We have a whole lot of news for you, plus a minor scandal which we'll post in a separate entry. Amazingly, hardly any of this week's news is injury-related!
--- The Belgian Gymnastics Federation has finally released the results of the Top Gym Event Finals. Click here to see them.
--- Much to our surprise, Sandra Izbasa didn't win Romania's Athlete of the Year Award. The honor was bestowed instead on Alina Dumitru, a judoka who won Romania's first gold medal of the 2008 Olympics. You can watch Dumitru accept the award (in a horrible ensemble featuring blue tights) here. Sandra doesn't appear in the video.
Isabelle Severino (photo: L'Equipe)
--- We can't find the press release anymore, but it's been confirmed that 2005 European floor champion Isabelle Severino, who was forced to retire from competitive gymnastics half a year ago after tearing her Achilles tendon, has been elected to the Directorate of the French Gymnastics Federation. We're not sure what Severino is going to do at the FFG, but it's great to see she'll stay involved in the sport. It sounds like she'll have her work cut out for her. The FFG has announced that it aims to win 3 to 5 gymnastics medals at the London Olympics, which will take some doing, we think.
--- International Gymnast reports that Oleg Ostapenko has accepted a job offer from the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation, after also having received offers from the Russian and Brazilian federations. From January onward he'll be Ukraine's head coach. It is hoped that Ostapenko, who coached Lilia Podkopayeva to the 1996 Olympic all-around title and spent the last 7 years working with the Brazilian national team, will give the Ukrainian women's program a much-needed boost. Meanwhile, Ostapenko's Ukrainian co-worker at Curitiba, Irina Ilyashenko, will go on coaching the Brazilian girls.
Rotterdam's Erasmus Bridge, where Yuri van Gelder will perform a routine
--- Two years from now, Dutch ring specialist Yuri van Gelder will be seen doing something quite spectacular: Performing his ring routine while suspended from Rotterdam's Erasmus Bridge, so as to promote the 2010 World Championships, which will be held in Rotterdam (also site of the 1987 Worlds), October 17-24. The stunt was announced yesterday at a press conference given by the championships' organizing committee. Reportedly, Rotterdam Alderman Lucas Bolsius, who seems keen to promote the championships in an unusual way, said to Van Gelder at the press conference, "Let's make a deal here, right now. Around the time of the 2010 Worlds, you'll be hanging from the Erasmus Bridge. We'll make sure there's a set of rings suspended from the bridge. This great footage will be shown the world over, both on TV and on YouTube. That's my dream. I'm going to make all the necessary arrangements with the Assistant Secretary." Van Gelder was up for it: "I'll definitely give it a shot. It would be a unique situation for me." It was later revealed that the two meant it and had in fact agreed on the stunt before the press conference.
Meanwhile, in China...
Xiao Qin (photo: Sohu)
--- Remember we told you a while ago that the Wuhan Institute of Physical Education, where Cheng Fei and Yang Wei learned the tricks of the trade, had received such an influx of new students after the Olympics that the club didn't have enough coaches to go around and had even asked Cheng Fei's father to become a coach? Well, it seems not all Chinese clubs are doing that well. Last week Sina posted an article about Xiao Qin's former club, the Zhongshan East Road Sports Academy in Nanjing, which back in the early '90s received 1,500 prospective students a year but saw its popularity plummet in the late '90s, among other things because of the Sang Lan accident. Since then, while sports like basketball, tennis, and table tennis have become or remained popular, the club's gymnastics program has dwindled, and apparently not even Xiao Qin's achievements have been able to restore it to its former glory. The Head of the gymnastics club recently told Sina that the club had distributed 400 recruitment leaflets to local kindergartens after the Beijing Olympics, only for 3 (yes, three) parents to show up with their children for the club's selection day. We're guessing Xiao Qin is a less appealing role model than Yang Wei and Cheng Fei then. Could it be because nobody really understands pommel horse?
Li Shanshan in Beijing (photo: Getty Images)
--- Meanwhile, the Guangdong Institute of Physical Education, which gave us Yang Yilin and Li Shanshan, has been commended by the local authorities. Sina reports that the Zhongshan National Torch High-Tech Industrial Development Zone (how's that for a mouthful?) has donated 800,000 yuan ($116,300) to the Institute to help it to produce more champions. We look forward to seeing what else will come out of that program.
And then there's some German news...
--- Financial Times Deutschland, which takes a surprising interest in gymnastics, has confirmed that vault specialist Matthias Fahrig will be the only German competitor at the World Cup Final. Fahrig was ranked 12th after the World Cup circuit but will be allowed to compete because Leszek Blanik and Anton Golotsutskov have retired. We're confused now - didn't the FIG just say Golotsutskov had confirmed his presence in Madrid?
Matthias Fahrig, who has since thankfully stopped bleaching his hair (photo: Peter de Jong/AP Photo)
--- The Schwaebische Zeitung has published Fabian Hambüchen's response to his world-record-breaking performance on the high bar at last weekend's Straubenhardt match. "I wasn't planning on doing it," Hambüchen said, referring to his new Pineda, a G-rated part which will carry a 0.8 value under the 2009 code. "Before the one-touch warmup my father asked me if I felt like doing the Pineda at the start of my routine. I was feeling good, so I thought to myself: 'Come, this is a good place to give it a try.'" Hambüchen missed the skill in warmup, but hit it beautifully when it counted. "Totally cool. It was fantastic to do the thing right at the start. I felt so happy [when I got it right], and you're just really proud afterward. At the end, when things get tough, it's just a matter of trying to get through your routine." But the fact that he had hit that routine didn't mean he was fit enough to go to Madrid: "I couldn't tell you now if I could do that routine the same way again tomorrow. But I can help Straubenhardt even if I do a slightly less difficult routine."
--- As to Marian Dragulescu, according to the same article in the Schwaebische Zeitung, he's giving the World Cup Final a miss because "the Bundesliga is simply more fun." Wow!