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Archive for the ‘Olympics’ Category

Overcoming Failure

Saturday, September 8th, 2012
Getting up off the mat now is hard

Getting up off the mat now is hard

We have all experienced failure. It is simply a part of life. There are those that try to avoid failure, and those that embrace it. People handle failure in radically different ways. For some it spurs them on to work harder to overcome, for some it sends them into a death spiral leading to never trying anything outside of their comfort zone.

How do you handle failure? At The Cave we expose people to failure on a daily basis. I’ve written posts about it before. See The Path to Success is Failure. How you handle failure is critical. One of the key things I hope to impart to my own kids as well as the kids we coach in the gym is to be totally comfortable with failure. In college there were skills that literally took me over a year to learn. This would be 5-20 attempts at the skill 3-5 times/week. So let’s say a minimum of 3,000 failures before I succeeded. This can take a toll on your ego if you let it.

John Orozco had a rough meet. Unfortunately that meet happened to be the 2012 Olympic Games. It was painful to me to watch the men’s team’s shot at a medal dissolve as a result of a few major errors. In the men’s all around Danell Leyva and John Orozco both had major flaws on pommel horse. Danell was able to come back from this and medal, but John never really recovered. Did the failure on pommel horse cause John to fall into a downward spiral, or was he simply having a bad day all around? Why was Danell able to step up and come back?

Here is a post by Garrett Kramer, the author of Stillpower, titled 8 Overlooked Factors For Overcoming Failure.  Take a read and comment. I’ll leave my comments for a little later, but there are some very interesting points there.

Olypmics Limiting The Best?

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Tough Thing To Take

Tough Thing To Take

So I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the rule that only allows 2 gymnasts from any one country make the all around finals. This year this rule was prominent to US viewers because we had 3 very strong all around gymnasts. Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman all had valid shots at an Olympic all around medal. Going into floor the three were separated by just over a point. Gabby had a significant lead, but had a major fault on the floor. Even with the fault Jordyn ended just behind Gabby and it was up to Aly to decide if the second spot was going to be her or Jordyn. After a fantastic performance Aly bumped Jordyn from the all around finals.

24 gymnasts are taken to the all around finals. Jordyn’s all around score would have placed her solidly in this field. In fact, her score was fourth in the entire field. That’s right, the fourth ranked gymnast in the preliminaries was not allowed to complete in the all around finals due to the country limit rule. This tells us two things. First is that the US had an incredibly strong team this year with 3 of the top four gymnasts in the competition. Second, that the Olympics often has rules that go beyond simple numerical scoring to decide the competition.

The original intent of the Olympics is as a time for countries to come together and compete in good natured sport to improve international relations. I believe that it has functioned well in this capacity. It has been used as a political tool (boycotted Olympics, target for terrorist attacks, etc), but all in all has been a phenomenal way to bring the world together. In the past there were rules about limiting competitors to non-professionals and other ways to keep the competition as fair as possible.

I can see both sides of the limit to all around competitors per country. It was more of an issue when teams were larger, allowing six competitors per event so gymnastics squads were significantly larger. This could limit the top 24 to just a few countries. The other side to look at is if these athletes are the best, then they should be allowed to compete. I’m split on it. I do believe the best should compete, but we also want to ensure that countries without the resources to train athletes to the same level are at least allowed to represent. What are your thoughts?

How low should you go in your Over Head Squats on Strength Workouts?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I was coaching the Tues. 3:30 CrossFit class and the only athlete who Showed up was Shari M.  For those of you who know Shari, she is quite strong and tenacious, being one of the most competitive females in our CrossFit program.  So Shari, for better or for worse, ended up with a one on one private from myself.  Shari is a pleasure to coach.  Not only is she strong, but she has good mobility as well and is eager to learn and improve.  The workout was a strength set of over head squats in which she was doing considerable weight.  When she got to her heaviest sets she was barely, and I mean barely reaching parallel.  I was a bit perplexed (considering how good her mobility) is that she wasn’t going any deeper and when I commented on it she asked me, “How deep should I go?”.  Well, honestly it depends on your goals.  If your goal is to score as much weight in your overhead squat lift for the workout as you possibly can  (Hey, braging rights for the chaulk board?) then by all means just go barely, barely, barely, low enough to get credit for the lift.  But it seems to me that a more functional goal would be to increase the strength and power of the muscles involved throughout as great a range of motion as possible and train for it keeping the long term benefit in mind.  Also remember that your snatches are particularly tied in to your overhead squats and the more comfortable you are sitting at the bottom of an OHS, the easier it will be to snatch that weight when you are performing the Olympic lift, which for a competitive CrossFitter is a very important skill.  Just make sure that you have enough pelvic tilt at the bottom to not compromise the integrity of the position and put too much strain on your spinal column.  Otherwise go all the way down and find out if you can dig yourself out of the hole.  If you can’t and you miss the lift, that’s not a sin, it means you’re actually working hard and pushing your limits.  Just look at how deep this Olympic lifter in London caught his snatch and see if you can get your overhead squats that low.

By the way, I have a great picture of Shari’s over head squats that I intended to post but this retarded computer that I’m using at my parents’ house won’t let me download the picture so I’ll have to try to add it later.

Timeline Comparisons

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

I can certainly geek out on things as most of you know. I like to see the numbers surrounding our activities in an effort to better understand what is going on, and how to make improvements. The NY Times has put together some really interesting comparisons of athletes over time. I apologize in advance if you happen to get sucked into watching a bunch of these videos. Most are short. I’ve only viewed a few. Here’s one about the 100m.

Scroll down to the bottom for more.

Sports Science: Jessica Lopez and the Physics of Gymnastics

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

I was pretty stoked to find out that there was a Venezuelan gymnast competing at the Olympic Games this year.  Jessica Lopez didn’t win any medals, but she actually qualified to the All-Around finals at the Olympic Games and came in 18th at age 26.  This is a source of pride for me because I was born in Venezuela and although we sometimes have great athletes competing at the Olympic Games for boxing, track and field, baseball or swimming, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a top tier Venezuelan gymnast at the Olympics.

I can’t help watching most of the Olympic gymnastics routines as they air on tv or go live online.  The brilliance, dexterity and skill level and dedication that these athletes bring is absolutely stunning. Also, it’s so beautiful to watch the “physics” that comes with the routines.  These athletes have a better sense of  movement through space than just about anyone else.  I recently stumbled on this great “Sports   Science” video of Jessica doing her gymnastics.  Start developing your “gymnastics vision” by watching the video closely and trying to really understand what is going on.  Several of the senior staff here at “The Cave” developed their “Coach’es eyes” through their extensive exposure and experience to teaching and appreciating gymnastics movements and routines.  Also, the more you understand the physics behind the movements and skills, the better you’ll be able to understand and decipher other skills and movements.

Hope you enjoyed it.



Longevity In Sport

Thursday, August 9th, 2012
5 Time Olympian

6 Time Olympian

There’s been a lot of talk about many athletes in this years Olympics being true veterans and competing through several Olympic games. For some sports (gymnastics being one) 28 is getting quite advanced in age to continue competing at a high level. Care in training, good genetics and a bit of luck are significant factors in maintaining the ability to continue at a high level in sport.

Jordan Jovtchev is a 6 time Olympian. Doing that in any sport is an astounding achievement. Doing it in gymnastics is unprecedented, and not likely to be repeated for quite some time. That’s 24+ years of elite level competition. Jordan has a very detailed and diligent warm up routine. He takes care to minimize the damaging aspects of training. He keeps up with base exercises to ensure a very balanced strength and fitness level to ensure he’s buffered well against the damage of elite level competition.

Other Olympians in the “older” category.

71 yr old equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu

54 yr old equestrian Mark Skelton

52 yr old wind surfer Jessica Crisp

Swimmers, cyclists, the list goes on.  The bottom line is that there are a lot of athletes not only continuing in their sports, but doing it at the highest level of sport for long periods of time. Now the ability to maintain this level of competition for a long time is an exceedingly rare thing. It is something to look toward and see what we can learn from these athletes, but not something to expect.

Women’s beach volleyball was again won by Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. This is their third Olympic gold medal. This longevity and success in the sport is phenomenal.  As we at The Cave know well, CrossFit supports older athletes, having divisions for masters at the annual CrossFit Games. We hope to see this trend continue, and encourage everyone to just keep doing sports. Train hard, regularly pick up and learn new sports. Have FUN!!!

200m Against the Best?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
Some of the fastest

Some of the fastest

Yesterday we ran some 200m tests. Our fastest was 23s, which is actually darned good for non-competetive runners. The world record in the 200m stands at 19.19. This is insanely fast given that the 100m is at 9.58, making the loss for Usain Bolt over the additional 100m only 0.03s. The start for these races is critical given how close they generally finish. Starting off blocks makes a difference, as does a fantastic track surface. In qualifying the men were coming in at just over 21s for the 200m.

The Olympics gives us a rare chance to view the world’s best in a wide variety of sports. I haven’t been able to watch much yet, but I enjoy pretty much all of it just from a perspective of watching the best athletes in the world do what they do best. These are the folks we can learn from. They are specialized, but we can still borrow from their training, and certainly do what we can to mimic their mechanics.

“THERE ARE NO COMPETITIVE FEMALE GYMNASTS OVER 20 YEARS OLD”, Dad, You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About, and My New Pair of Climbing Shoes

Saturday, August 4th, 2012
It was another typical night at the Davis household in San Francisco. (Warning, if you read this blog post, you may get a glimpse inside my family life.) My parents are interesting folks. I really love them a lot, but sometimes they, and particularly my dad Russell, can be, ummm…. rather opinionated. ( I have two dads. My father in Venezuela, who I hope to see later this year in October, is completely different than my American dad. I guess my mom went from one extreme to the other. ) On Friday night I found myself at my parents’ sharing with them the experience of watching the Olympic Games and Michael Phelps win his 17th gold medal in the 100M Butterfly. We also watched Katie Ledecky crush the field in the 800M women’s freestyle. The girl is only 15 years old. “It sure is stupid that they have the minimum age for competing in the Olympics as 15!” he muttered. “No it’s not.” I retorted. “There’s a good reason for that.” “And what could that possibly be?” was his reply. “Well, to prevent child abuse!” Having experience coaching kids, I know that parents and coaches can be overbearing enough and put enough pressure on a child to cross the line into child abuse. My dad disagreed. He made a good case about the rule preventing a gymnast like Alexandra Raisman from having more than “one shot at it” because she wasn’t eligible to compete in the last Olympics at age 14 and that she’d be too old to be competitive at age 22. “There are plenty of gymnasts in their 20’s.”, I replied. “Not at a competitive level.”, he assured me. I disagreed. I knew, however, that none of the Fab Five were over 20 years old, and I didn’t know the gymnasts from the other countries, but I challenged him to a bet. I was initially thinking a pint of ice-cream. (Most of you know that I’m not paleo, but I am trying to eat more vegetables!) and later I tried to angle for climbing shoes, but since my dad couldn’t think of what he wanted as a counter-bet, since he already has everything. So in the end we settled for $100. I think the results are interesting since they address the question “How old is too old to compete at the highest level?”, or at least for female Olympic gymnasts with… errr… good teammates.
USA: 5 teenagers
   Jordyn Wieber: 17 y/o
   Gabrielle Douglass: 16 y/o
   Kyla Ross: 15 y/o
   Alexandra Raisman: 18 y/o
   Mc Kayla Maroney: 16 y/o
Russia: 4 teenagers & 1 20 y/o
  Ksenia Afanaseva: 20 y/o: ranked 8th on beam & 11th on floor out of 24 scores
  Anastasia Grishina: 16 y/o
  Victoria Komova: 17 y/o
  Aliya Mustafina: 17 y/o
  Maria Paseka: 17 y/o
Romania: 3 teenagers, a 22 y/o & a 24 y/o
  Diana Laura Bulimar: 16 y/o
  Diana Maria Chelaru: 18 y/o
  Larisa Andreea Iordache: 16 y/o
  Sandra Raluca Izbasa: 22 y/o ranked 8th on vault & 2nd on floor out of 24 scores
  Catalina Ponor: 24 y/o ranked 8th on vault, 1st on beam & 5th on floor out of 24 scores
China: 1 teenager & 4 20 y/o’s
  Lu Sui: 20 y/o ranked 2nd on beam & 8th on floor
  Jinnan Yao: 17 y/o
  Qiushuang Huang: 20 y/o ranked 10th on vault, 7th on bars, 16th on beam & 23rd on floor
  Kexin He: 20 y/o ranked 2nd on bars
  Linlin Deng: 20 y/o ranked 11th on vault, 17th on beam & 19th on floor
Canada: 4 teenagers & 1 20 y/o
  Victoria Moors: 15 y/o
  Dominique Pegg: 18 y/o
  Kristina Vaculik: 20 y/o ranked 16th on bars & 20th on beam
  Elsabeth Black: 16 y/o
  Brittany Rogers: 19 y/o
Great Britain:
  Imogen Cairns: 23 y/o ranked 22nd on vault & 18th on beam
  Jennifer Pinches: 18 y/o
  Rebeca Tunney: 15 y/o
  Elizabeth Tweddle: 27 y/o ranked 1st on bars and 15th on floor out of the field of 24. 
  Hannah Whelan: 20 y/o ranked 19th on bars, 15th on beam & 14th on floor
Italy & Japan also had athletes older than 20, which rounded out the last two countries that made it to the finals.  So as you can see, the field was dominated by teens, but there were plenty of athletes in their 20’s on the top 7 women’s team with 24 year old Catalina Ponor ranking 1st on beam and 27 year old Elizabeth Tweddle ranking 1st on bars!  Among the top 6 teams there were no athletes in their 30’s.  It would be interesting to do a similar analysis of the ages of competitive CrossFit Games athletes or American Ninja Warriors.  Admittedly elite gymnastics takes a strong toll on the body which wears on older athletes, but an even stronger consideration as a factor is that many athletes who have had that Olympic experience are often satisfied with having had it and moving on to other concerns and stages of life.  In any case, I have $100 that I’ll soon be using to buy a new pair of climbing shoes!  Thanks Dad!

2012 London Olympic Individual Gymnastics Event Finals Coming Up

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

The U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team dominated the field to win their first team gold at the Olympics since 1996.  Unfortunately, the US Men’s Gymnastics team wasn’t quite able to hold it together on day 2 of competition and ended up in 5th place behind China, Japan, an unlikely but heroic Great Britain, and Ukraine.  As many of you know, Gaby Douglass won the U.S. women’s all-around competition and Danell Leyva managed to come back from 17th place in the all-around competition to finish in 3rd and take bronze.  Nevertheless, the excitement for the gymnastics competition isn’t over.  The individual event finals are yet to take place for both artistic gymnastics as well as trampoline.  You can find the Olympic schedule here.

Sam Mikulak will compete in the Men's Gymnastics Horse Vault Finals in the 2012 London Olympic Games on Monday August 6th

Sam Mikulak will compete in the Men's Gymnastics Horse Vault Finals in the 2012 London Olympic Games on Monday August 6th

(This picture “borrowed” from 2012 Summer Games )

The remaining U.S. line-up for men’s artistic gymnasts individual event finals is as follows: ( These are the U.S. athletes who qualified.)

Men’s Floor Exercise:   Jacob Dalton (Aug. 5th)

Men’s Pommel Horse:   No U.S. athletes qualified.  (Aug. 5th)

Men’s Rings: No U.S. athletes qualified.        (Aug. 6th)

Men’s Vault: Samuel Mikulak (Aug. 6th)

Men’s Parallel Bars:  No U.S. athletes qualified.    (Aug. 7th)

Men’s High Bar: Danell LeyvaJonathan Horton (Aug 7th)

The Fab Five, rumored to be the greatest ever US Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team

The Fab Five, rumored to be the greatest ever US Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team

(This image “borrowed” from Slate.)

Here is the U.S. line-up for the women’s artistic gymnastics individual event finals:

Women’s Vault: Mc Kayla Maroney (Aug 5th)

Women’s Uneven Bars: Gabrielle Douglas (Aug 6th)

Women’s Balance Beam: Gabrielle DouglasAlexandra Raisman (Aug 7th)

Women’s Floor Exercise: Alexandra RaismanJordyn Wieber (Aug 7th)

Also, Men’s and Women’s trampoline finals will be held on Aug. 3rd & 4th respectively.

Could We Actually See Double Gymnastics Team Gold?

Saturday, July 28th, 2012



Both the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams this year look strong. We don’t have a true star on the men’s side as we did with Paul Hamm in several previous Olympics, but the balance and depth of the team is better than it ever has been. On the women’s side we have some of the strongest gymnasts the US has ever seen.

After preliminary team competition the US Men are on top. The men showed fantastic performances with any significant mistakes being able to be covered by other team members. Favored Japan had a fairly disastrous start to the Olympics. Falls on several events forced Japan to count scores significantly lower than they could absorb. China also struggled leaving the US in first with Russia in second and surprisingly Great Britain in third.

It is possible (though still a long shot) that both US Men’s and Women’s gymnastics teams could win a gold medal. This would be an incredible feat for USA Gymnastics. With men’s gymnastics struggling to keep programs alive and division 1 schools dropping programs continuously it is staggering to think what the US program could be. Maybe a double team gold would help.