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Archive: August 2004

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Newly crowned Olympic floor champion Kyle Shewfelt of Calgary took a controversial fourth place in the vault competition in Athens yesterday. Shewfelt, a bronze medallist on this apparatus at the 2003 world championships, landed both of his vaults well, scoring a 9.599 average for his Yurchenko 2 1/2 ("the Shewfelt") where he took a slight hop forward, and Kasamatsu 1 1/2 (a hop to the side took him out of the landing area - costing him an automatic 0.2 in deductions) vaults. The defending champion on this event, Gervasio Deferr of Spain reclaimed his crown with a 9.737 average, performing the same first vault as Shewfelt, and performing a similiar second vault, a Tsukahara with 2 1/2 twists, which he stuck cold. Silver medallist Evegeny Sapronenko of Latvia was the only finallist to complete two 10.0 start value vaults successfully, landing both a handspring double front 1/2 and tsukahara double pike for a 9.706 average.

Richardson finishes 7th in floor final
Photo by Grace Chiu

Controversy arose after Romania's Marian Dragulescu took the bronze over Shewfelt after landing his second vault (the same Kasamatsu 1 1/2 that Shewfelt performed) and taking two steps outside the area while touching both hands to the mat. While his first vault was excellent (a stuck handspring double front 1/2 that earned a 9.9 - the highest score given at the Olympic Games), his second scored 9.325 - a score Gymnastics Canada officials believed was an impossible result based on the execution deductions. A protest ensued, which according to reports today, have since been dropped. Shewfelt chose to not get involved in the controversy, instead saying, "At this point it's not really an issue that I want to think about because I still haven't celebrated my gold medal."

In the women's floor exercise final, Coquitlam's Kate Richardson finished seventh with a 9.325, after a slight glitch on a leap combination dropped her start value to 9.9, and a step out of bounds on her closing double pike. Richardson, who is the first Canadian woman since Kelly Brown in 1984 to qualify for an apparatus final at the Olympics (and the first to do so in a non boycotted Olympics), admitted in a CBC interview following the event that she had her sites set on a medal. "I made the final - I thought I might as well set a goal of having a medal." Despite feeling some disappointment, she added, "I made the final and that was one of my dreams. I'm really excited to be here, so I'm going to focus on that."

With a score of 9.75, the gold medal went to Romania's Catalina Ponor, who picked up her third gold medal of the Games, making her the female gymnast to win the most medals in Athens. Her teammate Daniella Sofronie took silver, scoring 9.562, while the bronze went to Spain's Patricia Moreno, who earned the first women's artistic gymnastics medal for her country with a 9.487.


Calgary's Kyle Shewfelt made Canadian history by becoming Canada's first-ever Olympic medallist in artistic gymnastics in spectacular fashion, winning gold in a tie-breaker in men's floor exercise today. Shewfelt won with a 9.787 score to edge out Romania's Marian Dragulescu, who earned the same score, but was relegated to the silver medal based on tie-breaking procedures. Bulgaria's Jordan Jovtchev took third with a 9.775.

The result made Shewfelt the first gold medallist for Canada in any sport at these Games. Even more remarkable is the fact that, of Canada's four medals so far at the Olympics, half are from gymnastics. Earlier this week, Karen Cockburn won silver in the women's trampoline.

The CBC reported that, after his victory, Shewfelt received a congratulatory phone call from Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. Shewfelt's victory, which was carried live by the CBC, has earned him substantial attention on the Olympic afternoon telecast.

Despite the breakthrough victory today, Shewfelt still has the opportunity to win a second medal tomorrow in the vault final. Also competing tomorrow is British Columbia's Kate Richardson in the women's floor exercise final.


Former gymnast Dana Ellis
One of only two Canadian Track
'n Field to qualify to finals to date

Photo by Grace Chiu
Turgeon finishes
in 11th position

Photo by Grace Chiu

Former Canadian elite gymnast Dana Ellis is among a surprisingly large list of athletes to pick up pole vaulting after gymnastics. Current World Champion Russian Svetlana Feofanova was a member of Russia's national gymnastics team, training under 1988 Olympic champion Elena Shevchenko. Other gymnasts-turned-pole vaulters include Germany's 1995 World team member Katrin Kuehnert and the Czech Republic's Daniela Bartova. More recently, 1996 Olympic gold medallist Amy Chow has taken up pole vaulting.

After injuries forced Ellis to quit gymnastics, she picked up pole vaulting. Yesterday in Athens, Ellis qualified to finals. Ellis described qualification to the finals as a "surprise," but said, "it just goes to show you that in this event, anything can happen on any given day." 

To date, Ellis and fellow pole vaulter Stephanie McCann are the only Canadian track and field athletes to qualify for a final. Going into Athens, McCann was ranked No. 28 in the world in IAAF points, while Ellis was No. 36. "As we both made it, we were like, 'we cannot believe this, the final in the Olympic Games," Ellis told Canadian Press. "That was our goal, but until it happens..."

Watching Ellis from the stands was husband Russ Buller, an American pole vaulter who missed qualifying for Athens.

Meanwhile, in men's trampoline, Mathieu Turgeon finished 11th with 63.40 points. A self-described surprise bronze medallist in Sydney, Turgeon's goal for Athens was to qualify to finals. The first up in yesterday's qualification round, Turgeon missed that goal, finishing three spots shy of the final.

Men's trampoline was won by Ukrainian Yuri Nikitin, who qualified to finals in second place. Henrik Stehlik (GER), who qualified in first place, flipped positions with Nikitin to finish second. Bronze went to Alexander Moskalenko (RUS), gold medallist in Sydney.


Karen Cockburn, the defending Olympic bronze medallist in women's trampoline, became only the second Canadian to win a medal at the Athens Olympics in any sport with a silver medal performance in women's trampoline. Cockburn, who also won the world title last year, overcame nerves and a disappointing compulsory routine (8th) to finish fifth in the preliminaries and earn a trip to the finals. There, the 23 year-old was beaten only by Anna Dogonadze of Germany to take the second Olympic medal of her career.

"I was definitely more nervous here, because in Sydney, I was only 19 and just happy to be there," Cockburn told the media after the competition. "Now that I'm older I have put more expecations on myself."

In the final, Cockburn attempted a routine with a difficulty level of 14.6, despite being capable of a more difficult routine. Cockburn said that the decision was a strategic one to keep her on the podium.

Karen Cockburn wins Olympic silver
Photo by Grace Chiu

"I definitely knew I had good results last year, so I knew I had a good chance at first place here. I knew that, with a 15.0 difficulty total, it would be good. But today, feeling shaky and nervous, I knew if I went for that routine, I wouldn't have had as good of result as I did. So I went for a 14.6, knowing it would be the highest in the final and hoping it would be enough. But again, I was still a little shaky."

Cockburn's routine was good enough for a 39.20 total, which had her in first place until Dogonadze surpassed her with a 39.60. Finishing third was China's Huang Shanshan with 39.00.

Also competing in the final was veteran Heather Ross-McManus, who finished 6th in her first Olympic Games. Like many of her competitors, Ross-McManus had to battle the nerves associated with competing in the Olympic Games. The tension of the competition caused several competitors, including defending Olympic champion Irina Karavaeva of Russia, to make major errors that ended their medal hopes.

"Yes, I got a little bit afraid when I saw what happened with Karavaeva and [American Jennifer] Parilla. It has happened to me also in the past," said Ross-McManus. "You push to the limits and sometimes things like that happen. This is what makes trampoline so exciting maybe."

For the 30 year-old Ross-McManus, a long-time veteran of international competition, the Olympic experience was a satisfying one. "I woke up this morning and I said to myself, this is it. I am just so happy. I practiced very hard for three years to get here and to qualify for the finals was very important for me".

Competition continues tomorrow with the men's trampoline event, which includes Canadian Olympic bronze medallist Mathieu Turgeon.

Banville, 24th AA
Photo by Grace Chiu


Canadians Kate Richardson and Melanie Banville finished 18th and 24th all-around, respectively, in the women's all-around finals in Athens earlier today. Both athletes suffered major errors to finish lower than their qualifying rankings from Sunday's preliminary competition.

Richardson, 20, began her competition on the uneven bars, scoring only 8.087 to take herself out of contention for a top finish. Richardson, who owns the record for Canada's best-ever finish by a woman in a fully-attended Olympics (15th in 2000), fought back on her final three events, including a 9.400 on floor (out of bounds on her double layout), to earn a 35.786 total.

Banville had a difficult day of competition, earning only one score over 9.0 on her four events (vault, 9.200) to earn a 34.474 total. Banville suffered falls on floor (double pike) and uneven bars, after beginning the day with a stable beam routine.

The competition was won by Carly Patterson of the United States, who edged three-time world champion Svetlana Khorkina for the coveted title. Finishing third was China's Zhang Nan, who was also the bronze medallist at last year's world championships.

Tomorrow, the focus will shift to trampoline, where world champion Karen Cockburn will try to earn her second Olympic medal. Cockburn finished third at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, trampoline's Olympic debut. Cockburn will be joined by teammate Heather Ross-McManus, who finished fifth at last year's world championships.


When the women’s team preliminaries concluded in Athens today, the Canadian women’s team finished in tenth place, an improvement of one rank from their world championships performance in 2003. In the last of four subdivisions, Canada was passed by France, Spain, and Brazil to drop from seventh to tenth, thus missing out on the eight-country team finals.

Kate Richardson in today's qualifying
Photo by Grace Chiu

Individually, British Columbia's Kate Richardson made Canadian history by qualifying for floor finals, with a 9.562 score that left her tied for sixth on that apparatus. Richardson is the first Canadian woman to qualify for an apparatus final at a fully attended Olympic Games. Kelly Brown had been a vault finalist at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, which were boycotted by the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Richardson also qualified to the all-around finals in 12th place (Richardson actually placed 14th overall in the preliminaries, but moved up when other two athletes were eliminated due to the two-per-country limit in all-around finals). Ottawa Gymnastics Club's Melanie Banville also qualified for Tuesday's all-around in 18th.

Team standings after qualifications:

1. Romania
2. USA
3. China
4. Russia
5. Ukraine
6. France
7. Spain
8. Australia
9. Brazil
10. Canada
11. Great Britain
12. North Korea


The Canadian women’s team had an outstanding performance in Athens today, earning an impressive team score of 146.597 – an average of 9.16 – which puts them in a good position to qualify for the team finals. Their performance so far has ranked them ahead of Great Britain, a team who finished ahead of Canada at last year’s world championships. With five teams still to compete, Canada will need to score higher than two of them to qualify for next week’s team finals.

Individually, Kate Richardson currently stands in third place in the floor exercise qualifications, scoring a 9.562 out of a 10.0 start value. This score puts her in an excellent positon to qualify for apparatus finals, which would be a Canadian first at a fully attended Olympic Games. She also ranks tenth in the all-around standings currently, earning a total of 37.224, which should also qualify her for the all-around. Melanie Banville is also in a good position to make the all-around finals, with her 36. 649 score currently good enough for 14th place.

The other members of team Canada also contributed very strongly to the team effort today, with Amélie Plante hitting a 9.475 on the uneven bars – shy of apparatus finals qualifying, but the top score for Canada on that event. Heather Purnell was outstanding on the floor exercise, earning a 9.4 out of 10.0 to lead the team off. Gael Mackie gave her only performance on the final apparatus, the uneven bars, where her 9.1 score also contributed greatly to the team effort. Kylie Stone contributed three scores for Canada (she did not compete on the uneven bars - an event where she had had a scary fall during podium training). Her best effort came on vault, with a 9.137.

Now the Canadian team must wait for two more subdivisions to learn their final rankings. Full scores from today’s events are available at NBC’s Olympic website.


Competing in the first of three subdivisions, it's been an afternoon and evening of waiting for Team Canada. The rest of the day brought an onslaught of high scores in Greece, pushing Canadians out of several finals. Team Canada's 221.231 puts them in 11th place, and both Wong and Golding have been edged out of the all-around final.

For Shewfelt, competition continues on days 9 and 10 with the individual event finals. Shewfelt qualified fifth and third on both vault and floor, respectively. "The crowd was loud and the energy just surged through my body," Shewfelt told Canadian Press. "I was so excited to go, I just felt the adrenaline."

"I was amazingly relaxed and confident. I trusted myself 100 per cent before I went out there," continued Shewfelt. "I tried to (put on) a little show. I was paying attention to all the little details."

Team standings after qualifications:

1. Japan
2. USA
3. Romania
4. China
5. Ukraine
6. Russia
7. Korea
8. Germany
9. France
10. Spain
11. Canada
12. Italy


Gymnastics venue, Athens
Photo courtesy of P. Richard

Team Canada got an early start out of the gate this morning, competing in the first of three men's preliminary rounds. Competition began at 12:30pm Athens time, resulting in a very early morning for friends, family, and fans back home in Canada! The team amassed 221.905 points, 1.288 points ahead of their team total at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, the qualifying competition for these Olympic Games.  

Competing in the same rotation were Romania, France, Italy, and a mixed group. Romania topped subdivision 1, scoring a remarkable 230.019 points, with France behind with 226.231 points. Canada finished in third position, ahead of Italy. 

It's now a waiting game for the men, to see who will advance to finals. Ninth in Anaheim, the team hopes their preliminary score will place them in the top 8, thereby qualifying for Monday's men's team finals. Also at stake are qualifications to individual finals, including the all-around and event finals. Three Canadian men competed all apparatus earlier today, but only a maximum of two per country can advance to the all-around. First in line is Adam Wong (55.16), followed closely behind by fellow Calgarian Grant Golding (55.011). Traditional all-arounder David Kikuchi, recovering from a cold, watered down some events and sat out vault.

Canada's best hope for the individual apparatus finals rest with Kyle Shewfelt on vault and floor, who won bronze medals on the same events at the 2003 World Championships. Kyle performed spectacularly on those two events earlier today, scoring a 9.687 on vault (in parts thanks to a near-perfect 2.5 twisting Yurchenko) and a huge 9.737 on a floor performance marred only by a small hop on the dismount. Additional possibilities for an individual apparatus final include Grant Golding on rings (9.650), Alexander Jeltkov on high bar (9.625), and David Kikuchi on the parallel bars (9.625).

Rank   Country Team Points 
 Romania 230.019 
 France 226.231 
 Canada 221.905 
Floor     Pommels Rings Vault PBars High Bar
Apparatus totals 37.749  36.811  36.824  36.886  36.636  36.999 
 Grant Golding 9.512  9.262  9.650  9.125  8.962  8.500 
 Ken Ikeda 8.900  8.937  8.687 
 Alexander Jeltkov 9.175  7.600  8.562  8.900  8.787  9.625 
 David Kikuchi 8.825  9.412  9.500  9.625  9.075 
 Kyle Shewfelt 9.737  8.112  9.687  9.212 
 Adam Wong 9.325  9.237  9.112  9.137  9.262  9.087
 Italy 221.431  221.431 


Girls posing with reps from 
Janssen-Fritsen, equipment 
suppliers for gymnastics
Photo by Grace Chiu

With the opening ceremonies only three days away, the Canadian men's and women's gymnastics teams are finalizing their Olympic preparations in Athens, Greece. The women arrived in Athens via France, where they recently completed a training camp with the French Olympic team. The men's team completed a training camp in Spain prior to arriving in Athens. 

Both teams have been training in the official Olympic training gyms throughout the week, and will have their first opportunity to practice in the Olympic arena later this week during podium training. The men's podium training takes place on Wednesday, with the women getting their chance on Thursday. The men compete in preliminaries in subdivision one on Saturday morning, at approximately 5:30 eastern time. The women compete in sudvisision two on Sunday morning, also at approximately 5:30 eastern time.

Grace Chiu is in Athens and is providing Gymn.ca with photographs.

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