Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jana Bieger insists she's an all-arounder

Oh, dear. I wanted to love Jana. She's a German girl, like me. She's got the sport in her blood and the fire in her belly. But here's the problem.

She's not a great gymnast.

Bieger is built like a power house, but somehow never reads that way. And she doesn't make up for it with grace or impeccable form, either. In fact, she kind of has awful form. Even in perfect health, I do not enjoy watching Jana's gymnastics.

Oh, she has the ability to throw some big skills. But even when she hits them successfully, they don't look especially nice. And she lacks that softness, that lightness that even the so-called power gymnasts (Johnson, Sacramone, Peszek) manage to portray. That's not a weight comment - I do not do that, and I won't tolerate it from anyone else, either; it's a style issue. She always hits her landings like she's got anvils tied to her feet. It's clunky and loud. See the routine I embedded below - it's not her finest hour, which may seem unfair, but I chose it because it displays all of my strongest complaints about her gymnastics. She does have better routines out there, and I encourage you to check them out and decide for yourself.

I hate to say it - I really do. And I'm not an especially nice person, so it's not like my conscience is bothering me here. I just truly wanted to like her. But the longer she overstays her welcome, the less patience I have for her. Rather than viewing her as persistent and strong, I can't help but see her as a nuisance, a fly that chooses to bang fruitlessly against the window instead of zipping out the wide-open front door. I know she has some resume cred - I'm aware that technically, she has some accomplishments. She did earn the silver in the 2006 Worlds All Around - which means she was slightly less good than the girl who fell off the beam. Of all the National Team members, she is truly the most "past her prime." Watch some of her junior videos - she seemed to have peaked really young.

Even good old Memmel, who has a few years on Bieger, is scaling back. She's not out, but she's letting nature take its course. Of course, Memmel is far more accomplished than Bieger is, by a wide margin.

I guess I could chalk it up to tenacity. But it smells more like desperation. I feel like at every meet, she's screaming "Validate me! VALIDATE ME!!!!" I want to scream back "Point your toes! STRAIGHTEN YOUR LEGS!!!!" But my family already thinks I'm a headcase - why give them more ammo?

I suppose I feel sorry for Bieger. She made the damn fool mistake (and shame on her mother for allowing it) of going pro and rendering herself ineligible to compete in the NCAA - where she might actually have had some modicum of success. She would have been wise to let one of those college coaches get their hands on her. Their training is lighter, and so are their routines, so the focus on form and execution becomes crucial. I really believe Jana could have excelled in the NCAA. Not in a Courtney Kupets kind of way, but I think she would have done quite well.

That said, I do wish her well. I really do. I hope she goes in this weekend and makes everything I just wrote look like the ramblings of a blind fool. I hope she hits every routine with perfect toes and stuck dismounts. I'm just not holding my breath.

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