Quote of the Week – Week 18

Quote

Most of the western world has been hit by recession or credit crunch or whatever you want to call it. These times seem to happen every few decades as far as I can tell.

And so in the lead up to 2012, there were a lot of people complaining about the Olympics. And then there was the Royal Wedding. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Pomp and Circumstance costs money, and we are a nation that likes to complain. There are the anti-royalists. And there were a great many of my friends who just didn’t get the Olympics and Paralympics. I have long loved the Olympics and everything they are about and stand for. I love the Paralympics possibly even more (only they don’t have gymnastics yet).

People moaned as they saw the costs of stadiums and ceremonies. But didn’t they get that those facilities could then be used for many years to come? Edinburgh has a fantastic Olympic length pool with a diving pool, thanks to hosting the Commonwealth Games before I was born. Manchester has an amazing velodrome that’s helped produce the success of a cycling team that won the majority of Gold medals on offer in Beijing and London thanks to hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2002.

It was a sucky summer, but as the Olympic torch went round the country in all the glorious British weather, people began to steadily get involved. Schools and youth organisations were able to educate people on the heroes of past Olympics and Paralympics. The history behind it all, and get kids excited to be healthy and active. Our Guides had a lot of fun doing the On Your Marks sports badge, and one patrol has since done the ‘Culture’ badge that’s part of the same programme.

We worried the opening ceremony would be crap, and ‘it would never compare to Beijing’. An American presidential candidate visited our country and told us we’d never pull it all off (I haven’t forgotten your rudeness Mr Romney).

At a Jubilee we all enjoyed an extra long bank holiday weekend, and gathered to celebrate being British. What fun it ended up being – even for some of those who would happily oust the Royal Family from their palaces. A superb opening ceremony directed by our own Danny Boyle reminded everyone of what Great Britain has contributed to the world in a positive way. We celebrated the NHS. Literature. The internet. Music. Film. And with great pride and shock we watched James Bond escort the REAL Queen to the Olympic Ceremony. We clapped and cheered and suddenly the beauty of all the volunteers, artists, dancers, musicians and more got us hooked. We saw countries we’d never heard of represented in small numbers walk into the stadium with pride and we wanted to cheer them on to, as well as our own.

We saw the Paralympics come home – started by a Jewish refugee escaping the holocaust who used his medical skills to improve the outcomes for soldiers who had been paralysed. And from there, his passion and enthusiasm to use sport as part of the rehabilitation process led to the first Stoke-Mandeville games alongside the London 1948 games.

We could have called the whole thing off. We could have scrimped and lessened the beauty. But everything considered, in hard times, it did what their motto was along… it inspired a generation.

People cheered. People gathered. The nation became a community again. Kids jumped on their bikes, or started flipping or begged to be allowed to join teams or start classes. People were given hope.

I fully agree with Paul Madonna. It can be easy to cut money given to ‘the arts’ in tough financial seasons. But really, if you do that what is left to enjoy and inspire us?

We cut the beauty, and all we’ll be left with is hard times without it.

I’d rather have both than just one.

On Tom Daley, sport, athletes and media…

I’ll be honest, I don’t watch a lot of ‘live’ TV. I tend to have a bit of HIMYM on in the background when I come home from work and I’m getting some food and (usually) throwing it down my neck before I have to head back out again, and sometimes if I’m in the house at weekends I’ll have it on while I’m cooking or writing or social media-ing. That’s about it.

So I didn’t have a clue what ‘Splash’ was apart from that I was informed by means of twitter that Rebecca was going to be watching it because she was cooking tea for Simon. And Tom Daley was somehow involved.

I follow a fair number of people connected to Olympic sports – journalists, sports bloggers, coaches, athletes – on twitter. And the other day I saw people explode as the Director of British Swimming (probably the only UK sports organisation that got a lot of criticism from athletes and others before & after the Olympics) criticised Tom Daley for not taking his training seriously and becoming a celebrity before he’d achieved all his success.

I don’t usually read the Daily Mail but I was whooping and cheering on Debbie Daley (Tom’s Mum) as she responded to David Sparkes comments in an open letter in the paper. I was even more pleased to see the number of athletes and coaches – like Pete Waterfield, Leon Taylor, Rebecca Adlington and Andy Banks who were showing their support and concern that Tom was being criticised.

Really? Is this how we repay our athletes?

1. Tom is 18. He’s achieved a great deal more in diving than most British divers already individually and with his partners.  He’s been a World Champion, Commonwealth Champion and Olympic medallist. All while doing school, seeing his Dad dying from cancer and now providing for his family. Quite frankly, he could retire if he wanted to. His passion for diving (and let’s be honest, his good looks) have made people want to watch a ‘minority sport’.

2. Most Olympic athletes have been out of ‘full-on’ training and having a well earned rest. Why can’t Tom?

3. I don’t see British Gymnastics criticising Louis Smith for ‘not taking his training seriously’ and doing Strictly Come Dancing when he hasn’t announced retirement or making statements in the newspapers.

I have to confess that I’ll have to use gymnastics as my comparison because I know most about that sport. In the states, the Gold medal gymnasts – and they’ve all expressed a desire to continue in the sport – got to do a major tour which meant they came out of training for several months. They did lots of media appearances and all the rest. Their coaches supported them because they believed they needed to grab hold of the opportunities and enjoy their success. Now Kyla Ross is already back in training and due to compete in American Cup in March. Jordyn Wieber has started to come back into training with the intention of competing at the US Nationals this summer. We don’t see USA Gymnastics saying in newspapers ‘Well, I don’t think the gymnasts should be doing these tours’. They see it as celebrating gymnastics and using it to get more people inspired to take up the sport. To remind the athletes why they love the sport.

It saddens me to ask some of my Guides who inspires them when they tell me of people from reality TV shows like The Only Way is Essex or  ‘X Factor’. But now my friend’s daughter knows who Louis Smith is because she loves to watch Strictly Come Dancing with her Auntie at weekends. When we found out Beth Tweddle was going to be on Dancing on Ice, I got the chance to show her who Torvill and Dean are too.

We also get to see how difficult a sport diving is. I watched a bit of it tonight and I was impressed by the guts of some of the ‘celebrities’ (most of whom I didn’t have a clue who they were!) trying it out and you realise how much work and risk goes into Olympic sports. And even if it’s not the kind of show I like, I’d rather see something like ‘Splash’ than ‘Big Brother’ or ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ which maybe gets people interested in real sport so we see more Diving, Swimming, Gymnastics, wheelchair athletics or hand cycling and less football and cricket…!

Good on you Tom – for sticking with Diving, for working so hard and being willing to share your love of the sport with others. And Debbie – you and Rob are inspirational parents. Thankfully I know you aren’t the only ones, but I wish there were more like you!

2012 is almost over…but there’s more to come in 2013…

So tonight I was tweeting during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, and discovered that the GB Special Olympics team had started following me on twitter. I hadn’t realise they were on twitter, and not sure how they found me, but I’m happy they did.

28th Jan 2013 is the start of the Winter Special Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

A family from my old church in Aberdeen have a special connection, as their son (who unbelievably is now 17 or 18 – he was just a wee kid when I used to go round to their house for student lunch!) is one of the skiers in Team GB who’ll be competing.

You can follow the Team’s blog here: http://2013wintergamesgbteam.wordpress.com/ and Special Olympics GB on twitter (@SOGreatBritain).

After such an exciting year in sport, my hope is to continue giving shout outs to sports that don’t get the same attention as Football, rugby, cricket, golf and tennis… :)

And did I mention that my tickets are booked and have even already arrived for next year’s FIG World Cup in Glasgow? Yep. Ruairidh and Saija are back on guard duty…

The reindeer guard my Gymnastics World Cup tickets!

The reindeer guard my Gymnastics World Cup tickets!

It was the summer of 2012…

Years in youth work have often made me feel like the year begins in August. As the Edinburgh festivals begin to peeter out, nighttime returns and school begins.

It has been a busy summer. It’s strange to think that this now makes for 3 years since I went to South Africa, which means it is 3 years since I’ve been out of the UK. I don’t think I’ve gone for so long being in the UK ever in my whole life! But I wouldn’t have missed this summer for anything.

Starting with the Queen’s Jubilee, Beacon Night was fantastic. I was after that couple of weeks properly campfired out – because after Beacon I built campfires 3 times in a 2 week period! One night I went straight to my friend’s house covered in mud and smelling of fire so we could take her sons to see the Olympic torch run through Dalkeith. It’s a morning I hope I’ll remember forever.

Then the school year ended and I headed South. A few days in the South West with my lovely friend Ruth before we headed through the rain to Cornwall. Our time with friends old and new in and around the beautiful Constantine Bay was much needed. The return home wasn’t so fun – 10 days of living on raspberries and digestive biscuits meant that I wasn’t too productive. But soon, I was off work again so I could catch every second of artistic gymnastics I could.

When the gymnastics was over, the Edinburgh festivals had begun. A meeting with a favourite author, fun with new American friends seeing a rather famous A Capella group known affectionately as ‘Ted’s Band’ (actually called The Blanks). Comedy. Random reunions. An unexpected night that lasted way longer than expected. Discovering that my favourite Italian takeaway had changed it’s name after discovering the old name was a Jamaican phrase associated with orgasms (yes, you read that correctly). Taking pictures of postboxes painted Gold. Standing in New College belting out the Scottish anthem in honour of  an Olympic medallist. A hen weekend. Doing some stealth worship pastor type work.

And on Monday, a new year began. We expected some of our Guides would not return. We were pleasantly surprised to discovered all but 2 had come back, and we have 3 new additions. Rules were discussed and written. Games were played. I was reminded how loud the cheers and screams of eighteen 10-14 year olds could be.

The one thing I haven’t really mentioned here is church and faith. For the first time in 10 years, I have no idea where to head with that. The wounds from rejection and being drained from fighting and pushing it all down are definitely still there. This summer I came away from a conference a little bit disturbed from what I saw happening. It definitely makes you question who you can trust and what you believe. Is the sacrifice of relationships with people who don’t get that part of you – the part of you that believes such strange and unusual things – worth it? The word that keeps coming back, is the one marked indelibly on my skin. The question is now – how to find it again.

 

 

How to get kids to hate sport & ruin an Olympic legacy

The olympics have been awesome. It’s been great to see triumph, it’s been heart wrenching to watch the disappointment. We’ve seen rowers being dragged to their feet by Sir Steve, people competing on fractured bones, crashes, near misses and the joy of simply competing.

There are some that sadly, have forgotten what the Olympics are about. It’s not just about winning. It’s about  your work being rewarded with the honour of representing your country and competing alongside athletes from across the globe.

To quote one of my favourite films “If you aren’t enough without it [a gold medal], you’ll never be enough with it“.

As a graduate of health science, I’m all for getting kids active. I’ve really done my best to get people excited about the Olympics, encouraging my parenting friends to watch it with their kids. At Guides, we combined the Amelia’s Challenge badge with the ‘On Your Marks’ programme that Girlguiding created to tie in with London 2012. I’m hoping they’ve been watching (I did tell them they all had to know who Beth Tweddle was by the end of the summer) and I’m hoping they’ve been inspired by it.

And then I heard the disappointing and frustrating news today that our Prime Minister is backing compulsory competitive sports in the school curriculum.

ARRRRGGGGHHHH!

For me it brought back memories of being forced to do certain sports at PE in school. I was terrible. It became that being good at team sports made you popular. It wasn’t about taking part. If you screwed up, your team moaned and shouted at you. Even if you did your best. It was humiliating and horrible. By the time high school came around, it turned into bullying and I used to skive school on days I had PE.

Here’s the flip side. Was I an inactive kid  because I was the one who got picked almost to last or preferred to sit and sunbathe on the sidelines that take part in a game of rounders or tennis?

No.

I used to take part in dance classes – 2 a week going into high school. When we were getting ready for exams or a show, sometimes I might be dancing for 5 hours a day. I’d come home with a bag of sweaty leotards, feet blistered and cut and next day my muscles would hurt so bad in school.

I remember my friend Emily feeling ill one day in PE as our teacher made us run round the playing field. She looked white. I stopped to sit with her (our teacher wasn’t really doing anything to help her and I was concerned). He shouted at me and I’ve never forgotten the words “Get moving! This is probably the only exercise you’ll have done this week“.

Red rag to a teenage bull.

I lost no time in setting him straight. The PE teacher at least had nothing to respond with.

The problem with PE, was that you never got a chance to get good at anything. The sporty kids got held back by kids like me who had no talent (or desire) for whatever sport had been forced upon us.And it was mostly team sports. Basketball, hockey, rugby… and PE teachers didn’t necessarily know much about the sport they were teaching. I would have loved the opportunity to improve on my swimming. I had a good breaststroke – my leg stroke (?) was great. My arm stroke sucked (I have no upper body strength). We spent one day on breaststroke in the 4 years I did compulsory high school PE! 2 weeks later I was being made to play rugby without my glasses on. 4 weeks after that hockey.

It is not the way to get kids into sport.

I’m now going to quote Olympic champion, Shawn Johnson. In her book Winning Balance she talks about her work with a US congressman to get kids more active.

“In a traditional PE class, kids might be drilled in the fundamentals of volleyball one day and then lined up and ordered to do push ups the next. It’s an approach many kids hate. And if they dread physical activity at this age, they’re much less likely to be concerned about staying fit later on”

When Jessica Ennis was asked her opinion on plans to get sports more competitive for kids she said it was more important to make it fun, the competitive side should come much later.

I agree.

I also love the idea of what Shawn Johnson Fitness for Life Act bill is doing. The idea is that pupils are given choices about how to spend their PE time. It might be lifting weights, playing a team sport or doing a Dance game on the Nintendo Wii. Whatever they choose the pupils wear heart rate monitors and know what their individual target heart rate is. And once they’ve reached their target, they’ve met their goal for the day and after that they can do what they want. Those who are less fit, or perhaps overweight will reach their target more easily. Those who are aspiring sports stars will have to work harder. The programme gives small successes – and achievable goals to kids who usually feel inferior to the sporty kids.

The real goal“, Shawn Johnson writes “is to help kids discover that exercise is fun“.

In the USA there seems to be much more incentive for sport – sports schloarships, extra curricular sport with decent coaches who know that sport well. Perhaps that’s why they are top of the Olympic table.

And then, you’ve got to look at the sports we have a great legacy in. Cycling was not an option at school. Neither was gymnastics. Or canoeing. Or rowing. Or athletics (other than running 100m races). I was appalled at my PE teacher’s idea of “dance”. Maybe it’s time we think outside of the box. Maybe we let the kids pick a sport to be involved in, the same as they get to pick an instrument to learn to play in music if they want to. Maybe we join forces with local colleges, universities, sports clubs and other schools so that resources can be brought together to give kids opportunity to learn a sport properly and have fun doing it.

Because really…if you don’t love the sport, you’re never going to want to push through the bad times and injuries to keep going towards the chance of Olympic medals.

And Politicians…you might want to think about that.

History was made today

History was made this weekend, when the British gymnastics team qualified a mens team AND womens team to an Olympic Team Final. That hasn’t happened in the modern era of  gymnastics…EVER.

And today…we won BRONZE – the first Olympic team medal in men’s gymnastics in 100 years!!!

I’d got really annoyed in the last few months reading gymnastics sites who had so many articles about medal contenders and hadn’t mentioned the British men’s team. Last month, one of the best sites that I follow regularly declared the medals would be given to USA, Japan, China, Russia or Romania in men’s team final. I was so angry – did they not realise the talent we had? Our men’s team had BEATEN Russia, Germany and Romania at Europeans as recently as May. Yes, injury comebacks and a disastrous day (not unlike the one the American men had today in team final) at the Prelims in Tokyo meaning they didn’t qualify back then. But the fact that Daniel Purvis got 4th all-around and Smith got Bronze even after a big error on his Pommel routine should have been a sign not to count us out. We dominated the London Test Event. Daniel Purvis got the highest All-Around score at Euros – on 3 hours sleep and a stomach bug! And then we won and became the European Champions.

I always knew that a medal was possible – though not probable today. There were some great teams – the American men proved in qualifers they were capable of making that medal podium. I knew that it was highly unlikely that China wouldn’t hugely improve from qualifiers – they did that at Worlds and they  have great mental toughness. Germany had huge potential. Russia had huge potential. In all honesty, the surprise for me today was not the British medal, but the almost medal for Ukraine. The only one I’d noticed in the last year was young Oleg Stepko. Shame on me for counting out the Ukrainians. They did AWESOME today, and I hope to see plenty more of them in years to come.

I hope now you see why I made my complaint to the BBC – why I’ve complained that they’ve really not promoted gymnastics too much on the BBC Sport website except for Louis Smith and Beth Tweddle. These guys can inspire a whole generation of kids to get into sport with the drive of a dream of representing their country in international competition. Making the choice to work hard, be disciplined, stay healthy. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? Even if they never become Olympians, what they could gain to take into whatever they wish to work hard to achieve in life is priceless.

And stay tuned. Some people may say this is a ‘surprise’ medal or that the British men ‘overperformed’ – but those who paid attention (and that includes Japanese coaches when they first saw today’s team in junior competitions like the youth olympics) saw the potential. And if you paid attention to the European Championships this year you’ll know that there is some great talent amongst the Juniors that hopefully will come up in the next few years before Rio 2016.

I’m so looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and World Championships in 2015 – both competitions will take place in Glasgow. It may mean a trip on the ‘road of doom’ (the M8 for those not in the know!) but today I’m even more disappointed not to have gotten those Olympic tickets I applied for and tried to get other ways.

And I’m not regretting a second of my precious time off being used to watch our British Olympians. Whether they win medals or not.

:)

 

I’m feeling very Olympic today

Well, I stayed up late to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and it surpassed my expectations. It was fun to watch people’s reactions on twitter – only 2 negative people on my feed. I thought it was excellent, and it made me proud to be British. Perhaps the only down side was they ended an AMAZING show with Paul McCartney. I know he was a Beatle, yes he’s a great songwriter. But he can’t really sing particularly well. I was just thankful the crowd almost drowned him out by the end. :)

And I totally want a bike with dove wings that light up.

So if it’s a bit quiet around here, you’ll find me on twitter where I’ll be tweeting about Olympics. Most likely Gymnastics (obviously), Cycling and Swimming. My 3 favourite sports. Maybe a bit of diving (Come on Pete Waterfield & Tom Daley!).

On the body fail front – I’m gradually beginning to eat more. I’m like a colicky baby! With the big round tummy to go with it. Amazingly I haven’t lost any weight (thanks Depo Provera). If this had happened even 5 years ago, I’d likely have lost almost half a stone by now. :) Anyway – seeing a doctor on Tuesday. I don’t know any of my doctors well (I had a great doctor when I lived in Aberdeen). My experience of 2 of them when I first came down in 2007 wasn’t the best so that makes me nervous. Hopefully I’ll get one without a God complex who realises I know my body better than he does!

Who to watch: Women’s Subdivision 5

And the final Subdivision begins at 8 p.m. on Sunday 29th July – after this we will know which of the 8 teams have made the final, and which individual gymnasts have made which final. Eek!

Koko Tsurumi (JPN) – I fear she may have peaked in 2009, but I’d love to see Koko shine in London. It’s been great to see the Japanese women improving as the Japanese men have become so dominant in the sport of gymnastics.

Watch out for her in: (if all goes really well for her) Women’s Team Final, Women’s All-Around and Women’s Uneven Bars

Romanian Women’s Team – First of all, we have the return of 2 fantastic Olympic gymnasts who were looking excellent at the European Championships. Then we have the return of their legendary Coach, Octavian Belu. And then the newest Senior on the team who could challenge for the All-Around crown.

Catalina Ponor – A three time Olympic Champion in 2004, she returned to Worlds in 2011 with very little training and still looked like she had all her power. Now we’ve been seeing that power more polished and she has won a fair few titles this year already. A fabulous new floor routine, and dominant on Balance Beam (she’s the current European Champion). This girl wants to bring more bling back to Romania from London.

watch out for her in: Women’s Team Finals, Women’s Floor, Women’s Balance Beam

Sandra Izbasa – Sandra was the only Romanian to bring back an individual medal in 2008 having performed a stunning routine taking Gold away from Shawn Johnson in the last performance of the floor final. She’s since been injured, but under great coaching she has become a superb Vault specialist. Though I suspect Ponor and Iordache will keep her out of floor finals in London, I hope to see a routine from her in team finals.

watch out for her in: Women’s Team Finals, Women’s Vault

Larisa Iordache – She was too young to compete in Worlds last year (it’s annoying they’ve stopped letting 15 year olds compete the year before the Olympics) but her performances in international competitions in 2012 have gone from strength to strength. She beat teammate Catalina for the Floor title in Brussels, and came second to her on Balance Beam. She is a contender for the All-Around title too. I can’t wait to see how she does in London on the Olympic stage

watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, Women’s All-Around, Women’s Balance Beam, Women’s Floor

Phan Thi Ha Thanh (VIE) – Phan was the first Vietnamese gymnast to bring home a World medal, earning a Bronze on Vault in Tokyo. Since then, more recognition for the sport in her country has meant a lot more support for her training. I would love to see her do well in London. And perhaps bring another medal home to Vietnam – because it’s always nice to see someone who is not Russian, American, Romanian or Chinese do well in women’s gymnastics!

Watch out for her in: Women’s Vault

Who to watch – Women’s Subdivision 4

4.40 p.m. sees Subdivision 4, with Germany, China and Russia competing with a mixed group of individual athletes.

Oksana Chusovitina (GER) – The only athlete who’s competed for 3 different countries (Soviet Union, Uzbekistan & Germany), the only gymnast for whom this will be her record sixth Olympics. Oksana holds the record for the most world medals on a single event (9 medals all on Vault). She has been competing at an elite international level for 22 years – since before most of her competitors were born. She is also only the 4th female to compete in elite gymnastics after giving birth. She is AMAZING. She won Silver in Beijing, and it would be wonderful to see her medal in London also.

Watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, Women’s Vault

Huang Qiushuang (CHN) – Huang didn’t have her best competition last year at Worlds, but still came 5th All-Around and took home a Bronze medal on Uneven Bars. In fact this quadrennium the Chinese women’s team haven’t looked nearly as dominant as they did before Beijing. But word is that Huang has upped her difficulty – training an Amanar vault which is looking good that could put her back into medal contention.

watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, Women’s All-Around, Women’s Uneven Bars

Yao Jinnan (CHN) – Overshadowed by the Komova/Wieber controversy, this teeny Chinese gymnast didn’t get much attention despite the fact that had she not fallen from the Balance Beam, she had the potential to beat both Wieber and Komova in the All-Around. In fact, she went on to win a Silver on Balance Beam a few days later. She’s been dominant in the World Cup circuit in 2011/12 winning Golds in several events.

Watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, Women’s All-Around, Women’s Balance Beam, Women’s Floor

Sui Lu (CHN) – A gymnast that didn’t make the cut for Beijing, seems to be shining now. Her performance in Tokyo’s event finals was superb and delightful. She won a very deserved Gold on Balance Beam, and a Silver on Floor. One of China’s specialists, she will be a pleasure to watch in London.

Watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, Women’s Balance Beam, Women’s Floor

The Russian Women’s Team – Gold medallists in 2010, Silver medallists in 2011, this new crop of gymnasts has been bringing Russia back onto the Gymnastics podium. Though they’ve had some injuries, the team is much deeper than it was last time, and I suspect that despite not having the best of showing in events this year a great deal of work has been going on behind closed doors.

Aliya Mustafina – The 2010 World Champion who made it to every single final. Sadly, she tore her ACL during finals at the European Championships last Spring and was unable to defend her title in Tokyo. She hasn’t looked quite the same since but she has always seemed a very stubborn and determined gymnast – not too unlike Svetlana Khorkina in character!

Watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, Women’s All-Around, Women’s Uneven Bars, Women’s Balance Beam, Women’s Floor

Ksenia Afanasyeva – the current World Champion on Floor, Ksenia was the surprise world champion as she had been a reserve and only competed due to the Russian coaches pulling out her teammate Viktoria Komova from the final and a last minute injury in the warm gym to Italian Vanessa Ferrari. Her artistry and clean execution won her the Gold having made many finals over the years but never seeming to perform her best to be on that medal podium. Her second Olympics she’ll be looking for an individual as well as a team medal.

Watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, Women’s Floor, Women’s Balance Beam

Viktoria Komova – A favourite to become World Champion, she looked exhausted in Tokyo having been injured earlier in the year. She was devastated when she lost to Jordyn Wieber in Tokyo, but gained Gold on her strongest piece – Uneven Bars making her the current World and European Champion on that event.

Watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, Women’s All-Around, Women’s Uneven Bars, Women’s Balance Beam

Anastasia Grishina – a new Senior this year, she won Silver behind Komova at the European Championships this year. However, I noticed she only performed one event at the Russia Cup last month – so I’m not sure what she’ll be capable of in London.

watch out for her in: Women’s Team Final, (possibly) Women’s Uneven Bars, Women’s Floor and (possibly) Women’s Vault

Who to watch: Women’s Subdivisions 1 & 2

Sunday 29th July at 9.30 a.m. is when the women start competing. Because women do only 4 events, there are more subdivisions. Plus medal contenders tend to come from mainly the same countries – unlike men’s gymnastics which has specialists from countries that often don’t have whole teams in the Olympics.

Subdivision 1 is made almost entirely of mixed groups – individual competitors from countries that did not have teams qualify. Brazil will be struggling as due to contracting and sponsorship issues, Jade Barbosa has not been allowed to compete. Had she been allowed to compete she would likely have been a medal contender on Vault.

Yamilet Peña Abreu (DOM) – The first Dominican gymnast to qualify for the Olympics, Peña has the potential to throw a spanner in the works of the women’s vault final. In 2011 we saw her attempt an insane vault with a 7.0 start value – a handspring double front. Even men struggle to do this vault and stick it, and they have more upper muscle and a higher vault table (therefore more air to get their somersaults in before landing). Every final she’s ended up landing on her back with a 0.000 score. Will she compete and complete the vault in London?

watch out for her in: Women’s Vault

Subdivision 2 – 11.30 am.


Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) – The 2006 World All-Around Champion narrowly missed out on a Floor medal this year in Brussels at the European Championships. However, there is no doubt that her strength on floor is coming back. She’ll be a key member of the Italian team along with Carlotta Ferlito and best hope for Italy winning a medal.

watch out for her in: Women’s All-Around, Women’s Floor

Lauren Mitchell (AUS) – Lauren had a real coming out party in Beijing, and looked to just be enjoying that she was at the Olympics. Then came Worlds in London, and she won a Silver medal on beam stunning people with her signature wolf turns – on 4 inches of wood! In 2010 she won multiple medals in the Commonwealth Games and went straight from Delhi to Rotterdam where she became Australia’s first world champion female gymnast. Her career has been plagued by injuries taking her out the All-Around but we’d love to see her shine on Beam and Floor…and maybe even help Australia to team finals.

Watch out for her in: Women’s Floor, Women’s Beam & (possibly) Women’s Team Final

Giulia Steingrüber (SUI) – Taking  the torch from Ariella Kaeslin, Giulia is another great Swiss vaulter. Though she will likely be beaten by the likes of Chusovitina, Izbasa and Maroney, she is still one to watch in London.

Watch out for her in: Women’s Vault