February 24, 2009

And So We Reach the Final Curtain...

Dear readers,

You're probably wondering why we haven't updated for the last few days, while interesting competitions were being held and newsworthy stories were being reported left, right and center. Well, we're sorry to announce that we've reached the end of our journey, and that this will likely be our last entry, because our editor and main contributor, Mihaela, has come to the conclusion that she is too busy to keep up Triple Full. She has decided (not without considerable agonizing) to give up the blog, which will cease to exist without her. Needless to say, we're all very sorry to see things end this way. We were on to something good, and we regret having to give it up like this.

For what it's worth, we're parting as friends and nearly all our regular contributors have expressed a willingness to go on contributing if we ever decide to give it another go. Chances of that happening are limited, but we're not ruling it out entirely. Who knows, when life gets less busy...

We have enjoyed writing this blog and will probably go on contributing the odd translation or news story to the various gymnastics forums out there. We hope you will do the same, because if there's one thing we've learned over the last few months (other than that keeping a blog like this is a tremendous time sink), it is that there's an awful lot of news out there and that people are interested in reading it, given half a chance. So if you have any news about a certain gymnast or competition, be sure to post it on a message board - in English. If you come across an interesting article in a foreign news source, do your fellow fans a favor, translate it into English and post it where it's likely to be read. Don't be discouraged if you don't get any comments at first; chances are you'll find several weeks later that people did in fact read your story and stored the information in it for later use. We've certainly found that to be true on a few occasions. So we hope you'll take our torch and go on shedding light on what's going on in international gymnastics - if not in this particular place, then in several other places.

We thank you for being great and loyal readers and hope to see you again at some point, in some guise or other.

Yours gymnastically,

The Gym Girls

February 17, 2009

Sandra Izbaşa: "I'd Have a Hard Time Retiring"

Gazeta Sporturilor posted an interview with Sandra Izbaşa today. It doesn't contain a lot of new information, but it's a nice read, with some tantalizing tidbits on her new floor routine. Here it is...

(Photo: Gazeta Sporturilor)

"It's like a profession to me"

Sandra Izbaşa explains why she didn't leave Deva after the Olympics
Sandra Izbaşa is still at Deva. This year she will turn nineteen, in June. She is the Olympic champion on floor, as well as a double European champion on the same event. Why hasn't she left the sport she has been doing for fifteen years now?

"Gymnastics has gotten into my blood. I'd find it hard to retire. It's like a profession to me. What would I do at home? Get bored, that's what I'd do!" says Sandra Izbaşa when we catch up with her one evening at the foot of the Deva fortress. She has just finished another one of the thousands of workouts she has had in her career. And the counting is not over yet... No sooner has she finished speaking about boredom than she starts about something else: "At age eighteen female gymnasts begin to mature. What would I do at home? Divide my time between home and school? At least I'm doing something constructive now. This year I'll have to graduate from high school, and then there's a gold medal at the world championships to be won," adds Sandra.

"I'd have a hard time retiring"
The gold medal at the world championships is the only one which has so far eluded her. "World championships are not like the Olympics. If I had screwed up in Beijing, I would have had a problem. But the world championships are held every year," says Sandra. The gymnast from Bucharest has competed in two world championships, where she has won three medals: a silver on beam (2006) and two bronzes, one in the all-around (2006) and one with the team (2007).

The colors of the Olympics
Makeup is part of a female gymnast's job description. Girls made to look older by means of layers of color. Why do gymnasts use makeup? "Ever since I was a child I've been taught to use certain facial expressions and makeup. When I couldn't put on my makeup myself, my female coaches would help me. They taught me that I'm an artist, not on the stage but on four apparatus," explains Sandra. At the Olympics, her colors were black, blue and orange. Sandra would have liked to use white as well, but "I'm quite pale enough as is."

From happiness to sadness
Sandra has taken her Olympic floor routine with her into 2009, even if she is also preparing a new routine. "I've mastered both routines very well. The music is from the same theme I used in Beijing, but it's not happy anymore, but sad," adds the double European champion on floor. [We take this to mean that Sandra is using music from the Bandyta soundtrack by Michal Lorenc again, but a less cheerful part of it this time around.]

(Photo: ProSport)

Even so, what would Sandra like to do once she has retired? "Listen to music, manage to do some sports-like dancing... I would have said handball, but I don't want to have any elbows shoved into my mouth anymore. I had enough of that when I was young. Furthermore, I'd like to take walks and relax," says the gymnast.

But until she gets time for all that, Sandra still has a lot of training ahead of her. Even though she uses makeup, is about to get her driver's license, and will turn nineteen this year, Sandra finishes off our evening chat with the words, "In other respects I'm [still] a child."

The program for 2009
Sandra's first competition of 2009 will take place on February 21, in America, in Oklahoma. Together with Andreea Grigore [nope - Dana Druncea] she will compete in the meet organized by Nadia Comăneci. Before the European Championships in April, Sandra is also scheduled to take part in a friendly against Italy.

Izbaşa and Druncea Leave for Oklahoma; Grigore to Stay at Home Due to Weight Issues

This just in from ProSport:

Sandra Izbaşa (photo: ProSport)

Izbaşa, off to Nadia's show

Olympic floor champion Sandra Izbaşa and teammate Dana Druncea are leaving for the United States today to compete in the Nadia Comăneci International Invitational. The competition, organized by Nadia, will take place in Oklahoma on February 20 [note: as far as we know, the elite portion of the competition is held on the 21st] and will unite over 600 gymnasts from America and another 25 athletes from the rest of the world.

"It's a club competition, and our national team members also have obligations to the clubs where they were raised and which continue to support them. For us, the competition in America will be to verify everything we have learned and rehearsed so far under the new code," we were told by the national head coach, Nicolae Forminte.

Andreea Grigore (photo: Bernhard Schwall/Gymfan)

Although a third representative of Steaua Bucharest, Andreea Grigore, had also been announced as a competitor, the coaches decided not to send her to the United States.

"Grigore is having great weight problems and may jeopardize her health [if she competes]. We have decided that it's better for her to stay in Deva and try to get rid of the excess weight she has gained," said the head coach.

Sounds like a lot of gymnasts are having weight issues at the moment. Recent reports from Italy, Brazil and China indicate that Vanessa Ferrari, Lais Souza and Zhou Zhuoru have all put on significant amounts of weight and are having some trouble shedding it. We'll spare you the details; suffice it to say Grigore is not the only one who has her work cut out for her.

Meanwhile, doesn't Sandra look great in that picture?

A Bit More on the Antonina Koshel Cup

A few days ago we posted a story about the Antonina Koshel Cup in Minsk, Belarus, where the Belorussian athletes appeared to do very well, taking nearly all the medals. Well, the Belorussian federation just posted the detailed results (in Russian), and they confirmed our suspicion that the Koshel Cup was in fact a huge Belorussian intrasquad meet with a handful of foreign athletes on hand to make it seem like an international event. Ukraine only sent two athletes, Anastasia Lunkan (3rd AA) and Natalia Gavrilovich (6th AA), both born in 1994. Israel sent four male gymnasts, three of whom contributed one routine each (one of them was Alexander Shatilov, whose floor exercise is a welcome addition to any meet). That appears to have been the extent of the foreign input in Minsk. No wonder the Belorussians seemed so superior...

Anastasia Marachkovskaya, a contender for the vault gold in Milan
(Photo: Bernhard Schwall/Gymfan)

A look at the scores also confirmed that the women's meet was Anastasia Marachkovskaya's to win or lose. She had the highest start values on three events (5.2 FX, 5.4 BB, 5.8 V - guess she threw the double-twisting Yurchenko then), and scored quite well on all three events, only to lose the gold on bars, where some disaster must have befallen her (2.9 difficulty value, 10.15 total score). Halina Ivanets, who impressed some people at last year's Junior Europeans with her clean lines, also performed fairly difficult routines in Minsk (5.5 UB, 5.4 BB, 5.0 FX), but an 11.20 on floor prevented her from medaling. By contrast, the winner, Viktoria Makshtareva, performed far less difficult routines (three of her difficulty values were in the mid-4s), but stayed mostly error-free, proving that it is still possible in modern gymnastics to win with low-difficulty routines, provided your rivals stuff up.

Generally, the routines performed in Minsk looked quite easy on paper. Seven gymnasts performed bar routines with 5+ difficulty values; on the other events only three or four gymnasts exceeded 5 points.

Sadly, it appears that all the girls on Belarus's promising Junior Europeans squad were born in 1994, which means they're age-ineligible for senior competitions until next year. However, it's safe to say that the future doesn't look too dreary for Belorussian women's gymnastics.

February 16, 2009

Vanessa Ferrari Competes on Three Events in Italian Club Championships

The first Serie A (Italian club championships) competition took place in Pavia last weekend, and the most exciting thing about it would have to be Vanessa Ferrari's return to the scene. The 2006 world champion competed not on one or two events, as expected, but on three (all but floor), and did a pretty solid job for someone who has been out of action for a long time, scoring 14.15 on vault (Yurchenko-full), 13.45 on bars, and 14.50 on beam (the highest score of the competition). In so doing, she led her team, Brixia, to an easy victory in the first competition of the season (main rival Lissone finished second, 5.25 behind Brixia). We'll be interested to see when Ferrari will start competing floor again, and whether she will in fact make the team which will defend Italy's honor at the European Championships in Milan. She certainly outscored a few of her rivals for a spot on the team on Sunday.

Vanessa Ferrari has some reason to smile again
Photo: Sing Lo/Comaneci Salto)

While Ferrari's return to competition was good news for the Italian women's team, there was some bad news as well. European Championships hopeful Andrea La Spada (representing the home team, Pavia) reportedly broke the thumb of her right hand while doing a round-off double twist in training. She will have to wear a cast for 25 days, although she hopes to have it removed before the 25 days are up. La Spada hopes to compete at the Europeans, even if she's not 100% ready. In yesterday's club competition she was replaced by Belgium's Aagje Vanwalleghem, who, interestingly, was not chosen to compete on what is arguably her best event, vault, competing bars and beam only. Even more interestingly, the other foreigner in the women's Serie A (in this case, the A2, i.e. the second league), Romanian Raluca Haidu, only competed on what is generally perceived to be a weak event for Romanian juniors, bars. Huh?

Other noteworthy news from Pavia would have to include the fact that veteran Monica Bergamelli did not compete, thus reinforcing those retirement rumors (Brixia was represented by Ferrari, Galante, Fasana, and Carnessali instead), and that vault specialist Carlotta Giovannini earned the highest B score of the day, 9.25, on her strongest event, albeit for an easy vault: a layout Yurchenko (difficulty 4.4). Is the European silver medalist returning from injury as well?

Carlotta Giovannini vaulted a layout Yurchenko... (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

In the men's competition, Meda (the powerhouse team represented by Igor Cassina, Andrea Coppolino, Matteo Morandi, and Matteo Angioletti) scored an easy victory over Livorno. Highlights included Cassina's somewhat watered-down 15.55 horizontal bar routine (Kovacs instead of Cassina) and two more 15+ scores on rings by Angioletti and Morandi. Other noteworthy scores of the day included Enrico Pozzi's 15.25 on floor and Jordan Jovchev's 15.25 on rings (obviously).

Complete results of Weekend 1 of the Serie A can be found here. Hopefully some YouTube videos will soon surface as well.

February 15, 2009

Behold: Nastia Liukin's Max Azria Campaign (The Whole Shoot!)

Remember the Nastia Liukin fashion shots we posted a while ago, in which the Olympic champion was pictured modeling items from Max Azria's spring line? Well, Max Azria has just posted the whole shoot here, and to our delight, Nastia's flexibility is used to great effect, and her face (well hidden in the previously released images) is visible in many of the shots. Click "IMAGE BOOK" to see the whole shoot, then click "VIDEO" to see the making-of. If you can't watch the video on the Max Azria site, there's a low-res version on YouTube. It's well worth watching for its attempted... moodiness. Yes, let's call it that.


To be honest, we think Nastia looks better without the heavy eye makeup and hair extensions, but there's no doubt she's an interesting model. We can see why the Max Azria people hired her, and we don't think they'll regret their choice!

WOGA Classic: Video Highlights

Gymnastike has uploaded most of the elite routines shown at the WOGA Classic, and we've had some fun watching them, despite the fact that Anne Philips badly needs a better assistant. Having watched all the top gymnasts' routines, we think it's pretty obvious that Ukraine's Yana Demyanchuk would have won the senior competition if it hadn't been for a few falls. Demyanchuk is a solid all-arounder with excellent presentation on floor, and we look forward to seeing more of her on the senior circuit.

Most beautiful gymnast in the field? Without a shadow of a doubt, junior winner Laura Svilpaite, who looks gorgeous no matter what she does. Watch out for this one - she's going to put Lithuania on the gymnastics map!

The Russian girls, Kristina Kruglikova and Anastasia Karpova, were rather underwhelming, proving that not all current Russian juniors are brilliant.

The WOGA girls generally did a good job. We'll be interested to see how they develop over the next few years.

Here are a few more competition highlights to go with the UB highlights we posted earlier:

WOGA's Sophia Lee does a Teza jump on beam!
(Photo: Stefan Wurzer/Gymnasticsunited)


Laura Svilpaite, BB: Not quite enough difficulty yet, but tons of style. We just love the way Svilpaite moves.

Natalia Kononenko, BB: She falls on the dismount, but the rest of the routine is very easy on the eye. Nice arms.

Lily Hardin, BB: Some huge problems here, but Hardin's good form and grace make this worth watching. We think she should ditch the sheep jump though. A big boo to her coaches for letting her do a jump like that. Ugh.

Sophia Lee, BB: Lee has got guts, attempting a Teza (sideways Yang Bo jump) here. She falls, but major kudos for trying.

Christa Tanella, BB: Solid routine. Good leaps, nice Onodi-sheep jump combo (albeit not entirely connected).

Sarah Persinger, BB: A bit unpolished around the edges, but promising enough. Interesting combination of full turn with one leg at horizontal and gainer layout, sadly not fully connected.

Sydney Sawa, BB: Sawa is solid as usual on beam. Nice double turn.


Yana Demyanchuk, FX: Look, it's an actual attempt at choreography, with good interpretation of the music, a lovely smile and some pretty good tumbling too! We like this girl.

Laura Svilpaite, FX: Svilpaite has some trouble on the landings, but she's obviously had excellent, Soviet-style ballet training. With harder tumbles, a bit more expression and slightly more daring choreography, she'll be gorgeous to watch on floor.

Christa Tanella, FX: Good performance. Her choreography is so-so, but she makes the most of it; she expresses her music quite well. Very decent tumbling too.

Natalia Kononenko, FX: Kononenko has excellent forward tumbling, but her dance needs some work.

Briley Casanova, FX: Mature tumbling and nice presentation, but the choreography could do with some improvement.


Briley Casanova, V: Nice Yurchenko-1.5.