Looking Back: Interviews of 2014

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Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

2014 was a busy year but I still managed a few interviews that I was very excited about doing. Hope you enjoy/enjoyed them!

Author Interview: Julie Cross Part 1 and Part 2 - I had the opportunity to interview Julie Cross, the author of a great coming of age story of a gymnast entitled Letters to Nowhere. The book was amazing and Cross had great insight into the world of elite gymnastics having been to the Ranch a few times as a coach. I would strongly recommend her books. They're labelled as "young adult" and everyone I know has loved it, including World Champion Simone Biles!

Kirsten Beckett (RSA): Hungry for More - Kirsten is someone that I started to follow closely after Doha 2013, when she won me over with her lovely floor exercise. She continues to be a staple in South African gymnastics, having made 4 of the 5 finals at the Commonwealth Games.

Brenna Dowell: I Moved On Part 1 and Part 2 - This interview was done early in 2014, prior to the 2014 world selections. She talks about how she felt after being named to the 2013 Worlds team and then being delegated alternate. Since then, she's ready to start her collegiate career at Oklahoma but has not ruled out a return to elite gymnastics.

Spotlight on Thema Williams (TTO) - Thema Williams is a star for Trinidad and Tobago gymnastics. She was the first gymnast to compete a Tkatchev in her country. She attended Worlds 2011 and has even been to the Karolyi Ranch a few times. At the time of this interview, she was training at Geddert's Twistars and has since decided to stay longer, hoping to continue improving her skill set and achieve her goals.

Thank you for all these interviews and I hope to do more in the future!


Looking Back: New Seniors of 2014

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Ashton Locklear and Coach Qi Han at the 2014 World Championships

It's always nice at this time of year to take a moment and reflect on this crazy sport and who managed to survive. On the list of New Seniors, there were quite a few seniors that were part of the conversation as juniors. They were toted as "the next big thing." Looking at European Championships, World Championships, and other competitions, it's interesting to note which gymnasts lived up to the hype and even some that flew under the radar.

Senior in 2014 (born in 1998)
Alexandra Eade
Lorrane dos Santos
Mariana Oliviera
Heaven Latimer
Isabela Onyshko
Kirsten Peterman
Aleeza Yu
Claire Martin
Sarah Pais
Louise Vanhille
Enus Mariani
Eythora Thorsdottir
New Zealand
Charlotte Sullivan
Andreea Munteanu
Silvia Zarzu
Maria Kharenkova
Viktoria Kuzmina
Emma Larsson
Veronica (Nica) Hults
Amelia Hundley
Polina Shchennikova

Lived Up To The Hype
There were quite a few gymnasts who did really well.  Isabela Onyshko and Aleeza Yu competed at the World Championships while Kirsten Peterman competed at Pan American Championships and was named alternate to the World team. Onyshko did well qualifying to the all around final at the Commonwealth Games. Yu was on track to be one of Canada's all around gymnasts at World Championships but unfortunately suffered a knee injury in the first rotation.

I first became aware of Charlotte Sullivan at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships where she made the beam final shortly after the Christchurch gym in New Zealand had been destroyed by an earthquake. Although a few other Kiwi gymnasts have come into the spotlight, Sullivan attended the Commonwealth Games where she placed 16th in the all around finals. She was a member of the 2014 World Championships team that placed 22nd and competed on all 4 events.

Of the 3 Frenchwomen, I'd have to say Claire Martin had the most successful senior debut. The French team was badly hurt (literally and figuratively) by injuries. The team was probably 2 injuries away from calling Isabelle Severino out of retirement. Claire Martin did well at European Championships where she placed 7th in the balance beam event final. At Worlds, she helped France to a 13th place finish and a team berth to the 2015 World Championships. She continues to show strength on balance beam and floor, where she really shines.

Romania had to deal with the untimely injury of Diana Bulimar and it was hard to rally around a team that had a big hole to fill. Of the new seniors, both Munteanu and Zarzu did an excellent job. Munteanu particularly scored a 15.2 on beam in TF that would have won the balance beam event finals. They're a young team and have room to grow hopefully only aided by the return of Bulimar.

Kharenkova... she's a bit of a mix of living up to the hype and falling apart in my eyes. Maybe it's because I was never a true fan so I apologize. Kharenkova was the 2014 European Balance Beam Champion beating out teammate Aliya Mustafina. Unfortunately, injury kept her from being 100% at the time of World Championships where she had a disastrous routine in qualifications. She redeemed herself in team finals, however.

The Swedish team is definitely one that is one the rise. Emma Larsson has done a superb job filling the holes where needed. She's a beautiful and lively floor worker with an exciting uneven bar routine as well. There are some countries where you just hope they qualify a team to the Olympics because you don't want to deal with picking only one athlete. Sweden is definitely one of those teams!

Unfortunate Injuries
The unfortunate injuries group actually covers the entirety of the US girls that are listed here. Polina Schennikova had an elbow injury that kept her out of Nationals. Amelia Hundley had surgery earlier in the year but she never seemed to return to Hundley-form. She was able to do the all around but with a 1.5TY. Nica Hults had injuries that kept her from competing in the all-around.

Heaven Latimer is probably one of the most hyped Canadian juniors now senior because of her lovely triple series on beam that ended with a layout full. Unfortunately, she had an injury that kept her out and she returned to Canadian Nationals only on uneven bars. Hopefully she can come back to form and aid her team.

Probably the 2 most heart-breaking injuries for the gymternet were those of Enus Mariani and Eythora Thorsdottir. Both had "back issues" - Enus to the point where she was off the National Team and everything about her injury was kept very quiet. However, they're both back now and that's what counts! Italy is doing really well so Enus will need to add some difficulty but a strong all arounder, especially one who thrives on uneven bars, could only help Italy. The Dutch team has a tight group of girls but Eythora's prowess on beam and floor are sure to help. She is also a solid all arounder but those 2 events are where she stands out.

Under the Radar
Alyssa Baumann and Ashton Locklear were not on my list to say the least. Locklear had been attending camps but I guess I always brushed it off. I was wrong. I think after Bross, Ohashi, and Kocian being injured, I was very skeptical of WOGA which clearly I should not have been as they had two girls on the Worlds team (Baumann and Madison Kocian). Baumann was crucial to the USA on balance beam, where they showed a relative weakness in terms of depth compared to previous years. Baumann secured her spot as the lead off on balance beam in team finals with her 6.0D. Her qualifications score was enough for 14th place in the event.

Early on in the US domestic season, it became aware Locklear would be on the team for her uneven bar skill level and impeccable execution. Her legs go for miles and she's also managed to optimize the code with connections that, even when missed, still give her above a 6.0 difficulty. She finished the World Championships competing three solid uneven bar routines. Her effort in the event finals left her in 4th place. We've already seen video of her working a Ricna. I''m sure her uneven bars will only continue to improve and hopefully she's healthy enough to add back the other events.

You can find the list of New Seniors for 2015 and 2016 here. 2017 will start to be added this year.

What were your impressions of the 1998 group - the new seniors of 2014?


This Week in Training: Before the Holidays

5:29 PM Arabian Punch Front 10 Comments

Simone Biles edit by jordynslefteyebrow
More christmas icons here

I keep forgetting to include this gymnast so I'm not forgetting this week! Margzetta Frazier of Parkettes is working a whip through to triple. You should also check her instagram for some pretty neat bars upgrades (stalder-pak-stalder-Chow here). IG: margzetta
A video posted by Margzetta Frazier (@margzetta) on

After her knee injury, Maggie Nichols is working hard on the uneven bars. She shows both a Chow (which I believe is new) and Maloney.
A video posted by Maggie Nichols (@swaggiemaggie2016) on

Simone Biles posted a video on instagram of her double twisting double layout, named after fellow American Cup competitor Victoria Moors. Simone has such ease with her tumbling and her double double is finished so high that it was only a matter of time until the Moors came to be. I am glad.

Youna Dufournet is working a new balance beam mount. She has chosen to work the round off - layout step out onto the beam. Very few gymnasts choose to do difficult mounts. Vasiliki Millousi competes this mount and Natsumi Sasada does round off - layout full onto the beam. Youna posted video afterwards of her Def!!! I'm amazed because it was in connection.

Marine Brevet's account is set to private but she is working a full twisting layout.

Nia Dennis' piked Tkatchev is back! Scratch that. Nia Dennis has a Church (toe on piked Tkatchev). The teammate of Gabby Douglas is hard at work.
A video posted by 💋Nia💋 (@niaadennis) on

2014 World Bronze Medalist on Vault, Mykayla Skinner continues to work bars and keep her name in the USA all around discussion. She shows a new section with Maloney (toe on Shaposhnikova) to Pak salto, and also a Van Leeuwen (toe on Shaposhnikova with 1/2 turn). That might just be her new beginning (not metaphorically, literally).

Giulia Steingruber posted video of her working a new skill - a Church (toe on piked Tkatchev). I'm curious to see where this will go as she currently has a Shushunova (full twisting Tkatchev) that lacks some height. Will she swap the two or make some new connection? This is from her facebook page where she also shows her bhs-layout.

In Italy, two stars are working different dance skills. Vanessa Ferrari is working a switch ring on the low beam. For some reason, I thought she already had one but I guess not. Enus Mariani, known for her dance and flexibility, is working a Mustafina on floor - the triple Y turn.


This Week In Training: Around the World

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edit by flipsandgrips16 on instagram

Deanne Soza is recovering from her eye injury and is hard at work in the gym. Looks like she has most, if not all, of her skills back. Here she is working a double arabian that is beautiful.
A video posted by Deanne Soza (@deannesoza_2020) on

Morgan Hurd is working a 2.5 punch front full. This is her gym's instagram (fsgym) and has videos of her and a teammate, Cameron Machado, working some UB upgrades as well.
A video posted by First State Gymnastics (@fsgym) on

Maggie Nichols is coming back from her knee injury and shows her Chow (stalder Shaposhnikova variation) on uneven bars. She recently stated in a youtube video that her rehab is going well and that she's actually ahead of schedule. I wish her the best in her recovery.
A video posted by Maggie Nichols (@swaggiemaggie2016) on

Jazmyn Foberg and Laurie Hernandez recently committed to the University of Florida. Both won't graduate high school until after Rio so we have plenty of time to continue to enjoy their elite career. Here is Jazzy working a double double.
A video posted by Jazmyn Foberg (@jazmynfoberg) on

Sofia Busato stole my heart and the hearts of many at last years European Championship with her lovely floor exercise. Here she is working a triple. She is also one of the Italians with a DTY.
A video posted by Busy❤ (@sofia_busato) on

Carlotta Ferlito is slowly coming back from her slew of illnesses. She recently showed a full in on floor which she brought back for the first time since her junior days. She is also working a double layout. Things in Italy are getting intense and she will have to upgrade everywhere to guarantee an all around spot.

Erika Fasana is has recorded footage of her working a Ray (toe on straddled Tkatchev). IG: erika_fasana

Mira Boumejmajen has been working her Van Leeuwen and now shows how it will fit into her routine.

Laura Longueville also posted a video on bars but with the title "Remember." Not sure if she's injured but it's a nice combo - Ray; toe-on, toe-on full, to bail. IG: lauralongueville

Great Britain
Becky Downie is working a van Leeuwen. It might help her get rid of her pre-dismount clear hip half. You should also watch this video because it made me laugh (here)
Une vidéo publiée par bdownie92 (@bdownie92) le

Mary-Anne Monckton - if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Monckton is still rehabbing after her peroneal tendon repair. She's been working some bars with the light boot and managed to learn a new skill. Here she is with her new Deltchev.

Netherlands/This Week in Bloopers
Chantysha Netteb is still on the mend after her ACL tear at 2013 Worlds. Although she's made an appearance at many vault event finals, she's a solid all arounder for the Dutch when at full health. Here she is working uneven bars and the shaposh craze. The first Van Leeuwen attempt didn't go so well though... Check her account for a bars combo and her also working a double double on the ropes.
A video posted by Chantysha Fahrelle Netteb (@chantyshanetteb) on


Glasgow World Cup 2014 Live Blog

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A live blog of the Glasgow World Cup 2014. Looks like they're doing 2 flights and the first 4 are warming up currently.

Live video here (need proxy, zenmate and tunnel bear work)
Live results here

Erika Fasana - DTY - she's happy. Good block. Just a lost of leg form in second twist. It'll only get better as she gets more confident with it. 5.8/14.633

Mai Murakami - DTY - good form, maybe not as great height? She makes it around well just a small hop back. Good form throughout. 5.8/14.566. Hmm, thought it was better than Fasana.

Jessica Lopez - DTY - good block. Pikes down a bit for landing. Salutes quickly. 5.8/14.800

Pauline Schäfer - FHS layout 1/2 - very straight in block, just a little pike for the landing. 5.4/14.133 (5.0 if piked, will check official results later)

Ellie Black - FHS layout 1/2 - good vault. decent block, also a little pike for landing. It's hard to really judge vaults I'm not used to seeing... 5.4/14.400

Larisa Iordache - DTY - good block and form just a little hop in place. K, in slow mo, some crossed ankles in 2nd twist. 5.8/15.000 - damn.

Georgina Hockenhull - FTY - good block for a FTY, pikes for landing, small hop in place. I believe she could add at least another half twist. She was reserve for the World Championship team. Commentator Christine Still is her coach. 5.0/13.833

Vanessa Ferrari - DTY - yikes! Didn't get the best block and she's shaking her hands afterward. She tucks her last salto as she's been doing but she didn't make it all the way around either. Hope she's ok. 5.8/13.566 (if they credited her with DTY). She's first up on bars then.

Vanessa Ferrari - she took out her piked jaeger. did giant 1/2 to L-grip giant, to full pirouette to straddled jaeger. then some toe-ons. a little hesitation in handstand before dismount. not a bad routine for her. I really wish they'd reqork it just because l-grip isn't great for her but this was definitely one of her better routines, I'd say. 13.466

Georgina Hockenhull - starts on low bar hop grip change to endo 1/2, stalder, chow (stalder shaposh), bail, stalder full with loss of form, shoot to high; tkatchev a little low. DLO. Seems to let go a little early but get's it around fine. 13.833.

Pauline Schäfer - high bar, toe on giant to gienger, huge; kch 1/2, full pirouette, giant?, giant 1/2 to straddled jaeger, clear hip, bail to handstand, toe on shoot to high; ooh Moors. I have no clue when they're laid out vs. not. Really nice. Best execution so far without a doubt. 13.133... I don't know what her D is so...

Ellie Black - clear hip-Shang; hop grip change to Jaeger to pak. under bar change thingy. toe on giant, toe shoot to high; full pirouette. Moors. Nice nice. I am eagerly awaiting that Shaposh yo. 13.833.

Mai Murakami - clear hip-toe on-giant 1/2- piked jaeger caught close; bail shoot to high; full pirouette; full twisting double layout. She has room to connect things in there but it was clean. She high fives Fasana :D 12.500. Really need some D scores.

Erika Fasana - Maloney - immediate 1/1, giant 1/2, L grip gets kind stuck. toe on Tktchev. comes over on bail. comes off to get back on the other side. shoot to high. DLO. poor girl. So on her Maloney and in L grip she bends her legs (like an exaggerated set for a Jaeger) so she loses the straight line.

Jessica Lopez - piked tkatchev-pak leg sep; missed handstand, Maloney, uprise 1/1, straddled Tkatchev to Gienger; kch 1/2 to straddled Jaeger; a little late on 1/2 pirouette prior to double front dismount. Not her best routine but I think all but 1 of her connections was there. 14.200

Larisa Iordache - stalder 1/1, toe on, toe on shaposh; late on her 1/2 also so low/late straddled jaeger; gets her Ray to pak; toe on shaposh; full twisting double layout. definitely not her best routine. She struggled a bit in her connections. 14.433.

Erika Fasana - bhs-layout 2 feet; switch leap-back tuck;  switch ring nowhere near ring; full turn-Y turn was solid; side somi grabs herself and manages to stay on. front aerial leg wobble. split jump - wolf jump. ro-double pike. she survived. 13.100

Vanessa Ferrari - bhs so-bhs-so, layout 2 feet. switch split-ring leap not at ring per me.... sissone. missed connection i think to front aerial-sheep. switch 1/2 done well. ful turn. solid. switch ring was better. confused split-wolf-split? double pike, low. 13.600

Mai Murakami - bhs-bhs-layout 2 feet-sheep jump. side aerial. double turn. solid. <3 front aerial.  bhs-loso. wobble. korbut. "good body tension. good technique." switch split wobble. split jump-sissone. not great at 180 in my opinion. double pike. best dismount of the 3. I was gonna say "Do it for Asuka" but didn't want to jinx her haha. 13.400

Pauline Schäfer - oh she does the backwards mount to split. cool. bhs-loso. She has some really nice lines and extension. comes off on that. front aerial-side somi. a pretty one if I may say so. double turn wobble and step back but stays on. solid Schafer. side aerial. switch split-sheep. nice.  gainer straight dismount. 13.366

Georgina Hockenhull - bhs-loso just a little wobble. switch split. breaks a connection. switch straddle 1/4. front aerial - sissone? - wolf. full turn with a little flourish.  side aerial solid. she has such calm choreo. switch 1/2. side somi. nice height. double tuck dismount. 13.466

Ellie Black - double spin with a little wobble. ASac's the front pike as per usual :) bhs-layout 2 feet just a little wobble but stays on. bhs-tuck full. steps back and wobbles but stays on. switch split-switch 1/2. good connection. front pike. 2.5 hop forward. 14.833

Jessica Lopez - wolf-split solid. switch side 1/2. wolf full. side aerial. front aerial wobble. bhs-bhs-layout. another leap. full turn. 2.5 and flies forward a bit. 13.633

Larisa Iordache - bhs-tuck full. bhs-layout. loss of leg forma  bit. double turn. steps forward to save it. switch split-switch 1/2. solid connection. front aerial-split jump-sissone.  side somi. solid. Larisa smiling at the end of her routine. Triple twist. a little short i'd say... She waves to her people. 15.166.

Just .233 separating Ellie Black in 2nd from Jessica Lopez in 3rd.

Erika Fasana - double layout with just a hop. full in nice. double Y to illusion. switch ring to switch full. switch 1/2. she has some dramatic choreo moments. haha. and uses her face too. solid double pike. just stays in. step forward. 13.733

Mai Murakami - i love this routine for her. Double layout a little short so she hops forward.  solid triple twist. 1.5 punch front full. Christine said quint spin?! #cray. Definitely a lot and well controlled. solid 2.5 routine. Glad to see her doing well again. 13.833

Vanessa Ferrari - double layout. too low in full in to do the back tuck which she warmed up. double tuck. switch ring-switch full. front aerial. Ferrari leap. another leap but I don't understand how far around it was. double pike. steps oob. potentially 2 feet. 13.400

Pauline Schäfer - handspring double front. double tuck. large step back. ring leap-switch ring. triple I think. Front layout full. another leap. Double pike. Step forward. Christine said a bit static and I agree. She has such beautiful lines but a lot of her choreo is very slow especially for such fast paced music. 12.733 for 4th place at the moment.

Georgina Hockenhull - double arabian. 2.5 punch front. switch ring - split full. double tuck.  solid double turn. double pike. 13.266.

Jessica Lopez - whip triple. super solid. switch? full. double L turn. 2.5  with a hop but goes straight into choreo. solid switch ring and switch 1/2? double turn and full? haha I'm a mess clearly.  double pike. takes a step forward. solid. 13.266. seems low maybe? but i don't know Ds.

Ellie Black - 2.5 through to double twist. front full to double tuck. one foot OOB I think.  double twist to stag. Didn't seem to get off the ground enough? We'll see! 13.566

Larisa Iordache - it looked tucked - tuck full in. k. piked full in. triple? quad? split leap switch split full. solid triple. double Y hop back. solid double pike. LOVE <333333333


Gymnastics Rehab: Mary-Anne Monckton

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edit by pikedtkatchev on instagram

Australian gymnast Mary-Anne Monckton returned from the 2014 World Championships with a nagging pain in her ankle. After visiting the doctor and multiple tests, she learned that the injury that had been bothering her for some time was peroneal tendon tear. The Commonwealth Games Silver Medalist on balance beam had to have surgery. She has since decided to make a youtube video diary of what her rehab looks like on a weekly basis.

Here's the intro from the first video:
Following the 2014 World Championships in China I returned home and underwent surgery on my left ankle, which had been bothering me for about a year and became so painful that it hindered my training and competition performances. Turns out that one of the peroneal tendons was ruptured, so the surgeon had to attach it side by side to the tendon next to it.
You can find Monckton's channel here and watch the first video below. She's now off crutches and is already more than 4 weeks post surgery.

Here she is at Doha Challenge Cup earlier this year where she earned a 14.700/16.300, just .15 behind Romania's Larisa Iordache for the silver medal.


Raisman Returns: Better Than Ever

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Two time Olympic Champion Alexandra Raisman recently sat down with USA Gymnastics to talk about training for Rio. Apparently, Raisman always knew that she would return for a 2nd Olympic cycle even before the 2012 Olympics had finished. After a much needed break, she has worked with her coaches Mihai and Sylvie Brestyan for her comeback. The Brestyans are no strangers to comebacks having coached Alicia Sacramone to a successful comeback after a year off where she became a world champion on vault.

In this video, Raisman manages to show some of her old skills along with some new ones. On floor, she is working a double layout. Raisman mentions working the 1.5 through to double arabian but has not worked in the arabian punch front yet just yet. We see her training her triple twist and piked double arabian onto a soft surface. On bars, she showed a Maloney (toe-on Shaposhnikova) as well as some toe-on giants. I'm most impressed with beam and the fact that she has her Patterson dismount back. She also shows that she's adapting to the code adding leaps to some of her beam acrobatic skills.

I'm also impressed with how Aly looks. Although this was just a short video and we haven't seen routines entirely put together in a pressure situation, she seems much more controlled and much more precise in everything she's doing. We know she's heard the criticism about 180 degree splits, pointed toes, etc. and in this video, it seems like we're starting to see some of these changes.

The ultimate question is where will Aly fit on the team. Honestly, who knows? Right now, the United States has a beam deficit that is actually worse than our bars. Aly could fill that spot easily if we assume her difficulty is comparable to her Olympic routines (or will be come 2016). She mentions the all around 3rd place tie break and how that was also a motivator for this comeback. How and if she fits into the all around situation will be interesting to find out but I, for one, am excited.