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Meet-n-Greet: Tim McNeill [Oct. 15th, 2009|02:39 pm]
The Gym Junkies


A third place finish for prelims at this year’s Worlds, trip to the Olympic Trials in 2008, and a second place finish at US Nationals in 2009 may all seem a surprise when looking over Tim McNeill’s resume in gymnastics. The truth is that Tim, “who has, for years, been a little-known member of the National Team” as Inside Gymnastics called him, is a self-proclaimed low-key competitor who calls himself a “full-time gymnast”.

 While his performances there did not earn him a spot on the US Olympic team, he did provide a glimpse into the future. In the last quad, while never taking the big prize, Tim has always been within the top three of the national title on pommel horse. At the 2009 Nationals, Tim finished 2nd in the All-Around, took the national title on the parallel bars, and was third on what many consider his best event, the pommel horse.

 The former Cal State Bear (he graduated in December of 2008 and now works as the program’s assistant coach) won five NCAA national titles, the most in school history, including a three-year streak on the pommel horse (2006-2008).

After Nationals, Inside Gymnastics spoke with Tim about his silver-medal finish.

 “This meet was exhilarating for me,” said the soft-spoken McNeill. “I wasn’t surprised by my all-around ranking. Not at all. I’ve always known I had this ability, I just had to show it.”


And McNeill plans to be showing it for a long while yet.


McNeill, who calls himself a “full time gymnast,” says he never considered retiring after graduating from college. “Now, the only question is, do I go until 2016?” he stated emphatically.

 The following videos come from the 2009 National Championships.

Floor Exercise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOyrahr_Drs

 High Bar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umJs5pn36Aw

Pommel Horse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03jiVN2_cTM

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Meet-n-Greet: Danell Layva [Oct. 14th, 2009|10:55 pm]
The Gym Junkies


Hey folks (assuming anyone is actually reading these.) Due to some unforseen circumstances, have been unable to post the final two Team USA profiles. I wish I could say that both profiles will be posted tonight, yet it seems one is unavailable. Ah well.

On a side note: Be sure to check out the All Around finals tomorrow. You can watch either via webcast (beginning at 1:20pm EST at universalsports.com) or on the Universal Sports channel. Tim McNeill and Jonathan Horton both qualified within the top five.


When asked his goals for the future, Danell Layva lays it out as such, “win a Visa Championships, win the World Championships, and of course, win the Olympic Games.” Just shy of his 18t birthday (October 30) Danell has quite a resume. In 2009, his first year as an official senior*, Danell took second in the all-around at Winter Cup and finished fifth at Nationals, also tying for the National title on high bar.

What Danell may be known best for is his coach and father, Yin Alverez, whose antics are the subject of much talk during broadcasts. The animate Alverez can often be seen and heard cheering his gymnasts when they finish a routine, sometimes even ‘performing’ along with them.


“He likes to rub that in my face a lot,” Danell told Inside Gymnastics when asked about this in a July feature. “He’ll say, ‘Ha, ha, I’m more famous than you.’”


“That never embarrassed me,” Leyva says, adding with a laugh, “but every day, every other minute, then he tends to embarrass me.”


Danell will not be competing in the All-Around this year, but will instead focus on three events. When asked (before Nationals) what his ambitions for Worlds are, Danell stated the following:


“I just want to really impress everybody as much as I can. Try to show off. Hopefully make some World teams before [the 2012] Olympics—I’d like to make this World team for high bar and p-bars; I think those are my best bets—maybe even win a medal.”

He will have a shot at one medal this year, as he made high bar finals.

All videos are from the 2009 National Championships.


Floor Exercise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PWgtuUIWJA

Pommel Horse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95aNXhb44GM

Still Rings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsxomLCU4Z8

Vault: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmuhmhOb_3o

Parallel Bars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe2QZc9LKoo

High Bar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMHQRUYVk1A


 * Unlike the women’s side of the sport, the junior men only compete one day. During finals, junior gymnasts are able to compete with the senior men.

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Meet-n-Greet: Steven Legendre [Oct. 9th, 2009|11:25 am]
The Gym Junkies


Maybe it’s something in the water; Steven Legendre is the third Oklahoma Sooner (or former Sooner, as be the case with Jonathan Horton) to make this year’s World squad. During the 2009 Nationals broadcast, Tim Daggett described Steven as a kid who never really reached far in the junior ranks until a switch in gyms. (Perhaps you’ve heard of the gym he went to; WOGA.)

 Although he competes all-around, Steven is known predominately for his power. In 2006, Steven took third in the senior division on vault. A year later, he finished second on vault and seventh on floor. Last year he finished first* on floor exercise and tied for fifth on vault. His finishes for 2009 were seventh in the all-around, first on floor and third for vault. Also thrown in are six NCAA titles, including the 2009 All-Around title.

 At Worlds, Steven will only compete floor exercise. An article by Inside Gymnastics written before this year’s Nationals focused on his efforts and plans for the future.

 “We all want to go to Worlds, but I think I also need to prove myself as an all-arounder. This year works well for me because it’s an individual event Worlds and my all-around isn’t as important this year as it will be in upcoming years. [To make Worlds,] I think I definitely need to be able to hit my floor routine cleanly and distinguish myself as one of the top guys in the country, and show I can compete with some of the better guys in the world.


“I still understand my strengths are floor and vault,” he concludes, “but I have been really trying to improve on the other four. I think in the new format it will be extremely important to be a good all-around gymnast if you want to make World and Olympic teams in the future.”

 The following videos are all from the 2009 National Championships coverage.

 Vault Number One (I’m sorry, but it’s just sick how easy it seems for him): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSx6tcJy3nU

High Bar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpBKNeGl9Fg

Floor Exercise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hGxiQGiL7Y

Tomorrow’s meet-n-greet with focus on the youngest member of team USA, Danell Leyva.


* Steven Legendre originally finished second on floor at the 2009 National Championships, yet due to an issue involving National Champion Morgan Hamm, his standing was boosted to first.


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Worlds Start List and Meet-n-Greet: Jonathan Horton [Oct. 8th, 2009|12:11 pm]
The Gym Junkies

I realize I'm late in posting today's Meet-n-Greet profile. Part of the reason is that the start lists for Worlds have now been posted on the Universal Sports website. Here is the breakdown for Team USA:

Jonathan Horton - All-Around
Tim McNeill - All-Around
Jake Dalton - Vault
Wes Haagensen - Pommel Horse, Still Rings
Steven Legendre - Floor Exercise
Danell Layva - High Bar, Parallel Bars


Bridget Sloan - All-Around
Rebecca Bross - All-Around
Ivana Hong - Balance Beam, Uneven Bars
Kayla Williams - Floor Exercise, Vault

Seeing the lists just makes it more real, doesn't it? ;) On to the meet-n-greet profile for today.

For a few (let's be honest; how many were watching back then?) the first glimpse of Jonathan Horton came way back in 2002, when he could be seen picking up something dropped by Paul Hamm. For others, he was the one Tim Daggett referred to as "X Games" as he flipped his way around the high bar during the 2005 Nationals broadcast.

No matter how one was introduced to him, it’s fair to say that Jonathan Horton has done quite a lot in his career. A three-time World Team member, two-time American Cup champion, winner of two Olympic medals (team bronze and high bar silver), winner of six individual NCAA titles and the 2008 Nissen-Emery award, and the 2009 National All-Around Champion of the US, Jonathan seems to be the one to watch as this quad continues.

 Shortly after his victory, Jonathan told Inside Gymnastics, “In my head this is the beginning, I want to see if I can follow in the footsteps of guys like Blaine Wilson and John Roethlisberger, win five in a row. That’s not just something I’m saying. That’s something I expect myself to do. I expect myself to be the leader of this U.S. team for a long time.”

 “I know when I say stuff like that I can come off like I’m cocky or something, but that’s not what I mean by it. I have high expectations of myself and I enjoy people depending on me. I want to be able to depend on myself.”

 Jonathan looks to compete in the all-around at Worlds this year. Two years ago he finished a surprising fourth in the all-around at Worlds, mere tenths from the bronze. In Beijing, he finished tenth. He has stated that, just as in Beijing, he will begin on high bar with one set and, if he makes finals on that event, will add difficulty to his routine.

 In the same Inside Gymnastics article, Jonathan was quoted as saying he looks forward to leading the Team USA effort. “I like the idea of people depending on me… I enjoy that idea that people are looking at me as the leader of the team. I think it’s the role that I’ve wanted my whole career.”

 A quick YouTube search for Jonathan brings numerous results. The following are just a few:

Vault – 2009 Nationals Day Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49-LsTm3-90

Parallel Bars – same event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSl2_R5Vnvg

Floor Exercise – same event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT0d-NyDsUU

Still Rings – same event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2gPF1G_gN0

High Bar – 2008 Olympic event finals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ri4mTQoGiEI&feature=channel_page

Tomorrow meet Steven Legendre, the man who can fly.

EDIT TO ADD: Learn something new every day; both Inside Gymnastics and USAG's profile of Jonathan state that he competed at the 2004 Olympic Trials as a high school senior.

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Team USA Meet-N-Greet: Wes Haagensen [Oct. 7th, 2009|07:14 am]
The Gym Junkies

It's time for another Meet-n-Greet session.

Wesley “Wes” Haagensen is another of those ‘new faces’ people may not recognize. He and teammate Jake Dalton were ‘last minute replacements’ (Note: Nice little article which interviews Dalton there.) after the men’s selection committee named David Sender and Sasha Artemev to the World Team. Artemev withdrew due to injury, and Sender withdrew for retirement (and vet school).


Only two months shy from his 24 birthday Wes has been around since the last quad, mostly working in the junior ranks. In 2002 he did wonderfully in the junior division. He also previously competed for the University of Illinois during which time he won a good number of titles and awards.  Former teammate (and current assistant coach) Justin Spring is quoted as saying that he has no real weak event. Inside Gymnastics, in an article about the results from Nationals, had this to say about him:


Then there’s third-place Wes Haagensen, who struggled with his future in the sport for years. Calling himself “badly beat up” by NCAA competition at Illinois, Haagensen, a former Junior National Team member, never quite made the senior squad cut.  [During Nationals coverage, Tim Daggett mentioned a good amount of injuries in the past, especially during the latter years of Wes's college career.]


But about six months ago Haagensen rededicated himself to the sport, moving from Illinois to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, something he now calls, “the best decision of my life.”


At the 2009 Nationals he finished 3rd in the All-Around, 3rd on still rings, 5th on high bar and 7th on parallel bars. This is a huge improvement over the 2008 year, during which he finished 22 in the All-Around (partly due to not competing two events during finals).  Wes really credits his new coach and gym for this improvement. He was actually featured on the Universal Sports broadcast of night two during the 2009 Nationals, which means more videos. The following all come from that broadcast.


High Bar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaSmiEK6kZ8

Vault: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6SND09rVe8

Parallel Bars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erai-QI8D34

Pommel Horse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1GTY2BtKfc

Still Rings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl3dfzjPOo8

Floor Exercise (with breakdown of elements): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNx5ibKVOUc


If I may add my own take on Wes, I’d say he’s one to watch in the future. I see him more as a Joey Hagerty than Jonathan Horton at this point of his career; steady, clean and able to post solid scores on most, if not all, events. This could really serve him well in team competitions, particularly if he continues to improve.


Enough from me though. Look for Wes to compete next week in his first World Championships appearance. Tomorrow’s meet-n-greet will feature the ‘veteran’ of the group and current US National Champion Jonathan Horton.

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Team USA Meet-N-Greet: Jake Dalton [Oct. 6th, 2009|01:04 am]
The Gym Junkies

I shouldn't have been surprised, and yet I was. While online Sunday I read about the final selection of the young women who will compete for Team USA in London at the World Championships next week. I mentioned to a friend of mine how I'm mostly excited for the men's team, which eventually led to her admitting that aside from one or two of the young men, she really didn't recognize any of them.

I understand that it is still very early in the Olympic cycle calender and that it would be unfair to assume every casual gymnastics fan should know all of Team USA by now. Unless you are a self-proclaimed gym junkie, one really doesn't search out that type of information. Yet really, being someone excited and hopeful about this team leads me to feel a sense of duty to introduce them. Over the next six days on this blog, the Gym Junkies will present profiles of MAG's Team USA members. *

First up in alphabetical order is Jake Dalton.

Jacob "Jake” Dalton is a relative newcomer. At 18 years of age, he just recently (as in only a month ago) competed in a junior international competition, the first international competition listed on his
USAG profile page. Jake finished 1st on vault at the 2009 US Nationals and 14th in the All Around.  He currently competes for the Oklahoma Sooners.

"My goals and expectations for the world championships are to hit my vaults in prelims and make it to finals, and hit them there, too," Dalton told International Gymnast magazine in a recent article. "I also expect to support my team and help them through their competition."

There is not much video footage to be found online, but will go ahead and post what is available. Here is Jake competing on vault earlier this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CMlLATGBdA

Here is a snippet of him training high bar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EPpV2wLS-M

And finally, here he is again competing on vault during Nationals this year:


I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the second youngest member of Team USA. Tomorrow; meet Wes Haagensen.

* WAG's Team USA may be presented, yet  I feel USAG and NBC do a fine job of introducing them without help from outside sources.

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Perfection [Mar. 23rd, 2009|04:11 pm]
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I could go on and on about this routine -- the elegance, the grace, and all that. Or I could just let the routine say it all for me.

Grace Taylor performs on balance beam during the Georgia v Michigan meet last weekend.

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I Don't Get It [Mar. 8th, 2009|02:05 pm]
The Gym Junkies

Perhaps I just have this past quad's scoring system stuck in my brain lately. Okay, I know I do, because now I'm finding myself thinking things such as, "Oh, that split leap wasn't at 180 degrees" while watching older footage. At any rate, I found this video of Carly Patterson from the 2004 Olympic Trials.

She receives a 9.475 for this routine. In my mind, I just don't see how this is possible. First, the judges would take off 0.5 for the fall - mandatory. Next, she should lose bonus points for the fall (the leap should have been followed by a back tuck.) Thirdly, she would have had to be deducted for that very large step at the end of the routine.

So how does that equal only 0.525 in deductions?I really am curious.

Edit to Add: Okay, found a breakdown of Carly's beam routine.

Standing Arabian: E (0.2)
Front aerial, flic flac, back layout, step-out: D+B+C (0.2) + (0.1)
Front salto, sheep jump: D+D (0.2) + (0.2)
Switch leap, back tuck: C+C (0.1)
Round-off, flic flac two feet, double Arabian salto: B+B+Super E (0.2)+ (0.2)

Base Score: 8.8
Total Bonus: 1.4
Start Value: 10.0

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IG Column: Was Mary Lou Retton a Gymnastics Pioneer? [Feb. 27th, 2009|08:51 am]
The Gym Junkies

[Current Mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

I came across this International Gymnast magazine column the other day and, well, I thought it rather remarkable that anyone would dare open such a fine kettle of fish:

Column: Was Mary Lou Retton a Pioneer in Gymnastics?

My hat is off to the writer for, if nothing else, writing a gymnastics-related piece with some definate bite to it. Obviously it is designed to get people talking (mission accomplished!), but it does bring up the rather interesting question of what exactly qualifies a person into the realm of "gymnastics pioneer" (versus legend, inspiration, etc.)?

As I draft up my thus far conflicted thoughts on this (lol), the floor is open for discussion...

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American Cup Notes [Feb. 21st, 2009|06:42 pm]
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[Tags|, ]

In keeping with tradition, here are my notes while watching American Cup.


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