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2000 Olympic Trials

Day 1

The 2000 Olympic Trials for women marked the first Olympic team selection in Canada, for men or women, since 1992. As such, the event was an especially dramatic an emotional one for athletes, coaches, and fans alike, particularly since the extraordinary depth in the sport can cause vast fluctuations in team rankings over a single quadrennium. After failing to qualify a complete women's team to the Atlanta Olympics as a result of a 15th place finish at the 1995 world championships in Sabae, Japan, for example, the Canadians had rebounded with a 8th and 10th place finishes, at the 1997 and 1999 world championships, respectively. It was the latter that had secured Canada's Olympic berth, and all six of the team members who had competed in Tianjin are on hand for the Trials.

The competition had been laid out in a manner designed to emphasise a strong showing in Team Preliminaries in Sydney, with Day One and Day Two both being AA competitions, but Day One counting 60%. The eleven girls entered in the event were divided into two groups, one of 6 and one of 5. The first group started on the uneven bars, and the second group started on a bye. They marched out as a team to simulate the team competition in Sydney, and all of the girls started their competition on bars and ended on vault, which is Canada's Olympic order. There was a rest period after FX, which is also in accordance with the Olympic schedule. At the conclusion of the meet, the top 2 girls (combined 2 day AA totals) will automatically make the team, while two others will be named based on their ability to complement the weaknesses of the other girls (i.e. specialize). The final two will be named based on previous performance level.

The meet was held at Sport Seneca, the same site as the 1999 Canada/USA, but with much better lighting for the TSN crew who will be televising Day Two on August 13. While the arena has a fairly small seating area, the capacity crowds created an atmosphere that was electric when the meet began. Canadian commentator Scott Russell acted as floor announcer, and he did a great job of handling the position. He told the crowd exactly what to expect, what the rankings meant, and he was very well versed in all of the girls' accomplishments.

Overall, the Canadian girls put on an impressive show, considering the immense pressure and tension of the event. As a country, Canada certainly excels on the uneven bars (5th as a team in Tianjin), and one might go so far as to say that they also have the best floor choreography in the world at this time. It is rare to find such a large group of athletes who take the time to compose exercises that are fitting to their talents and personality, and the Canadian coaches should be commended for their creativity and desire to bring heart-felt audience reaction back into the sport. Where this team continues to struggle is with falls from the balance beam, and, of course, those vault Start Values! The fact that no Canadian is currently performing a vault over a 9.8 SV is really quite unacceptable for this level. The gravity of this situation has certainly not been lost on head coach Andrei Rodionenko, however, as he hopes to have all team members hitting consistent 9.8 vaults by Sydney.

Individually, Kate Richardson was really the star of the show. It really was only a question of time before she was going to hit all four events to her potential, and she certainly picked a great time to do that! With a 9.8 or 9.9 vault, the sky would be the limit for this great gymnast. Lise Leveille also impressed with her performance, considering she had been sidelined with injuries for most of the past year. Emilie Fournier had a rough day, but still managed sixth, so a performance of her usual capabilities will certainly be good enough to move her up tomorrow. Julie Beaulieu and Yvonne Tousek continue to impress, and it was great to see Michelle Conway back in top form (and perhaps better than ever). Here are the Day One rankings, which count for 60%:

1. Richardson 38.100
2. Tousek 37.175
2. (tie) Beaulieu 37.175
4. Conway 37.137
5. Leveille 36.800
6. Fournier 35.662
7. Plante 35.300
8. Gilmore 35.212
9. Leclerc 35.100
10. Pearson 34.325
11. Taylor 33.625

Notes on women's routines
Group One, which lead off the competition, included Lise Leveille (Pan Am beam champion), Aubrey Taylor (former Ohio state Level 10 champ, Gymnastic Challenge 2000 participant), Crystal Gilmore (98 Commonwealth Games team), Kate Richardson (19th AA in Tianjin), Julie Beaulieu (Pacific Alliance beam silver, 2-time Gymnix Intl Champ), and Amelie Plante (Tianjin alternate).

Rotation One: Group One - UB Group Two - bye
Lise went up first and hit a great routine (Healy to Jaeger, Tkatchev, double pike), hitting her handstands beautifully (9.350/10). Taylor had a fall on her full pirouette to Gienger (too close to the bar), and finished with a double pike (step). Gilmore was moving well on what could be considered her weakest event, until her ever-precarious Tkatchev, where she fell. Even more devastating, however, was her double layout dismount, where she released too early (basically peeled off the bar) and flew into the mat after the first somersault, landing on her head. Very fortunately, the worst damage was to her ponytail and her score (7.650/9.5). Richardson went up right after this frightening crash and was completely unfazed, nailing her gorgeous routine (full pirouette to Gienger, gorgeous inverted giants), covering well for a mis-timed regrasp on her Tkatchev (9.625/10). Beaulieu did a great bar routine as well, but without the Markelov this time. With seemingly half the crowd having come from Montreal to cheer their girls on, she stuck her gorgeous double layout to loud roars of approval (9.650/10). Plante was on her way to a terrific exercise (1.5 pirouette to Gienger) until she clipped her foot on the LB right before her dismount and had to jump off to restart before hitting her double layout (8.700/9.8).

Rotation Two: Group One - BB Group Two - UB
Group Two included: Yvonne Tousek (96 Olympian, FX finalist in Tianjin), Abby Pearson (she and her coaches recently relocated from the Bluewater club in Sarnia to Burlington), Michelle Conway (AA silver at the 1999 Pan American Games), Veronique Leclerc (AA finalist at 1997 worlds), and Emilie Fournier (Qantas Pre-Olympic Invitational AA winner).

Taylor began by recovering well from her UB fall to hit a nice beam routine, attaining a full 10 SV, but scoring only a 9.150. Tousek started on UB, doing her great routine (piked Jaeger and Hindorff), only coming up a little short on the double layout dismount (9.600/10). Gilmore also came back strongly on beam, hitting her ff-tucked full, but wobbled slightly after her tuck jump/punch front combination. A perfectly landed 2½ twist dismount certainly spoke volumes about Crystal's ability to focus and recover after such a devastating fall just one rotation earlier, but the judges apparently weren't as easy to impress (9.150/9.9). Pearson did a decent UB routine, but simply didn't have the SV to be in the top group.

Next, Richardson hit an absolutely stunning beam routine that seems like it could be worthy of beam finals in Sydney. No more Onodi, but she added a remarkable switch leap to Yang Bo jump! Now, whether she will get credit for the Yang Bo "E" or the ring leap "C" remains to be seen, but it's a gorgeous combo. She also has a new Yogi handstand (like Chari Knight-Hunter's famous pose). Kate's only problem in the exercise was the dismount, where she had a little overrotation on her two backhandsprings to double pike (9.550/10).

Michelle Conway started on her toughest event, bars, and did a great job. No major HB to HB release, but enough interesting work to make up for it (two Healy's to inverted giants, bail 1/2, and Fontaine dismount) for a 9.550/10, which she must have been thrilled with. Beaulieu had the first miss from the world team members, grabbing the beam with both hands after her piked front mount. Strangely, despite also being a little off throughout the entire exercise, as well as taking a low landing on her gainer double twist dismount, she somehow managed to score 9.025/9.9, which left many in the audience quite bewildered.

Leclerc's UB was terrific - just like old times (Shaposhnikova to bail 1/2, Tkatchev, double layout) for a 9.550/10. Again, Plante looked confident as she moved through her next event, beam, only to make another mistake late in her routine (fall on wolf/punch front after hitting a solid RO layout (8.750/9.9). Fournier hit a decent bar routine, though a little close on the Gienger (9.450/10) Leveille had an uncharacteristic lost connection on her beam mount (no leap out of her punch front), but hit a solid ff layout layout and accented with unusual, dramatic beam choreography for a 9.150/9.8.

Rotation Three: Group One - FX Group Two - BB
Pearson had a nice beam routine until she "Silivas-ed" her ff layout and ended up on the floor. Gilmore's FX was gorgeous and dramatic as usual (9.35/9.9). Conway was next on beam, and showed the benefits of a maturity, years of experience, and a great deal of hard work since Tianjin. She seems to be growing into the sport beautifully, while still maintaining her style and all her great skills. Her beam routine included her terrific Thomas flairs to mount and illusion 1/1. Unfortunately, she had to grab the beam after her incredibly difficult tour jete with half twist (known as a "Strug" on FX), though it would seem the judges took the difficulty of the element into consideration, since she still managed a 9.000 out of 9.8!

Kate has a new floor routine to a Russian piece, which was quite playful and well choreographed (Arabian double front; whip/1.5 twist/punch front; front full/front full; double pike) for a 9.6/10. Leclerc's beam was not up to the standard of her UB, and had a fall and some other wobbles. On floor, Beaulieu showed a captivating routine, performed to an infectious Middle Eastern piece - well done! Unfortunately, she went out of bounds on her first pass, lowering her score to a 9.425/10. On beam, Fournier hit her ultra-high piked front mount, only to suffer a fall on her tucked jump to piked front later on (8.250/9.8). Plante's FX was performed well to a pan flute accompaniment, but her SV just wasn't there. Tousek's beam was strong and stable, but the judges seemed to find more places to deduct than the fans did (9.375/9.9)!

Up next on floor, Lise performing an outstanding exercise to Lord of the Dance, including an upgraded first pass (front through to triple twist). The middle of the routine included a well-choreographed section where Lise came right to the edge of the mat and danced for the crowd, which was well received (9.45/10). Taylor also showed terrific FX choreography, but had to put her hands down on her double pike.

Rotation Four: Group One - bye Group Two - FX
Conway began the rotation by debuting a dynamic new FX routine with a similar, but more mature, composition as her previous routine. She backed up her performance with some impressive tumbling, including a 1½ twist to 2½ twist/punch front (out of bounds), and a front full/front full. Her double twist final pass was the result of an old ankle injury, replacing her usual double pike (9.450/10). Leclerc's FX had a couple of falls, but a great Arabian double front to start. Fournier's FX could have been a highlight, but she put her hands down on her double layout (hit in warm-ups). Her second pass was an ultra-cool 1½ twist/front full/punch front, and she finished with a front to double pike (hands down again - 8.250/9.8). Tousek's, FX was, as always, a highlight, but she went out of bounds on her first and last pass, scoring only 9.200/9.9. Pearson finished the rotation with a fall on her 2.5 punch front.

Rotation Five: Group One - V Group Two - bye
Richardson - high, clean Hristakieva's (a little overcooked with big steps, but ultra-tight) for a 9.325/9.6.
Beaulieu - stuck the first of two Hristakieva's (9.075/9.6).
Plante - two decent pike fronts, both with with hops.
Leveille - pike fronts with slightly bent knees and hops.
Taylor - two piked ½'s, both of which were very low with some questionable technique, and a fall on the 2nd.
Gilmore - two Hristakieva's with height, but bent knees 9.062/9.6.

Rotation Six: Group One - complete Group Two - V
Leclerc - very high piked front ½'s with steps back (9.250/9.6).
Fournier - two Hristakieva's - no 1½ twisting Yurchenko today. Both were well done (9.237/9.6).
Tousek - slightly overrotated both of her Hristakieva's (9.000/9.6).
Pearson - performed two 1½ twisting Yurchenko's, the only 9.8 SV vaults of the day (9.250/9.8).
Conway - two clean Hristakieva's (9.137/9.8).

Day 2

Written by JS

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