Saturday, 13 September 2014

Worlds Predictions

Ahhh, that time of year :D I have a massive advantage on the last one as worlds are actually in a few weeks instead of a year.

I won't do teams as they are all largely in place or with very little room to manouevre, even the US. I will say that I don't see Brenna Dowell on the team. In my mind it's Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Mykayla Skinner, Alyssa Baumann, Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear.

Moving on to the fun

The All-Around

1. Simone Biles

Woah, unorthodox choice I know! She hasn't raised the roof on her difficulty level since Antwerp..bars and beam changes probably cancel each other out. What she has done is clean up, she's technically better than ever AND her landings are so much more precise. It will all help. I think she would need to fall and have a significant other error for someone to have a shot at catching up to her.

2. Aliya Mustafina

3. Kyla Ross

I'm not overly confident in the order of these two. Aliya looked super strong at Russian Cup, better overall than last year. Kyla meanwhile has downgraded further. It's hard to know. Larisa HAS upgraded her floor and beam and her bars look stronger than ever...so she could of course feature here. The reason why she doesn't is because she has never gotten it together in the AA when it really counts while the other two are absolute beasts in competition.

4.(th again) Larisa Iordache

5. Vanessa Ferrari

Vanessa still looks very strong. Larisa will fall off beam I think. 

Team Final

1. USA

SHOCKER. It won't be easy as we all would have imagined at the beginning of the year. Losing Ebee, McKayla Maroney and injuries to Peyton Ernst, Maggie Nichols, Lexie Priessman with no Fierce 5 comebacks...it's definitely not a glorious pool of depth. But they still have the goods..even though China technically has higher potential d-scores.

2. China

3. Russia

4. Great Britain

5. Romania

Now I'm really not confident in this..but at the moment it makes the most sense. China have killer, and I mean killer, bar routines. Their lowest d-score out of 4 is 6.7-8. If they all hit then it's a major boost. Likewise with beam, strong potential there as usual. Russia are just...not really a strong team. And just today they have lost Ekaterina Kramarenko. Viktoria Komova will almost surely be on the team now, but they'll still be weak. As ever, Aliya Mustafina does not a team make and she'll be carrying them. The second strongest team member is Maria Kharenkova. Together I can see them dragging the team above the twin onslaught of GB and Romania.

Romania recently spectacularly lost to Germany. It makes me very unsure of how equipped they are to deal with GB. GB are lacking depth in some areas but may still be able to surpass a greatly weakened Romania who didn't even choose a team as there was nobody to leave behind.

GB..hmmm, mystery. I'm not sure what the story is with Raer Theaker and Rebecca Tunney but I got the impression they're not going to be in contention? Gabby Jupp on the other hand is back! This could go either way for them. 4th would be an enormous achievement even with their new strength. 5th is just as likely. Romania veer from 3rd to 5th to me, they don't have 'it' for 2nd this year at least I don't think.

Vault Qualifiers

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

I'm a little stumped here, I feel a bit out of the loop. Hmmm. *Added Maria Paseka! We could see a suicidal Prod though of course. Perhaps Mahmoud as the last I saw of Pena she didn't look particularly strong and crashed a layout front if I remember correctly.

Bars Qualifiers

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

Madison has more difficulty than Kyla, but not as clean.

Floor Qualifiers

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

I haven't seen a huge amount of great floors this year. Mai Murakami is struggling at the moment, I don't see her getting her tumbles back and into this final, sadly.

Beam Final

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

I'm very confident in this finals line-up, out of all the EF ones.

Vault podium

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

Ta-dah! So that was straightforward enough.


Bars Podium

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

Yeah so this is impossible! The Russians have lesser difficulty which could get Becky into the medals if she hits everything for hers. Much like Euros. This is one of those predictions that feels right, but so many variables involved..

Beam Podium

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

BOOM, Larisa has to hit beam in a final when it actually matters, just once. Maria is quite steady with a lot of difficulty...but I have big issues with silver and bronze. Where is Kyla, how will Bai Yawen be scored, what about Simone's higher difficulty now...all legit concerns. It's a tough one.

Floor Podium

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

All 3 of these routines have 6.5 difficulty. Gold is obvious. Not so much the others. I dumped Mykayla Skinner after comments made me look harder at Vanessa Ferrari who I initially forgot about for floor finals altogether and needed reminding from Cordelia Price! Mykayla does have a good shot though at this podium.

Even when we're this close, there's still a huge amount of 'what if'. What's right here, what's definitely wrong? What's downright bizarre? 



Blogger Tricks

Monday, 8 September 2014

Things

First, since it's freshest...

Gymnastike.

Like most people, I'm not impressed by the days-late apology. It definitely reads like a necessary and false apology generated by the backlash, rather than true remorse or even understanding of what they have done. This is compounded by the fact that the apology is directed by their action in covering the story at all, with zero mention of how they linked and exposed their very young target market to porn. No more, no less. 4chan has absolutely no place at all on a gymnastics news site and the utter failure to even acknowledge that is despicable.

It's worth noting that Gymnastike has several dedicated, well-meaning and knowledgeable writers and contributors. They are not to blame for this. (Although some gymnastics writers on the site are to blame for the lazy, copy-pasted click-me articles). Unfortunately they suffer for representing the site as a whole.

I'd hope that they have apologised directly to McKayla Maroney. We of course don't need to see it and she's under no obligation to disclose anything at all for 'closure' for her fans or anything. But I'd like to think they did personally apologise! 

Has the apology changed your view at all? Do you think USAG and/or FIG should still sanction them?

Junior Nationals

Which did in fact take place weeks ago, yup. I didn't catch all of it but enough. A very different competition without Bailie Key stomping over everyone! And with infinitely less sass with Laurie Hernandez out also.

Nia Dennis was strong, but nothing like her full potential. Odd mistakes on THE most secure skill ever...her fully upright arabian. Floor errors, etc, much less dynamic DTY than last year, bars downgrades. It's not fully surprising given that she's not long back from injury, but if she's not more consistent and looking more at her ease in her routines next spring for her senior debut I will be a little concerned. She could be amazing. Training with Gabby Douglas too is very good for her I feel, it's a strong motivator and both girls have similar strengths.

I don't need to see an amanar next year or anything. I'd settle for the super strong DTY back in action, more spring and ease in her floor and an upgrade or two on bars.

I remain unconvinced about Norah Flatley in the AA. She too was dogged by silly mistakes...the two on beam was utterly shocking. But it's not that...it's how her other events compared to beam are progressing, and they haven't in my opinion. I'm also puzzled as to where her bars are going...she's not making the most of the code there really.

In fact, both Alexis Vasquez and tiny Victoria Nyugen are more impressive on beam to me. Super clean, still with that killer variation and flexibility. Just that bit cleaner than Norah. Not that I'm hating on Norah or anything. I'm just not getting the love. Yet.

Likewise Jazmyn Foberg. It is phenomenal that somebody who failed to qualify for Nationals her first year as an elite should win it the next. And even when we take into account the absences and injury list, this is still an enormous achievement and one which she fully deserved. 8 for 8, solid. But...there's usually a but...she's not standing out particularly on any one event just yet. She sure could in the future, but not right now. I'm interested to see how she progresses. Although, I fervently hope her difficulty stagnates. The huge leaps forward on floor and bars in particular are a little concerning, possibly too fast. Bars in particular, her releases are completely and utterly flat and on both events she's not at her ease.

Morgan Hurd is more than just a great dancer with adorable glasses. She is SO CLEAN! Look at her lines on bars. I love little technique queens and have my eye firmly on her. She didn't hit 8 for 8 but so what, she's very young.

Similarly, Deanne Soza is amazing to watch. Especially on bars but she has massive potential on every event. Her mistakes were crushing for me as a new big fan but again, lots of time to improve.

Jordan Chiles had a truly mixed season. From winning Classics, to disaster, to climbing back up the ranks admirably on night 2. I'd like to see her keep her current difficulty and just focus on the consistency. No need for more upgrades yet. Although..that front triple full looks amazing. I couldn't say no to that..

YOG

Clashed abominably with work, so much so that I only got to watch event finals. All in all, it wasn't really overly impressive. While some girls did stand out, there was nobody that really proved they have what it takes to make major inroads into worlds AA next year. But, perversely, I'm also a little glad about that. I do not want anybody peaking for a competition as a junior.

You may have noticed I focused on one gymnast in the run-up to this competition as my 'one to watch' and who I was most excited about. A few weeks prior, I wrote this article. Wang Yan definitely performed as expected. In fact, she surpassed expectations in some regards..with some upgrades on bars and beam (that barani though!) and she nailed event finals. Well deserved medals there. She also lived up to the headcase side unfortunately, throwing herself out of floor finals in quals and messing up in the AA too. She definitely proved herself as a 'someone'. Very valuable for next year for her team, and hopefully incredible experience for her. She's capable of more and I'm really hoping we get to see that.

Flavia Saraiva is quite frankly, a delight. She moves very well and is so wonderfully clean. I'm happy she got this chance to compete as individually she will always be outshone by Rebeca Andrade although of course, Brazil have more than enough room for two stars. They can complement each other quite well. As expected, Flavia did not have the difficulty to get right up and compete for the top spot, nevertheless, she's showing great potential. Bars, long a weak piece for her country, have shown some progress. Hopefully some nice steady addition of difficulty towards Rio will propel her up the rankings.

Laura Jurca was well, crushing. No medals is so disappointing. I have been out of the loop, but perhaps she is recovering from injury? Let's hope she can bounce back from this competition and add some difficulty while still maintaining consistency.

Speaking of consistency, Seda Tutkhalyan managed to prevail despite spectacularly lacking in that department in general. She is above all, interesting. Brimming with potential. I'm delighted with her beam routine in particular and she has certainly shown fantastic progress on bars. She definitely has it in her to be even stronger all-around and I'm looking forward to seeing her senior debut..hopefully with vaults that land where they are supposed to!

Ellie Downie did extremely well, although she was another showing inconsistency. Such power! Although I remain disappointed she isn't emulating her big sister on bars, her floor and vault are pretty awesome. HUGE DTY, I definitely think we'll see an amanar next year, which would be a first for GB. GB really have a strong crew next year with Tyesha Mattis and Amy Tinkler firmly in the mix too.

Sae Miyakawa broke my heart with her floor routine. And then made it soar on vault. She deserved to beat Ellie Downie on form and not because the latter had her second vault downgraded. We need stills of Sae's form mid-flight blown up and pasted in gyms across the world. Stunning work.

Who was your favourite? Most likely to make it big as a senior? Who will be the Komova?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

McKayla Maroney and Gymnastike

I am really, really flabbergasted by this situation. It really goes beyond a disgusting act to link to the (fake) photos. Gymnastike's site is utilised by a young audience who should never in any way be exposed to this content or indeed 4chan itself, the dregs of the internet, on a site designed to showcase routines and (stolen) news stories about their favourite gymnasts.

It's an incomprehensibly terrible decision. This 18-year-old gymnast who they excitedly hype over when she is competing and lament when she is not, is reduced to porn clickbait? And not only that, but their sole reaction to the explosion of animosity towards them as a result of the article has been to a) remove the link, b) remove the tweet linking to the article but keeping the article up AND updating it and c) defensively respond that they are essentially being brave by reporting on 'uncomfortable subjects'.

This is not brave. This is the lowest of the low. They should be utterly ignoring this thrashy gossip. This is not gymnastics news. McKayla Maroney's photos, doctored or not, leaked or not, are not news. They are not relevant in any way and nor is her sexuality.

I am delighted that USAG have responded overwhelmingly against gymnastike's TMZ-esque article. It will be extremely interesting to see what repurcussions there are. If gymnastike was still a self-starter I'd expect it to die. But of course, it's owned by big money now. Many have seen it degrade from a huge and wonderful source that revolutionised the gymternet and kicked others into gear like USAG themselves, to a money-grabbing entity with extremely poor reporting, to essentially sitting on Lauren Hopkins utterly fantastic website pressing refresh and copy-pasting her work. But I never expected anything like this. If anything, I imagined they could meet a huge pitfall if the aforementioned website owner took action against them.

You can do your bit to support ethical reporting, as Bekah and others have been detailing. Unfollow, unsubscribe, don't click and fund them via ad revenue for a site that then turns around and produces articles like this. The fact that there hasn't even been an apology is utterly, utterly galling. If they have their media access revoked it would be completely fitting and well deserved.


McKayla is an extremely accomplished gymnast who has been through a lot. She has already responded admirably to this, as expected. I look forward to seeing her rise above this and return triumphant to the competition floor, where she belongs. A world away from seedy stories.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Nationals Thoughts

Still playing catch-up on the routines of the army of juniors, and still processing and formulating possible worlds teams in my head, but here I go.

General Thoughts

It's really quite odd to see such a depleted senior field compared to what it looked like at the start of the year, and then have so few actually do the AA. Ebee has of course gone to college, as has Abigail Milliet. Kennedy Baker dropped to Level 10 to prepare for college while others such as McKayla Maroney, Lexie Priessman and Peyton Ernst were out with injury. Brenna Dowell, Madison Kocian and Nica Hults were present but not healthy enough to compete AA. Madison Desch did, but seems to have totally faded, sadly.

The US is lacking depth...but for them, for their standard. Certainly they are a world away from the crisis facing Romania who have so few seniors that they are not choosing a team, they only have 6 girls. Given how we've become used to the US having the goods to send more than one team, it's downright odd to see so few healthy and in contention.

That said, we saw an incredibly impressive display of gymnastics. There's absolutely no doubt that even a weakened mid-quad US has the goods to dominate all...team, all-around, floor, vault and again should be able to make an impact on bars and beam.

Scoring was um, a bit sickening at times. I had thought that US overscoring had calmed down, but now I think of it that probably relates more to American Cup which certainly died down from hysterical levels in the last 2 years. Nationals though, 9.1-2 e-scores were being handed out like candy, especially to the top few. Simone Biles and Kyla Ross were big offenders here, both netting massive scores on beam in particular with 9.2 execution, other scores that stood out were Ashton Locklear's bars, and Mykayla Skinner's Cheng and floor. Over the top. What I tend to do instead of focus on the scoring is focus on the ranking, or of course, just the routine. Otherwise it's easy to get annoyed. Especially when you watch a so-close-to-perfect beam routine by Wang Yan score 8.233 execution and then watch Alyssa Baumann score over one point higher on the same event. Both judges were at opposite extremes and neither was correct. Bahh.

Simone Biles

She just needs to be the first gymnast mentioned. At this stage, and after watching her compete the all-around 3 times in as many weeks, she is strange to watch. Almost scary. How can someone be that good and do everything with such ease? She improves all.the.time. As a recent gym fan, I have been able to follow her progress in 'real time' which is of course a bit of a novelty. In 2012 she stood out for her amanar and DLO-split jump in the clouds, but that was it. She didn't properly stand out until 2013 when she emerged as a huge all-around threat, but she managed to lose to Katelyn Ohashi. This weekend she emerged 4 points ahead of her closest rival, which would have been 3 had neither of them counted falls. She has become untouchable and it's fascinating.

The best in the US being the best in the world isn't exactly a new phenomenon. Yet the gap between her and the rest is actually shocking. What's most intriguing is how much more she has to give. Her floor didn't really tax her at all, you feel when watching her that she could do a triple double, Biles, double layout-split leap, Dos Santos/double arabian-leap, and a full-in too if 5 passes were still allowed. What I really loved watching was the control on her passes, she's no longer bounding all over the place. Clearly there has been massive work undertaken on her landings and it shows off her skill so much better. Her split position looks to be that bit better too. She's never going to wow anyone there, but nevertheless, more flexibility is always good news.

Copyright- Christy Ann Linder

I'm flabbergasted at how with her power and build she can throw an extremely flighty high BHS-LOSO-LOSO with perfect form. It's not an acro line that would immediately bring her to mind...I'd imagine her doing BHS-arabian or another aggressive series much faster, but it totally works. And it's not flat, which is a plague affecting the new resurgence of this wonderful acro line. She is consistently swaying just slightly to the side on the landing, but no big deal. It was the much easier aerial on which she came to grief on day 2, more than likely she was spooked previously by the dodgy execution and save of her 2.5 wolf turn. I'm not concerned, I bet it will all be rock solid by selection camp.

Bars are nothing to write home about at the moment, and more than likely never will be. She's taking it easy for the moment and giving her shoulder a break. And why not, when she can easily afford to downgrade. I do expect a Khorkina which she was training earlier on in the year (this will up her SV by 0.2 as she counts a C) to make a reappearance perhaps early next year, and also a Fabrichnova (add another 0.2). It doesn't need much, really. She has really come on in leaps and bounds on this event, which doesn't really show. But check out her routine in 2010. It's especially tough when the foundation exhibits glaring weaknesses.


There's not much to say about vault. Usual jaw dropping display. I was very pleased to see the Lopez back to its usual brilliance though after an uncharacteristically flat block at Classics, although of course, being superhuman, that was no impediment to her and she still landed it fine. She mentioned a while ago that the Cheng (and TTY) are out for this year but she's aiming for a half-twist upgrade on her second vault, which doesn't look like it should be a problem judging by how she dropped the Lopez out of the sky.

So to sum up..I cannot quite comprehend her talent. She's so far ahead of the field that it's crazy. And not only that, but the fact that she's not done upgrading and hasn't reached her full potential. I am in awe. The only barrier to repeating her AA world champion feat is her own health.

Kyla Ross

I was very pleased to see Kyla continue to look a lot better than she did at the start of the year, not laboured at all. The whip-double arabian upgrade looked a bit precarious and indeed was her downfall on night one with the whip getting dumped at breakneck speed for night 2. Not to worry, the stag jump was fantastic. What was even stranger on the first day than Kyla falling on floor was Kyla failing to stand her double layout bars dismount up. She floats through the entire routine only to come to grief at the last possible second. Of course, when you think about it..it must be tough to rotate it at her height but I don't think it will ever happen again. Certainly she was much more flawless night two which was great to see.

Kyla is of course a lock for Nanning, and despite a disastrous day 1 at Nationals, did absolutely nothing to change this status. Nobody can take her spot, which I totally thought was possible until exactly this time last year. Ebee I do think would have really challenged her but alas, injured and not doing AA last year, and retired this time around. I'd really like to see her challenged properly.

I'd still really love to see her push herself on beam and bars but I get it. Why change the formula? Her routines deliver, time after time. Not the gold but see above for why that would be impossible.

Maggie Nichols

Maggie Nichols was a big surprise, and a welcome one at that. She has been coasting along on the 'b team' in my mind for a while with a lot to prove to really push herself forward into the limelight. And regardless of injuries and absences of others, she certainly did so in fine style. Solid, but mostly quite clean. Usable on any event. She's much, much better than Aly Raisman was in 2010 at the same exact mid-quad point and more rounded than the latter ever was, but she doesn't have a standout event and that continues to hurt her chances of making an impact on a team.

She is the perfect alternate. Yet the idea of having her as just alternate seems cruel when she pulled it out of the bag like that both nights and even noticeably cleaned up, doing a really nice DTY in particular on night two. But, someone who can fill in on any event and is healthy is worth their weight in gold. On the team though, she can do a few events in prelims. Appearances in TF depends mightily on another potential team member and how she would score in prelims, Mykayla Skinner. If badly, Maggie would slot in easily for good scores on floor and vault.

A fantastic outing but she still doesn't stand out and will need more difficulty, coupled hopefully with yet more form improvement, to really make a name for herself and shine individually.

Ashton Locklear

I am so thrilled her leg form on bars cleaned up a lot, she was much, much better at keeping her legs glued together throughout the routine both nights. She is sickling which is the worst, but it's a fantastic routine and I'm thrilled she's working on the little things. Massive connections and d-score, if she connects it all I could easily see her achieving 15.3ish in Nanning with it.

Beam on the other hand is just not her thing and I'm more unconvinced than I was at Classics. Not because she fell, it's just not really strong in general.

Luckily, her star routine is I think strong enough to get her onto that plane. So much so, that she's in a stronger position than Madison Kocian who is more of an all-arounder than Ashton and has been on the scene a lot longer. Along with Mykayla Skinner, the scores of both girls at Pan Ams happening very soon will be extremely interesting and could decide quite a lot.

Alyssa Baumann didn't really stand out to me, unfortunately. Her beam is really good, that's for sure, but I'm not really swayed by her and I'm not exactly sure why. She remains alternate material to me rather than obvious team member. I keep expecting to see an amazing beam from her since that's what she's known for, but I'm not really seeing it. WOGA need to dump their arabians, I'm tired of seeing them chucked and landed low.


How frustrating for her though, to injure herself on the last routine. Given that she was able to get back up and finish her bars routine with the hyperextended elbow, it might just be minor rather than a nagging complaint that takes her out of worlds contention.


It's great to see Amelia Hundley back in action but her low difficulty isn't going to do the trick. She could quite easily make alternate though. Very, very annoying that the camera followed Simone on the sidelines on day two rather than Amelia's floor...

Brenna Dowell was heartbreaking. Only being ready for bars and then not actually ready on them...it's definitely far from what I was hoping for at this stage of the year from her, leading on from a promising early season.

I'm not sure where she goes from here. She's planning to do the AA at selection camp and certainly vault, particularly the amanar, and floor would be valuable back-ups from her. But I think it's too late. Marta wants them showing the same stuff consistently, not adding back routines at the last minute. It's different if your name is McKayla Maroney but Brenna has yet to really prove herself and in my view, isn't going to be trusted with anything other than bars and right now that's not looking great for her either. Devastating.

Overall, yet another illuminating Nationals. Some have stepped up, others faded away, and some are superhuman.

Best vault: Simone, just anything
Best floor: Simone
Best beam: Simone
Best bars: Ashton

Surprise, surprise, these were my favourite routines on each event too.

My worlds team is shaping up nicely. Simone Biles and Kyla Ross remain as locks, duh. At this point I think Maggie Nichols, Ashton Locklear and Mykayla Skinner make the most sense. The latter I really didn't think would make a worlds team, yet there's not actually much choice with no other obvious floor/vault specialist. She's still a wildcard as her scoring could go either way.

No. 6...nope, can't really name them. It's between Madison Kocian and Alyssa Baumann I think, whoever makes the most sense at the time. I'm too unsure about Brenna Dowell at the moment but she is in the mix still.

More to add to this post tomorrow, at least leotards :)


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Nationals posts a-coming

After Day 2 :) Still catching up on Day 1, missed half of juniors and couldn't stay awake for seniors, sigh. I was so close but my eyes refused to stay open bahh.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Classics: Thoughts on Seniors

Classics for seniors is always weird. Many of the top gymnasts don't bother with the AA, whereas others go all out to impress. In this case, the top 2 both competed all-around...but so few others did! Too many injuries and scratching marred this competition big-time.

Simone Biles (as I write this...new Bruin!) and her return to competition for the first time since Antwerp was the big excitement and draw. Her ask.fm previously provided the information that she wouldn't be doing the Cheng this year and that her bars are currently downgraded. Understandable, given her shoulder issues. What I was hoping for was strong floor, usual great Amanar, and improvement on beam with the inclusion of her new BHS-LOSO-LOSO.

But, her floor..absolutely blew me away. I've watched it at least 10 times by now and it still has my eyes out on stalks. Is 15.8 crazy? Yes, but so is that floor. She legitimately leaves barely anything to deduct. I can't believe her landings. Not just how controlled they were, but how upright, she's had issues before with both DLO variations. As far as artistry goes, the music suits her and the choreography too. It's much more fluid and a much better effort than her previous routine. The smile and charisma still coming off in waves...I live for her huge grin after slamming her passes. It may not be the greatest demonstration of artistic gymnastics we have yet seen, or your favourite, but it is THE strongest floor routine I have ever seen, ever. And you won't even get me to admit it was more in the 15.4 range.

Simone. Copyright - John Cheng

Amanar was as strong as usual, I'd like to see her stick that this year. The Lopez was strong in the air but her block looked a bit troublesome, as if she did not get her hands down correctly. It is testament to her power that the only issue otherwise seen was the slightly low landing, she was fully able to get the vault around. She'll be looking for a much sharper version of that at Nationals.  I expected slightly dodgy bars and she had an issue at the start right enough, but she picked up and it ended up being a decent routine with another great landing. Beam could have been stronger too, she had a sizeable wobble and a missed connection but good lord, her BHS-LOSO-LOSO is so beautiful, which is so unexpected from a tiny powerhouse.

All in all, Simone kicked ass and took names. A truly dominating performance which put to rest any immediate concerns over her wellbeing. I expect her to be even stronger again at Nationals. At this point, there is a strong argument that she is the greatest gymnast ever. Wow.

It was nice to see Kyla back after uncharacteristic weaker performances from her earlier this year. The whip-double arabian was nice, but as she found it hard to get the stag from it cleanly in training, didn't manage in competition, and she had to drop the full-in...I don't see it as a permanent fixture. Seriously strong landings from her and consistently great performances. I'd like to see her truly be able to challenge Simone and upgrade her beam and bars significantly but it seems like that's never going to happen, so I'll stay content watching her refreshingly steady and clean work. She's going nowhere from the AA this year anyway, but this position is a little in jeopardy when Bailie Key arrives on the scene.

It was disappointing to see Kyla do a low difficulty bars routine, I'd really hope she can bring it back to 6.4 in time for Nanning. It won't matter for the team that much, but it certainly will for her chances of repeating a medal in bars finals.

I was really looking forward to seeing strong, assured 'pick-me-or-you'll-regret-it' routines from Brenna Dowell. Alas. She threw an extremely ambitious bars routine but had major problems with each high-low transition and ended up jumping down instead of dismounting. A very wise decision given that she apparently is carrying an ankle injury, and may have tweaked it during the routine, or just lacked the energy after dealing and recovering from two big errors. Nevertheless, this is a disaster for her chances this year unless she is totally fine by Nationals. Hopefully they'll have a plan for her bars at least, that she'll do lesser difficulty if the full routine isn't consistent in podium training. Her vault could be valuable for them this year, but it sounds like a bad idea with a foot injury. Sad to see her like this, especially since she deferred Oklahoma for a shot at this worlds team.

Rachel Gowey was most interesting. Crashed her amanar, but really nice floor and beam work. Bars are not really happening for me. Her speed and block on vault were totally off, perhaps just nerves, as she has been landing them fairly well otherwise. I'd like to see her work on it rather than lose it, if she can land it decently..her long lean frame isn't typically suited however. As for floor, a wild 3.5 landing (fully rotated though!) brought her score down, as did a frankly bad turn combination which likely was not credited at all. I live for her triple full though. She's an odd combination, gorgeous lines and dance, some power moves despite long, frail frame, but...dodgy leaps. I'd like to see her on the team for her beam alone, but she certainly has more up her sleeve to offer a team than that, she just needs to work on it.

Madison Kocian conformed the wisdom of fan's pre-selection of her for worlds with another strong bar routine, earning her 15.4. There's a healthy number of minor form issues with it, legs flickering apart being my bugbear. Nevertheless, they were very strong. So...beam? A fall, and another ankle tweak. Very depressing, but maybe just a precautionary measure and she'll come back strong for Nationals at least on her strong events. However, she's perpetually injured so that's not really encouraging.

BUT...a bars/beam specialist has emerged from nowhere! Ashton Locklear posted a phenomenal 15.7 for her bars, and followed that up with a very decent 14.55 on beam. Hers is a name I've been seeing in lists of camp attendees, but no further information. A bolt from the blue for almost everyone I would say. I love her bars composition, piked inbars, BIG Jaeger, very Russian combinations. She had gorgeous long lines also. But, the form errors were not really taken into account...flexed feet on all of the inbars and on other occasions, legs coming apart on top of the bar and in transitions, messy Pak and sloppy bail. In light of that, the score was several tenths too high. It's a fabulous routine but there's lots of little things wrong, I'd love to see her work on them.

Ashton. Copyright - John Cheng

Her beam had gorgeous lines but with those lines..form errors stand out a mile! Bent knees in her LOSO, dodgy back leg on some of her leaps. Her leaps are weird...some were really good, some quite bad. Don't get me wrong, I'm really impressed with her, just not blown away by her form. As a complete and utter new girl, she has loads of time to work on the small things. In the meantime, she needs to stay consistent as she could easily end up on this team, especially if Madison can't come back in time.

Mykayla Skinner had a lot to prove, and unfortunately it didn't really work out. The confirmed loss of Mckayla Maroney for this season and another injury for the ever-plagued Lexie Priessman remain massive points for her inclusion, as does the uncertain status of Brenna Dowell, but her coaches need to get.it.together. She has not been injured as far as we aware so there was no excuse for her somewhat poor conditioning. But, no matter what shape she's in, that floor routine is officially too much for her and they need to fix it. Simone does her incredible difficulty with ease, but halfway through and Mykayla struggles, with another fall borne from pure exhaustion. It's not acceptable to still have the wrong skill selection for her. It's great to see an underdog do well, not so great when their coach isn't making the best decisions for them. Vault, well even though the one-handed Cheng block works for her, I'd still prefer the standard approach and I thought it was fair her execution suffered as a result. Kyla should not be beating her score on that vault, it would be nice if that served as a wake-up call of sorts.

I AM very impressed with her beam, that full in combination is just so glorious. One of the best ever done surely. She has improved overall but there's a long path to go.

Nica Hults just did bars, and Maddie Desch just bars and beam. Both have faded considerably which is sad to see. Nica in particular was an option for worlds with her steady beam and bars, but she doesn't seem to be in contention anymore. Amelia Hundley had a good outing, with really nice floor work in particular, but definitely isn't what she could be...throwing an FTY isn't a good sign. She has been injured and more than likely will do better in time, but I don't see her fitting into the worlds team regardless.

Maggie Nichols, on the other hand, had a very good day, placing third in the AA! She's very reminiscent of Aly Raisman and could fulfil the exact same role...the steady, solid powerful one who goes up early in the rotation in team finals. She can fill in anywhere, even her bars are half decent.

Overall, aside from the top 2 and Ashton Locklear, this was a messy, rough competition with too many injuries, absences, and gymnasts scratching events. We've definitely come to expect roughness from Classics but I feel like we should at least be seeing more gymnasts, and more doing more events. It speaks volumes of the rigours of the code when even the US are struggling with it. I say struggling in full knowledge of the depth they have and their ability to cope with knockbacks, a luxury other countries don't have, even the rest of the top 4. Hopefully we will see more faces, and stronger performances at Nationals.

The Good

Bars Some really nice routines on display

Comebacks Simone Biles back for the first time since worlds, and in explosive fashion

Improved artistry Kyla and Simone both sold their routines, old and new respectively, better than ever

The Bad

Absences, injuries, scratching Worrying


Best

Floor Simone
Beam Kyla
Bars Ashton
Vault Simone

Favourite

Vault Simone
Bars Madison
Beam Rachel
Floor Simone

Leotards

Of our medallists, I loved Simone's. I did think the side panels looked vaguely like windows into her organs, which is a weird thing to say. Still, a great leotard, colours wise and style wise. Kyla's had potential but ended up being dull...the lighter purple colour needed to be broken up more. Maggie's was quite cookie-cutter USA but still nice.

Simone. Copyright - John Cheng

I am a sucker for white, and for white trim against black mesh. Lovely use of pink. Ticks so many boxes even if I think we're looking at her lungs.


Madison Desch. Copyright - John Cheng
More glorious GAGE blue ombre with the rose again, stunning.



Honourable mentions: Ashton Locklear, WOGA and CGA as mentioned in the juniors post

Dishourable mentions: Again, a lack of scope here. I didn't like the mesh on Mykayla Skinner's gorgeous shade of blue leotard, and it ruined it for me.


How many times have you watched Simone's floor? (Embedded below for convenience). Who is on your team now - has Ashton blasted her way in? Can Kyla get any taller?





Classics: Thoughts on Juniors

What an interesting meet Classics always is. First, because there are sooooo many gymnasts, more every year in the junior ranks. Brand new faces barely out of Level 10 willing to impress, veterans showing new routines for the season, upgrades a-hoy, girls going all out to impress at the start of the season, while others are holding back a bit for a steadier pace, ready to unleash at nationals. The sheer variety of styles and strengths on display always floors me. For those who don't like US gymnastics, they should really look deeper. You can't categorise this small army.

Firstly, congratulations to Jordan Chiles on winning the junior AA! I wasn't expecting that at all, although I'm not sure why. The loss of Bailie Key and Laurie Hernandez is a big one and Nia has had quite a few struggles with injury in the last while. Norah Flatley gets hyped a lot, but she is quite clearly not an all-arounder yet. I suppose because Jordan is so young, too young for Rio. Her floor was one of the highlights, the full package...great tumbling, presence, spark. Vault...yeah I'd like to see some work on that block, and her form is a little scrappy on beam though her flow and style on that event have come on bigtime. Bars also are better, her swing and handstands, but she was too close to the bar on each release and was lucky to get that score. A thrilling day for her and a well deserved outcome, I'd just like some tidying up on her execution.

Jordan Chiles. Copyright - John Cheng

We need to talk about Deanne Soza, immediately. I noticed her potential last year but WOW she took my breath away. Talk about talent! I'm a little tired of getting excited about a US junior and then seeing that her bars are bad or average, but no whiff of that here. They made my night (before a certain $ came along), no exaggeration. BEAUTIFUL form, swing..and skills! Huge release move, an inbar stalder shoot to high which is rare as Christmas, a gorgeous Ezhova and a full-in DLO. Fantastic. Beam and floor look strong too...she made me a little nervous on the former, but saved so well. Gorgeous switch leap-Onodi combination. She's another too young for Rio who needs to slow or halt the upgrades and just polish everything. Seriously impressive work from this little one.

Morgan Hurd is too cute for words. Noticed her gorgeous floor at the Nastia cup earlier this year and I was excited when she qualified elite and looking forward to some lovely clean work. Not only was she clean...but so consistent and confident! Wonderful to see, she was holding herself on and off the apparatus like a veteran. Thrilling to see her do so well in the AA. And...this isn't relevant, but she kind of proves a major point about Chinese gymnasts looking younger than their years. Unlike some of the Chinese girls, Morgan (adopted as a baby) has grown up in a privileged environment with plenty to eat. Yet she looks about 6-7..

I haven't really been paying a whole lot of attention to Maile O'Keeffe and Megan Skaggs but they both seem to have shot forward in terms of improvement. Will be keeping an eye on them, especially Maile on beam.

Nia Dennis has been battling injury, so it wasn't overly surprising that she wasn't at her best. Even so, she showed what she is capable of when healthy. She has killer potential and I really hope she's able to demonstrate that next year when she's senior and hopefully fully bounced back.

Norah Flatley's beam was gorgeous as anticipated. I'm curious about the long term plan for her though. Perhaps we will see more from her on bars at Nationals, but her routine at Classics was fairly dull and empty I thought. Nice floor work, but she's not standing out there and her FTY doesn't look like it will be anything else in the next while. She remains a beam specialist, albeit a gorgeous and most valuable one, in my eyes. She's with Chow, and Chow is great, but he's not great at vault and Norah doesn't have the power of Gabby or Shawn for instance.

I was expecting quite a bit from the Parkettes crew, Christina Desiderio, Molly Frack, Margzetta Frazier and Megan Freed, especially the first two but it wasn't their day. Molly didn't do AA. Christina in particular is so much fun to watch on floor, hopefully she can improve and really get up to where the top few are.

Speaking of falls, there were so,so many on beam. Not that it'd be unexpected when there's so many juniors, plenty competing for the first time on podium, at the first major elite competition of the year. It's moreso that it was sad to watch, given that quite a few needed this meet to qualify to nationals. On the other hand..I saw no falls or big errors on bars?

Victoria Nyugen's beam was so, so beautiful. Yes, she went into a handstand in the middle of her series but it didn't work to save her balance and off she came. Nonetheless, it was amazing..and admirable that she didn't let the fall faze her. Great floor from her I thought, looking forward to seeing her develop. Unfortunately, another bad meet from Alexis Vasquez who was pulled from two events. She's struggling with a hip injury. Here's hoping she can come back strong next year as a senior.

Victoria Nyugen. Copyright - John Cheng

Jazmyn Foberg was the only MG elite girl healthy enough to be present. She was quite solid but not outstanding, which is fine in one her age. However, while she may not be as pushed as Laurie is or as Ari is on vault, her bars were quite new and she struggled with them halfway through. A fluke, or yet another exhibition of too much too soon..hard to know.

Rachel Baumann was lovely to watch on beam and floor, but I kind of expected more. It was refreshing to see her perfect technique in her passes, but I'd like to see more than the typical WOGA standard emanate from her routines. She could be great.

Shilese Jones is another who stood out on floor...with a 1.5 twisting double back! Great pass, she's powerful and interesting to watch.

For all the criticism American artistry or lack of gets, there was quite a lot on display here. Olivia Dunne really stood out, gorgeous, gorgeous presentation. From an 11 year-old at that. Likewise, Emily Gaskins who is just stunning. Pity about her routine, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

The Good

Floor These young ones are continuing the legacy of strong floor work. Lots of big tumbles- double layouts, 1.5 double back, double arabians, 1.5 to triple etc. Some lovely dancers too and many who have excellent presentation

Beam combinations Building from the ground up, lots of juniors are working the code very well. BHS-LOSO-LOSO, switch-Onodi, aerial cartwheel-LOSO, aerial-aerial-side aerial etc. Lovely scales from a few too.

Variety Is the best part of Classics. SO many girls from so many gyms, different ages, sizes, styles, strengths...it's great.

Leotard game was oh so strong

The Bad 

Injuries, dropouts and girls competing not yet recovered Too many to mention.

Bars Despite many cool connections and skills shown, overall I was not impressed. There was a lot of average work on display and poor skills foundation and form. Sigh.

Leaps So many were bad

Best

Floor Jordan Chiles
Vault Jordan Chiles
Bars Nia Dennis
Beam Norah Flatley

Favourite

Floor Morgan Hurd
Bars Deanne Soza
Beam Tough. Nia Dennis
Vault Norah Flatley..so clean

Favourite Leos

Nia Dennis. Copyright - John Cheng
Buckeye. Always get it right...this is beautiful, colours chosen and their use, and the design. Stunning.


Emily Gaskins. Copyright - John Cheng

CGA have got it going on here. I'd prefer if the sleeves were plain white though. 

Bailey Ferrer. Copyright - John Cheng

We see this shade and fabric quite a bit, but the tiny star-like pattern of the chrystals make this stunning. 

Honourable mentions: Shilese Jones, Olivia Dunne, Morgan Hurd, WOGA

Dishonourable mentions: Lexy Ramler, Delanie Harkness

Lots less pink than usual! Some nice attempts at red and lovely blues and pinks.

Scoring

Better than it has been, and it's not usually too hyped for juniors anyway. The one score that stood out (I'm sure there'd be more if I studied this) was Jordan Chiles' bars. Substantially overscored. Deanne Soza's bars were a little underscored compared to some other routines also. 


Who was your favourite junior? Was the format of splitting it fair or unfair? Can a rotation really be 50 minutes long??