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.