Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Joaquim Blume – World Class Gymnastics in Vilanova

Last weekend, Saturday November 10, the 32nd Joaquim Blume Memorial competition in gymnastics took place here in Vilanova. It is a true pleasure to have a chance to see world class gymnasts without having to leave home. Let us hope that Vilanova can continue to be one of the strongholds of Spanish gymnastics.

Fifty years ago, in 1957, Catalan Joaquim Blume won the title as European Champion of Gymnastics, beating legends like Yuriy Titov, Russia, and Max Benker, Switzerland. In 1959, Mr. Blume perished in an airplane accident but since 1969 the Federació Catalana de Gimnàstica honours his memory through an annual competition, the oldest and most prestigious competition in Spanish gymnastics.

The Memorial Joaquim Blume always takes place in the province of Barcelona and for the last few years it has been arranged in the Pavellò Municipal del Garraf here in Vilanova i la Geltrú. Last year was the first time I personally found my way to the it and although I liked what I saw back then, only this year was I truly impressed.

The competition in itself has a compressed and audience friendly format. There is no total winner so the focus in on the individual disciplines (for men six and for women four), of which each participant can decide to take part in two or three. This results in a punctuality we are not used to in this country – two and a half hours after the beginning we saw the prize ceremony start, exactly as of schedule. Apparently, we were 1.500 people in the audience, a statistics partly improved by the fact that there had been competitions for younger gymnasts in the hall earlier during the day. A comprehensive program and an improved result screen compared to last year, made it all easy to follow.

This year, the Chinese participants stood out. In the men’s competition, Xen Yibing, double World Champion in rings, easily won that discipline with a breath taking show of strength, while on the women’s side, Li Shanshan was the winner of the floor exercise and the beam. Although there were several participants from the national teams of Russia, the Ukraine and Romania, the Spanish gymnasts proved to be in a very good shape. Almost local Melodie Pulgarín (she is from Martorell) won the asymmetric bars and the vault on the women’s side and while Isaac Botella (Alacant) and Sergio Muñoz (Madrid) won one discipline each. Frenchman Yann Cucherat, with his 28 years one of the oldest participants, won the high bar and the parallel bars.

I certainly did not know anything about Vilanova’s history in Spanish gymnastics when I moved here, but since I come from a family with a strong involvement in Swedish gymnastics, I was happy to discover that our new home town has produced several Olympic Games participants of this sport.

What Vilanova mayor Joan Ignasi Elena thought about the international top gymnasts who took part in the competition, I can not tell. However, he was standing at attention, radiating with pride, while a group of gymnasts from our local club made performance a as an intermezzo before the prize ceremony started. So, I dare to conclude that gymnastics has at least one very influential fan here in the town.

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