars, primarily because she often had to skip out on vault or floor to avoid aggravating her injuries.

Best Known For: Chellsie is known for her participation in the 2008 Olympics as well as her position as alternate at the 2004 Olympics, but she is also well-known for being 2005 All-Around Champion at Worlds. She is tied with Shawnn Johnson as the 5th most decorated female American gymnast.

Currently: Chellsie is still practicing and competing. She recently bought her first home in West Allis, WI. You can get all kinds of updates on Chellsie on her twitter, @cmemmel.

Interesting Fact: Chellsie's youngest sister, Skyler, currently competes with M&M gymnastics and recently won every event at her sate championships and qualified for Nationals!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Questions and Comments

Happy May, everyone! As always feel free to ask questions, share gym news, comment about the blog, and send me topic requests. :)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The benefits of kids' recreational gymnastics

Having been both a gymnast and a recreational gymnastics coach, I've been able to see the multitude of benefits that children's rec gymnastics programs provide. I'm going to deviate a bit from my usual Junior Olympic posts to let you know why I am such a huge advocate of gymnastics for kids and why I think it's a great idea to add an hour of gym time into your kids' weekly schedules.

Obviously, kids need to have balance in their lives. Too many activities can be exhausting. But if your kids are eager to try new things (or if you want them to learn to enjoy trying new things) and if they have a lot of energy, gymnastics could be a great addition to their schedules. Here's why:

1) Team and individual progress. Gymnastics is one of the only sports that can be described as both a team and an individual sport. In the upper levels, gymnasts compete for individual rankings as well as team rankings, and this structure is also somewhat present at the recreational level. Kids learn to focus on their own progress but also to cheer on their friends and teammates. It provides the focus that you get with individual music or art lessons and the team-building aspect of a sport like soccer or basketball. In general, it is a great social outlet for kids, but at the same time they will receive a lot of individual attention from coaches.

2) Listening skills. The ability to listen carefully is developed in gymnastics, since it's so important for kids to listen in order to perform a skill safely. As a coach, I will not allow kids to participate until I see that they can pay attention to instructions. Since they are eager to participate, they develop listening skills quickly. They learn to take direction that will help them improve their gymnastics skills, which leads to...

3) Building confidence. It's so exciting as a coach to see a gymnast get a new skill after working so hard at it, primarily because you can see the joy in their face and you can tell that they're proud of what they've accomplished. There are small victories achieved every day in gymnastics class, and every recreational coach I've ever known has been so good about celebrating those victories with lots of high fives. It makes kids feel like they can do anything.

4) Physical fitness. Gymnastics is such great, well-rounded exercise. A lot of sports focus on only one aspect of physical fitness, but gymnastics teaches body control and awareness, agility, coordination, power, and strength all at the same time. For kids who have tons and tons of energy, gymnastics is a fun way for them to get it all out (this is also incredibly beneficial for parents who want a little bit of down time).

5) Work ethic and self motivation. These two go together. One thing I find coaching gymnastics is that the vast majority of kids in my classes really love to do gymnastics. Their love for the sport compels them to work hard during class. Kids develop a sense of intrinsic motivation and gain a strong work ethic, and they associate these characteristics with something they really enjoy. They are not being forced to work, but they want to, and this serves them well in school and in other areas of their life in the future.

6) Something for everyone. Gymnastics really can be for everybody. The gym I coach at accommodates kids as young as 4 months in parent-child classes, and many of these 4-month-olds stay in the program until they're teenagers. Gymnastics is such a fun sport with so many different types of skills and events, and there's always something new to learn, so everybody can find something they enjoy.

The list really could go on for miles. And the benefits that gymnastics provides aren't just for the kids. Parents often really enjoy socializing with other parents and watching their kids practice. Plus, the fact that gymnastics tires kids out is usually a plus! There are tons of recreational gyms out there and many of them offer free trial classes, so it definitely wouldn't hurt to test it out and see if it's something your kids will enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gymnasts - When is the right time to buy grips?

Parents are often unsure about whether or not it is an appropriate time to buy their gymnast their first pair of grips. A gymnast's coach should be able to provide some insight on this issue, but here are some general tips for gymnasts and gym parents.

  1. Grips can be expensive. A pair of Reisport dowel grips (which I used throughout my gymnastics career and highly recommend) goes for about $45, and other types of grips will cost at least $35. Since gymnasts are primarily young girls and young girls grow quickly, grips will need to be replaced every so often to fit the gymnast's hands. The longer you can hold off on grips, the better in terms of the amount of money that will have to be spent.
  2. It is not entirely uncommon to see gymnasts from China and Russia competing on the uneven bars without using grips - even in the Olympics. Grips are not absolutely necessary. It is possible to get by without them.
  3. That being said, grips do help a little bit with preventing big rips on the gymnast's palms (some girls do have trouble with the grips rubbing their wrists the wrong way and causing rips there instead, but in general, grips should help reduce the number of rips). Grips are not a solution to rips but can be one factor in helping to prevent them.
  4. In general, I would say that the majority of gymnasts do not buy a pair of grips until USAG level 6 or 7. I got mine in level 7 and really did not feel that I needed them in level 6. There are some girls who get them in level 5 and others who don't get them at all. It is a matter of preference - usually the coach's preference, but also the gymnast's and the gymnast's parents. There are no rules that say you need a pair of grips by the time you reach a certain level.
  5. The uneven bars skill that causes the most friction on the hands is probably giants, in addition to other circling moves. Front hip circles, back hip circles, and baby giants are part of the level 5 and 6 routines, but they usually don't constitute the majority of practice time. From level 7 on, gymnasts are going to be spending a lot more practice time on giants and connections with circling skills. Grips are going to help reduce the friction on these types of skills.
  6. The primary function of grips is... Well, it's in the name. Grips help gymnasts grip the bar. This function is the most helpful when it comes to giants. Before then, the gripping function is much less needed.
Post on different types and brands of grips should be coming soon!

Doninique Dawes Biography

Dominique Dawes

November 20, 1976

Country Represented: USA

Coach: Kelli Hill

Best Event: Dominique is one of those gymnasts whose numerous medals are actually quite evenly spread across all four events, so I can't say that she has a "best" apparatus. She is known for being very dynamic on all events and fun to watch on floor.

Best Known For: Dominique Dawes has participated in three Olympic games: Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney. She is probably best known for her role in the 1996 Magnificent 7 team win at Atlanta. She is also the first African American female gymnast to earn an Olympic medal for an individual event.

Currently: In recent years, Dawes has been pursuing a career in acting and modeling, appearing in multiple music videos ("Betcha by Golly Wow" by Prince, "We Run This" by Missy Elliot). She also served as president of the Women's Sports Foundation from 2004 to 2006.
Interesting Fact: Dawes was a spokesperson for the "Uniquely Me" campaign, started by the Girl Scouts of America to promote self-esteem.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

USA Gymnastics TOPs Program

TOPs (Talent Opportunity Program) is a program for female gymnasts between the ages of 7 and 11 who show great strength and agility. Its goal is to identify young gymnasts who have aptitude and natural athletic ability, and to offer them the resources needed to achieve the elite or international elite level. Gymnasts are given various tests to evaluate their level of physical fitness. Those who qualify at a national meet are invited to attend a national training camp.

Who can train for TOPs?

-Gymnasts must have a USA Gymnastics membership.
-Must be 7-11 years old at any point during the testing year.
-They must not be an elite gymnast.
-They must have completed medical forms to show that they are healthy.

What are the girls tested on?

-Handstand hold
  • Maximum time for 7-8 year olds: 30 seconds
  • Maximum time for 9-11 year olds: 60 seconds
  • Deductions are taken for problems with body alignment, shoulder alignment, bent arms, and bent or separated legs
  • No walking
-20 meter sprint
  • Test is usually conducted on the vault runway
  • Gymnast gets two attempts, and the best best time is taken
  • Time is recorded to hundredths of a second
-Cast handstand
  • Gymnast performs multiple cast to handstands on the low bar of a regular competition set of bars
  • 5 attempts are given
  • Gymnast is allowed one fall, but after the second fall, the test is over
  • No more than 2 seconds pause is allowed between casts
  • 7-8 year olds are awarded 2 points for each of the 5 attempts that successfully reaches at least 45 degrees
  • 9-11 year olds are awarded 2 points for each successful cast to handstand, within 15 degrees of vertical
-Rope climb
  • Gymnasts start by sitting on the ground in a pike with both hands on the rope
  • 7-8 year olds must climb in the pike position until they reach the 6 foot mark
  • 9-11 year olds must climb in the pike position until they reach the 12 foot mark
  • Failure to reach the required mark or use of legs results in a score of 0
  • Gymnast is timed, with extra seconds being added to her time for errors in form
-Vertical jump
  • Gymnast stands next to a padded wall and marks with chalk the place where her arm and hand are fully extended
  • The distance between this point and the point where her hand hits the wall on the jump is recorded in inches
  • Two attempts are given and the best attempt goes toward the final score
-Press handstand
  • Gymnast begins in a straddle position and presses to handstand with good form, then presses back down to the original straddle position with only her hands touching the ground
  • 7-8 year olds can repeat the press handstand a maximum of 5 times
  • 9-11 year olds can repeat the press handstand a maximum of 10 times
  • No more than 2 seconds of resting time are allowed in any one position
-Leg flexibility (splits)
  • Two regulation spring boards are placed together with the low ends touching
  • Gymnast places herself in a split position on the boards, with her upper body directly in line with the place where the two boards meet
  • Gymnast is not allowed to touch her hands to the ground during the test
  • Deductions are taken based on height off the board, squared hips, squared shoulders, posture, and leg form
  • Gymnast pushes up into a bridge position with arms and legs straight
  • A total of 5 points are awarded based on shoulder flexibility, form of legs and feet, and form of arms and hands.
-Leg lift
  • Gymnast hangs in a straight body position from a leg lift bar with hands in over grip
  • Legs must be brought to the bar or pass under the bar
  • After the first leg lift, legs must return to horizontal
  • A maximum of 20 leg lifts can be attempted
  • Lift will not count if the gymnast has bent legs, fails to touch or pass under the bar, or fails to return to horizontal position

I hope Nica's mom doesn't mind me using her video. Nica had some great TOPs tests, so hopefully this will help you get an idea of what a test looks like.

For more information, visit the USAG website.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Questions and Comments

As always, please post your questions, comments, updates, and especially TOPIC REQUESTS here. :) Happy April!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Magnificent 7 Documentary

I wanted to share with you guys a fantastic Magnificent 7 Documentary that tells the story of the '96 women's Olympic gymnastics team and the journey they took towards a team win. I am posting the first 10 minute segment. It's a five-part doc, and you can follow the related videos in the sidebar to see the whole thing. Why this documentary was aired on the Game Show Network, I have no idea, but it's quite interesting nonetheless and gives a real picture of how much these girls and their families sacrificed and how hard they worked for their Olympic dream. If you care to discuss it or have opinions you want to share, please post comments! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shannon Miller Biography

Shannon Miller biography
March 10, 1977

Country Represented: USA

Coach: Steve Nunno, Peggy Liddick

Best Event: During Shannon's competition years, she racked up the most gold medals for her performances on beam, an event that she was incredibly consistent and solid on. She was also known to be very entertaining to watch on floor. She has been recognized for her artistry on both of these events. Her routines often included some really beautiful choreographic elements.

Best Known For: Shannon Miller was one of the leading members of the Magnificent Seven team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where the USA women won gold and Shannon earned an individual gold on beam. Although Shannon also participated in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the 1992 Magnificent 7 team probably comes to mind for most people when thinking of Shannon Miller. In general, she is recognized as "the most decorate gymnast, male or female, in U.S. history." She earned a total of 16 medals from World and the Olympic Games throughout her career.

Currently: Miller retired officially in 2000 after making a brief comeback to the gymnastics world but dropping out of the Sydney Olympic Trials due to a knee injury. She is now married and has a son, Rocco, born in 2009. Shannon received a law degree from Boston College as well as a B.B.A in marketing and entrepreneurship, which she is putting to use in the world of business; Shannon now spends her time giving gymnastics clinics, speaking at gyms, and developing workout videos.

Interesting Fact: Shannon is the only female athlete who has been inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame more than once - she earned this honor as an individual and as a member of the gold medal winning team.

March Questions and Comments

Please post here.

PS Can you believe it's March already?! :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Level 5 Uneven Bars Requirements

Check The World of Gymnastics, a great site which helped me compile some of this information, for more requirements. The site provides this type of information for a lot of different routines over multiple levels.

In a level 5 uneven bar routine, judges will look for fluid connections, good body position, and attention to detail from the gymnast throughout both the low bar and high bar sections of the routine. The following is a list of individual requirements for the level 5 bar routine. If any of these requirements are missing, deductions will be taken.

Glide Kip
The glide kip can be performed in either a straddle or a pike position and with or without the use of a springboard, depending on the gymnasts' and coaches' preferences. If the gymnast chooses to perform a straddle glide kip, her feet must come together at the end of the glide. For both types of kips, the gymnast must leave the ground or springboard off of two feet at the same time and must lead with her feet in the glide. Gymnast must not bend elbows during the kip and must end in front support. The glide kip connects into a front hip circle.

Front Hip Circle
Gymnast must maintain straight, tight hollow body position all the way around the bar, with head neutral and arms straight. Must end in front support. Failure to maintain hip or upper thigh contact with the bar will result in up to a 0.20 deduction.

Cast, Squat on
First cast must be directly connected out of the front hip circle. Gymnast must show a straight line from shoulders to feet, a tight hollow body without any arch in the back, and must reach a 45 degree angle (or horizontal to the bar). The gymnast should control her body as she brings her hips back to the bar. The second cast for the squat on follows the same requirements as the first cast - although the gymnast is squatting or piking on, she must still reach 45 degrees and can only raise her hips when she is performing the squat or pike on. Both feet must land between the gymnasts hands at the same time.

Jump to High BarThe gymnast should show a tight body, no leg separation, and pointed toes during the jump, which directly connects to the Long Hang Kip.

Long Hang KipGymnast should swing to near horizontal before beginning the kip and must maintain straight arms throughout, ending again in a front support position.

Cast, Back Hip Circle
Gymnast must connect the cast right out of the long hang kip. The same requirements apply to this cast as to the low bar casts. Gymnast must maintain a straight, tight body position throughout the back hip circle and, as with the front hip circle, must maintain hip or upper thigh contact with the bar throughout.

Gymnast must show a smooth transition from the back hip circle to the underswing. Must show hip or thigh contact throughout with the same straight hollow body position.

First Back Swing
On the back swing, the gymnast's hips must rise to at least 30 degrees below the high bar. Must maintain a straight line from shoulders to hips.

First Tap Swing
Gymnast must show "tapping" motion - that is, she must show a slight, tight arch throughout her body with feet behind her at the bottom of the swing, then raise the feet again in front, finding the tight hollow body position. Feet must reach to at least the height of the high bar at the top of the swing.

Second Back Swing
Same basic motion as the first back swing with the same body position requirements, but on the second back swing the gymnast's hips must reach to 15 degrees below the height of the high bar or higher.

Half Turn DismountGymnast must reach a height of at least 45 degrees below the high bar. Must show a complete 180 degree turn before re-grasping the bar. The gymnast must re-grasp before letting go of the bar. Of course with any dismount, the judges will be looking for a controlled landing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Long-Hang Kip

The long-hang kip is a bit different from a glide kip performed on the low bar. Though the two skills require similar upper-body strength, the timing is quite different, as is the swing. In general, this is a skill that takes a lot of practice and repetition before the gymnast figures out what the correct swing feels like and transfers that swing into her muscle memory. As with the free hip circle, I can offer a few tips and tricks, but practice is what is going to get the skill to click.

This skill begins with a jump to high bar. If your jump isn't solid, the long-hang kip will be more difficult. You do not want to jump in such a way that your back is severely arched when your hands hit the high bar. In order to have a smooth swing into your kip, you should reach the high bar with a tight, straight body. Depending on your height and the bar setting, you may benefit from reaching the bar in a slight, tight hollow rather than a straight, stretched body. Either of these options is great as long as there is no huge arch to interfere with the natural motion of the swing.

As you reach the high bar and begin your swing, you want to try to keep your feet behind you. A pretty common mistake is bringing your feet up too high on the upswing. When the upswing is too high, it's difficult to continue that momentum as you bring your ankles to the bar and begin to kip up. Swinging too high will work against you by bringing your momentum straight down, rather than back and up. You want to control your swing by keeping your feet behind you at the beginning of the swing.

However, this doesn't mean you should ignore the tap. You still need to perform a slight tap as you would with a normal tap swing. Keeping your feet behind you before the tap will just help to control your height and speed.

After the tap, you should swing up so that your body reaches a nice, stretched hollow. This is the point at which you want to raise your ankles to the bar and begin to kip. From this point forward, the kip is much like a regular glide kip. The same motions apply - the "pull up your pants" motion with the legs, a slight wrist shift, and ending in a front support. Of course, if you are connecting a cast out of your long-hang kip, you will need to finish with your feet in front of the bar and your shoulders leaning over as well.

These are just some basic tips. A lot of it, as I said, is just figuring out the timing that works for you. Happy kipping!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Clear Hip Circle on Bars

A clear hip circle (or free hip circle - I will use the two interchangeably as most coaches do) is a level 6 USAG uneven bars skill that is a variation of the level 5 back hip circle. I find this skill to be quite mechanical; there are a lot of specific things to keep in mind in attempting this skill as far as body position and timing go. Gymnasts need to be very aware of their form as well as their position on the bar and in the air in order to figure out the precise timing necessary for this move. Much of the most helpful instruction for free hips comes from timing drills that help the gymnast get the feel for when to open their shoulder angle and shift their wrists. Another main component of the skill is upper body strength.

While most of the progress with this skill will come from repetition and drills, there are a few tips gymnasts can keep in mind to make the skill go more smoothly. These are also tips that coaches should keep in mind in correcting form.

  • A strong cast - at least to horizontal - is highly recommended before the gymnast even begins to attempt this skill with or without a spot, especially if the goal is a clear hip to horizontal or higher. Without the momentum that comes from a high, tight cast, it is nearly impossible to complete this move successfully. Muscling it around is possible but likely will be accompanied by an arched back and other form mistakes, and the gymnast will probably just barely clear the bar.
  • As the gymnast begins to come down from the cast, she needs to maintain a controlled hollow body position with stomach muscles tight.
  • Instead of bringing the hips back to the bar as the gymnast would with a back hip circle, she needs to drop her hips below the bar. The bar and hands should be about in line with the gymnast's mid-thigh. When first beginning the skill, it's okay to drop the hips only an inch or so below the bar, but as the gymnast progresses with both strength and timing, she will find it beneficial to drop a little lower below the bar. During this point in the skill, it is also essential that the gymnast leans back with her shoulders. The timing as far as when to lean the shoulders back has to do with how high the clear hip is intended to be - for example, if the gymnast wants to do a clear hip to handstand, she should begin leaning back with her shoulders as she passes through horizontal coming down from her cast. If the gymnast does not intend to free hip too high, she can wait a little longer before dropping her shoulders back and beginning the circling motion.
  • While the gymnast is circling the bar, she needs to maintain the hollow body position. A slight pike is okay, but ideally the gymnast's body should make a hollow line. The main point to remember is not to arch at this point in the skill, as that will make it impossible to push up and off the bar. Likely an arched back will turn the free hip circle into a regular back hip circle with bad form, and the hips will come back to the bar, which of course is not the goal. Another point to remember as the gymnast begins to circle the bar is to keep the head position neutral.
  • As the gymnast comes around the bar, she needs to begin to open her shoulder angle and simultaneously shift her wrists. As she does this, she will push down with her hands into the bar and push her feet up towards the ceiling and back, clearing the bar and landing with her feet on the floor. Or, if the gymnast is performing a free hip to handstand, she can return her hips to the bar and finish in front support.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Skills and Topic Requests

Hey guys, sorry I've been a bit absent on the blog lately. School tends to take over my life. I'm hoping a few of you will comment on this post and list one skill on each event that you're learning right now or struggling with. If you have other topic requests, please let me know that as well! And parents, if there are skills you'd like to know more about or if you have specific questions, also feel free to join in! I'm hoping to get some new posts up soon based on your feedback. :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Carly Patterson Biography

Carly Patterson Bio

DOB: February 4, 1988 
Country Represented: USA 
Coach: Evgeny Marchenko
Best Event: Carly is uniformly known as a great, consistent beam worker, but what always separated her from other gymnasts is the fact that she never really had a week event; she was disciplined in her form on all four events, which allowed her to win and All-Around gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, as well as at the US Senior Nationals.
Best Known For: Her performance at the 2004 Olympic Games! She is recognized mainly for her All-Around gold, which she won with a score of 38.387, but she also earned herself a silver on beam as well as a silver in the team competition.
Currently: After the 2004 Olympics, it was discovered that Carly had a few bulging disks in her back, and for that reason she retired from gymnastics entirely. Since then, she has pursued a music career, but she will always be remembered for her gymnastics career, as she is now a member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
Interesting Fact: Carly has a full-length music album called "Back to the Beginning," which has been released on iTunes along with a few single tracks. Prior to releasing her album, she was on a show called Celebrity Duets, produced by Simon Cowell, where she had the opportunity to sing with multiple famous musicians. Not the best singer in the world, but at least the fame she gained from the Athens Olympics gave her the chance to try out something new. Here is a video of a song called "Here I am," which was featured on the show Make it or Break it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Questions and Comments

You know what to do! :) I'll also be taking topic requests in the comments section, as usual, so let me know if there is anything specific you'd like to see coming up on the blog.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blind Gymnast

Someone shared this on the Chalk Bucket a while back... Thought it was worth sharing on here! Pretty incredible.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Handspring Vault

A few general tips for a killer handspring vault.

  • The first and probably most obvious tip is to never underestimate the importance of your sprint down the vault runway. The run is a huge factor in determining the power and turnover speed of your vault. It is important that you're comfortable with the distance at which you begin your sprint in order to avoid what coaches like to call "stutter stepping" as you near the springboard. The best way to find the take-off, stride, and distance that work best for you is simply by trial and error. Always use the tape measure to check your distance before you vault! Once you find your distance, your run should be very consistent. You should be taking the same number of steps every time, taking off with the same leg, and therefore having very few issues when it comes time for the hurdle. We've all had those days when we get stuck at the end of the vault runway hurdling with the wrong leg. To avoid this issue as best you can, befriend the tape measure and find the sprint that works for you.
  • The second tip is to get a powerful hurdle. Newton's Laws tell us that the amount of force we inflict on the springboard during our hurdle is equal to the amount of force the springboard will give us in return. The more you pound the springboard, the more spring it will give you to complete your vault. So be powerful with the hurdle and don't hold back - use a full arm circle to help you get the momentum you need. Another common mistake that happens during the hurdle is that the gymnast leans too far forward with their hips towards the vault table. We don't want to jump into the table, we want to spring up and over it, so leaning into it is not going to help. Hitting the springboard with your feet in front of your hips in a hollow is going to give you the necessary height.
  • This one is really important, and I'm sure you've heard it before: it's all about the heel drive when it comes to handspring vaults. A heel drive is just what it sounds like - you need to drive your heels upwards to eventually find the vertical position and get over the table. The tricky part is that you need to drive your heels while maintaining good body position. You don't want to just arch your body and flop over the vault. The heels need to be the driving force for your whole entire body, which should remain tight and, for the most part, very straight. This requires a fair amount of core strength but is essential to a good vault.
  • This next tip is all about angles (by that I mean the angle your body makes with the vault table). While ideal contact angle depends on the speed and power of the gymnast, the important thing for all gymnasts to remember about angles is that you should always be off the table before your body hits the vertical position. You want the "pop" or the "shoulder block" to happen before you hit the 90 degree mark. In other words, you don't want your contact with the vault to happen so late that you are blocking off the vault after you have hit the vertical position and are angled towards the landing mat. Your shoulder block should happen as quickly and as powerfully as possible so that it is almost as if you barely touched the vault at all.
  • Another note on the shoulder block is that it should require absolutely no elbow bend. In fact, the entire purpose of the block is to get power off the vault table without having to use your arms to push. Not only is an elbow bend incorrect, but it'll also slow you way down and surely cause you to flop over with an arched back onto the landing mat, rather than with all your muscles squeezed as they should be.
  • Of course, during the initial moment of contact as well as the whole shoulder block phase and continuing through the second flying phase, you should have a tight, straight body position. You should be stretched out, but with no yucky loose arching. If there's one thing judges cringe at seeing on vault, I think it would be an arched body. Arching over on a vault is a little bit like cheating on a test; it allows you to complete the vault using minimal strength and effort and without really having to block at all. However, it's completely incorrect and not very pleasing to the eye.
  • As your feet finally start to hit the landing mat, bend your knees and extend your arms out in front of you to absorb the shock of the landing and to help you find the balance to stick it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

He Kexin Biography

DOB: Her birthday is listed as January 1, 1992, though the age controversy that arose at the Beijing Olympics has caused a lot of people to believe that she was born in 1994. Some records arose that indicated she was not old enough to compete in 2008, but the issue was eventually claimed to have been a simple error in transferring records when she switched teams. The passport obtained by the Chinese Federation claimed that she was born in '92, and the age investigation was eventually dismissed, though a lot of people still have strong opinions on the issue.
Country Represented: China
Coach: Huang Yubin
Best Event: Bars, judging by the practically unmatched difficulty level of her UB routines and her somewhat controversial gold medal in the event at the Beijing Olympics. Bars is her event specialty.
Best Known For: Probably her Olympic gold on bars, as well as the Chinese team gold medal. As far as bars go, I think she's definitely recognized for her difficult connections and release moves (at Worlds she competed a great Li Ya release which she connects with a Jaeger - her routine in team finals earned her a 16.333, though she had an unfortunate fall during event finals).

Currently: She is still competing and definitely plans on returning for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Interesting Fact: He Kexin scored a 16.800 at the Cottbus Cup. It was only her second international meet, and her score was good enough to be deemed the highest uneven bars score earned at an international competition under the current Code of Points.