In early 2009, the Australian Youth Olympic fest introduced us to Tan Sixin, Wu Liufang, Danusia Francis, David Belyavskiy, Max Whitlock, Reiss Beckford, Luke Wadsworth and many others.
The names above are the ones we most remember. But there were other big names at that meet that we remember less (Cui Jie, Britt Greeley, Natalia Joura, Ashley Watson) who didn't develop into Olympic team challengers due to injury, early retirement, stifled potential or some combination of all three.
There are a few who I think still haven't reached quite "international star" status but for whom it's still early days (Tan, certainly, as well as Japan's Natsumi Sasada and Sakura Noda and on the men's ride, Beckford).
Lesson to take as we look at videos from this week's AYOF, happening in Sydney? We are looking at some of the new stars of men's and women's gymnastics. It may just take awhile to realize it. Brigid McCarthy at The Couch Gymnast has an excellent roundup with observations. A routine everyone should watch is the exceptional Catherine Lyons on balance beam.
Like Nica Hults, Catherine has been labeled as "one to watch" for the past few years as she's moved up into the elite ranks, and she's finally made her debut on the international stage. Divine choreography on beam, some of the most interesting in years. The younger British gymnasts appear to have completely cast off the "stilted choreography" curse that dogged the British until the past quad.
Watch out also for new AYOF all-around champions Tyseha Mattis (GBR) and Xiao Ruoteng (CHN), along with multiple medalists Teal Grindle (GBR), Dominick Cunningham (GBR), Courtney Tulloch (GBR), Mei Jie (CHN), Nile Wilson (GBR) and Wu Di (CHN). They are a big part of the future of Olympic gymnastics. Do we see a CHN/GBR trend here? Yes, I believe we do.
Lisa Mason launches comeback: Before Beth Tweddle, Mason was the gold standard of British gymnastics, having won a handful of World Cup medals. Now 30 and mom to a little girl, Mason has decided that all this "gymnastics for adolescents" nonsense is just that: nonsense. She might have been spurred on by performing in the Olympic arena this past summer as one of the demonstrators in the exhibition before Olympic finals. Her goal: the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland. (BBC)
NCAA women's race: After a confidence-building victory against Florida last weekend, LSU traveled to Alabama to face the defending NCAA champions, and worse, the defending NCAA champions were at home. The result could have been foretold: Bama won 196.575-195.525, but LSU can still take heart in having the strongest team its had in several years, as well as posting a respectable 195.525 chez Tuscaloosa. They're still a team to watch closely. (Tuscaloosa News)
Elsewhere around the NCAA: Oregon State is not sugarcoating the fact that it's season opener at Mexico's Cancun Open (which it lost to Michigan, and, more embarrassingly, BYU) was "a miserable start to the season." Next up for them: Utah, which is not an easy school to beat in the best of years. (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
Michigan, meanwhile, seems to have surprised even itself, scoring 197.35 in a blowout with Illinois. Michigan must think it joined the SEC. (MGoBlue)
Other surprising victories: Traditional SEC bottom-feeder Kentucky is having a moment, blowing out Arkansas 195.5-193.075. Arkansas, whose gymnastics program came into existence only a decade ago, looks much more vulnerable this season without Jaime Pisani. (UK Athletics)
Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup qualifiers (as of right now): Emily Gaskins (Cincinnati Gymnastics), Reagan Campbell (Texas Dreams), Samantha Partyka (Champions Gymnastics), Ashleigh Gnat (ACE Gymnastics), Charity Jones (Dynamo), Mariah Peterson (USA Gymnastics World), Mackenzie Brannan (Capital) and Drew Watson (Texas East). (USA Gymnastics)
Proof that gymnastics keeps you young: The ageless Cathy Rigby will be retiring from her role as Peter Pan at the end of the month. Rigby has played the boy from Neverland for 40 years now. Catch her at the Pantages Theatre in L.A. as she closes out her run. (Southern California Public Radio)
Zhang Shangwu update: There was a lot of news coverage of the former Chinese national team member last year when it was discovered that he was doing gymnastics for tips outside a Beijing metro station. Zhang's case raised questions about the futures of Chinese team members, who once done with gymnastics might feel discarded with little education and means to support themselves. Unfortunately, in spite of accepting a job as a fitness trainer with a lot of fanfare after his story was published last year, Zhang has returned to where he began, doing gymnastics outside the same metro. Details are a bit sketchy, but Zhang does not seem inclined to talk about it. (The Economic Observer)
Lauren Mitchell aiming for 2014 Commonwealth Games: A third Olympics may not be in store for Australia's most successful gymnast to date, however. But Mitchell's best ever result came at the 2010 Commonwealths, where after being injured all year she won gold on everything except vault, tying a 20-year-old record. No wonder she wants to do another Commonwealths. (MSN)
Heem Wei Lim on excellence: A beautifully presented report and interview with Singapore's first-ever Olympian in gymnastics. (via Youtube)
The new Dutch generation: Casimir Schmidt makes the leap from the junior to senior level ranks. (via Youtube)