Tales from Tokyo 



Greetings again from Tokyo / Sydney.

Since I last wrote, quite a bit has happened. Artistic Gymnastics had two days off while Trampoline Gymnastics did their thing. New Zealand managed to jag a bronze medal in the Men’s event. After that it was back to Artistic Apparatus Finals. Traditionally, at a World Championships the apparatus finals are split over two days, two WAG events and three MAG events on each day. Since the London Olympics, organisers have seized on the fact that all the gymnastics events sell out and have created three days of competition out of two.

Over the three days of apparatus finals, the audience gradually grew – presumably other accredited officials and athletes joining the numbers of gymnastics related people. By day 3, coincidentally when Simone Biles decided to participate in the Beam final, I would guess that maybe three thousand people were spread through the seating, not necessarily adhering to the many signs requesting patrons to “Cheer Quietly”!

On Day 1 of the Apparatus Finals, the highlight for me was the Pommel Horse where Max Whitlock (GBR) really showed what a champion of this event he is. Ireland had their first ever finalist competing on the same event and his preparation over the couple of years leading up suggested that he was a real chance. Alas, pressure and experience are such vital components and what had been incredibly consistent crumbled.

Day 2 included Women’s Floor and Men’s Rings and Vault. Vanessa Ferrari from Italy (aged 30 and World Champion on Floor in 2006 (I think)) was incredible. 16-year-old twins from Great Britain were both in the Floor final and added their own interesting personalities. The Chinese winner on Rings brought an amazing display of perfect strength.

Day 3 was of course the opportunity for our Tyson Bull to present as Australia’s first ever Olympic finalist in either of the Artistic disciplines. Horizontal Bar was the last event up. Prior to that Zou from China demonstrated the Parallel Bars virtuosity that he has become famous for. Beam was next and, of course, featured Simone Biles. I thought she looked very impressive apart from one major wobble and finished with a “non-Twisties” type of dismount. The execution scores on Beam looked tough (I don’t profess to be informed) and she managed Bronze. But it was good to see her there.

The apparatus that I drew to judge in the Apparatus finals was Parallel Bars. The good thing about this was that it put me in a wonderful seat directly across from the Horizontal Bar from which to watch that final. Tyson was fifth up.

Three of the four finalists before him presented a major interruption or fall in their routine. Tyson was up and away doing the routine of his life and was really looking amazing with only a couple of relatively simple skills to finish off with. And then, the unbelievable. Tyson seemed to overcook the giant swing leading into a stoop in and couldn’t complete the skill and had to jump off.  A fantastic effort overall with his performance making history for Australia!

The day before our Olympics finished, I had the nasopharangyeal (in the nose) PCR test for Covid (at a cost of $AUD440 – but which FIG will reimburse) that ensured there would be no hiccups leaving Japan or entering Australia. Less than 20 passengers on the flight ensured a great choice of seating and a fair night’s sleep. Transfer through Australian border control was seamless. A group of twelve (3 Olympians and 9 Olympic officials) were separated and provided with our own bus to quarantine. The three athletes were off-loaded at one hotel and the rest of us were taken to the Darling Harbour Parkroyal for our next fourteen days. A nice room in a nice hotel with a nice enough view over Darling Harbour. A real sense of a cell with no contact at all with any other person apart from the nurse that will take a swab on three different days. Everything delivered to the room is left at the door along with a knock on the door. I put a mask on, wait 30 seconds and then open the door and pick up the delivery. Now to work out whether SA’s current border restrictions will require another fourteen days of home quarantine when leaving here!

This will be the last of the reports as I truly expect there to be very little to write about in quarantine. The experience in Tokyo was awesome, in spite of the various restrictions.

Was it worth the effort to get back home and back to work? Yes!


 



Greetings again from Tokyo.

The last two days have seen two massive Team Finals, the Men on Monday and the Women yesterday. I was drawn to judge the Rings for the Men’s Team Final. The Finals format is three gymnasts up on each apparatus with all three to count. Eight teams make the final with two teams going head to head on each apparatus. Four apparatus are running at the same time. On each apparatus the gymnasts from the two teams alternate. It makes for a very exciting format.


The Men’s competition was a cracker. The three standout teams were Russia, China and Japan with Japan first after the Qualifications. On the last rotation the three teams were close enough that any one of them could win. China and Japan were on Horizontal Bar and Russia shared Floor with the United States. Japan was more impressive on Horizontal Bar than China with Japan’s last performer hitting a great routine to move ahead of China. With one routine left on Floor, it was up to Nagornyy of Russia to clinch the Final but it was close and he was going to have to perform a great routine. That’s exactly what he did and Russia (ROC) won by just over 0.1.


The Women’s event was predicted to be the Simone Biles show. Simone made the decision to withdraw from the the competition to prioritise her mental health. The United States was no match for the Russian team (ROC) and they proceeded to win their second team event.

Tonight’s final will be the Men’s All Around and Nagornyy of Russia is probably the favourite to take it out. However, nothing is a foregone conclusion. If the best gymnasts are performing, it will be close and then all it takes is one mistake to upset the rankings. I have drawn Floor again for the All Around final.

And so the All Around final proceeded. By the last rotation, the four highest ranked gymnasts from the Qualification round were all in a position to win. The Chinese gymnast Sun made an error and was in trouble. The other Chinese gymnast, Xiao, did his best but gave away a valuable 0.4 by assuming that he was finished as he landed. Remembering to slide his feet together would have saved a tenth and failing to acknowledge the head judge after finishing draws another 3 tenths in a technical penalty. Nagornyy did a great routine but he couldn’t make up the gap to Xiao. Last gymnast to go was Hashimoto from Japan. He executed a great routine with significantly higher difficulty than the others. The final result left him 4 tenths ahead of Xiao and with a gold medal to Japan.


Some things have relaxed a little. Officials who are not active may now go along and watch the events, meaning that I am able to attend the Women’s events. There are two buses allocated to transport the active judges to the venue each day and those judges who are not active can jump onboard subject to free seats. Apparently taxis (self-funded) are now also an option. It still won’t be possible to see events other than within our own sport. But today, its off to see the Women’s All Around Final!

Cheers
Paul
 




The Opening Ceremony took place last night, a far cry from the normal. Under normal circumstances, Technical Officials receive tickets to the Opening Ceremony and it’s a highlight of the Games. Sadly, it isn’t normal circumstances. I can’t even report back about the fun things that we have been getting up to on our days off as it has been made very clear that leaving the confines of the hotel for any reason other than traveling to the scheduled events is strictly in breach of the exceptional quarantine laws that the Japanese government has put in place to cover the Olympic Games.

Today, its back on the job. Things start for real with the Men’s Qualification Rounds. It provides a decent view of the arena. The first of the three sub-divisions featured China and Russia. Nikita Nagorny of the Russian team warmed up with a piked triple back salto on Floor during Podium Training but was looking tender on his ankles. Today he played safe and performed a relatively soft routine. He performed the triple for the first time at the last World Championships in Stuttgart and it was amazing. Hopefully, he can take the triple in to the Finals.

I’m judging Floor and so I can’t watch everything that is going on but there is enough time between routines to see a fair bit. Japan should prove to be the highlight of sub-division 2 and hopefully Tyson will do an awesome Horizontal Bar routine.

In fact, Tyson did do an awesome Horizontal Bar routine and after sub-division 2 is running 6th. Tyson will now need a bit of luck to go through to the final (top 8) as there are still some big guns to come in the final sub-division.

Well, the third sub-division progressed and by the end of it, Tyson was still in the top 8. This is actually Australian gymnastics history as Tyson is now the first Australian (MAG or WAG as I understand it) to make an Olympic final. Go Tyson! Tyson is currently placed 7th but the final is a fresh start, and anything can happen in a final. So, a long day has ended on a brilliant note.

Cheers

Paul

 




It’s the Men’s Podium Training today. The gym looks amazing. The anticipation is palpable. Podium Training is where the teams/individuals get to experience the competition arena for the first time in a dry run. There are three sessions staggered across the whole day. The sessions run exactly as they will on Day 1 of the actual competition. Most gymnasts will take the opportunity to present a full routine and the judges have an opportunity to get their eye in.

The first session includes China, Russia, Ukraine and Spain as well as notable individuals such as Epke Zonderland. Australia’s Tyson Bull appeared in the next session, starting on his main event, Horizontal Bar. I could tell that he was nervous as he forgot to remove his face mask on his first warmup. He did a routine that I judged for him. It was very clean but omitted a couple of his bigger skills. Tyson’s preparation has been interrupted with a couple of minor injuries, making his performances all the more impressive.

News came through during the second break that Brisbane’s quest for the 2032 Olympics is officially successful. The international community in the hall seemed excited about that. I personally received loads of congratulations and was more than happy to acknowledge my part in the campaign! My first Olympic Games as a judge was Sydney 2000. I will look forward to being a spectator in Brisbane.

Organisers used the second break as an opportunity to rehearse their medal presentation ceremonies with members of the military kindly lending a hand.

The last session finished at 10.00pm and we return to the hotel which we must not leave for the next two days. The Women’s Podium Training will take place tomorrow. The Opening Ceremonies take place the day after and we will return to the gym the day after that for the Men’s Qualification.

Cheers from my hotel room!

Paul 






Well, its day 2 in Tokyo.

The Opening Ceremony is still three days away, although it will be a TV event here just the same as in Australia.

Back in February 2020, I received my initial invitation to judge at the Tokyo Olympics, that was pretty exciting! In the meantime, of course, the pandemic intervened, and the decision was eventually made to defer the Games to 2021.

Fast forward to March 2021, and the International Gymnastics Federation confirmed that the invitation to judge carried over to the re-scheduled event. It just required my acceptance. Decisions…

There is still a pandemic. It has gripped Japan in no uncertain way. It is clear that not all the people of Japan agree with holding the event. Most of them do not! The logistics of hosting such an event is nothing less than enormous but to do so safely within this current environment is exponentially greater. From Australia, such an undertaking involves two weeks of hotel quarantine on return. It was made clear that, although the Australian Olympic Committee would support all team members through these requirements, International Technical Officials (includes gymnastics judges) represented their respective International Federations and were not part of the Australian Olympic Team. Few countries outside of Australia and New Zealand are even aware of such an approach to this pandemic.

However, its the Olympic Games. It is one that is unlike any other has been or ever will be. It will be stripped bare of what makes an Olympic Games such a memorable event. Of course, I decided to go ahead with it.

Although I started the vaccination process in time to allow it to be completed prior to departure, the reality of the event began only a couple of weeks ago when my PVA (Pre Validated Accreditation) arrived. This serves as your Visa to the host country and is validated, laminated and hung around your neck for the next two weeks on arrival in Japan. After the arrival of the PVA, a flood of requirements issued from the FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) to prepare for the requisites of the Japanese Government. For the purposes of COVID-19 and a safe Olympics, these are huge, untried and seem to change almost daily. Eventually the correct COVID-19 tests have been made and I have successfully navigated all of the travel requirements and made the flight to Tokyo.

The enormity of the Japanese task hits when you arrive. The COVID-19 based process is massive. There have been reports of huge time frames to accomplish this. Athletes were reported to have taken 9 hours to get through this. I was expecting anything between 4 and 6 hours as reasonable. In the end it took two and a half hours. It was terrifically efficient but also seemed to vary according to the number of Olympic related arrivals at the airport at any one time. A Canadian judge who had arrived the day before me had taken twelve hours to go from arrival to hotel.

This morning the Men’s judges were conveyed to the uniform dispatch centre. Again, an example of impressive Japanese efficiency. There were 60 of us. There are several items of both a formal and a casual uniform that had to be tried for fit, issued and checked out and this took just over an hour. In the afternoon we had what should have been a judges’ briefing at the venue and a draw to see where we will judge in the opening qualification round. Instead, we did it via something like a zoom session from our respective hotel rooms (where we will end up spending most of our time). This meeting had its own challenges. I will be judging Floor in the opening Qualification round.

Tomorrow will be the Men’s Podium Training. It’s really like a dress rehearsal of Day 1 of the competition. This will go from 10 in the morning till 10 in the evening covering three sub-divisions of competition. The Podium Training for the women will take place the day after with the Opening Ceremony the day after that. The Men’s competition begins for real the day after that!

Cheers

Paul