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.