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By Caroline.

Caroline who is a free-lance writer for the French Gymnastics Federation magazine is usually attending the French Internationals in Paris. Here is the report of the 2003 event.
(Special thanks to Melanie Green (U.k.) who did the translation).

2003 French Internationals.
The first big meet of the season.
For those nations present at Bercy these qualifying rounds enabled their gymnasts to set a new standard with a view to the big event of the season, the Worlds, which will act as a qualifier for the Olympics next August.
It was a rewarding day, and here is the inside story.
2002 Gym Stars in Paris Bercy.

Team Russia was still at the forefront and had gymnasts in all finals. The diva Svetlana Khorkina delighted us once more on bars and was bewitching on floor with a new piece of music from the musical "Notre Dame", a composition that could hardly be more apt for the capital! Zamolodchikova was a little off-form and only qualified for the vault final. The future star of the team is called Anna Pavlova, and she gave a strong showing throughout, qualifying for two finals and winning both.

The Romanian team that we might have expected to find weakened since the departure of their leader Andreea Raducan came back in force with the youth and dynamism of Oana Ban and Leonida. The third Romanian, Petrovski, was the same girl who had delighted us at Bercy a year ago but this time she injured herself in warm-up and couldn't compete. They have always been excellent on beam and floor, traditionally their strong pieces, but now the Romanians have also made strong progress on bars (Leonida made the final). An extremely rare happening though was that they didn't make the vault final. Octavian Belu disclosed to us that their main goal was not the coming Worlds but instead the Olympic Games.

The Ukraine can count on some extremely talented gymnasts, with the experience of Alyona Khasha (a finalist on vault), added to the qualities of the young Kosich, whom we ought to see again on the medal podium in future. The lightly-built Irina Krasnyanska has a start value of 10.00 on the asymmetric bars thanks to some remarkable Stalder work and an impeccable body line. Although they are climbing the ranks in the European gymnastics scene, Holland seem to be marking time in comparison to the 2002 season. Endel Renske, the vice champion on the asymmetric bars at the last Worlds, was very subdued, and the young Van Den Berg still seems to be a little inexperienced. Only the shapely Suzanne Harmes was able to play her game profitably and qualify to the beam final.

Another nation that is progressing fast is Brazil, who brought dynamism and an exotic touch to the Bercy stadium. We already knew that they were strong on floor (remember that Hypolito and Dos Santos were finalists at Ghent in 2001), now they are also strong on bars and beam; on bars Hypolito showed a wonderful exercise full of grip changes punctuated by a full in back out in straight position as a dismount, and she missed the beam finals by a hair.

2003 Gym Stars in Paris Bercy.

To the question: "Which European nation did you fear the most?" Yves Kieffer, the national trainer, replied: "Italy". And it is indeed true that it is worth watching out for these transalpine cousins who are always very aggressive competitors. Monica Bergamelli and especially Ilaria Colombo turned in some very good performances. On Saturday Ilaria was the only gymnast with a start value of 10.00 on beam, and she received the best mark on that piece in qualifying, at the same time as grabbing her ticket for the bars final. Her floor routine contains very interesting choreography and flowing tumbling runs, a reflection of this small but very powerful gymnast. Ilaria is dynamite personified!

The Chinese girls, as virtuoso as ever during training, weren't able to assert themselves in competition. It appears that Fang Ye and Wang Tian Tian, two very young and certainly very inexperienced girls, weren't able to withstand the pressure. They finished quite low in the placings. An example of this was seen on bars, when Fang Ye performed a beautiful exercise only to land on her bottom after dismounting. The whole stadium at Bercy had been holding its breath, and sighed an "Ohh" of disappointment.

Another intense moment of the day came with the outstanding performances of the little Spanish phenomenon, Elena Gomez. The World Champion on floor and the darling of the Parisian audience qualified for two finals. But how could we also not mention the bars routine of Elizabeth Tweddle, which earned her a medal at the Europeans and includes a Gienger, Markelov one-armed turn and full-in back out, all performed with perfect leg-line and body position.

A more than respectable tribute must also be paid to the Swiss girl Arielle Kaeslin. Still a junior until this year, the protégé of Eric Demay gave an almost faultless performance and achieved a total of 34.10. This consistent gymnast was in the top 10 on three apparatus, and won renown on vault with a handspring front tuck with full twist, perfectly performed.

Page (c) Caroline and Bernard for   Kostiskal
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