I was accredited to cover Montreal Gymnastics Worlds 2017 for Russian sports daily sovetski sport (read my full Worlds coverage here in Russian). I attended 8 days of non-stop gymnastics action: podium training, qualification rounds and finals in men’s and women’s all-around and individual events (with athletes and coaches interviews in-between– in mixed-zone, bus, and hotel room!). When I came home to Boston, I found these 10 pictures on my phone to tell you the story of my Worlds.
Former Olympic gymnast from Romania Nadia Comaneci – who earned the first “perfect 10” at a major gymnastics meet at the Montreal Olympic Arena during 1976 Olympic Games – was a spokesperson of the Montreal Worlds. When Nadia was not busy opening each session of the competition (to a standing ovation!) and watching gymnastics action, she was talking to media and taking photos with fans. Her presence was a reminder of how important her role was for raising gymnastics popularity in North America to where it is today. Here, as I am asking Nadia to pose with me and my daughter at the stadium, I was not a reporter but a fan!
I love the spirit of the Olympic Games and it was so extra special to me that the Worlds took place at the Montreal Olympic complex. During the Worlds the plaza between the Biodome and the Olympic Tower was renamed to Nadia Comaneci Plaza! Of course we HAD to take the picture!
Press Table and International Gymnast Magazine
At the press table during the competitions I was lucky to be neighboring with the expert stuff of International Gymnast Magazine (IG) ( I have been a loyal subscriber since the 90-s!).
IG team was covering all of the routines live on social media in English and Spanish! When we had a minute (literally– just a minute – between the gymnasts’ presentation and beginning of the competition) I took this picture with IG stuff: IG’s publisher of 25-years Paul Ziert (former University of Oklahoma gymnastics coach), and two contributing writers -former Gymnastics Olympias Christian Ivanov (with Bulgarian team) and Estella de la Torre (of Mexico). Estella has been a commentator for Mexican TV during 7 Olympics!
Mixed Zone Interviews
In-between the competition sessions (or during quick warm-ups) Christian and I were running to the mixed zone to get the gymnasts’ first reactions to their performances. Here we are talking to Elena Eremina of Russia following her qualification round (she went on to win the all-around bronze and silver on bars). If you look hard, you can see me (mostly, my nose) behind Christian, with both my notebook and a recorder in hand. (Here is my Eremina interview in sovsport)
My Cafeteria Oops Moment
Food was not easy to come by during busy gymnastics schedule, but occasionally I had a few minutes to wait in the long lines at the cafe by the arena entrance. A young man in front of me looked familiar: “I am sorry, but I think I know you…. Who are you?” I said bluntly. Who do you think it was? Yes, Max Whitlock of Great Britain himself, two-time Olympic champion of Rio (on floor and horse) and a bronze medalist in men’s all-around. Here in Montreal Max went on to defend his World Champion title in the pommel horse event final presenting the most difficult routine by far of the field (D 6.9).
Sharing the Worlds with my Daughter
It was a very long week and I was so happy to share part of it with my daughter and husband (sorry, for all the “midnight oil burning” and disturbing your sleep to file my stories!)
Psychology of Defeat
Not everyone could win, of course, and there were lots of ups and downs at the Worlds for the athletes. Angelina Melnikova of Russia, one of the medal podium contenders in the all-around and in floor exercise (she is European 2017 champion on floor and Rio’s silver medalist with her team) did not have a good competition. Here I asked to pose with her as she was getting onto the bus the day before women’s all-around final. I ended up interviewing Angelina following her all-around performance (she placed a disappointing 16) for a story in sovsport. Angelina’s style combines a perfect balance of power and artistry and I look forward to seeing her do well as we approach the next Olympics.
Gymnasts in the City!
On the days of men’s and women’s all-around finals, the competition started in the evening, so we had some time to explore the beautiful city of Montreal. We decided to take a cruise on St. Laurent river – and who do we see on the boat? Zachary Clay, Canadian national champion, fresh from men’s all-around final the night before (he got 21st in the World!), spending some quality time with his family from British Columbia. In Montreal during Worlds week you could never get too far from the gymnasts!
On his Rise to the Olympic Tower
We also ran into Team USA’s alternate Akash Modi – as we were riding the funicular up the Montreal Olympic Tower. Akash is not only a national team level gymnast, but also an engineering student at Stanford University in California! He is on his way to make the Tokyo Olympic team.
Ellie Black – the Joy of Canada
As I have said my good-byes to everyone and was heading to the exit door following the completion of the second day of event finals, I ran into Ellie Black of Canada, who earned a historic silver medal in women’s all-around for Canada several days earlier. Ellie had a an amazing week here in Montreal supported by her friends and family (the entire country, really!). It was a perfect ending to my week at the Worlds.
There were many more both brilliant and tragic moments at the Montreal Worlds Podium, the most exciting being of 16-year old Morgan Hurd rising to the challenge to continue American strake of all-around titles at the Worlds and Olympics after her teammate (and favorite to win) Ragan Smith was injured during the warm-ups just 10 minutes prior to competition. I will talk about Morgan (and share official pictures) in my next post about the Worlds!