New Russian Jewel: Yana Lukonina

Not that I am not a fan of Kanaeva, Kondakova and Dmitrieva (yes, all three!), but I have to say Yana Lukonina has the potential to compete for gold medals with them. Nothing else comes to mind when you look at Yana other than the word: amazing. I think her flexibility, her confidence and the way she interprets very powerful music are a landmark of the Russian style.

In a way Yana reminds me a bit of Gizikova. She has a stunningly beautiful face and looks very inspired on the carpet.

Technique-wise she also reminds me of Zaripova, who, ironically, is her coach. Both of them are not always able to control their flexibility and both have the worst club technique I have ever seen. Yes, Yana needs to learn to hold the clubs. When she does, she will display a quite wonderful routine. Here are some pictures with clubs:

I also have a couple of pictures of Yana during warm-up. She looks very focused but also friendly. She chatted quite a bit with Narkevich and Charkashina. She wore a stylish "BEBE" T-shirt during warm-up and looked very pretty with her blue ball. Behind Yana on the first picture is her teammate Margarita Mamun.

I have to say that Yana's ball routine was breath-taking. Although she did not perform it cleanly in Montreal, I absolutely love it. It's very elegant and difficult and there is an amazing catch where she does a split and catches the ball behind her back. That element made the audience gasp. I will wait for her to perform without major errors before I post here, though.

Another favorite from Montreal was actually her ribbon. She won a bronze with ribbon but if she had worked more on her apparatus technique, I think she could have done much better. I hope that the Russian coaches don't make with this girl the mistake they made with Amina Zaripova: showcasing her flexibility but not teaching her to hold the ribbon and clubs. Because Yana deserves to medal many times and making silly drops of the apparatus is just not acceptable when you compete at this level. She already has more difficult things mastered! Why is it so hard for her to lift the ribbon off the floor? Here is her ribbon. This routine has the potential to be so much better:

Yana's hoop routine was also quite a treat for everyone to watch. She reminds me of Kabaeva a little bit with her joyful presence and all the flexibility but I am glad there are also some interesting elements with the hoop itself, which she executes almost perfectly:

Yana is only 17 so I really hope she takes the time to perform better with the apparatus. If she does, she will be hard to beat, even by her celebrated teammates. I think she has a lot more personality than Dmitrieva and is just more fun to watch. This girl can be yet another bright jewel in the Russian gymnastics crown. I'd really like to see her in the top 3 with the Olympic champion Kanaeva and the expressive Kondakova. We are in for quite a battle of gymnastics queens!

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