I feel like it's only a matter of time before Amelia Hundley is injured and out for a season, much like first year senior and teammate Lexie Priessman. I find her a surprising gymnast- she's powerful, as you would expect, with strong vault and floor, but she's also very good on bars, and half decent on beam. Unfortunately she missed her bars connection, but it was a strong routine with a great stuck landing. Vault and floor were as good as ever- she should be more dynamic on vault though I think, but unfortunately her beam was a mess. Wobbly, hesitant, doubting everything- she looked so nervous, and did indeed come to grief. Beam will always be tough when you've shot up in a year and definitely 5"5 or more, but she was really not herself at all. A shame, but hopefully she can redeem herself in finals. 4th place in prelims all things considering is a very good result. I think she could be a valid team contributor as a senior, especially since she can actually swing bars.
For me though, it was the other three standouts I was really watching for. First up, saucepot Laurie Hernandez who once again, gave her everything on floor. I am in love with the music, the choreography of course- but also the tumbling. It seems it gets lost in the rest of her routine which is the total opposite to everyone else's routine- but that is a very tidy and strong double arabian- stag she has going on, and a super clean piked full-in and double pike. The landings did not go her way on Thursday with stumbles and steps from overcooking her tumbles, so she can claw back some vital tenths there today. Her vault was fine, she's been struggling with it a bit this year and it's an ambitious vault- DTY- for one so young and small. Hopefully she can improve the height and dynamics of it in time. Bars were a lovely surprise, again she'd been struggling with it in podium training, and she was short on every handstand and late on turns at Classics and was hammered as a result. Not so here, where she did the routine of her life and outscored Bailie Key! I'm interested to see how she develops on bars- it's not an area where I'd expect her to ever be amazing, but who knows. On beam she wisely played it safe, going for just one layout-stepout instead of two in her series. She manages to incorporate some of her huge presence on floor into her beam, but most importantly she hit, and starting on beam can be nervewracking. Really pleased to see that she has brushed off the inconsistent label somewhat, and beyond thrilled we will (hopefully!) have at least two more floor routines from her before she even turns senior. Her improvement in one year, and added difficulty, is remarkable- though thankfully not concerning, she seems well capable of what she's doing. I was concerned it's too much when she'll be a junior elite for so long, but the more I see her the more I'm not worried at all.
|Bailie. Copyright- USA Gymnastics- John Cheng|
Bailie Key has hit all of her routines this year- Jesolo, Chemnitz, Classics and Nationals Day 1. It's an impressive record for the gymnast who has long been touted as the number one junior to watch, with added pressure to hit as a result. I think Bailie has it all- she's got the tumbling, the vault, the leaps, the gorgeous bars work, she's a steady and beautiful beam worker and she even has great flexibility as a bonus. Super clean with great execution on pretty much everything. Now she's not exactly perfect- she's not super dynamic on vault yet, and her artistry on floor is questionable- I say questionable because I don't think even firecracker Laurie could make much of that music. It's quite overpowering, and especially for such a dainty gymnast. My favourite routine of hers was her beam. The only real fault is the lack of height on her layout, which is pretty whip-like. Everything else was basically glorious. Her bars are nowhere near her full potential and I was sad to see the absence of her perfect laidout gienger but that just means there's more to look forward to. This girl is going places and in a way it's sad she won't be at YOG. Maybe the Japan Junior International though which always attracts big names. Anyway, Bailie is being paced beautifully and continues to increase her standing as a fabulously clean all-arounder.
Bailie's main internal competition is fellow 1999-born Nia Dennis. Nia is a powerful vaulter with an explosive DTY and an amanar in the works for next year, a huge double layout, SKY high bars releases that are higher than those of Gabby Douglas and the highest arabian we've ever seen. She has something Bailie lacks- spark. She has everything, and she's exciting. With a gymnast like her you expect to see something lacking in her form and leaps- not so. Her form is actually fairly impressive given how muscular she is, and she delivers everything with such amplitude. The arabian on beam is just ridiculously good, and her bars releases are jaw dropping...it's as if she's going in slow-motion. I get the impression they've worked on slowing her counter-rotation so that she actually has a chance to catch the bar, but that coupled with the height is just incredible. Don't get me wrong, Nia has got flaws. She's not very consistent yet, she bends her knees before her releases (I forgive this like I forgive Kim Gwang Suk for it), her landings on floor are not quite there yet, her beam is unsteady etc. As indeed she proved with quite a wobbly beam routine and precious tenths lost on floor. Really hoping she nails everything tonight- her potential is seriously enormous, in her way she has more talent than Bailie even. They are a very interesting contrast and it will be good for both girls to have such a worthy foe to contend against.
Norah Flatley was as bright as a button like she always is. She's got some gorgeous basics on bars that will serve her very well, clean gymnastics everywhere, great lines, and personality. Nothing is at the level of her beam yet, but she's got time to build and no better coach for it. Chow has definitely got the makings of a star here. Speaking of her beam- she's been seriously promising there for years, but her ability still amazes me every time. Fabulous routine- strong backwards AND forward tumbling, with great amplitude as well as form. Her full start value is 6.6 but again she didn't get her full connection. But a 15.350 says it all. Her difficulty keeps her below the top girls- she has 21.9 total in start values versus 23.6 for Bailie, 23.5 for Nia, 23.1 for Laurie and 23.2 for Amelia but despite that, she's firmly cemented herself as one to watch.
|Jordan Chiles. Copyright- USA Gymnastics- John Cheng|
- Laurie Hernandez' floor and bars.
- Nia Dennis' bars releases and arabian.
- Nadia Cho's exquisite bars and beam. Stunning work, gorgeous lines.
- Polina Shchennikova's Mostepanova turning handstand in split. Drool.
- Norah Flatley's beam
- Bailie Key's quiet confidence in her work, and her beam of course.
- Molly Frack's floor and Christina Desiderio's beam. These mini Parkettes are fabulous. And that Eremia planche hold thing on beam- swoon!
- Laurie Hernandez on bars. I don't think anyone was expecting her to hit like that.
- Abby Paulson on bars, really pretty work and lines.
- Vanasia Bradley's explosive vault.
- Ariana Agrapides' DTY, such power!
- Sydney Johnson Scharpf on beam and floor- she's got presence.
- Nica Hults on beam.
- Falls. Amelia, Abby Paulson, Jordan Chiles and more. Steadier than Classics but still sad.
- Polina Shchennikova needed a great competition and instead furthered her cause to fade into obscurity. It's such a shame, she's got such gorgeous work.
- The general dearth of floor routines showcasing artistry or any kind of good dance.
Floor- Laurie Hernandez
Beam- Norah Flatley
Bars- Nadia Cho
Vault- Ariana Agrapides
Favourite leotards- Texas Dreams and MG Elite. I also liked Jordan Chiles' leo.
Overall, I was really impressed with the form of the juniors. There were fabulous lines in evidence everywhere, clean basics, great leaps and perhaps most importantly- girls with the makings of good bars workers. The US might be condemned as a nation of flexed feet, bent knees and 150 degree splits- but don't let it fool you. There was elegance, excellent form and presence in abundance. The other side of the coin, difficulty, remains as impressive as ever- but I did think there wasn't many throwing skills beyond them. The US has girls who can't even go to Rio throwing incredible DTY's...everybody else needs to buck up.
A lot less gymnasts competing than earlier, and yet- so many routines lost to ad breaks, or interviews with you know, retired gymnasts. I wish USAG could stream it themselves, but alas.
McKayla Maroney surely felt she could have done better- she flirted outrageously with the boundaries on floor, not helped by her growth as well as her looong runs into tumbling and her vaults blocked with too much power- the amanar also blocked a little too high and she lost a bit of height. Still amazing vaulting of course and her higher difficulty despite poor landings helped her nudge Simone Biles firmly into second. She'll be aiming just for small steps, and no doubt over her tumbles. I'm very impressed she's upped her difficulty on floor- it makes her a real contender in Antwerp on more than just vault. This girl is going nowhere, and I hope all of those who predicted she was going to abandon gymnastics and 'whore' herself out with acting are stuffed with all of that humble pie. Not quite as good as she could have been, but McKayla was still dazzling and her floor choreography and music change is really growing on me.
|Simone. Copyright- USA Gymnastics- John Cheng|
Kyla Ross was uncharacteristically nervous on beam, which was strange to see. She has taken out the whip-double tuck on floor and still landed low on her third pass, the double pike. I can't get excited over a routine fresh from 1989 difficulty-wise and while her big stumble forward on the double pike was so disappointing because it means endurance is still an issue- I was very pleased to see that her recent artistry coaching has definitely paid off. She let go a bit more, sold the routine much more than she had been doing. They can't teach her good upper body carriage overnight, but improvement is always welcome and I hope it catches on with other seniors and juniors. Kyla definitely redeemed herself with an excellent and effortless bars routine, and her vault was great. I don't think she has damaged her all-around status- though competition was lacking, with a fall from Peyton Ernst, the equivalent of a fall with Brenna Dowell's two missed requirements, and no all-around from Lexie Priessman and Elizabeth Price. But she did show the glaring weakness her low difficulty presents. At this stage, her coaches have almost shut the door on upgrades.
It definitely wasn't Brenna Dowell's day, not only did she miss connections exactly like at Classics, but she also missed two compositional requirements- the full twist on floor, and the leap series on beam- 0.5 deduction each, so she basically fell. The full twist on floor is a bit puzzling- fair play to her if she realised late on that she wasn't going to get the full-twisting double layout around, and opted for the safer double layout. But I remember seeing from twitter that she was pretty much only warming up the double layout itself- so they knew she was going to swallow that deduction. Well, hopefully they didn't forget. She's a great gymnast with fantastic ability- questionable form and leaps on beam aside, which is her weak point. Unfortunately, her selling point really is as an all-around gymnast and she did not show enough to get onto the team for Antwerp.
Kennedy Baker's piked double arabian was more laidout than ever- certainly equal to Daiane Dos Santos, who never achieved the perfect pencil-straight form on it to begin with. Last year it was very loose..now, it's creditable, which is amazing. Unfortunately she stumbled bigtime on another pass, which let her score down. She has moments of greatness on bars also, and her wolf turns are awesome..but I don't think it's enough and still believe she's on her way to NCAA sharpish. Peyton Ernst flung an upgrade, a pretty nice double layout. She looked on track to do as well as she at Classics, but came to grief on beam. She could really rival Brenna for bronze tonight...but I'd be quite confident at this stage that neither will be at Antwerp. Madison Kocian wowed with excellent beam and bars, and along with everyone else, I sat up and noticed her, and placed her on 'my' worlds team. Unlike Abigail Milliet whose competition didn't go her way, she has the difficulty on both events. Of course, she rolled her ankle on floor and is now out of tonight's competition, sadly. That doesn't mean she can't verify at camp and sneak onto the team, it could be quite minor. I was so taken aback by the fact she finished her routine AND did timers on vault, amazing considering how awful her ankle roll looked on the replay.
|Mykayla. Copyright- USA Gymnastics- John Cheng|
Mykayla Skinner came back with a vengeance after her disastrous Classics performance. Podium training still showed her one-handing her Cheng vault, or as it's been described- her laid-out double double with a high-five to the vault table. The fact her coach high-fived her after this was just depressing. BUT, never write someone off. She nailed her floor routine, WITH the double double laidout in bends (though she sacrificed form for this), had an actually decent bars set with much improved form and skills and then vaulted pretty well. She is still twisting far too early which prevents her pushing off on both hands fully- but it was a lot closer, and not really valid for that deduction. It's still astounding she can get that vault around, and very well too. Yes, her beam was a hot mess but I'm so pleased she improved so much everywhere else! And I really, really love her floor music, and the choreography bit where the music changes. It's symbolic for her senior elite career so far. You think she's gone and then BOOM she's up and running in contention to make the National Team. I still want her to change coaches sharpish but..well played.
It's quite interesting how the seniors are panning out for worlds this year. McKayla Maroney has charged her way into the fray as THE contender for the vault/floor spot. The inconsistent Simone Biles has done herself a lot of favours to take an all-around spot, so too has Kyla Ross, despite her own difficulties with..difficulty, and endurance. The last spot has always been interesting. First it was Katelyn Ohashi's until she was knocked out with injury, then for me it was Brenna Dowell's until I discovered she would not be able to do the all-around in prelims, then it was between Elizabeth Price for bars or Abigail Milliet for beam, with some having Peyton Ernst in contention too...for others it was Lexie Priessman's who would only do floor to complement McKayla only doing vault and then finally the spot was Madison Kocian's. Clearly we are still in for some surprises..
- Simone's Lopez vault. Floaty, high, stretched, beautiful.
- Madison Kocian's beautiful bars and beam
- Mykayla Skinner's floor..tumbling, music, some greatness in her choreo.
- McKayla Maroney's tumbling. Nice upgrades too. And goes without saying- her vaulting. She blew the roof off and she wasn't even near her best that day.
- Kyla Ross' bars. They won't get that score in Antwerp but they were just gorgeous. I can watch her backhandspring-layout on beam all day long too.
- Some really high and floaty double arabians. I like this trend for juniors too.
- Brenna Dowell's front double pike and Tweddle, because how badass are they?
- Kennedy Baker's wolf turns. Yum.
- In general, a serious amount of impressive work by the seniors. They're not going to sweep the medal table in Antwerp- which would be really rough with no team competition to balance it out anyway..but they're going to make their mark.
- Tidy hair! Loving this. It's not something I got all hot and bothered about before, but I freely admit it is nice to see. The biggest difference though is junior Lauren Navarro between Classics and Thursday. Check out her beam from the two competitions for the best appreciation.
- Madison Kocian's injury. Heartbreaking.
- Elizabeth Price not being ready and falling apart on bars. More tragedy!
- Some appalling commentary. Yep, McKayla needed the redemption of the team finals vault after her fall in event finals...that makes chronological sense for sure. Why yes, Gabby Douglas would not have made the team had she not placed at Nationals..you can't mean 2012, so please at least specify the year.
- Interviews with retired gymnasts when THERE IS GYMNASTICS GOING ON.
- Similarly, there were at least five ad breaks too many meaning not near as many routines were shown.
- Other falls, like Peyton Ernst. Quite a few stumbles and low landings on floor too.
Vault Simone Biles. Yes, she was better that day. Perhaps not as impressive in the air- though she is in some ways with her stretched form- but definitely more impressive on the ground.
Floor Simone Biles. Back on form.
Beam Madison Kocian
Bars Madison Kocian
OH MY GOD McKayla Maroney's leotard was incredible. I would have preferred if the arms faded out a bit more..it looked a bit disjointed. But nevertheless, stunning. Similarly, GAGE's leo was just beautiful. In general, there's a trend away from pink towards blues and purples...and we should all embrace it while we can, before they're forced into National Team pink.
Soooo...have you caught up on youtube? Here is Day 1's senior broadcast if you missed it. This is a very long post and I had to rush though it a bit, so I'm sure I've forgotten some important details- feel free to add them in the comments! Favourite routines? Greatest surprises? Your worlds team? Are you on the fence about Maroney's peacock look? Can Al Fong remember the code in time?