Sunday, 17 May 2015

4 person teams

I had the title written as chocolate orange biscuit cake for quite a while before noticing. Upcoming family weddings can do that...still, at least I'm more with it than the FIG committee members who just voted for 4 member Olympics teams.

The team is the last thing the FIG should be touching, it's bad enough that they were recently reduced to 5. They can send specialists all they want....this is what teams of 6 allowed for. Qualifications are already diverse, if they take a look at London results there are plenty of girls from non-gymnastics countries struggling to post a half-decent score. THAT'S diverse, that there are spots for them. I do enjoy watching their routines..they often have interesting dance for instance..but if you're going to hit spots, they should be taken from the bottom.

Taking a look at the 2012 beam qualifications, 39/83 girls scored less than 13 on beam, 24/79 on bars and 19/60 scored less than 52 in the AA, which is all made worse by Olympic score inflation. We do not need to open qualifications any wider than they already are. Allowing bigger teams allowed for specialists in the team setting. Other specialists can qualify already.

The team competition is the quintessential competition. For a Tier 1 sport with massive Olympic viewership, they should be arguing for more spots in general, not slicing them from the top. It's just baffling, even understanding that a country can qualify 2 non-team specialists. Do these girls get to rotate with their fellow National Team members of the team in training, or are they isolated? Are they allowed one coach each in addition to the team's coaches?

This decision puts huge pressure on to keep up in the all-around, and that's not even going near what the guys have to do to cover 6 events with 4. China are screwed there..

Why do the FIG seem to veer away from what's actually needed? Is it fair that one committee member who voted was a big 4 representative? Do they deserve a cake?


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Sunday, 29 March 2015

The US in non-pink shocker

I'm still sort of absorbing event finals. It's difficult to know what to say about the juniors since their major competition might as well not exist at all. Infuriating to say the least.

First of all, although we had seen the odd few bits of footage of Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas as they sought to come back, nothing really shows where someone's at than a competition. Hence the rabid excitement for their post-London 'debut' at Jesolo, and they 100% delivered. It's so great to see them back in the game.

Aly's floor was her highlight, with passes of 1-5-double arabian-layout (this was tucked in training! Kept in bounds in team final/AA), Dos Santos (this is the stick I was talking about yesterday), double layout and double pike. No fugly triple full thankfully. The first leap in her leap series is absolutely abominable-switch half? with the most reluctant back leg I have ever seen. Really needs to go. She definitely seemed that bit cleaner in competition than she did in training, with noticeably more effort to keep the double layout tidy. 15.2 is a HUGE score and one that's an enormous threat to someone like Mykayla Skinner. Her DTY was strong, but didn't look especially Amanar-able. Best to clean it up than lose several tenths by adding the extra half twist, particularly since the gap between the two vaults is less than last time around in London. Bars were somewhat of a surprise, I was really dreading it...and they were fine. Not amazing, but really one of the strongest routines she has done. And the shaposh-Tkachev combination is really cool. As for beam, she looks right back to business there with lots of connections and the Patterson back in action. Alas, there was an attempt at a split full that was beyond poor. Overall, highly impressive competition from Aly. The groundwork is definitely laid, just some improvements here and there. She's not going to challenge Simone, who is stronger than Aly's main competitors Gabby and Jordyn ever were, but she's right up there with the rest and remains of immense value on a team.

There was definitely less certainty over Gabby's readiness, given the fact that she has been off for longer and has done a bit of gym hopping in the meantime. But she has definitely proven that this is for real and in no way resembles previous shoddy comebacks we have been witness to. Bars are certainly giving her trouble, and this was evident in training too. She struggled through the routine, broke connections and seemed relieved to dismount. However, what she does do in the interior of the routine is very difficult and coupled with her now non-crooked piked Tkachev (Hallelujah!) is responsible for maintaining a high SV. I have confidence she will get back to her old self here in time. Beam was another story, she looked fantastic there. The ease in the standing full is just lovely to watch. I prefer her line now, she's still lean but more filled out. Although her tumbling is there on floor and looked good, the routine seemed slightly scrappy and as if it needs a good bit of work to come together. VERY nice DTY though, but I didn't get the best angle to see her block. Another highly impressive comeback and it was thrilling to see her and Aly neck-and-neck with just 0.2 separating them in the final AA standings.

Simone Biles had another typical competition. 15.95 on floor AND vault, 15.15 beam and 15.05 bars. 62.1 total YAWN this is so easy for her. First qualifier to every single EF. She leaves everyone in the dust and she STILL has more to give. Of note, she mentioned in an interview after the TF/AA that her next step is floor and vault upgrades. This is where I think the double layout last pass is going to come in...has anyone else noticed that the way she does her current full-in last pass has altered? She now does it straight up and down like McKayla Maroney infamously did her double tuck, and it makes me think it's preparing for an upgrade. As for vault, she launched her amanar incredibly high off podium-we nearly always see it on-which really sells the TTY upgrade. Likewise her Lopez although it doesn't get the same sort of pop off the table is stupidly easy for her and I expect to see a Mustafina in its place soon, working towards a Cheng for Rio possibly. I'm curious will we see that barani on beam at all, and also what she'll do with her bars..the Mustafina dismount and trying hard to get that Khorkina in or another Shap transition so that she's not counting a B there is my guess.

Every time she competes, we see again how she's not only THE greatest gymnast of our age, but will go down as the greatest ever. Which of course, depends how much favourtism you put into 'greatest'. She is executing the greatest difficultly ever seen in an AA programme, and does it extremely cleanly. That's basically it.

Bailie Key was a pleasant surprise, I expected her routines to look more sluggish than they were, based a bit on what she looked like in training. Her vault was much improved although still not 'her' in terms of dynamics, and her floor was really lovely. Considering it was played out of sync, we'll have to wait to get the full effect of it. Her bars show such a magnificent line, really stunning work. Again, handstands were short but I'm fairly sure they'll be better in time. As for beam, the routine is not playing to her strengths. The arabian was okay but still isn't executed high enough, the layout was another example of her head escaping a concussion at best and was so low she struggled to land it, and the double pike is not suiting her...very low landing. Again, I want to see her with Victoria Nyugen's routine. Bailie took second partly because other major contenders had issues or also aren't fully back yet, but would have been right up there regardless. A strong showing, she can and will be significantly better by summer I'm hoping.

I like being proved wrong and Kyla Ross certainly showed that she means business in elite and still has a lot to offer. I really love her new bars dismount and am delighted to see her bring back connections there. Lovely vault as always and although her floor was almost comically messed up and so rudely interrupted by non-stop rubbish by the commentators, it's clear that she's working very well with her new music and the choreography is her best yet- so sassy! Beam was a little tentative for her and considering it hasn't changed in a long, long time and doesn't contain any significant risk, I have little patience for wobbles from her. I know, I'm mean. As for floor, what a weird fall. Glad to see she herself is laughing about it on twitter now, but at the time it was very scary. I thought she might have hit her head and that thought only grew stronger when she biffed the landing of her second pass and bounced out and then turned a leap into essentially a beat jump-I was afraid she was concussed and should stop until I saw the replay of her first pass showing she in no way hit her head, phew! It's beyond bizarre to see Kyla fall and it was very damaging since she also had OOB deductions and no leap series. Despite this, she still had a very strong showing and I hope her health allows her to continue, and also persuades her to do something with beam.

Maggie Nichols is back with a bang! I was really curious to see her bars and beam and she really didn't hold back with either. Although we've seen strong work in progress on bars, she really seems now like a different person on that apparatus, I know I wasn't the only one who was puzzled and thought at first she was Kyla with a slightly different line and composition! I knew it wasn't...but couldn't think properly. Killer combinations, really nice line-could be a little straighter though, and really zippy work. On beam I love her barani and although I am a sucker for BHS-LOSO-LOSO, she lands hers really low-they're a world away from Victoria Nyugen's for instance. Another awful split full which needs to be binned. Strong vault too, and floor- and she had the wherewithal to invent a leap series after her first one was rudely interrupted by slipping on the floor. It's good to see her back and she's definitely shaping up again to be a solid dependable use-anywhere team member. Such a pity she was injured just before Nanning. I'm really pleased she's come on so much on bars, quite unexpected too given how she looked there a few years back.

Alyssa Baumann has a really nice beam and I like her passes on floor, great execution. Overall, I don't feel she stands out enough on an event or as an all-arounder. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to dedicate myself fully to the stream and missed some bits-and missed several names of other competitors. The US girls competing outside of the team were really hard to follow. 

As for the juniors, as mentioned, I only got to see the odd tiny bit outside of event finals today and I didn't have time for the whole stream today. I opened the link and left it so it wouldn't disappear when the stream ends but Firefox wasn't very co-operative..I was going through it and had got most of the highlights but before I could see some stuff at the end and go back to look at other routines earlier in the stream, the browser crashed. Pfff. I'll be catching up on whatever goes up on youtube, as well as whatever goes up from the previous days that I missed or we all missed.

Norah's beam was stunning. Fantastic routine and her flighty layout is fabulous still. I'd like to have seen more of her since I was pleasantly surprised that she held her own in the AA standings. Laurie's floor was interesting, I'll really need to see it a few more times without annoying chatter and proper music volume to really decide on it. I just loved her last routine so much I'm sad not to see it, and this one has less choreo... I missed her stalder-fest bars sadly. I'm thrilled she's come back so strong and won the AA. Victoria balked her second LOSO on beam (she got it yesterday) which was unusual, but she did get the aerial-Onodi-sheep (which was broken yesterday) for a big score still. She's just so tiny! I'm really looking forward to her in general. Check out yesterday's routine in gif form here. I remain on the fence on Ragan Smith. I'm not convinced, but would be unsurprised for her to accelerate and suddenly be amazing. Her DTY is shocking in a bad way and should be scrapped until she grows. Lovely FTY though. Interesting that the judges made their point with the scoring yesterday by scoring most of them the same since the DTY's were poor by comparison.

Highlights

Arianna Rocca of Italy's pike front half vault. Stunning, stunning, absolutely gorgeous. It was shown right before Simone went on floor and she appeared in the vault final too. So glorious.

Comeback queens! Great to see Aly and Gabby in action and also to see beautiful work from French veteran Anne Kuhm.

Simone dominating and basically giving a masterclass to everyone else all the time is a joy to watch.

Kyla flying off the floor is seriously hilarious WITH the knowledge she did no damage to herself.

Killer difficulty from those out of competition for nearly 3 years

Gorgeous floor choreography from Canada

Plenty of admittedly one-country-only competition in the senior AA with one in front, but several behind so close to one another

Lowlights

Meltdown on bars from Enus Mariani, the only event she did. She's not had an easy time and it's heartbreaking because she is phenomenal

Ellie Black didn't have a good competition with lots of falls and mistakes..possibly she's competing too much but either way, she could do with a rest.

The commentators. Just no. I am incredibly grateful for a free stream and I did know ahead of time they are fond of talking..but previous years I tended to watch routines on youtube and didn't have to rely on stream only since previous years weren't choked by a particular company having exclusive rights. Shut up. Shut up PLEASE even for floor. Given the fact that they were never not talking, I couldn't help but think that they were in an awful situation where any silence would mean they'd be taken out the back and shot. Also, cutting to interviews during the competition was a little weird and would have been better during rotations/warm ups or at the end only. Still, hurray for the stream we were allowed to have!

Favourite leotards

I really liked Ellie Black's EF one, and I quite liked France's white one for TF/AA. Very elegant. My favourite though was Elisa Meneghini's EF leo. Black with lime green/diamond necklace detail and more of the same on the sleeves. It sounds a bit mad but it was just amazing-could have done without the nude triangle. I'm a bit 50/50 on the navy and black Italian leotards, I liked them in theory and the Celtic-esque detail but they were overly shiny and a bit too busy overall. Likewise the US blue/purple leotard...it felt a bit disjointed or something but again, lovely in theory.

FGI stream-via just-gymnastics tumblr




This doesn't do it justice whatsoever, it was so much cooler in action. Maybe when there's a better photo rather than a screenshot.



Who was your favourite comeback queen? Will Simone score a 63 in the future and have it be legit? How surprised were you that the seniors came out in red, white and blue after the juniors had worn pink? Not that we have much evidence other than photos of them-long may their meet live on in photos and scoreboard form. Isn't this such a nice friendly competition with fabulous trophies that could be made that bit better by enticing back more federations, gagging the commentators and not having exclusive rights behind a paywall?

 






Thursday, 26 March 2015

Notes on Jesolo Training Videos-now with more Fierce 5!

NOTE- Although there is a free stream tomorrow, it appears the Italian Gymnastics Federations are forbidden to archive it.

Cannot wait for this competition, admittedly mainly for seeing how the US girls are shaping up as they try out new upgrades etc. and of course, new seniors to make their debut internationally. The perfect small competition which allows a huge number of competitors. I'm quite sad Nia Dennis is not there, and indeed am worried for her in general. A lot of injuries, a lot of inconsistency when she is competing. Such enormous potential in her...

Victoria Nyugen is IT on beam. Fabulous. Not that she was bad before or anything but she really makes a splash here. Gorgeous Chinese-like precision on her elements, HUGE leaps too. It is sadly unusual to see big amplitude on fully split leaps among the US girls but no fears here, lots of amplitude as well as gorgeous looking leaps. Stunning BHS-LOSO-LOSO, turn combination and switch leap-Onodi-sheep. Don't ask me what her start value is though. It's a very steady routine too, she had a bit of a bobble after a switch ring is all. Just lacking some cohesive flow, but then, everyone does really.

It's hard to tell from the angle how much height she gets on her DTY, it doesn't look big anyway. Very clean though.

Her bars are boring. Jump to dead hang no no noooo and she stays on the high bar too long then. It's not acceptable unless you're doing killer pirouettes in sequence. She's clean and still young, it could be a nice routine in progress.

Bailie Key's bars are looking unsurprisingly strong. The Ricna-Pak is really a highlight. As usual with Bailie, any errors seem to be glaring, because the body of her work is so good. She hits a few handstands short and her form on her dismount isn't the best, the tuck is too loose and her feet are an issue. Although it is finally her time to shine, she's not had the best of years with an injury and all that growth to get used to, so it's best if she doesn't push herself I think.

Her DTY is definitely lacking the star-power she showed with it last year, it's a bit flat and her legs aren't as straight. Perhaps not a struggle to get around, but not the easiest for her. Again, no need to push for an amanar or anything at this stage and potentially aggravate an injury. Slow and steady.

Continuing the theme, her beam is a bit lacklustre also. Quite a low landing on the dismount, bobbles on the low arabian, layout as un-layout-like as ever. I really want to see her with a composition like Victoria's here. In terms of preparation, Bailie has a good bit to go. I'm sure she'll bounce back from being out for so long.

Simone Biles is her usual self on floor. I'm still getting used to her first pass, it's so good in the air and she landed this one two miles in front of the corner...so casual. Only small bounces from her tumbling. I'm curious about that last pass-she landed the full-in with her chest fully upright and high and I still think she could upgrade it. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if she unleashes that this summer.

Beam wasn't the steadiest, slight break on the aerial-wolf and after her free cartwheel, and a dodgy uncertain-looking one in her second leap series. BHS-LOSO-LOSO and the killer dismount were amazing as always. All of her leaps are good just not high enough in the air grrrr. I expect to see a much more solid routine when it counts.

I'm very curious about when she will debut the Mustafina dismount, it's the ideal competition if it's ready. No sign of it in the video I watched. Handstands weren't great but the routine is fine. Nothing special, but worthy of a good score. Short and to the point.

Laurie Hernandez sure enjoys stalders! Zippy routine with a nice pencil line throughout most of it. Great handstands too.

Her beam feels quite long for some reason, and it looks a bit like hard work. That's training for you and one video of many routines, so hopefully she exudes a bit more sass and energy during competition. Her leaps start off great although could do with more height, but then her back leg flags and isn't as bothered towards the end, which is a pity. Lands her dismount with her back horizontal and other elements like her LOSO are landed with her back quite low too-they don't have the same lift as Victoria's for instance. It's a strong routine all the same, but could be great if her skills were bigger.

Kyla's double front bars dismount is my favourite thing. Surprise factor! It's lovely too. It's good to see her get her combination game back, I was quite doubtful of how much her back would allow her to do on bars. She has one handstand that was at about 45 degrees, which is so weird to see from her.

Update:

Kyla on floor...AKA the sassmonster!! Her new routine is a HUGE improvement. I know I tend to be harsh on her so it must be great. Her choreography is really strong and I love the music. Some really great movements-staccato-like. This is what we needed to see from her years ago. I love being pleasantly surprised. Tumbling was clean and unremarkable, so low in difficulty sadly.

I can't get over Aly in non Hava Nagila shocker. When the music and opening pose becomes so familiar, it's quite jarring. I like her music though. In unsurprising news, her dance is uninspiring. I'd hoped to see more influence from her DWTS days...maybe if her partner choreographed for her we'd see it. Anyway...holy tumbling! Double arabian punchfront is in, although she went slightly out of bounds on the punchfront. I can't tell if it's tucked or not, it's very loose...mostly laid out, late tuck. Not only did she stick her Dos Santos, she planted it through the floor like Chellsie Memmel's closing double pike at Beijing Olympic Trials. I freaking love sticks like that, so good. The double layout on the other hand was a bit scrappy form wise, nothing wrong with its dynamics though. Hopefully she can keep her legs and feet straighter when she gets more used to it. Her twisting leaps were um, utterly uncreditable. Such reluctance of the back leg to leave the floor!

Gabby also has got her tumbling game on! It looks very easy for her. Double arabian-bounce forward, full-in, stuck, double pike-big bounce back, double tuck-bounce back. It's good to see extra energy in a comeback routine. A very welcome music change but the choreography is not great and she looks totally absent..hopefully this can develop a bit but I don't have high hopes.

Her bars had some issues, but hey, it's a tough event to get back and we can't really judge off one video. She had a form break on top the bar, and had to muscle a few times again on top of the bar to get through the routine. Lovely straight dismount and fabulous piked Tkachev....it has lost the crookedness! 

And that's all I was able to see. So looking forward to just about everyone, but especially the comeback queens. Who and what are you most looking forward to? How many points will Simone win the AA by? Will the US wear pink, pink or pink? Can the Undertaker beat Bray Wyatt? Wrestlemania is this weekend too!




Sunday, 15 March 2015

Gabby Jupp

Gabby Jupp has torn her other ACL and is out of the English Championships, her coach Steven Price has confirmed on twitter. After a promising senior debut where she had a strong showing at American Cup in 2013 followed by winning the AA at British Championships, she tore her ACL at Euros on beam. It has been a long, slow recovery with setbacks and now to tear the other one is just devastating. Other gymnasts with multiple tears such as Yvette Moshage and Mariya Livchikova have been forced into retirement, although the latter's situation was hindered by abysmal options relating to health care and finances. Here's hoping that Gabby can come back from this and display her gorgeous, clean work as a specialist, on bars and hopefully beam.



Ugh, gutted for her. She really has a lot to offer British gymnastics.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Jessica Lopez and the Elixir of Youth

Ah, American Cup. The first international competition of the season, and always an interesting one. I'd have to say that the interest lies mainly in the fact that it showcases the top American gymnasts, the fact they they are there and will almost automatically take the top 2 of the 3 medals and prize money available (except a lot won't, since they aren't pro), the earliness of the season and the distance tends to put a lot of federations off. It's a huge factor in why the rest of the top 4 don't bother with it. To say it's moreso to do with the scoring and old butthurt from Aliya Mustafina losing to Jordyn Wieber is well, wishful thinking. It probably doesn't help, but I'd be very surprised if it was a major contributory factor.

In totally shocking news, Simone Biles dominated, as expected. We are seeing the most powerful gymnast ever, who will go down as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest. She certainly has quite a lot of people who do not appreciate her style of gymnastics, but she doesn't have to be the favourite to be the best.

As I was saying in the comments of my last post, I do not feel that she is beatable. She's on a different level and she's also on a trajectory...she showed upgrades here, and she so clearly has a lot more to give. The TTY alone would of course boost her phenomenal difficulty into the stratosphere, but even if she doesn't do that, it's the little things here and there..the Mustafina on bars, with maybe a Fabrichnova possible, the introduction of the Khorkina transition hopefully and a more valuable dance skill on floor, and even a bigger tumble for her last pass because hey, she looks capable of a double layout or similar there.

It all just puts her out of reach. Nanning Simone was already beyond everyone else, the American Cup one yet more so, and she's got plenty left in the tank as she gears up for the summer season heading into Glasgow, and the longer goal of Rio. Bailie Key is a magnificent gymnast and I am REALLY looking forward to seeing the two compete, but I just don't see Bailie being victorious. Especially because as mentioned, Simone still is not at her peak.

Back to the actual competition....watching her almost, almost stick that huge vault was just incredible. We've gotten so used to the big hop, but it just makes it so much more impressive. Would love to see her continue to land it like this, or with reduced movement on landing. She really has equalled McKayla Maroney with this vault and matching The Great One's Olympic score was I felt justified. It's good to see her bars routine progress from last year, where it was quite cookie-cutter, it was solid and the dismount was fantastic although I was disappointed we didn't see that extra half-turn, albeit knowing already she wasn't going to debut it there. I'm seriously in love with her BHS-LOSO-LOSO on beam, the highlight of the routine. A pity she was wobbly but it's very early in the season, I expect jittery beams in March. Floor blew me away with the competitive debut of the full-twisting double layout and the leap added to the Biles. They look fabulous, and while moving the Silivas to the third pass means it's a bit less explosive, the fact that it is third makes up for that.  Considering the big hops on some of her landings, it was a bit overscored, and so were beam and bars, but not by much. A bit more than half a point altogether. And that's nothing, when it still means you can and will legitimately score over 61 internationally.

Considering how Mykayla Skinner looked in podium training, I'm glad she was able to keep it together in competition. I do love her DTY also. When she's 'on', I really enjoy some of her skills, and her power and enthusiasm. This Mykayla is just not there yet, and wasn't exactly the easiest to watch. It's hard not to think that her training seems to focus on skill acquisition, rather than honing and improving her form.

Not doing the AA isn't the wisest idea in the US National team, limiting the events you can bring in even a prelims score in. But, I think it would be a wise decision for Mykayla to focus on vault and floor. I'd love to see her be schooled on blocking, and really work on her leaps on floor, when she cannot be used on either beam or bars it seems like a waste to detract from time that could go to her star events. Jessica Lopez with her low difficulty but super form beating her for 2nd would have been a good wake-up call perhaps.

It was a bit of a disappointing competition with a few falls, Jessica Lopez threw away a medal on beam, Ellie Black fell on her ambitious clear hip-Shang and Claudia Fragapane had a heartbreaking complete meltdown on floor. That coupled with gymnasts like Mykayla Skinner and the ever-competing Vanessa Ferrari just seeming off...not the most thrilling world cup, and that's coming from a gigantic Simone Biles fan. I'm still trying to catch up on quite a few routines, not having been able to watch the competition live...it's a long one to sit through otherwise, and it's hampered by the fact that a good bit of my free time is going towards WWF/WWE videos on youtube, an old interest recently rekindled into basically an obsession. Just. So. Entertaining.

On that note, other than the falls and ill-preparedness forming the negatives along with the weak-ish field and Simone's awesomeness, new skills and great combinations from people like Ellie Black being the positives...it's a little difficult to sum up this competition.

What were your highlights? Do you see Bailie besting Simone? Can she legit do an 8.0 floor routine? How fun was Mykayla Skinner's hair? Is Jessica Lopez actually 12? 
















Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Things

First post of 2015! That's a shocking start :/ I've been sidetracked by minor health issues, such as a virus that floored me halfway through January (actually floored..) and developing a crazy heart rate (105 lying down and up to 180 working at a desk..??) which has now been resolved by the joys of modern medicine.

Anyway, most of my gymnastics absorption over the last while has been NCAA related, mainly frantically trying to put a team together in fantasy gymnastics that will score the magical 197. Week before last, everybody randomly decided to not compete floor and screwed me over. Week just gone...I got 196.95, sigh. If only Keeley Kmeciak was possible to predict on events on a weekly basis, but alas...

I really, really, really, recommend signing up for this next year for anyone who's wary. It doesn't take that much time (bit of research before signing up etc. will serve you very well) at all and is so much fun, and this is coming from someone who is pretty much locked out of actually watching the competitions due to timezone and international TV station paywall issues. The competition aspect of it is just so enjoyable, trying to improve week on week.

So, elite! I'm delighted that Aliya Mustafina is taking a break from driving herself to the brink, and won't compete at Russian Championships or Euros. Considering the pain and nagging injuries she's been dealing with for a long time now and the immense pressure of basically being a team, her statements towards the end of last year about not taking any breaks and work, work, work...it's a relief. I'm curious about when such a superstar gymnast will bow out from the sport...of course, hoping for post-Rio if at all possible. It would be devastating to see her go before her time because she pushed too hard or was pressured into shouldering her team when she wasn't physically able to do so.

Yao Jinnan is definitely going for the surgery in the US, and will be out for the year...this has been known for a while, just the matter of where and when that's not really known. The fact that it will be in the US annoys me and the reason why is because there are other girls on the team who have nagging injuries that would benefit more from surgery outside of China, instead of the dodgy healthcare they receive there. Nobody needs to be reminded that US healthcare is astronomical...going to Germany, the UK or Canada for instance would probably fund several for the price of one, especially the UK. Unless the surgery is actually pioneering and/or much better when done in the US, in which case the location is totally understandable.

I can't wait for American Cup! The somewhat lacklustre non-US roster isn't a surprise to me at all, this is pretty much always the case. The fact that a lot of people attribute this international scorning to scoring IS surprising though. It's a lot more to do with the fact that it's very early in the season, extremely far away for most, and has no event finals so only bronze in the AA is up for grabs due to the strength of the US roster. Most of the European crew will want to be focusing on Euros anyway.

I wonder who will exhibition/wildcard. Mykayla Skinner's AA spot is in doubt according to some, due to Bailie's recent performance at camp. The recent pattern tends to be not to have new seniors, or at least, not to have them unless forced by injuries to others. On the one hand, Bailie would be a local and it would be a great senior debut for her in front of a big crowd. On the other, she could well be better off honing things like her bars difficulty and the readiness of a more difficult vault for later in the year. Hard to know, I think they might want to hold off on her though and keep Mykayla unless she gets injured.

As always, watching Simone will be a treat and interesting to see her add in some new elements, although saving bigger things for later in the year by all accounts. The two falls at camp are not worrying in the slightest, she will be a force of nature as always.

It's pretty quiet on the interesting news front...can't wait for things to kick off.


Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Things to look forward to in 2015

New year's resolution is...blog more often. I can't really do a 'year in review' since a lot of it is blurry, and only worlds received my undivided attention.

Anyway, the new year is just a few hours away now here in GMT, with lots to hopefully look forward to.


NEW SENIORS

First and foremost, we will get a bumper crop of new seniors. Of the entire quad, 2015 has long shown itself to be the year. There are more exhaustive lists, but here is mine. YOG this year offered a good look at some of these, but of course, only one per country and the US were missing. There are plenty of exciting names here, like the trio of Ellie Downie, Tyesha Matthis and Amy Tinkler who are going to inject team GB with much needed depth and difficulty to boost their programme higher, particularly since Rebecca Tunney is having difficulty after injury after difficulty and Hannah Whelan seems to be fading away. Brazil's Rebeca Andrade has been anticipated for years, and Flavia Saraiva has definitely made a more recent name for herself too.

Romania will get Laura Jurca and Andreea Iridon amongst others, while the exciting Seda Tutkhalyan and Daria Mikhailova will swell Russia's much depleted ranks.

One name stands out of course, and that is...

BAILIE KEY

Finally. FINALLY. Not only does she have 'it', Bailie is 'it'. Form, execution, much improved choreography/dance, oodles of difficulty, no weak event, textbook gymnastics. Very ready for an amanar, already has a beam in the mid 6's, floor is over 6 with room to grow, bars have enormous potential and are getting there with steady upgrades. I can almost forgive the really shoddy layout on beam (PLEASE rework her acro line!) because of that glorious Pak on bars. It's just stunning, like much of her work. She'll never be as exciting as for instance, Simone Biles, yet there is something very exciting about how good she is at ticking almost every box. Bailie is a better Kyla, a gymnast worthy of Simone. Her main source of criticism tends to be robotic, dead inside performances. This really improved last year with a much-needed overhaul of her floor routine. Hopefully her expression continues to improve.

Her explosion in height and injury in the last year caused some concern, but she really seems to be paced extraordinarily well. She is clearly not doing anything she's not capable of, everything looks very easy and it's good to focus on the long-term goals to minimise burnout, particularly when the gymnast adds several inches to their height in a short period of time and skills need to go reworked to accommodate that safely.

Bailie can absolutely give Simone a run for her money, and I'm really looking forward to seeing that in action all season. Some people seem to think that the latter may as well give up since she stands no chance now, an attitude which is downright bizarre, with the information we have now as regards difficulty, and certainly in terms of experience, our double world champion has the advantage.

LESS SHITTY TEAM FINAL

One can always hope? The crop of new seniors will have a big hand to play in this. Of course, the US are getting excellent gymnasts like Bailie, Nia Dennis, Alexis Vasquez and others, but the gymnasts other programmes can now count in their ranks should still lessen the gap. Hopefully, Laura Jurca will show improvement on her 2014 performances. Andreea Iridon's bars and beam will be very valuable to Romania, and the lesser known Dora Vulcan should boost the programme too. The premature fizzling out of Madalina Blendea is a big loss though, if only for the beauty of her work.  

For Russia, Maria Bondareva and Anastasia Dmitrieva have been fading for years, so I don't really count them. Seda and Daria will be very welcome, especially if the former bucks up her consistency. It looks like Ksenia Afanasyeva will be back and ready to go for Russia, and there's always the possibility Vika can stay healthy long enough to deliver on bars and beam (NOT AA, that ship has sailed), who knows. Along with Aliya Mustafina and Maria Kharenkova that's a good, strong core for 2015 teams. It would be nice if Evgeniya Shelgunova emerged too..

GB could definitely be in the mix with their new seniors, I expect them to keep building. Chin a on the other hand, don't get their big guns until 2016 but they will get Wang Yan and also Deng Yalan, who is also a much-needed vaulter. Yuan Xiaoyang who should be turning senior also...her status is unclear, and a retirement would not be surprising, unfortunately. An injection of power on their weak events is exactly what will help them.

Can any of the above chase the US? No. But hopefully they can look better while doing so and narrow the massive gap a bit.

THE PRETTY ONES

There's always the gymnasts who aren't exactly going to shine in the medal stakes, but who are just fantastic or highly interesting to watch. Previous examples this quad are Eythora Thorsdottir and Ilaria Kaeslin. Case in point is Sae Miyakawa of Japan who has some seriously floaty work and the seriously elegant Mara Titarsolej of the Netherlands. Also stunning Fan Yilin of China who looks set to make a comeback of sorts after an earlier retreat from the national team, but I'm hoping she can also be successful.

THE UNKNOWN

There will always be surprises. My money is on Lauren Navarro of the US, I have my eye on her and have done since she singlehandedly inspired Marta to bring in hair rules last year. Her routines were fairly average, but brimming with potential to me. I don't see big massive all-around hope, but her beam in particular looks really good. This year's routine was much improved, perhaps cutting off half her hair had an impact. Elements of it are really, really nice, like her toepoint, general ease, and the dismount. There's something about her. I wouldn't be surprised if she surprised, basically.

THE COMEBACKS

Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas have both attended camp and released tempting footage of themselves. I hope we don't have to wait until Classics to see where they're at in terms of full routines, maybe Jesolo? That would be great. I don't really want to see them exhibition at SCAM...I'd prefer a new senior in that particular role. Both gymnasts are immensely talented and seem to be very, very serious. Gabby never reached her peak, and Aly looks like she could get back to hers with ease. Hmmm. As well as that, I'm looking forward to seeing Afan back in action, and hopefully Didi Bulimar.

WORLDS

Ooooo the year before Rio, where we can expect to see gymnasts really showcasing Olympic routines and solidifying new skills. Not to mention what will hopefully be a killer showdown between super-duper gymnasts Simone Biles and Bailie Key, though hopefully with some international input too.

And....I have tickets because it's in my back garden as far as flights are concerned :D Good thing too, since the next major competition in Europe won't be until 2019! It will be extremely interesting to compare against Antwerp. That had a great atmosphere, but I expect bigger numbers of course at this since it's more important. Shiny new arena will be very interesting too, it's huge..


What and who are you looking forward to? How much faith do you have in much-anticipated comebacks? Will SCAM still be a SCAM? Will anyone understand the announcers and locals in Glasgow? CAN Simone triple it? Will Mykayla Skinner do the half-on two and a half off one-handed and live to tell the tale?