2000 Bluewater International
Senior High Performance
The 2000 Bluewater International enjoyed the distinction of being one of the most prestigious international events in North America prior to the Olympic Games, due in large part to the presence of a wide array of potential Olympians. Most notable was the presence of comeback-kid, Amy Chow, who was fresh off an inconsistent performance at the American Cup qualifier just weeks before, but the field also included other top names from recent years, including Zeena McLaughlin and Melinda Cleland from Australia, and Ukrainian world championship team members, Olga Teslenko and Tatiana Yarosh. The home-team Canadians were well-represented by youngster Kate Richardson, an all-around finalist in Tianjin, and a very fit Yvonne Tousek, who appears to be peaking at just the right time before Sydney.
1. AMY CHOW: It was easy to be impressed by Amy's performance! She is in great physical shape (her physique is almost identical to 1996), and her gymnastics was performed with confidence, and on this day, consistency. She started on BB, where she was very solid, sending an early message to her competitors that she meant business. Her ff layout ff was right on, and she only had to lift her leg slightly after her piked full twist. Her switch split/wolf/Rulfova combination was also very high and showed early completion of the twist. Her dismount of RO ff triple twist was probably the weakest element of her entire day, with two large steps forward and to the side (a la RCA meet), but she finished with a big smile and scored a 9.525/10. Her FX routine was well-received, and her tumbling was dead on (whip to piked full-in, 2½ twist/piked front, easy front through to triple twist). She scored a 9.75/10, which the crowd generally took some exception to - they felt Yvonne Tousek's FX routine in the previous rotation should have outscored it. On V, she performed two double twisting Yurchenko's, both with form deductions (crossed legs), slightly low landings, and hops, but generally well done at this stage of the game. Not surprisingly, Chow's UB routine was excellent, in part because she left out her double layout/pike and went back to the full-in that she used in pro meets. She received a loud ovation for her exercise, and scored a 9.7 to win the meet. I laughed when one of the spectators said as a joke that she was going to receive a deduction for NOT performing a sole circle in her exercise!
2. KATE RICHARDSON: It is easy to understand why gymnastics purists are so fond of this gymnast! She has some of the best form on the planet, and performs some terrific tricks to go along with it. Richardson's day began on FX where she threw a high Arabian double front, 2½ twist (no punch front today, so a 0.2 loss in Start Value), whip to 1½ twist punch front, and double pike. The crowd enjoyed the routine and clapped along with the music, but the loss in SV hurt a little, dropping her score to a 9.425/9.8. Her V's were two high and super-clean Hristakieva's, both with slight overrotation, scoring a respectable 9.262/9.6. One would hope that the mastery Kate shows over the Hristakieva indicates that a more difficult vault is on the horizon, but I suppose only time will tell! Kate had problems with her UB routine, but in warm-up showed a brilliant combination of inverted giant, pirouette to Tkatchev (facing out), piked counterswing to low bar (think straddle back with legs together), to immediate piked shoot to HB. In competition she broke form on her pirouette on HB, however, and bent her legs. She also missed her shoot to HB and had to use a sole circle instead, but hit her ultra-hollow double layout dismount well. Somehow, she managed a 9.475, which seemed a little high. Her BB was highlighted by an English press to handstand mount, followed by a step-down to 2 layouts! She also used an aerial walkover and performed her Onodi for the first time in a while. She finished with a ff ff double pike, and scored a 9.5/9.9 to finish second.
3. MELINDA CLELAND: We had the opportunity to speak with "Min" for quite a while after the meet, and found her to be one of the nicest, most down-to-earth gymnasts we have ever met. She had a good competition overall, no major breaks. Leslie and I were especially taken with the fact that during warm-up she would duck down when walking by to avoid messing up my sister's pictures - I've never seen a gymnast do this! I don't think she's quite back to the level she was at early last year, but she said she feels she is coming along since tearing her calf muscle prior to worlds last fall. Her FX started from 10 (piked full-in, 2½ twist to punch front, whip immediate double twist, double pike), scoring a 9.5. Her vaults are "very open" piked front-1/2's (I really can't call them layouts, though that's the number she flashes), both of which had low landings. I really didn't see much of her UB routine, but I noted her Healy to Jaeger and full-in dismount. She started from 10, but I did not catch her score. Her BB featured a punch front to jump, ff layout, a number of side leaps/Shushunova's, and a very low double pike dismount (almost kissed the mat, yet managed to stick it). I also didn't get her score or SV here - sorry!
4. TATIANA YAROSH: This was my first opportunity to really see this two-time Jr. European Champion (BB and FX, 1998). She is very tiny (as is her teammate, Teslenko), but has a terrific presence on her two best events. Her BB and her FX choreography is quite unique (interesting percussion music for the latter) and, I thought, rather captivating. Her UB routine was better than she had shown at Gymnix a week ago (Pak, inverted giants, Tkatchev, full-in), but her V was very weak (low Hristakieva's with little amplitude and bent knees).
4. YVONNE TOUSEK: Yvonne looked great at this meet. She is really going to be a fantastic leader for the Canadian team in Sydney later this year. She started on FX, and almost brought the house down with her 1999 world final routine (Arabian double front, 2½ twist/punch front, perfect triple turn to Shushunova, triple twist - short). She had the audience all to herself for her performance, and I have come to realize that Yvonne's FX is something that really needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. She scored a 9.7/10. V was two archy Hristakieva's with identical hops. Her UB routine was beautiful (and Olympic EF quality, perhaps?). If I have her new combination down right, it was Endo/Healy/piked Jaeger, kip/cast/handstand to high Hindorff. She stuck her double layout and scored 9.725/10. Though I didn't see her V scores, Yvonne must have been in the hunt for the AA title until she fell on her punch front on BB, and also went overtime, I believe. Too bad, she was having a great competition!
6. RACHEL TIDD: I was very unfamiliar with Rachel prior to the competition, but I was very impressed with what I saw! This SCEGA gymnast has beautiful form on all events, and a nice style and presentation that is far too unusual in today's gymnastics. V was a crisp Yurchenko full, followed by a 1½ that I missed. Bars were really pretty, but unfortunately only a 9.6 SV (1½ pirouette, Gienger, Pak, full-in). Her BB routine included a ff ff Chen combination and some clean jumps. She began her FX with a whip-half/double-twisting front/punch front combination, and continued with a 2½ twist/punch front and a short triple twist, scoring a 9.425.
OTHER GYMNASTS: Unfortunately I only know of the top 6 so far, so I'll just have to give you my impressions and any scores available for the other girls.
OLGA TESLENKO: As had been noted at the Gymnix meet, Olga looked a little tired and weak here. She began on UB with a Jaeger, Gienger, and double front to score 9.5/10. Her BB featured her usual elements (side somi, punch front, RO ff double back dismount), which were performed cleanly for a 9.525/10. Strangely, she has changed her FX music to that of Maria Olaru (Invisible Circus), but her 2½ twist/punch front, double pike and triple twist (short) were only good for a 9.7 SV and a score of 9.2. V was a total disaster, with a fall on a piked front and a low landing after a tucked front. Olga laughed at herself after her fall, perhaps having resigned herself to only being a specialist for the Ukrainian team in the future.
ZEENA MCLAUGHLIN: Zeena had a pretty good meet here, so hopefully her difficulties of the past year are finally behind her. While not in the best condition I have seen her in, her performance was spirited and she suffered no major errors. Her now-familiar FX scored a 9.4 for a 2½ twist/punch front, triple twist, and impressive whip to double pike last pass. She vaulted two archy Hristakieva's with hops - no 1½'s today. UB only started from 9.7, but I did not see the score (piked Jaeger, double front 1/2 dismount). Zeena hit her signature opening BB pass (RO layout on to ff ff), but landed very low on her double pike dismount. I have a score of 8.725 written between her routine and Annabeth Eberle's UB, but I'm not sure which of the two that score belongs to!
ANNABETH EBERLE: Like Rachel Tidd, I had seen little of this gymnast prior to Bluewater. A physically strong and quite tall gymnast (incredible abs), Annabeth combines good form with a respectable level of difficulty. Her BB started from 9.8 (punch front to straddle jump mount, ff ff layout, punch front, and stuck double tuck dismount) and she scored 9.15. Annabeth used a surprising amount of twisting in her FX routine (whip/2½ twist/punch, triple twist - short- and double pike - good height), since she looks like she would excel at more power-oriented elements. Her score was 9.475/10. I only caught one vault - a Hristakieva with good dynamics and clean form. Unfortunately, Annabeth took about 5 steps out of her double front UB dismount, marring an excellent routine that included a giant full to hop full to ultra-high Tkatchev.
BROOKE WALKER: Unfortunately, Brooke did not have quite the day that some of the other girls had. She started on her best event, UB but had quite a disaster with two falls. It was a shame, since she was showing excellent work, including some lovely stalders, one of which she fell on. Her BB routine was much more successful and included a flying scrunchie during her double back dismount (punch front to wolf mount, ff ff layout to 2 feet, punch front to beat jump). She started from 9.9, but I did not see her score. Brooke did not perform FX or V, which she had also forgone at Gymnix.
CRYSTAL GILMORE: Crystal started on BB and stayed on on her ff-full, but suffered a major wobble on her punch front mount (9.175/10). Her FX routine was outstanding, performed to a slow, dramatic guitar piece music by Dire Straights. She is from the same gym as Yvonne Tousek (Cambridge Kips), so such quality of choreography is not surprising. Unfortunately, her FX was on at the same time as Teslenko's BB, so I couldn't get the full effect. Her score was 9.5/9.9. Crystal missed one of her hands on her first Hristakieva vault, which caused a fall, but was successful on her second attempt. Her day ended on a sour note with problems on a pirouette on UB (8.55).
BROOKE O'BRIEN and RACHEL KMETKO: We spoke with Brooke briefly after the meet, and when I told her I was doing a write-up of the competition, she said "Okay, just don't say anything about me - except for my floor!". :) Her FX included a whip 2½ twist punch front, triple twist, rudi, and double pike (9.475/10). Well, the good news is that since I had never seen her before, I think I might have mixed her up with Rachel Kmetko (I know they don't look anything alike, but they were both new to me, and I am easily confused), so I will refrain from saying much else about these girls! I saw a piked front on V (O'Brien, I think), and a Yurchenko layout (Kmetko?). Both girls suffered BB falls, and I also noted two falls from UB by "O'Brien". Well, a rough day, perhaps, but Brooke seemed quite at ease after the meet and talked freely with fans and teammates.
After the meet, many of the fans crossed on to the competition floor to mingle with the athletes. I was thoroughly impressed with how accommodating all the girls were, taking quite a lot of time to pose for pictures and sign autographs. In particular, I noticed how easily Amy handled the public - she has grown into quite a confident young woman! Yvonne, Kate, and the Aussies were all popular with the fans, and none shied away from the attention. I also appreciated the politeness of the fans, who waited until the last gymnast in each rotation had completed her routine before moving about. The cheers were loudest for Amy, Yvonne, Kate, and hometown girl Abby Pearson, but everyone received generous applause, including the Aussies, who billeted with local families. This was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and I certainly am looking forward to seeing how many of these girls' Olympic dreams will be fulfilled later this year! Best of luck to all!
Written by JS