Saturday 18 May 2013

The State of the US

The USA is always interesting to look at in terms of where their athletes are and who could make teams, because they don't need to preserve their gymnasts whatsoever. There could quite easily be a situation where none of the Fierce Five make any teams this quad and disappear completely, and they would still win all around them. But, after the insight of American Cup, Jesolo and Chemnitz...on with what's going on.

- Simone Biles is the strongest all-arounder. She is also the strongest possible contributor in team competitions on vault, a certainty on floor and bars and a good possibility on beam too. I must stress- at the moment. American gymnasts have an unfortunate tendency to be injured and we can never rule this out. Especially when you're throwing such hard skills as she is. Under her belt, as we all know, are the following- a very dynamic amanar (and TTY in training), a full-in beam dismount, a floor routine containing a double layout, double double, 1.5 to full-in and which she's not done upgrading yet, and a not-bad-at-all bars with strong releases. Her execution is not amazing by any means but it's not near bad enough to drag her down so no real complaints there. All in all, she's number one.
- Kyla Ross is as lovely and infuriatingly low in difficulty as ever. Her lines have improved with her height, and her beam is just stunning to watch. Many have tipped her as the new Bridget Sloan, the fairly unimportant Olympic team member who takes the world AA title the following year. Unfortunately, I just don't see this happening. Kyla's difficulty is just too low, her floor is out of a 5.3, her vault is 5.8 and her beam and bars are not much over 6. She has said she will not upgrade floor this year, which is very bad news for AA medal ambitions. A great all-arounder certainly with lovely execution but that isn't enough to triumph. Simone Biles has a 1.4 difficulty lead with vault and floor (this will widen too with her floor upgrades yet to come), with beam and bars being very similar. Larisa Iordache has about 1.8 on floor and beam (some swallowed up on bars of course, though almost 2 points would be tough going), and Aliya Mustafina has about a 1.4ish lead on beam and floor (set to widen when she upgrades her bars) etc. etc. I do think Kyla can be victorious and can win major titles, but not this year if her routines don't sharply upgrade.
- Katelyn Ohashi is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. I'd have no doubt she will be back in time for Classics and/or Nationals but this is still bad news, as her biggest issue aside from overall stamina are her pirouettes on bars which are all open to huge deductions and this recovery will not help. Katelyn has an unbelievable beam routine with a possible difficulty score of 7.3 with all connections hit and this alone will probably secure her a spot at this year's specialist worlds. But as an all-arounder and team contributor this quad she still has quite a way to go, her bars need a lot of work, her floor would not be used in a team situation and her vault, while much improved, is worth 0.5 less than many of her teammates. Katelyn is quite obviously a great gymnast but her routines look as hard as they actually are, her stamina doesn't seem to have kept apace with her growth and upgrades.
- Lexie Priessman is quite clearly not herself, or at least wasn't on the European tour. That was not the 2012 Junior European champion, this gymnast struggled- spectacularly so on a leap on beam and just wasn't doing what she's capable of. It is a fact that she trains at a gym with a reputation of breaking gymnasts; so too does junior Amelia Hundley who was also very much under the weather in Europe. It would be a grave mistake to write Lexie off though; she has a 6.7 floor in training and an amanar and second vault, as well as being a very strong all-arounder. Her beam and execution let her down, and I don't see her really rivalling Simone's place for instance, who while similarly strong on floor and vault is noticeably better on beam and bars. A worthy contender for the fourth spot and one who could be very valuable in future team competitions. As long as she stays healthy!
- Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney have both been back training for a good few months now. We know a lot more about Jordyn who has all of her skills back and is training a new one, a Weiler full on bars, thanks to her being the subject of the latest Gymnastike Beyond the Routine series, which unfortunately costs so I've just seen summaries. She'd be far from the first to get a skill named after her on her weakest event. A fully healthy Jordyn, especially with good non-dodgy beam connections is a fierce contender and although we haven't seen her at camp yet, she seems to have all guns blazing for Nationals. Jordyn would have a huge difficulty lead over Kyla if all her routines go to plan, and that would mean it makes no sense to leave her behind since Kyla is unlikely to medal on either beam or bars with her difficulty the way it is. There's no word about how McKayla is doing, though she has said herself she is vaulting Yurchenkos (halves, fulls, layout timers?) and concentrating on bars and beam as her leg still hurts. Healed, but sore. This was more than two months ago so presumably she is further advanced, and she was due to go to camp though pulled out at the last minute. Even with that, that must mean she had routines worth verifying. Her place in team worlds would be much more assured than this year, though if her vault and floor are back up to their old standard (and hopefully beyond with no super-sketchy third pass) and Lexie and Ebee remain unfortunate with their health then she'd be a good bet. The TTY speculation is all on super-springy Simone Biles now but McKayla is the other who looks well capable of landing one and has also mentioned it.
- Ebee Price, Sarah Finnegan and Maddie Desch are all either injured or recovering. Ebee was of course an Olympic alternate, beating Kyla in the AA at Trials, and took no less than two back-to-back world cup AA titles late last year. It's unclear what stage she's at now but she'd certainly be a very good bet for the fourth place at worlds if healthy. Sarah's strengths are beam and floor, an interesting combination. She would be vying with Katelyn for a place on this year's worlds team, since she is the only other one with a very difficult beam. Maddie is very similar to her, though perhaps not as polished on beam. She's recovering from a torn meniscus, rumour has it. Neither she or Sarah have competed since last summer, and Ebee last competed pre-injury in December.
- Peyton Ernst and Maggie Nichols performed strongly in Europe, having sprung out of nowhere. Peyton in particular has improved quite a lot since last year and could be a nice team contributor. However, I don't see her surpassing others for an all-around place just yet.
- Although Sabrina Vega has switched gyms, I don't see a big future for her in elite. Similarly I see Kennedy Baker fading too, though both girls should do extremely well at college.
- Mykayla Skinner has two vaults, ranked 6.4 and 6.3 respectively, the hardest floor routine actually competed (6.5) and has also improved on a weak event, bars. It seems crazy that she could easily fail to make major teams and is not even on the national team. Last year she was a bit inconsistent and this year crashed her double arabian in competition. It will be very interesting to see how she fares at Classics and Nationals as she could very well shake things up if she's consistent. 
- Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman who have both expressed that they will be back in the gym soon are in no way able to make the team this year. It will be interesting to see how they fare if they do go back as planned; particularly Gabby whose bars could be a great asset and who is blessed with the physique to remain longer in the sport at the top of her game.
- Liang Chow has a number of elite hopefuls; Norah Flatley and Alexis Vasquez who will both be aiming to qualify elite in summer and Rachel Gowey who is actually an elite and was at the last camp. Norah is extremely strong on beam with a fabulous routine, though I've no idea what her other events look like. Alexis Vasquez is supposed to be a stronger all-arounder but I haven't seen her either, and Rachel is totally unknown. Ones to keep an eye on, for sure.
- The brightest hopes for the future are Bailie Key, Laurie Hernandez and Nia Dennis. Nia is quite like Gabby Douglas, high-flying on bars and strong all-around. Bailie is very different from the rest, she has excellent execution, flexibility and difficulty and does not have a weak event. She has an amanar, arabian on beam and a Church and Downie on bars in the works, though she's being paced very well for her 2015 senior debut so we are unlikely to see all of these upgrades this year. She and Nia are elegible for YOG- Youth Olympics Games. Laurie is a 2000 baby and stunned everyone with her performances at the US Classic last year at the age of 11. She is a great dancer and beam worker, with a DTY, double layout and double arabian planned. While I found her choreography last year a bit repetitive, she really was compelling to watch. Looking forward to all three gymnasts becoming seniors.

Bars remain somewhat of an issue. Kyla Ross is the highest scoring gymnast they have, though her difficulty as ever could do with being substantially higher to challenge stellar Russian and Chinese routines. Power gymnasts Ebee Price and Simone Biles have surprisingly good bars ideal for team situations though neither could expect to qualify to a bars final unless the field is quite weak. There is always Jordyn Wieber and we can't write off the possibility of Gabby Douglas unleashing a strong bars routine next year. Bailie Key and Nia Dennis are strong on bars, but can't be relied on until 2015. Polina Shchennikova shows quite a bit of promise and Katelyn Ohashi would too if her bars were reworked. They are still in a much better position on this apparatus than Romania but it remains a weak point.

Beam has a much better outlook. The most valuable routine by far is that of Katelyn Ohashi. They also have Sarah Finnegan, Maddie Desch, Kyla Ross and Simone Biles. Jordyn Wieber too. Lexie Priessman and Ebee Price are very weak here and can't be used, but newcomers to the mix Peyton Ernst and Maggie Nichols look like good prospects in a team situation, if needed. Looking to the future, Laurie Hernandez and Bailie Key both shine on beam.

Floor is amazing as ever. Simone Biles, Ebee Price, Lexie Priessman and Jordyn Wieber are all incredible on floor, at least difficulty wise if not artistry wise. Katelyn Ohashi has improved but I don't see much possible upgrading in her future really. McKayla Maroney could be valuable here again, and gymnasts like Amelia Hundley, Laurie Hernandez, Bailie Key and Nia Dennis would be expected to contribute heavily also. Let us not forget that Mykayla Skinner, who showed herself to be inconsistent last year, has a laidout double double, tucked double double and double arabian in her routine.

The amanar fest is certainly here to stay, with two gymnasts capable of a TTY. Simone has a Lopez for a second vault and is training a Cheng. It's not known where McKayla is at but she's still in the mix even just for vault alone. Lexie and Ebee have amanars with second vaults in the works, and there's any amount of strong DTY's from others should they be needed. Bailie Key and several other juniors are training the amanar also. Mykayla Skinner has the current highest vault difficulty, with an amanar and Cheng actually competed.

The US look well able to continue dominating. It's up to everyone else to catch up. The worlds team, because of the depth, can go quite a lot of ways. I do think Simone Biles has cemented her place on it. I would say the same of Kyla Ross too, but Jordyn Wieber could potentially take her spot for the AA as Kyla is unlikely to medal in bars finals anyway. Katelyn for beam if healthy. And a four-way battle for the last spot, between Ebee Price, Lexie Priessman, McKayla Maroney and Mykayla Skinner. I see Jordyn taking Kyla's spot or nobody's, as she does not have a second vault and her coach has already stated that she has enormous difficulty with forward entry and it's why she doesn't have one. But the vault requirements have changed a bit, so you never know.

Simone Biles- AA, VT, FX, UB and BB attempts (wildcard for both)
Kyla Ross- AA, UB, BB
Katelyn Ohashi- BB
Ebee Price- VT, FX

That is one well-rounded team, though number four is very much up for debate. Who's on your team? Other juniors you think will storm their way to the top?

Piibunina is a great source for Jesolo (and everything) videos, and USAG have the full broadcast and individual routines from American Cup, which I'm not linking to since they've uploaded a billion videos since then.

Check out the The State of China here.


  1. I believe the team will be Biles for certain (no tty, focusing on aa), Jordyn instead of Kyla (too low d-scores), Peyton (I have a feeling shell suprise us at classics and nationals, and a three-way battle for the fourth spot between Maroney, Ebee and MyKayla.

    If Maroney is really training beam and bars and shows a strong floor routine, which i think she's capable of (different third pass please!!!), she'll make the team. And if she throws the TTY, then her place is cemented because even if SImone does it too, she'll do it better.

    If Maroney fails, I believe Mykayla will be the big surprise. How can you ignore those d-scores. In fact, if she hits at both classics and nationals, they have to take her! I can see her as an unexpected world aa threat. Imagina Mustafina and Iordache's face... they'll never see it coming. But that is just if she hits.

    Maroney or MyKayla will make the team. But if they fail us and dont live up to their potential, then Ebee could surely contend. If she is on her post-olympics form then she'll definetely pose a threat to Maroney and Skinner. We'll see....

    What's for sure is that I find it hard for any other country to reach usa this quad. They are just TOO deep. ANd trust me, when Bailie and Laurie turn senior, they will take the world by storm.

    PS: My secret AA gold wish for WOrlds this year will always be Yao Jinnan..! I just adore her and was so depressed after her disappointing london games.

    1. Yes, Simone has said the TTY is in her future. It would be fairly stupid to unleash that thing now if it hinders her training on other events. She did say that she is training it on mats into the pit and that it's very hard. Preserve it for Glasgow/Rio.

      It really all depends on whether Kyla sneaks in a few bars/beam upgrades. At the moment Jordyn has a better chance of medalling in the AA, and possibly floor. Kyla though, I think they will want to push her forward for the AA and UB/BB even with the lower chances.

      I don't see Peyton making this team. She's not exceptional on any event and won't score high enough all-around to take someone else's spot. Future team member, absolutely could see that, but not at this worlds.

      It makes far more sense for Maroney to throw the TTY this year than Simone. Even if she is preserved in cotton wool and stays healthy she's very unlikely to make Rio with the sheer depth so this would be an ideal chance to go out on a high and get it called the Maroney. Her floor too could score high, especially if the scoring is harsh. 2009 was, I'm hoping it follows that pattern.

      I'm not sure what box to put Mykayla in. On the one hand, WOW how can you not give her the fourth spot, and on the is a huge sign that she wasn't on the Jesolo/Chemnitz team and she was quite inconsistent with crap scores last year. Watching her like a hawk this year.

      Ebee if healthy will have to upgrade her floor a little bit, I think she still has an excellent chance even if she doesn't. The odds are more in her favour than Lexie's and McKayla's to stay healthy. McKayla at this stage probably has limited longevity, she's quite prone to injury.

      Ah Yao is just so lovable. I'm sure you were thrilled she recently won the Chinese Nationals prelims AA! I'm not sure how long she can hold up against the extremely dynamic Shang Chunsong but she's still China's number 1 AA, even though she's not even fully on top of her game yet.

    2. So you think ohashi has good chances? The thing is we havent seen her much lately...
      And do you think it is possible for Maroney to be taken if she just pulls the tty without being great on floor??

      Yes! I was static when yao won the aa nationals prelims!!! If she isnt on her top form yet then i am sure she will be a true contender this year..! and without a fall (like she had in 2011) she can definetely challenge...

    3. Ohashi has a great chance of being taken, even if just for beam. Only Finnegan can rival her there and she hasn't been seen in so long so no idea where she's at. Ohashi is also the most anticipated new senior, has been a big deal for years and cemented it with an american cup win. I think it's her place to lose, rather than a free for all.

      I think they will want to maximise floor, makes the most sense. So Simone and somebody, and if Kyla and Katelyn are taken then that leaves the VT/FX specialist. HOWEVER, if Jordyn is taken instead of Kyla then that leaves room for just a VT specialist.

  2. One thing's for certain...We'll see the TTY this year... And I would die of happiness if it becomes the Maroney.! Go McKayla!! You can beat Simone!! Just get your a@#¢ to work!!

    1. I think we're more likely to see it from McKayla. This could be her last time to shine, but it certainly isn't Simone's who needs to be preserved more.

    2. I wish... But I remember reading Mckayla is on your top ten list Catherine... Is your opinion a bit biased? Because mine is... I just love Maroney!! (I mean, have you seen her keek account??)

      Realistically do you think Maroney has a chance??? Please tell me she does!

    3. Ha I try not to be. I think she has a strong chance of making the team if her VT/FX are back up to standard, and certainly if she has a TTY. Definitely far from a guarantee though. I'm not sure she still is, but then I see her amanar again and she's definitely still in the favourite list. She, Lexie and Ebee all have injury/recovery issues. Mykayla Skinner does not but she has consistency issues, isn't on the national team and doesn't seem to be well liked by the powers that be..

    4. Ive seen the comments about Skinner online, but so you think Marta is not sold on her yet? From what Ive seen, she does come across as a little cocky but I chalk that up to youth. Even if she hits at classics and nationals, If I was Marta I would put her as an alternate and assign her to world cup events later this year like they did Ebee.

      If she scores well and can handle the pressure, theb I would consider her for Jesolo or pac rims next year.

      If this girl thinks she's the best vaulter in the world (as she states on her twitter) then let her prove it.

    5. She was at camp so she was clearly ready. But she wasn't chosen for Jesolo/Chemnitz and that was a big glaring sign. But stranger things have happened- like Kayla Williams!- and I think she will definitely be watched closely at Classics/Nationals. Even moreso if Lexie remains sluggish.

  3. I agree the US is going to dominate team UNLESS Marta goes off and breaks everyone. They're just too strong on vault, even with the slight decrease in the D-scores, and if anything the changes on bars have benefitted them as I would imagine the power gymnasts would be more able to do multiple releases than the pirouette-fest that 08 was.

    Simone is the lock for sure. Kyla could easily be ousted by Jordyn. Her position is quite unstable because her overall difficulty is too low to be a medal contender for AA, and her difficulty on BB and UB aren't high enough to contend in EFs either. Maroney, Ohashi, Ebee, Finnegan are all uncertains now because it's pretty hard to tell what state they will be in by time for Worlds.. I'm thinking it might be too tight for Ohashi. If Skinner can hit and Maroney is not back at full strength, I think she has a real shot, especially since her floor has more potential than McKayla's the last we saw it. Lexie really hasn't done herself any favours, she practically gave up on the beam at Jesolo and her execution is well below Biles, Jordyn or Kyla, the main other AA contenders.

    My pick: Biles (AA, VT, FX), Jordyn (AA, FX), either Maroney (VT) or Skinner (FX, VT), Kyla (UB, BB).

    1. True, but China are adapting quite well. Shang Chunsong, Tan Jiaxin and Huang Huidan have all got massive d-scores with their release-release and release-transition fest. Mustafina's London routine is helpful in this regard too. Certainly Katelyn Ohashi's routine is absolutely not benefiting and she doesn't look strong enough to release-fest her way to high difficulty.

      I am failing to comprehend why upgrading is not on Kyla's coaches agenda. For sure, she has had to adjust to her new height, but even some small changes would make the world of difference. To risk a gymnast like that fading away because of her weak difficulty is madness. Now I don't want to see her fling an amanar or anything, but her floor could do with some reworking and dump the double full. Turn combinations, anything. And bars too, that wouldn't be too detrimental to her whereas major upgrades would be. A 5.3 floor? Even the Chinese juniors can beat that.

      Ohashi is a big favourite and did win american cup, I think if she stays on beam and approaches the 7.0 magical figure then her place is quite likely, more than probable. Right now her floor would score higher than her disaster bars, sigh.

    2. Do you think its possible for ohashi to take out if not all of her piros, some of them and out in my all time favorite UB release that HE Kexin does-jeager half/li jiya (I think that's what the move is called. I always get them mixed up). Ohashi's body type is similar to HK that if taught properly, I think she can do it.

    3. Yeah, true that China has actually done quite well with quickly putting in release-release combis. They still seem a lot more risky than their piro fests before though, and as HHD and TJX don't seem particularly consistent, it's probably still not enough to make up the ground they're losing on power events. I'm amazing that SCS can do those skills seeing how absolutely tiny she is!

      Generally I think it might be possible for Ohashi to pick up the release transition skills, but probably not in time for Worlds if she is rehabbing and hasn't learnt them before.. plus I don't fancy her chances with Valeri not being good with not breaking people. Some of her releases have looked a bit flat in the past as well so I'm not that optimistic, at least for this Worlds. I definitely think she has a better shot at beam, especially if Finnegan is out as apart from their AAers, they don't really have stunning beam specialists with high difficulty (looking at you, Kyla). And of course the WOGA love could work in her favour. But I hope she doesn't try to rush it and end up with the injury cropping up year after year later on.

    4. It's named for Li Ya. Not the combination since they can't be, though plenty of people call it's just the Jaeger 1/2 named for her. Ji Liya came a bit before her. To be honest; no. Katelyn does not look to have the stamina for a routine like that. It would be great though.

    5. HHD is very inconsistent, though she just got a nice boost by winning the bars title, hopefully that will help. But I'd say TJX's fall is more of a fluke than habit. Yes, Shang is so short, she could probably unleash more when she grows a bit.

      I don't see her picking them up until her stamina has improved. Everything she does is so laboured.

  4. This worlds team selection seems so wide open. I actually think that Ebee could take the second all-around spot if she is back to the level she was at in December and Kyla doesn't upgrade. She scored over 59.1 in Glasgow -- higher than (a somewhat overscored) Mustafina at Euros. Plus, if she has a decent second vault, she would have a better chance of medaling in vault finals than Kyla would in bar or beam finals. I would love to see Jordyn come back strong and take that spot, but if she doesn't manage the comeback, I think Ebee might be able to take it. Although for Jordyn, it is really all-around or nothing. I can't imagine she would ever make it as a specialist. Ebee, on the other hand, actually could make it just for VT/FX because she has medal potential on VT at least.

    If that did happen, then the all-around gymnasts would pretty much cover floor and vault finals -- which is weird, and is making me questions whether Marta would actually do that, because then it would make sense to take specialists for bars and beam, which we hardly have right now. Kyla as a specialist doesn't make that much sense, as she is unlikely to actually medal (although with her consistency, she could always end up with a bronze or two if other people make mistakes). Who knows if Katelyn will be ready. Watching her compete always makes me nervous, and knowing that she had shoulder surgery doesn't help. I'm always worried she is just going to break. Sarah Finnegan could be a surprise if she is able to come back strong. She could medal on beam if she is back on form.

    Can I make multiple guesses? If worlds team selection was based only on what we have seen this year, I would say it would be Simone (AA, VT, FX), Kyla (AA, BB, UB), Katelyn (BB, UB) and Skinner (FX, VT). But imagining comebacks going the best they could, I would say Simone (AA, VT, FX), Jordyn (AA, FX), Kyla or Katelyn (BB, UB) and Ebee or McKayla or MyKayla (FX, VT).

    Doesn't Ebee have a leg injury? Maybe she has been cranking out new skills on bars, and can be a VT, FX, and UB specialist! She was showing some real promise on bars before that injury. That would bode well for Katelyn, if she is only useful on BB. I'm sort of kidding. But wouldn't that be awesome? Actually, imaginary awesome bar worker Ebee could also pair up well with a healthy Sarah Finnegan, because Ebee's FX is not really strong enough to medal, but I think Sarah could potentially medal on both FX and BB if she nailed her routines.

    1. I would be surprised if Ebee got it. Great vault, very good floor and bars, awful beam. I think she could be bested quite easily. Her floor needs a little bit more difficulty, hoping she can do that. VT/FX spot, yes very strong possibility. And a shot at making bars finals, who knows. Haha imaginary awesome bars worker...though she's better than Jordyn, certainly better than Lexie and better than Katelyn at the moment.

      I'd love to see Sarah in the mix. I hold out some hope! Probably better suited to team worlds next year though.

  5. I read recently on Triple twiss tumblr, that they've heard from a trusted source I guess that Mckaylya is a lot further along in her training than people think. This source is saying that Mckayla wants to keep it hush hush until classics/nationals.

    My world picks are :

    Simone:AA, vault, fx
    Kyla:AA (possibly good for a bronze medal)
    Ohashi: BB, UB
    Mckayla Skinner: FX, VT

    I didn't include Fx for Simone because I'm concerned about those uncontrolled landings and large steps she takes. If there is improvement come classics and visas then I'll add it back.BB I'd like to see how she does at visas and classics.

    Im adding Jordyn and Mckayla M as alt. Until I see how they perform at classics and visas.

    1. She has some more upgrades planned on FX to help absorb some of that crazy power! Her routine will eventually be double-double (maybe stick a jump in there because she has too much power on that pass), full-in DLO, 1.5 to tuck full-in, and 2.5-front full. At Jesolo her landings were stronger. I think she can nail her landings in time.

      Skinner is quite a puzzle. So strong as a VT/FX contender but inconsistent thus far and she doesn't seem to be in with the in crowd..

  6. Correction, I meant to say I included FX for Simone even with the crazy landings.

  7. im mad at that stupid tour from last year if that's why mckayla is still feeling pain. honestly i think she really has potential as a three-event gymnast, if not AA potential. she really could be amazing on beam, it's like she has all the elements but needs to put them together.

    the biased gym fan wants a maroney vault (TTY) and see that girl go out on a high. then simone can continue, be amazing and do a maroney vault in rio :) best of both worlds!

    i really want to know the deal about sarah finnegan. is she injured/recovering from injury/planning to compete elite/reconsidering her options and thinking NCAA? i want this girl to shine on the world stage, her beam and floor are too gorgeous not to.

  8. ps - thank you for this post! :)
    waiting until july for classics is killing me haha