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Stretching Out: The Year in Review, From A to Z
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

As another year comes to a close, we offer the following alphabetical reflection on the gymnastics world from the last 12 months. Happy New Year.

A: Andrade: When Rebeca Andrade tore her ACL in June, Brazil's chances of qualifying a team to the 2016 Olympics took a hit. After Flavia Saraiva had a bad day in Glasgow, the team finished ninth and missed an automatic berth by less than 0.50. With the Olympic test event in Rio in April, the Brazilian women should have little trouble securing one of the four remaining team berths, especially if Andrade is 100%. Brazilian coach Alexander Alexandrov should breathe a little easier once that goal is reached.

B: Biles/Boorman: Simone and Aimee have been together since the beginning of Biles' gymnastics career. Their amazing partnership has yielded three straight U.S. and world all-around titles — and Biles is still improving. The Rio Olympics will be their biggest test yet, but the odds are in their favor to ace it.

C: Compulsories: In December, the IG Facebook page featured two compulsory floor routines: Natalia Yurchenko (1985) and Vitaly Scherbo (1992). Of the 54 comments, only one was negative. So it is troubling that the FIG Code of Points continues to promote the sport by counting a gymnasts' most difficult skills (8 for women, 10 for men). Until the Code requires beautiful basics, the routines will continue to resemble efforts of sheer survival instead of the mastery on display by Yurchenko and Scherbo.

"Getting rid of compulsories was the beginning of the end," wrote Eric William Jones. And from Robbie Bourassa: "I miss the artistic value of the routines. No one is elegant or refined anymore. It's all about the big tricks." Isn't it time the FIG listened to its fan base? They sure didn't when it came to dropping the 10.0.

D: Douglas: Defending Olympic champion Gabby Douglas flew below the radar at both the U.S. championships, where she placed fifth, and the Glasgow worlds, where she won the all-around silver. Could she become the first woman to win consecutive Olympics since Vera Caslavska (1964-68)? She's got a chance.

E: Ellie Black: Five medals, three of them gold, at the Pan American Games in Toronto galvanized this talented Canadian as a major player on the world scene. She also led the team to an Olympic berth at the 2015 worlds, where Canada placed seventh (sixth in team finals).

F: Florida/Faehn: Two days after she led her Florida Gators to their third straight NCAA team title, head coach Rhonda Faehn resigned to become Sr. Vice President of the Women's Program for USA Gymnastics. Talk about going out on top.

G: Glasgow: The organizers of the 2015 World Championships should be commended for creating a fan-friendly event, but media were treated as an afterthought. One more thing: Who thought that pink carpet on the podium would work with red Gymnova equipment?

H: Hernandez/Haney: Lauren Hernandez is special. The 2015 U.S. junior champion, who defeated best friend and defending champion Jazmyn Foberg by 0.10 last August, might be the most entertaining gymnast in the world on floor exercise. And that's also a credit to her passionate coach, Maggie Haney.

I: Iordache: While she had a horrible day in qualifications at worlds, Larisa Iordache relied on experience to win the all-around bronze. Since Romania placed 13th in Glasgow, Iordache definitely will be needed at the test event in April.

J: J-Lo: Venerable Venezuelan Jessica Lopez continues to represent South American gymnastics with class and grace. And at 29, she won the World Cup Series last March, which added 24,000 Swiss francs to her bank account.

K: Kenzo: On floor exercise, Kenzo Shirai has won two world titles and one silver medal as a teenager. A Yokohama native whose parents are gymnastics coaches, Shirai excels at twisting elements, which may qualify as the biggest understatement of 2015. His name is in the Code for a quadruple-twisting back layout and triple-twisting front layout, and he debuted a layout triple-double in December. Does he really need six passes to prove he's the best on floor?

L: Larduet: Manrique Larduet has attitude and amplitude, and after the 19-year-old Cuban adds a little polish to his power, he'll likely be the next world or Olympic all-around champion. Really.

M: Mikulak: It is ironic that Sam Mikulak follows Larduet on this list, since many in the crowd at the 2015 Pan Am Games thought he should have followed the Cuban in the all-around. Instead, Mikulak defeated Larduet by 0.05, and the latter went on to win the 2015 world silver while Mikulak nursed a slightly torn Achilles' tendon (triple full on floor). But Mikulak had shown his amazing abilities in August by running away with his third straight U.S. title, the first three-peat since Paul Hamm (2002-04).

N: Nichols: Maggie Nichols shone brightly in 2015. She finished second to Simone Biles at the U.S. championships, which is like winning in any other country. And in her first worlds in Glasgow, she continued to glow with clutch performances. That she did only three events in prelims but all four in team finals was telling — the explanation given, however, was thinner than a crepe. Creating lineups based on training should not supersede competitive routines in a televised meet with real judges.

O: Oklahoma: Heading into the NCAA championships, the Sooner men and women each had a chance to pull off the rare undefeated season. The men accomplished it, winning the NCAA team title by a landslide, but the women stumbled in their final meet, the Super Six Final, where they finished third. Still, to be in that position was remarkable.

P: Paseka: Maria Paseka's vault gold in Glasgow was the first world title for a Russian woman since Aliya Mustafina's beam gold in 2013. Her tears on the podium said it all.

Q: Quit: We'll call it a retirement, which Canadian Victoria Moors announced at the Canadian championships in May. At age 18, she told the Cambridge Times, among other reasons, that "there's nothing more I could accomplish." Moors' 10th all-around at the 2013 worlds was a record for a Canadian woman until Ellie Black placed ninth in 2014 and seventh in 2015. Still, Moors, coached by Elvira Saadi, left her mark on the sport and her hame in the Code of Points — twice: double-twisting double layout on floor and an underswing to layout front-half dismount from uneven bars.

R: Ruggeri: As alternate to three U.S. world teams (2010, ’13, ’14), Paul Ruggeri chose to embrace the role. "I realize that even being the alternate is something that many never accomplish," he rightly reasoned. When he finally was named to the 2015 team, he hit when it counted. He went four-for-four in team finals and the U.S. men finished fifth, which was probably their ceiling in Glasgow.

S: Sharp: The arrest and subsequent suicide of Marvin Sharp left the gymnastics world stunned. On Sept. 20, the day after he died, his top gymnast, 2009 world champion Bridget Sloan, aptly tweeted one word: speechless.

T: Tie: The four-way tie for the uneven bars gold in Glasgow can be taken in different ways: 1) Festive (Yippee, half the field won!); 2) Coincidence (What are the chances?); 3) Sad (We've heard of co-champions, but there is no term for four winners. And there's a reason for that.); 4) Ridiculous (What are these judges getting paid for, anyway?).

U: Uchimura: What else can be said about King Kohei? We're running out of superlatives to describe his seven-year winning streak that includes one Olympic and six straight world all-around titles. Should he win the gold in Rio, he will match Japanese compatriot Sawao Kato's Olympic all-around feat of gold (1968), gold (1972), silver (1976), only in reverse order. Uchimura can also be credited with taking some of the glare off Simone Biles, who is setting records of her own.

V: Vernyayev: For the second worlds in a row, Oleg Vernyayev faltered to fourth in the all-around. In between, however, he was superman, winning the World Cup series, the European championships, the European Games and the University Games. Still considered a candidate to end Kohei Uchimura's winning streak, Vernyayev will have another chance at the Olympics. Will hard luck follow the Ukrainian to Rio?

W: Whitlock A year after winning the all-around silver at the world championships, Max Whitlock edged teammate Louis Smith on pommel horse at the Glasgow worlds to become the first male world champion from Great Britain.

X: X: The Roman numeral for 10, which is sorely missed as the international brand of gymnastics. To fill that void, let's celebrate the 10 world gold medals of both Kohei Uchimura and Simone Biles. Biles' 10, which she earned in just three years, is an all-time record for women's gymnastics.

Y: You: (No, not you.) The most successful Chinese gymnast in Glasgow, You Hao won the parallel bars gold, the rings silver and the team bronze. He was one of the few Chinese men to show clean lines, and he had the highest D-scores in both of his apparatus finals.

Z: Zonderland: Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands has risen to such a level that even his failures are notable. In Glasgow, the defending world and Olympic high bar champion did not qualify to the high bar final. It was his first absence from the world and Olympic high bar finals since 2006. As of now, he has not qualified to Rio.

Comments (1)add comment

Mari Kis said:

0
And...
D: as the Dutch woman team. Talk about artistry! They brought the real artistic gymnastics back and became a crowd favourite! Big kudos for Eythora Thorsdottír, the Weavers twins and their coaches!!!

W: as the Weavers. Sanne and Lieke were one of the top surprises of the gymnastics world in 2015 and their presence and artistry made good for gymnastics among the acrobats. Hopefully their achievement and style give hope to many gymnasts, coaches and the fans.

Cheers!
 
January 04, 2016
Votes: +10

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