Follow Us On
From the Stands: Bring On the Blokes!
(8 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu and her husband, former-gymnast-turned-surgeon Michael Canales, blog on the hits and misses of the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships.

The London fog of jet lag has vanished from our heads thanks to a 10-minute march to the O2 Arena. It's balmy and sunny this Tuesday morning. We never anticipated needing our sunglasses...didn't even pack them! We brought three umbrellas.

With just a dew of 2012 foretell, London's just right for this year's Individual World Championships' backdrop. As gymnastics junkies, we're in for loads of fun to feed our habit!

Enjoy our observations and inferences.

As members of the IG Tour we're nestled in front row seats facing FX with PH and R to our left, PB and HB to our right, and V tucked right behind FX. We're seated directly behind the FIG technical committee, and we're able to view the interface between athletes, coaches, photographers, and officials, giving us an intimate view of some of the "stories behind the stories."


The acoustics within the O2 are extraordinary ...crystal clear with no echo!

'BY 'JOVE! Gymnastics legend Mitsuo Tsukahara (JPN) is to our right cheering on the Japanese squad.

Maxim Devyatovsky (RUS): We're not ready to declare that he's gotten his act together, but he appears ready to compete. We'll be watching Russia's bad boy closely both on and off the podium this week. Overall, his gymnastics looks like the Devyatovsky of old. A rather classic construction of routines with the steady distraction of his gymnastics shoes on each event. Maxim, save the shoes for FX and VT! To his credit his opening full-twisting double layout on floor was refreshing to see. While we appreciate the difficulty of the bounding tumbling runs... they're just not hitting the spot for an opening pass.

Valeri Belenky (GER/AZB/URS) is part of the German coaching staff. What's it like to have competed under three flags (four if you count the 1992 Unified Team)? Do you think he talks to Oksana Chusovitina (GER/UZB/URS) about this?

PB great Huang Liping (CHN) is seated in front of us as a member of the FIG Technical Committee. To this day he holds the title of the loftiest piked Morisue on PB EVER!

Tim McNeill (USA): Motoring through this competition softly as he did during the U.S. Championships. I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish in the top 10 in the all-around final when the chalk dust settles. His best shot at a medal appears to be PH. Unique and tricky side travel while skipping over both pommels along with his full-Kehre are starting to become his trademark. Seemingly effortless rise to his handstand pirouette dismount. If he makes the event final on PH, he can find extra tenths of improvement in minor foot form breaks and hip extension deductions.

Mans Stenberg (SWE) STUCK double front piked off of R. While we've seen more of this dismount in recent days, it's not often stuck with authority (rather than by mistake). Great effort by the Swede.

Tomas Gonzalez (CHI) Almost stretched Arabian double front on floor! Triple twist dismount landing straight without a hint of piking!

A routine goes awry for Germany's Marcel Nguyen

Daniel Keatings (GBR): Owns the crowd in this first session. As part of the host country's ONE-TWO punch (along with Louis Smith coming up later), he's showing outstanding flexibility in his shoulders which he displays quite well on PH and PB. He drilled his Kasamatsu 1/1 on VT to give the crowd even more to cheer about. A top-10 finish in the all-around final will not be based solely on the home-crowd advantage. He continues to demonstrate why he's an all-around threat.

Kazuhito Tanaka (JPN) immaculate piked double back off of PB.

The live digital cartoon graphic of a gymnast playing continually throughout the arena is performing great gymnastics! It is doing a piked Belle on PB, Flair spindle on FX, Scissors on PH, a Tsukahara with a 1/1 twist on VT, Tkatchev stretched on HB, and even an uphill transition on UB. We have named him "Mequin" for no specific reason.

HB has become the new FX. What do we mean? The HB routines have become marathon sets with far too many giants leaving little fuel in the tank for difficult dismounts. Our fear is that handgrips will start to fail more often and at more inopportune moments in addition to severe fatigue errors prior to (or during) dismounts.

Genuine sportsmanship with a hearty handshake between Sergio Munoz (ESP) and Tatas Rutatuas (LTU) following the Lithuanian's FX routine. WE LOVE THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!

Ildar Valeyev (KAZ): Dragulescu VT and Tsukahara double tucked resulting in an agonizing limp off of the podium. SIDE NOTE: Chocolate gold medals should be distributed to any athlete attempting two vaults with double saltos.

Roman Gis (SUI): Truly stretched Honma to support on rings. Many have attempted ...few have perfected. Well done.

Colored socks look silly. OK, we said it. It makes the legs look like they are in stockings.

Marcel Nguyen (GER): When FX routines leave no time for corner moves, the German added a dash of dance with a jump full turn in a coupe/posse position.

Pham Hung Phuoc (VIE): and Mathias Decker (AUT) were in the same grouping and appeared to be the shortest and tallest gymnast of the session. A treat to see them side-by-side when presenting to the judges prior to each event.

Paata Nozadze (GEO): Honored his countryman and Soviet great Vladimir Gogoladze (URS/GEO) by performing the flair sequence on FX with a 180-split, striking feet, and speedy pirouettes.

Ali Al Asi (JOR): Kudos to the Jordanian for going for a Kasamatsu with 2/1 twists.

Mohammad Ali (KUW): Great name and great crushed velour uniform. Cheers to kicking it old school.

Yan Mingyong (CHN): China's "other ringman." Yes, his positions are like T-squares. Yes, he did an iron cross to a Nakayama in slow motion. Yes, he can swing... BUT he also did still inlocates in a manner that only athletes with exceedingly flexible shoulders can do.

Local British children appear to be a on field trip for this first session making the crowd appear larger and louder. Why didn't we have these types of field trips in school?

The Greek men win this session for "Best Dressed." All white uniforms with a wavy Greek flag across the chest.

Overall, VT was sloppy, scary, and splatty. I don't know if it has to do with poor preparation, jet leg, loss of air awareness due to the high ceiling, etc., but far too many athletes landed in a heap in this first session, resulting in distressing excruciating retreats from the event.


After fish 'n chips we are ready for the second session of blokes. The opening ceremony took place right before the start of this session.

It is announced FIG President Bruno Grandi is ill and unable to attend. He'll join the competition later.

Beth Tweddle (GBR) performs the athletes' oath. We saw her nervously rehearsing the oath while clutching her cheat sheet. SO CUTE!

The individual event scoreboards make tracking scores a challenge. Not only are the scores not displayed for long, but the boards do not rotate. The main scoreboard is unable to display scores either. Not only are the athletes, judges, coaches, and fans confused about scoring... BUT nobody can see the scores long enough to complain. Small detail. Back to the good stuff.

Luis Vargas (PUR): So nice to see German giants on HB.

Jordan Jovtchev (BUL): What would international competition be without him? Jovtchev displayed his typical blend of strength and artistry with turned-out handstands. He came up a little short on his dismount, but should be enough. ONLY CRITIQUE: He needs competition pants that are more form fitting to put his lines are better display. His competition pants resembled relaxed fit slacks.

The injuries from VT continue to assault the competitors. OUCH.

Alexander Shatilov (ISR): It amazes us that this tall drink of water can perform such an easy double-double stretched from HB. Great mechanics. On FX he tumbled a soaring tucked double-double second pass and a roundout 3/2 punch Rudi and a tucked full-in dismount. Marvelous.

Chen Yibing (CHN): Disaster strikes on his dismount. We looked over the shoulders of the technical committee and made note that it was actually his arm that clipped the ring strap. Something similar happened to a British athlete at the 1994 Brisbane World Championships. Not only did the judges hammer him for this error, but we're quite certain that they deducted him on his Maltese positions. This is the first time we've not seen him stick his full-twisting double layout cold!

Kohei Uchimura (JPN): Our pick for the all-around world champion. SLEEK, CRISP, yet GENTLE. He's great everwhere, but FX and HB really set him apart. His feet are pointed and knees are glued during his tucked double-double on floor and his arms appear to be in his pants pockets! HE CAN'T TAKE A BAD PHOTO. His timer on floor for his double-double is a tucked full that appears to levitate. You just have to see it to believe it. His tucked Kovacs is more notable than his Kolman or piked-Kovacs. He kicks out with such confidence and altitude. We could go on and on. Uchimura proves ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS IS NOT DEAD! Mitsuo Tsukahara applauds each of Uchimura's efforts like a proud father.

Oooh sausage and mash! Yernar Yerimbetov (KAZ) and Takuya Nakase (JPN) have imploded! Very upset about this. Won't be talking about them.

Ashish Kumar (IND): Tsukahara with a double twist. India has come a long way folks! The hit percentage and confidence are not quite in place, but Team India has added loads of difficulty since we last saw them in Anaheim. Kudos! Also, their uniforms were aqua and looked stunning against their skin tone. Keep up the great work.

Yuri Ryazanov (RUS): Another set of German giants on HB. Well done.

Benoit Caranobe (FRA): 2008 Olympic all-around bronze medalist. Dazzling and daring front flip (open hollow) from hands to hands on FX.

Team Romania has ditched their traditional all-red uniforms for blue uniforms with an underwater print on the side. We almost missed them.

Team Denmark took a fashion risk with their fire-engine red, long competition shorts. One of their athletes had matching gymnastics shoes on floor. We applaud the effort, but it's just too soon.

Another trend: Lots of coaches were carrying their athletes' gym bags. Domi was reminiscing when Marta Karolyi used to carry her gym bag from event-to-event.

Marijo Moznik (CRO): While we saw a handful of "Tkatchev 1/2 twists" (more like a Tkatchev catching in mixed grip), the Croatian did THE ONLY TRUE Tkatchev 1/2 twist. Somewhere Jair Lynch (USA) is smiling.

Best Dressed: In this second session. Team Qatar sported the sharpest uniforms. A cream-colored top and pants. The top possessed plum pattern across the chest with a gold lightening bolt down the center. Lady Gaga inspired? Probably not.

Jawad Alherz (KUW): A ring routine with NO GRIPS. Enough said. He would later serve as a coach to his teammates in the final session. He's reserved as a spot in our TOP 10 favorite athletes of the day.

While the floor exercise required several adjustments during the competition, Gymnova showed off their trendy chalk bowls. Transparent bowls with a "G" shaped opening in red. Very 2009.

Michail Doulkeridis (GRE): Tucked double-double to punch barani on FX.

Feng Zhe (CHN): Appears to be China's next PB genius. Piked Belle at the end of the routine. They continue to be light years ahead of the world here.

Roman Kulesza (POL): Just exquisite toe point. Big Tippelt front-flip on PB.

Marian Dragulescu (ROM): Gigantic full-twisting double layout mount on FX. Front 1/1 punch front 1/1 1 and 3/4 dive roll (not a fan of this skill). Double-double dismount.

Zou Kai (CHN): Even more petite in person. His HB and FX routines look playful. Glad to see he's upgraded to the stretched double-double.

Something humorous and distracting listening to the Black Eyed Peas "My Humps" during a men's gymnastics competition. Fergie's chorus is just too much!

A gymnast from Colombia did a tucked full-in and Arabian double front with his knees glued together. He made these skills look so different.

Kristian Thomas (GBR): Another tall drink of water pulling a massive Tkatchev stretched on HB.

Chen Chi Yu (TPE): The best inverted crosses of the meet.

Krisztian Berki (HUN): Moving leg flexibility on PH. Unreal flair spindle on the pommels. Zoltan Magyar and Zsolt Borkai are proud this young man is keeping the tradition alive.

Now it's the Village People and YMCA. The Brits are loving it.

Dragulescu (ROM): Puts both of his vaults on his feet. His Li Xiaopeng (roundoff half-turn entry to a Randi) looked knee-popping.

What a long session: Everyone in the building is getting tired. The British announcer has been doing a great job keeping the audience pumped.

French rings specialist Danny Rodrigues in London


We met with 1996 Olympic gold medalist and truly artistic gymnast Ioannis Melissanidis. Always a delightful and fiery conversation with this artist. We talked about everything from Meryl Streep to Vitaly Scherbo to New York City. Just what we needed fire up for Session 3.

Aljaz Pegan (SLO): showed us that he's still got it with his signature release skill to his nearly stuck triple salto dismount.

Danell Leyva (USA): used the good vibes sent from his coach/step-father Yin Alvarez to deliver a huge HB routine in his world championship debut. Yin makes each routine a religious experience capped with jubilee! Happy for both of them.

Alexander Vorobyov (UKR): Has become a steady fixture in R finals. He's very strong, but his bent arms during is Maltese and Inverted cross positions should receive a more stiff penalty. Nevertheless, great routine.

Patrick Peng (NZL): Gets the Great Attitude Award today. Hit or miss he finished with a huge grin. Good for him.

Igor Cassina (ITA): Cassinaed his way to a huge score. Not as artistic as we'd prefer, but no shortage of exhilaration.

Louis Smith (GBR): Really the poster boy of the entire competition did not disappoint. He looked VERY RELAXED leading up to and during his routine. His pirouetting dismount was never-ending and did not appear to rush to ensure he completed all of the revolutions. Well done. He can certainly breath a bit easier tonight.

Jeffrey Wammes (NED): drilled a front handspring stretched with 2/1 twists.

Anton Golotsutskov (RUS): has really got a handle on his Dragulescu vault and Tsukahara double pike. Not only should he get a chocolate medal for having the guts to attempt those vaults, but he could come away from London with a real one.

Phillipe Rizzo (AUS): Was humming along during his HB routine, but fatigue appeared to get the best of him with a double-double ending on his rump.

We'll say it again. Team India has come a long way. They've increased the level of their difficulty exponentially. Nice to see.

Danny Rodrigues (FRA): Known most for his Victorian. All of his positions looked great. He could very well break into the medals on his best event.

Alhamad Nasser (QAT): Had all of the goods on FX to contend for an event final spot. A poorly landed triple full dismount ended his hopes for a final berth. Nevertheless congratulations to a gymnast representing a country not typically known for their gymnastics.

Things we would be happy to never see again:

1) A scary VT landing.

2) Another flat 1/2-Takamoto on HB.

3) Another straddled planche on R with arms bent and rear in the air.

Flavius Koczi (ROM): Can he be the new Marius Urzica? This gymnast ripped through his PH routine with variety and ease. Koczi also vaults a Kasamatsu with 2/1 twists and a stretched Randi.

Vlasios Maras (GRE): Made the hard stuff. Fell on the easy stuff. Too bad.

Diego Hypolito (BRA): No major breaks, but no stuck landings cost him dearly.

Brandon O'Neill (CAN): Great to see him back. Unfortunately, he sat down his Arabian double front dismount on FX.

Prashanth Sellathurai (AUS): We all know his a great PH competitor, but what's more is he is a really great ringman. You just don't see that combination often. So fun to watch.

Of note, one of the HB judges wears shades while judging presumably to avoid glare from the bright arena likes giving a whole new meaning to the Corey Hart tune "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night." It's 9:45 p.m. and the session's still going.

It's been a long day for all involved. Until tomorrow.


Domi & Mike

Comments (3)add comment

Martine said:

thanks for this. I feel like I am there!
October 14, 2009
Votes: +4

Elizabeth1 said:

Tally Ho!
Keep up the comments on dress code! Jolly hockey sticks!
October 14, 2009
Votes: +0

skupa said:

What a great round up of the day, I'll look forward to reading the next report.

and thanks for mentioning a Kiwi (NZL) gymnast!
October 14, 2009
Votes: +1

Write comment

security image
Write the displayed characters