Impressions from World Cup - Montreal 2011

I was fortunate to attend the first World Cup competition for 2011 in Montreal. Fourteen (14) gymnasts participated in the all around portion of this World Cup, which made for a short, but intense world cup event. I would like to share my impressions of the event chronologically and thoughts about the gymnasts in the order in which they appeared on the carpet.

We arrived at the Pierre Charbonneau Center in Montreal just in time for the warm-up. Narkevich and Charkashina looked very focused and error-free during warm-up. Lukonina and Alyabieva, on the other hand, ran around chasing either a ball, a hoop, or the clubs.I hadn't realized how tall Alyabieva actually is; she is quite long-legged, too. From watching the warm-up, I got the distinct impression that Lukonina is the gymnast with the most "physical qualities" of all of the participants. She just stood out: wonderful releves, amazing flexibility, beautiful arms.

There was a "funny" accident during the warm-up - Caroline Weber's ribbon caught on a basketball hoop and it took a while to take it down by throwing a hoop at it. I have some video of that, which I hope to upload later.

Now, on to the competition. The first gymnast on the carpet was the 15-year old rising Canadian star, Maria Kitarska. She trains with coach Lidia Joukova in Montreal, speaks 4 languages, and place 11th at the Youth Olympics in Singapore last year among the juniors. She participated in this World Cup event without receiving marks. Maria, who is of Bulgarian origin, is very charming and always smiling. She had a serious drop out of carpet with ball but did a good hoop routine to open the competition and a nice ribbon routine. Below are some pictures of Maria Kitkarska, the new hope from Canada:

After Maria, Anna Alyabyeva from Kazakshtan performed. Unfortunately, in the all around, all of her routines looked very sloppy, especially the hoop and clubs, but even on ball, where her flexibility is a real asset, she looked very insecure. I hope Anna performs better tomorrow so I can post a nice video of her. She did make all finals but hoop, so I am hoping she gets it together. I guess it's just too early in the season for a lot of these girls to be in really good shape.

Next was Viktoria Bogdanova from Estonia, a very elegand young gymnast. Viktoria made the top 8 with hoop where she performed to music by Vivaldi. I really liked her ball routine, too, see below:

The other gymnast from Canada was Mariam Chamilova, who made a number of finals, and really delighted the Canadian audience. I think Mariam has a lot to work on but she showed some great flexibility and some nice pirouettes already. The clubs were actually her best apparatus but I enjoyed the ribbon as well.

After Mariam, the first "big star" of this competition performed - Sasha Narkevich. Sasha started with a strong hoop routine looking much cleaner than any of the other competitors and topped that with an absolutely stunningly clean ball routine which earned her a 27.700, second highest mark in the entire competition. I think Sasha's 25.500 for clubs was a bit too low. Yes, she had two small drops but she kept a really good pace through the routine and executed many of the moves cleanly. Sasha finished with ribbon, my personal favorite routine of hers, where I think she may have been less clean but more expressive:

I am glad Sasha received lots of applause from the audience in Montreal but I think her intensity and technique, though truly excellent, would benefit from more confidence, from the occasional smile, and from showing that she actually enjoys performing.

A "veteran"in the sport, Caroline Weber, followed Sasha. Caroline is truly trying to become more expressive, and her new ball routine, with music from the Pink Panther, is actually working well for her. But I didn't like her playful clubs too much. I thought she tried too hard to embody an image that is simply not hers. She should embrace her femininity more, instead of go for these "childlike-and-playful" or "cute" routines which strangely remind me of Mitrocz. Anyway, I think the ball routine was Caroline's best attempt.

I will continue the description of my impressions with more pictures of Caroline in a couple of hours. Also, after Caroline, the charming Australian Danielle Prince performed in some very pretty leotards, which we also photographed.