Operation Fall in Love with Canada

2:31 PM Arabian Punch Front 24 Comments

Madeline Gardiner
Credit: Grace Chiu

I've had a growing love affair with Canada. Maybe it started with Peng Peng Lee stealing my heart as a junior, vanishing for some time, and reappearing with a vengeance. Maybe it was Kristina Vaculik's bar work and her Rufolva on beam. Maybe it was Brittany Rogers's "Rogers." Maybe it was rooting for Talia Chiarelli or the elation every time Victoria Moors stuck her double double. Regardless of what first started this, it's my job to share some of that love with you.

After Canada's 5th place finish at the Olympics, many people started to wonder if Canada could break into the "Big 4" or if the Big 4 would become the Big 5. Based on their juniors and the work of their seniors, Canada seems to be on the right track. There are some foot issues running rampant through the country, some leap issues on beam and floor that should be rectified, and they may need some Martha-induced fear to ensure they stay on the beam in between the moments of beautiful choreography. Other than that, I can't help but enjoy watching many of the Canadians perform.

Canadian Nationals recently passed and there was a live stream available. A fair number of routines have been uploaded to youtube but I wasn't able to find every video so I used old competitions. I put my opinion below the video so that you can watch the video first. Let me know what you think in the comments!

*indicates a junior. The juniors received D-score bonuses. I'm unsure of what the qualifications were so just know D-scores approaching 6, >6 are likely due to the bonus.

Sydney Townsend* (AA EF - 5.6/13.575)

I really love this jazzy routine. When I tweeted, I called her Canada's answer to Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. She needs to work on her leaps but has pretty good tumbling and great musicality. In the FX EF, she performed really well.

Maddie Gardiner - 5.2/13.125/-.1

Maddie Gardiner. Not enough positive things can be said about this gymnast and the way she dances. To me, she's definitely one of the most "artistic" in Canada when you watch her on floor or on beam. I love this music and I love the change in pace and how her choreography and tumbling matches it. Maddie will be headed to Oregon State University so hopefully we get to see more of her floor and beam.

Natalie Vaculik - 5.5/14.050

Yes. This is the sister of 2012 Olympian and current Stanford gymnast Kristina Vaculik. Sometimes, they look nothing alike - watching Natalie on beam doesn't remind me much of her sister. Other times, they look exactly alike. How so? One word: Gienger! Natalie is a great bar worker and I love how high she gets on her Gienger. From what I could find, Natalie has been in the ranks of juniors but has had some unfortunate injuries. Natalie came in 2nd in the all-around final with the 2nd highest bar score. She tied for 4th in bars event finals because she had some errors on her hop to Jaeger.

Brianna Clark* UB 1st place - 6.4/14.850

Brianna won 1st place with this bar routine. From what I could see, she's definitely one of the best on UB along with Aleeza Yu. Her el-grip giant needs a little work but reminded me of Vanessa Ferrari - you know World Champion and 2-time Olympian. She has a nice Tkatchev and has nice stalder work. I think she'll grow beautifully on bars. I also really liked her on floor exercise (here). Brianna placed 3rd in the all-around and is definitely a gymnast to watch.


Brittany Rogers: Keep The Dream Alive Part 2

1:43 AM Arabian Punch Front 2 Comments

Brittany Rogers performing "The Rogers"
Credit: All Flipped Out

Part 2 of an interview with Brittany Rogers. Here, she talks about her time at UGA and her goals for the future. Read Part 1 here.

So, what's the team like at Georgia?
Oh my gosh! I've never felt more connected to a group of girls before besides my teammates at home. You hear stories about people saying, "Oh, yeah, we're like a sisterhood." No, we're a legitimate family, especially coming in the winter. It's hard to put yourself out there in front of 14 other girls but they accepted me and I accepted them through thick and thin. Literally, we're like a pack. It's so cool.

Was it hard coming in January?
It was challenging because I was thrown at so many different things - I had been out of school for a year and a half, being away from home and having to live with people I didn't know. Those little things were challenging but .. it's just non-stop. I don't think you have time to realize how much you're adjusting to. I think that helped me adjust quicker because I had to adjust. I wanted to so it was all fun. The 4 freshman are in an apartment style dorm room - 4 separate rooms, with a kitchen, common area... We're super spoiled. Next year, I'm rooming with one of my classmates so we're branching off to 2 and 2.

What's it like being back on the 10.0 scale?
I didn't know what a good score was. Obviously, perfect 10 is what you aim for. It's like elite too - is 14 good, is 15 good? It took a while to adjust but then you realize, let's shoot for 9.9. 9.9 was always in the back of my mind and a 10 would be nice. It's hard not to think about the outcome score because it is quite different than what I'm used to. I just did my thing and see how it turned out.

How was it adjusting your routines for NCAA?
It's a lot easier than let's say, going from college to elite. I have like 3 skills in my bar routine. I was a little iffy to the fact that I had to downgrade because I don't like to downgrade because I know what I can do and what I had done in the past. I know that it's the right amount for college and that's exactly what they need so I'll do what they need. I'm still working on elite routines to keep it up, because I don't think I'm done with elite yet.

How was it adjusting to a group of girls cheering you on and running down the vault runway to congratulate you?
I talked to my coach a few times because I don't know if I can handle that because it's just so much cheering! With elite it's, like I said, poker face, and you can't act like you're happy for someone even if they're your teammate. It's hard to act genuinely happy. But in college they're all happy for you and you know that they're happy so that totally helps when you see them all smile and know that you did a good job no matter what running down. At first I was like, "No no no no, don't do that!" It's like this swarm of heat coming towards me. Afterwards, it was so cool.

So, I know you love Miley Cyrus and got to have her music in your floor exercise. Could you talk about that?
It was so hard, oh my goodness! I cannot give enough credit to floor routines in collegiate gymnastics. You're trying to have fun, and concentrate, and bounce around every 3 seconds. It is intense! I think we, me and Russell, the choreographer, finished it in 2 days and I could not get it for the life of me. That's why it took me so long to get into the floor lineup because I would just die at the end of my routine because it was so hard! I'm not a big floor person and had very moderate routines, especially the ones at Nationals. They were very slow because I liked to take my time and liked to breathe. This was definitely one of the biggest adjustments but Miley incorporated definitely helped!

Brittany scores a 9.9 on FX

What was NCAA Nationals like for you considering the history and the reputation that Georgia has?
I actually didn't know they hadn't qualified to Super Six since we'd won Nationals. It was kind of like a replay of the Olympics. Like, we hadn't made finals in so long or ever for Canada. It was really cool being a part of that and just knowing that you made the next step into our ultimate goal, winning NCAA Championships. It was nice getting our foot in the door and showed everyone that we're back on track. It was cool to be a part of that time because it was the first time seniors had made the Super Six so it was a super emotionally tearful that day.

What was the atmosphere like?
Honestly, I thought there would be a lot more people in the stands. There were a lot of Gerogia fans, I think we had 30 people there. I'm basing everything on the Olympics, with 20,000 people in the stands. Home meets for me have 10,000 people. It's nothing compared to that but we bring our own atmosphere and our own cheering section. You know that your teammates are always gonna cheer for you. You don't really concentrate on that anyway because you're in the middle of flipping around.

Could you talk about Super Six?
We went in there with nothing to lose. I think we doubted ourselves a little because we'd never been there before, no one on the team had and didn't know what to expect. I think we learned from that and learned for next year. We are a talented team if we can get into the Super Six so we're going to take that and run with it. I think we did a really great job considering it all. You learn from your mistakes and take them and build them for a better team next year.

Do you hope to do the all around next year?
That's definitely the goal. Coming into college, I wanted to do AA but with that deathly floor routine it took a while. Plus, I'll be training with the girls in the fall so I'll know what I need to work on to get into the AA lineup this time.

Could you talk about competing the Rogers in front of an NCAA crowd?
Another thing people say, "Are you the girls that does the weird things on the beam?" Uh, yeah, that's me! Literally, when I do that, and stop, I'm smiling, literally, in handstand because of the reaction from the crowd and how in awe they are. That is my favorite thing to do. It's also the most nerve wracking thing to do because I don't wanna screw it up.  "Oh, that girl tried that weird thing and screwed it up." I do not want that to happen! It's cool that it pays off and the crowd is just ... in awe.

So, are you thinking of doing elite again?
Again, I don't feel finished. I don't feel done with elite. I think because I took that year off of competing at all because of my foot, I feel like I still have so much more to give. I think I've learned the meaning of team now and I just want to be able to help Team Canada out again because we've had so much success in the past and I just feel like my bodies not... you know, not 20 years old yet. It's still wanting to learn new tricks. I've been doing those skills on bars and working new tricks on beam and working on my tumbling. I just want to do more. I was going to compete at Nationals in Canada but I think I kinda pushed myself a little bit too hard. I think my boides just worn and torn right now. I'm gonna give it another year and hopefully try again for 2014 Nationals and see where that takes me.

So we're looking at Worlds 2014 and Rio 2016 is not ruled out?
Oh, Rio is definitely not ruled out! I think Rio is my ultimate goal. If I could help at a World Championships, then I would absolutely love that. If they need me on vault and bars, then I will go for vault and bars. I'm gonna train everything but, again, if they don't have as much depth as they did then I will certainly step in and help them out if they need me.


Brittany Rogers: Keep The Dream Alive Part 1

1:42 AM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

Brittany Rogers is a Canadian gymnast that just finished her freshman year competing for the University of Georgia. As a Gym Dog, she was always in the lineup on vault, bars, and beam, and made a few appearances on floor and in the all around. She boasts career highs of 9.95 on vault, bars, and beam, and a 9.9 on floor. Brittany Rogers was the 2013 SEC Uneven Bar and Balance Beam champion with 9.95s on both events.

Prior to coming to Georgia, Rogers was a member of the 2012 Canadian Olympic team that finished in 5th place in team finals, the highest ever for the Canadian women's team. Brittany Rogers was ranked 16th on uneven bars and went on to compete in the vault event finals where she finished in 7th place.

How has school been going?
Different than I expected for sure. It's a lot more challenging than I thought but overall, I'm having such a good time and I'm so glad I decided to come.

Let's go back to 2010 and talk about the ankle injury.
Broke it April of 2010 and I was put in a cast. I wasn't allowed to do anything. 3 months total, not weight bearing. It wasn't healing properly so I had surgery in November of 2010, cast until the New Year. Then I started training in April of 2011 and competed in May of 2011. So, basically, a whole year off from competing.

Could you tell us a little about 2011 and the lead up to selecting the Worlds team.
I didn't make the 2011 Worlds team because I was still pretty out of shape. My ankle was a little weak and I think I rushed into things a little bit. I started doing World Cups that fall. They're awesome. Basically, I just went for vault, bars, and beam, because floor was still in the works. I did quite a few. World Cups give you points and give you a spot at competing at the Olympic selection camp so I kept competing to get as many points as I could.

Could you talk about 2012 and the lead up to the Olympics?
I did a lot of World Cups leading up to National Championships in May which determined if you went to the trials in June. The whole 2012 year was non-stop which was why I took the 6 months off before I came to school because I was so fried and needed a break, but definitely worth it for sure. Olympic Trials were in June and then the top 5 girls went to the Olympics.

Could you tell us a little bit about the Olympic experience?
Think I was the first one to arrive to London. It's kinda like college with the dorms, and dining hall, and the gym. First arriving, you're just in awe and in shock of everything. You're like a little kid in a candy store really. You're just trying to take everything in. We trained there about 1 week 1 hour away, just as a training camp. Then we went on from there.

What was it like being in the Olympic village with athletes from all over the world?
It's kinda cool because I look up to a lot of them because of their accomplishments and where they're from. It's jaw-dropping knowing we're at the same level and it's anyone's game really. It motivated me to do even better.

Were there any athletes you were hoping to meet?
The whole American team is pretty cool to meet because there's so much hype about them but they're so down to earth. We would have lunch with them in the dining hall and it was really cool to connect with them on another level other than just gymnastics. The coolest person I met was Michael Phelps - he's a pretty big time athlete so that was pretty cool.

What were your hopes going into qualifications? Were you hoping to make bars or uneven bar event finals?
Mainly, it was to qualify the team into team finals. It was spread on top of the cake to make vault finals.  It was in the back of my mind to make vault finals because I love vault and it's always been my speciality. Bars has always been there too but definitely vault because I've made World Cup finals in vault. It was a dream come true making finals at the Olympics. Even saying that right now, I still have to question it. Did I really just do that?

Could you talk a little bit about TF?
I think someone told us we made history. We went into TF with the mentality that we had nothing to lose. We were the underdogs coming into it all so we just gave it our all. We put all the work in and it obviously paid off on the first day so why not continue it on the second day. We were so calm and we were ready to do whatever it took. I remember looking up at the crowd and everyone's so excited that you're there no matter what your name is or where you're from. Everyone is just excited to see you and watch the sport. That definitely helps. Looking up in the crowd, you just can't take the smile off your face! I know gymnasts are supposed to be focused and have this poker face but ... I just couldn't hold it in. I was so happy we were there! Once you got in your element, you look around and think, "Oh my God. This is intense!" You see the US over there, Russia over there. "Wow! We actually did this!" We tried to stay in our little bubble. I don't think any of us had voices at the end of the meet because we were all cheering each other on. It was unbelievable!

What was it like being in the vault finals with some of the greats and legends like Oksana Chusovitna?
I felt like the little ant. I felt like the peasant with a bunch of Queens! Obviously, they work up to be at that point and it's just motivating. It's a step in the right direction for me no matter the outcome. Obviously, you want to do as well as you can but to see you're in the range of the Queens of gymnastics is really inspiring.

Start at 4:10 - VT1 DTY 5.8/14.766; at 6:03 VT2 Y 1/2 on, 1/2 off 5.6/14.2

Just wondering, what did you think of Yamilet Pena's vault?
I don't think I've watched it from start to finish because it's quite terrifying. Oh my goodness! I give her props for even attempting that! I don't think I could watch it in full force. It's too scary!


College Fantasy Gymnastics: Impress to Handstand

10:46 PM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

Photo Credit: Erin long for Gymnastike

The last in the installment on College Fantasy Gymnastics by Emma at Impress To Handstand.

Why did you sign up for fantasy gymnastics?
I signed up for fantasy gymnastics because I wanted to learn more about NCAA gymnastics. I also needed something to help get me through the winter months with few if any elite meets.

What was your thought process in picking your gymnasts? And what did
you learn about the gymnasts you may not have chosen.
I picked gymnasts who a) based on previous results consistently contributed high (9.8+) scores on at least 3 events, b) could contribute on 2 events with one consistently 9.9+, or  c) in the case of freshman consistently scored well in JO meets according to mymeetscores.com. I also looked at what BBS was saying about certain gymnasts and tried to find video or check out their websites when possible.

Tell us a little bit about your lineups 
My lineup was pretty heavy on the freshman. I had 8 freshman on my 20 gymnast team, luckily all but one competed frequently and well.

MVP - most valuable player

I think my MVP would have to be Mackenzie Caquatto of Florida, mainly because my lineup was weakest on bars and beam. Mackenzie's high scores helped keep my weekly event totals over 49 on those events, and once she started to do vault she did well there too (though I was more than ok without her). Caitlyn Atkinson of Auburn was also very consistent on all four events, even if she didn't always have 9.9s everywhere I knew I could count on her to have a score worth counting.

Mackenzie scores a perfect 10 on UB


Sabrina Vega: Don't Settle for Less Part 2

10:13 AM Arabian Punch Front 3 Comments

Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

This is the continuation of an interview with 2011 World Champion Sabrina Vega. Check out Part 1 here.

Are you professional or did you keep your NCAA eligibility?
No, I kept my eligibility because I definitely want to train for the Olympics. After the World Championships, I know a lot of the World team went professional but I decided to stay eligible just to keep my options open. I definitely have looked at colleges but I haven’t committed anywhere because I’m still in training and my main goal is 2016. I have looked around but I’m still doing all the schoolwork (SATs, etc.).


Could you tell me a bit about what 2012 was like for you and what it was like going into Olympic Trials?
2012 I have to say was a stressful year because all the hard work before going into the Olympics Trials… I mean, it was an experience and I was just so thankful that I was there. You’re not only part of the USA team but you were in the picking for the team. That was great for me to see that I’m part of the USA team. Although it wasn’t my best competition and not the thing I wanted to come out of Olympic Trials but I was pleased with the fact that I could go and compete at Olympic Trials. It wasn’t my best but I’m glad with what I did and glad that I have the opportunity to try again. So, that’s behind me now and I’m looking towards the next quadrennium.

What was it like watching the Olympics?
I was really excited for the girls because we’re all so close. I felt like every time I turned on the TV, I was there with them. I was definitely supporting them all the way and extremely excited when they won the gold. I was happy and it felt great to watch teammates shine and I’m very proud of them. [Al Fong adds, “We’re all very proud of them!”] For me, it was an eye opener to know that I have teammates that amazing and I was part of that team. It was tough seeing them there and being like, “Oh, I wish I was there.” But at the same time, I felt so proud and supported them.

What are your thoughts on 2 per country, considering you were 9th in the all-around at the 2011 World Championships?
You know, rules are rules and you gotta abide by the rules if you want to play the sport. I mean it is tough being that 3rd person. That’s happened to me multiple times and it’s tough but it’s the rules of the sport. You gotta go with it. Some parts are fair because you want every country to have representation in the event but also if you’re that 3rd or 4th person, like I made the top 8, but… It has it’s pros and cons but it’s the rules. That’s just the way I am. I play by the rules.

What are your thoughts on the new Code of Points?
I feel like the new rules – focusing on artistry – is definitely good for me I guess. [Laughs] That’s probably my strength in gymnastics, the artistry part. That’s definitely a plus for me. We’re going to see a lot of new combinations on all events, which will be good to watch. After every Olympics, there are going to be skills that are lowered or raised in values so you just have to keep up with the Code. It’s great to see other countries come up with new skills and combinations. I think it’s going to be great.

What has been the highlight of your gymnastics career?
I think my whole experience as an elite athlete on the USA team has been the highlight of my career because I learned so much over the years. Going out and representing USA has been a great experience.

Worlds was definitely one of the highest points because I was able to go out and see how I could handle the pressure. Winning the gold at the team finals was really great because they had put me in a position of opening for Team USA on 2 events. It was great to receive that gold medal and the recognition [that came with] being part of Team USA.

And of course Olympic Trials because I was so close to achieving my dreams. Of course, getting there and having USA on your back – just representing the country and being part of the best team in the world…

I think representing USA has been the highlight of my career.

BB TF 6.1/14.833

Who are your role models in and out of the sport?
I feel like every girl that’s been on the USA team has gone through so much and worked in and out, everyday, of the gym, just to be a part of Team USA. So, I just look up to everyone. And also girls that have been to previous Olympics like 2008 in Beijing and all the girls on the Olympic team from this past year in 2012. Just the hard work in and out of the gym. I look up to these girls and I’m glad that I know them.

How does it feel to be one of the veterans now at camp?
It’s been different. I remember being the little one coming and now I’m the oldest and one of the tallest, which is definitely weird! I think it’s awesome because now I can share with the younger ones that are coming up, share my experience, and help them out with anything and give advice. I think it’s really cool because I remember the older girls doing that for me. Now the roles have changed and I’ve had the opportunity to help others.

Was there anything else you wanted to share?
I think, pretty much, gymnastics is a tough love sport especially at the elite level where you have to come in, day in and day out, and train your hardest to get to your goal. But I think the best thing is to keep your goals in mind and don’t settle for less. Just try your best and never give up. I think that’s the best advice I can give.

Blitz round
favorite event: floor because I like to perform. That’s the event where you can kinda show off. [Laughs]. Beam is also my favorite because it’s one of my strongest so beam and floor are ties.
least favorite event: [Laughs] honestly, I think my least favorite is vault because it’s not my strongest but I’m looking forward to having that as one of my favorites and working towards getting it better so that I don’t dislike it too much.
skill that took you the longest to learn: I’ve been really lucky that a lot of skills have come easy. I guess it’s just a God-given talent and I get things quickly. The things that really do stand out are going in every day and trying to make it perfect.
Skills that came very easily: Maybe skills in compulsory levels! Once you get to optionals, it’s not easy anymore. It does take time but once you get it, it’s good!
favorite show: I don’t really know, I barely watch TV! I don’t have very much time to watch TV – I’m in the gym, doing school work.
favorite song of the moment: Nothing is Impossible – I don’t know who sings it!
favorite place you’ve ever traveled to: probably Paris
favorite movie: Facing the Giants
last movie you watched: Soul Surfer
most embarrassing gymnastics moment: I can’t think of one! I’ve had disappointing moments but not embarrassing!
Travel anywhere, where would you go?: Anywhere? Spain probably. I’ve never been there and I’ve always wanted to go.
Celebrity crush: [Giggles.] I’m gonna have to say Ryan Reynolds. That’s kinda awkward but yeah.
Guilty pleasure: You said it could be food? I’m gonna have to say Oreos. That’s my weakness!!

Thank you so much, Sabrina, for this interview! We wish you the best of luck recovering from surgery and can't wait to see you compete again.

Follow Sabrina on twitter: @SabrinaVega95


Sabrina Vega: Don't Settle for Less Part 1

10:12 AM Arabian Punch Front 1 Comments

Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

Sabrina Vega, born and raised in New York, is now calling Missouri her home. After the 2012 season had finished, Vega made the brave decision to leave the Big Apple to train under coaches Al and Armine Fong at Great American Gymnastics Express.

Sabrina first made the National Team as a junior back in 2008 and had a successful run in 2009, helping Team USA win gold in multiple international competitions. She finished the season by winning first place on floor exercise at both the US Classic and US National Championships. In 2010, she became the silver medalist on balance beam at the Pacific Rim Championships in Melbourne, Australia and won gold on beam at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sabrina then went on to the 2010 US Classic and US National Championships where she finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, on floor exercise.

After a successful junior career, Sabrina was ready to make her mark as a senior in 2011. She competed at the Jesolo Trophy in Italy where she tied for 1st on floor exercise with team member Aly Raisman. She finished 3rd in the all-around and 2nd on floor exercise at the US Classic knowing that Nationals would help determine the members of the 2011 World Championship team.  On Day 1 of Nationals, Sabrina finished in 8th after a difficult time on the uneven bars. She improved on day 2 to finish the meet 5th in the all-around, 5th on balance beam and 4th on floor exercise.

Sabrina earned a place on the 2011 World team and went on to finish the qualifying round in 9th in the all-around but was not allowed to compete in the all-around final due to the 2-per country rule. In team finals, Sabrina was the lead off on both uneven bars and balance beam, setting the pace for Team USA that would eventually end with Vega and the rest of the team being named World Champions.

Unfortunately, 2012 did not go as Vega had hoped. After having some difficulty with her double twisting Yurchenko vault, she downgraded to the one and a half twist at both Nationals and the Olympic Trials. The five tenths of a point loss was too large to be disguised, especially over 2 days of competition landing Sabrina in 7th at Nationals. Again, it was errors on bars that hurt Sabrina on both days of Olympic Trials where she finished in 10th and left without being named to the 2012 US Olympic team.

Now, Sabrina is ready, with new coaches and new teammates, to tackle whatever comes her way. I had the chance to talk with her about the lead up to the Olympics, her decision to change gyms, and her plans for the future.

How has training been going?
Training’s been going great! I feel like this move is definitely helping and I’m really liking this gym. [The training schedule] is different from my other gym. We go 6 days a week and focus on putting new skills in, technique, and all that. Right now, I’m working with Sarah Finnegan, Maddie Desch, Brenna Dowell, and other Level 9/10 athletes.

Who do you room with at camp?
Now, I normally room with Brenna or Sarah. They try to keep teammates together. In years prior, I was rooming with Kyla and McKayla. It changes every time but now that I have teammates, I’m rooming with them.

Did you miss the last training camp?
I had to go and have shoulder surgery so I’m in rehab now. It was an old injury so I just had to go and repair it. It’s supposed to be a 4 month recovery. We could work out on it but it’s a perfect time to fix it and I won’t have to worry about it in the years to come. This was probably the perfect time to take the time and repair it so when I do get healed up, it’s straightforward from then on. My goal is to heal up but if I’m ready to compete [for Classics and Nationals], then I will.

Given the injury and recovery time, what are your short-term goals?
Definitely just staying in the circle, and getting some assignments, and qualifying back into the National Team and World Championships as it comes up [2014].

Prior to the injury, were you working on any upgrades?
Definitely. I was able to upgrade pretty much on every event. I was able to reconstruct my bar routine to work with the new code. I’ve been working on new skills and I’m excited to show them off. On floor, I’ve been able to work and get the Arabian double and some double layouts. I’m definitely working on improving the technique on vault and working on getting the double full and am hopefully working towards the 2.5 but right now, the stage is getting the double back and improving the technique.

Could you tell us a little bit about the new floor routine?
I did get a new floor routine. I’m excited to show that too! I don’t know how to describe it… It’s a more classic song. It’s definitely different from the one I had last year.

Sabrina FX Day 2 2012 OT 6.0/15.000
Sabrina 2011 Nats Day 1 FX 5.7/14.5/-0.1

Are you staying with a host family?
I am. Yes. I’m staying with a host family from the area. I’m living right now with the pastor of a church around here and they’ve been really great and I’m really blessed and thankful to have them in my family now.

How is living with another family and being far from home?
It’s actually going really great. In the beginning, of course, I was missing my family and it’s definitely hard to live away from home but I just keep thinking of the goal I have in mind of the Olympics. I think it’s helping me get through it. The family’s great – they took me in as one of their children and I just am really thankful for that. Plus the gym is great. I can come in here all the time and can be with another family. Although I am missing my family, I have goals and I’m shooting for them.

What was the discussion like with your family when you were thinking about switching gyms and leaving New York?
It was a tough decision. It was definitely a group decision [that included] my whole family. It was more of a question of my goals. That was the first step I needed to take. When I decided I definitely wanted to continue training, I had to do what would help me achieve my goals. It was tough to leave my family and I’m so thankful that my parents supported me. I just needed to take the step that would take me to the next level, that would help me to achieve this Olympic dream. It was tough but we did it and I’m glad I did.

CoverGirl Classic 2011 VT

I had a moment to talk with Al Fong and asked about any other girls qualifying to elite or who we should watch for in the coming years.
Al Fong: Well, we’re focusing on 2016 so the girls that are eligible for that are Sabrina, Maddie, Sarah, and Brenna. But the girls in the wings, we definitely have girls that are training for 2020. Typically, you don’t see our girls until the end entering into the elite qualifying system. We don’t use the TOPs program and we don’t use the developmental program so the kids are never seen until it’s time.

We’re a big advocate of training athletes and using the age group program as a mile marker. Usually we’ll see them shine at the State Championships, Regionals, Westerns, Nationals. Even though they have loftier goals than age groups, you won’t necessarily see that until 2018 and 2019.

Check out Part 2 here


Montage Monday: A Moment Like This

2:03 PM Arabian Punch Front 1 Comments

The video editors were on point this past week! Stunning! These montages are all pretty high up on my list of favorites.

Stay. Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone, Chellsie Memmel, Bridget Sloan
By AshleyAkaFlipper2
Arguably one of Ashley's best!

Jordyn & Aly - I was here
by SuperGymmie
That moment when the perfect song meets the perfect gymnasts.
"I'll leave no regrets, Leave something to remember, so they won't forget
I was here
The hearts I have touched, will be the proof that I leave
That I made a difference, and this world will see
I was here"


College Fantasy Gymnastics: Triple Twist

8:37 PM Arabian Punch Front 1 Comments

Emily Wong of Nebraska
Credit: Erin Long for gymnastike

A new series on College Fantasy Gymnastics. This review is brought to you by Ashlee from Triple Twist Gymnastics

Why did you sign up for fantasy gymnastics?
I signed up for fantasy gymnastics because I thought it sounded really fun and I've always watched my brother do fantasy football and thought it would be cool to do that with gymnastics.. My sister and I have watched college gymnastics for a while and we wanted to test our knowledge and challenge ourselves. I'm a competitive person too, so I love playing games. Fantasy Gymnastics probably has to be the greatest invention ever.

What was your thought process in picking your gymnasts? 
Looking back now, I think my sister and I could have done a much better job drafting our gymnasts. My natural reaction was to pick all the former elite gymnasts first, when really, there are a lot of strong gymnasts who were never elites, and they end up being some of the top college gymnasts. So being a former elite really means nothing when selecting your gymnasts. Girls like Joanna Sampson (Michigan), Emily Wong (Nebraska), Lloimincia Hall (LSU), etc. are all gymnasts who bring in high scores every week and could have benefited my lineup.

Emily Wong 9.975 on FX at SEC Championships [APF: She has one of the prettiest triple twists. Check it out in NCAA Nationals EF here)


2013 Chinese National Championships

8:11 PM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

Thank you JLG for the translation!
Reporter 1: In today's competition we saw the familiar faces of 2008 Olympians Jiang Yuyuan and He Kexin and 2012 Olympian Sui Lu.

Reporter 2: On balance beam, we saw 2012 Beam Silver medalist Sui Lu. The performance today of this strong gymnast wasn't too bad. The first half of her event had some deductions because she hasn't completed for more than half a year. This time competing in the qualifiers of the Chinese Nationals, her biggest obstacle is losing weight.

Sui Lu: So, I've gained about 10 pounds. Up til now, I've lost about 6 lbs but it's still more energy consuming to throw tricks. I should concentrate now because the qualifiers are over and the finals are 3-4 months away. So now I should tighten up.

Reporter 2: With the lively music is Jiang Yuyuan, the women's team captain, on the floor. This former gold medalist Olympian performed at her usual standard today. She's now not yet 22 but this little girl is now the Chinese team's (super) big sister.

Jiang Yuyuan: Now I'm the oldest (female) gymnast in the whole country! I can't quite believe I'm that old! Really, there's no one older than I am now! The good thing about being so old but working so hard is that they [the younger gymnasts] have to work even harder.

Reporter 2: Beijing Olympic gold medalist and London Olympic silver medalist He Kexin's performance naturally drew a lot of attention. But being an older member, there is no avoiding some injuries. She's not in her peak form recently. During warm ups, she fell a lot but during competition, she was very steady ultimately performing not too bad.

He Kexin: (missed 1st sentence) As a senior, we have to put in a lot of effort. For example, losing weight or training with stamina. We probably have to put in 3x more effort than when I was preparing for the Olympics to achieve this current/pre-competition state. So, I guess, personally, I have to adjust.

Reporter 2: So coming from 17 different teams, 124 female gymnasts competed in this grueling qualifications for the Nationals. The first 12 teams and the individuals that are first 8 on each event will compete in the September finals.

AA Results
1Yao Jinnan56.701
2Shang Chunsong55.635
3Zeng Siqi55.335

Event Final qualifiers can be found here, and all-around final results here, more at Chinese Gymnastics.


College Fantasy Gymnastics: Camie

4:42 PM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

Kesley Cofsky of U of Maryland
Credit: Christian Jenkins/The Diamondback

A new series on College Fantasy Gymnastics. This review is brought to you by Camie.

Why did you sign up for fantasy gymnastics?
Some friends of mine had always been into fantasy football, soccer, baseball... I thought those things were pretty cool. When I heard about a gymnastics one, I decided I totally had to do it. Also I've always wanted to be more into NCAA, I knew that a game like that would make me keep up with college gymnastics.

What was your thought process in picking your gymnasts? 
I got about 8 gymnasts from my original draft. Back then I knew almost nothing about NCAA, I just kept up with my favorite gymnasts (most former elites) and most famous schools (UCLA, Florida, Georgia...). So what I did was to try to pick my favorite gymnasts, I didn't think "make a team." It was a mistake.

When I got to know my real team, there were about 10 gymnasts I had never heard about (even some colleges I had never heard about)! Doing the research was pretty fun, though. Then I searched and learned about their strongest and weakest events and I started making spreadsheets to guide my line-ups. The tricky thing is that you have to think about their position in your team and her school's team. Sometimes your 'anchor' on some event is not as essential for her school line up as she is to yours.

Tell us a little bit about your lineups
My most reliable gymnasts were my top 3 AA: Kesley Cofsky, Emma Willis and Alyssa Nocella. I wouldn't be able to put a line up without them.

The event where I changed my line up the most was vault. I had a lot of great vaulters and every week they were scoring higher and higher and I was always changing to the ones that were getting better. The event where I barely changed my line up was beam, I pretty much just had 8 "beamers", I had nowhere to go, some weeks I just lined 7 or 6, when some schools were not competing.

The gymnast that moved the most around my line up was Alyssa Straub. First few weeks she was AA, then I just lined her on VT for some weeks, end of the season she was on BB and FX line ups.

MVP - most valuable player
This is easy: Kesley Cofsky - Maryland.
KC is a senior. She was rock solid all season, going up on all events and I usually got to count all her four scores into my final team score. This season she set new career records on all events and AA and she was EAGL outstanding senior of the year. She surely is going to be missed next season.

Kesley's 9.125 on FX (fall on last pass)


College Fantasy Gymnastics: Arabian Punch Front

4:58 PM Arabian Punch Front 2 Comments

Ashley Sledge of Alabama
Credit: gymtide.com

A new series on College Fantasy Gymnastics! This analysis is brought to you by me!

Why did you sign up for fantasy gymnastics?
I wanted to learn more about NCAA. So many of the favorites from elite have gone on to have successful NCAA careers and I wanted to learn more about the different schools. You always hear about UCLA and Georgia, for example, but I didn't know much about anywhere else.

What was your thought process in picking your gymnasts? And what did you learn about the gymnasts you may not have chosen. (Please screencap your lineup from the dashboard)
Like most, I think I wanted Sam Peszek and Bridget Sloan but didn't get either. At the time, I decided not to put Peng Peng Lee because the earliest she would compete, at the time, would be the end of the season. I wanted Bridgey Caquatto. I think I put like 50% of the UCLA roster. Then I had a few of the "their name sounds familiar" in Mary Beth Lofgren and Kassandra Lopez. I chose Emily Vidmar because I recognized her last name. I decided I had to put an Alabama gymnast down, I mean, they were the defending National Champions. So I chose Ashley Sledge because we have the same first name - nice logic.

Tell us a little bit about your lineups
For the most part, my lineup was a mess. I had 2 weeks where I didn't count 5 scores on every event - 1 was my fault, and the other week, I really didn't have options for a full lineup on beam. If you followed me on twitter, you know I had a lot of "emotional" picks. Most of them centered around Bridgey Caquatto and Brittany Rogers. Bridgey would do an exhibition routine one week and then I'd have to decide if I wanted to take one of my gymnasts out to put her in the lineup when she there was a very real chance that she wouldn't even compete! Rogers kept making appearances in the all around on floor but it wasn't every week and it wasn't until the end of the regular season so I always wanted to put her on floor but ran the risk of losing a score I actually would need. My vault lineup had 8-9 girls so I never really had trouble with that. Beam and bars were hard considering how heavily I needed my 3 UCLA girls to hit - Lichelle Wong, Mattie Larson, and Sophina Dejesus!

MVP - most valuable player
Ashley Sledge - she was my rock! I watched as many of the free Bama meets as I could and I really think she is Bama's rock as well. Sledge often led off on bars and had a double layout dismount that was so incredibly high! They tried to move her later in the lineup once but it didn't work out. The Bama bar workers needed their fierce leader! She seemed like one who could score greater than 9.9 but the team needed her in that leadoff spot. Sledge also competed on vault and floor and other than week's she was injured, I was never concerned about her score.

Check out the height on her double layout dismount! 9.95 on UB


Montage Monday: Ain't Nobody Got Time For That

7:50 PM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

This is a fun Montage Monday. The first one should make you laugh then the others feature the Fierce Five and Tori & Talia. There's also a USA Gymnastics montage using the Friends theme song.

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That! There are some falls but there are also some epic dance moves.

Fierce Five Recap - look back on the whirlwind the Fierce Five have experienced


College Fantasy Gymnastics: Gina

1:27 PM Arabian Punch Front 1 Comments

Alina Weinstein of Illinois
Credit: Erin Long for Gymnastike

A new series on College Fantasy Gymnastics! This analysis is brought to you by Gina.

Why did you sign up for fantasy gymnastics?
I signed up for Fantasy Gymnastics mainly because I wanted to learn more about NCAA gymnastics. I had followed some of NCAA for a few years, but I wanted to get more involved in the action!

What was your thought process in picking your gymnasts? And what did you learn about the gymnasts you may not have chosen. 
My main goal while drafting my gymnasts was to have primarily individuals who did the all-around or three events. I was honestly afraid that I would have lots of injuries during the season and run out of gymnasts to put on each event! In the end, I accomplished my goal, with all but five of my gymnasts meeting my original criteria. I was very hesitant to pick freshmen, so I did not have some of the exciting talent that this year brought (Danusia! Bridget!). However, one freshman I took a chance on was Brandie Jay – who had an amazing season and is now one of my favorite gymnasts in the NCAA!

Tell us a little bit about your lineups
My lineups definitely had a mixture of reliability and instability! People like Alina Weinstein, Chelsea Davis, Katherine Grable, Brandie Jay and Erica Brewer were almost always dependable. My beam lineup was where most of the moving went on – due to early season inconsistency by “beamers” like Jessie Jordan, Sarah Persinger, Shona Morgan and Erin Freier. Thankfully most of the mistakes were cleaned up by the end of the season…but my beam scores still struggled!

MVP - Most Valuable Player
There are a few girls on my team who are completely deserving of this title, but I believe Alina Weinstein is my true MVP. It was her senior season at Illinois and she certainly did not hold anything back! Alina scored a 9.9 or higher on vault five times this season, including a perfect 10.0 on vault in week 11. Additionally, her incredibly difficult floor routine earned her 10 scores of 9.9 or higher. She was extremely consistent and is without a doubt a huge reason the Illinois team qualified a full team to the NCAA Championships.
Perfect 10 on VT