Friday, July 31, 2015

Dear Gymternet- Journals from Elena Arenas (Entry #14 July 2015)

Dear Gymternet, 

This month I had the Secret Classic in Chicago and my little sister, Ava, started level 1 team in gymnastics. :)



The Secret Classics went pretty well. I had already qualified to the P&G Championships at the American Classic, so I was using this meet to adjust to competing on podium and to prepare for P&Gs which is in 2 weeks. Leading up to the meet, training had been going great. On the meet day I started on vault and did really well. I did a yurchenko full and got a 14.00! I was really happy with that score. Bars was a little rough but not too bad. I was late on my toe full and had to do a kip cast before my pak. I hit my feet a little bit on the low bar when I did the kip after the toe full. I was disappointed because I don't usually do that. I got a 13.35 which was better than I thought it was going to be. In a weird way it excited me because I know I could've done much better and should score higher next time when I hit my routine. On beam, I wasn't really nervous. I had been nailing all my routines in practice at my gym. I was the last one up and the only one going in the whole meet because all the other events had finished that rotation. I was excited to show everyone what I was doing on beam and how much I had improved since last year. On my series, I went crooked and ended up hanging underneath the beam ... I didn't fall to the ground, instead I climbed back up, and finished my routine pretty well. When I climbed back up everyone started cheering for me. It was my favorite part and least favorite part of the meet. I was in shock and so mad at myself because I don't feel like I could've been more prepared to compete on beam. I finished the meet on floor and did okay. I landed a little short on my full in and went out of bounds on my double pike. I didn't have a perfect meet but I'm motivated to do better at P&Gs!


PC: Christy Ann Linder


I had a bunch of family that came to watch me at the meet. It is always great to have a lot of support and have my family there cheering for me. I also met the girl that does a fan page for me on Facebook. She is from Italy and she came all the way to Chicago to see the meet. It was so cool to meet her and talk to her in person. She is so sweet and she brought me a gift that she gave to me after the meet. Hopefully I will see her again someday.



My sister Ava, who is 5, started level one team! It's going to be so cool to watch her compete in January and to see her progress through gymnastics. I've been teaching her new skills like a back handspring and I just taught her a back tuck on trampoline. I'm so proud of her! I gave her all my old leos and she loved them!!! 



Training has been going great since I have been back from Chicago! I'm so excited for P&Gs and can't wait to compete again!

~ Elena Arenas

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The best and worst leotards from the 2015 Secret Classic

There was lots of excitement last weekend at the Secret Classic from returning Olympians, to new skills being debuted, all the way down to the leotards. We ranked some of the leotards from the 2015 Secret Classic from worst to best on a 5 point scale (with 5 being the highest score) to determine which leos were truly the best on the competition floor! The members on our panel include gymnastics fans Lauren Stevens, Patrice Vandenbos, and Sara Neushwander. Do you agree with our opinions? Write some of your favorite/least favorite leotards below! 

Nia Dennis/ Legacy Elite

Ashlee: I give Legacy Elite props for always choosing bright colored leotards in attempt to stand out on the competition floor, however- I'm not feeling the blue and purple here. It just doesn't look right. Score: 1.5

Brittany: Wasn't a fan of this leotard from the moment I saw it! Hate the design and the color combination. Score: 1

Lauren: I've liked this design for awhile and it really works well when you get the right color combos. But this color combo is just a no... The black bottom makes the turquoise and magenta clash and it just doesn't look good. Definitely not my cup of tea. Score: 1.5

Patrice: No comment. Can I give this a -5? Score: 0

Sara: It never surprises me when I show up to a meet and wind up hating Legacy Elite’s leos.  Maybe it’s just that I’m sick and tired of their typical purple?  Regardless, you all can call me "Not Impressed McKayla" on this one.  It just wasn’t a leotard that made me want to keep my eyes on her.  Gabby Perea wore the same leotard, but white instead of black, and I wish Nia would have too because I thought it looked much nicer.  Score: 2

Final Score: 1.2

Emily Gaskins/North Port


Ashlee: The design is okay, I'm just not a fan of the orange and purple together, so that kind of ruins it for me. I could handle just orange and white I think, but the purple is too much. Score: 2

Brittany: Emily is such a beautiful and elegant gymnast, this crazy leotard just doesn't match her style in my opinion. I think the color combination is tacky. Orange and purple? Really.. Score: 2

Lauren: I really like the design of this leotard... The rhinestones are great.. But the colors are... UGH! Orange and purple just don't go well together. This leotard could've been gorgeous... But I just can't stand the color combo. Score: 2.5

Patrice: I like the pattern, but not the colours. I feel like I'm looking at orange is the new black - gymnast style. Score: 2

Sara: I absolutely adore Emily Gaskins.  When I saw her in this leotard, I actually cringed a little.  This was one of my least favorite leos of the whole competition, which was disappointing.  The orange and purple clash terribly, plus I don’t think the orange goes well with Emily’s skin tone.  I always envision Emily in darker, more elegant color tones because of the grace and artistry she shows in her gymnastics.  This leo just doesn’t work for Emily’s style of gymnastics and personally, I think her floor routine would be much more beautiful in a solid color, simple leotard (Example: the black and white leotard CGA wore at 2013 Classics). Score: 1.5

Final Score: 2

Sydney Johnson Scharpf/ Brandy Johnson's

Ashlee: Three different shades of pink and then black? No no no no. I don't like the black collar or the flower design either. (You can't really see it in this picture....thank goodness.) I can't think of any gymnast who could pull this leo off. Score:

Brittany: At first glance this leotard isn't horrible. But the more and more I analyze it I'm not a fan of the black collar. I think the leotard would have turned out better if there was only one shade of pink up top. Score: 2

Lauren: I love the design of this leotard. The colors are great and the whole design totally fits Sydney's personality! I would totally give this a 5 if the "collar" was either thinner and still black, or a different color and still the same thickness. Score: 4

Patrice: STOP NECKCOLLARS 2K15! PLEASE! And studded?! UGH. *considers writing a letter to the FIG asking them to ban high neck collars* Score:

Sara: I love Syd, and I love this leotard.  It’s fun and a little bit spunky, while also being beautiful and classy.  I think it fit Sydney’s style and personality.  To put it simply, it fits the age.  I’m not sure I could ever envision it on a Senior gymnast, but for Sydney being so young, it works!  The colors go well together and, the more I look at it, the more I love it on her. Score: 4.5

Final Score: 2.5

Mykayla Skinner/ Dessert Lights

Ashlee: There's nothing wrong with this leotard except for the color. If you're only going to have one color on your leo WHY would you pick pepto bismo pink?! Yuck! Score:

Brittany: I honestly don't know why I don't like this leo? Maybe it's because there is literally NOTHING going on with it. Like literally nothing. So very boring. It could definitely use a pattern somewhere on it to help break up some of the pink. Score: 2.5

Lauren: Ok... I really thought we were making a breakthrough with all of these red and blue leos at this year's Classics... But this pink leotard just ruined it. It's actually a gorgeous design when there's more than one color with it. But other than that this leotard is just no... Especially with the spandex, mesh, and mystique combo. Score: 2 

Patrice: You know, normally I like pink. This is almost too pink, too glossy. and entirely too overdone. There's just too much pink. It's like a pepto bismo ad. "Feel better so you can do flips!" Score:

Sara: I hate myself for loving this leotard.  And I hate that I’m contradicting myself about what I said about finally moving on from #hotpinknation. I’m not afraid to say that I’m not a fan of Skinner, but I can’t deny that I didn’t adore this leotard on her all day.  It goes beautiful with her hair and her skin tone and really makes her stand out from the other gymnastics – but in a good way.  I just thought it was perfect on her.  Score: 4.5

Final Score: 2.6

Christina Desiderio/ Parkettes
Ashlee: On the live feed this leo looked pink and in pictures it looks purple?!? Either way it reminds me of Barney! The design isn't bad, once again I just really don't like that color. Score: 3

Brittany: I'm conflicted. Part of me kinda likes this and part of me doesn't. The design is pretty, I love the shade of light purple on the sleeves, but not the darker purple body. It looks so harsh in comparison. Score: 3

Lauren: I'm just really not a fan of this leotard.. The design isn't all the great and I'm not a fan of the color of the sleeves. If the sleeves would've been white or silver, I probably would've liked it more. Score: 2.5

Patrice: I love this! It's simple and elegant! I think I would have liked it more if the sleeves were white, but overall it's a good choice! Score: 4

Sara: I didn’t pay close attention to the Parkette leotards during the meet, but now that I’m looking back at them, I’ll admit that they are great.  I thought it looked fantastic on each one of the girls and I thought the amount of sparkles – especially on the sleeves  - was the perfect touch.  Has this leo been done in a royal blue?  Because I think that would look stunning, as well. Score: 4

Final Score: 3.3


Jazmyn Foberg/ MG Elite

Ashlee: I like the aqua blue color, I thought it looked beautiful on Laurie and Jazzy. I'm just not a big fan of the nude sleeve and then the mesh sleeve on the other arm that you can't really see in the picture. It's still a nice leotard, it just might have looked better with white mesh. Score: 3.5

Brittany: MG Elite usually wears some pretty out of the box leotards, I think we can all agree on that! While I think Laurie and Jazzy looked beautiful in this, I'm not really a fan of the nude sleeve on one arm. Maybe if it was white I would like it better? Score: 2.5

Lauren: This is a super simple leotard compared to what MG Elite usually wears. I love the shade of blue and the amount of rhinestones is perfect for the simplicity of this leotard. However, I do wish the nude mesh was either white mesh or white mystique. Overall, both Laurie and Jazzy both pulled off this leotard super well! Score: 3

Patrice: There is so much good in this leo except for the mesh! I would have liked this if the blue was paired with something other than nude mesh. Score: 2.5

Sara: I LOVE the MG Elite girls but I don’t always love their leotards.  Whether it was a collar or the wrong color, there have been very few that have impressed me.  Until this one. I could not keep my eyes off of Laurie and Jazzy in these leos!  I’ve been obsessed with them from the second I saw them. They are sleek, sophisticated, and beautiful and they make both of the girls look stunning.  I’m sitting here re-watching Jazzy’s beam and I’m still drooling over it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the color has something to do with Florida Gators blue, as both Laurie and Jazzy have committed here. Maybe that’s why I think it’s so freakin’ awesome? Score: 5

Final Score: 3.3

Anna Huber/ Rochester Gymnastics

Ashlee: I like this leotard a lot, it's classy and very pretty! This would look great on the international scene too! It actually reminds me a lot of the one Kyla wore in beam finals at Worlds in 2013. Score: 4

Brittany: Didn't the US wear this at World's last year? Looks familiar. Regardless, I like it! Nothing really negative to say about it. Score: 4

Lauren: I love red and white color combos. This leotard is simple, but it works well on Anna. It could have a few more rhinestones on the sleeves. But overall it's a simple & classy leotard! Score: 3

Patrice: I like this! It's cute. I love the red and white, but the white almost goes down too much. Score: 3

Sara: I really like the simplicity of this leo.  It isn’t overly flashy nor do I think it is plain or boring.  I think it is one of those leotards that would look good on almost any gymnast and would sophisticated for the USA at international meets. Score: 3.5

Final Score: 3.5

Ragan Smith/Texas Dreams


Ashlee: I don't hate this leo, but I also don't love it. I always appreciate Texas Dreams creativity, I think the spray paint idea is cool. There's just something not right about this leotard...maybe it's the design on the side I don't like? Score: 3.5

Brittany: At first when I saw this I was like "eww no", but it started to grow on me as the meet progressed. It's very creative and I think the splatter paint idea is pretty sweet looking actually! I think all the Texas Dreams girls looked adorable in this! Score: 4

Lauren: I'm really not sure how I feel about this leotard.. I don't love it.. But I don't hate it (although their matching warm ups are to DIE for). The spray paint print is super unique and not something I ever expected to see. All the girls really pulled off this leotard well. Overall it was a cute leotard, even with it's simplicity. Score: 3.5

Patrice: Texas dreams always shows up with the most creative but strange leos. I love Kim but this was a bad leo choice. The fact that it's mostly black helps make up for it. Kind of... Sorry. Score: 2

Sara: TEXAS DREAMSSSS!  Watching the meet in person, I couldn’t really see the paint splatter design.  So for me, the leotards looked entirely black and white.  Which I thought was fantastic.  Then when I discovered the multi-colored paint splatter, I got even more excited. TD is a classy, well respected club and I thought the black and white fit that description perfectly.  The paint splatter also reminded us of the personality of not only the girls, but the coaches.  Why not spice up a simple leotard with some fun pops of color for the girls?  Personally, I love love love loved it and wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Score: 5

Final Score: 3.6


Aly Raisman/ Brestyans

Ashlee: I think Aly looks nice in this leotard, red is her color for sure! I'm just not a big fan of the overall design; the neck tie part looks odd to me. I think Aly pulled it off though! Score: 3.5

Brittany: I feel like this leotard suits Aly so well! It's very mature and her matching red lipstick looked just fab with it. Oh my god, this girl could literally rock a paper bag and still look beautiful. Great design Aly! Score: 3.5

Lauren: Aly always pulls off red really well. The only thing I don't like about this leotard is the rhinestone placement. Someone on Twitter said that this leotard kind of looks like an "evil face" and now I can't not see it lol! But Aly rocked this leotard and you can really never go wrong with red. Score: 4

Patrice: I LOVE THAT ALY WORE HER OWN LEO TO CLASSICS. I love this. It's perfect. The minimalism with the hot red and glitter gives a mature, and elegant look - perfect for Aly. I'm not sure if I would have liked this leo on any other gymnast, so I'm giving this a 4.5 Score: 4.5

Sara: This leotard was gorgeous on Aly.  She always looks amazing in red.  But, similar to Maggie’s, it reminds me of something familiar.  But I still think it was a smart choice for Aly’s debut and worked well with her body and her style of gymnastics (and her lipstick!). Rank: 4

Final Score: 3.9

Morgan Hurd/ First State

Ashlee: I like this one the more and more I look at it. The design is elegant and the rhinestones are a nice touch. Great pick for the adorable Morgan Hurd! Score: 4

Brittany: This leotard looked purple on the feed, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE that shade of blue! This is such a beautiful leotard. The rhinestone detailing is gorgeous and I can't get over how much I love that blue! AHHH! Yes Morgan! Score: 4.5

Lauren: This had to be one of my favorite leotards of the night. We rarely see blue mesh and it looks absolutely gorgeous with the white bodice. There's a perfect amount of rhinestones and it's just an all-around elegant and gorgeous leotard. Score: 5

Patrice: After I get over how adorable Morgan is, I love this leo! I wouldn't have done a white bottom half, but if the colours were reversed this would have been my fave leo from classics! Score: 4

Sara: Is she attempting to qualify for JO Nationals or elite Nationals?  Because this leotard might as well have been plucked directly from the Region 5 Dream Team (Yes, I’m aware Delaware is not a part of Region 5…even though they probably want to be since Region 5 is the obvi greatest, IMO). Personally, I didn’t find anything remotely interesting about this leotard.  I keep looking at pictures and watching Morgan Hurd’s routines, and I’m trying REALLY hard to like it, but I just can’t. There isn’t anything about it that I find special or unique.  But hey, if you want to throw it over here to the Midwest, those girls in Region 5 would look sharp. Score: 2

Final Score: 3.9

Simone Biles/ World Champions Centre

Ashlee: I like this leotard, I think it looks great on Simone! I'm not a huge fan of the pattern in the middle, but I can tolerate it. Score: 4

Brittany: This leotard isn't horrible! Simone looks amazing in it, however I'm not that big of a fan of that neck part... Score: 3.5

Lauren: I LOVE the color combos of this leotard. I like the design too. It's only two colors, but it's still pretty. There's just something about the design which made me not want to give this leotard a 5... But I just can't figure it out! This leotard was one of my favorites and really looked good on al of the WCC girls! Score: 4

Patrice: I love blue on Simone. I'm not a fan of the neck pattern in the middle, but overall the leo isn't bad! Score: 4

Sara: If it were up to me, the USA would be wearing this leotard internationally.  The metallic blue looked bomb on each one of the World Champion girls and was simple yet sophisticated.  This was a great choice, especially for Simone.  What else would you expect from the #1 gymnast in the entire world? Score: 4.5

Final Score: 4

Maggie Nichols/ Twin City Twisters

Ashlee: I LOVE LOVE LOVE this leo. It's simple yet gorgeous. All of the TCT girls pulled it off really well. This gave me Maggie Nichols at Oklahoma feels all night long! Score: 5

Brittany: You can never go wrong with a classic white/red leo! I believe this is the same leotard Maggie wore last year at Nationals except blue (and I loved that one!) so to see a red version is great! This leotard has just the right amount of rhinestones-so beautiful and simple! Score: 5

Lauren: I LOVE this leotard. When we saw the blue version last year, I loved it, and I love this one just as much! Red and white goes so well together and I just love the rhinestones on it.Definitely one of my favorites from the whole competition. Score: 4.5

Patrice: I LOVE THIS LEO. It's like a Queen of Hearts/Classy/I'm a badass gymnast look. That doesn't even make sense, but this leo is spectacular. Score: 5

Sara: I’m all about the athletes choosing their leotard colors based on their future colleges, so I wasn’t surprised to see Maggie in Oklahoma’s red and white.  While she (and Abby Paulson!) looked stunning, and it’s making me so excited to see her compete weekly in those colors, it wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before.  I don’t know if I’ve seen this same leotard on girls at other competitions, or if there are similar ones like it, but it wasn’t unique. Score: 4


Final Score: 4.7

Madison Kocian/ WOGA


Ashlee: WOGA killed it with this one! Absolutely stunning leotard! The black mesh and white mystique go perfect together. This was by far my favorite leotard of the whole competition! Score: 5

Brittany: Now this is a pretty leo! The black mesh sleeves and the design down the center add just the right touch to make this leotard stand out. It's super sleek and elegant! Hands down one of my favorites from the meet. Score: 5

Lauren: Another one of my favorites of the night. The white mystique and black mesh looked gorgeous. And I love the rhinestones on this leotard. It's such an elegant leotard and there's nothing I don't love about it! Score: 5

Patrice: This may be my favourite WOGA leo yet! I'm not usually a fan of white leos but the white with the black mesh, and the squiggly line patter makes this my favourite leo from classics! Score: 5

Sara: I wonder if Nastia’s heart is breaking to see the WOGA girls in anything other than hot pink?  But hey, there’s no reason for Nastia to be a thing anymore and I’m glad WOGA seems to have moved on from the #hotpinknation.  I thought this leotard was beautiful on each one of the girls and I think it would be a nice choice for Nationals, as well.  Score: 4.5

Final Score: 4.9





Sunday, July 26, 2015

Six impressive routines from the 2015 Secret Classic

There was one message the gymternet should have taken away from the Secret Classic this weekend-- Team USA is awesome and the field is deeper than it's been in a long time! There was a lot of great gymnastics this weekend with plenty of storylines to follow. Here were some routines that caught our attention!

Ragan Smith | Floor | Score: 15.0

This was easily one of her best floor routines to date. With new and improved choreography/music from the last two seasons and some added difficulty (check out that double layout!), Ragan's routine is not only entertaining, but competitive in the senior division with her 16.1 D score. Ragan isn't always as clean and consistent with the landings, but when she nails them like she did here- watch out!

Lauren Hernandez | Bars | Score: 15.0

Laurie has been working hard on this event and it shows! When she last competed at the Secret Classic in 2013, her start value was only a 15.6. In 2015, her start value has been raised by 5 tenths and her routine is beautifully executed with three release moves and perfectly hit handstands. (Love love love her lines!) Laurie is hoping to stay in the mix for Rio with her work on this event in particular.

Deanne Soza | Beam | Score: 14.5

The potential for Deanne Soza is REAL. Reminder that she isn't' eligible for 2016, but could definitely be in the mix for 2020 if she stays healthy. We all remember when Soza contracted a serious eye infection nearly a year ago that could have left her blind. After not being able to train for four months, Soza's determination and fight to get back in top shape is outstanding. This routine was beautiful and is right up there with some of the best in terms of difficulty. Round of applause for Miss Soza!

Simone Biles | Floor | Score: 16.050

Is this routine real? Is Simone Biles real? For starters, I'm really feeling the new choreography; it's fun and sassy and it's by far my favorite routine from her. Then the tumbling is just insane. It's not just what she's doing that's so amazing but how she's doing it! Look at the height and ease she completes each pass with. This routine has a 16,9 start value and there's not a doubt in my mind that she's capable of more. Frankly, does she really need to do more? Simone is definitely in a league of her own. Bring on Rio!

Maggie Nichols | Vault | Score: 15.8
This is great for Maggie. I'm so impressed with this girls improvements over the last two years and her consistency is just what team USA needs. This vault was great for her amanar debut and will definitely keep her in the mix for Rio. With the added difficulty and ability to perform well every time she competes (on every event), Maggie is proving that she could potentially be the second all-arounder for the United States. Never count Maggie Nichols out!

Aly Raisman | Beam | Score: 15.1

Aly Raisman's comeback is probably my favorite comeback ever. I love her work ethic! This routine was great and scored well even with the few small balance checks. She really capped it off with the stuck dismount! Aly has been working so hard and you can tell. I'm impressed with her ability to not only get all her old skills back, but to continue upgrading and working on her flexibility because she knows it counts! I can't wait to see what's in store for Aly because I think she's going to do great things. Her difficulty, maturity, and confidence is something that would be very beneficial to the team.

What routines impressed you the most? Let us know in the comments below! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On The Road To Rio | Thema Williams


On July 9, 2015 we visited Geddert's Twistars to film with Olympic hopeful Thema Williams. Thema (pronounced like Tee-ma) is an international elite from Trinidad & Tobago who is currently living in Michigan while training for the 2016 Olympics. Thema began competing as an elite in 2011, making history for her country by becoming the first female gymnast to compete at a World Championships and for being the first female gymnast to compete a Tkatchev in international competition. Injuries have kept her from competing much internationally the last few seasons, but she is back on track and ready to show the world what she can do this year and hopefully in Rio next summer!

To stay up to date with the latest on Thema, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.



Interview Transcription

Can you start by talking about your decision to move to Michigan to train? 
It started mostly in 2013 when I came in to do the gymnastics camp in the summer. And I realized that this is the place I wanted to be to train for the Olympics.

How often do you get to go home and see your family? 
I actually went home two weeks ago, but only for like an eight day period. I don't get to go home that often just because you want to stay fit and you want to stay in shape. But when I do go home it is a lot of fun.

Who is your host family? Are you living with another gymnast? 
Yeah, I live with an ex gymnast, her name is Anna Hill, she was a level 10 gymnast and her parents Bob and Michelle decided to host me.

What does it mean to you to represent Trinidad at the International level? 
I just have so much pride. I'm so patriotic. I love Trinidad and Tobago and I think it's an honor to represent my country. Just wearing the flag on an international scale; I think that's really really amazing.

You competed at the World Championships in 2011, which was a pretty big meet, how was that experience for you? 
It was a learning experience I'd say because it wasn't my best meet, but just being able to see so many gymnasts who take so much pride you know? They were absolutely perfect, I think that was the highest level of gymnastics I've ever seen and it definitely pushed me to want to improve.

What are some long and short term goals for you? 
I have Croatia World Cup in September, I want to place in that meet and hopefully come home with a medal. And World Championships then the Olympics.

Any potential upgrades for this season? 
Yeah, on beam I'm working a switch ring. On bars I'm working a shaposh half and on vault I'm working a yurchenko double.

Have you ever thought about doing college gymnastics? 
Oh yeah, I've definitely thought about that. Actually that was a part of the decision to come here, because I was offered a scholarship to Michigan State and that's when I decided I wasn't ready for that part of my career yet. I wanted to go to the Olympics before I entered into college gymnastics.

So it's still a possibility? 
Yeah it's definitely in the cards for me.

What is your motivation to keep going everyday? 
Oh just focusing on my goals. Knowing what I want to be, I want to go to the Olympics and that's definitely what keeps me going.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Catching up with 1976 Olympian Teodora Ungureanu

Teodora Ungureanu is best known for leading the Romanian team to a silver medal at the 1976 Olympic games alongside her teammate and friend, Nadia Comaneci. In addition to the team silver, Teodora won a silver medal on bars and a bronze on beam. After retiring from gymnastics, Teodora married Romanian gymnast Sorin Cepoi and began coaching. They moved to the United States in 1993 and now run Dynamic Gymnastics in Westchester, New York. The duo are known for coaching former national team member Sabrina Vega who was a member of the gold medal winning Worlds team in 2011. We recently caught up with Teodora to talk about competing alongside Nadia, training with the Karolyi's, and coaching Sabrina Vega.



How did you get started in gymnastics?
Like all the kids from the block; we were doing cartwheels and walking on our hands all day long. [Even at school.] At home I was jumping and flipping on my parents bed, so my parents decided to [sign me up] at the local gymnasium to spend my energy.

What was it like competing with and against Nadia Comaneci? How was your relationship? 
When I went to Onesti where Nadia was training, we became friends right away. We trained, eat, slept, and played together; that was every day. When we started to travel for international competitions it was hard to say who was better. Nadia was a great athlete with a strong mind and body. I was a very hard worker and never gave up. Nadia, with her amazing performances at the 1976 Olympics conquered the entire gymnastics world and the eyes of the whole world. I was happy to open her way to success and was very happy with what I got.



What were the Karolyi's like inside and outside of the gym? 
In the gym, the Karolyi's were very demanding. There was no mercy for any of us, including Nadia. Outside of the gym, we had good and bad times with them.

Do you have any funny stories from your time with Marta and Bela? 
That was a long time ago, I don't recall any.

What was it like being reunited with them years later with your own gymnast, Sabrina Vega? 
That was really nice! We spent 4-5 years with them at the ranch; getting together at their house every evening and telling stories. Traveling to the international competitions was a great experience.

How did your coaching career begin? 
I started to coach at the age of 21 after I finished my 3 years of college. In 1983 we moved to France and I coached at La Grenobloise gymnastics club for 10 years before we came to America.

Can you talk about your time coaching Sabrina? What was she like as a gymnast? 
Sabrina was a very talented gymnast, a good listener and progressed very fast. In 2012, before the Olympics, she started to listen to her mother who was trying to coach her and turn her against us. She wasn't happy with us anymore and moved to another gym.



How do you think your experience as a gymnast helps with being a coach now? 
There are many young and talented coaches in the United States. My husband and I give clinics every year throughout the country and almost every month at our gym in New York. Sharing our experience is important for the future of the sport.

Catalina Ponor coached at Dynamic a few years ago. Can you talk about how that come about?
Sure. In 2010 I was visiting my parents in Romania and I was invited to the 100 year anniversary of the Romanian Federation and Catalina was there too. She was out of work for a couple of months and she asked me if I could get her at my gym for an exchange. I got her a Visa and she came for six months. She was interested in coaching. I gave her our pre-team and she was working beam with our higher levels. After the practice she was working out for herself and she was really good! I suggested for her to start training for the next Olympics and she did. I saw her [last month when I visited Romania] and she is training hard for the 2016 Olympics. What a great gymnast and motivator she is.

What is your favorite memory as a gymnast? What about as a coach? 
[As a gymnast] being an Olympian and World medalist. [As a coach] having Sabrina as a World Champion in Tokyo 2011 was very rewarding, I guess.

The sport has changed quite a bit since your time, what are your thoughts on some of the changes?  
Changing the rules in gymnastics is a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because it gives the judges easier tasks to chose the best gymnasts in the competitions. It's bad because the FIG reduced the team from five and soon to be four gymnasts on each [Olympic] team. That will be harming the gymnasts who want to catch a spot on the team. It's very competitive.



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dear Gymternet- Journals from Elena Arenas (Entry #13 June 2015)

Dear Gymternet, 

I didn't have any competitions this month, but I went to a couple of college camps and have been training for the Secret Classic!  AND Nastia Liukin came to our gym for her Shine Tour!!!

The first camp I went to was at Auburn University.  It was an overnight camp, so we got to stay in one of the dorms. I got to go with a bunch of my teammates and I roomed with one of my developmental camp friends, Sunisa Lee. We all roomed right next door to each other, so we spent a lot of time together. We played a bunch of cards, I learned some new games and taught them some games. We all had so much fun together!  The camp went really well and I enjoyed working with all the coaches there.

Elena with her teammates at the Auburn camp

The other camp I went to was at LSU, but before I went to LSU camp I went to our Region 8 banquet that was held in Louisiana.  My gym won Region 8 Gym Club of the Year, so I went with my dad to accept the award along with a couple of my teammates who received awards.  Kyla Bryant made the JO National Team and Savannah Schoennher was the JO National Bar Champion ... I was so proud of them!  At LSU camp I had to train routines most of the time since I am getting ready to compete, but I had a great time with all the other gymnasts and coaches!  One of the coaches was on the Russian National Team and he reminded me so much of Valeri. :)

Elena with some of the LSU gymnastics team!

The coolest thing this month was having Nastia Liukin come to our gym!  It was so great to listen to her experiences and get her advice on a lot of things.  She shared some ways to set goals and how to stay motivated to reach your goals.  It was really inspirational and she was so nice and friendly to all of us.  We got to get a bunch of pictures with her and get autographs.  After she left our gym she started to follow me on Instagram and even liked some of my pictures and videos.  I was freaking 
out!
Elena with Nastia!

My training for the Secret Classic has been going really well.  I am doing lots of routines and feeling prepared and ready to compete in a few weeks.  I have already qualified for P& Gs, but the Secret Classic will help get me experience competing on podium.  I can't wait!!!

~ Elena

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Artistry Redefined

At the conclusion of the first ever European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, much focus was on the lack of "artistry"and entertainment in floor performances from gymnasts around the world. While the artistry debate is by no means a new issue, it appears to be a seemingly never ending cycle of disappointment and arguments amongst gym fans and coaches. All the talk really got me thinking. The American gymnasts are always being ripped on for having "boring" choreography and not fitting the protocol of a true "artistic" gymnast. Meanwhile, certain European countries- mainly the Russians, have always been referred to as some of the most artistic gymnasts on the scene due to their long beautiful lines and elegance on the floor. After the European Games, the countries that have always been praised for putting on quality performances and producing technically pleasing gymnasts are now being criticized for being emotionally detached from their performance. I say it's about time! Some of my favorite routines currently are not ones where the gymnast is just beautiful to watch. They have to showcase something special besides their natural beauty! My favorite routines are the ones in which the gymnast is able to sell the choreography and keep my attention for the whole minute and thirty seconds she's on the floor. If you can't sell your routine then it will turn into a snooze fest. One US coach even admitted that the routines in Baku were putting her to sleep, but because some of these gymnasts are flexible, graceful, and from a country that historically produces beautiful gymnasts, they typically get a free pass into the exclusive club of "artistic" gymnasts in today's world of elite gymnastics. It's a small club where apparently no powerful gymnasts are allowed! Now I'm not trying to say that all of the gymnasts from these countries aren't artistic, because some certainly are, however I don't think it's fair that they all automatically get grouped together as some of "the most artistic gymnasts currently competing" (that's a direct quote I read from a gym fan) simply for their body type or because they are from a country that is known for it's artistry. 

I think that's wrong and unfair. In the dictionary artistry is defined as "having or showing the skill of an artist." When you google the word artistry it gives you related words such as creative, imaginative, and expressive. So when you watch a routine ask yourself this: Is this routine creative or unique and is the gymnast truly expressing herself in the choreography? Those are the things that truly matter. Just because you can wave your arms around like a ballerina doesn't mean you can entertain a crowd. A routine that plays to the likes of flexibility and grace is no more worthy than a routine that showcases power and athleticism. Each can be entertaining, unique to the athlete, and you guessed it- artistic! As long as it suits the athlete and she can perform it... then it's golden!  I've found that most of the routines that I truly enjoy watching are ones where the athlete connects with the crowd. They smile, they make eye contact, and they tell a story. Considering the current state of elite gymnastics, I feel you have to do more than just wave your arms around and have pretty lines in order stand out. The definition of "artistry" in this sport needs to go beyond that. Here are a few routines that I truly enjoy and I feel bring a new definition to artistry.

Catherine Lyons | Great Britain 
Most gym fans are already familiar with British junior stand out Catherine Lyons because of her unique floor choreography and mature style of dance. Catherine uses more than just her beautiful lines to draw the crowd in-- she tells a story with her eyes and her body. Some of the choreography from her most recent floor routine is actually recycled from a routine she performed at the age of nine. The routine was such a hit that Catherine's coach Rochelle Douglas wanted to recreate it. "Rochelle wanted the routine to remind me of my growth and journey through gymnastics, so the first section of dance is exactly the same as when I was 9." Catherine told International Gymnast Magazine (June 2015) "Throughout the routine we try to revisit through dance all the success and struggles I've had on the journey so far, finishing the routine knowing that my dreams are just within my reach, but that I am not quite there yet." she said. Catherine's style naturally fits the "artistic gymnast" stereotype, but she is unique in the fact that she can draw the crowd in with more than just her grace; it's her expression and performance quality that really set her apart. I also love how she utilizes every beat with dramatic movements. Few gymnasts nowadays are able to achieve that.



Marta Pihan- Kuleza | Poland 
This Pink Panther inspired routine is very fun and playful! Marta does an excellent job of entertaining the crowd with her calm and collected style. I honestly loved this routine from the moment I saw it. This is the type of floor routine that should break the mold on what we consider artistic. Marta is a powerful gymnast who isn't necessarily the best dancer and doesn't have the most graceful lines. I think we could all agree that she would awkward attempting a ballet-style routine, so she plays to her strengths by showcasing her powerful tumbling and fun-loving personality through a more jazzy routine. A routine like this will leave the judges smiling and the audience entertained. What more could you ask for? The choreography goes well with the music and everything flows together nicely!



Laurie Hernandez | USA
Laurie Hernandez is known across the globe for her spunky, sassy, and entertaining floor performances. At the 2015 Jesolo meet she debuted her newest floor routine and as expected- it's nothing short of spectacular! Laurie's coach Maggie Haney told us that the inspiration for this routine came from Mary Lee Tracy. "We were talking at camp one night and she told me that she looks at Laurie as a happy and energetic gymnast; someone who truly loves the sport of gymnastics and always has fun with it," Maggie said "So I went back home and found the most fun and sassy music I could find. I took it to the gym the next day and we just blasted it as loud as we could! We started dancing around and we got some crazy ideas!" Maggie says the routine was made 100% for the audience and that she hopes everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for her to perform. When it's Laurie's turn to go, she hopes everyone has a smile on their face from start to finish. "I tried to make it fun, playful and of course sassy. We all know Laurie is the queen of sassy!" Maggie said. Fun faces are actually choreographed into Laurie's routine including her "Instagram face" which Maggie says is her personal favorite. Laurie is the perfect example of what exactly a floor routine is all about. You can always count on her for a crowd-pleasing performance. I think it's great that so much emphasis is put on the small little details such as hand placements and even facial expressions, because it really does bring the entire performance together. The choreography is big and the energy is so high throughout the whole routine! Love it or hate it, you can't look away and that's exactly what each gymnast should strive to accomplish!



Claire Martin | France
Another routine that recently caught my attention was Claire Martin- who connects with the crowd through her playful, but polished presentation. Claire's choreographer Adriana Pop told International Gymnast Magazine that the inspiration for this routine was Claire herself and that her character is a fairy who must escape from evil power. "Once Claire understood what I wanted, she made the expression." Pop explained. "The story is simple. You can see the slow part, and at the end when the music gets faster and faster, she escapes at last, little by little." Adriana said Claire's floor performance captures moments of struggle and triumph. The character she embodies posses many of her own traits, which made it so easy for her to connect with. It's an interesting but beautiful routine that was very well thought out. Similar to Catherine Lyons, any gymnast who can convey a story in just a minute and thirty seconds is a true artist.



Victoria Moors | Canada 
I've always been a big fan of Victoria's floor routines because she makes that connection with the audience. It's the look in her eyes and the intensity in her expression that always made her routines memorable. It's amazing that she is able to execute such powerful tumbling elements while also having such intricate dance, because that combination is rare. Victoria places focus on both which is extremely difficult nowadays, but super important. Throughout her entire career, Victoria always did a wonderful job of finding that balance. With the announcement of her retirement from gymnastics just a few weeks ago, the sport will definitely miss the beautiful Victoria Moors and her performances.



These are the types of performances that I wish to see more of. As you can see, they come from gymnasts all over the world who have different strengths and weaknesses, but in the end they all achieve the same goal-- to entertain the audience and tell a story that they each can personally connect with. Kudos to all the athletes who put the time and effort into making their floor routines a true performance- which is what artistry is all about. What are some of your favorite floor routines and why? What kind of routine leaves a lasting impression on you? Leave a comment below!