2013 may have been short on a number of things: full team delegations at Worlds, properly conditioned Russians and competitions not attended by Mustafina, to name but a few. It did, however, provide its share of talking points. Earlier to the party than last year, at least, here are our picks for the highlights, lowlights and total frights.
BEST AA PERFORMANCE
Clara: Mustafina at Euros. Obviously it was wonderful to see her capture the one she let go in awful circumstances, but also it was the way in which she did it. Slow start doesn’t even come close. She, Grishina and Afanasyeva appeared to spend prelims competing for the Wieber slot. She got aN 11 on beam, for fuck’s sake. Behind all but three of the competition.
Then she spent the whole of the AA behind – though I knew she was going to win as soon as I saw her land beam – until finally overtaking at the last. Always with the drama, that one.
I would give an honourable mention to Kyla Ross, if she had a bit more pizzazz. Quite liked the way she was a million points ahead of the rest of the world after that first sub at Worlds. Stylish.
Clara: I shall be controversial and not pick Maroney. That feels wrong, somehow, but Simone Biles and her lovely Lopez in the World EF have won it for me. She’s going to upgrade, that’s a certainty. And while I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next, a part of me will be sorry to see the back of this relatively simple but oh-so effortless vault. It’s like watching compulsories.
Bronwyn: I’m almost tempted to go with Afanasyeva’s Amanar at Universiade because I never thought I’d see the day that she’d put an-almost 2 1/2 twists to her feet. And in the twilight of her career, TO BOOT. But, I’ll go with Biles Amanar in Antwerp. Sure, there’s steps on the landings and a bit of ankle-crossing, but that thing is through the rafters. Absolutely effortless, like most any acrobatic skill she performs.
Clara: Anything Becky Downie did when there was no major medal to be won. Worlds prelims, if I had to pick one: arguably the most exciting bars set of the year (and certainly a great deal more interesting than our grossly uninspiring World Champion on the event). She needs a sports psychologist more than Carlotta Ferlito needs to stop talking. More than John Geddert needs laser tattoo removal. More than Yamilet Pena needs to stop trying to kill herself in major global finals.
Bronwyn: Sophie Scheder’s 15.2 set at DTB Cup. A shame she didn’t hit it as well as Worlds. Interesting selection of skills, gorgeous handstands, immaculate lines and toe point, and I love the power-tap before the dismount.
Clara: Larisa Iordache, Worlds prelims. The best routine in the world, by a long way, but apparently she doesn’t want to hit when it might actually win her a medal. We begin to think she is spiritually Russian.
Bronwyn: I like Iordache, a lot, but I have to disagree with Clara here. Something about her inability to point her toes drives me to absolute distraction. It’s most apparent on leaps. I’ll go with Grishina at Europeans, both in the All-Around and Event Finals. Neither routine was absolutely perfect, but she actually hit two routines when she needed it to medal. And in front of a roaring hometown crowd. Now, where she was particularly gorgeous last year was at Cottbus, fried hair and all:
Clara: Izbasa in the World EF, crashed final pass be damned. She gave all those bitches, Iordache excepted, a lesson in how to present a routine properly.
Bronwyn: Afanasyeva at Europeans. That’s the routine she needed in London. Most impressed with the height of her double pike dismount. Endurance seemed a non-factor for once. Iordache a close second. Love last years music and the choreo. Even those Ponor-esque Romania-hand gestures.
MOST OBNOXIOUS COACH
Clara: Peggy Liddick. Bad enough that she refused to send any WAGs to Worlds at all, saying it would be pointless. Then, predictably enough given the relatively weak field, standards weren’t particularly high and it wasn’t too difficult to make finals. That alone would merit inclusion on our Shortlist of Shittiness.
But then, not content with crushing the hopes of her athletes, the classless cunt still went to Antwerp herself. We can’t have the athletes going, but there’s money for her to go on a jolly! Money that really ought to have been used to buy Naoya Tsukahara some desperately needed cake.
And even in the unlikely event that it was some kind of freebie junket and the funds couldn’t possibly have been directed elsewhere, she still shouldn’t have gone. Because it rubs salt in wounds. Anyone who isn’t an arsehole with a total lack of empathy would have got that. She needs deporting.
Bronwyn: Rodionenkos obviously, but must I go into this? It’s hard for me to refer to them as actual coaches. But thanks to these two hags, Mustafina and Afanasyeva should be competing well into their 40’s. Suddenly Marta is starting to look like Mother Theresa.
MOST SURPRISING RESULT OF THE YEAR
Clara: It’s got to be Aliya winning the World beam title. From an 8th place qualification, going up 1st in finals and with an acro series straight out of Espoirs. There is literally nobody on the planet who saw that one coming.
Bronwyn: Paseka snatching up a bronze at Europeans. She should be kissing Grishina’s ass for bombing in prelims. I actually made a bet on a message board that I’d eat shit out of my cat’s litter box if she even qualified.
Clara: Obviously Biles at Classic has to be mentioned, but I’m not giving her this one because there’s some suggestion it was due to allergies acting up. Medically related shitfests do not qualify for this gong.
Instead, I shall pick Mother Russia’s communal effort at Euros prelims, as discussed up-post. Paseka excepted, as she was apparently saving hers in order to throw away the vault title. The other three had what, five falls between them? It’s not the Olympic team final, comrades!
Bronwyn: After all these years, it seems almost too easy to hand it to Afanasyeva, but oops she did it again. Peeling off bars in prelims at Euro’s, she fails to make All-Around finals. Hits (for her) her set at Universiade weeks later, only to more or less hand Mustafina the title after fudging her beam (one of her best events) in the last rotation. These things are unfortunately far too characteristic of her.
MOST COSMETICS TROWELLED ONTO ONE FACE
Clara: As usual, strong competition from the Romanians and Italians. Mustafina, probably mindful of previous serious injury sustained due to cracking under the weight of her foundation, has toned it down. The others were all channelling 80s streetwalkers, though, and doing a superb job of it.
The final verdict is Ferlito. It takes great facial strength to pull off badloserface on TV when your warpaint is literally as thick as cement.
Bronwyn: Ferlito’s was pretty bad. Though Aliya’s strange coverage of rouge in Antwerpt had her slightly resembling a good-looking gorilla. Or my uncle.
LEAST CONVINCING FAKE D.O.B.
Clara: There can be none other than Shang Chunsong. If she was born in 1996, I’m Mo Huilan and I have a chicken dance I’d like to perform for you. Please, those of you of a sensitive, head burying, denialist bent, take it somewhere else. Stoi! doesn’t give even a minimal fuck.
EMOTIONAL FAREWELL PERFORMANCE
Clara: I would say Izbasa, except I don’t believe for one second that she’s actually retired. She, Ponor and Iordache will all rock up in Rio to grind out another team bronze, perhaps with a cameo from Bulimar (incidentally, yay that she finally got soe individual hardware this year. Gutted she missed worlds).
No, there can be but one winner.
Hicky Head Nabieva. We’ll all be worse off without her.
As always, Stoi! readers are encouraged to share your picks and views with us below. Meanwhile, we’re off to watch The Gabby Douglas Story.
By Bronwyn and Clara