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 so..it'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|
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|
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|
|Norah. Source- John Cheng/USA Gymnastics|
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 Hernandez' floor. 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.
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
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.