Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Quick round-up

:( Bad week for injuries. Jade Barbosa has torn a ligament in her foot while Rachel Gowey is dealing with stress fractures in her back. Rachel will not compete at Nationals though she will be recovered shortly after. She technically could get on the worlds team by making it onto the National team at camp beforehand and then being selected, but it was unlikely she'd get on the team anyway- it's moreso the competition and podium experience of Nationals that she will miss out on. Jade's ability to recover in time for worlds is in question, it seems they are waiting for a second opinion on surgery but are concentrating on 2015 and 2016 anyway as most important.

Natalia Yurchenko's new blog is already very interesting. Her picks of Classics which she attended are unsurprisingly Norah Flatley's beam and Laurie Hernandez' floor. I hope she keeps it up!

The next competitions coming up are US Nationals August 15-18, Russian Cup August 15-21 and Interland August 31-September 1st. US Nationals will see more polish, steadiness and readiness as the girls get more used to their routines in preparation for the naming of the new National Teams. Russian Cup is supposed to see...the return of Viktoria Komova and her much-hyped bars d-score! It's supposed to be in and around 7.0 and she is now stated to have everything back including the amanar but of course, we need to see her routines first. We will also hopefully see a fitter Aliya Mustafina and Ksenia Afanasyeva and a consistent Anastasia Grishina..Interland is a friendly meet hosted in the Netherlands and will have full teams from themselves and Britain as well as 3 Romanians.

McKayla Maroney and the open-mouthed judge discuss her team finals vault! The judge is recognised at meets, hilarious.

Beth Tweddle will make an announcement about her future plans on August 6th, the one year anniversary of her bronze medal. She has been making a lot of appearances since winning Dancing on Ice so if she is planning on getting back to the swing of things, I'd be very surprised to see her in the running for worlds at this late stage, but who knows.

I'm sure I'll find more for this post!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Secret Classic

Well that was a very interesting day/night of competition! I have just about caught up to speed on youtube, given the issues with the stream. It's unfortunate that podium training streams were clearer, but I'm very grateful it was streamed worldwide at all, particularly juniors which has not been done before, and perfect quality videos were going up so fast anyway. Loooong post ahead.

First of all, McKayla Maroney has just done herself a lot of favours. Granted she performed her two strongest events only- but how strong they were! Her block on both vaults is still superb, and I don't doubt coaches all over the world are and will be analysing it, if they haven't been for the last four years. The amanar was as lofty as ever and the half-on-layout full-off (Okay saying Mustafina is a lot quicker but I should make an attempt to give it its proper name every so often, since it's not named for Mousse-tafina as stated in the commentary last night) was a lot better than last year. Her technique has improved on it, I don't mean judging by the London EF one as such, but rather Trials, Classics, Nationals- she landed it ever so slightly short each time, but no fear of that this time. She did tuck on it before landing slightly too early but still, really excellent vaulting, and from a gymnast who has had three surgeries since last we saw her. I am not alone in mourning the loss of her 3.5 twist on floor, but maybe she can have the endurance in the future to replace the 2.5-layout with it. In this code she does not need a combination pass so that wouldn't be an issue. Thrilled that she stuck her very neat double arabian, great upright landings on her other passes too. The double layout out of bounds isn't too concerning, it's a brand new pass and with more time in the gym she should be well able to shorten her run slightly. The d-score awarded was 5.8, though her leaps were a bit questionable so she was probably penalised there. Still the highest execution awarded on floor and hopefully she can break 6.0 difficulty with this routine. She has a new shap-half on bars, though we didn't see that in competition. Looking forward to seeing her compete all-around at Nationals, though I don't think we'll see her factoring in to the all-around this year at least. Fierce 2013 debut, and proof once again that she means business.

I am torn about Kyla Ross. She scored very well, had great execution as always, and has upgraded her floor. Unfortunately, she downgraded her beam, fell on her last pass on floor, and her bars were unchanged. As was her vault. It looks like endurance could still be an issue on floor, not sure if it was that or just a fluke but she has stated before that she has endurance problems with a full 4-pass routine's what I'm assuming. Her beam routine was also uncharacteristically hesitant. She stepped up and won the all-around, yet she did not really use this competition to its full advantage trying out things, and her all-around competition was not exactly stellar, with no Elizabeth Price and both Simone Biles and Lexie Priessman not competing all 4 events. I believe she can in fact score as well or almost as well as she did here in Antwerp. But gymnasts who have equal execution like Viktoria Komova if she comes back strong or others, even teammates, with much higher difficulty, have an advantage and her coaches really need to close that gap. If floor is an issue, beam and bars should at least be worked on. 5.7 beam is really quite disappointing. I'm not just saying that because she's not one of my favourites- I find her quite stiff and her gymnastics unexciting- but I love her lines, admire her execution and utter mastery of her routines and I don't want to see her get swallowed up by others. Bailie Key, who is three years her junior, came very close to beating Kyla's AA total. This is a Bailie who was suffering from a stomach bug, did not show upgrades she already has, and went over time on beam. That really should not be happening. Kyla showed stunning work, but I don't think it's enough to keep her head above water as an all-arounder when the juniors turn senior so I'm hoping for more at Nationals.

Bailie. Source- John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
Speaking of Bailie, she was supposed to just do two events due to the stomach bug, and then stepped back into the all-around fray at the last minute. Very admirable, and great routines from her, considering. I wouldn't judge them as the best she can do in the circumstances and quite a few strong juniors helped her along with falls, but I think Bailie made it clear that she would still pretty much be on top had everybody else hit and she herself been fully healthy. A great boost for her heading into Nationals. I really love her style, she's very clean and really sparkles on floor...despite the best efforts of her interesting choice of music. She has more than ever cemented herself as the junior to watch.

And back to seniors, I really enjoyed Kennedy Baker on floor for her incredible tumbling. Perfect 1.5-double arabian- stag and her second pass is more laid out and Dos Santos 2 looking than it was last year. The Downie-Pak combination on bars is just awesome. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to have much life in her, especially noticeable on floor where she was just going through the motions. I get the impression that she's more on the periphery now and that she'll make the switch to college gymnastics when she can. Fellow Texas Dreams gymnast Peyton Ernst on the other hand, is working her way up and up. She's extremely steady and impressed on all four events, especially with her lovely leaps. I thought her DTY was underscored in comparison to Kyla's, both had issues but 0.5 was too high a disparity, from the angle we saw. Peyton seems like a workhorse type, a great gymnast to have in a team final. I'm not so sure about whether she can shine individually just yet, she doesn't stand out enough I think though maybe she can change that with a few smart upgrades. A little more polish and toepoint and she could really be exceptional.

Simone Biles quite clearly had an off day, with a fall on bars, a wobbly uncertain beam, a fall on her last pass and no vault at all, after she crashed an amanar in warmups. I'm not sure what to think. On the one hand, it's Classics and it's always known as a splatfest, we have seen extremely consistent Nationals and/or worlds performances from girls who did badly at Classics before. Simone also had upgrades on floor to contend with which have not been competed yet. On the other hand, she really had trouble with every single event and she did fall at both American Cup and Chemnitz, though two falls out of something like 18 routines doesn't sound like much for the competitions she was at earlier this year. So she can be consistent or not? Was it just nerves or can it be explained by sickness? She did say last week she was at home sick and said recently she's a little under the weather. She cannot be counted out of the all-around just from this competition, but she will need to hit her routines out of the park at Nationals in order to avoid rivalling McKayla Maroney for a specialist spot. That said, her floor routine was incredible until the fall- excellent double double, sky-high double layout-half out which were both almost stuck and a clean 2.5-punchfront which helped absorb the landing she usually had issues with. I wonder what she can do, double-double-stag, full-in double layout, 1.5-tucked full, piked double arabian...that is the plan eventually, and of anyone she is capable. She also has a Cheng in the works. Simone hopefully can learn a lot from her day and come back fighting at Nationals, she's definitely not out of the running for the all-around spot and people who say she is are counting their chickens.
Brenna. Source- John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
Brenna Dowell impresses me more everytime I see her. She used this competition very wisely, throwing some brand new skills like a toe-on Tkachev half (!!!) and trying out some previous upgrades, like a full-in double layout and an amanar. Her bars have seriously cleaned up, with three very dynamic releases, with the middle one only ever done by the queen herself, Beth Tweddle. Brenna's attempted connection, from the Tweddle to a straddle back, is I think an interim measure as she doesn't get CV from that transition, it being too easy. I'd imagine an Ezhova is in her near future, but the straddle back is good practice. Sure she missed the connection in competition, but she nailed it in podium training. Likewise, her beam connections aren't there yet either, but look well on the way. She has a nice skill selection there too but seeing how much she has improved on bars...I'm really hoping she can tighten her form on beam some more. The full-in double layout was a bit clunky but still secure, and the front double pike-leap was perfect. Slightly short on the tucked double front, but in general she achieved a lot and has a good bit of guidance now on things to work on. Smart use of this competition. Her third place, given the new skills, was well deserved and she can certainly better her score. One to watch.

Would-be third place is Abigail Milliet who sadly counted a fall in her exquisite beam routine, but still scored 14.2 for it as she has a whopping 6.4 difficulty. Her bars were really lovely, her DTY was secure and floaty, and her floor was gorgeous. She's very elegant and stylish and with a few upgrades in her bar routine could definitely be very helpful to team USA. Really enjoyed watching her. Madison Desch also had a very nice beam, slightly wavery but that's not a big surprise given her injury and recovery. She did just this one event and petitioned through to Nationals on the back of it and happily succeeded. She has a layout full up her sleeve for the future, and a nice floor.

Laurie. Source- John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
In the junior ranks, hot favourites Laurie Hernandez, Nia Dennis and Polina Shchennikova all had falls, and all on beam with Nia falling on bars also. Laurie went on to dazzle on floor, Nia's arabian still stole the show on beam and her floor and vault too was excellent..but I'm not sure about Polina! Her bars difficulty is very high, but it was, as I thought in the camp videos- a bit sloppy with less than stellar execution and she got slammed for it, almost outscored by Norah Flatley whose difficulty was nine tenths lower. I'm not sure if she can shine as a beam/bars specialist, but it would be nice especially on beam where she has gorgeous work, like her Mostepanova split pirouette in handstand. Laurie Hernandez' bars were bit baffling. She stalders her way through the routine which while impressive, appeared to leave her open to be flayed by the judges in execution, who were quite harsh with her routine in comparison to others. It could do with a bit more variation but she still has three more years before it really matters so I'm not that concerned about her. WHAT a dancer, her floor is just magnetic. A fantastic highlight of the 200+ routines. Nia did not really seem herself, though still showed great work. The arabian, as mentioned, is just jaw-dropping, absolutely perfectly upright. Her floor has 6.2 difficulty which is great to see. Would love to see her point her feet more, especially on bars. A worthy rival of Bailie all the same, despite errors here.

Norah. Source- John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
We need to talk about Norah Flatley. 15.2 on beam out of 6.4 difficulty. She broke that ridiculous connection and still got by far the highest beam score of the day, juniors or seniors. She also went overtime, so really 15.3 and higher when she hits the front aerial-front aerial-side aerial-split jump-back pike. She had the highest execution on beam and on bars of any junior, and bested only by Kyla Ross on both events among seniors. Norah led after two rotations and placed an astonishing fourth overall. This is her first elite competition, and the girls who beat her have been elite for years. What a great competition for her!

Watching Mykayla Skinner made me annoyed. Here is a girl with quite obviously unbelievable talent and an incredible skill set- including a Fabrichnova, double double laidout, bhs-arabian and bhs-tucked full combinations on beam, double double tucked, Cheng and an amanar (not competed). But she's going absolutely nowhere with such poor basics and execution, and with coaches who seem to not care at all about that, her block on vault, and the wisdom of her passes on floor. Her leaps are deplorable, bars and beam extremely messy..the list goes on. What is the point of having her throw a laidout and tucked double double and double arabian when she doesn't have the energy for her last pass? She also fell on a pass in her last competition too, and this time was very short on the double double, done as a third pass. 6.3 difficulty is not much of a reward for a crazy routine like that, they need to rearrange it. This is the first time we've had a good view of her Cheng in action and it was very impressive, especially as she blocks off of one hand. I'm no technical expert but it looks to me as if the vault table is in her way, rather than a medium to propel her. Some moments of greatness, I loved her beam connections despite the wobbles and the laid-out double double was amazing, and definitely laidout. On vault she has enormous potential also. But I don't see it happening for her in elite, and I blame her coaches. Squandering talent, pushing her forward on the back of difficulty is no good when her foundation is so lacking.

The tag team of Lexie Priessman and Amelia Hundley have definitely improved since their showing in Europe earlier this year. Both particularly impressed on floor. I'm happy they're not going full-on with difficulty yet though, and pleased Amelia's beam and bars continue to look better each time.

The junior competition produced several shining gems that I hadn't gotten acquainted with yet, though several names were familiar. Gabby Perea and Hope Masiado stood out on floor for having gorgeous lines, Ragan Smith was stunning on bars, Alonza Klopfer shows nice potential on floor but the best were Christina Desiderio, Molly Frack and Emily Gaskins. They're not from gyms you'd expect- the latter from CGA and the former two from Parkettes but wow were they good. Molly was superb on beam and floor, nice skills and a great performer. She also showed potential on bars. Emily and Christina both did Alexandra Eremia's split planche on beam, it's stunning. Emily has a lovely lightness and elegance to her, she really sparkled on floor and beam and Christina seems to have it all, the skills, potential difficulty, and form. I almost forgot Deanne Soza who seemed very promising, especially on beam where she has quite a lot of skills under her belt- pity about the fall.


- Laurie Hernandezfloor. Love the music, tumbling, dance. She utterly owns the floor when her music begins.
- McKayla Maroney's tumbling and vaults. Refreshingly great.
- Norah Flatley's elite debut.
- Abigail Milliet's beam, beautiful.
- Brenna Dowell's toe-on Tkachev-half, and front double pike..and amanar.
- Pure gymnastics. The stream wasn't great but there was no lingering shots of gymnasts taking off grips and drinking water.
- Nia Dennis' arabian.
- Ariana Agrapides overrotated DTY. Awesome, she's not even elegible for Rio.
- Mykayla Skinner's double double laidout.
- Simone Biles' double layout-half out and double double.
- Kyla Ross' lovely high double arabian-stag.
- Kennedy Baker's first two passes and Downie-Pak.
- Polina Shchennikova's mount sequence.
- Molly Frack and Christina Deseridio on beam and floor.
- Lexie Priessman on floor. Great passes and nice choreography.
- Amelia Hundley on floor, great work.
- Bailie Key's assured quality in her work, even when sick.
- Sydney Johnson-Scharpf's dance on floor.
- The height on Nia Dennis' releases, even though she came to grief on one.
- Alexandra Marks' long, lovely lines.
- Emily Schild's, Nia Dennis', Kyla Ross' and Peyton Ernst's killer DTY's.
- In general, the abundance of lovely work among the juniors especially.
- The absence of outrageous scores.


- The absence of Elizabeth Price, Rachel Gowey, Jordan Chiles, Bailey Ferrer, Bridget Dean and more.
- Really bad tour-jete's. EVERYWHERE.
- Not entirely consistent scores on bars and vault, some harsh scores relative to others.
- Mykayla Skinner's bars and beam.
- Bent knees majorly infesting beam.
- Falls everywhere- Nia's, Laurie's, Simone's and Abigail's were particularly sad.
- Meltdowns amongst juniors, sad to see and hard to watch.
- WOGA, minus Katelyn Ohashi, seem to be a bit lost. Nothing really stood out about their gymnasts.

Favourite routines

Beam (junior) Norah Flatley (senior) Abigail Milliet
Vault (junior) Nia Dennis (senior) McKayla Maroney
Floor (junior) Laurie Hernandez (senior) McKayla Maroney
Bars (junior) Bailie Key (senior) Abigail Milliet

Favourite leotards

GAGE! It was lovely, gorgeous purple/violet against the white contrasting arms, a bit of sparkle. Simple but not plain. I also liked CGA, the assymetric white on black one, which reminded me a bit of the 1992 Unified Team's Olympic leo. A great departure from horrendous leos from both gyms. Girls Co-Op had a nice baby blue one with a white firework looking thing near the bottom. Kyla Ross' and Simone Biles both had nice leos, but not amazing. I much preferred Alexandra Marks' version of Kyla's leo. WOGA's leo was too sparkly. Delighted hot pink was not as much in evidence as I expected it to be. Still some offenders, like Ragan Smith and Chow's girls though. McKayla Maroney's leo had too much going on- lose the stripes going around to her back and it would have stood out in its own right much more. Black is a great colour on her though. The Texas Dreams leo was definitely different! Kennedy Baker looked amazing in it, but it washed out some of the others and was too small on some. I'm 50/50 on it, the pattern wasn't that great but I loved the gold. The MG elite leo, the lime green one, really suited Laurie Hernandez but too much mesh and the collar was awful.


Classics is a splatfest. But really, I don't think we're any further advanced with picking the two all-arounders in Antwerp. McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross have further cemented themselves as locks I think, Mykayla Skinner has done damage...I don't believe Simone Biles has, yet. Lots of upgrades shown, lots to hone for Nationals is the real message.

What were your favourite routines, leotards? Thoughts? I've embedded some videos in highlights for convenience.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Quick round-up

Five days until Classics! Very exciting. Sadly, Elizabeth Price has pulled out as she tweaked a hip during a tumbling pass recently. She was due to compete vault and bars which would have been very exciting to see. Hopefully she'll be back in time for Nationals. Although Classics is usually a splatfest, it will still set the stage for the worlds team. I'll be ignoring falls for the most part as they quite often don't mean anything. Gymnasts like Mykayla Skinner though can't afford falls if they are to really prove themselves in the running, especially as she has a reputation for inconsistency anyway.

My main wishes are;

- McKayla Maroney to hit everything, especially vault and floor though it'd be very interesting if she does the AA and nails beam and bars. As has been discussed to death, she does have a great line on bars with a fantastic gienger and dismount. She has a great flow on beam and always nails connections, though her bent knees kind of suck here. I'd like to see a twisting dismount too.

- Mykayla Skinner to nail floor and vault too. That would really shake things up in the running for the specialist spot.

- Fantastic beam and performance by Abigail Milliet, she has a lot of style.

- Improved form and solid routines from Brenna Dowell. I don't care that she's quite obviously not a dancer, she has improved a LOT in the last year and I'm rooting for her.

- A really exciting showdown between Bailie Key and Nia Dennis. These two are quite evenly matched.

- Much stronger performances from Lexie Priessman and Amelia Hundley than what we saw in Europe.

- Norah Flatley to score the highest on beam amongst the juniors and Jordan Chiles to place top 5 AA.

- 4/4 from Simone Biles and a sense of greater control on her floor landings.

- Someone to have a release-fest on bars, like Tan Jiaxin or Shang Chunsong. Polina Shchennikova is shaping up to have the best bars combination but hers is different to my dream..

- Laurie Hernandez' floor. It's just fantastic.

- The junior competition, just in general. There are a HUGE amount of juniors with quite a lot that I've never seen any routines of.

- Any leotards that are not hot pink. I'm a fan of magenta or sangria or whatever GK call it (London AA leo etc.) but the pepto-bismol shade is just horrible and the really super bright pink doesn't suit very many people.

What are you looking forward to? Other than a good competition!

USAG have just confirmed that podium training will be streamed. On Friday, juniors at 9:30 Eastern Time (so 14:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT+1) and seniors at 12pm Eastern Time (5pm GMT, 6pm GMT+1). On Saturday, competition day, juniors will kick off at 1pm central time ( so 7pm GMT, 8PM GMT+1) and seniors at 6pm, again central time (11pm GMT, 12AM GMT+1). USAG are promoting the two days in eastern and central time respectively so I kept it that way to avoid confusion, just keep an eye on the actual timezone they list. Streaming will be on

Roxana Popa of Spain has just won Spanish Nationals. Not a great feat you might think, but her score was huge- 58.083. Her difficulty is 5.8 on everything except bars, which are 6.1. She's a new senior and she doesn't really have a weak event. I'm really looking forward to seeing her in Antwerp. Her bars in particular scream upgrade- the Tkachev-Pak for instance. Great swing from her, check it out.

I created an account for the laugh. It's here. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

EYOF in a nutshell


- Eythora Thorsdottir on beam. Refreshingly Soviet and glorious.
- Kim Janas' floor choreography. Not so much that it flowed wonderfully, it didn't, but the actual movements were great.
- Laura Jurca's DTY! Really excellent first showing.
- In general, 2 more DTY's for Romania. They now have 3 in the junior ranks.
- Tyesha Mattis' double double. So unneccessary (skills are capped at E value) but awesome, great landing.
- Solid Russian beam. How very unusual! Great routines by Maria Kharenkova and Maria Bondareva.
- Andreea Iridon's beam. Love.
- Quality performances by Britain. Team gold, AA gold and silver, rings and pommel gold, parallel bars and floor silver in MAG, team silver, AA bronze and vault gold and bronze in WAG. Awesome! They could have done even better but they had some issues in WAG team finals.
- Maria Kharenkova's double arabian. Lovely and neat. Jury's still out on her double pike- sheep jump. She needs a B jump for that connection so your average leap won't do but the very nature of a sheep jump makes it slow. Maybe a double stag if that's a B? Any other suggestions?
- Martina Rizzelli on bars. Deserving bars champion. She's a new one on me and I really loved her swing and lightness.
- Emma Larsson's bounciness on floor. Great tumbles from her.
- Eythora Thorsdottir on floor. Because who can't be enthralled even from the way she walks on before saluting?
- Silvia Zarzu on floor. She looks better, more 'on'. Despite the loss of her much-loved floor music from last year (to me anyway) I really enjoyed her on this event.
- 2/3 hit routines for Eythora Thorsdottir on beam, and no falls! Her usual beam routine is almost guaranteed to have a fall. Nice 2.5 upgraded dismount too.
- The resurgence of Laura Jurca. She's been relagated to an alternate type but she really showed what she's made of at this competition. Sadly she wasn't great in the AA but did so well on the first day and in vault finals. Super DTY!

Not-so highlights

- The absence of Andreea Munteanu (hand surgery), Madalina Blendea (stomach issues), Enus Mariani (back problems) and Elizabet Vasileva (???).
- Tiebreakers. Particularly the AA one, a tiebreak for gold is extra unfair. Poor Kim Janas! Does everything with Olympic in the name employ tiebreakers?
- Falls, like Andreea Iridon on bars, Russians on bars, Silvia Zarzu on vault, Tutya Yilmaz' meltdown on bars in the AA and more.
- Russian steadiness on beam seeming to come at the cost of their bars. Even Viktoria Kuzmina was not great, short handstands, no upgrades. They do have good basics of course..
- Very harsh scoring, particularly on floor. Scores were also too close, which resulted in several ties.
- The livestream. Would not work on firefox, had to use Chrome. Way too much focus on the audience and on gymnasts after their routine. Nice variety of gymnasts shown but many of the top contenders had only 1 or 2 routines, or in the case of Maria Bondareva- none, shown.
- Super bouncy floor. This is the floor that was used a few times so far this year with numerous out of bounds, and will be used in Antwerp. There's getting used to a different floor and then there's a floor that is just too bouncy.

Best routines

Beam- Eythora Thorsdottir, EF
Floor- Ooh. Kim Janas, Emma Larsson or Eythora. 
Vault- Laura Jurca, EF
Bars- Martina Rizzelli, EF

Best leotards- Netherlands TF, Romania TF

A great competition, though marred by notable absences, falls and tiebreakers. Not the best competition for Russia and Romania though a valuable experience for them I think. What were your highlights? Has Eythora won over the masses yet?

Nothing else will embed! A pity she doesn't have the difficulty for gold but a silver is such a boost anyway for her most troublesome apparatus, and in front of a home crowd too.


Saturday, 20 July 2013

Routine of the week

It won't embed but it's a must-watch- Silvia Mitova of Bulgaria on floor in the 1992 Europeans event final. Silvia also wins several awards for her leotard and hair. I've seen routines from her before, but they didn't have the punchfronts and back-to-back. Feel free to express your outrage that not only did she not win, but she didn't even medal! She placed fourth in an admittedly strong field, and everyone's favourite Gina Gogean was first. 9.875 is a disgrace for this.

I also found Tatiana Gutsu's famed (but fleeting) full twisting double layout bars dismount. She did in fact do it in 1992 but obviously before her back became a major problem. Watch it here. I will blog on EYOF a bit but it's still too hot, ughh.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


EYOF podium training took place yesterday and team finals and quals are tomorrow. Romania are kind of the team to beat as they have a 1.6 lead over everyone else on vault and really strong routines elsewhere. That's not to say Russia have no shot or anything, but they are down on the difficulty front. Unfortunately, it looks like only the AA, on Thursday, will be streamed.

Good news- Elizabeth Price WILL compete at Classics despite not being on the roster. Two events, according to her aunt. I'm guessing bars and beam since these are the events she showed in the camp videos. Luckily since she's qualified to Nationals anyway it doesn't matter that she's not doing the AA, she can still do the AA at Nationals.


Technically there should be an accent on the i but I've always found this funny. I can take her seriously but she's basically yellow Kim to me...which I've just realised sounds really racist. Damn. And Oana Ban's surname is spelled the same as the word for white, bit not pronounced the same (Bui is) so I won't count it.


Now this one made me sad. What kind of state are beam routines in if a new fan thinks Shawn Johnson's and Alicia Sacramone's low to beam choreography is something other gymnasts should aspire to? Granted they were a little better than some we are seeing but still very perfunctory and kind of pathetic. I know I know, they don't have time to writhe elegantly anymore, but there's plenty of moves that wouldn't even be time consuming. Anything is better than my least favourite, Aly Raisman's flop. I have it tagged as 'Aly finds a coin on the beam' since it reminds me of someone diving to pick up a coin off the road.

This should be required viewing. Most of my favourites are in this- the first girl, who I believe is Scandinavian but I forget her name, the second girl- Charlotte Mackie who only did this in 2004, Elena Gurova who appears at 0:25, the girl at 1:24, Li Li and her back spin at 1:49, the girl right after her, Oksana Fabrichnova with a cradle at 2:29 (Khorkina did this as a junior), right after her- Jackie Bender (check out her mount, it's the hardest non-acro by far) and right after her- Maria Filatova in 1977. Other favourites are Elena Abrashitova in 1990 (very skill-skill, but awesome) and Eythora Thorsdottir's current routine. And this, which must count since she starts from sitting. That is Shannay Gentles of Jamaica at the WOGA Classic, seeing as the uploader went for the shock title. Yes, she dislocates her shoulder on that. I know I've forgotten some. What's your favourite?

While I'm on the subject of Mostepanovafan's amazing videos, check out the dismount one if you haven't already.

My ultimate favourites are the flyaways which begin at 1:47. And guess who's bringing it back..Eythora Thorsdottir of course! She has a double which as you'll notice is not a D so hopefully they have a 2.5 planned. If they were going to upgrade her previous double pike to a boring double layout of full in tuck, then they wouldn't have bothered chucking a flyaway in now so it must be here to stay. They ARE very hard to stick though. Victoria Moors and Ellie Black are also breaking the monotony nicely. Anyway, other favourites are Li Ya's arabian piked double front (Semenova does it in the video at 3:28 but hers wasn't near as good),  Betty Okino's dismount at 1:13, Li Ya's piked full in at 2:31 (thanks FIG for rating it the same as tucked, it's harder and so much prettier than the tucked version so there's no incentive to do it!), Adrienn Varga right after her, Jamie Dantzcher's dismount at 3:14, Shantessa Pama's triple back at 3:44 (That's right folks, not a Jordan Randall original! Personally I think there's gymnasts that get enough height to do this cough Biles), Laura Martinez at 4:17, Elena Mukhina at 4:51 and of course Ma Yanhong's dismounts which begin right at the end, 4:56. What are your favourites? Will we see more of a break from the traditional DLO/Full in?

And a bonus! A confession that really annoyed me.
Ukraine's money problems are well known. Even if this person didn't know, information about the state of their gymnastics programme is only a quick google away and would have explained why they did not have expensive leotards. The leotard, by the way, isn't even that bad. It's not nice but it's not even ugly really. But it doesn't matter if you have to scrimp and save to send your gymnasts anywhere at all to compete, they might as well not have shown up if they didn't have a glittering uber-shiny creation costing more than their coaches earn in a month. Because who cares that they couldn't afford to send two gymnasts to the WOGA Classic and the host gym stumped up the cost (and arranged host families for accommodation) or the fact that their star gymnast has torn her ACl again and will need the best of care and physiotherapy? DUHHH they need GK in, stat!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Universiade and other stuff

There's a heatwave (seriously rare here to get anything even approaching 20 degrees more than two days in a row) so motivation for blogging has been seriously lacking. But here's my super-late thoughts on Universiade and a round-up of other news anyway.

We need to talk about..
Afan. Source-

..Afan. First, a new floor routine! Same spectacular tumbling with crazy height. I can watch those passes all day. The music itself is nice and pleasant, certainly much more subtle compared to her last routine. The choreography is lacking and there's a lot of disappointment as a result. But we need to remember a few things; Afan has upgraded her routine since London, she now does two whips into her triple and two turn combinations- the latter also taking up a good bit of time. She wisely conserves her energy for the tumbles, especially the troublesome third pass and the double pike which gets way more height this year...possibly because it failed her so spectacularly last year. She's also not in peak shape since we're still a bit away from worlds. Am I hoping she will do more with it than arm waving? Absolutely, but I wouldn't give up all hope yet. Let's not forget Universiade is a gruelling competition with the gymnasts competing days in succession- Afan for one competed 10 routines over 3 days and with her ending pose on floor in event finals looked like she wanted a blanket for a nap and only got up with the greatest reluctance.

Her bars, of which we saw two routines, are definitely still hit and miss, but she was not originally supposed to do them as she was planning on taking more time to prepare and get used to grips after Euros. A fall in team finals/quals was followed by a pretty decent routine in the AA the next day. She still had nice lines and form on this event, the major flaws being a muscled up handstand and the still unsteady dismount. Noticeably better than when she crashed it sideways in Euros however. She also missed a requirement in the AA, a full turn. She fell on this the previous day so probably wise to swallow an 0.5 deduction rather than take the full point for a fall. This also happened in the Russian Cup this year when she missed the front tumbling requirement on floor. Beam is still shaky, but hopefully when she gets to grips with the new combinations it can be as steady as she was in London.

Her DTY's were lovely and clean but sadly I couldn't watch the EF's live to be shocked when 4.35- 6.3 flashed up for her amanar in event finals. It's quite clean aside from tucking too early in the last half twist and she gets it fully around but the landing was not great, fairly injury- friendly really. Hopefully she can get more height and improve. It's very new for her of course, and seriously impressive when you think of how long she's been in the sport and the fact her DTY used to be nothing special. Her second vault was great, again not magnificent height wise but great form and kick-out. It too was new and it means that she matches the vault difficulty of McKayla Maroney- as seen in the ranch videos of the latter. After Aliya Mustafina fell in the AA, it was hoped Afan could comeback and potentially snatch gold off her but a wobbly mess of a beam routine and her low difficulty bars were not enough even when coupled with a spectacular floor routine. It's bewildering to think that she could not only make Maria Paseka redundant but also Anastasia Grishina.

It was the competition Aliya Mustafina had been looking forward to all year, then she was out with flu after being hospitalised and missed a crucial week of training and was replaced by Ekaterina Kramarenko then she was back in..but in what condition? Her first routines, floor and vault, showed a noticeable deterioration in her twisting- the infamous triple full having bypassed its usual hideous triple-axel form and gone straight to dangerous. She performed this tumble three times in competition and each time the landing was scary, unlike other times where she has managed the landing very well regardless of her leg form. The DTY lost some of its dynamics, but the landing is no bother to her- great spatial awareness. On bars she lost momentum on one of her transitions, being too close to the bar but she didn't make that mistake again and her next two routines on bars showed her usual stellar work, though unfortunately with no upgrades which was unsurprising given her recent illness.

Beam was the real test and her 15.2 was a great sign. She's still pausing for a cup of tea before the dismount though. Falling off in the AA seemed to galvanise her for the rest of the routine but it of course still means her steadiness on the apparatus is in question. I'm very surprised she didn't pull out of floor finals given that she's pulled out of every other so far this year and also her obvious exhaustion, evidenced when she put her hands down on her last pass. Two times out of three, her double arabian was short which I found almost shocking as it is by far her strongest pass usually. This was lost in the storm of what the hell is the triple full still doing in the routine. Her focus and determination is great and a well deserved AA gold and bars gold were added to her team gold. But I'm not so sure about her beam silver. All systems go for Antwerp now. She's clearly better than this, but I still see no argument for keeping the triple full in.


- North Koreans on beam. Sure their acro is not great but they are so light and floaty.
- Yu Minobe and the rest of her team. Not a huge amount of difficulty but so much style and great form.
- Kang Yong Mi's bars. Gorgeous.
- Afan getting through her bars in the AA. Hopefully a nice boost while she continues to adjust to using grips in the future.
- Hong Un Jong winning gold with the highest vault difficulty. Dodgy landings but it's impossible not to root for her.
- Maria Paseka's block on her amanar has improved.
- Maria Paseka being so thrilled when Afan hit her vaults, despite the fact that it means she could technically replace her.
- The glorious return of Tatiana Nabieva- for her facial expressions alone! So much gold. Lovely bars, some nice tumbles on floor and a pretty good beam. Impressed.
- Tatiana Nabieva's face when the anthem played was a college anthem, rather than the country's anthem. Hilarious.
- Anna Dementyeva hitting beam so well in quals/team. Also ditching her troublesome old dismount.
- Danusia Francis being amazing to watch as always. Really magnetic performer, even though her music and choreography was not her NCAA one. Presumably Nellie Kim would have ordered an immediate zero for that. Hoping for a beam video of her.
- Hannah Whelan hitting in the AA. It took some downgrades but a great gutsy performance from this veteran.
- Ellie Black and Kim Bui hitting their routines out of the park. So steady.
- Elsa Garcia and everything she does. Wonderful gymnast.
- Especially her double layout
- Whackjob Japanese floor music as usual. Hey, big spender!
- Medals for Hong Un Jong, Tatiana Nabieva, Zhang Yelinzi, Elsa Garcia and Kim Bui.
- Really awesome vault final. 3 amanars, 2 Chengs, DTT's, Lopez', Rudi's.....
- Gymnasts other than Aliya Mustafina qualifying for 3 event finals.
- Zhang Yelinzi showing a 6.6 routine years after she was in the hunt for a major team. She used to have a 6.9 routine!
- And of course, lots of older and quite a few inexperienced gymnasts getting their chance to shine and showing some amazing routines.
- Yang Hak Seon's vaults. Like..what.

Not-so highlights

- That triple full
- Some scary vaults. Yu Minobe, the Afanar, Ri Un Ha..
- Inconsistency. I really wanted to see Kim Un Hyang in the beam final, and for Yu Minobe to medal in it. The beam final falls sucked.
- No Rie Tanaka. Any competition she isn't at is a little lacking.
- Three days of competition one after the other. It's too much all in one go. They could intersperse competition with rythmic if they cannot afford the extra days if they used the usual system of having the men alternate with the women.
- Non-broadcast of any subdivision except the one Russia was in.
- Some underscores. I thought Alexa Moreno deserved higher execution in vault finals.
- Exhausted gymnasts.
- An attitude of 'HA! Russia beat Japan by 10 points, way more than USA beat Russia in London!'. If Russia did not wipe the floor here with their nearest competitors it would have been an utter disaster and they might as well have shut down Round Lake and gone home- an A team versus much lesser gymnastics programmes B and C teams? Not to mention that the calibre of competition at an Olympics is on a different scale entirely.

I'm sure I'll think of more.

Favourite routines

Vault- Ksenia Afanasyeva, vault 2
Bars- Kang Yong Mi EF
Beam- Yu Minobe AA
Floor- Ksenia Afanasyeva AA

Favourite leos

Elsa Garcia TF/Quals, Heo Seon Mi AA, Elsa Garcia EF and Danusia Francis EF. Aliya Mustafina's bumblebee leo is a no from me, I think she's too pale for it.

Here is the best photo ever.

What are your thoughts on Universiade? Favourite routines? Why have North Korea latched onto the hot pink of their enemies?

In other news, Alexander Alexandrov has been officially named head coach of Brazil's WAG programme. He will first assess a group of gymnasts at a camp. It's a bit late to make miraculous changes before worlds, so hopefully he will concentrate on improving bars as a whole amongst the juniors. And starts to hone Rebeca Andrade into even more of a superstar.

Wang Yan of China has just won AA, vault and beam at a very recent China-Russia youth friendly. She also came third on floor. I feel obliged to share that her nickname amongst Chinese fans is potato. Nicknames tend to based on looks, and although we would find them offensive they are not really in that spirit. Tan Sixin is called big head also. Anyway, Wang Yan is not your average Chinese gymnast, she's quite strong and has Shawn Johnson's acro line on beam- BHS 2feet- BHS 2feet- LO. Her full beam difficulty is 6.7. One to really watch, she also has decent bars.

The Russian WAG EYOF team is Maria Bondareva, Maria Kharenkova and Viktoria Kuzmina. It was not announced but a photo emerged as they're actually there now. I was kind of hoping for Seda Tutkhalyan but this is such a stellar team. The Romanian team has sadly shed Madalina Blendea in favour of Silvia Zarzu. It's not known if this is because she's injured- like the fact Andreea Munteanu isn't on it as she just had hand surgery- or if they're relying on Silvia's floor score to bring them up. Watch out for a certain German junior- Kim Janas- to make a splash individually and for the entire British team to make their mark.

Both Silvia Zarzu and Laura Jurca have DTY's! This means that they have a 1.6 lead over Russia in the EYOF TF (2 scores count) right off the bat. It will be interesting since Andreea Iridon is great on bars and Laura Jurca is half decent. And now Madalina Blendea not being there makes more sense.

Jennifer Pinches will compete for UCLA, starting this year! I did hope she would consider NCAA after retiring and quite aside from the excellent choreography she will get there, she'll also be with fellow Brit Danusia Francis. Congratulations to her.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Antwerp musings

So the team for Japan has been named, and the elite season for the US has not even begun. Most gymnastics programmes are somewhere in between, but a picture of the main players is definitely swiftly emerging.


In America, the first elite meet, Classics, is just under a month away. Traditionally, this meet can often be a splatfest as the girls use it to test new routines in preparation for Nationals. The Olympic team plus alternates have already qualified through to Nationals and so have the girls who competed internationally so far this season- so Maroney, Ross, Biles, Price, Nichols, Priessman, Dowell and Ernst do not need to compete at Classics but more than likely will anyway. Katelyn Ohashi is presumed out as she is not training yet, Sarah Finnegan is still recovering, and the status of Peyton Ernst is not known as she too had surgery recently. We can pretty much assume that Simone Biles is a lock for Antwerp unless she's injured. Her biggest problem is consistency as she could blow everyone else out of the water for difficulty if she includes one or two upgrades this year, but not if she biffs a bar release. No, not the TTY which as we have seen is not yet ready (if you have not seen it- she gets it around enough to be credited, but it's slightly under. She does not have the height and lands in a deep squat, deeper than sitting- and then falls back. She states that it is scary because her upper body gets it around but her lower body twists slower and her feet don't get around, making it a recipe for ACL tears if she competes it before she masters it) but maybe the full-in double layout, double wolf turn on floor and/or arabian on beam. Simone is the strongest all-arounder that they have, and can potentially qualify for all 4 event finals.

With the more than probable absence of previous contenders Katelyn Ohashi and Jordyn Wieber, the composition of the rest of the team is up in the air. Kyla Ross I would call at this stage another lock, though she needs a hefty upgrade stick to beat off the challenges Brenna Dowell, Ebee Price and Lexie Priessman pose for the second all-around spot. Even if she loses out for the second AA spot in prelims, her bars and beam are definitely needed and should get her easily into both finals. Medalling is quite another matter- her bars would need to approach 6.6+ and her beam roughly the same, the latter is quite a tall order. So, spots one and two are thought to be nearly guaranteed as long as both girls stay healthy. There will be another spot going to be a vault/floor specialist, to complement Simone and potentially take home more than one medal in both finals. McKayla Maroney, Ebee Price, Lexie Priessman and Mykayla Skinner are all contenders for this spot. McKayla, as we have seen, has her amanar back and her old vault, the Lopez. She is also training a double layout which is new, and a double arabian which isn't new but hasn't featured in her routines in years. Her floor could definitely break 6.0 but the combination of her passes she plans on competing is unknown. 3.5 twist or double layout, 2.5-front layout, 1.5- double arabian (unfortunately the dance-through video appears to indicate a hurdle for a 1.5 for the third pass :( and which had so better have the 1.5 placed earlier in her run or she's sunk already) and double pike would probably be the best bet. I don't see her competing the 3.5 twist AND double layout as she was never one for killer endurance on floor, even though she has grown.

Mykayla Skinner has a 6.5 floor routine, and 6.4 and 6.3 vaults. She has trained a half-on double full (Cheng half) though it's unknown if it's something she played around with once or could actually be done this year- after all, her Cheng is explosive. All of which makes her very, very interesting. Lexie Priessman has a full potential on floor of 6.7, not yet competed, and her second vault is unknown. Ebee's second vault is supposed to be a Mustafina, so 6.3 and 6.0 difficulty. McKayla is the one with Olympics and Worlds experience of course, whereas gymnasts like Mykayla have no international experience at all. Should be a great battle. That leaves one spot left, and they don't really have any amazing specialists aside from vault and floor remaining unless Katelyn is back in time to potentially take gold on beam. If not, a solid back-up like Brenna Dowell, who MAY be able to take the second all-arounder spot is the best bet. Ebee too is another very strong contender for that spot. But we might get an unknown like Abigail Milliet, who has a very strong beam routine in training- proving herself capable of medalling at worlds. I do see a team of Biles, Ross, Dowell (insert healthy Ohashi here) and Maroney being the most likely. But I wouldn't bet on it! Nevertheless, my team consists of:

Simone Biles, AA, VT, FX and UB and BB attempts
Kyla Ross, battling for AA with Dowell, UB and BB
Brenna Dowell, battling for AA with Ross, FX and UB attempts
McKayla Maroney, VT and FX attempt.

Beam and bars are not THAT strong but not weak enough to be called a void. Vault, floor and the AA itself are bursting with potential medals.

Romania are only utilising 3 spots. This time I would put money on this team's composition of Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar and Sandra Izbasa. But don't be fooled by such lack of depth, as these three are fierce contenders for medals. Although Sandra placed an astonishing fifth in the London AA, it is expected she will do vault and floor only. I say 'only' but the fact is she would be a favourite to take medals on both. The other two will compete all-around. Larisa, with her swish new second vault and 6.9 beam difficulty should have no issues making a number of finals, though she could potentially be pushed out of floor finals if Sandra and Diana (with upgrades) score higher. She's the favourite for gold on beam and is expected to feature on the AA podium. Vault and floor are definitely much more uncertain, especially vault where her current difficulty is not the highest. Her biggest weakness, big surprise, is a weak and badly composed bars routine which lost her the Euros AA gold despite a huge lead after the other three events. She needs upgrades to in any way overcome the handicap her bars pose to her AA chances. Diana's bars are a little better, except for her releases, but her difficulty here is far too low. Her beam too is just 5.9. On a happier note, she is FINALLY getting a new floor routine this summer. Her best shot for a medal is floor, and even then she could get squeezed out of the final if she does not upgrade and if Sandra is back to her best on that event. Bad news for Ana Maria Ocalisan and Stefanie Stanila who once again are not being given a chance. They may not be ready to represent Romania in a major competition...because they don't get any assignments! So this team, barring injuries, will be:

Larisa Iordache AA, BB, VT and FX (battle with teammates)
Diana Bulimar AA, FX (see above)
Sandra Izbasa VT, FX (see above)

With the exception of Viktoria Komova who was injured at the start of this year, last year's Russian Olympic team have not taken a break from training. Which is just as well since this year's seniors are sadly not up to much- with the exception of steady but Sheep-pak'd Evgeniya Shelgunova who appears to be injured. Ekaterina Baturina is probably the second strongest new senior but her difficulty leaves a lot to be desired. If Viktoria Komova is healthy, then she is on this team. So too is Aliya Mustafina who has competed a few times already and will do so again at Universiade. Viktoria's AA scoring potential will be enormous if she's fully recovered, and she should quite easily qualify to bars finals, beam too. Aliya is having quite a few issues with her beam, but she did hit a completely steady routine this year and one or two others that were nearly as good. She's expected to add 0.4 to her bars to up them to 6.7, more than likely a carbon copy of her London routine as difficulty has gone down in the new code. The third spot will go to Ksenia Afanasyeva, who unlike most veterans who stay the same or go downhill, has actually improved. She added bars back to her arsenal but she won't compete them at Universiade. She also has an amanar in the works and is training a full-in double layout. Her floor difficulty is the highest yet competed (Mykayla Skinner competed hers this year in the JO code) so far this year and she stands a great chance of medalling there. If she can hit bars then she's also a very good AA backup. The fourth spot will I think go to Maria Paseka. Even if she just competes the DTY, she should qualify for finals. Anastasia Grishina on the other hand, even if she hits every routine is unlikely to qualify for any final above her teammates. If Viktoria is not ready in time, then Anastasia would take her spot. If Maria proves unable to hit her vaults then I'd take Alla Sosnitskaya instead. My Russian team is:

Aliya Mustafina AA, UB and BB and FX attempts
Viktoria Komova AA, UB, BB
Ksenia Afanasyeva FX
Maria Paseka VT

For the Chinese team, worlds falls just in between two other major competions- the first of which, National Games, is actually more important to them. There are a bunch of retirements of the Beijing and London Olympians expected right after this meet, but should any of them hit and win medals I think we can expect a little delay in their retirement plans. There is only one new senior of importance this year, Lou Nina, and she is out with an arm injury. Consequently, we can expect Yao Jinnan as a lock for this team. In particular, she needs more upgrades on floor to fulfil her AA potential. She is, however, training probably the most exciting upgrade we'll see all year- a Mo Salto! I'd also put Shang Chunsong on this team. Tiny Shang has impressive difficulty across three events, and may yet grow enough to execute a DTY. She has proven herself to be inconsistent however, though not nearly as much as gymnasts like Huang Qiushuang who made a number of important teams on the back of her difficulty. No matter who else goes on the team, they will be fighting amongst each other to make bars and beam finals. They do have a very good vaulter, Li Yiting, but her vaults are quite unpredictable and a bit scary. The third spot will I think be up for grabs between bars specialists Tan Jiaxin and veteran He Kexin, depending on who hits in September. I know Huang Huidan is the one who snatched gold earlier this year but she's very flaky and I don't expect her to hit again when it counts, sadly. Although Yao Jinnan and Shang Chunsong are top quality beamers, I'd still take a beam specialist like Sui Lu or Zeng Siqi for the last spot, due to the lack of floor/vault specialists.

Yao Jinnan AA, UB and BB attempt
Shang Chunsong AA, UB, BB and FX attempt
Tan Jiaxin/He Kexin UB attempt
Zeng Siqi/Sui Lu BB attempt

Japan's team is a bit of a no-brainer, seeing as it has already been named. Two-time Olympian Yu Minobe joins the girls long seen as locks- Asuka Teramoto, Natsumi Sasada and Mai Murakami. The question is, who will join Asuka in the AA? Mai is the obvious bet, but she has very very rarely hit 4/4. For that reason, Natsumi is the best choice. Mai will be looking to make floor and vault finals, Yu beam finals, Asuka bars, beam and floor and Natsumi beam and floor...though she's very very shaky and beam is unlikely for her. Their best hope for a medal is Mai on floor, whose difficulty ranges from 6.0 to a monster 6.7. The latter is very unlikely to ever be credited, as her tumbling and dance skills have unfortunately gone downhill compared to when she was a junior.

Asuka Teramoto AA, BB, UB and FX attempt
Natsumi Sasada AA, BB and FX attempt
Mai Murakami FX and VT attempt
Yu Minobe BB attempt

Canada have lost some of their best seniors to NCAA- Brittany Rogers, Peng Peng Lee and Kristina Vaculik which is more than a bit of a blow. Nevertheless, they do have quite a few promising seniors. Girls like Victoria Moors and Ellie Black are locks if they are healthy. Victoria, who is training a double double laidout, unfortunately had a disastrous time at Nationals as she was sick and had calf issues. Even with that, she has competed very strongly when healthy and her floor is really her ticket to the team as it has huge medal potential. Ellie is a fierce competitor and has made great strides on previously weak events, bars and beam. I'd add Gabriella Douglas and Maegan Chant to this team, the former for her spectacular floor and the latter for her vaulting- not super strong yet, but showing enormous potential there and both need the experience to improve. This team, like Japan, is fairly devoid of someone for bars but should do well anyway.

Victoria Moors AA, FX
Ellie Black AA, FX, VT and BB attempt
Gabriella Douglas FX and BB attempt
Maegan Chant VT and FX attempt

Britain are not exactly in a brilliant position, they have lost the excellent Gabby Jupp to an ACL tear, Rebecca Tunney had a disastrous comeback from injury recently, new seniors like Georgina Hockenhull and Angel Romaeo have not proven themselves yet, bars specialists Ruby Harrold and Becky Downie have fallen more times than they have hit and seriously strong gymnasts like Amy Tinkler, Tyesha Matthis, Ellie Downie and Catherine Lyons are all juniors. Beth Tweddle has refuted rumours that she is retiring but she is almost certainly not going to suddenly knock out a killer 7.0 bars routine as she's still taking a break. Rebecca and Hannah Whelan have definitely not had great competitions so far this year, but both have plenty of time to improve on what they have shown. I believe Rebecca aside from the long break with her recovery, has also grown a bit which will of course impact her routines. That said, I'd put both girls on the team to do AA. In a similar vein, despite the inconsistency of both Becky and Ruby, they are still good hopes for the bars final if they don't fall, so they'd be on the team also.

Rebecca Tunney AA, FX, UB attempt
Hannah Whelan AA, FX attempt
Becky Downie UB attempt
Ruby Harrold UB attempt

Italy's Vanessa Ferrari has made noises about retirement but she's been competing so much this year and just won the AA at Mersin so I think she'll hang on until after worlds. Her presence alone is a huge motivation and boost for the rest of the team. Along with her I think Elisa Meneghini will do the AA and then some combination of Carlotta Ferlito/Giorgia Campana/Elisabetta Preziosa for the other two spots..but I think we'll see Carlotta and Giorgia.

Vanessa Ferrari AA, FX, BB, UB attempt
Elisa Meneghini AA, FX and BB attempt
Carlotta Ferlito FX, BB attempt
Giorgia Campana FX, UB, BB attempt

The All-Around

For a Post Olympic year, I don't think we run the risk of a weak field whatsoever. (In 2005, Monette Russo won bronze and in 2009, Koko Tsurumi). The top Russian and Romanian girls have not taken a break, and while some of the Americans are only getting back to training now, there are enough that the idea of them scrambling to field two top all-arounders is ludicrous. Currently, Simone Biles is the one to beat. She boasts huge difficulty- 6.3 vault and beam, 6.2 floor and 6.1 bars. It's quite likely she'll sneak some upgrades into floor and beam also. Aliya Mustafina has 5.8 vault, 6.3 bars, 6.4 beam and 6.1 floor. Similarly, she has upgrades planned for bars and her beam difficulty may reach 6.7 or higher. The key for both girls is to stay on the beam. That won't be an issue for Larisa Iordache who could well be dragged down by her weak bars instead, but her 6.9 solid beam is a huge boost for her. Her floor is 6.2 and her vault 5.8. Her bars were in and around 5.7 but she can upgrade there. It's far from concrete how USA's second all-arounder will be but we should, from past experience, except them to be strong. China's Shang Chunsong could well be up there if she gets a DTY- her difficulty is 6.7-8 bars, 6.6 beam and 6.1 floor. Yao Jinnan could be the slow and steady threat for bronze either. We are of course, far too far out to really pick the medals but this lot plus a healthy Viktoria Komova are definitely in the forefront for medals.


Astonishingly deep, potentially much moreso than the lacklustre Olympic final. Expect Simone Biles, a second American, Phan Thi Ha Thanh, Giulia Steingruber, Ri Un Ha, Janine Berger, Oksana Chusovitina, Noel Van Klaveren, Chantysha Netteb, Alexa Moreno, Jade Barbosa, Adrian Gomes, Mai Murakami, Hong un Jong, Ellie Black, Maegan Chant, Sandra Izbasa, Maria Paseka, Yamilet Pena, Fadwa Mahmoud and Larisa Iordache to bring all they can to the (vault) table.  Let us just hope the Produnova chuckers can get up afterwards..though Yamilet's coaching and injury status is unclear, so maybe she is sticking to safer vaults if possible. Last year has taught us that even the surest of sure things can crash a vault so I will not even attempt to divine a top 8 from this. I'd love to see the top 4 make the final though the latter two failed to do so last year. Giulia is upgrading her second vault- doubling it, but both vaults are in danger of being downgraded or heavily deducted due to piking, unfortunately.


Although Beth Tweddle has said she's definitely not retiring, but as mentioned above she's not in a position to shine this year. Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova will be expected to be in the front of the hunt for medals- and whichever two Chinese gymnasts qualify. Elizabeth Seitz is doing her Def again, newcomers Sophie Scheder, Jonna Adlerteg and Roxana Popa all have strong sets and the brilliant but inconsistent Ruby Harrold and Becky Downie will be pulling out all the stops to make finals. Kyla Ross, Kim Bui, Asuka Teramoto, Noemi Makra and Lisa Katherina Hill are all ones to watch too. There are also one or two Australians like Maddie Leydin who may be in with a shot. All of last year's routines are down about 0.3 in difficulty in this code so I would be surprised if we saw a 7.0 routine. Certainly the Chinese have a few approaching 6.8 though, and there are quite a few girls doing exciting release-release and/or release-transition combinations in their routine to boost difficulty. Whoever makes the final, it will definitely not be a snoozefest.


We've all been namedropping Katelyn Ohashi for this title when it emerged that her routine has a 7.2 d-score. Although she is very steady with it, her connections are too slow and consequently she has not yet hit past a 6.8 in competition. That's not saying much, since she only competed twice and is currently recovering from surgery. She may be able to get this event back in time and we shouldn't count her out of the running to make the team, but the focus has definitely shifted onto other high-scoring beam routines, or at least until Katelyn's ability to compete this year is clearer. Larisa Iordache is another favourite, and one who is definitely suffering from a few health issues herself that are hindering her usual precision if her recent performance at Anadia is anything to go by. Larisa's beam difficulty is 6.5, she competed 6.7 at Doha and has now competed 6.9. Certainly the latter is the routine she will be unleashing at worlds, and that will be hard to beat. Shang Chunsong remains a major threat, especially if she can improve her dismount. Simone Biles may increase her beam difficulty to 6.7, and Kyla Ross would be a contender too if she upgrades. We should expect an Italian or two, like Elisa Meneghini and Carlotta Ferlito and maybe a Russian if their routines are steady, but this looks like a clear-cut fight between the Romanians and the Chinese.


The girl to beat is Ksenia Afanasyeva who whipped out an almost perfect routine at Euros and an upgraded difficulty of 6.4. But Ksenia is inconsistent and there are quite a few snapping at her heels- Simone Biles, the second American, Larisa Iordache, one of Sandra Izbasa/Diana Bulimar, Victoria Moors, Mai Murakami, Giulia Steingruber and more. Full-in double layouts, double doubles, 1.5 twists to tucked full-ins and maybe even laidout double doubles will abound. Definitely not shaping up to be a weak floor final.

I updated the predictions that I did last November. You can see them, marked in blue, here.

Do you disagree with my 'teams'? Who I have missed factoring in for event finals? Will we see a laidout double double or TTY? What will Vanessa Ferrari wear?