Friday, June 4, 2010

A few changes in Romanian Gymnastics

One of my favourite gymnastics bloggers, The Couch Gymnast, has covered the changes in Romanian gymnastics coaching in detail over the last few days. Nicolae Forminte's decision to quit the team has been met with negative remarks from her and the gymnastics coaching blog. This is because, unlike some coaches of old, Mr.F seems to care about his gymnasts and try to shelter them from the less positive aspects of the sport. I say seems because I have never seen a gymnastics competition live, nor do I know what goes on at Deva.

Forminte quit because two former Romanian coaches, Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang, have been appointed as consultants to the team because they Romanian gymnastics team has had less than perfect results lately. Forminte believes that this shows little confidence in him, so he has stepped aside. I don't blame him. In my opinion, the problems with Romanian gymnastics cannot be wholly blamed on him.

I think that there are lots of factors that have contributed to the current state of Romanian Gymnastics. This is a list of problems that I can see in Romanian gymnastics along with possible solutions.

1) Lack of resources

The Romanians don't have resources for things like hand grips, and importation of new coaches. They are losing great potential coaches such as Catalina Ponor to other countries because they just can't pay them as much as the likes of the United States.

Maybe Romanian Gymnastics can try to get a corporate sponsor to provide hand grips and/or more money. They have a marketable image. If Nadia got involved, it would be even better. However, we would need to tread carefully here. We don't want corporate sponsors compromising the programme. Gymnasts and gymnastics need to come first.

2) Improvement of other programmes

Look at the UK. Their programme has changed a great deal and now their teams are doing better. The UK won that silver medal just as much as the Romanians lost it. The Russian programme is also experiencing a resurgence. After communism fell in Eastern/Central Europe, the shape of the gymnastics world changed because resources were diverted away from gymnastics and other sports. But the reverse has happened in Australia and the UK because when these countries get better programmes, their governments can afford to give them more money.

The Romanians cannot do anything about this. They need to focus on their own programme.

3) Lack of competition

One of the reasons that the USA system works so well is that there are a number of good gyms and each gym produces different types of gymnasts with different specialisations. For example, Mary Lee Tracy seems to train awesome bars workers while Mihai Brestyan trains excellent floor and vault workers. WOGA seems to train great all rounders, and Chows has trained one too. Anyway, my point is that the national programme does well at training beam workers, but less well at training bars workers, and there is no other gym providing bars training and or great bars workers who can fill the gap.

Also, the fact that many gymnasts can only normally come out of Deva also means that many potential gymnasts may be put off because of having to move away from Mum and Dad. Not every gymnast is hungry for success from childhood. This could be contributing to a shortage of Romanian elites, which means that injuries can devastate the whole team.

Maybe Deva coaches could also support gyms in other parts of the country (in terms of equipment and coaching and keep looking at the talent that comes out of them. If an athlete is happy in a gym away from Deva, they could let them keep training there. This could deepen the team. Maybe there could be camps each month like the US and Australia has so that these athletes can bond with Deva members.

4) Lack of coach immigration

Another reason why the USA programme is so great is that it has imported a number of awesome coaches who are attracted by the money, and the prospect of living in the USA. This has been very good for USA gymnastics. Ditto Peggy Liddick for Australia. China has used outside help for chore graphing floor, which has done a lot for floor routines. As far as I know, Romania hasn't done this.

If they could get a great bars coach to come in and teach the other coaches to coach, this could help the Romanians. Otherwise, a Romanian coach could have an internship at a good bars gym in Russia or China. They could then teach the other Romanian coaches how to coach good bars.

5) The Bars and the New Code

The bars is an Achilles heal for the Romanians, and has been for a long time. Bars routines have higher potential scores than other apparatus. This has been the case before. However, under the old code, the impact was tiny. At most lower difficulty meant 0.5 points less. Now it means 2 points less. Bars matters more and with Romania being up against the UK, which has one of the world's best bar workers, it is not surprising that there are problems.
I have already stated a possible solution to this one in (4)

This is just my opinion. I don't know the ins and outs of the Romanian programme. I have just been thinking about this a little over the past few days and I thought that I would put down my opinions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My secret

New Zealand is a rugby playing nation. When there is a match by our rugby team, the All Blacks, the country almost stops to watch it. For a few weeks, it is the default topic of conversation for everyone. When the All Blacks lose, the newspapers and magazines are smoothered in black ink, and the reasons the loss are debated all around the country. Was it the coach, the team, one single player? Is it a defect in New Zealand's national character? They say that the economy nose-dives, and that incidents of domestic violence increase when we lose a rugby match. I can believe it. As a country, we seem to define ourselves by rugby.

I am a New Zealander.

I have a secret.

I don't like rugby. I have tried to watch matches many times without success. I always end up reading whatever is nearby instead, whether it be an advertising circular, accounting textbook, or chocolate bar packet. The rugby world cup is next year, and I am seriously contemplating leaving the country while it is on, because between the media hype and the conversations at work, it is already starting to bore me.

I prefer gymnastics.

I did do gymnastics once. I wasn't that good at it. Unfortunately, gymnastics required a number of qualities that I did not have. Co-ordination was one of these. My best skill combination was a cartwheel plus cat leap on the beam. Most of the time, I ended up off the beam rather than on. I would cat-leap off, or land my cartwheel at the side. But on rare occasions, I landed both skills on the beam. I was proud of this, but my proudest moment was getting first on the floor(out of 6 girls), and an orange certificate. I quit for some reason. It was just an unspoken thing at my school that only 11 and 12 year olds did gymnastics.

A couple of years ago, I found out that you can watch gymnastics videos on Youtube. When I first started, I did not know the names of all the skills, or who the gymnasts were. Now through a combination of blogs and youtube videos, I am learning. Yet there is a certain distance between me and the sport I love to watch. Unlike rugby fans, I don't rate my chances of finding a competition of my favourite sport in my backyard. This blog is an attempt to connect with other gymnastics fans and express some of my opinions.