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Stick It

Posted by garymcuesta on April 6, 2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wroZE_4uuk&feature=related

Is there anything more endearing than a Cinderella story?

It seems most sports films have this plot. Athlete can’t perform. Athlete’s friends and family rally around them. Athlete trains harder than they ever have. Athlete wins title. The ratings for these films should be “This film has been approved for tears and tissues.”

Stick It is no different in over all story progression were at times it lacks true depth in the redemption of its main character. But for what it lacks in this, it makes up for with it’s somewhat, and I stress somewhat, actuate portrayal of what it takes to be a senior elite female gymnast.

The story focuses around Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym), a former U.S national champion who literally walks of the floor at worlds with gold guaranteed for team U.S.A. This is all we know to this point about why she did so. Many think she just choked, which causes the gymnastics world to hate her with a passion. As Haley puts it, “When you walk out at worlds and lose team U.S.A some team gold, it’s not personal. It’s national.”

After a run in with the law, Haley is court ordered to serve time at VGA. The Vickerman Gymnastics Academy, run by former Olympic gymnast Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges).

Stubborn at first, and emotionally drained because she found out her mother was having an affair with her personal coach before going on floor on worlds, she finds her way back to her love for the sport.

But what is a good sports movie without an angle? At the U.S National Championships, the gymnasts decide to take the results of judging into their hands by scratching and choosing the winner on each apprentice.

Is it realistic? No. Is it the stuff dreams are made of? Absolutely.

As great as the gymnastics in the movie is, it still leave something to be desired from true gymnastics fans. Disturbing nationals would never be tolerated. And no gymnast who has taken close to a year off from the sport could be prepared for competition in a couple of months. Not to mention Haley trained herself with very little assistance from Vickerman.

There is a scene that is realistic and is truly what the film should be all about.

While just starting to train again, Haley states, “Gymnastics tells you no. All day long. It mocks you over and over again. Telling you you’re an idiot. That you’re crazy”.

Gymnastics is only glamorous on television. Behind the scenes, it is a physical and emotional battle. Training is full of blood, sweat and tears. Literally. It’s not cute. It’s not pretty. It’s war with one’s self.

Over all, it is great to finally see a feature film that focuses on gymnastics. It is easy to mock this sport, and this is something the film does not do. It gives a face to an almost forgotten sport in a world of football and baseball. And although not perfect in form, it still sticks it.

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Levya Takes Silver On High Bar At Paris World Cup

Posted by garymcuesta on March 22, 2011

"AP Photo"

BERCY, France – Danell Leyva of the United States took the silver medal on high bar over the weekend at the World Cup in Paris.

Leyva qualified in first to to high bar final with a score of 15.866 over Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands who scored 15.833 and Marijo Moznik of Croatia who scored 14.766.

In the final, Leyva performed well, but was not able to defend his lead from the qualification round slipping to second with a score of 15.566 just behind Zonderland with a 15.966 and Moznik with a 15.300.

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Controversy At the American Cup

Posted by garymcuesta on March 22, 2011

"NBC Universal"

JACKSONVILLE, Fl. – If you were a Russian at the American Cup, odds are you weren’t happy. Russian Aliya Mustafina and her coach Aleksandr Aleksandrov were none too happy with many things at the AT&T American Cup.

First, and the most notable error, was the structure of this year’s American Cup. It was a World Cup Event and was structured by the Federation of International Gymnastics, the international governing body of the sport. Under the requirements for gymnasts to compete in a World Cup, they both must have competed in and placed at the World Championships the previous year. Usually, the American Cup is run by USA Gymnastics.

British Nicole Hibbert injured herself while competing the weekend before the American Cup, ending her chance to compete. Three days before the American Cup, American Jordyn Wieber was announced her replacement.

On the men’s side, Russia’s Sergey Khorokhordin, also slated to compete at the American Cup, had to withdraw from the competition because of an injury just days before the American Cup. American Jake Dalton replaced him.

Simple enough?

Not quite.

Wieber nor Dalton competed at last years world championships. And Wieber was not even age eligible to compete at last year’s worlds.

Mustifina and her coach were none too happy with this at all.

“She was not even sixteen last year,” said Aleksandrov. “She wasn’t sixteen!”

Mustifina was also unhappy that she had to room with another foreign athlete at their hotel.

As if to add insult to injury, Wieber beat Mustifina for the gold at the American Cup, leaving her with the silver and a fall on the floor exercise to add to her already mounting disappointment.

While it is understandable that the Russians felt this way, it would have been near impossible to call a foreign athlete to replace the injured gymnasts who had competed at the World Championships last year. And if the Federation of International Gymnastics deemed the replacement gymnasts to be cleared to compete, there is not much anyone can do about it.

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Americans Sweep American Cup Titles

Posted by garymcuesta on March 22, 2011

"John Cheng"

JACKSONVILLE, Fl. – In a hard fought battle for gold, the United States pulled out gold for both the men and the women.

Jordyn Wieber took the gold in the women’s all around and Jonathan Horton took the gold in the men’s all around at the AT&T American Cup. Each beat out the current world champions in their disciplines, Aliya Mustafina of Russia and Koji Uematsu of Japan.

Wieber took the lead early. The women started on vault, resulting in a wide range of score. Wieber scored a 15.833 for her stuck and almost flawless two and a half twisting Yurchenko. Mustafina performed the same vault but with less accuracy, scoring a 15.566 putting her in second behind Wieber after one rotation.

However, Wieber lost her lead when she fell on the uneven bars in the next rotation, giving Mustafina the edge heading to the balance beam.

After mistakes from Mustifina on beam and a clean set by Wieber, she pulled back into the lead. But it was clear the the fight was not over.

Mustafina had an uncharacteristic fall on the floor exercise in the last rotation, giving Wieber the opportunity she needed to take gold and left Mustafina with the silver.

On the men’s side, the lead bounced from gymnast to gymnast with every rotation until Horton took control during the last two rotations. Not to mention the incredible amount of falls and mis-steps made by other competitors, inculding the world all around champion, Uematsu, who placed fourth.

Other notable performances were made by last minute replacement Jake Dalton of the United States who took the bronze in the men’s all around and 2010 U.S World Team silver medalist Alexandra Raisman, who took the bronze in the women’s all around.

It was, as experts deemed it weeks in advance, the most competitive American Cup the world had seen in years. And it was a glimpse of what is to come for gymnastics in the year 2011 and heading to London in 2012. The stage is set and the athletes are prepared to take on the challenge.


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A Different Kind of Challenge

Posted by garymcuesta on March 2, 2011

"Jim Spellman"

Edmond, Okla. –  Shannon Miller has done it all. She is a seven time Olympic medalist, two of which are gold. She is the most declorated U.S gymnast in history. And now, she will take on what might be her biggest challenge.

Miller published a letter to her fans on her official website on Friday adressing her recent health concern.

“In mid-January I had surgery to remove a baseball-sized “germ cell malignancy” that my physician discovered during a routine exam,” said Miller, “Surgery was successful and I have recovered with little break in my normal routine.”

There are times when we forget that Olympians are not gods.

They are not invisable.

They are not robots.

They are people.

They are people with struggles and tribulations just like everyone else.

“While there is no sign of cancer and the tumor was completely removed, the suggested treatment for my specific issue is three cycles of preventative chemotherapy. This treatment provides the best chance to eliminate the need to deal with this issue again, and I have decided to begin chemotherapy March 7th.”

And sometimes, all you can be is grateful.

“This is certainly the greatest obstacle I have ever encountered. I am grateful for the love and support of my husband John, son Rocco, my family and friends, and the many of you who encourage me every day. I am up for the challenge and confident about the outcome.”

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Balancing Act

Posted by garymcuesta on February 22, 2011

"USAG"

FRISCO, Tx.-In a time when scores seem to decrease with every Olympics, there may be hope at the end of the tunnel.

Katelyn Ohashi, 13, who trains at WOGA, the same gym that produced 2004 and 2008 Olympic All Around Champions Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin, is just one of many young stars represnting the future of United States gymnastics. Ohashi scored a 15.900 on the beam at the 2011 WOGA Classic this past Saturday. The WOGA Classic in an international meet and this year hosted gymnasts from France, Russia, Canada, Mexico, United States and Australia.

So what happens when a gymnasts who is still three years away from being age eligible for the Olympics scores a 15.900 on the balance beam? Considering last year’s World Championship beam scores, it’s like a snail racing a cheetah.

At the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam, the highest balance beam score in the event final was a 15.366 posted by Ana Porgras of Romania. In a day and age when a 15.366 is good enough for gold, a 15.900 might as well be platinum.

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Dalton Take Gold At Winter Cup Challenge

Posted by garymcuesta on February 8, 2011

"John Cheng"

LAS VEGAS, Nv.-Jacob Dalton, 19, won his first Winter Cup all around title this past weekend. Dalton scored 88.100 to take the all around title. Dalton also took the floor exercise and vault title, placed second on parallel bars, third on still rings and tied for sixth on high bar. Other highlights included Danell Leyva taking the silver and CJ Maestas taking the bronze in the all around.

The only concern after looking at the results from this past weekend may be that the United States men are not as strong on both the pommel house and the high bar. There is time to improve before the World Championships are held this October in Tokyo, Japan. But it’s too early in the year to truly see if these two apparatuses will be an issue for the men in 2011. U.S National Championships will be the real determining factor this summer.

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American Cup Could Be Most Competitive Ever

Posted by garymcuesta on February 7, 2011

"USA Today"

"AP"

JACKSONVILLE, Fl.-With less than a month to go before The AT&T American Cup is held in Jacksonville, Florida, it is shaping up to be one of if not the most competitive American Cup in the history of the event.

The competition will host both disciplines of Artistic Gymnasts with both men’s and women’s competitions with eight gymnasts competing in each. On the women’s side, 2010 World All Around gold medalist Aliya Mustafina of Russia and 2010 World Floor Exercise gold medalist Lauren Mitchell of Australia will be hard to beat as this is an All Around and Event Finals competition.

Representing the United States will be Alexandra Raisman, who was a part of the silver medal winning U.S team at last year’s Worlds. Raisman also placed thirteenth in the All Around and fourth on the floor exercise at last years Worlds.

For the men, the talent is equally as great. All three medalist from the All Around at last years World Championships will compete. Kohei Uchimura of Japan who took gold, Philipp Boy of Germany the sliver and Jonathan Horton of the United States the bronze will battle it out for gold.

The American Cup has never hosted this many recent World Champions or Olympians. It’s this that may make this American Cup the most exciting we’ve seen since Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect 10 at the first American Cup in 1976. And it will give fans a first look at what’s in store for Women’s Artistic Gymnastics in 2011. Can Mustafina and Uchimura hold on to their leads? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Winter Cup Challenge Unfolds In Las Vegas

Posted by garymcuesta on February 3, 2011

"John Cheng"

LAS VEGAS, Nv.-As we speak, some of the best male artistic gymnasts the United States has to offer are taking a different kind of gamble in Las Vegas, NV.

The Winter Cup Challenge is being held today, Feb. 3 at the Las Vegas Sports Center. For the gymnasts competing, this is the start to their competition year. It is the first time they will be able to try new skills and the first time fans will be able to see what’s in store for the sport of Artistic Gymnastics in 2011.

Gymnasts competing include 2008 Olympians Jonathan Horton, Joey Hagerty, Alexander Artemev and Kevin Tan and last year’s Winter Cup Challenge winner Chris Brooks. Who will be the best United States male artistic gymnast and set the stage for American men’s gymnastics in 2011? Only time will tell.

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Memmel On the Road to 2012 Olympics?

Posted by garymcuesta on February 2, 2011

Chellsie Memmel

"Al Bello/Getty Images"

INDIANAPOLIS, In. – She is one of the most recognizable faces in Artistic Gymnastics.

Chellsie Memmel (USA) is both a three time world champion as well as an Olympic silver medalist from the Beijing Games. With all she has achieved over her five year international career, it appears that Memmel is not ready to dismount from the sport quite yet.

Memmel competed at the Circle of Stars in Indianapolis, Indiana on Tuesday, January 22. She competed as a Level 10 gymnasts, one ranking below Elite or international World and Olympic level. It may seem to be a step down for Memmel, but it is the safest step to take for a gymnast who has been out of competion for almost two years.

Memmel competed on the vault, uneven bars and balance beam, scoring 9.675, 8.800 and 9.650 respectfully. She did not compete on the floor exercise.

“I forgot how much fun it is to be in this environment”, said Memmel, “I have very basic routines right now. I’m just trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

Her motivation is driven by her disappointment at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Memmel sprained her ankle several days before the team preliminary competition. It allowed her to only compete on the uneven bars in prelims, in which she fell, and in the team final in which United States team brought home a silver medal.

“There is definitely motivation coming from that”, she said, “I didn’t get the experience I wanted.”

With a little over a year before the London Summer Olympics, it is clear that Memmel is not ruling anything out.

“Slow, steady progress in the plan right now. It’s all about getting ready for National Championships.”

And sometimes that what it takes to vault ahead of the rest.

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