First up, there's a rumour that there won't be too many big names at Russian Cup. Aliya Mustafina and Ksenia Afanasyeva are supposed to be no-shows, along with Anna Dementyeva and Kristina Goryunova. Evgeniya Shelgunova is also still dealing with an injury, her elbow. In a way, I'd be very happy with the first two in particular getting a break as they've competed a lot this year and there's no real need for them to prove themselves further, and they still have a closed internal competition before worlds selection anyway. But on the other hand, it would be pretty gosh darn useful for Aliya to compete beam as much as possible to really get the routine (whichever of the many she has done this year) steady. Likewise, Afan could do with more competitive vaulting experience. Even if they just did those events, no need for the all-around. Update- Tatiana Nabieva will compete! It's more set in stone now that she and Vika will be the main attractions. Also, Ekaterina Baturina will not compete- injury :(
So, the stage could well be set for Viktoria Komova, who interestingly enough has never really had a showdown against Aliya, even internally. We haven't seen her compete healthy with no prior injury recovery since 2010, and even then she flagged with endurance issues. I, along with everyone else, am eager to see what her routines look like. She's supposed to have everything back and even though blindly trusting what Valentina Rodionenko says would be foolish, I'd imagine she's very close to what's being said about her. Her old BHS-LOSO-LOSO combination is worth more this code, I hope they've brought it back but it's really her bars that draw me in. I'm not a major fan of her as an all-around gymnast for some reason but I'm so looking forward to seeing what she can do on these two events.
To recap, here's my Russian Antwerp team.
Aliya Mustafina AA, UB, FX (?), BB (?)
Viktoria Komova AA, UB, BB (?)
Ksenia Afanasyeva VT, FX
Anastasia Grishina UB (?) BB (?)
If Komova proves herself not ready, insert Grishina into her spot and leave the team at 3 since they can't take Maria Paseka either way.
It's almost the ninth here, so 6 days until US Nationals and even less to podium training, which will again be streamed. The more I think about it the more set Kyla doing the all-around seems to me. I don't really think she can be ousted at this stage, unless Brenna Dowell or Elizabeth Price bring it like Chellsie Memmel 2008 Trials and make it so that they cannot be ignored. That would make it very, very interesting. If you look back at Brenna's execution scores from Classics though, they ain't pretty and I can't help thinking that they are a little harsh- which helps keep her that little bit behind. She did indeed have errors and lost connections dragging her difficulty down, but even taking them into account she should have done better I believe. I'm not ignoring McKayla Maroney but she will need to be really exceptional on previously non-spectacular events to factor in to the all- around at this stage. Can she score 58 in the all-around, yes I think she could. But can she do enough to sneak in and grab an Antwerp all-around spot? Highly unlikely. I don't believe Peyton Ernst has the difficulty yet for an all-around spot, but I think she'd be in contention for a specialist spot. I find her gymnastics quite odd, some of her leaps are beautiful and some really awful. She'll need to be much more 'on' with them on beam to get that spot, and she'll definitely need the dance series which was inexplicably credited at Classics.
All eyes will be on Simone Biles. I'd quite frankly be devastated if she cracked under the pressure. She could, if she hits, smash the 60 barrier and cement herself firmly as number one. If she doesn't hit I've no idea what they'll do. Use her as the wildcard having the much more reliable Kyla as medal back-up, or take her out entirely of the running as an all-around? If that happens, I'd struggle to see her on the team at all as she'd be vying with McKayla Maroney for the VT/FX spot and even if her difficulty is higher (she will have more of a difficulty gap on floor than McKayla has on her on vault), I don't think McKayla's veteran and world and Olympic vault medallist status can be beaten by a slightly flaky first year senior.
Has your opinion on the US team changed since Classics? Who are you rooting for? Podiums?