Monday, August 18, 2014

Returning National Competitors 2014

Last year, I complied a list of gymnasts who returned to compete at the 2013 National Championships.  It was interesting to find that while it seemed like so few gymnasts who competed as seniors in 2012 returned to compete in 2013, it was actually quite normal.  Last year, I found that the average returning number of gymnasts was about 8.  Instead of analyzing this year's number to last quad, I decided to analyze the number of gymnasts in the mid-quad year.

The six gymnasts returning from last year are...
Simone Biles
Madison Desch
Brenna Dowell
Maggie Nichols
Kyla Ross
MyKayla Skinner

In 2010,  the United States would soon become the World Silver Medalist Team, after winning five medals at the 2009 Individual World Championships.  The eight returning seniors from 2009 to 2010 were...
Rebecca Bross
Mackenzie Caquatto
Kaitlyn Clark
Georgia Dabritz
Kytra Hunter
Annette Miele
Bridget Sloan
Cassandra Wittcomb

2006 was a turning point in USA Gymnastics.  A silver medal at the 2006 World Championships, with promising juniors ready to come up, in 2006 the future looked bright for USA!  The United STates were carried by veterans this quadrennium, however with eight returning seniors from 2005.  They!
Jana Bieger
Kayla Hoffman
Jacqueline Johnson
Nastia Liukin
Hillary Mauro
Chellsie Memmel
Kassi Price
Alicia Sacramone

So, as you can see, the average number of returning competitors in the mid-quad year is seven, which does not sound like a lot, but with the depth of USAGymnastics, does not sound like a problem!  Despite a lot of last minute scratches, the United States could make two World Championship teams and have them both be competitive! 

Watch the P&G National Championships this Thursday and Saturday at!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Diaries of a New Gymnastics Coach: July 2014

Over the past six years, I had practically reached all of my potential as a gymnast.  Yea my club has a USAIGC team that I had thought about trying out for, but I realized I had no time for more gymnastics than what I was doing, an advanced recreation class that met once a week for two hours.  Sometimes, I didn't even have time for that.  It was time to face the facts, as much as I love gymnastics, I had reached the highest level of gymnastics I was going to reach.  I had been working on getting my back tuck for two years, and I was not any closer now than I was a year ago.  So when my coach approached me in May about a job opportunity as a coach, starting this summer, I was more than happy to accept it.  I had no clue what it would take to be a coach, but I saw it as a great way to stay involved in my gym, and a nice summer job!  Since then, I have been coaching for about three weeks, and am starting to get the hang of it.  I still have a long way to go, but I am very excited to learn more and become a great coach!

My first job as a coach was to help during our annual "Olympics", which is our version of a recital.  The gymnasts rotate to all of the four events and show their relatives what they have been working on all year.  I stayed at bars the whole week, spotting the girls on their sole circles.  Basically, I lifted the girls hips while they straddled their legs and had to swing under the bar.  So basically, I became a weight lifter.  At the end of the week (which I was not paid for, my coach treated it like "training"), my fore arms ached, but I really liked spotting.  I became so much more excited for summer classes to start because that was where my knowledge of the technical side of gymnastics would come into play.  After the week, my coach sat me down and told me he was happy with how I was learning, and that this summer I would become a fill-in.  Since there were a lot of college kids that where working, he was not sure how often he would need me, but he assured me that I would get some work in.  

After the two week break (one week in between semesters and another so that four of our gymnasts could compete at the USAIGC/IAIGC World Championships), I called to see if I was needed.  Sure enough, that Thursday I was texted to see if I could pick up Thursday nights, and be at the gym in three hours.  With no transportation and canceled beach plans, I made it to the gym.  My first group of children were preschoolers.  What a weird experience that was.  Trying to teach a child how to do a forward roll was so weird for me, just because I was never taught how to do one, it just came naturally to me.  Trying to find the right way to phrase the corrections was the hardest thing I did that day.  After the preschool class was over, I coached the advanced girls.  It was pretty bizarre for me, as these girls were my classmates less than a month ago.  While I was giving a very frustrated girl corrections for her aerials, my coach called me over to help give corrections to the team girls on their vaults.  This was where I felt most natural, because it is what I have been doing online for years.  I mean, these girls were not doing hard vaults, just front handsprings, but giving technical corrections just felt so natural for me.  After class, my coach told me that I did great for my first time, but I have to increase my confidence and look less "lost".  Those were two things that would come with time, but were really difficult for me fix, because I felt out of place, as my coworkers had been doing it for so long.  I felt weird saying something because they knew what they were doing, and I did not.  

The next time I was called in, I got a text 15 minutes before my coach needed me.  My gym is 10 minutes away from my house, and I had woken up about ten minutes before my coach texted me and was still in bed.  I was such a mess that day.  I taught another preschool class and then helped with our day camp.  It was interesting, but I really enjoy helping the older kids more.  Nothing really important happened, but it was just great to get a chance to work.  

After that, my weekly schedule remained the same.  Preschool on Monday mornings (such a LOVELY Monday morning...), and preschool and advanced class on Thursday night.  Thursdays are definitely my favorite, even though I am there for what seems like FOREVER.  Today was my first day doing heavy spotting.  It is way more fun helping a girl get her back handspring than trying to get a four year old to walk across the beam with pointed toes.  

Each day that I am in the gym is a learning experience.  I have learned that kids are going to fall, it is simply a part of the sport.  In the beginning, I was terrified of letting a kid fall.  I know it sounds crazy, but I found there to be a lot of pressure when I am coaching.  I was (and still slightly am) scared of a kid falling, getting hurt, and it being all my fault.  Falls are going to happen, whether it is my fault or not.  I have learned that accidents happen, and I have learned not to let them faze me as much.  I have learned it is better to be safe then sorry, but sometimes you got to take that risk.  If a kid is ready for a back handspring and you show doubts, then that kid is going to have doubts, which is could be even more dangerous than the back handspring.  I have gained an exuberant amount of patience after starting this job.  Lastly, I have learned  that there is a time to have fun, but there has to be time to get serious.  I have learned to separate these times, and to enjoy the fun times, but be ready to get work done when we have to be serious. 

I have seriously enjoyed my first month of coaching, and am eagerly waiting for the next time I step foot in the gym to coach and spread my love for gymnastics!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mid Quad Schenanigans?

With two years to go until the torch is lit in Rio de Janeiro, many people are quick to disregard the "mid quad" year.  Some of the top contenders are still fighting for Junior Titles, others are nursing injuries, and some are have yet to even qualify elite.  Will the results that come from this year stay relevant in 2016, or will we look back at this year and laugh at the "Mid Quad Shenanigans?"

The start of 2006 saw Chellsie Memmel was the reigning World All Around Champion, Nastia Liukin had won her first American Cup Title, followed closely by Shayla Worley.  The United States sent seniors Jana Bieger, Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, and Shayla Worley to Honolulu, Hawaii for the 2006 Pacific Alliance Championships.  Nastia Liukin won her second National Title, edging out Natasha Kelley and Jana Bieger.  At the World Championships, a team consisting of Jana Bieger, Natasha Kelley, Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, Ashley Priess, and Alicia Sacramone lost out on Team Gold by less than a point.

The key players this year where Nastia Liukin; who played less of a role in 2006 than other years because of an severe ankle injury, Shayla Worley; who was too injured to compete at Nationals and Worlds, but was influential in the early season success of the United States, and Jana Bieger; who ended the best season of her elite career with an All Around Silver Medal at the World Championships.  Chellsie Memmel, who was the reigning World All Around Champion, injured herself on bars during the Team Finals at Worlds, finished the Team Competition, and proceeded to miss the entire 2007 season with a torn shoulder.

Of these key players, three went on to make the 2008 Olympic Team.  Nastia Liukin went on to help the team win a Silver Medal, as well as the All Around Gold, Bars Silver, Beam Bronze and Floor Bronze.  Chellsie Memmel fractured her foot a week before competition started, and was able to compete solely on bars, helping Team USA secure the Silver Medal.  Alicia Sacramone went on to make the Olympic Team, where she competed on vault, beam, and floor.  After a breif retirement, Alicia came back, where she was a prominent force in 2010.

Shayla Worley successfully made the 2007 World Championships Team, where she became a World Champion with Team USA.  After injuring her back in early 20087, Worley came up short of making the Olympic Team, after petitioning to Trials and being invited to the Selection Camp.  After 2006, Jana Bieger injured herself at the 2007 American Cup, wasn't ready for Nationals, and did not make her third World Championship Team.  In 2008, she fell numerous times on bars, notably during Olympic Trials and Selection Camps, the event where she would be most valuable.  Bieger was subsequently named the alternate to the Olympic Team.

The first meet in 2010 saw Rebecca Bross claim her only American Cup victory and the Senior International debut of Aly Raisman.  Shortly after, the United States sent a team consisting of Rebecca Bross, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, Bridget Sloan, Sabrina Vega, and Jordyn Wieber.  Of these six gymnasts, half would end up Olympians in 2012.  Rebecca Bross captured the National Championship Title in dominating fashion ahead of Mattie Larson and Aly Raisman.  At Worlds, a team consisting of Rebecca Bross, Mackenzie Caquatto, Mattie Larson, Aly Raisman, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan narrowly missed the Gold, falling short .2 to take the silver behind Russia.  Alicia Sacramone went on to win the Vault Gold, Rebecca Bross went on to win the All Around Bronze, Bar Bronze, and Beam Silver.

Aly Raisman, who had an impressive rookie season, Jordyn Wieber, who was collecting Junior Titles left and right, and Kyla Ross, who won medals on every event but beam (including Gold on Vault), all ended up making the 2012 Olympic Team, who won the Team Gold.  Aly Raisman went on to become the most successful US Gymnast, winning the Beam Bronze and Floor Gold, and losing a tie-breaker for the All Around Bronze Medal.  Jordyn Wieber became the World All Around Champion in 2011, but narrowly missed qualifying to the London All Around Final, despite qualifying fourth into the final.

Rebecca Bross famously dislocated her knee cap day 2 of the 2011 Visa National Championships.  After struggling all competition, Bross continued to twist while making contact wioth the floor, eliminating her chances at making the 2011 World Championship Team.  Bross' training time was cut drastically when she tried to return, and after a heartbreaking final bar routine, she did not make the 2012 Olympic Team.  While trying to make the 2011 World Championship Team, Mackenzie Caquatto broke both ankles at a verification camp.  Accepting defeat, she retired from elite gymnastics and started a successful gymnastics career at the University of Florida, where she became a two time NCAA Champion with her team.  After failing to compete well on floor under pressure at the 2010 World Championships, Mattie retired from elite gymnastics and joined the UCLA Bruins for the 2011 Season.  In the winter of 2014, Larson retired altogether from gymnastics, quitting the team in her junior season.  After a successful 2010 World Championships, Alicia seemed back where she was before her retirement; and better.  After making the 2011 World Championship Team, Alicia tore her Achilles Tendon in training.  Alicia still came back in time to fight for a spot on the Olympic Team, but ultimately came up unsuccessfully.  After coming back strongly in the All Around for the first time since winning a World Title in 2009, Bridget Sloan fell during her touch warm up on the first day of Olympic Trials.  Sloan dislocated her elbow and was unable to fight for a spot. Sloan joined the University of Florida for the 2013 season, where she led the Gators to their first NCAA Team Title in school history.

In this Mid-Quad year, about half of the key players experience success two years later.  In this completely unpredictable sport, no one knows for sure what will happen in 2016.  Looking at past trends, many of the important faces were still prominent in their respective Olympic Years.  Of the 12 World Team Members, 8 of them competed at the Olympic Trials, and 4 of them made the Olympic Team.  No one knows for sure what will happen in 2016, but already 1 key player from 2014 is out of the running, as Elizabeth Price, who had a tremendous amount of success in the early season, is headed off to Stanford in the fall.  The key players this year so far have yet to be determined, and 2016 is still a huge puzzle.  Will the puzzle become a little clearer come Janurary 2015? The odds say, many of them will be in contention come June 2016.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Second Year at International Gymnastics Camp

After having an amazing time at IGC last summer (My Experience at International Gymnastics Camp), I begged my parents all year to let me go back.  They relented almost immediately, probably so I would shut up.  When I told one of my best friends about how amazing it was, she got her parents on board, and we went together.  One day when she was at the gym, IGC came up, and it just so happened that many of the girls on the team and in the gym were joining us!  Add on a last minute straggler, there were 14 of us in total!  I had such an amazing week, an amazing cabin, amazing counselors, and amazing company!  IGC 2014 was amazing and I will miss going there next summer!
*Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own and have not been sponsored or altered*

Day 1- Sunday
When my family dropped me off, I was completely fine; like I'm not homesick at all.  I'm really happy my friend and the minions (my friend and the team member's names have been withheld for privacy) are here because it feels like part of home is with me.  Once you left, I walked my friend's family around and we had our cabin meeting.  The cabin meeting literally didn't change at all from last year, but so far I really like my cabin.  There are two girls from Iceland, one from Mexico, and one from our sister gym on Long Island!  It's crazy how big the world is, but how it can also seem insanely small at the same time.  We were late to screening, we walked in as they announced Cabin 22.  Awkward.  I did my double back handspring (yay!) and a pullover and back hip circle for screening (Please do not judge my lack of skill, before this week I didn't do gymnastics for about 6 weeks and am hardly in the gym).  I didn't screw up bars (double yay)!  then we had pit fluff, which is easily the worst part of camp.  I legit had half of the pit in my hair.  An obnoxious coach separated my friend and I (Purple, move away from multi-colored!), and kicked a girl out for talking.  He became my vault coach the next day and is actually really funny.  A girl in our cabin told us our cabin cheer, so I didn't have to come up with anything (yay for no creativity!) and we went to dinner.  Being a picky eater, I found something yummy to eat, which was a small victory in itself.  Performing our cheer was awkward, but it wasn't too bad.  They announced that in addition to Alex Naddour and Marissa King, Hollie Vise and Kat Grable would be here this week.  Kat and Hollie were pleasant surprises!  Then we went to get to know you games, where they gave us the "you're a role model" speech, which I know is important, but kinda redundant when you're one of the two kids in your travel group over 11.  I made a new friend that night, someone from upstate New York.  During social hour, we hung out with our new friend and some of the little ones from the team.  The little one's faces when they found out they could get cotton candy from the canteen was adorable.  I'm having way more fun this year and can't wait for tomorrow!

Day 2- Matching Monday
I slept better last night than I did last year, but still woke up a bunch of times.  Morning came way too quickly.  After breakfast, I waited with the older members of our group.  Let me tell you, they're insane.  Warm up went well and then we got our groups.  They basically sit us down and read off our names.  I moved up from a B to a C, but I was the oldest one in my group, which was slightly awkward, but I'm used to it, as I'm the oldest in my gym now.  I'm in the same rotation as 5 girls from the gym, which made conditioning and dance so much better.  Conditioning wasn't bad, and dance was weird.  I don't really like dance, but I got a bunch of pictures of me laughing, so that's a positive.  We finally went to our first real gymnastics class-vault.  Garrett is really funny.  He runs like a deer while muttering "I'm fierce, I'm fierce" under his breath.  I'm really working hard on fixing my form on my front handspring, and Garrett thinks I have a lot of power.  During vault, my best friend was on the pit bar, and we kept making eye contact across the gym and making weird faces at each other.  She later told me that her coach (I would later find out he would be my floor coach) caught her looking at me and wanted us to make eye contact again so that he could say hi.  After lunch, I landed my cartwheels consistently and moved onto back walkovers.  A guy came over to me and told me "You know what I liked about that back walkover?  It was very aerodynamic, your mouth was open the whole time!  In all honesty, it was a good back walkover!"  It was hysterical.  I legit couldn't do a kip today, I wasn't used to the way my coaches were spotting me, but whatever.  I'm trying to be optimistic about bars this year, but I hate them.  I didn't rip!  Floor was good, it's my favorite class.  I worked on my roundoff back handspring, and my rebounds have so much power.  For rec, we walked around with the minions (they're so cute!).  After dinner, I went to open gym and HATED the coach.  I took one bad turn and she automatically thought that I was incapable of the skills I was doing.  I've been doing a roundoff backhandspring for years, at least let me show you that I can do it after I've warmed up before you tell yourself that I'm incapable.  A roundoff back handspring is one of the few skills I am capable of, so let me show you want I can do first.  Even when I started doing better (I swear my rebound was higher than the girls working layouts and fulls), but it wasn't good enough for her.  She sent me to the bar gym because I couldn't do it.  I had a pounding headache, and chalked it up to having a bad day, so I didn't go to the bar gym.  Question and Answer was funny as always, and Kat Grable said her second choice was Florida!  Social hour was cut short because of thunder, but before it did, we played mini golf.  IGC has a fun mini golf course!  We didn't get to shower because of lightning, and then were called into the Olympic Gym because of the high winds.  We played UNO with my cabin mates and my floor coach.  We left the Olympic Gym at 11:15.

Day 3- Twinning Tuesday
I didn't wake up with a headache, so I didn't tell my counselors.  I was so tired.  After breakfast, we went back to the cabin and I slept for another 10 minutes.  It wasn't enough.  We worked on shaping and then went to dance, where we started learning the end of week dance, which is rather depressing since the week JUST started.  Vault was amazing.  Marissa King came and helped us and it was awesome.  Say what you want and listen to whatever rumors you want, but she is such a sweetheart.  She was always smiling and was super sweet.  One time I hurdled with the wrong foot and did a forward roll over the vault.  I was hysterically laughing in the pit, while Garrett was telling em it was a legit drill, and Marissa King was laughing.  It was actually really funny.  When I got out of the pit, Marissa asked if I was ok, and I told her I've done way worse.  She agreed with me.  Other than that, my vaults have improved a lot in just one day.  I was lectured by an 11 year old for eating salad on Taco Tuesday.  On beam, I landed my back walkover and my coach asked if I had it.  Seeing as I've only done a few in my life, I was surprised.  She had me work back handsprings on beam.  When I came here, I did not expect that I would come close to working them.  It was the first time in two years that my goal was too low.  I got on top of the bar when I did my kips, so progress!  Marissa King helped us on floor again and she apparently LOVED my roundoff back handsprings.  After literally every turn she gave me a high five and complimented me on my power and form.  At the end of class she complimented me again of how they looked and on being consistent.  That was so cool.  My cabin had Scary Aerie and I told my best friend that she couldn't let me chicken out this year, and we made a deal that we would force each other to go to the top.  We climbed side by side and I made it to the top!  I had a lot of fun, especially on the zip line.  The rocks at the top of the wall were awful, they were so small!  Afterwards we watched staff workout for a bit, but didn't see anything cool.  Then we found the little ones and one of them is JUST like me.  We didn't go to open gym so we played ping pong and spaceball.  They moved handstand, strength and flexibility into the Olympic Gym due to an impending storm (yes, another one).  The girl that did flexibility did not want to do it at all, but made it to the semifinals and the girl that did strength won!  they canceled social hour because of the storm, but I didn't mind because I don't really like social hour.  We were locked in the Olympic gym AGAIN until 9:30, because my cabin decided not to go up to the canteen.  We were aloud to shower thankfully because there was no lightning.  I was supposed to have the first shower, but someone took it.  I'm excited to sleep in tomorrow!

Day 4- On Wednesdays We Wear Pink
I slept through the night and didn't wake up with a headache!  Sleeping in was such a treat.  Our Cabin Picture was fine, but I don't look too great.  We did games in conditioning, and did ballet in dance, and I learned how to do turns like a dancer.  I totally belong on Dance Moms (just kidding).  During vault, a girl in my group was waiting my the vault near our coaches, and heard them talking about how if anyone in the group were to move up, it would be me (they pointed at me).  I was so surprised, because I didn't think I was the best person in our group.  I'm still not sure that they were talking about me, but that made me feel awesome.  I did back handsprings on beam the whole time and I think they've improved.  I can't really get my hands together though.  On tunnel bars, I fell twice, which is an improvement over last year!  On floor, my coaches thought I was ready to do tucks, but Katie reminded me not to just fling it, but to set.  I was so focused on the set that I didn't remember to tuck until it was too late.  It was actually kinda funny.  Katie got so mad, but I was learning a new skills, accidents and falls are going to happen.  We had to wait in the gym for 20 minutes because of rain.  Danny told me that next year I should come back as gym staff and I'm honestly considering it.  I know it wouldn't be as awesome, but I'd be getting paid to come to camp and meet some awesome celebrities and people.  I would love to come coach, I feel like I would learn so much.  I understand that they just want us to stay safe and dry, but it got boring fast.  I went jet skiing during rec, and I'm glad I went, even though I told dad I didn't want to go.  I got to drive though, and it was so much fun.  I went to beam open gym, and my back handsprings and they got so much better.  Then was safari hunt, it was so funny!  We had to find gym staff, who were acting like animals.  Danny (my floor coach), was a water buffalo, and he kept finding frogs and handing them to us.  He is my favorite coach by far.  I waited all of social hour for a gatorade, but I got it!  It started thundering and we couldn't shower AGAIN.  I felt disgusting.  There are some things I wished I had my phone for, just because I want to take pictures of the things going on in my cabin, it's hysterical.

Day 5- Thanksgiving Thursday
I can't believe it's already Thursday!  My counselor described it best, the days drag on, but the week flies by.  Two more sleeps until I fall asleep in my own bed!  Conditioning was annoying and dance wasn't really special, except the 12 year old I camp here with asked for my "elderly assistance" in getting up.  It was insanely rude.  Nothing really happened during vault either, but my vault is improving tremendously.  We had pit beam today and my coach really liked my punch tucks and pikes.  I've always been strong with those.  I hate bars with every fiber of my being and I've accepted the fact that I will never do a kip, it is so bad.  I did a lot of drills.  Before bars, Kat Grable was working out and she did a full twisting tucked shaposh.  Seriously, she is such a beast.  I was having such a good floor day.  I was stretching out my back handspring and Katie was going to let me do another tuck.  On my last turn (the one I was going to tuck), I did my roundoff back handspring onto a locked arm.  I swear I heard a crack.  The trainers think that I strained it (I'm going to get it checked out).  It hurts like crazy but the iced numbed it up quite nicely.  I feel so bad for all of the gymnasts that have to sit in the ice bath after practice.  My friend knew there was something seriously wrong as soon as she saw me because she is mom and I never ice and am normally really good at hiding pain.  For rec, we were the first ones at the canteen and I got yoga pants and a matching sweatshirt (my favorites), and we watched Madagascar 2 while it (you guessed it) rained.  Afterwards we watched staff workout for a bit before dinner.  Dinner was okay, but I really wanted cake that they ran out of (this was legit the biggest disappointment of camp - besides my elbow that is).  I went to beam open gym (busted elbow and all) and did leaps and jumps.  The dance was way more fun this year, I was one of the first people on the autograph line, so early that Alex Naddour wasn't there yet and I was slightly depressed.  Later a girl in my cabin went up and asked him if he would sign my paper and he did so without a problem.  He is so sweet!  We Wobbled, did the Cotton Eyed Joe, and the Cupid Shuffle.  My counselor wanted us to Wobble in the cabin.  She agreed that we are her favorite cabin so far.  This cabin is so amazing and I'm going to miss them so much!

Day 6- Freaky Friday
I legit couldn't sleep last night.  I couldn't get comfortable because my elbow hurt so badly.  I can't bend it more than a 45 degree angle and I can't straighten it.  I did normal conditioning because we didn't use our arms.  I did the dance today, which is WAY better than last years.  On vault, Garrett and Katie (I have her on vault and floor) remembered that I hurt my self.  I was just going to do running drills, because Garrett said he wanted to fix my run, but he said I could do front and back tucks off of the vault, so I did.  Getting out of the pit was the worst, especially with one arm, it hurt so badly.  Garrett told me "Who needs arms to vault? Well to vault you do, but your special!"  It was so funny!  After vault, Katie was super nice, and she told me she was a twin too (2 other girls in my group had twin sisters, not including me).  It was the first time Katie was pleasant to be around.  She's a great coach, but doesn't have a nice attitude.  I saw Danny before lunch, and he felt so bad that I was hurt.  I improved my leaps so much on beam while I couldn't do anything else.  I really liked one of my beam coaches, she was so nice.  On bars, I joined conditioning since I couldn't straighten my arm or put weight on it.  On floor, I did front tucks, pikes, and layouts off of tumble track.  Katie was impressed with them.  We played laser tag during rec, and I won the game for my cabin during the second round.  I didn't go to open gym, because of my arm.  I signed my gym staff's book and it was so sad.  Then I started packing, which was literally depressing.  During open gym, I made a bracelet for my sister.Staff ex was awesome, our gym staff counselor was amazing!  I think she was elite in Canada.  Social hour was so depressing, I'm going to miss IGC and Cabin 22 so much it's not even funny.

I loved IGC so much and I would love to go back!  Seriously, if you ever get the chance to go, do it!  I had so much fun and couldn't have asked for a better week!  If you have any questions, let me know!  If any of you were there last week (week 4), let me know!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Talking with Rhonda Faehn
After being named alternate to the 1988 US Olympic Team, Rhonda Faehn continued her gymnastics career at UCLA, where her coaching career began in 1992.  After coaching at the University of Maryland and the University of Nebraska, Faehn took control of the gymnastics program at the University of Florida in 2003.  During the past 11 seasons, Faehn has created a dynasty in Gainesville.  Faehn has led the Gators to four Southeastern Conference Titles (2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013) and two consecutive NCAA Championship Titles, the first coming in 2013, and tying the University of Oklahoma for the 2014 title.  I was able to talk to Faehn about this historic season.

Double Double Gym Blog: How do you feel about being co-champions with Oklahoma?
Rhonda Faehn: It was definitely great to share the national title with the University of Oklahoma. I have tremendous respect for their gymnastics and what K.J. (Kindler, Oklaho
ma Head Coach) has done with the program. I thought both teams, Oklahoma and Florida, performed exceptionally at the championship, and they were both deserving of the title.

DDGB: This is the second consecutive championship. How does this one compare to last year?
Florida Gators
RF: It’s completely different. The entire season and the championships were completely different. Our first title that we won, the season was, I felt, very easy. It seemed as if when we went to the national championship we knew that we had an incredible chance to win, barring complete meltdown. We made it extremely challenging by having to count a fall, but we still came away with the win. This past championship there was no chance that we would be able to count a fall and win. It was a more challenging season in that we just really did not have the depth that we had the year before. With that, we had to play with our lineups more, we had to really try and rest the athletes. It was very challenging, but what was different was that at the actual championship, this year’s team performed the best that they could in every area. That was really wonderful to see because we needed to do that to be able to win.
Completely different seasons and years and championships with the same result make it absolutely incredible. I’ve heard from other teams before that have won multiple titles that every title is different, and that is very true.

DDGB: Did you know how close it was between Alabama, Oklahoma and Florida going into the last rotation?
RF: I had an idea. They show the scores on the overhead scoreboards so everybody’s looking at that, but in my head I wasn’t actually adding and counting the numbers as each one of our athletes competed. I did not know exactly where we were. In fact, I did not even know that Alabama had a mistake over on balance beam. I was solely focused on our team on floor, and it wasn’t until after Bridgey (Bridgette Caquatto) competed that Adrian (Burde, Assistant Coach) told me the score she needed for us to tie or win. I didn’t see the score come up, and I heard Adrian yell, and he came over again and said, ‘We tied!’ and I of course said, ‘What does that mean?’ Just like the year before, I always look to Adrian because he’s the numbers man and always has it running in his head so I trust what he’s going to say.

DDGB: With every success on floor this season, how comfortable were you ending your championship run on floor?
RF: I felt good about that. I thought it was a great rotation for our team. I look at floor as one of our absolute strengths throughout the season. There were only a few occasions where I felt like we completely put it together, but that was for a reason. We certainly could not put our absolute top lineup in every single competition because we didn’t have the depth. We knew that Bridgey (Caquatto) was not 100 percent prepared at all times because we had to rest her as much as we could on the pounding on her tumbling. She didn’t do any tumbling out on the floor until the week before the national championship. There were certain things we had to do to ensure they were going to be at their best at the championship. But, knowing that Bridget (Sloan) and Kytra (Hunter) had scored multiple 10s this year and Bridgey had that amazing routine going up last in the previous Super Six, which put us in a comfortable space. After I saw Claire (Boyce) lead us off with a gorgeous routine, and then Spicy (Rachel Spicer) went up second and really performed the best routine she had done since the very beginning of our season. Knowing all the pain she was in with her Achilles, I knew that the team was going to feed off of that and continue to get better. That floor rotation was a lot of fun, just as much as the year before. This year everyone just hit it “lights out” so it was great.

DDGB: When Bridgette Caquatto finished her floor routine, what was your first thought?
RF: My first thought was that I was so proud of her because she had two occasions that she was really trying to make corrections to. At the SEC Championship, she stepped out of bounds on her last pass. She was really hard on herself. Before the regional championship, we still didn’t have her do the hard landings in training and so she went a little bit hard for her last pass and then sat it down. So, with those two occasions, she was struggling with feeling the pressure and maybe doubting herself a little bit. The week before nationals, Adrian did a great job with her floor training. I spoke with her, and she said, ‘Rhonda, don’t worry. I’ll figure it out. I went a little hard. I held back here and there, but I’m ready now.’
That routine was one of the best she’s done since probably the national championship last year. I just remember her running toward the podium stairs, and I just wanted to hug her because I was just so proud of her really putting it together and knowing that it was just going to continue to build her confidence from here on out. I wasn’t thinking or concerned about the score. I was just happy that she hit that routine and that she was going to walk away feeling she did the absolute best she could.

DDGB: When the tie was announced, what were you thinking? Did you think that honoring the tie was the right decision?
RF: When the tie was announced, at first I didn’t really know what that meant because there’s never been a tie before for first place. I know that in our SEC Championship, we have the rule stated that if there’s a tie, it will not be broken. I was familiar with that, but when it comes to advancing out of regionals and the qualification round into the Super Six, the tie is always broken by adding the sixth score. In my head, I thought maybe they were going to go to the sixth score so I instantly asked Adrian to add up the sixth score and then who would win. While that was going on, Sarah Patterson from Alabama came over to me and said, ‘Congratulations on winning.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? What’s going on?’ and she said, ‘Well, they don’t break the tie. I found out the rules, and they don’t break the tie.’ That’s when I turned to the girls, and I announced that we won. We were celebrating, and I think during that time Adrian ran over to Oklahoma to let them know that they had also won because he didn’t want it to seem as though our team was celebrating and maybe they thought they lost the tie-break.
I thought it was great. I am not a proponent of breaking the tie, or extending the competition to 10 or 11 at night, or picking one athlete for an additional routine. I really think that the competition is extremely challenging and hard in the current format. It is so hard to win a championship - it needs to be honored if it’s a tie and not be broken by some other measure.

DDGB: What are your thoughts on the state of scoring in the NCAA?
RF: I think the judges have a very challenging job, and it’s always very hard for them. They try, and I think they do a great job in trying to separate the routines and trying to judge what they see in front of them. I would not want to be in their position, and I respect what they do.

DDGB: Was there any glitter hairspray used during the championship?
RF: I did not actually have to use the glitter hairspray this year. However, the girls did put it in their hair. I remember Macko (Mackenzie Caquatto) coming over to me and making the comment, ‘Do you see the glitter hairspray we put in?’
I didn’t feel the need to have to actually pump them back up because we didn’t have to count a fall anywhere or have any mistakes. It was very smooth sailing. I thought we performed, just from top to bottom, probably the best we could on every event.
But I’ll always have to have a can in my bag, just in case.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Interview with Amelia Hundley

Amelia Hundley is the newest senior gymnast from Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy.  After standing out in the first two Nastia Liukin Cups as a energetic, talented young gymnast.  Now at sixteen, Hundley is entering her first year as a senior with an impressive junior resume.  In 2013 alone, Hundley became the National Champion on bars, and brought the bronze in the All Around and on floor, won second place All Around at Classics, as well as taking home medals on bars and floor.  After an ankle injury sidelined her for the early season meets, Hundley is ready to compete as a senior in 2014. 
Property of Melissa Perenson
1. You were in the first two Nastia Liukin Cups, did those competitions help prepare you for elite competitions? If so, how?
Being in the first two Nastia cups I think did help me prepare for elite. Just because it's a big arena with a huge crowd on podium. It feels like you are competing at Classics or Championships almost. So I definitely feel like that helped prepare me for competing as an elite!

2. Over the past few decades, Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy has established itself as one of the most powerful gyms in the country.  Do you feel there is a lot of pressure on you and the current CGA gymnasts to keep the legacy alive?
 I have never really felt pressure from trying to keep the legacy alive. I just grew up at CGA always wanting to be an elite gymnast and now that I am there I just want to be the best I can.
3. Last year, Gymnastike came to your gym to film a Beyond the Routine documentary.  What was that experience like?
When Gymnastike came in to film it was really fun. It's cool for other people to see what training is like and our daily routine is.
4. What was your the 2009 Junior Japan Meet like, and how does it compare to other International Competitions you've competed in?
Gymnastics Wiki
When I went to Japan in 2009 it was probably one of my favorite international assignments. It was my first assignment so I didn't really know what to expect. But once we got there we had so much fun!

5. The friendship between you and Lexie Preissman is well publicized in the gymnastics world.  What is it like to compete and train with and without Lexie?
Lexie and I have been so close ever since we started the sport when we were about 4 years old. We have been best friends ever since. We have always helped each other in workouts. Like if we need a pick me up or some encouraging words we can always help each other. We are competitive but in a healthy way like if we see one of us taking steps forward then that pushes the other person to work hard. Were always happy for each other no matter what the outcome is. 
6. You have committed to the University of Florida.  How did you make that decision and did you visit any other colleges? 
Yes I am so excited to go to The University of Florida! I visited Georgia and Alabama before visiting Florida. I love the coaches and all the girls there. I just felt like I fit in the best at Florida.
7. Last year was your last year as a junior, which ended with a third place All Around and a National title on bars.  Do you think those results will help you this year at the senior level? 
Doing so well and getting the placement that I did at Championships last year as a junior, I think will help me going into the senior division. Just having that title is such an honor and having that little extra confidence is a plus.
8. Can you describe your current injury?
I am coming back from an ankle surgery right now. Over the last year I have sprained this ankle a few times and every time it would just get a little worse. It would get really swollen and would hurt. The last time I did it we decided that if we need to get something done then now is the time. So it all happened so fast I got called in to an ankle specialist do to a cancelation and they decided that it was going to happen at the end of that week. My ankle was really loose and junky. So they went in scraped out all the junk. They put in a cadaver tendon to tighten it. And cleaned out the rest. They called it ankle reconstruction. It's doing very well right now and should come back stronger than before. 
9. When do you think you will be back into full training and full competition?
USA Gymnastics
It has taken me about four months to be fully recovered. I am practically back to normal right now. I am full tumbling and vaulting into soft surfaces. I am doing a lot of therapy to try to get it stronger to take the harder landings when it's time. I mean my ankle has it's days but it is feeling pretty good for the most part.
10. What are your goals heading into your fist senior year? 
Going into the senior division this year. I just want to look more mature and precise than I was before. I want to show that I can play with the big guys. I want to make the national team. But the big goal this year would to make the world team.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fixing Floor

Due to low difficulty ratings on required skills, long routines and a lack of endurance, and the absurd rules the Federation of International Gymnastics has implemented,  floor has become the lowest scoring apparatus in Women's Gymnastics, by quite a large margin.  It appears that those with endless energy and springs for legs are the ones that seem to excel (I am looking at you, Simone Biles).  Let's look at the All Around Final from the past Olympic Games, we can see 6 of the top 10 athletes in the All Around Final yielded their lowest score on floor, including the gold and silver medalists Gabby Douglas and Viktoria Komova, the latter who performed her best routine on floor to date and stepped off of the mat on her vault.  Why is this and how can we fix this?  The current rules are preventing gymnasts like Aly Raisman and Brenna Dowell from maximizing their strengths in All Around competition, while minimizing the damage done to weaker floor workers like Viktoria Komova and Kyla Ross.

The Current Code of Points on Floor prohibits the high scores on floor that we see on vault and bars.  The current rules in place require a minimum of three dance moves be credited for the difficulty score.  This was intended to prevent gymnasts from maxing out their D-Score by doing insane tumbling run, and thus, prevent injury.  How ever, the Code of Points does not give any leaps, jumps, or turns a difficulty rating over a D, with the exception of a triple wolf turn and a quadruple turn, skills that are almost never competed.  When an elite gymnast and coach create routines, they rarely count elements less than a D for their final score, however, they are forced to do so to meet the requirements.  The only way to boost D-Scores, and thus final scores, is to raise the values of dance elements.
Also, the rule that will be put into place this month states that one can not use the same diagonal to complete a tumbling pass was designed to prevent back-to-back tumbling runs, a trend that was prevalent in the '90s, is sure to limit the number of tumbling passes one does in a floor routine.  In a routine that has a 1:30 time requirement, many gymnasts struggle to fit choreography, leaps, jumps, and four tumbling runs into that time period.  By requiring time to move from corner to corner, many gymnasts may drop one tumbling pass all together, lowering D-Scores and floor scores.

In a floor routine with a time component, endurance plays an issue.  As I previously mentioned, gymnasts have a lot to do in a short amount of time, and the requirements set by the FIG do not help.  By the time elite gymnasts are ready for their last pass, they are so exhausted, the gymnasts hardly ever do more than the required D-level dismount that you see occur on the other events.  On floor, gymnasts do the bare minimum, which leads to lower difficulty scores.

When the FIG removed the "Lunge Rule", more deductions occur.  Possibly the most controversial rules of the past quadrennium was the rule that states gymnasts must stick their tumbling passes.  This rule ended an era of the sport, and created more deductions.  I can understand the reasoning, a stuck landing is the best indication of a truly controlled pass, but not only does it lower floor scores, it causes more stress on the body and can lead to more injuries.    

How can the Federation of International Gymnastics fix these issues on floor?  If dance skills had higher ratingings on floor, scores would increase due to a higher start score.  Low difficulties are the main reason for low scores, not because a gymnast is incapable of competing harder skills, because it is impossible to get as high of a start score on floor compared to other events.  By raising the value of dance skills, higher scores can be achieved and will balance out the separation of points in competitions.  By re-implementing the lunge allowed out of tumbling passes, less deductions will occur, and can lead to a rise of floor scores.