Friday, January 18, 2013

European Championships Preview - Men's, Pairs, and Dance

Since I don't follow Men's, Pairs, or Dance that much (I probably follow Dance the most), I'm doing a quick preview of all three disciplines.
For Men's especially, I don't really know the skaters very well, i.e. their consistency, mental game, etc.

Anyways, here we go:


The top players here are most likely going to be the same from last years Euros. The dominating forces in Men's are Russia, France, and the Czech Republic. Spain also has Javier Fernandez, who caused a major upset at Skate Canada this season by rightfully defeating Patrick Chan. Fernandez was the only European skater at the GPF, placing 4th, although winning the FS. He has an excellent chance of nabbing bronze, but he'll need to be completely clean.

Michal Brezina and Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic were 4th and 5th, respectively, last year at Euros, and should do about the same.

Florent Amodio and Brian Joubert of France were 3rd and 8th, respectively, last season. Both are always a force, and can be relied on for a top 10 finish. If Florent Amodio is low after the short program, don't assume he's finished. Amodio was 7th after the SP and Trophee Eric Bompard this season, and came roaring back to win the FS and the bronze medal.

All three Russians, Evgeni Plushenko, Sergei Voronov, and Maxim Kovtun, all have excellent shots at medals. Don't be surprised if Plushenko and his flailing arms while skating to the next jump win over skaters who understand the concept of artistry. Maxim Kovtun is the reigning JGPF champion, and was somewhat controversially picked over Konstantin Menshov, with Morozov dramatically claiming that Menshov's life has been ruined. Kovtun will be at his first senior ISU Championship, and needs to not let the pressure get to him.


It appears that only 15 pairs will be competing here, which makes things a bit interesting.

The main players for medals here are going to be Savchenko/Szolkowy of Germany, Bazarova/Larionov, Kavaguti/Smirnov, and Volosozhar/Trankov of Russia. All three Russian teams were at the GPF, with V/T winning, and B/L placing 2nd. Now, 3 of the 6 teams who qualified were not European (Pang/Tong, Duhamel/Radford, and Moore-Towers/Moscovitch). S/S withdrew from their 2nd GP event, which meant that they could not qualify. Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek of Italy were 2nd alternates to the GPF, and were 4th at last years Euros (S/S were also out due to injury). They have an excellent chance at the top 5, and maybe even the bronze if one of the Russian teams has some problems.

Other teams like Popova/Massot and James/Cipres, both of France, should easily be in the top 10, give this absurdly weak field.


This was supposed to be an easy win for Péchalat/Bourzat, the 2-time reigning European Champions and reigning World/GPF bronze medalists. They are easily the best team in Europe, but had to withdraw due to a groin injury to Bourzat.
That means that like the Ladies' competition, this will also be an Italy/Russia competition.
I'd say that the favorites are Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte of Italy. They were 2nd at both of their GP competitions, and placed 4th at the GPF, behind the absolute 3 best teams in the world. They'll be chased by all three Russian teams, Bobrova/Soloviev, Ilinykh/Katsalapov, and Riazanova/Tkachenko. The first two Russian teams were both at the GPF, and placed 5th and 6th, respectively. Riazanova/Tkachenko were the 2nd alternates to the GPF, but the 1st alternates were not European. They can get on the podium if one of the other three teams makes a mistake, but will most likely place 4th.
Other teams to look for in the top 10 are Tobias/Stagniunas of Lithuania and Zhiganshina/Gazsi of Germany. I know nothing about all the other random teams competing here.

The 2013 European Figure Skating Championships being Monday, January 21st, and go until Sunday, January 27th.

Yes, it is the same week as the US Championships, so it should be a fun week of skating. I'm psyched.

- IllusionSpin

Thursday, January 17, 2013

European Championships Preview - Ladies

In anticipation of the upcoming European Figure Skating Championships, which will begin on Monday, January 21st, I'm doing a quick preview. This post will just be Ladies, but I will briefly preview the other 3 disciplines in another post.

It's really a testament the strength of the North American/Asian skaters that there are 3, maybe 4 medal challengers here for the podium. 5 of the top 10 finishers from last years Euros (Korpi, Korobeynikova, Makarova, Leonova, and Silété) won't be at this years Euros. Korpi has an Achilles injury, Silété is injured, and none of the 3 Russians made the team.

Last year's winner, Carolina Kostner of Italy, has competed in two competitions this seasons: the Golden Spin of Zagreb, which she easily won with legit scores (not the overly inflated scores she received last season), and the Italian Championships, which she won with the world's most ridiculous FS score ever: 143.56. Domestic scoring in all countries is usually inflated, but this passes the border of ridiculous. Kostner skates with the technical level of a Junior skater, not a senior skater who has been in the senior ranks for 10 years, has 4 World medals, 4 European titles, and 2 Olympic appearances. Kostner has an excellent chance of defending her title, but not if the Russians have anything to say about it.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia, who has finally reached age eligibility for senior ISU Championship events after spending what seems like forever in the junior ranks. Don't take this to mean that I've been waiting and waiting for her to turn senior. Something needs to happen to her flailing arms and Leonova-esque choreography before she shows up at Worlds and expects to win a medal. Elizaveta has had solid showings this year, with a silver at Trophee Eric Bompard and the second-best FS at the GPF during that splatfest. However, in this insanely weak field, Tuktamysheva should have no problem medaling here at her first European Championships, as long as she lands her triples, which usually don't give her a problem.

Adelina Sotnikova of Russia is also age-eligible for ISU Championships this year. Remember that she was born a few hours in July 1st, which made her ineligible for last year's Euros and Worlds by a matter of hours. I can't imagine how pissed off that has always made her. Anyways, despite her absurdly tacky Christina Aguilera/blues/jazz FS, her jumps combined with the weak field should most likely get her a medal. If she goes splat on a jump or two, which she seems to have taken a liking to, she'll still most likely finish in the top 5.

Nikol Gosviyani, also of Russia, is the surprise 3rd member on the team, after being the 3rd highest senior lady at Russian Nationals. Nikol is completely untested internationally (except for 3 minor competitions several years ago), let alone on big stages like the European Championships. She did excellently during Nationals, but there's no telling how she'll do under the pressure of Euros. She could either do well and place in the top 6, or completely implode under pressure and be buried in the standings. I honestly have no idea what to expect.

Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia, has become increasingly tackier as the seasons go on, but still should depress us all by placing in the top 10 by shaking her DDs around and landing a bunch of sloppy triples, doubles, and popped jumps. She has almost no chance of defending her bronze medal from last year, but she will still most likely place in the top 10. Will she ever go away?

Given her success so far with two straight international wins, albeit it at minor events, Jenna McCorkell of Great Britain will also very likely place in the top 10, as long as she keeps her thoughts focused on the ice and not on her husband at home.

Maé Bérénice Méité of France, seems to have taken the idea of "skate like your idols" to a whole new level. Her programs are so reminiscent of the horrors that her idol, Surya Bonaly, used to scar our eyes with, along with horrendously ugly costumes that have no relation to the music at all, it looks like it's Surya back out there at first glance. Given her absurdly high scores so far this season, she will most likely place in the top 10 as well.

Others to watch:
Valentina Marchei of Italy, 8th at Euros and Worlds last year, should most likely be in the top 10.
The Helgesson sisters of Sweden, could place anywhere from 7th to 24th. Look out.
Excuse my Austrian side for a moment here. Kerstin Frank, 30th at Euros and 21st Worlds last season, should place somewhere around there. Look for a completely uninspired performance, complete with jumps with zero flow out of them, and sloppy as hell spins. I had to mention her, given that I'm half-Austrian, whether I think she's a good skater or not.

Look for a podium that will most likely consist of Kostner, Tuktamysheva, and Sotnikova, in any order. Kostner will most likely get a reigning Euro and World champion bonus, whether she actually deserves it or not.

I'll do a quick preview of Men's, Pairs, and Dance soon (basically who will most likely be on the podium).

- IllusionSpin

Monday, January 14, 2013

Some Sad News

Some sad news has emerged from USFigureSkating. Unfortunately, Alissa Czisny, the stunningly graceful and artistic 2009/2011 US National Champion, has had to withdraw from the upcoming US Figure Skating Championships, due to a dislocated left hip. (full article)

Alissa, who is also the 2010 GPF Champion, is a universally loved skater. She is world renowned for her spins, which are considered to be the fastest and among the most beautiful in the world. Her spins travel faster than lightning, and each one hits multiple gorgeous and difficult positions. Her other famous trait is her artistry, which only rivals Sasha Cohen for the best in the world, as well as her clean, deep, and pure edges as she skates.

Alissa started off last season strong with a win over Kostner at Skate America, but then slowly, the season began to fall apart. Her season ended with her infamous meltdown at Worlds, where she fell twice in the SP (along with a large stumble on her Axel) and 5 times in the LP. However, Alissa was unknowingly skating with a torn labrum in her hip, which caused her to struggle to land her jumps, not just at Worlds but at the Challenge Cup a few weeks prior as well.

After Alissa and her coaches discovered the injury in May, she underwent surgery in June, and subsequently spent the majority of the summer off the ice while she recovered. Alissa was assigned to the NHK trophy, the last GP event in the hopes that she would be ready in time, but she was forced to withdraw a week prior, stating a lack of sufficient recovery and training time.

A couple weeks ago, IceNetwork ran an excellent article/interview with Alissa, where she stated she was fully recovered and ready to compete again at Nationals for the first time since Worlds.

This weekend, Alissa appeared in a small competition in Wisconsin called the Fox Cities Invitational. This decision to compete less than two weeks before the US Championships was considered odd and alarming to many. Then, this weekend, this tweet was released by the USFSA, which shocked and alarmed many:

The skating world eventually became aware of what seems to be the story of what exactly happened: Czisny fell on a triple flip a couple of minutes into her LP, and was unable to leave the ice without assistance. Finally, after two days of frantic hoping and speculation, the USFSA sadly revealed that Czisny would unfortunately have to withdraw from the US Championships, due to a dislocated hip that will require surgery to fix.

Many people are now questioning whether we will ever see the lovely Alissa Czisny compete again, or if her meltdown at Worlds last year is the last we ever see of a competitive Czisny. This season has felt empty without Czisny, who is unarguably one of the big stars of current day competitive skating. Let us all hope that Alissa recovers well and comes back to compete at her 2010-2011-self, even if it is one final competition, where she skates lights out and leaves us with lasting, good memories of this exceptionally talented, graceful, and beautiful skater.

While we wait for more news from the Czisny camp, let us enjoy these two performances of her masterpiece "Winter into Spring" program, that won her the GPF and the US Nationals in one season.

Get well soon Alissa - we miss you!

IceNetwork recently posted this full article on Alissa and her injury, including several quotes from her coach, Jason Dungjen.

- IllusionSpin

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nikol Gosviyani Obtains Minimum TES for Euros

Nikol Gosviyani, the 3rd member of the 2013 Russian European team, hit the required minimum TES at a tiny meet in Poland this week, and is presumably cleared to compete. Nikol, who hadn't competed internationally in over two years before this weekend, had no TES minimum from this season or last season. She therefore had to compete at a tiny competition to obtain the TES minimum, which she has, in order to compete at the upcoming European Championships, which will take place from January 21st - January 27th.

The required TES for the SP was 20, which Nikol comfortably cleared with a 29.50. The required TES for Worlds in the SP is 28, so she's also fine for that. She somehow received a 1.00 time deduction (for going overtime), which I cannot see in the video. Let me know if you see the time deduction here:

The required TES for the LP was 36, which Nikol also easily cleared, with a 45.62. However, the required TES for the LP at worlds is 48. Nikol will try to hit 48 at Euros, but if she cannot, she will not be able to go to Worlds. I hope for her sake that she hits 48 and can have the opportunity to compete at Worlds, but also for our sake, so that we're all spared the sight of Leonova competing at ANOTHER Worlds. Here's her LP:

- IllusionSpin

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 American Cup Lineups (Partially) Released

For those of you who may not have seen the announcement by USA Gymnastics today, the partial lineups for the 2013 American Cup were released. This year's American Cup will be in Worchester, MA, and will feature multiple big names.

6 of the 8 women who will compete were announced, with the announcement that the final 2 will be decided later. Those 6 are:

Kyla Ross (USA) - the only member of the "Fierce Five" to continue fully training, will finally get her chance to shine after being a team player in London. Kyla turned in solid performances all around in London, with key hit sets on bars and beam in the team final. Her more famous teammates usually outshone her, both results and personality-wise, but with Jordyn, Gabby, and Aly doing the Teen Choice Tour, and Mckayla not fully training/pursuing acting opportunities, Kyla will get a golden chance to step out from living in the shadows of her teammates, and shine internationally while competing individually.

Elizabeth Price (USA) - one of the rising Americans who rivals Raisman for the award of fugliest American gymnast, won two World Cup titles at the end of 2012 in the absence of any legit competition, while relying on gigantic start values, horrible form, and jaw-droppingly terrible artistry, not to mention sufficiently shitting on the wonderful memory of Afanasyeva's crowning moment at Worlds in 2011. Price took Afanasyeva's music, and used her dance ability that is on par with Raisman's to make the entire international gymnastics community take note of her complete lack of ability to do something that resembles dance. I hope for the sake of our sport, that pretty and boring Kyla Ross manages to beat Price, even if it's not for first - if Price wins multiple big competitions this year, it will be a huge injustice to what was once dominated by beautiful gymnasts.

Larisa Iordache (ROU) - one of the main international stars in the first half of 2012, she was expected to shine at the Olympics. Unfortunately, Larisa was injured with plantar fasciitis during training in London, and after being a favorite for all-around, beam and floor medals, she placed 9th in the all-around and 6th on beam, only walking away with a team bronze. Hopefully Larisa has properly healed, and can dominate this year. It would be magical if she could snatch this American Cup from both of these Americans, and continue to dominate, hopefully battling someone like Komova later for the World AA title. If anyone can win this title apart from the Americans, it's Larisa.

Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) - the 22-year-old gymnast who continues to whine about (fairly) losing the Olympic floor bronze to Mustafina in the tie-break, has finally decided to attend this year, after having qualified but not attended for the last who-knows-how-many-years. Ferrari, who is locked in a never-ending battle with Catalina Ponor for the award of worlds sluttiest gymnast, will most likely show up in some sort of eye-sore leotard, show off her horrible forward giants on bars, fall on beam, crank out an awful DTY on vault, and place no higher than 6th.

Elisabeth Seitz (GER) - the non-adult German star, who has somehow mistaken uneven bars for men's high bar, performs bars with the excitement of Epke Zonderland and the form on all events of Zou Kai. Seitz has the distinction of being one of the only gymnasts able to do the Def while having a leg separation wider than the width of the vault table. The German, who somehow home-countried her way to the 2011 European silver, shouldn't expect a placement anywhere near that, not in America.

Asuka Teramoto (JPN) - tiny Japanese gymnast who's 16, 4ft 6in, and 66 pounds, swings bars approximately the swing of He Kexin and the form of Koko Tsurumi. She also performs floor with the same amount of choreography as Koko. The ever-upbeat Blythe Lawrence of Examiner proclaims her as one of the up-coming stars of this quad, but she has about as much pizazz as Kyla Ross, i.e. NONE. She has clean, consistent, and boring gymnastics...yawn.

According to The Couch Gymnast, Canada accepted a spot, but they haven't decided who will go. Given that a chunk of their top elites are now in colleges in the US (Lee, Vaculik, Rogers, Savona), don't be at all surprised if Victoria Moors goes for the second year in a row. Maybe her floor will actually be televised this time, as she took the time to whine about last year.

USA Gymnastics has not yet announced which country will take the last spot, but given the bizarre World Cup rules, I haven't the slightest idea who will show up, and what country they'll be from.

On the men's side, the lineup for 7 out of the 8 men who will eventually compete has been announced as thus:

Danell Leyva, USA
Jake Dalton, USA
Marcel Nguyen, GER
Jorge Hugo Giraldo Lopez (who?), COL
Sergio Sasaki, BRA
Kristian Thomas, GBR
Oleg Verniaiev, UKR

The final man is reported to be announced shortly. I'll update this as I receive info on the final 3 competitors.

- IllusionSpin

A Few Thoughts on Russian Nationals

The Russian Figure Skating Championships for Seniors were held about 2 weeks ago in Sochi, and the Ladies competition provided some interesting results.

Side Note: In Russia, the Senior Nationals and the Junior Nationals are held separately, but Juniors (i.e. anyone not old enough for senior competition, since there are some who compete at senior nationals who aren't even old enough for junior international competition) are allowed to compete in both. The Junior championships will be held between January 31st and February 3rd in Saransk. Look for a Lipnitskaya/Radionova showdown.

Anyways, the Seniors ladies had several nobody's at the top, and several veterans buried in the standings.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva somewhat unexpectedly won her first national title, after winning the SP and LP with absurdly high PCS. Heads up Liza-camp: you're not going to get in the 30s for the SP and the high 60s for the LP for PCS at Euros and Worlds. Her flailing arms are reminiscent of Slutskaya and Plushenko, and something that won't get fixed in order for her to win the Olympic gold if she continues with Mishin after this season. Half of her Dark Eyes music is what Nastia used in her 2006-2008 routine, a routine that also brings back memories of flailing arms, and just lots of bad memories. Her attempts to be dramatic just completely fail, and she can't bring out the drama and nuances in the music. If you can't do Dark Eyes like Sasha Cohen, don't do it at all.
 Kudos to her, though, for skating through what was reported to be a pretty bad cold, and managing to win the competition on top of that. Her triple lutzes were gorgeous as always, but a popped triple flip and a sloppy landing on a triple Salchow only gave her the 5 highest TES of the night. Here's her LP:

Elena Radionova pulled up to 2nd after sitting in 3rd after the short program with a gorgeous dress and a PCS score that was inexplicably 5 points below Leonova. I don't think Radionova is as artistic as everyone says, but Leonova is much worse.
Speaking of Radionova's artistry. Many people are acting like she's the next Sasha Cohen, but I just don't see it. Her LP consists of her frantically flying over the ice while waving her arms around, but still holding out a few nice positions. I see potential, but like Lipnitskaya, she needs to work on holding out her movements. For example, at the end of her program on literally the last note, her arms hit about 50 different positions before the end. She needs to just go into one position, and go into it while taking her time to extend. Another example: at 2:03 in the video, the music slows down, and transfers into fewer notes that are held out for longer. She holds out one movement on the first movement, but then she goes into the next jump. She needs to take that time to maybe to a spiral, or choreo that can be really expressive. However, one thing I do see is a 13 year old (who turned 14 today!) who clearly loves what she does and genuinely seems to love skating, and lets it show. Her long legs also give her a lovely layback, particularly her Biellman. Here's her LP:

Adelina Sotnikova, the 3-time Russian champion and two-time defending champion was 2nd after the short program, but stumbled to 3rd after a sloppy LP. That Christina Aguilera/jazz program is one of the worst programs of the season; I'd be shocked if it goes over well at Euros and Worlds. There's nothing wrong with a jazz program, but mixing in Christina Aguilera's moaning just makes it awful. As I said before, when the music started at SA, my initial reaction was, "what IS this crap?" For the 2011 World Junior Champion who even did Liebestraum last season, there's really no excuse for this ridiculously tacky program that's expected to challenge for a World medal come March. Something tells me she had a hand in picking the music, since you can see her enjoying herself during the awful step sequence. I get that you're 16 Adelina, and you want to be a teenager, but save the teenage stuff on ice for exhibitions, not for long programs. Still, she'll probably medal at Euros, and will easily challenge for a World medal now that she's finally old enough. Here's her LP:

Serafima Sakhanovich, the latest up-and-coming star of the Russians, pulled up from 9th to 4th with a beautiful and near-perfect LP, along with the highest TES of the night. I won't say much about her here, because I'm going to do a whole post on her soon, but this kid has the potential to become biggest Russian star ever. She has fabulous skating skills, a landing knee-bend to die for, and a beautiful lyrical quality to her skating. From my sources, she is 12, and therefore ineligible for Junior Worlds this year, but I believe she will be old enough for the JGP circuit next season (this fall), which I fully expect her to dominate. A full post will come on her soon, but here's her LP:

Anna Pogorilaya, the JGPF bronze medalist, placed 5th after a solid all-around skate, but that was somewhat unremarkable. Anna has many of the ingredients to make her into a force to be reckoned with, but her choreography leaves something to be desired. A LP like this is what's typically viewed as boring: when the music has a lot of detail and many notes, but the skater isn't doing much choreographically, which makes it look like the fast music is playing and the skater is just sort of doing a bit of choreography, but not much. With more attention to detail and work on her jump technique (her jumps have about as much flow out of them as Asada's triple axel does), she can easily medal at Junior Worlds.
Side Note: the Junior World team is expected to be Lipnitskaya, Radionova, and Pogorilaya. I believe it will be determined after the Russian Junior Championships.
Here's Anna's LP:

Nikol Gosviyani, the 3rd ALTERNATE to the Nationals, had the two skates of her life and placed 6th. This has earned her a spot on the European team. However, since it's been over 2 years since she competed internationally, she has to go to a small competition in Poland this weekend to try to earn the minimum required scores for the Europeans. Nikol has competed internationally 3 times in her entire career. The Coupe de Nice in 2007 (as a novice) and 2010 (as a junior), and one JGP in 2010. Like I said, she was the 3rd alternate to the Russian Nationals, and had Lipnitskaya not gotten a concussion, she wouldn't have even competed. She's a pretty skater, but like Pogorilaya, really needs to work on bringing out all the accents of the music. Her jump technique is a little funky, and could use some work. I'll link her SP as well, which I like better. She decided to copy the reigning World Champion by wearing a bedazzles body suit. Heads up Nikol: Just because Kostner decides to wear the worst costume ever to win Worlds, does not mean that you should follow suit. Given that Nikol's has not competed internationally in over 2 years, I honestly have no idea what to expect from her. She's a complete unknown to the skating world. Should she not get the minimum TES scores, Leonova will most likely go to Euros instead. Please do well Nikol, so that we can all be rid of Leonova. Nikol is 16, and is actually coached by Alexei Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic Champion.

The Others:
Oldies Leonova and Makarova placed 7th and 8th respectively, but since Tuktamysheva and Sotnikova are finally old enough for Worlds, they have almost no shot at the Worlds team. Korobeynikova, who was 4th after the SP, slipped to 10th after an subpar free skate that only earned 102.19. Important to note, 8th, 9th, and 10th were all within 0.79 of each other, and everyone from 11th and up scored over 160 for their total score.

The full results can be found here:

As soon as I find out if Gosviyani hit the minimal TES score for Euros, and if someone has to take her place if she doesn't, I'll post it.

- IllusionSpin

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Photo/Video of the Day

The Shibutani siblings recently posted a video set to "Good Time," featuring rehearsal/fun behind-the-scenes clips from the Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular, which will air on NBC on January 20th.

To acknowledge how these two sports coming together is sometimes great but also quite funny, here's a photo for your entertainment:

Just enjoy this for a second: Gabby Douglas, Maia Shibutani, Meryl Davis, Nastia Liukin, Alissa Czisny, Jordyn Wieber, Gracie Gold, and Aly Raisman all chilling/dancing on a beam. Ashley Wagner is at this too, but somehow barely appears in the video. I also live for Nastia and Maia acting like BFFs. I doubt Nastia has even hear of Maia or Gracie.

Enjoy the whole video of skaters and gymnasts who have never met, not to mention many of them have probably never heard of many of the other, acting like BFFs.

- IllusionSpin

Friday, January 4, 2013

Top Ten: Floor

All right, here we go. Last event.

This actually will be a Love Russia-fest. However, that has to do with the fact that the Russians have been training ballet as long as they have been doing gymnastics, and with the addition of the wonderful Russian choreographers, it produces beautiful floor routines with difficult and gorgeous choreography.
When it comes to floor, the Russians (and those from ex-Soviet countries) tend to be the class of the field. They are admired worldwide for their floors, and have publicly bashed the United States for their awful floor routines.

Top 10:

1. Ksenia Afanasyeva, 2011 Worlds EF/2012 Olympic QF

Quite possibly one of the greatest moments in gymnastics since the breakup of the Soviet Union. STUNNNINNNGGGG. The choreography is so detailed, I can't even tell you how hard it is. Thank God the judges finally got it right and crowned the lovely Afan World Floor Champion. I am glad that she managed to defeat Clubfoot the Raisman on floor at least once in her career.

I couldn't pick between her 2011 and her 2012 routine, so I just went with both of them. One thing I love about Ksenia is that unlike the lovely Grishina, her routines aren't purely ballet. The choreographers have taken her ballet training, and developed a unique style for her that utilizes ballet, but is so gorgeous and completely different from everybody else.

2. Anastasia Grishina, 2012 Jesolo/2012 European TF

I put two different versions here, mainly to show how she actually finishes the routine. The Jesolo routine was hit better and had more gorgeous choreography, but the music finished before she did. I put the European routine in just to show how she finishes the routine when she's on time with the music.
Anyways, this is SO gorgeous, and one of the best routines of the quad, if not in a long time. Her ballet training is so evident here, and she's so dainty and light on her feet. She really just needs to clean up that Y-spin, and maybe up her difficulty a bit, but the talent and beauty is all there. I really hope she continues, even after the London disaster, because with her talent and grace, and proper coaching, she could win the 2013 European AND World AA titles. Based on the current mess at Round Lake and her inconsistency, it most likely won't happen, but if only this beauty won major titles.

3. Yulia Belokobylskaya, 2011 Worlds TF

One of the prettiest dancers on the Russian team, which is saying something when your teammates include Afanasyeva, Grishina, Mustafina, Komova, Kharenkova, and about 50 others. I love everything about this routine. The way she dances into her opening pose, the way she dances to coverup a step on the second pass, and of course the gorgeoussss choreography after the 3rd pass. She had no chance of being useful to the Olympic team, but she got her moment to shine at the 2011 Worlds. If only EF spots were given out based on the whole package, not on start values.

4. Ana Porgras, 2010 Worlds TF/2011 Worlds AA

(Both of these were so gorgeous that I couldn't decide on one to put it, so I put both of them.)
Why, Ana, why? Why did you and your beauty have to retire 8 months before the Olympics? Everyone wanted to see you there, and to see you win the Olympic beam title. The Olympics were not the same without you. Ana is so stunningly beautiful, and I don't think she even has as much ballet training as the Russians. Her grace and artistry seem to be purely natural, and her beam and floor are so pretty to watch. She is truly missed.

5. Mariya Livchikova, 2011 Ghent World Cup QF/2011 Euros QF

My actual favorite version of the routine is here:
Unfortunately, embedding was disabled on the video.
I loveeee Mariya. If the CoP was wrote correctly, people like Mariya would be in major floor finals, not people like Clubfoot. Her music is so gorgeous (Leeloo's Tune), and the choreography fits it perfectly. Mariya, however, is not much of a tumbler, and in today's CoP, dancers are nowhere to be found in the rankings, which is sadly the current sad state of the sport.

6. Maria Kharenkova, 2012 European EF

It took me quite awhile to figure out this very cool and unique music was - I saw people suggesting French, Arabic, and Cirque - it turns out that this is a piece from Cirque du Soleil. Similar to Afanasyeva, the choreographers take her ballet training, and create something unique and very cool with it. I really love this music, the choreography, and the whole routine. The fact that she won despite a step out of bounds shows that just mayyyybeee this sport is heading in the right direction. The judges recognized her beauty and finesse and rewarded that, while recognizing that the step out of bounds is really just a small error.

7. Ekaterina Baturina, 2012 European QF/2012 Pacific Rim Championships EF

(Two slightly different versions of the same routine.)
While she's not one of the two Russian junior stars (Kharenkova and Shelgunova), this beauty is on the way up. One thing I notice with this routine is that the skills seem quite easy for her (it's a fairly easy skill set), which tells me that the Russian coaches are most likely pacing her, instead of forcing top difficulty on her before she even turns senior (Valeri Liukin, maybe you should take some notes). I feel like that strategy is going to help in the long run.
Anyways, this floor routine is another Russian masterpiece, and I fully expect this girl to be in the mix during the next quad. That ending pose is just gorgeous.
Side note: in the Euros video, notice the Russian seniors in the stands, walking her through the whole routine. And when I say walking through, I mean yelling DAVAI DAVAI DAVAI.....STOI! as many times as is humanly possible.

8. Aliya Mustafina, 2010 Worlds QF/2012 Olympic EF

Sheer brilliance out there. Each landing was near perfectly controlled, and the triple turn is a work of art. Most people finish that turn by stepping forward as they finish spinning, but she shows that she has perfect control by finishing the spin, but remaining on her toe to show control before she continues. That is how a triple turn is SUPPOSED TO BE DONE.

Fabulous. Some people don't like this routine, but I love the dramatics and choreography. It's also evident just how hard she worked to get the majority of her skills back after that near-career ending injury. The joy on her face at seeing her score, and then realizing that she had won the bronze medal was wonderful to see.

9. Anna Dementyeva, 2010 Worlds TF

She's such a little cutie :) This routine is cute, artistic, pretty, and just perfect for little Demy. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that little Demy is an adult now. Feels like yesterday that she was 15, and the youngest gymnast, at the 2010 worlds, and now she's 18(!). I feel like many people remember Demy at the 2010 worlds for helping headcase bars along with cohort Nabieva, but she turned in two wonderful routines on beam and floor. She's won a few very minor competitions this fall, so I sincerely hope that we continue to see more of this little delight.

10. Daria Elizarova, 2011 Worlds QF

You know it's a sad day when a gymnast of this talent has to go compete for another country just to get competitive opportunities. It also tells you about the depth of talent in Russia. For those of you who don't know, Daria was originally on the 2008 Russian Olympic team, and then Ludmilla Ezhova-Grebenkova was subbed in, as they wanted her experience more. At some point in 2010, Elizarova went to compete for Uzbekistan, where she obviously immediately became the top gymnast there. Why they sent Galiulina to the Olympics this year over Elizarova, when Galiulina was caught for doping and didn't even compete, still baffles me. Anyways, I still love this routine - the choreography shows her Russian training with plenty of intricate moves. I love how she sort of tricks you into thinking that it's time for another tumbling pass, but then does more dance instead. I hope she continues on.

Low 10:

1. Alexandra Raisman, 2012 Olympic Trials Day 1

This routine disgusts me each and every time she does it, and the fact that she is Olympic floor champion over Afanasyeva, Mustafina, Komova, Grishina, Ponor, Izbasa, etc, is just horrifying for the sport. If compulsories existed, Aly Raisman would have never even been an elite, as she'd be slaughtered in compulsories. I wasn't even a big fan of Ponor's routine, but Ponor should have won over Raisman, and most fans who appreciate gymnastics and its history agree. Not to mention the fact that judges never seem to apply their own rules - Aly should be getting massive artistry deductions each and every time she competes this. I mean, she can't even do a roundoff without bent knees and flexed feet.
However, the thing that disgusted me most about this routine was actually something outside of Aly's control. She very clearly LANDS that first pass out of bounds, yet only .1 was taken off. That's just wrong.

I want those judges sitting RIGHT THERE to look at this, and then attempt to tell me that she only stepped out with one foot. That is a screenshot as Aly lands. BOTH FEET ARE OUT. Obviously all the judging at Trials was a complete joke, but this is just ridiculous. Anyways, moving on.

2. Gabby Douglas, 2012 Olympic AA

Another US routine that just disgusts me. "Memories" and "We No Speak Americano" are club music. I've danced my ass off to them in clubs. That means that they are not suitable for ARTISTIC gymnastics. I don't care if you're not a natural dancer. Jordyn isn't. That doesn't mean that she uses laughable club music, she plays to her strengths. Like I said before, Alexandrov has publicly made fun of the Americans for their floor routines (and rightfully so), and this piece of shit doesn't help. What is she doing after the 2nd pass???? Gabby, WHAT IS THIS????? No. Just no.

3. Rebecca Bross, 2010 Nationals Day 2

Each American routine just gets worse. Considering that she comes from the same gym as people like Hollie Vise AND she has a Russian coach, this is just ridiculous. I actually sort of liked her 2009 routine - Natural Treasure is kind of cool music. Again, I see that she is not a natural dancer, but from what I know, WOGA does ballet training as part of their training. Not to mention, if you are not a dancer, do 4 less intricate tumbling passes, instead of 3, and torturing us with your awful "dance." Of course, nothing will ever be as bad as that thing that Carly Patterson called a floor routine. Why does she take a lunch break after the second pass and just stand there? And WHY does she hold that split on the floor for like, a year? Also, I'm all for being focused and determined (I think that's a good thing), but smile or at least have more than one facial expression during choreography! Like Maroney says, floor is a chance to perform and show your personality, so don't walk around the mat like it's a chore. Enjoy floor routines and choreography, even if you're not Mostepanova.

4. Elizabeth Price, 2012 Nationals Day 1

Wow. Way to shit on the memory of Afanasyeva's World title winning floor. Yes, this is a slightly different cut than the one that Afanasyeva used. Question #1: what is she doing after the second pass? Questions #2: why does she like, stop and stare at the judges for a year after the 3rd pass? Just so you know Elizabeth, there's a reason Tumbling is it's own sport. It's so that we don't have to see shit like the stuff you call a floor routine. I'm not going to deny her acrobatic talents. That's why she should seriously consider Tumbling. Unless you can dance better than the reigning World floor champion, DO NOT use her music, and then say "OMG, I love my choreography!" Just no. I sincerely hope Afanasyeva has never seen this. And finally, STOP WEARING PINK!!!!!!!

5. Daiane Dos Santos, Unknown 2011 Competition

It's been nearly 10 years since that undeserved World title, and things don't seem to change do they? She still tumbles ridiculously uncontrolled passes (you'd think by now she'd have properly learned them), and the hideous "choreography." I.e., she looks like an animal on speed. Funny how she was suspended at some point this quad for doping? After all these years, she can't even point her toes on those awful tumbling passes. Daiane, significant accomplishments are about a decade in the past. I think it's time to retire.....

6. Elizabeth Tweddle, 2011 Worlds TF

Again, if you are not a dancer, do FOUR tumbling passes! And what is that weird arm stuff she does right before each tumbling pass? Ughhhh. I cannot believe she won the 2009 World title. It's just an injustice to the sport. Then again, Raisman won the Olympic title, so apparently, apart from the 2011 World title and 2012 European title, floor golds are now given out to the shittiest dancers. The former Soviets must be crying over the way this sport has gone.

7. Vanessa Ferrari, 2012 Olympic EF

I can't believe she actually thinks she deserved the bronze over Mustafina. Ummm, yeah NO. For those of you who didn't realize, this is a different cut of Anastasia Sidorova's music (it's called Angel and Devil). Mustafina can actually dance, and finallyyyy the judges recognized that and gave her the bronze over Ferrari's higher start value. BTW Vanessa, there are deductions in the CoP for music. When you have 5 music cuts between two tumbling passes (2nd and 3rd), there are deductions for that. When she lands the 3rd pass, there's about a 2 second cut that sounds like Hijo de la Luna (Mustafina's 2010 music). The music is all over the place, the choreography is awful, and the leo is fugly as fuck. Mustafina won that bronze fair and square. This is just awful.

8. Kyla Ross, 2012 Visa Championships Day 1

For someone with such pretty lines and such a balletic look, this routine is a real letdown. She has so much talent and potential to do something far more intricate and pretty. DO NOT use Phantom of the Opera unless you can fully bring out the drama in it. Her choreography is her either bending her arms and looking to the side, or weird stuff on the floor. The vocals in the middle are not good. And what is that weird jump after the 3rd pass? I really hope she gets something new and much better for this year.

9. Huang Qiushuang, 2010 Worlds QF

Everyone calls her lovely, but I don't see what all the fuss is about. Her choreography is either her standing with bent knees while waving her arms around, or constant hip circling/thrusting. I can see the talent and potential to be pretty on floor. It's all there, she just needs to stop waving her arms like Bross and stop thrusting her hips out like a stripper. If she took this music and had it choreographed by the Russian choreographers, it would actually be nice.

10. Lauren Mitchell, 2010 Worlds EF

Someone please explain to me why this won the 2010 World title. Moreover, why did this win over a slightly imperfect Mustafina? Like her beam routine, it's so....awkward. It doesn't flow, every arm movement seems disconnected from the next one. The music is also so generic. The fact that there was only one nice major (World/Olympic) floor champion this quad is just plain sad. Mustafina was a little sluggish in this final, it being her 16 competitive routine of the championships, but she still deserved to win this. I don't understand how, as Aunt Joyce puts it, "Awkward Aussie" won.

All right that's it for top 10 of the quad!

Look out for some opinion pieces on skating/gymnastics to come soon. Hope everyone's enjoying 2013 so far!

- IllusionSpin

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top Ten: Beam

The format for Beam and Floor will change a bit now. Instead of doing a total of 10 routines here (Top 5 and Low 5), because I love and hate so many beams from this quad, I'm going to do Top 10 and Low 10.

Sorry if you feel this turns into a "Love Russia, Hate USA" post, but that's kind of how I feel about the current state of gymnastics (despite the fact that I am American).

Top 10:

1. Ana Porgras, 2010 Worlds AA

(I would have put her EF winning routine here, but that had a couple more wobbles than this, so I decided to show the best of her that I could find.) Was there any competition here? The universally loved 2010 World Beam Champion is one of very few who is actually pretty up there. Unlike the Chinese who take a year to set up for a fucking A-rated split leap, Ana never seems to stop moving. She has so many little flourishes that add so much flair to the routine, like the split pose at the beginning and the back leg kick she does at about 1:07 right before her leap series. The only pauses are before her acro series and her dismount. Otherwise, she moves in and out of each skill, and makes it look like one flowing series of movements, instead of skill, pause, pose, skill, pause, pose, etc. It's purrrdyyyy.

2. Mariya Livchikova, 2012 Brno Grand Prix

FINALLY. Our favorite Ukie headcase finally put it all together this year, showing off a gorgeous and innovative beam set, complete with a stuck cold dismount. This routine is just so fucking different and cool. Who does a front-aerial + punch front combo, or a (legit) front handspring + front pike combo? To top it off, she's also gorgeously elegant and smooth up there. Why oh why did she have to waste her time training a DTY at Worlds last year that blew out her knee, cost her a shot at going to the test event, and therefore a shot at the Olympics? If she had made the Olympics and done this routine in QF, this most likely would have made finals. She was missed at the Olympics this year. Hopefully we will see much more of here in the years to come. She is special.

3. Anastasia Grishina, 2012 Jesolo

Probably the best routine she did all year. Given that she changed her routine composition practically every week, every time she competed beam this year, the routine was different. This is my favorite composition, and the best she did it. Grishina was really at her best on beam and floor all year at Jesolo. Her form is impeccable, she has awesome combos like Onodi + Illusion, and then she causes us all to lose sleep as she wobbles while standing up from her mount. Her roundoff+layout pass is now a consistent beauty (when did you think you would ever call anything in Grishina's beam routine consistent?!), instead of the nail-biter it used to be. If only she didn't have a complete meltdown at the Olympics this year. I hope we see much more of her, and I also sincerely hope her new coaches can breathe some semblance of consistency into her, because she is a tremendous talent who on her good day, could win just about everything.

4. Anna Dementyeva, 2011 European EF

One of the only routines where she isn't wobbling all over the place. I think with Mustafina's injury, and the coronation of Dementyeva (who as I'm writing this, is currently celebrating her EIGHTEENTH birthday!) as European champion, it gave her a certain confidence that was clearly seen in all the event finals. She didn't have the start values to medal in bars or floor, but she looked calm, confident, and happy in all the event finals, instead of the usual umpteenth inconsistent Russian that she is. The Illusion, switch ring, RO-layout, etc (basically EVERYTHING, including the usually underrotated dismount) were all the best I've ever seen her do. Many predicted that she would win this after QF, when Mustafina was still healthy, and after Porgras somehow didn't qualify in. I still can't comprehend why she wasn't taken over Paseka for the Olympics. While beam is Dementyeva's only reliable event, she could have potentially contributed on bars with a 4th QF bars score (the floor spots were all taken), and I'm not sure Paseka's vault was ever worth much more than a confident Demy beam routine. Paseka did eventually prove her worth, by winning the vault bronze over no competition.

5. Elisabetta Preziosa, 2009 Brindisi Grand Prix/2011 European EF

This is one of the most underappreciated routines of the quad. It also won her the 2011 European bronze. I included her 2009 routine (the Grand Prix routine was better than her 2009 World EF routine), because of the gorgeous mount, which she annoyingly took out. Why does everyone have to have boring mounts? One of the reasons she was so special in 2009 was that gorgeous mount. Her flexibility is a breath of fresh air, compared to some other top gymnasts in the world (cough, Raisman, cough).

6. Maria Kharenkova, 2012 Junior European EF

There's something about Maria that's so special, but I can't put a finger on it. Her flexibility, extensions, and finesse certainly don't hurt. She reminds me quite a lot of Aliya Mustafina, gymnastics and timeline wise. Their gymnastics is quite similar, and they've both become phenoms in the Olympic year, when they were both 2 years too young to compete (Maria will turn senior in 2014). I looovveeee that back Y-spin at 1:01. Who the hell apart from the always-innovative Russians still does cool shit like that? It's gorgeous, and she always does it so well, with perfect control. As long as she can stay healthy, something that the Russian coaches aren't too good at doing with their athletes, she will be a big star once she turns senior. Stupid age rules.

7. Viktoria Komova, 2012 Olympic AA

Excuse the shitty quality, but this was literally the only routine that I could find of her AA routine, or one where she's not wobbling around like a Tourette's patient. However, when she's NOT wobbling around on full turns, falling, or taking out cool things like her bhs-layout-layout, this routine is stunning to watch. Unfortunately, there are next to no videos of her QF routines, so I can't really say that this is her best routine. Her lines after she hit puberty at the beginning of this year became even more stunning than they already were. The talent is all there, she just needs to stop half-assing all her beam routines. Vika, your bars are stunning. Now get down to work on beam. You've already fucked up that last three consecutive major beam finals (2011 Worlds, 2012 Europeans, and 2012 Olympics), as well as screwed up countless routines with more wobbles than I care to count. We want to see you win AT LEAST one major beam title.

8. Elena Amelia Racea, 2011 Worlds EF

People forget that Amelia Racea is actually the 2010 European beam champion (something that obviously would not have happened had Porgras not injured herself). She also would not have made the 2011 beam EF had Porgras not fucked up in prelims. In a way, Racea actually owes Porgras a lot. Anyways, Racea is quite nice in her own right. She has very pretty lines, and a very smooth look on beam. A lot of gymnasts could take a lesson or two from her on how to do a PROPER switch half. Her leaps are high and pretty. I love the split leap-full turn combo. Very simple, yes, but she fulfills two requirements (dance series that includes a leap at 180, and a full turn on one foot) in one combo. A real shame she retired, because I love her look on beam.

9. Ksenia Afanasyeva, 2012 Russian Championships EF

Easily one of the best routines in terms of choreography and carriage. She has such a regal, gorgeous look up there. The skill choice isn't overwhelmingly unique, but the aerial roundoff (first skill) is done by just about no one these days. She actually does more choreography than just a few poses and arm waves, and everything is nicely woven together. The tour jete 1/1 is purrddyyy She didn't connect the onodi and side somie in this routine, but she does do it here:
I sincerely hope that the shaky floor EF at the Olympics isn't the last we ever see of this STUNNING gymnast.

10. Vasiliki Millousi, 2012 European QF

Ahhhh, such a nice breath of fresh air. Vasiliki actually understands the term, ARTISTIC. She has gorgeous, nearly rhythmic-like, flexibility, and beautiful choreography that connects each skill, and transitions seamlessly. She has legit low-to-beam choreo that's also gorgeous. She moves like liquid, her moves are so gorgeous and flowing.

Low 10:

1. Alexandra Raisman, 2011 Worlds EF

As our dear friend Aunt Joyce puts it, "Aly's [routine] was extremely disgusting and offensive to anyone who ever took up anything related to the world of dance or stretching." There's so much bad here. Her choreo literally consists of about 3 poses - that includes her "low to beam work", i.e. she gets down, puts her chest on the beam, and gets back up. Her leaps hit about 140 degrees, the bhs-layout to 2 feet has flexed feet and leg separations galore, and don't get me started on the switch half. She literally does a switch leap, then as she comes down, she twists about 1/4 of a turn, and passes it off as a switch half. The fact that she won the Olympic bronze medal is a travesty to the name of the sport - ARTISTIC gymnastics.

2. Elizabeth Price, 2012 Stuttgart World Cup


Just as disgusting as Aly. Her choreo, instead of a few poses, is just a bunch of arm waving in between ugly dance skills and flexed foot bhs-layouts, passed off as choreography. On all of her split leaps, she is very clearly not even coming close to 180 degrees. The 180 degree rule is a compulsory rule in beam routines, and it's ridiculous that gymnasts, especially the fugly Americans (minus a few), can't even hit 180 degrees in a split. The Russians have been able to hit 180 before they were even born. I will cry myself to sleep if this piece of shit helps her win the World AA title next year.

3. Deng Linlin, 2012 Olympic EF

Yawn. This is exactly why someone like Ksenia Afanasyeva should have won the beam final. Deng's routine is completely devoid of any choreography whatsoever, and is literally a bunch of skills with never-ending pauses in between. Ksenia, on the other hand, had difficulty, originality, beautiful choreography and carriage, and was overall gorgeous. This is just dull and it is quite sad that this is the Olympic beam champion.

4. Rebecca Bross, 2010 Worlds QF

I chose this routine to highlight the fact that Bross, before 2011, was actually capable of doing the double Arabian dismount, and doing it well. Other than that, I don't like Bross on beam. Her choreo is literally her standing still, waving her arms around, then doing a bunch of skills, then repeat. Her feet aren't completely flexed (Raisman wrote the book on flexed feet), but they're not completely pointed either. She also doesn't have many combos. It's just a bunch of single skills, interspersed with arm waving.

5. Yulia Inshina, 2011 World EF

Yawn. Inshina bores me to death. Not to mention the ugliest sheep jump I've ever seen, which is quite surprising, given that she's Russian. The only positive thing I can say is that she has pretty toe point. The routine is ridiculously generic, and an overall snoozefest.

6. Yana Demyanchuk, 2010 Worlds EF

Very odd that a Ukrainian would be in a Low 10 of beam, considering how nice the Ukrainians usually are. Yet Yana is a very different case. She has all the extension Aly Raisman, which really sticks out when you're as short as she is. The fugly metallic/high neck leo does absolutely nothing to complement her body. The switch half has a BENT leg, which is 20 times worse than a switch half with flexed feet. Speaking of flexed feet, that turn is awful as hell. I'm all for originality, but it looks like she's incapable of POINTING her toe, which makes the turn look like a mistake, as opposed to her attempting something different. The sheep jump is just as bad as Inshina's if not worse. I will say that the RO-back full is quite nicely done by her. Then of course, she Ukied the dismount.

7. Hannah Whelan, 2012 European EF

Let's get one thing straight. Hannah Whelan is the European bronze medalist for one reason, and one reason ONLY. Anastasia Grishina (and the rest of the non-medalists) headcased the biggest splatfest in the history of the European Championships. It's a testament to Grishina's beauty and Whelan's fug that Grishina was less than .3 behind Whelan, and with a fall. Whelan should be getting execution deductions on just about everything. She did, yes, emulate the Romanians by hitting when others fall, but that doesn't mean she hit pretty.

8. Vanessa Ferrari, 2011 European AA

The thing I hate most about this routine is how generic it is. There's no even remotely cool skills here. She's not even capable of doing the mount properly. She does 1/4 turn, pause, waver, and repeats two more times. And what is that awful squat she does at :57? Is she emulating a dog? And it's all done in a horrifyingly ugly and slutty leo.

9. Jordyn Wieber, 2012 American Cup

I actually liked Jordyn on beam in 2011. She was clean and steady. Then 2012 came; the puberty monster bit, and she wavered all over the beam all season. Maybe she was trying to be more like Viktoria Komova. The fhs-back full-bhs combo is the biggest joke of a combo I've ever seen. It's the pure definition of code-whoring. She never even remotely connected it all year. I do hope that this fighter of an athlete, although I'm not her biggest fan, does well for at least part of the quad. Her getting pushed out of the AA by Aly was the biggest joke ever, considering that Wieber's a significantly better all-arounder than Raisman. Even my ignorant sister can vouch for that. Raisman was held up on all events, which is how the judges managed to have her push Wieber out.

10. Lauren Mitchell, 2010 Worlds EF

This routine is just awkward. She doesn't really bend her arms much, and the choreo is just....awkward. I just don't like this routine. I do like the triple turn that she never actually completes, given that it's SOMETHING DIFFERENT, but she literally always takes a giant step or hop on the double pike dismount, and she has a heavy feel on the beam. Her form also isn't the greatest. I do like that Australia is a country that's starting to compete with the top countries, but this just doesn't have the polish of the top countries.

Happy New Year everyone!

Top Ten floor will come as soon as I can finish it, and keep your eyes out for a couple interesting posts after that!

- IllusionSpin