Photos & History of Rhythmic Gymnastics 2000-2010 - Tom Theobald
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Year by Year Decade Review 2000-2010

(Updated 29Jan2010) Year 2009 image review and bit of history... First the images (Top row, L-R) #1)Mie World Championships team gold Russia (Kanaeva, Kapranova, Kondakova, Dmitrieva). #2)One of Zhenya's six(!) gold medal waves at Japan.
#3-4)AA medalists are Kondakova(silver), Kanaeva(gold), Bessonova(bronze). #5)Zhenya turns pirouette. #6-7)Anya wins Longines and finishes gala. #8) Silviya wins bronze in ribbon EF. #9) Italy celebrates winning AA group gold.
(2nd row, L-R) #1)The AA winners at Pesaro World Cup (note: (L) Vera Sessina retired shortly after). #2)Daria preforms with ribbon at Mie. #3)Anya receives gift at press interview after AA final. #4) Portrait of Alina at LA Lights.
#5)Rebecca Sereda of USA as junior at WC Pesaro impressed.#6)Winning all junior medals at WC Pesaro were (L-R)Hanna Rabtsava of Belarus, Alexandra Merkulova of Russia and Aliaksandra Narkevich of Belarus. #7) Melitina jumps thru
rope during qualifying at Mie. #8)(L-R) Dinara Gimatova, Samira Mustafayeva, Vera Sessina, Daria Kondakova and Aliya Garaeva pose for a banquet photo after Mie World Championships. Now for a brief comment version of 2009's history...
Briefly, 2009 continued Russia's dominance in individual team and with #1 ranked Evgeniya Kanaeva winning most golds all year and at Mie World World Championships(6) in Sept. Only Anna Bessonova was an AA threat to Zhenya in 2009.
After post Beijing 2008 departures of Inna Zhukova, Natalya Godunko and with mid-2009 Vera Sessina retiring, Evgeniya Kanaeva would remain unchallenged as RG world #1. Plus the big pyramid that is Russian rhythmic gymnastics was
now producing new senior talents in Daria Kondakova, Daria Dmitrieva, Yana Lukonina (with Olga Kapranova retiring as well after Mie). So 2009 was a transition year to new talents entering the stage and including in this gallery: Melitina
Staniouta (BLR), Alina Maksymenko (UKR) and the several juniors showing. 2009 maybe was the last active year of Anna Bessonova... In 2009 Anna was all game in competition, but behind the scenes, the observation was Anna wanted to stop.
After WC2009 Mie, Anna performed on a Ukrainian version of 'Dancing with the Stars' ("Dance for You"). As of January 2010, reports are Anna is working in fashion, coaching some and training only just a little bit. With groups in 2009,
Italy was the #1 team and roared back to claim AA gold at Mie with 2-new team members added (Romina Laurito and Giulia Galtarossa) and Fabrizia D'Ottavio departing. Ok, now to sum up 2009 (and the decade), it's clear Russia will continue
to dominate the top rankings in individuals and the only real drama in the foreseeable future of RG is how the rhythmic groups will play out. Will Italy continue to be the strongest group or will Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria or another
like China rise in the rankings again at London 2012? My individual rhythmic gymnast of the decade is no question--> Anna Bessonova of Ukraine. From near start to finish of the decade Anna was there in the top three at most major events.

(Updated 22Jan2010) Olympic year 2008 image review and history... First the images (Top row, L-R) #1) Beijing AA winners, Anna Bessonova UKR (bronze), Evgeniya Kanaeva RUS (gold), Inna Zhukova BLR (silver). #2) Zhenya waves gold.
#3-5)Three medalists action moments. #6-7) Tribute to Almudena Cid of Spain with ribbon and kisses carpet after her final routine. (2nd row, L-R) #1) D-Cup AA winner was Zhenya. #2) At EC2008 Torino Anya, Zhenya and Olga
Kapranova celebrate AA medals. #3) In April, Zhenya begins gala at WC Portimao. #4) Contrast in emotions - at 2007 Patras, Anna won and Inna knows she deserved 3rd. At Beijing 2008, Inna won silver and Anna was OG bronze again.
#5) Albina Deriugina watches as Anna makes her final wave after finishing AA. #6) Italian group waves to fans (deserved to win a medal) #7) FIG executives during group medal ceremony. #8) Daria's ballet gala at EC Torino in June.
Comments on 2008 RG history... From the git-go 2008 was Evgeniya Kanaeva's break-out year. She dominated near every tour event leading up to Beijing in August. At EC2008 Torino in June, I remember vividly at the winners press
interview where colleague Alessandra Favorato of Italy asked Evgeniya about her rise to #1 in Russia and likely selection to go to Beijing. She was humble in her answer, gave a small smile and only commented she hoped to be selected.
Whew, it was an understatement as no gymnast in RG had ever risen so quickly. Zhenya was 3rd or 4th team member for Russia at Patras 2007 and just 3-months later began taking 1st place at near every event and besting Vera Sessina
and Olga Kapranova. It was so obvious to the Russian leadership that Alina Kabaeva no longer had a place and by Feb 2008, she retired a 2nd time. I still scratch my head to think that Olga Kapranova was selected over Vera Sessina
as 2nd Russian gymnast at Beijing. That selection left Russia vulnerable because with Zhenya solidly in #1 ranking - it left silver and bronze wide open at Beijing. As Olga Kapranova was prone to drops and her winning bronze at Patras
was a major injustice to Inna Zhukova of Belarus. The reason I show the contrast in emotions with Inna & Anna in 2007 and 2008 (panel #4, 2nd row). So it was amazing how this drama worked out at Beijing. Evgeniya was near perfect
and cried after her last routine for doing everything at her best. Anna had a shot for silver, but came out a little bit tentative and nervous and by the 2nd rotation the judges were marking her down. From my vantage point at Beijing,
this was the difference and opened the door for Inna to take the silver. After most of the decade an unsung hero, Inna always deserved better and to win Olympic silver must have been complete emotional joy for her. I have one other
image of Almudena hugging Inna at Beijing after the AA final and it sums up how everyone must have felt for Inna. I still think either Anna or Inna could have won silver at Beijing, but no question 2008 began Evgeniya's era as #1 in RG.
Why include the image of Italian group? Plus to show the FIG? Here is the history and comment... Italy came in only 4th at Beijing, but everyone in rhythmic gymnastics knows Italy deserved a medal at Beijing, period. When you look at
Bruno Grandi's expression in the FIG photo #7, during medals...he knows it too (but could only tell the girls afterward, "This is sport"). Yet to Bruno Grandi's credit, after Patras 2007, he realized RG needed major changes and proceeded
with suspensions in 2008 of both the UKR and RUS delegation chiefs and eventually their removals from the FIG technical committee. This along with TC president Egle Abruzzini's eventual replacement by Maria Szyszkowska of Poland.
Still the decade's judging alignments carried into 2009 and may only be reformed as new more objective judges enter the ranks in coming years. Finally, image #8 shows Daria as junior and next wave of Russian stars comes on stage... -T

(Updated 18Jan2010) Now comes year 2007 image review and history... Far and away there is one and only one story to tell in rhythmic gymnastics for year 2007--> Anna Bessonova of Ukraine won the AA final at the Patras World Championships,
period. IMHO, if you step back and look at all the results in rhythmic during other Olympics and World Championships in this decade comes close in comparison with the drama and jubilation of Anna's win at
Patras. In year 2007, everything else pales in comparison to this landmark achievement of Anna Bessonova at Patras (and for this reason, only I show images of Anna for this year). Remembering the buildup at Patras... Yes,
the results show that Russia won the team and group golds (though many felt that Italy was the true group winner) at Patras. But there was really only one story at Patras... Denied for years the gold she so deserved. By
Anna's winning the All Around final at Patras, it broke a certain cartel of alligned judges. A subjective cartel that had controlled the results in favor of Russian gymnasts in the top places during this decade. Early in the week,
Ukraine was taken out of any team contention, when Natalya Godunko had an leg injury. Only the heroism of teammate Irina Kovalchuk (competing with fever of 103F) in the AA, saved Ukraine's ability to receive two individual
slots at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. All through that early Ukraine drama, Anna Bessonova remained focused, unphased and performing at peak level. Early on the day of the AA final on September 21st, I remember saying to one
colleague in the press room, "Ya know Anna could win this today". But in the same breath, I knew it was going to be close. Whew and it was close. It's said that there was a tumultuous judges' meeting before that AA final and
that a big argument happened that morning. A year or so later, one videographer confided that they tried to ask any judge there about details. But none would go on camera to say anything. The actual final rotation went like
this... Vera Sessina for Russia was given the score of 18.70 for her ribbon routine. I distinctly remember a photo colleague (Dirk) passing me just then after Vera's routine and we both said to each other, "That it, it's done!".
We both had been to enough championships to know that by giving that 18.70 mark, the gold would likely go to Vera. When Anna finished her hoop routine, she knew she had (like at Budapest 2003) done her absolute best and nailed
all the technical elements. Enough judges agreed and marked Anna 18.650. Thus giving her the gold by .050. Just a few key judges broke from the pattern of years, to tip the scales in Anna's favor. Another moment I distinctly
remember... After the medals, flowers and national anthem of Ukraine played and the gymnasts marched out. I turned to see more then one judge with tears and full of emotion as they left their positions and departed the arena.
(L-R) Photo descriptions: #1) Early in qualifying, Anna splits with rope. #2) During the AA final Anna sends the hoop rolling and waits for recatch. #3) Departs the carpet, feels the emotions of knowing she's done her best.
#4) A three image series at "kiss & cry" as Anna realizes she's won. #5) Anna celebrates with Ukrainian flag. #6) On podium she waves with flowers and gold. #7) Anna smiles at press interview afterward. There was a certain aura
of becoming champion (at last) when Anna entered the room that day and image #7 shows it a little bit. It was absolute magic, the feeling afterward and to happen in Greece just added. Ok, more aftermath of 2007, I explain later. -T

(Updated 14Jan2010) 2006 review and bit of history... Headline event of the year was European Championships at Moscow in Sept 2006 (I didn't go). Alina Kabaeva had returned to the scene, but clearly the biggest winner of the year was Vera
Sessina for Russia. At Moscow EC2006, top 3 AA went: 1-Vera, 2-Alina, 3-Anna Bessonova. Vera Sessina also dominated the World Cup final in Mie, Japan in Nov (I did go)...winning 3 of the 4 apparatus finals. Barely on the
horizon and just turning senior was Evgeniya Kanaeva as she placed in middle of the top 10 finishers (clubs, ribbon) at Mie 2006. Natalya Godunko and Anna Bessonova traded best results for Ukraine, followed typically in 2006
by either Inna Zhukova, Aliya Yussupova or Simona Peycheva. Also notable entering the top-10 results were Aliya Garaeva and Anna Gurbanova for Azerbaijan, Irina Risenson for Israel and Liubov Charkashyna for Belarus.
Almudena Cid would take time off for "Skating With the Stars" on Spanish tv and Irina Tchachina after retiring would also perform on Russia's version of "Dancing With the Stars". To sum up RG in 2006, Russia remained in
the driver's seat as that delegation's influence continued to dominate certain judge's scores. Ok, 2007 comes next with the most amazing AA World Championship final of the decade at Patras. Where the decade trend changed,
a judges revolt took place and Anna Bessonova's dreams at last came true. --- Some comments on 2006 photos showing here on today's page… I did not attend EC2006 Moscow and so here is a random mix from the year with notes.
(Top row, L-R) Skipping a few... 4.) Group portrait shows L-R: Simona Peycheva, Evgeniya Kanaeva, Olga Kapranova. 5.)Stela image to the right is one of my favorites. 6.)Portrait of Inna, it was rare to catch a smile. 7.)Evgeniya
Kanaeva in blue with ribbon was her first World Cup debut. 8.)To the far right is of the rarely seen Maryia for Belarus. (2nd row, L-R) 1.)Image of Nata was one of only approx 30-images saved from D-Cup Kiev early in 2006
(I lost my computer in Estonia on the way home!). 2.) Shows Bety Paisieva dancing at Portimao, my favorite banquet, maybe ever:) 3.) Lovely moment of Romina's gala at Thiais. 4.) Image is from the trip to visit Anahi Sosa
at home in Argentina. 5.) Portrait of Anna with Guillermo and Yenifer at Portimao. 6.) Filipa closeup was lucky look to camera. 7.) Manfred and Barny with Natalya and Anya at Barny's stand at Berlin. 8.) Anya with Galina
Shirkina prepare for gala at San Francisco Invit (miss that event so much!). Again if you have a particular favorite that I am missing to show photos, just let me know and will find something nice to add as I go. Cheers, -T

(Updated 11Jan2010) (Top, L-R) Decade review moves to year 2005 with World Championships in Baku as the peak event in October... Here is a little commentary on the photos and some history. The AA final at Baku was again a very predictable
outcome. In fact on Oct 8th at Baku, we organized a little contest to guess the top-10 places. Ummm well, I won the contest exactly. But I wasn't guessing! I had to do a little thinking, yes. Still after observing a certain block of
judges year to year. By 2005, it wasn't too hard to predict how they would place the gymnasts. In the press room also, my colleague Guillermo DNC had nearly all 10-places correct predicted. Ok, Alina Kabaeva had retired and
left the scene. (Though she would return a year later, Alina never really led again for Russia and finally in early 2008 she left for good as the era of Evgeniya Kanaeva was about to take-off.) Politically at Baku, a Russian was still
sure to win and Olga Kapranova was current choice then. (1st photo, L-R) Anna Bessonova (silver), Olga (gold) and Irina Tchachina (bronze) were the top 3. (4th photo) Irina won the Longines Prize for Elegance. In the (6th photo)
Anna showed her feelings during a press interview moment after the AA final. This pattern continued for years to come as Anna performed at peak level, yet a certain group of judges would continue to find a Russian to win gold.
Still Anna knew how to put the past behind her and have fun (7th photo) as she rocked the dance floor with teammates at Baku's banquet:). Also in 2005, Marina Shpekht of Russia (far right) became popular and charmed many fans.
(2nd row, L-R) Baku was the last major competition for Irina Tchachina, who deserved but never received Olympic or World all around gold. In 2005, a few times Natalya Godunko (2nd-3rd photos) won when the best Russians weren't
sent to major events. (2nd row, photo #3) Nata won at D-Cup in March at Kiev. Aliya Yussupova (4th photo) was nearly always middle of the top 10 placings during the decade. You may wonder how I chose Anahi Sosa and Dominika
Cervenkova for this year of the review (5th-8th photos). In keeping with my theme of telling it like it was... Both these gymnasts had hard luck and injuries, yet deserved wayyy better. Anahi Sosa was the best gymnast of her generation
ever from South America in this decade. Dominika amazed many by breaking through at 2003 Budapest to make Athens 2004 Olympics. From a small country in rhythmic like CZE, it was a pretty big deal. Both Anahi and Dominika
returned after 2005 injuries (Anahi, feet and Domi, back). Yet were prevented by different factors. Both are charming performers and to this day have many loyal fans after leaving RG in 2007 & 2009. Ok, next comes year 2006...

(Updated 9Jan2010) (Scroll L-R) The decade review now shows year 2004 and most are of Athens Olympics... I try to say something about the photos and give a little history. The AA final at Athens with all gymnasts performing at
optimium level was no surprise for results with (1st photo, L-R)Anna, Alina and Irina taking bronze-gold-silver. As explained earlier regards the behind the scenes of RG, this Olympics was pre-determined to be Alina's gold.
How silver, bronze and 4th, 5th etc played out was still in question. Only real drama for Alina came during (4th photo) her hoop routine...when the memory of her Sydney 2000 dropped hoop, loomed big and Alina focused
to defeat that ghost completely (can see in her eyes). Irina Tchachina had a small break/trangle during her ribbon final, taking her out of gold contention. How silver and bronze played out can still be debated. In the image
of Anna Bessonova (7th photo of panel) can see in Anna's eyes and expression, she felt she deserved better. My own personal mini-drama was playing out just then, to even be in position to take photos #1 and #7.
(First I was told no access and then played James Bond to manage the position as the medalists circled the arena for portrait poses). Almudena (5th photo) was wonderful again in her 3rd Olympics with (6th photo) Inna Zhukova
steadily moving up into contention in this part of the decade. My earliest memory and impression of Inna was formed at EC2002 Granada. Observing her up close during breakfast at the official hotel one day, Inna always
carried a quiet determination and one-pointed resolve to reach her goals. She carried it with her through many years, when higher results were deserved. Inna's time of drama (Patras) and eventual Olympic joy comes later at 2008
Beijing. Finally (8th photo of panel) Tamara Yerofeeva sends a heartfelt kiss to her fans at EC2004 Kiev, held earlier in June of that year. Tamara had just finished her last routine as an active gymnast, but we would not realize
this fact until August just before Athens (when she retired and left Deriugina School). Toma's life in this period was anything but easy. Like Lyassan Utyasheva for Russia, Tamara was one of the best gymnasts of the day. Yet (being
very frank and honest here) neither Lyassan or Tamara were handled well at all. Both stars, for different reasons, were passed over for other gymnasts, yet could have continued for years to help their teams and become the medalists
and champions they knew they were in their hearts. Tamara went onto perform for 2-years for Circus du Soleil and eventually relations improved again and she was invited back to give a gala exhibition at D-Cup 2007 in Kiev. I was
able to photograph Toma's performances a few times in recent years as a professional and know she could have been a top-10 power player in rhythmic gymnastics for many years after she left. Ok, in coming episodes of this review
will cover the departure of Irina Tchachina and the rise of Olga Kapranova & Vera Sessina for Russia. If I am missing a photo, theme or personality in this review, let me know. Was at most majors events and have many files. -T

(Updated 3Jan2010) (Scroll L-R) The decade review continues with year 2003... Focus of today's panel is World Championships 2003 Budapest, where the Ukraine vs Russia battle moved to a dramatic peak. Russia had the return
of (2nd photo, L-R) both Alina Kabaeva and Irina Tchachina with new members who would dominate the middle years of the decade, Olga Kapranova and Vera Sessina. Ukraine would see the emergence of Natalya
Godunko, shown here straddle jumping in the 6th photo of the panel (Innsbruck GP Finale 2003). The big story of Budapest was the AA final on Sept 27th... Anna Bessonova had an early drop with ball in the first rotation.
Then she proceeded to climb back into contention with a climatic routine with hoop in the 4th rotation. It was a dramatic 'go for it' to win routine with Anna nailing all elements and recatches. In a scene that was
to repeat several times in coming years, Anna rallied her fans after the final routine. IMHO Anna should have been world champion on this day, but certain judges (and the design of the code of points at the time) gave
the AA victory to Alina. In the 5th photo of the panel Irina Deriugina consoles Anna and looks to those judges that many felt didn't get it right at Budapest. Here is where I give my opinion as an observer only of RG
and not as a photographer (or judge)... If you take that Alina's best years were 2000-2001, there were certain political forces at play behind the curtains and in the backrooms of RG that were determined to keep Alina on
top and guaranteeing World and Olympic golds, when she was past her prime. That Alina should have won gold at Sydney 2000 (but lost her hoop) and at Madrid 2001 (lost due to doping violation) is a given. In 2003-2004, Alina
only had to perform an average routine in a body that was clearly not in the same peak condition of her rivals. The FIG technical committee at the time and in the middle part of the decade was seemingly deaf, dumb, blind and
powerless to correct this situation and give the true champions the scores they deserved. This political railroad in judging at the highest placings in rhythmic would persist until Patras 2007 (when finally a majority of
judges would break the political patterns). Ok, next comes 2004 when Anna Bessonova would challenge again, Natalya would continue to climb into contention and Ukraine would lose a great gymnast in Tamara Yerofeeva... -T

(Updated 30Dec2009) (Scroll L-R) The decade review continues now with year 2002... Focus of today's panel is European Championships Granada and earlier in July 2002 was the World Championships for groups at New Orleans
in USA. For reference you can find all the major RG event results for the decade on Longines gymnastics page Little of the history... Alina returned from suspension and with Tamara Yerofeeva and
Anna Bessonova went 1-2-3 at EC2002 Granada. At WC2002 New Orleans, Ukraine loaded their team with individual talents (Toma, Anna and Natalya) and won 5-ribbons EF. Italy showing in portrait section
won Longines Prize for Elegance at New Orleans. Remarkable in this 2002 Italy photo are new members Elisa Santoni and Elisa Bianchi, who remained in the ITA group throughout the decade(!) as well as did
Vera Sessina as an individual performer for Russia, up until mid-2009. If you are wondering how I selected Lyassan Utyasheva of Russia for this was for good reason. Here was an amazing new
talent for Russia stepping in for Irina Tchachina (still on suspension for fueresimide). The amazing story of Lyassan... In the period after the photo was taken of Lyassan (gala at Innsbruck GP Finale),
she broke not one, but both of her feet. Unbelievably her coaches didn't take her pain serious and finally Lyassan went to the hospital. Russia lost a great talent just entering her peak years and afterward
was not seen again at any major internationals. The era and peak years of Anna Bessonova begin approximately in this period. By April at EC2003 Reisa, Anna was beginning to win or place in the top 3
places. A pattern that would continue for the rest of the decade. My happiest memory of 2002 was of Almudena (first Chieti and then Thiais 2002). I noticed Almu from a distance at Chieti (Italia Serie-A), but
even though I had been introduced to her by Rosa Riera at EC2001 Geneva the summer before, I was too shy to come up to her and say Hi! The next week in March at Thiais in Paris, Almudena comes right up to me
and scolds me saying, "You didn't say hi to me in Italy last week!!!" I blushed so red. Learned my lesson! An amazing memory of New Orleans was realizing Hurricane Katrina devasted that same city, 3-years later.
Ok, next comes 2003 and Anna's drama at Budapest. If I happen to miss a personality as I go along...that gymnast will probably show a day or so later as this 10-years review of rhythmic progresses...

(Updated 28Dec2009) (Scroll L-R) The decade review continues now with year 2001...(my new 'daypic' mini-project:) Focus of today's panel is Madrid 2001. I intend here to write only a little of the history... Just to say here, there was
an after the fact change in the WC2001 Madrid results, due to suspensions of Alina and Irina (use of furosemide diuretics). So Tamara Yerofeeva became the new All Around world champion. IMHO 2000-
2001 were Alina Kabaeva's peak years in world class rhythmic. Irina Tchachina, Tamara Yerofeeva were coming into peak time as well. Showing here, Simona Peycheva and not showing (yet) Anna Bessonova,
Natalya Godunko were just beginning their long careers. From memory, Irina was selected for Longines Prize for Elegance at Madrid (portrait). Same winners showing here dominated at EC2001 Geneva, held earlier.
Don't worry, if I miss a personality in a particular...that gymnast will probably show a day or so later as this 10-years review of rhythmic progresses... If I really miss your favorite, tell me!:)
(Updated 29Dec2009) (Scroll L-R) Year begins a new 'daypic' mini-project:) In coming days will be series of year by year panels, showing the major stars and events of rhythmic gymnastics for the decade.
To backfill, a bit of history of this year. At Sydney 2000, the major drama of the year was Alina losing her hoop during the Olympic final. Gold medal was destined to Alina, but then Youlia's scores moved her into first.
Personal memories... Alina's hoop rolling to the sideline was so surprising, I stopped taking photos! Another amazing moment I remember from EC2000 Zaragoza was waiting in a long line at McDonald's and discovering that the
(soon to be) Olympic champion was in front of me, anxiously looking around, waiting to order food too. Youlia was hungry, but couldn't wait and had to leave before her turn! Or maybe, before her coach found where she was:) -T

(18Dec2009) (L-R) Dirk Zimmermann/GER, Michaela Hamzova/CZE, Thomas Schreyer/GER and yours truly, Tom T/USA. This was our happy photographer's group in the pressroom, 7Sept at Mie :)
This time every year I try to add a personal photo from the year as a Christmas holiday greeting (add more if I find). 2009 highlights for me were Budapest, Portimao, Pesaro and Mie trips.
Review project completed 29January2010 approx 0000hrs from Descanso, California.

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