Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Years Resolutions

After a long year it is advisable for all gymnasts and other athletes to look back on the year that just passed and look forward to the year ahead and make some new years resolutions.

We encourage our gymnasts to set realistic goals that are measurable and in their own control. The goals should be their own but we try to steer them into the right direction.

Some of my favorite are:

  1. I will stay positive and productive
  2. I will always arrive to practice on time 
  3. I will stay the whole practice
  4. I will leave problems / disruptions from the outside word out of  the Gym
  5. I will make every round count
  6. I will make every practice count 
  7. I will be better today than I was yesterday. I will be better this week than I was last week 
  8. I will always be ready for any assignment be it a workout selection or competition
  9. I will be a role model for my younger teammates 
  10. I will be .......
Try to make the resolutions be what you want to do not what you do not want to do. Er can then take the best resolutions and use them as weekly goals for our gym.

Of course it is also possible to set specific goals like

  1. I will finish my level
  2. I will make the national team
  3. I will have all the special requirements on all pieces
  4. I will stay on beam 
  5. I will ....
Just make sure that the goals are attainable and realistic. When the goals are set work out how to reach them brake them into small steps and list them also. 

Happy new year 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Stay fit over Christmas break

For athletes working out almost every day of the year staying fit over the holidays may seem difficult at times. For some it is the longest holiday of the year including traveling and a lot of family dinners and other parties. The season is just around the corner and we do not want to return unfit back to practice.
There are a few rules that make things easier without having to miss out on all the fun. The break days might not be 12 but here are 12 easy rules to follow.

  1. Begin the day with a healthy breakfast
  2. Take a brisk walk with a family member every day 
  3. Before a party have a healthy snack 
  4. Eat slowly - enjoy the things you choose to eat 
  5. Pick a seat far away from the candy bowl 
  6. Pick the things that you really want to eat do not eat them all 
  7. Do not stuff your plate have smaller portions 
  8. Drink a lot of water 
  9. If people are dancing join them 
  10. If people are singing join them 
  11. If it is snowing go out to play 
  12. Gymnastics is the living room sport find some space to do push ups, presses handstands some ab work etc
These are my 12 rules for Christmas - have a happy healthy holiday

Merry Christmas 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Now in Local News - GYmnastics nr 4

The Icelandic Sports and Olympic committee has just released its statistics for participation in 2012. A country of about 320.000 yes that is right we are not even a million for those who did not know. Like in most countries Football/Soccer is by far the largest with some 19000 then Golf and horseback riding but finishing just outside the podium Gymnastics with 9656!!! almost ten thousand out the three hundred thousand do gymnastics of some sort and are registered into the Icelandic Gymnastics Federation. I would think that is some kind of a world record.
In the Reykjavik area there are at least 6 specialized gymnastics halls and two being built or planned to supply the demand. Quite a lot for a city of 150.000 inhabitants. The federation has now more staff members including a National team director for all disciplines WAG, MAG and TeamGym and National coaches for these sports although only in a part time positions.
The biggest job for all involved will be to keep those already taking part and increase visibility and international results.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Olympic effect part 2

The legacy created at the Olympics is hard to escape. Since it is the only competition that really matters especially in women´s artistic gymnastics coaches of the high level teams and their organisations make every effort to make a big splash at the games. It even came down to coaches not wanting their gymnasts to take part in major competitions before the Olympics as was the case in 1983 when neither Mary Lou Retton nor Dianne Durham two of Bela´s best hopes of getting medals in the 1984 games. This was of course before the boycott of the Soviets was announced and the medal hopes of these girls were greatly hightened. Not only was there home advantage but also no real competition. In Mary Lou´s case it might have been right to hide her from international judges especially in compolosories where her lack of grace and flexibility were obvious. As we all know Bela managed to prime her to her abilities for this competition and she became a legend not only in the gymnastics world but also in the real world. But she never even competed in a World Championships. Bela did not really want to send his next generation to worlds 1987 but was forced into doing so. He was quoted saying worlds are just another competition with a different format. Maybe realizing that his gymnasts were not in their best shape and far and away from the standards set by the Russians and the Romanians.

In 1991 Kim Zmeskal was the reigning world champion coming into the Barcelona Olympics. She even won two titles at the strangely timed Paris worlds hosted in the spring of 1992. Obviously beaten up by the time of the games Kim and the girls that survived the strangest and in the opinion of many (ask the other Kim) were injured and over worked. Zmeskal the reigning world champion on beam fell off on a back handspring and with it the dreams of Olympic glory fame and fortune.

Few now remembers Kim the world champion of Indianapolis those who remember her remember the girl who didn´t win the Olympics. At those games another American stole the show Shannon Miller but she also lost to an ex-Soviet gymnast. Shannon however won the next two Worlds and becoming one of the few to do so. A fact only gymnastics fans are aware of. By the Atlanta games Miller was past her prime but managing to win an additional gold on the beam to go with her Team medal. The star of the team became as we know Kerri Strug. Not for her great gymnastics but for her courage and fighting spirit. Much to the dismay of her better and higher scoring teammates she became the most famous of them all. Kerri never won an individual world or Olympic medal but her story is maybe the most frequently told and watched on youtube.

It makes no difference that the US would have won the competition without her risking her already injured ankle.
But this is the Olympic effect. If you stand out (although you might not win) at the games it does not really matter what else you do are have done to the common viewer. Just remember Nadia was never the AA world champion nor was Olga or Mary Lou or Nastia but those are the names remembered till this day. This is the unfair spell of the only gymnastics competition that really matters.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Olympic effect - part 1

In the real world there is only one gymnastics competition that really matters. This competition only comes every four years and is televised around the clock every newspaper carries detailed coverage and the cyber media goes crazy.
The preparation time given to the host city is seven years but of course the process of applying for the games takes much longer and some cities or countries apply many times before getting lucky. When the IOC announces the city the work really begins. The host country not only has to put on a perfect show but their athletes also have to be at their best. So funding is pored into every Olympic Sport in the hope that the athletes will be able to bring in the medals at the home Olympics. The problem in artistic gymnastics is that seven years is not enough time to build a world class team. This could be seen in Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 when the home teams failed to make an impact in the team competition and in most cases in the individual finals also. I´m not taking into account the very contriversial medal Tambakos got on the rings in 2004. The Greek men seem to be an oddity winning medals before and after the games at the world level in various apparatuses but failing to make an impact as a team.
The interesting thing is how each of these countries "failed" at the games but made a rapid rise afterwards climbing the ladder internationally. The Korean men did not qualify for their own games in 1988 but became a force to be taken seriously in the 1990´s and early 2000´s qualifying for team finals on many occasions and having their best showing in 2004 getting an AA medal. I´m not going into the discussion of the color of the medal (not now anyway). The Spaniards had fine Olympics but not braking into the medals but in the aftermath their teams have been close to the podium specially the women. They have even won gold both in the men´s and women´s apparatus finals at worlds and coming close to doing so at the Olympic games.
In 2000 there was much talk about the Aussie WAG team. They were by some considered medal hopefuls in the team competition although this was an over estimation of the capability of the team. In the competition they even failed to make the top 6 which advanced to the team final at those Olympics. But three years later in Anaheim they came away with the bronze medal and in 2005 Russo won the AA bronze.
This shows us that building a competitive team takes more than the seven years given by the IOC selection process. It takes more like ten years showing in the stories of these three team. If funding is continued and enough interest in the sport has been lit the performance of the teams will continue to rise after the home Olympics.
This could make the future of the GB teams very exciting both for the MAG and WAG teams. The men even managed to get a team medal. But the sad thing could be the stories of the teams that did well at home US in 1984,1996 and China in 2008. After the home Olympics the performances and results declined for some time. Lets hope and I am sure based on the build up and recent results of the British gymnasts that they have not reached their best results yet but will continue with their great work they showed in the Olympic build up.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Success of the US women´s program

In recent years the dominance of the US women has been phenomenal. The team has won almost every title possible at the World and Olympic stage. Of course this did not happen overnight and the team won some very important titles in the 90´s and had some outstanding gymnasts. Most people would point to the presence of the Karolyi duo as the main ingredient and their implementation of the training system begun leading up to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. This gives little credit to personal coaches and all their hard work molding gymnasts from when they are little. A key factor to the success and number of elite gymnasts has to have something to do with the sheer number of girls doing gymnastics in the US. I remember reading that about half of the worlds female gymnasts lived in the US. That may be exaggerated but not to far from the truth. With so many gymnasts and clubs it becomes a system of survival of the strongest. In fact quite similar to the old system of the USSR if you have high enough number at a young age train a lot of hours and numbers you could and probably will end up with a group that survives the system and becomes the champions.
The typical product of this system is quick compact and unbelievably strong. She might or might not have the best technique, grace or toe point on the planet but consistency is a lethal weapon. She is highly competitive and most of them have survived the TOPs program which tests a lot of physical abilities but as I´m told mostly power, quickness and strength.
The typical US girl who has survived the selection process for a major competition  is not very likely to miss a routine. She is though likely to have a injury of some sort (like most of elite gymnasts) but her toughness gets her through the most important part of it all the competition. They are lucky to be accompanied by doctors and physios that take care of them between competitions and training sessions. Using ice, massage, electrotherapy is a favorite pastime of the gymnasts.
It will be interesting to see how many of the last Olympic team will try to make the next one, taking on the new generation whose bodies are more likely to survive the next four years of the most physicly testing training program in the world. All we know that whoever makes the 2016 team will return home with a medal most likely the GOLD.
After those games it will be interesting to see if the USAG will be successful in finding Martas successor in this challenging job and continuing the tradition of the worlds best gymnastics team. If they fail the system might fall apart. We have seen dynasties fail before like in the case of the Soviet Union. Or will the little emphasis the US seems to put on artistry compared to other top nations be the failing of the system and other nations will catch up in the hunt for world domination.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

FIG Academies level III - ten years later

It was almost exactly ten years ago I headed to the famed Lilleshall National training center in England not far from Telford. Based on the success of Runar Alexandersson Iceland got an invitation to attend the first level III Brevet course held. When invited to attend even on very short notice a jumped onto the oppurtunity. The experience was for a somewhat inexperienced coach was thrilling and even live changing. FIG under the guidance of Mr Hardy Fink had gathered some really experienced and famous coaches. The experts were great Leonid Archiev, Octavian Bellu, Bruno Francesettu, dr Salmella, Adrian Stan, Keith Russel, Peter Bruggermann, Brian McVey Vladimir SMOLEVSKI and Eduard Yarov.
The nice facilities  well equipt gymnastics halls huge and the dorms housed in an old Victorian Palace.

The days were filled with interesting lectures but the evenings and meal times were maybe the most interesting part of the course. Most countries in attendance sent their most experienced coaches or coaches with some world class up and coming gymnasts. The conversations ranged from details of techniques of all kinds of elements to the ever ongoing thoughts on talent and talent identification. Me as clearly the newcomer in the group tried to listen in on all these people whom I felt were exploding with wisdom and insight into the great mysteries of world class gymnastics. Most had coached gymnasts to world, european or olympic teams or at least they had competed in on or all of these. I had just months before attended my first world Championships in Anaheim as a judge. 
So many things I learned there I have used both in coaching my own gymnasts and also when lecturing in local coaches coarses. I had the luck of redoing the practical part in 2007 that time listening in more on the coaching of female athletes. There I had the great luck of listening to Valeri Liukin just a year before his daughters triumph in Bejing. 
At the final Banquet my table mates included Ms Nelli Kim and Kim Zmeskal both of whom made me feel quite star struck
These days in mid England ten years ago taught me a ton of things not to mention all the people I got to know many of whom I still meet at major and other competitions. I urge all coaches young and old with much and little experience to attend the FIG academies to further their knowledge of the sport and to make some great contacts in the world of international gymnastics. 

Time passes fast I cant believe its already been ten years so now I think it´s time to attend another academy since our sport never seems to stop evolving. Just hoping my good friend Mr Hardy Fink will make a level 4 I will be the first one to sign up