Saturday, 18 October 2014

EF Day 2: Beam and Floor

Bit of a delay on this, so let's pretend it just happened!

After the high of the first day of event finals, it was perhaps inevitable that the second day would be a letdown. Beam finals have been a bit desultory for a while now, and this one was no exception, in fact, it was worse than ever with only two gymnasts truly excelling. There was nothing wrong with floor, except for the debate over bronze. Beam went one better, with disputes over gold AND bronze.

Beam

Qualifying to this final were Yao Jinnan, Bai Yawen, Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Aliya Mustafina, Larisa Iordache, Ellie Black and Asuka Teramoto. The favourite was Larisa Iordache with her huge routine, with Simone Biles, Aliya Mustafina and Bai Yawen chasing her. Last year's silver medallist Kyla Ross had too low a d-score to really contend.

So, what happened?

Bai Yawen hit a glorious routine without even the suggestion of a hesitation or wobble. Showcasing why exactly people love to watch Chinese gymnasts on beam...the precision of the elements. This was particularly impressive given the fact that she is quite unknown and inexperienced, wasn't given the opportunity to compete on the event in team finals despite having qualified to event finals on it already, and was not just facing national pressure to do well, but local too. The fact that she scored under 9.0 in execution, even taking into account the low execution scores on beam anyway, was, I thought, hard to justify. Step on dismount, horizontal chest on dismount, and perhaps an argument that she could have had better rhythm and flow. Really exceptional routine otherwise.

Simone Biles, facing beam again after two less than satisfactory routines in team finals and AA, showed us what she's made of and delivered a much steadier routine. She nailed her flight series, hit her connections, threw yet another killer dismount and left the judges without much to deduct. There were three hints of wobbles though in the routine, but despite those, she really moves very well on beam with great flow and rhythm. Her difficulty score was higher than Bai's and she moved into first, with the difference in execution not making up for the d-score advantage.

And that was a bit of an issue for me. Simone unquestionably performed a great routine and deserved a medal. Bai, though, outperformed her. There should have been greater disparity in their execution scores, not because Simone's execution was lacking, but because Bai's is so exceptional. She has a precision and control over every single element that is not present in Simone's routine, nor indeed in most other beam routines. I am reluctant to bring into the question how much it would have meant to Bai Yawen to take gold in front of her hometown crowd in a country where gold is everything and rewarded highly...but, yeah, it would have been great for that reason too.

That wasn't going to be an issue though, because Larisa Iordache was the favourite and would surely hit after doing so well in the AA and TF and after falling in London and Antwerp beam finals, surely it was her time to get lucky. And...she fell, on the tuck full this time. Disappointing isn't the word. She has really improved her form on this event even in just the last couple of months, at Euros for instance I found her quite sloppy. Sigh.

Yao Jinnan falls. She wasn't a challenger and after winning bars gold I doubt it was really a big deal, her smile after coming off on the layout seemed proof of that.

Ellie Black falls. A super hard routine and her one chance in an event final to shine, and she comes undone on the full. Devastating, especially given how open bronze was.

Kyla Ross performs, well, very untypically. A huge wobble, two smaller ones, broken connections and quite a slow routine. It's a long, tough week and I'm never surprised when a gymnast who does the AA in prelims, team finals AND AA on top of making event finals, falters at the end of the week. It's a pity as she could have quite easily taken bronze had she exhibited her usual steady, clean routine.

Aliya Mustafina is anything but predictable on beam. The reigning world champion, but so inconsistent. It starts off well but then she breaks completely during her series, and without time to fully remedy it. Some really nice elements to it, but without an acro series her d-score is way down. But as the final pans out..it's not too surprising that she overtakes the routines with falls and weaker routines.

Asuka Teramoto is bouncing back from falls on her layout in both the AA and team finals. It's so satisfying when she hits it beautifully this time. Unfortunately, the routine is marred by a myriad of broken connections and with her medium difficulty and questionable dismount, it's not enough and she stays behind Mustafina.

The fact that a hit, clean, beautiful routine is beaten by one without an acro series has resulted in a lot of backlash, with accusations that Mustafina's name and reputation held her up. Had Asuka perfectly hit her routine, I think it would be a different story and actually a judging scandal. But she did herself no favours with all of the broken connections and not-fully-around dismount so I can see how this happened. The fact that a routine with no acro series ended up on the podium is not a testament to judging scandal or the power of reputation. It is a damning indictment of how weak beam is at the moment.

All in all, not the most exciting of finals. 3 falls and just not the highest standard when you compare it to the depth of the other events. To me, it was missing Andreea Munteanu, Maria Kharenkova and Shang Chunsong. The latter was rumoured to be replacing Bai Yawen and I'm so glad she didn't, but it would have been nice to see the two alongside each other in the final (legitimately, not at the expense of Yao Jinnan). I don't dispute the bronze, but I would have liked to see the order of gold and silver reversed.

Floor

The favourite this time, Simone Biles, was highly unlikely to be ousted or beaten because of a fall. Fresh from victory on beam, she was slated to compete second last, conveniently building the excitement of the final to a crescendo. Alongside her were Mykayla Skinner, Vanessa Ferrari, Erika Fasana, Larisa Iordache, Larissa Miller, Claudia Fragapane and Aliya Mustafina. The skill level was through the roof, with a laid-out double-double, 5 tucked versions and a full-twising double layout.

Mykayla Skinner has impressed me at these worlds, and continued to do so in her last final. Sharper form, better execution, really strong landings. Her signature skill looked straighter than ever. Leaps are still letting her down but she tried hard with her choreography I thought. A strong effort and a good chance for a medal.

Larissa Miller was a surprise qualifier, and she knocked out the popular Roxana Popa. This exercise was a joy to watch for just how beautiful her tumbling was, textbook double arabian, gorgeous combination tumbling. Very floaty.

Larisa Iordache had to bounce back from the crushing disappointment of yet another beam medal thrown away, and she did so in spectacular fashion. The big question was going to be, could she equal Simone's d-score again by throwing the pike full-in at the end? She pulled it around convincingly, and stayed in bounds on her second pass this time. It's just fantastic to watch her in motion, as the motion just never stops. The enjoyment of what she does shines through every movement, every bounce.

When her score came in I thought it should have been closer to 15, but the explanation that her Gomez hadn't been fully around countered for some of that, but not all. In my opinion, she loses tenths for the bounciness, not necessarily landings, but after leaps and turns, it's a sign of not having full control I suppose. It wasn't going to able to push Simone or properly challenge her, which was a bit disappointing.

Vanessa Ferrari's routine was a little sluggish, with one bad landing and she also missed her tuck back connection after the full-in. Although it wasn't her best, it was still great. It's wonderful to see a 24-year-old gymnast throwing such hard tumbles so many years later, and one of them, the double layout, a recent upgrade. It was unfortunately clear that she wasn't going to be a medal challenger in spite of the difficulty.

Erika Fasana's routine didn't make much of an impression on me, I found it was a bit lost amongst the other finalists. Nice tumbling, but it just didn't have the full package to make it stand out.

Claudia Fragapane's routine is always a highlight. She looked ready. HUGE air on the first pass, too much, as she rebounded spectacularly to prone position. In all the falls we have seen, I have never seen one quite like that. It's strange too, we've been hearing complaints that the floor is quite hard, yet the stronger athletes have been having no problem, with some sticking less than usual with the extra bounce they get on landing. It was a big moment for Claudia and so crushing to come to grief within the first few seconds. She performed the rest of the routine admirably, still selling her impassioned dance to the crowds. I can't wait to see her continue to improve and polish her performance but she really had a great worlds despite the fall.

Simone Biles was second last. Another explosively energetic routine, this time with bouncier landings than previously. I never get tired of this floor, it's quite artistic in its own way, because of the performer. Only she and Larisa displayed that magnetic connection. And straight into gold with a half-point lead.

Aliya Mustafina sat her first pass just two days previous, but this time she not only landed it, but added back the two whips preceding the double arabian. She's never one you can rule in or out really, and clearly decided that in her last final she had nothing to lose and should go for broke. Not having the triple full is so refreshing and I do like her choreography, though it feels a little empty and that she could do much more. Given her injuries, how much she has to carry her team and the long week, I'd imagine endurance is an issue and getting through the routine cleanly is more important than really emphasising the artistry.

When she had finished, I thought, well that will be 4th and well deserved. At least she has beam. But then she ousted Mykayla Skinner's position by a fraction of a tenth, 0.33. The delighted surprise on her face contrasted with Skinner dissolving into tears. But, in another display of how great the latter has been at these, her first worlds, she quickly controlled herself and accepted her placement.

I'm not sure how I feel about bronze. On the one hand, Mykayla Skinner's routine really was deserving. On the other, Aliya Mustafina showed more of the full package with exceptional dance elements. It's hard to say whether Mykayla was hard done by, but in this case, I do think Aliya was held up by her name. Had Larissa Miller performed that exact routine, I think we would have seen two Americans on the podium.

Far be it from me to deny what a truly great gymnast Aliya Mustafina is. I was very disappointed when she counted a fall in the all-around and was looking forward to seeing her bring home some individual hardware besides the team bronze. Bars I thought was her best chance, and although I expected her to place higher, I was thrilled with that podium and certainly bronze was her best hope there. Beam, well, the girls who fell and Asuka were quite unlucky, but I don't think anyone was 'wronged' for Aliya's bronze there. Floor though, being who she is DID I feel help.

Did you agree with the podiums? Was anyone helped by having a name, or wronged by not having one? How much worse can beam finals get? How much better can Simone Biles get? How weird are my tenses here?


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Monday, 13 October 2014

Aliya Mustafina's interview translated

Translated by Lauren C ( translater's notes/explanations in Italics)

I didn't expect anything today. On beam I was lucky. On floor I had nothing to lose so I decided to go for the harder routine. Today was a reminder that I need to keep moving forward. I can't compete with my current repertoire; I know that. It's hard to learn new elements at my age. This year was hard because I kept taking breaks-first at the beginning of the year, then after Euros, then I had surgery and couldn't do anything for a month. I won't be able to take those kinds of breaks again before Rio.

It is difficult to have a personal coach who is really a choreographer. I have to make a lot of decisions on my own. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I'm not going to go scouring the earth for such a person, but if they happen to appear it would be nice.   

(They [interviewer] imply that she won't stop training until she's bleeding) : Certainly I train bars long after everyone tells me to stop. I keep going until I get it right. It's emotional vampirism.  

I have changed. It was time. I've begun to act more truly as myself instead of as I am "supposed" to. I communicate differently and more, I'm happy more often. Recently I realized that while you have to surrender yourself to this sport, you can't look at it as work. It can't be coerced; you have to want to do it, like a hobby. We have young ones who train with us who have to be forced. Some cry; some can handle it, some can't. The Americans are always smiling; they love it. Children shouldn't have to cry. Everything starts there.

Nobody told this to me, I just came to the realization over time. When things don't go my way in training, I tell myself it's okay, that there's always tomorrow. Or I have to sit around until I have a plan. Then I get up and train until I get it done, even when I rip all my calluses off.

[The situation with the younger girls] is a problem, of course. When Vika Komova, Tanya Nabieva and I were young, we could already do everything we do now. If I hadn't been in that kind of shape when I was younger I would never have achieved anything. I'm still not discouraged. I hope the younger girls can strengthen their programmes. It will be difficult to compete with the Americans, of course; they're strong, and that's putting it lightly. And it seems that it doesn't matter that we work to hit splits and point our toes; even though they're often not quite in splits or have not-quite-pointed toes, nobody cares.

*that last bit was a significant paraphrase and maybe a little harsher than she meant it. She's just saying that a vague "they" (probably the judges) don't seem to put as much emphasis on those kinds of deductions as they have said they would in the past

We'll still keep trying to make our exercises beautiful. If we could do as much difficulty as the Americans and even add a little beauty it would be a big plus. For the fans if not the judges. The judges are a separate issue. Sometimes it seems like they have already decided the outcome before the competition has even started. That's the worst thing, and sometimes it makes me want not to try. I understand that no matter what I do, they will place Biles ahead of me. The thought [not to try] occurs to me, but it goes away quickly. We [all] had two open training sessions every day, and the Americans were always doing something - running, circuit training, extra things. Some of it is probably genetics. Just look at them - they're healthy, brimming with life. We don't have gymnasts like them in Russia. Look at Polina Fyodorova, Masha Kharenkova, Dasha Spiridonova. They will always be small and skinny. They'll never have the kind of muscle the Americans have. Look at the Chinese....

Interviewer: By the way, have you lost weight?
Aliya: I don't see it, but I guess it looks like it.

I'm really comfortable with this team (she specifically mentions Masha, Elf and Alla). They're really nice to be around, they're not jealous and they don't say mean things. I want to help them. I help, they listen, and it's really pleasant for me.

*Translation note: When she says "I want to help them," she uses a reflexive construction which normally means she feels as though the desire comes from outside herself or is innate, as opposed to something she actively wants.

I'm on my third book this Worlds, an Italian novel. I listen to music while I drive to Round Lake. I'm an "omnivore" - I like a lot of things. Except I'm a picky eater. I hate onions. If a dish has onions, it's no longer even food to me. I have to take a napkin to meals here in China. Maybe that's why I've lost weight?

My leg is fine, but I do have other body parts. My back has been bothering for two and a half years. It was really bad at this Worlds. I don't like to talk about it and I feel I shouldn't, but during the team final I felt like I wouldn't be able to do anything at all. Sometimes I can't even run. I'm not protecting my leg. I don't do something if I'm not confident on it. So if I'm standing on the vault runway and I feel I won't be able to do the double, I don't do it. It's a kind of intuition. Sometimes I won't do something even when I think I can, because I can no longer think, "Oh well, if I underrotate a little, no big deal!" My ankle or knee start bothering me if I underrotate. My knee doesn't bother me anymore except when I land poorly. So I only perform an element when I'm certain I won't get hurt doing it.

I'm now thinking only of what to do in the off season and how to stay patient until Rio. No, not stay patient, but put all of my strength, everything that I have, into training for it.

The night before AA finals, my temperature started to rise, my throat started to hurt, I was congested and coughing, all at once. I tried not to think about it. I couldn't lift my arms or legs at training. We went to the doctor and asked for everything they had. Anti-fever [medicine], a load of pills, I sprayed something and gargled something. And when I got to the competition I was still shaking. It wasn't so bad the next day during bars finals. The worst part was the watery eyes - I wanted to rub them but they were made up! And when I was warming up on bars, sometimes I couldn't even see them. My eyes couldn't keep up with my body somehow.

                

Predictions, schmedictions

It's always fun to see how these pan out. Predictions post is here and was written almost exactly a month ago.

First, the all-around.

Prediction

1. Simone Biles
2. Aliya Mustafina
3. Kyla Ross
4. Larisa Iordache
5. Vanessa Ferrari

Actual

1. Simone Biles DING
2. Larisa Iordache. Up two
3. Kyla Ross DING
4. Aliya Mustafina. Down two
5. Yao Jinnan

2/5 placements, 4/5 names.

Team Final

Prediction

1. USA
2. China
3. Russia
4. GB
5. Romania

Actual

1. USA DING
2. China DING
3. Russia DING
4. Romania Up 1
5. Italy

Overestimated GB, underestimated Italy. Podium correct! 3/5 placements, 4/5 names.

Vault Qualifiers

Prediction

Simone Biles
Mykayla Skinner
Giulia Steingruber
Oksana Chusovitina
Hong un Jong
Phan Thi Ha Thanh
Ellie Black
Maria Paseka

Actual

Simone Biles DING
Mykayla Skinner DING
Giulia Steingruber DING
Hong un Jong DING
Phan Thi Ha Thanh DING
Alla Sosnitskaya
Claudia Fragapane
Alexa Moreno

5/8 for names. Oksana and Maria would have qualified had they been there, I feel.

Vault podium

Prediction

1. Simone Biles
2. Mykayla Skinner
3. Giulia Steingruber

Actual

1. Hong un Jong
2. Simone Biles
3. Mykayla Skinner

2/3 for names, 0/3 placements. This was before it was known that Giulia developed a twisting block and Hong un Jong showed significant improvement at Asian Games.

Bars Qualifiers

Prediction

Ashton Locklear
Kyla Ross
Aliya Mustafina
Daria Spiridonova
Ruby Harrold
Becky Downie
Huang Huidan
Yao Jinnan

Actual

Ashton Locklear DING
Lisa Katherina Hill
Huang Huidan DING
Yao Jinnan DING
Ruby Harrold DING
Daria Spiridonova DING
Aliya Mustafina DING
Becky Downie DING

7/8 names! Just Kyla Ross who was surpassed in qualifications late on.

Bars Podium

Prediction

1. Yao Jinnan
2. Huang Huidan
3. Becky Downie

Actual

1. Yao Jinnan DING
2. Huang Huidan DING
3. Daria Spiridonova

2/3 for placement and names. Becky didn't have the best routine, unfortunately.

Beam Qualifiers

Prediction

Larisa Iordache
Simone Biles
Kyla Ross
Aliya Mustafina
Bai Yawen
Shang Chunsong
Maria Kharenkova
Andreea Munteanu

Actual

Larisa Iordache DING
Simone Biles DING
Kyla Ross DING
Aliya Mustafina DING
Bai Yawen DING
Yao Jinnan
Asuka Teramoto
Ellie Black

5/8 for names is respectable. Andreea, Maria and Shang all massively underperformed in prelims.

Beam Podium

Prediction

1. Larisa Iordache
2. Maria Kharenkova
3. Bai Yawen

Actual

1. Simone Biles
2. Bai Yawen
3. Aliya Mustafina

Lol. 1/3 for names, 0/3 for placement.

Floor Qualifiers

Prediction

Simone Biles
Mykayla Skinner
Vanessa Ferrari
Claudia Fragapane
Shang Chunsong
Larisa Iordache
Roxana Popa
Giulia Steingruber

Actual

Simone Biles DING
Mykayla Skinner DING
Vanessa Ferrari DING
Claudia Fragapane DING
Larisa Iordache DING
Larissa Miller
Aliya Mustafina
Erika Fasana

5/8 for names

Floor Podium

Prediction

1. Simone Biles
2. Larisa Iordache
3. Vanessa Ferrari

Actual

1. Simone Biles DING
2. Larisa Iordache DING
3. Aliya Mustafina

Close! 2/3 for placement and names.

Overall, out of a grand total of 54 I had 37 names right and out of 22 podium places I got 9 correct. So I suppose that proves that it's relatively easy to predict the dominance of the big 4, but that competition is wildly unpredictable?

Good effort, and a lot of fun.

Tomorrow I'll post about today's finals and soon after a big post about worlds in general, reflections and such.



Saturday, 11 October 2014

EF Day 1: Vault and Bars

For a mid-quad worlds, this is proving to be a truly exciting one in individual competition. Today for WAG, the vault and bars finals were contested.

Despite the fact that several of the people who ended up on podium were not a surprise, the competitions were very tight and very tense with some surprises thrown in. First, to vault!

Simone Biles has spent most of the year since Mckayla Maroney's latest batch of injuries as the known favourite for the vault title, which continued until Asian Games. At that competition, Hong un Jong of North Korea vaulted an extremely floaty amanar and a much stronger Cheng. Her improvement, and 0.8 d-score advantage were suddenly big threats to Simone. Would Simone go for the Cheng that has been in the works for quite some time, or even a Mustafina hinted at earlier in the year on her ask.fm? The idea of an upgrade was shot down, and so her execution would be the decider.

Hong un Jong is the 2008 Olympic vault Champion. Remarkably, she survived the long banishment of her country for cheating and emerged after the London Olympics with the same vaults, the Amanar and Cheng. The difficulty on both has gone down, to 6.3 and 6.4, but still makes a gymnast with them formidable. Last year, she used the difficulty to push through and take bronze behind McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles. Neither vault was particularly inspiring, with her Cheng especially struggled around. Considering the fact that she is now 24, the fact that she has improved the form and landings on both vaults is just incredible. It came down to the wire, especially with Simone only having a small hop on her amanar and just a tiny shuffle in place after a perfect Lopez, with Hong edging her out by less than half a tenth.

I'm very pleased for Hong un Jong and her coaches reactions were very touching. 6 years on, and just as good as ever. The absolutely tiny margin of victory just goes to show just how strong a vaulter Simone Biles is, to almost beat her. I'd imagine the death knell has been sounded on her Lopez, and while I'm sure an upgrade will look great, it is a pity as it just such an exceptional vault, so textbook and so pretty. There is something inherently pleasing about her vaulting, and it's the certainty. She isn't going to mess up, we're not afraid she will twist into the ground, land off the podium, not get her twist around in time, block completely wrong etc. etc. She'll block dead-centre with straight arms, lift into the ceiling, and land securely. Refreshingly great. I really look forward to seeing her develop on this event. Our gold winner showed that anything's possible.

A lot has been said about Mykayla Skinner and her vaulting, especially of course the block on her Cheng. Certainly the technique is quite wrong, she's twisting off one hand too early and the other hand is not repulsing her. We know this. But she has doing her job really well at her first world championships, a team extremely few would have put her in at the start of this year, and today was no exception. Her Cheng was very clean in the air with a great landing. It's not the most dynamic but it's still worthy of a good score, which she certainly achieved. Her DTY has improved quite a bit, form was tight and clean. She was much more pleasant to watch than those whose landings are far from a sure thing. Great effort from her and a well deserved bronze.

Alla Sosnitskaya vaulted the exact same vaults as Mykayla. Her Cheng is very new for her and it's quite dynamic, she looks to me to get more airtime than our other Cheng vaulters. It's such a tough vault! But it was from perfect, or even great. Almost a perfectly stuck landing but she was completely out of bounds, and it had loose sloppy form throughout. The DTY was much cleaner, but with bent knees. She has had a great competition and 4th here is a triumph that she can build on. I know she has an amanar in the works and I don't doubt that she's capable, but I hope they focus just as strongly on her execution. She could be really good.

Giulia on the other hand has been struggling a bit these worlds. Most notably, she has developed a block about twisting which threw her DTY out the window and has been limiting her at just the wrong time of year. Her Rudi certainly showed deterioration, very messy in the air and really fought around, and while her FTY was so much nicer, it was just an FTY really. Alexa Moreno fought valiantly on her vaults and so too did Phan Thi Ha Thanh but both really showed how hard their vaults are, and it wasn't surprising that their difficulty, especially Alexa's, didn't place them higher. Claudia Fragapane shows much more ease in hers, but they are relatively easy. It's strange how it looks like she's doing a completely different vault to Simone's Lopez BUT she really sharpened up her form on her DTY which I am very happy with.

Matchy matchy! Source- John Cheng/USAG


All in all, a tense fight for gold and a very strong field. Vault finals seem to be getting stronger all the time, long may that trend continue! Next year we'll more than likely see an upgrade from super-vaulter Simone and maybe even another comeback from McKayla Maroney...?

Highlights

No falls!

No Produnovas!

No 'impossible' vaults like an amanar from Phan to rightly give everyone heart failure

Very strong field and difficulty

Good variety of vaults

Lowlights

Um..I suppose form loss on some vaults

Some vaults were a bit of a struggle to land

Favourite vaults

1. Simone Biles Vault 2 Lopez
2. Simone Biles Vault 1 Amanar
3. Hong un Jong Vault 1 Amanar

Leotards

Niiice effort by the US, a little too shiny for my liking but simple and striking and of course, not pink. I like the simplicity of the North Korean leotard and the matching podium looked well, again! Not a big fan of Alla's leo, Alexa's was pretty, Claudia's was nice but needed more oomph, Giulia's was pretty also and I'm undecided about Phan...I think I like it?

Bars

Well, that was an extraordinarily deep and exciting final.

First up was Aliya Mustafina in her Pikachu leotard, the strong colouring of which highlights the fact that she's not well. All things considered, I didn't think she would upgrade as expected, and she didn't. Playing it safe when you're not at the top of your game is always wise, and it was very clean and nice to watch, albeit (and I feel mean) boring. It's not a routine I would have thrilled with had it medalled, despite how clean it was. I hope she can return and show us just a little bit more on this event.

Another super-clean gorgeous routine from Daria Spiridonova which unexpectedly propelled her in front of Aliya. What was a highlight of the whole competition was how delighted the latter was about that! Daria's lines are superb but her score was still a surprise, a nice one.

Having Ashton Locklear right after those two showed just how Russian her routine is in composition. Luckily we have some Brits to shake it up a bit. Anyway, Ashton showed no signs of her inexperience and delivered another great routine, hitting her massive combination with ease. It really build the tension with 5 elements! Her sickled feet (and Mustafina's and Lisa Hill's..certainly Ashton's not the only one) put me off a bit but a very enjoyable strong routine to round off her great worlds. The scoring and placement was right too. I know she ended up 4th, but in a field like that...amazing.

Rebecca Downie has been great all year, after a very disappointing 2013 in which she struggled to hit her fantastic routine the whole year, coming to grief yet again in Antwerp's bars final. But the Euros and Commonwealth 2014 bars champion has come on quite a lot since then, and this jam-packed routine was another hit for her. I love her variety of releases. That said, this wasn't her cleanest and she seemed to have to fight through it, but no major error and that rounds off an excellent year nicely.

Having a Bhardwaj AND a Zuchold means you belong in every bars final in my opinion. The former skill has been cleaner for her and the latter threw off a subsequent pirouette forcing her to count a fall...but it's just a treat to watch this routine. Ruby is so dynamic and daring, and she finished it off so well with a stuck dismount, declaring afterwards that she was just so thrilled to make the final at all.

It's great to see Lisa Katherina Hill in this final, and she certainly had the skills for it. It wasn't the cleanest and she had to save it a bit and fight, but she got through it nicely and I really loved her Bhardwaj, very clean.

Dun dun DUN arrival of the big hitters. Defending champion Huang Huidan was up first, and really went for it. Great Jaeger, dismount, smoother on her turns than she has been, really getting the handstands and minimising deductions. Just fantastic work and a well deserved huge score as a result.

And everything to play for Yao Jinnan, up last. The most nervewracking routine of worlds so far for me, as I really really wanted her to finally get a gold. It was thrilling to see her catch everything, nail her turns and the dismount. Her pirouettes are really stunning, just so precise. The Tkachev lets the whole routine down for me, it's flat, but the rest does make up for it. A very smartly constructed routine as it's so short..but 6.9 difficulty means she's far from messing about. And THAT SCORE! Finally a win for her! I understand that gold and silver could be argued for either way, but I was much more emotionally invested in Yao Jinnan winning so I'm very happy with the podium.

Highlights

7 hit routines

Tense, down-to-the-wire scoring

Lots of variety, transition heavy routines, balanced routines, rare skills, pirouettes..

Not-so-highlights

Ruby coming off bars

One or two routines sloppier than they have been prior to now

Russian routines were identical

Favourite routines

Our podium exactly. 

Leotards

Ashton looked good in USA's patriotic flavour of the day. I really like the red GB leotard and Lisa's was nice also, if slightly low at the neck. The winner is Yao Jinnan in lovely regal purple.

Source- Reuters/China Daily


Of course, we have to have some drama. First, Yao's lack of number. This was addressed after the competition in which it was stated that it fell off right before, and that it was presented to the judges and accepted. (This is what happens if you do back spins...Claudia Fragapane has permission to do this on floor). Even if it wasn't, too bad if the judges didn't catch it. Seeing accusations such as 'cheating again' is enraging. How could they possibly benefit? Who would risk an 0.3 ND? Seriously?

And, the tears. Huang Huidan was moved after her dismount and it was touching to see. Hitting a great routine when it matters most, it's perfectly understandable to feel such relief. This got ugly after Yao Jinnan's score came in and she was still crying, miserably this time, and STILL CRYING in the press conference, right beside Yao Jinnan. I have no patience with that. To hit such a fabulous routine and lose has got to be hard, but it should not have been such a surprise...Yao consistently beats her when they both it. It is perfectly acceptable to feel upset, but she should have sucked it up, sincerely congratulated Yao who after all, has just cemented her place on the Champions wall after years of trying and working though injury to do so, and waited until she was alone to let our her frustration and disappointment. It was quite in contrast to Aliya Mustafina who looked absolutely thrilled to be beaten by teammate Daria.

Nothing wrong with emotion, but there is when it dampens things for not just your teammate, but your friend...they train together in the same group. It's just...awkward. How is Yao supposed to reflect on a job well done and her triumph at last when she has to console her friend and no doubt feel misplaced guilt? It it just...annoying and unnecessary. In discussion earlier it was rightly pointed out to me that we cannot expect these girls to have the full maturity of their age due to their lack of socialisation, they are after all in a very insular and intensive training environment. Nevertheless, I am disappointed in Huang Huidan's inability to mask her feelings in public for her friend.

Now that I've got that way, I do want to emphasise that I am DELIGHTED with today's competitions. Only one fall, nothing too dangerous, and above all, lots of tense competition and nervous waiting for scores. Just as it should be.

What were your favourite routines/vaults? Do you agree with how Biles/Hong and Huang/Yao placed? Can tomorrow live up to today's competition? The US leotard for tomorrow has been described as 'fun'- does this scare you also?