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Wednesday 09 September 2015
09 Sep '15

Delaware Junior Morgan Hurd Making a Splash in US Gymnastics

Morgan Hurd of First State Gymnastics in Newark, Delaware is Rising to the Top of the US Junior Elite Ranks, and People are Taking Notice
In debriefing the P&G Championships, I'd like to make special mention of Morgan Hurd, both because she shows all signs of being a rising star destined for great things, but also because she is from my home state and trains at a gym just a dozen or so miles down the road. I am far from an expert, but I am very encouraged by the fact that this video of the First State Gymnastics' junior elite training a double-twisting Yurchenko (and doing a pretty good job, too, to my untrained eye) was posted in September of 2014, almost a year before this year's P&G Championships, yet Morgan was still only competing a simple Yurchenko full at nationals in August. Her execution scores were 8+, but the vault only has a difficulty of 4.9, meaning she did not place particularly well on the event. Morgan has wonderful form and execution on virtually everything she does, and at this point in her junior career, there's no need to try to throw high-difficulty tricks she hasn't completely mastered yet. I respect her coaches for not pushing high difficulty over execution this early in her career. But I bet you you can look for a double next season. Even with very low difficulty on floor and vault, she placed 8th all-around in a formidable field of mostly older girls.

You know what else I saw in Indianapolis that impressed me about Morgan Hurd: poise and mindfulness on the podium. On day 2 on floor, when she was next up, the FX judges took quite a bit longer than their usual molasses-in-January pace, and Morgan had a long time to stand there and wait. While a lot of gymnasts, espceially younger ones, would just stand there waiting, getting tense, watching the judges, Morgan turned and casually walked back to put more chalk on her feet. Composure, calm, at the age of 14. This is something even some of the best never learn. Think of someone like Vanessa Atler or Morgan White. World class talent & skill, but once up on the podium, nervous wrecks.

Morgan is getting a lot of attention lately, including a full page of photos in the latest issue of International Gymnast Magazine of her competing in the 2015 P&G Championships, and this feature article in the leading local Delaware newspaper:
http://www.delawareonline.com/.../teen-trains.../71847812/

Look for her at the top of the scoresheet in 2016, and remember her name for Tokyo 2020.
http://www.delawareonline.com/story/sports/2015/09/07/teen-trains-hours-week-olympic-dream/71847812/
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Tuesday 18 August 2015
18 Aug '15

Seeing the Future in Indianapolis: The Likely 2016 Olympic Team in Rio, and a Glimpse of Tokyo 2020

I have seen the future of USA women's gymnastics in Indianapolis, and it look bright.

Photo of Olivia Dunne competing at the 2015 Parkettes Invitational in Allentown, PA So, to recap, a few days ago in Indianapolis, I saw the future. I have seen 2016, and I have seen 2020. A year from now, while you are watching the Rio Olympics, & TV is making household-name celebrities out of ordinary people who happen to be extraordinarily hard-working & talented athletes, you will almost certainly be hearing these names in gymnastics (write this down, you will be amazed, or you will have the opportunity to point & laugh): Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Reisman (those names are already known & will be back), along with Maggie Nichols, Bailie Key & maybe Kyla Ross or Madison Kocian (& if Kocian isn't on the team, there's a chance Ashton Locklear or, more likely, Brenna Dowell will make it as a bars specialist; this team needs help on bars). Outside chance for Christina Desiderio, if she doesn't crash & burn like most Parkettes. Foreseeing 2016 isn't so hard. Let's go way out there, to Tokyo, 2020: look for (you're writing this down, right?) Jazzy Foberg, Laurie Hernandez, Ragan Smith, Jordan Chiles, Morgan Hurd and Olivia Dunne. Bailie Key might well be back. Maybe Sydney Johnson-Scharpf (Brandy Johnson's daughter) or Desiderio, or Gabby Perea.

I have seen the future, & American exceptionalism lives. I think perhaps the thing I like most is half these girls come from smaller gyms that have never put an athlete on the Olympic team before. (That, an Martha Karolyi is retiring. O, frabjous day! Callou! Callay! 30 years of two twisted Romanians running the U.S. team is finally at an end...)
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Thursday 13 August 2015
13 Aug '15

2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships Preview

A preview of the 2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships & Notes on Day 1 (Jr. & Sr. Women)

Photo of Olivia Dunne of ENA Paramus on Floor Exercise at the 2013 Parkettes Invitational in Allentown, PA.2015 P&G Gymnastics Championships PreviewWomen's competition looks to be outstanding, with a fistful of '12 Olympians and World Champions, including Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raismann, MyKayla Skinner, and junior national all-around champion Bailie Key from powerhouse Texas Dreams gym, who made her senior debut at the Secret US Classic and placed an impressive fourth all-around against much the same field.

The juniors have an tons of experience, with fully half the field returning from last year. One of those is tiny little Megan Hurd from First State Gymnastics in Newark Delaware, who instantly became a crowd favorite with her horn-rimmed glasses, looking every bit the underdog everyone wants to root for. Also competing is Olivia Dunne, a prodigy who had reached level 10 by age 10, barely as tall as the balance beam (pictured here on floor at the 2013 Parkettes Invitational). I was disappointed to find out Tuesday that not competing due to injury is Maggie Musselman from Hill's in Gaithersberg, Maryland, one of my "hometown" gyms. Hoping to finally deliver on the potential she has shown the past three seasons, she had to scratch with an avulsion fracture of the ischial tuberosity (it's as nasty as it sound, being a hamstring tear at the top where it attaches to the pelvis, breaking off a little piece of bone with it. Musselman broke out in 2013 by taking first on bars and fourth all-around in her age group in both the Hill's Maryland Classic and Parkettes Invitational.

Some Notes Taken During Junior and Senior Session One

From the start Jazmyn Foberg of MG Elite show herself to be the one to beat, leaving everyone but her teammate Laurie Hernandez pretty much in the dust.

The nicest thing was that there were no really bad falls or obvious injuries, and it looks like everyone will probably move on to the final Saturday.

Parkettes Megan Freed had a good routine going on FX, but made a stupid mistake by stepping a foot out of bounds (slightly, but enough for the judge to raise the flag) while getting set for a tumbling run, and then came up short on the landing, causing a big step and a hand on the ground. Gave away several tenths there.

Texas Dreams' Emma Malabuyo fell off uneven bars twice, though even after all that, she managed to stick her full-twisting double piked dismount.
Photo of Maggie Musselman of ENA Hill's Gymnastics on recieving one of her medals won at the 2013 Hill's Maryland Classic.Colby Flory of TD had trouble with one of her runs on floor exercise, doing the FX version of a "Buttahara" from the movie "Stick it", sitting down her landing right on her duff.

Floor Excercise judges were as slow as molasses in January, making many gymnasts wait a very long time before they could start, and extending the length of the rotations.

Deanne Soza of Arete took a rough fall on UB transitioning to the low bar, face-planting the mat awkwardly. She took a minute to recover, and kept rubbing her cheek both before finishing and as she left the podium, so it obvously caused her a bit of discomfort. Hopefully that passes quickly.

At the end of Session One, Foberg had a considerable .04 lead over Hernandez, with Ragan Smith in third over half a point behind second.
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Saturday 06 June 2015
06 Jun '15

Late '70s Soviet-era Gymnastics Documentary features Filatova and Mukhina

This fascinating documentary gives an inside look at the late-'70s USSR women's team training. Though it obviously has propaganda/PR intentions, it is nevertheless a fascinating look at a compelling era in Soviet gymnastics.

screenshot of late 1970'sUSSR gymnastics documentaryHere is a late-1970s Soviet gymnastics documentary aiming to show the hard work involved in gymnastics (and to make a heroes out of the coaches), and to deconstruct the facile television glamor of gymnastics. In addition to promoting the tailor-made darling Maria Filatova, it very prominently also features the tragically-fated Elena Mukhina. Mukhina can be seen repeatedly trying to master the Korbut Flip on the bars (which she soon did, and then some, adding a full twist in competition before the move was forever banned by the FIG). Later, her coach reportedly fled the country and never coached gymnastics again after her tragic training accident just prior to the 1980 Olympic Games. Mukhina, paralyzed, died in 2006 in almost total obscurity. It was an era when the coaches received as much adulation and glory as the gymnasts, and some coaches were sometimes more focused on the reputation they gained having trained a champion than they were on the well-being of their gymnasts. Mukhina is only the most tragic example of where such misguided priorities could lead.

This video is from the multimedia archive of anna-pavlova.net, but there is a version of this documentary on Youtube with English subtitles. If you search Mukhina's name, you will find it easily.

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Sunday 08 February 2015
08 Feb '15

Bridgeport Wins Quad Meet, Despite West Chester's Best Efforts (Ever!)

WCU Golden Rams posted their highest-ever total score, but it wasn't enough to beat Bridgeport in a quad meet with Ursinus and Rhode Island College in West Chester

Photo of gymnast on balance beam at West Chester U. quad meet vs. Bridgeport, Ursinus & RI College, 2-8-2015(photo caption: Despite a best-ever team score by West Chester, Bridgeport's gymnasts kept their eyes focused on their goal of top spot)
Host squad West Chester University set team record scores on bars, floor and total team score, but nevertheless came second best to ECAC rival Bridgeport University today, in a quad meet with Ursinus and Rhode Island College. Results had not been posted as of this writing so no further details are available, but an enthusiastic standing room-only crowd (I know firsthand, because I had to stand most of the time) witnessed a close competition between the home Golden Rams and powerhouse Bridgeport Purple Knights (three straight NCAA Division II titles, I think), with some standout performances from individual Ursinus and Rhode Island gymnasts. This was the first NCAA meet I've managed to get to this season, I'd almost forgotten how much fun the rowdy atmosphere of college gymnastics can be.
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