Thursday, 25 April 2013

Euros 2013! Gymnast by Gymnast. PART 3, ITA/SUI

See Post 1- (Russia) here and Post 2- (Romania) here, regarding the 2013 European Championships, held in Moscow.


Elisa Meneghini
As a first year Senior for Italy, Elisa did extraordinarily well. In the qualification competition  like many other gymnasts, she fell. However a fall, on the Floor, did not stop her from qualifying for the all-around final, and she also did very well on the Beam, qualifying for the final in fourth place- just behind her team mate Carlotta Ferlito, and the two Romanian gymnasts. Her Bars and Vault were also notable routines of the competition, as she scored a 14.016 for her cleanly executed yurchenko full twist and a 13.800 on Bars which was a higher score than any of the three top all-around qualifying gymnasts achieved, although not quite enough to make the final (she was third reserve).
In the all-around competition, Elisa corrected her Floor routine mistake but was a few tenths under her qualifying scores on every other apparatus. Her most evenly matched gymnast in the all-around competition, for comparison, seemed to be Great Britain's Ruby Harrold. Ruby qualified in seventh and Elisa in eighth but in the all-around final Elisa crept ahead and swapped their standings, so that she finished in seventh position, ahead of Ruby in eighth.
In the Beam Final, Elisa looked very confident and comfortable whilst performing- until she slightly misjudged her change leg side leap and fell backwards off the Beam. She recovered with a high and tidy round-off double pike back somersault dismount but looked disappointed as she came of the apparatus.
So Elisa did not win any medals, but she has shown the international scene that she is capable of great routines, and she is definitely one to look out for in the future, leading Italian Gymnastics.

Carlotta Ferlito
Carlotta has a kind of style and cheer about her gymnastics which has always made me fond of her. She seems a very positive and determined gymnast who enjoys her abilities as well as being gracious about them. In the qualification competition Carlotta scored 14.200 on the Beam and 13.800 on the Floor, showing a consistent level of beautiful gymnastics, despite a near-fatal wobble on the Beam. She made both of these apparatus finals, and did not attempt to compete all-around.
The Beam Final was first on the Sunday. Carlotta qualified with the third highest score but of course, it all depends on how it goes on the day, and as it happened she finished in fourth place with a 14.066, behind Anastasia Grishina who won the bronze medal. Had she scored the same as in qualifications, she would have still finished fourth, so the slightly lower score than on the Friday did not affect her. She did, however, have a 0.200 higher difficulty value than that of Russian gymnast Grishina, so perhaps her execution could be improved for future medals. On Floor she finished in fifth position, which is two places higher than where she qualified, and she also managed to stay in bounds for this routine, unlike in qualifications, so that was a small triumph. If she was not happy to have missed out on medals, I hope that she was pleased in having made both Finals she tried for, and being near-enough to be a threat to Russia and Romania. I'm sure she won some more fans and the only way is up for her!

Vanessa Ferrari
I have always looked up to Vanessa Ferrari, as a younger gymnast and now still, she is there at the European Championships after I have gone. I respect her guts and power on the Floor, and of course she is a former World all-around champion. She came to the European Championships just for Beam, but after having some slight injury problems she was not on top form and her two team mates Carlotta and Elisa qualified higher than her, so she could not be in the Final despite scoring the sixth highest score of 13.833.


Giulia Steingruber

I don't mean to create a shrine of photos for Giulia but she has been an utter star at these European Championships.
Before she came she was known as a great gymnast, but mostly a Vault worker. Now she is an all-around contender and has made (literal and metaphorical) leaps and bounds for Switzerland. In the qualifying competition Giulia finished ninth all around, with an iffy Bars and Beam routines that scored just 12.466 (the same as Afansyeva, interestingly) and 13.033. Her other scores were a good 13.933 on Floor and a whopping 15.300 on Vault, her biggest strength. With these scores she qualified for the all-around final in ninth place. She breezed into the Vault Final with an average score of 14.783 across her two Vaults. On Floor she performed a super cool full twisting double straight somersault, which had me squealing with excitement, and propelled her into that final too.
On Friday, the all-around Final, Giulia had a fighting chance of a bronze medal. She began with her Floor routine (which again, sent me into a frenzy after I saw her full twisting double straight) and scored 13.866. Moving on to Vault her handspring straight front with one and a half twist was a standout again, and she scored 15.066, slightly less than in qualification but still extremely impressive. Bars went about as well as she could expect and she scored almost a mark higher than in qualifications with 13.800. Beam went exceptionally well for her too, and she connected all of her elements that she aimed to, and stayed on. She had done her job and finished with a total of 57.065, equal with Diana Bulimar of Romania. She would have been in joint bronze position had Anastasia Grishina not sneaked in front of them both with her last routine on the Beam. Therefore Giulia placed in equal fourth with Diana, although arguably with more respect since where Diana was expected to succeed, Giulia exceeded expectations and really put Switzerland in the thick of things. At one point in the competition, possibly half way through, she was in second position! Wow. I hope her mum took photos of the scoreboards.
In the Vault Final, Giulia burst onto the podium again. Pressure did not touch her most confident skills and she solidly won the Final.
On Floor she stepped out of bounds resulting in 0.2 penalties and finished with a score of 14.100, which in a fiercely competitive final put her in sixth position. But I think- I hope- Giulia will go home a heroine.

Giulia winning the Vault Final.
Left-Noel Van Klaveren (2=)
Right- Larisa Iordache (2=)

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Euros 2013! Gymnast by Gymnast. PART 2, ROMANIA.

This blog post follows on from Part One, discussing the 2013 European Championships, held in Moscow.


Larisa Iordache smiling through her Floor routine

Larisa Iordache
which I pronounce 'OR-dash', I'm not sure how correctly- but it lends itself nicely to puns about dashing.
EDIT: It should be Larisa 'Yor-da-keh'

Larisa Iordache was one of the most consistent performers of the European Championships. She had no huge mistakes or shock disasters, despite performing a multitude of vastly difficult skills. In qualifications Larisa managed to have a clean competition, unlike any Russian gymnasts.

Her Floor was dynamic and bouncy yet flowing and full of charming smiles. She is clearly fit to compete at the moment, as she contained four high energy tumbles as well as a quadruple spin and excellent leap work - undeniably in splits- within the one minute thirty routine, whilst not pausing once for breath in between her choreography and tumbling. She showed constant power from her double twisting double back to her double tuck dismount yet seemed nowhere near tired, in fact she appeared to be barely affected by this, which I must highly commend her for. She qualified second into the Floor Final.

Her Vaults were neither jaw-dropping nor disappointing, as she executed a double twisting yurchenko and full twisting tsukahara, qualifying fourth into the Vault Final. Her Bars are notably weaker than her other routines but she was able to complete her routine without falling, before moving on to Beam where she displayed utter confidence in her extremely complex acrobatic skills, such as her round-off back flip triple twisting dismount, and she qualified first into the Beam Final.

Larisa must have been satisfied with a performance that yielded Finals on every event she targeted. Personally, I would be happy just to be able to complete a single skill of hers on the Beam, or Floor, with her courage and style.

In the all around final, Larisa lead the whole way- until Bars. Her Beam exuded confidence again, she made her Floor routine look easy and her Vaulting was solid. But as the final apparatus approached Larisa knew that it was going to be tough to win. She had a 0.7 lead over her rival for the gold, Aliya Mustafina, but both gymnasts knew that they were nowhere near evenly matched on this apparatus. Aliya Mustafina is Olympic Champion on the Uneven Bars, whereas Bars was the only event that Larisa Iordache could not qualify into a European Final for. Aliya's advantage on this event proved to be more than enough to take the lead and win the competition as she scored 15.133 over Larisa's attempt which did not even break the 14.000 barrier. Larisa was unsurprisingly disheartened as she realised she would not win the competition, and had fallen at the last hurdle. The home crowd cheering for their own champion probably did not help Larisa's spirits, as it would have sounded like they were cheering for her failings. But I hope she could be proud of a silver medal in the all around competition after many beautiful performances.

Larisa had no choice but to pick herself up for the Beam, Vault and Floor Finals, or risk being stuck in a Komova-like silver prison. She did so very well.

In the Vault final she was precise and improved from the qualifications. After some score changes to do with Noel van Klaveren and bad arithmetic, she finished in joint second position with the dutch gymnast. And the following day she broke free of the silver clutches as she performed excellently along her biggest strength, the Beam. Aliya Mustafina could have been a potential threat for the Beam title however after falling twice in qualifications, Larisa had an easier ride. She did not seem to see Mustafina's absence as any added pressure and her work was stunning. She was the only gymnast to score in the 15's and was rewarded with the gold medal. Finally, in the Floor Final Larisa brought back her expressive dance work and incredible abilities, and really sold a beautiful routine to achieve 14.733 and another silver medal for her 2013 collection.

Let her fly home from Russia with her head held high.

Diana Bulimar

Diana was another gymnast who avoided stumbling out of the starting blocks. In the qualification competition she qualified for the all around, Floor and Beam Finals (and no competition from within Romania, as they only brought two gymnasts, so she did not have to worry about how her team mates were doing as well as other countries, unlike Russia).
Not only did she qualify but she wow-ed us with her startling Romanian talent, only just behind Iordache- who had a far bigger name for herself coming into this. Romania took 1st and 2nd (Iordache/Bulimar) in the all around qualification and Beam qualification (Iordache/ Bulimar again). Diana also qualified fourth for the Floor Final, with some explosive tumbles and tidy leaps. In podium training, I heard that she threw a full twisting double straight in podium training, although we did not see this in competition. So the explosions may get bigger in the future too!

On Friday's all around Final, Diana was fighting for a medal. With Aliya Mustafina back on form, she was realistically fighting for bronze against Steingruber and Grishina. She actually did very well and beginning on the Beam she balanced her way to an execution score of 8.6 which was not beaten. Added to her start value of 5.800 she scored 14.400. On Floor she was phenomonal, soaring into the air and sticking her double straight, a skill which she has been able to do since she was a much smaller gymnast. On Vault she proudly presented her double twisting yurchenko and then she came to Bars. Again, this Romanian gymnast finds that her weakest piece of apparatus is the Bars, however she did pull out an acceptable routine considering her capabilities. Unfortunately for her, although she entertained us with a very good competition  Anastasia Grishina topped it and took the bronze medal. Interestingly, Giulia Steingruber tied with Diana for a fourth place finish.

Saturday gave Diana a chance to rest as she did not make Bars Final and did not enter for Vault Final.

Sunday began with Beam. Diana kept her nerve and performed securely and with beautiful presentation and flair. She was only pipped to the post for the Gold by her training partner Larisa, therefore Romania were able to repeat their fantastic result from qualifications and Diana gained the Silver medal. Anastasia Grishina took another bronze medal. 

That day off cannot have harmed her because Diana was also wondrous in the Floor Final. Behind her partner again, Diana finished third this time, after a pleasing punchy performance. Ksenia Afansyeva won the Gold.

I look forward to seeing these Romanians compete again soon, and anticipate more success for both Larisa and Diana this year, at the World Championships. 

Romania should be very pleased with their performances. These two gymnasts are stars!

Euros 2013! Gymnast by Gymnast. PART 1, RUSSIA.

MOSCOW. What an exciting place for a championships to be held! Full of history and culture, and more importantly, home to some of the best and certainly the most artistic of artistic gymnasts in the world.
I wish I could have been in the arena for the duration of the competition but I had no such money or luck therefore I was following via twitter for the qualifications and then I was able to watch on BBC 2 or the Red Button for the Finals. On the Sunday Finals I was partially following via twitter- as I was at my beautiful god-daughter Sasha's christening- and then afterwards I was at the BBC studios with Louis Smith and Matt Baker. (Both events were great in different senses and the post-christening thing explains why I was wearing a dress for the BBC, haha!)

These are my general thoughts on how the competitions went for each gymnast:

statue of Marshal Zhukov the second world war commander

The qualifications were interesting however not particularly thrilling (especially not in comparison to the Finals).

Perhaps this was because I could not see the action anywhere, other than a few videos I managed to find afterwards. Perhaps it was just because it was the first getting-back-from-the-Olympic-Games major competition. Perhaps because all gymnasts know that they need not save their very best until the finals. There were a lot of falls. But the qualifications are not the competition to go all out in. Qualification rounds try to pick out the very good gymnasts for finals*, but it's in the finals where they battle it out to be the best. (*of course it all depends on what happens on the day in any competition. One example from here- Mustafina fell twice from the beam and failed to qualify for beam final yet she has one of the most difficult routines in the world on the apparatus!)

The all around finals were much more exciting to watch and there were far less mistakes on show. I was also really pleased with the final results since my favourite gymnast Aliya Mustafina won the European title and Great Britain's Ruby Harrold did fantastically well too, to finish where she did, considering she did not aim to be an all around contender when she came to Russia.

The apparatus finals are always the most fun to watch for me. The focus is on every tiny move and skill in each gymnast's single routine, for each apparatus event. Also, gymnasts from countries which are lesser known for their gymnastics force get a spotlight and chance to challenge the famous faces. There are opportunities for historic successes to be made by these gymnasts, if they medal. For example, two Swedish gymnasts qualified for the Uneven Bars Final.

Let's begin then, with Russia, and 2013 all around European Champion Aliya Mustafina...


Aliya Mustafina.

Aliya Mustafina

As I've already mentioned, in qualifications Aliya fell twice from the beam. A video on YouTube of her at the Russian Championships would suggest that her Beam routine was newly upgraded and looking ready however she still seemed to be struggling with the new combinations and changes and wasn't as confident as that perfected video made her Beam seem. It was still good, but with the mistakes it was just not quite perfect Mustafina-style.
You've got to forgive her for that though, after the Olympic Games rise and fall she was back here again at the first big competition, with a whole catalogue of pristine skills on each apparatus and she may not have been AS sharp as she is capable of, in qualifications, but she was still sharp nonetheless.
Her Bars were fantastic of course. She has kept standards very high there and qualified in first position. And regardless of her two falls on Beam she qualified in fourth all-around. That is testament to how good she is in itself, and to why she has such an enourmas fan base (me included, she is my favourite gymnast too!) and why judges love her (oh they do).

Aliya presenting as the all around winner
Source: NBC news
In the all around finals Aliya was back in the swing of things again, after her debut competition shakes she managed to pull it together! Beam was the first apparatus that her group (the top eight) competed on and the biggest obstacle for her, but she kept her feet sticky and got through it. From that point on, she just had to repeat her qualification routines and she could win it. Her Floor routine was very good and her Vault was stuck perfectly, which left Bars last. Going into the final rotation she was 0.7 behind Iordache, who had lead the competition the whole way, but this would not stop her. Romanian gymnasts such as Larisa Iordache tend to be weakest on the Bars, out of the four apparatus. Aliya Mustafina of Russia is the current Olympic Champion. Iordache did all she could to increase her advantage, and performed one of her best bar routines she has done, to score 13.866 but it was not good enough. Aliya performed as the last gymnast of the competition, with complete focus and precision. She showed a stunning routine, hitting every handstand and without any hint of the pressure she was under. This easily closed the gap between her and Larisa, scoring a 15.133 which gave her a total of 59.032 and a gold medal, over Larisa Iordache's 58.432 and disappointed expression.

Saturday- Aliya competed in the Bars Final. She does not compete two vaults, therefore was not involved in that area but the uneven bars title was hers to lose. Championships by championships, and one flawless routine after another, Aliya very rarely falters on the Bars. This trend continued. Her biggest rival was Rebecca Downie of Great Britain, as she qualified in second position, however unfortunately Becky fell near the start of her routine. In fact, a lot of gymnasts fell in this Bar final, causing observing gym fans to label it a 'splat-fest'. Aliya did not and does not fall. She grabbed the gold medal easily. What she was most pleased about though, was not her own success but that of Maria Paseka. "Yes, yes, yes!" she cheered, jumping up and down and grinning when she saw the final results. The joy was on behalf of her team mate who she hugged repeatedly, shook, and high fived. The modesty and team spirit of Aliya makes her all the more endearing to fans, as if her brilliant gymnastics was not enough.
Bar medalists Aliya Mustafina and Maria Paseka hugging
Sunday- Aliya did not qualify for the Beam Final (after 2 falls in qualification, remember?) and pulled out of the Floor, allowing Anastasia Grishina the chance to compete.

Maria Paseka

In Qualifications Maria surprised us, after she swinging bars very well. She is known almost entirely as a strength for her complex vaulting. So then, it was an unexpected delight that she made the Uneven Bar Final as well as Vault Final for Saturday's competition.

Maria Paseka on the Bars
Source: Yahoo Eurosport
When Saturday came, we were shocked again. The vaulting that she is known for went terribly in the final. She did not manage enough height or power out of either of her Vaults, and consequently fell on both; the second one all the more devastating after the first disaster. The Russian home crowd were not impressed at her finishing positions on her back/bum and hands/knees and Paseka hid and wept in the arms of Ksenia Afansyeva. But her competition was not over- she had Bars to go. In an almost-reverse turn of events, Maria excelled on the Bars instead. Where others fell she did not, and her pretty routine scored 14.400 with an execution of 8.600 out of ten. Only the champion Aliya Mustafina and Swedish gymnast Jonna Adlerteg managed to rise above it, and so the final finished with Maria in bronze medal position. Her tears of sorrow and shame turned to joy and relief with this redemption as she celebrated alongside gold medal winning team mate Aliya, who seemed more happy for Maria's medal than her own (see photo of the two gymnasts hugging, above).

Anastasia Grishina performs in the Floor Final
Anastasia Grishina

Anastasia's qualifier was tricky. She fell on Bars and Beam but she still beat expectations. It was rumoured (Rodioneko) that she has not been training very well and that she might be insufficiently prepared for the European Championships- although she has looked great in YouTube videos (although they can be deceiving...)
It was said that maybe Afansyeva would make all around final instead of her, but this is not the way things went and she ended up in third place at the end of all the rounds. Even counting her fall on Beam she scored 13.400 which made her first reserve for the Beam final as well as being reserve for the Floor final on account of the two-per-country ruling.
As it happened, Britain's Gabby Jupp injured herself on her Beam dismount and could not take her place in the Beam final. Also, Aliya Mustafina pulled out of the Floor final giving Anastasia a chance to compete there too. So with a bit of luck, Anastasia made it into the all around, Floor and Beam finals.

In the all around final, Anastasia upped her game (along with every other gymnast). Her Floor was better, her Vault was a brilliant double twisting yurchenko for 14.900 and her Bars went through cleanly this time, to be awarded a massive 15.033! In the last rotation she was one of the final competitors, on the Beam. Where she had fallen previously, she played it safe and she reduced her double spin to a full spin as well as absorbing some connected skills into separate elements. Although slightly lower in start value, it was lovely Beam routine and she sat waiting in suspense to see if she would medal all around. She deservedly took the bronze.

Sunday- In the Floor Final Anastasia had a jump back out of her first tumble and a messy rebound out of her second yet her delectable ballerina's poise and flexibility as well as her clean final two passes kept her in fourth position by the end.
The Beam Final was more to her favour, and her elegance and grace prospered as she managed a successful routine, to win another bronze medal and capitalise on the opportunity that Gabby Jupp's misfortune gave her. She was a pleasure to observe.

Ksenia Afansyeva spins during the Floor Final

Ksenia Afansyeva/Afanaseva - It turns out that the changes in the spelling of her name are down to the inconsistencies occurred when translating from Russian.

Ksenia did not have the qualifying competition she wanted. Like Mustafina and Grishina, who counted two falls each, she had a difficult time competing. But Afansyeva was all the more embarrassed for her difficulties, as she finished bottom of the Russian pack after some serious mistakes. She only qualified for one Final: Floor. However, Afansyeva is remarkable on the Floor, and she made the most of that routine on the Sunday. An absolutely fantastic performance redeemed her European Championships experience entirely, and gave her the glorious European title.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

My Gymnastics Comeback..... at 31?

Lisa Mason competing at the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Lisa Mason with her 2013 English Vault Champion Gold

 Some of you are already asking me if I am considering coming back to gymnastics again. Well, maybe it will take a while to convince me: Lisa Mason has just come around.... at age thirty one.

Lisa was a team member at the Olympic Games in Sydney, 2000, and retired at a similar stage in her career to me, upon completion of the event. Like myself, and many teenage gymnasts, the concept of a 'normal' life was appealing to Lisa. After her absolute dedication to gymnastics had paid off, she needed a break from it all. She had achieved all of her goals- where was there to go next? She was satisfied and proud with having mastered the sport, competing in the European Championships, the World Championships, and being part of the first full team to qualify for the Olympic Games. She could 'go out on a high' as they say. Her thoughts were almost identical to my own reasons for retiring.

But last year, the hype and excitement surrounding the home Olympics inspired Lisa to return to the sport that she had excelled in over a decade ago. Her interest in making a comeback had been growing for a while, and the timings of the Olympics meant it was possible for Lisa to begin training in time to perform in an Olympic display prior to the actual London competition rounds, as an example of Floor work. A few other gymnasts also did this, such as Danusia Francis who showcased Beam work.

Her first competition back was the 2013 English Championships where she competed on the Beam and Vault. "I was so nervous" she recalled; too nervous even to let her daughter- Yalarna Elena- watch from the audience. Despite her worries about being back in front of the judges she did incredibly well. After 13 years without competing once, she was crowned English Vault Champion. Impressive. She was certainly the only gymnast there with a daughter of her own. Her situation is unique in the history of British gymnastics. Having to care for her daughter every day does not hinder her training though, as might be suspected. She describes Yalarna as her inspiration to carry on when things are tough.

Lisa Mason with her daughter
Lisa with her daughter Yalarna
 "I just came [to the English Championships] for a trial competition before the British [Championships] so I'm over the moon [with my result]" Lisa told to the BBC, who have latched on to her eyebrow-raising accomplishment and made a big deal of her success on their website as well as on the televised news. "Thirteen years out and to come away with a title already - I'm really really pleased" she said, and deservedly so. But this is just the beginning for Lisa Mason.

Many people are now very keen to see how Lisa progresses. Making a comeback like Lisa's has never been done here before. Lisa welcomed the attention from the cameras particularly because she is looking to acquire some sort of funding to help her, but on the other hand, the attention also creates a lot of pressure for her to win medals. "I mean business. I'm not doing it for a laugh," Lisa stated, but there is still a long way for Lisa to go if she is aiming for greater success.
Lisa competes on the Vault (At the British Championships)

I don't wish to be a gloomy dampener of spirits to those championing her after her initial triumph, but it must be noted that in order to win a Vault Final you must complete two different Vaults, and very few bothered to do this when she won at the English Championships. Lisa did not compete against any gymnasts on the British national team for the title, as none of them opted to perform 2 Vaults. Her Vaults, although performed beautifully, were of low difficulty and when she is matched one for one against competitors from our Great Britain squad, the harsh truth is that at the moment, Lisa does not compare.

She may have won the English Vault title, but this does not mean she is necessarily the best in England at Vaulting (... yet). In fact, if the result were judged on a single Vault alone at the English Championships, Jocelyn Hunt would have won, with the score 14.100. Lisa would have finished in 9th equal position, shared with Katy Bramley.  At the British Championships she finished 6th in the Vault final, and a fall on Beam kept her out of that final.

"I'm not deluded" quoted Lisa to me after the British Championships, agreeing there is more progress to be made if she is to make her goal- the 2014 Commonwealth team. She is not anticipating that she will suddenly become a national star after years of no training, or a world champion. She's focused and realistic, and knows what she must do to make it to her target of the Commonwealth Games. It will require a lot more hard work, but that said, the progress she has made so far in such a short amount of time is very encouraging.

Given more time, the sky's the limit for what Lisa could achieve. Many gymnasts are unable to perform two different Vaults at all. Plus, returning to competition on an elevated podium at the British Championships, with the extra pressure of expectation from her past results, must have been a terrifying experience. Conquering competition nerves is hard regardless, without that added difficulty! And at the English Championships she won fair and square; there's no opportunity to beat those who don't enter.

What's more is that Lisa is yet to compete on her favourite piece of apparatus: the Floor. She is hoping to exhibit her Floor routine at the British Teams Championships in May, having held back on this apparatus so far because she does 'not want to walk before [she] can run'. If she shines on the Floor, improves her Beam, and combines that with her plans to upgrade her Vaults whilst keeping her execution clean, she can definitely make those 2014 Games.

The most elite British gymnastics squads we have had, have not been known for their wealth of Vaulting talent. As a nation I would suggest that we currently compete best on the Bars, which leaves more space in the [commonwealth] team for other apparatus workers like Lisa, especially Vault workers with a chance of making a final. Only seven gymnasts even tried entering the Vault competition in last year's British Championships, meaning all qualified, with a gap in the usually-eight-gymnast Final. Our lack of multi- vaulting gymnasts does not hinder Britain's World rankings though, because at International Championships, each gymnast on the team need only compete one Vault. And all of our squad have top quality singular Vaults.

Personally, there are two main reasons why I want Lisa to succeed:

1. She is such a lovely person. Sometime sincere and wise but chilled and funny too. Lisa joked at The English "My leotard is older than some of the gymnasts here!" Follow her on twitter and you will see her personality shine - @lisamason1982 . You really can't help yourself from wanting her to do well on this point alone.

2. Secondly, it would be great if she could prove that her age is not 'too old for gymnastics' to skeptics who may suggest that a comeback past thirty years old is 'too late'. True, I have been quoted before saying I was 'getting old' for gymnastics at 18, but I have since reconsidered my view- gymnastics is changing. Beth Tweddle just won her first Olympic medal at age 27. With a careful personalised training regime it is possible to continue. If Oksana Chusovitina can do it at age 37, why can't Lisa Mason at only 31? True, Oksana didn't have such a long break from training to have her son, but she is still going and that is (arguably) harder. Oksana is a six time Olympian and international Champion and inspiration.
Oksana Chusovitina as a gymnast... and mum.

Above all, we all have to commend Lisa for stepping back into the limelight as a role model for adults who lead a fully active and healthy lifestyle, however well she does in the competition hall. What an inspiration for her daughter, as well as all the rest of us! (Maybe I will make a comeback.) You can remain in top physical condition (not just occasional jogging or the odd game of neighbourhood football) as an adult, and as a parent. And Lisa displays such good sportsmanship and wisdom in her attitude to it all too.

If you want to read more about Lisa, see the links below. She has gone from Olympic gymnast, to stunt woman, to mum, to incredible comeback gymnast and the next immediate step for Lisa is going to be the Professional Gymnastics Challenge in America! I can't wait to see what the long term future holds for her. 

- Jenni x


 British women join gymnastics elite (from the year 2000)

 The Observer article 'Gymnastics Comeback'

 Gymnast Lisa Mason to end 13-year retirement

 Gymnast Lisa Mason wins in first competition for 12 years
Lisa Mason battles competitive gymnastics nerves on her return

 I have also pasted some relevant tweets here for your interest:

Daley Thompson 3 Mar  Just watched the news and Lisa mason won the vault at the English champs. Her 1st comp in 12 years. Awesome. Way to go Lisa  
Retweeted by

Gymnova UK 14 Mar Lisa Mason admits she still has plenty of work to do if she is to make it to Glasgow for next year's Commonwealth...  
Retweeted by

Nick Hope
24 Mar  Lisa Mason says "I need to walk before I can run," after her first GB Champs in 13 years. "I've achieved what I wanted by reaching a final." 
Retweeted by  

ConfessionsOfAGymFan   ConfessionsOfAGymFan Interview with the fabulous talking about returning to gymnastics after 13 years of retirement:

Flair Gymnastics   Flair Gymnastics 31 Mar "This is my last shot, but all I can do is keep trying keep pushing and doing my job - everything else is out of my hands. / It's been such a long time out, I have to re-train myself emotionally. Recent interview with Lisa Mason-

tasha lund 28 Mar Watching the Sydney Olympics, how much gymnastics has changed, but how grace elegance and poise is still the created