Back in 2004/2005, a youtube star was born in diminutive Daria Elizarova. No taller than the beam, she was throwing tricks far beyond her years, and with style and polish reminiscent of Lilia Podkopayeva.
After winning the Junior European All-Around title in 2006, many gym fans expected Elizarova to lead her Russian team to great heights in future competition. Unfortunately, what many in the gymnastics community refer to as the “Russian junior curse” took hold, and she sat 2007 out with an injury.
She made a minor resurgence prior to Beijing, but was relegated to the dreaded alternate position in favor of the more experienced Ludmila Ezhova. Forced to watch from the sidelines, her teammates fizzled into 4th place and off of the podium.
The past 2 years have proved difficult for Daria. Despite decent results at domestic competitions, she was never part of the A-squad that made European and World Championships teams. In fact, she was rarely given an international assignment at all, and left many of us wondering if she’d ever leave the confines of Round Lake.
Last month at Worlds, the rumor mill in Rotterdam was abuzz when The All-Around reported that Elizarova was spotted sporting Uzbek gear. Initially, her name didn’t appear on the nominative roster for The Asian Games, but
was cleared a few weeks before the competition. Daria led her team to a surprising (and historic) bronze medal, placed 4th in the All-Around, and qualified for every event final except vault.
The qualification process for the 2012 Olympics in London is mildly complicated. The top 24 teams from Rotterdam (Uzbekistan was 24th without Elizarova) qualify to next years World Championships in Tokyo as a team. Only the top 8 teams from Tokyo get a ticket to London. A “test event” will be held in 2012 prior to the Olympics, where 4 more teams will qualify for a total of 12 teams.
Even with Elizarova on the UZB team, a 12-place jump from Rotterdam is quite a tall order. Individual gymnasts from non-qualified teams can still qualify to the Olympics by a) earning a medal from an event final in Tokyo or b) placing highest for their team at the test event. Only 1 gymnast per non-qualified team can advance. This is something I’m uneasy about. While teams are scrambling to place in the top 4, they’re also essentially competing against each other for that one coveted Olympic birth if the team doesn’t qualify.
But enough of this technical shit about qualifying procedures that I’m still fuzzy on. (Readers, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about the qualifying process).
I’ve uploaded Daria’s routines from the All-Around at The Asian Games. Besides minor meltdowns on beam and floor from event finals today, I was quite impressed (and frankly a little surprised) at how well she performed.
While these routines are competitive enough for this competition, she’ll need some serious upgrades to catch up with those on the eastern part of the globe, her old teammates included. But it’s a start. And oddly, at 19, this is her senior international debut.
Keep that Olympic dream alive, Daria!
VAULT. Vault has historically been Daria’s weakest event due to lack of difficulty. We don’t see many handspring front pike vaults outside of 90’s NCAA meets, but hers is lovely enough to forgive. And that landing!
BARS. Though her casts are a tad wonky and her swing is often labored, this routine is a definite improvement from the Pre-Olympic Youth Cup back in May. Cool dismount, and another good landing.
BEAM. First of all, apologies for the atrocious video quality. I was trying to merge 2 separate videos of this 1 routine, and my movie-making abilities aren’t very acute. I suggest squinting.
She didn’t include her fan-favorite switch leap to front tuck combo at Russian Cup but it looks like its back. She lost the bronze in the All-Around by a mere 3 tenths, and I think that monstrous wobble after the loso is the main culprit. That’s a 5-tenther.
FLOOR. If there’s one event that I’ve really enjoyed watching Daria on over the years, it’s floor exercise. She’s so vivacious and fun. She’s definitely getting hit with a deduction for excessive preparation for that dance pass. I think she often runs out of steam, but if she can get her endurance up, I’d suggest she replace it with another tumbling pass. I mean, a double tuck goes for a D these days.
Official Asian Games results here.