Look at Ariana Agrapides. She's not senior for another four years, so 2017 worlds would be her aim for the moment, and her Olympics would be 2020. With that in mind, she already has a DTY, double arabian and piked full-in. AND she's training an amanar. The first three skills are done very well, no doubt about it. Safe and secure and the DTY is one of the best I have ever seen. But that's not really the point. It's too much pounding at her age (12) and unfortunately, spells burnout. She went from not having an FTY to an amazing DTY in less than six months. Can this talent not be preserved? An amanar is just asking for trouble, and indeed, she currently has a fractured foot, not that I can tell the exact cause of that.
This is fantastic. But it's a little early and an upgrade is asking for trouble for her knees, joints and ankles. They just don't need that stress that early, and for what gain? The Jr National Vault champion. Not much of a trade-off. The same gymnast had an utter meltdown at Nationals on bars and her highest e-score over both days on that apparatus was 6.7. Going back to basics there could well serve her better in the long run.
It hasn't escaped my attention that if Ariana does do an amanar next year, she wouldn't be the first, three years off from being a senior. This exclusive club also contains Lexie Priessman. McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber also did it two years before becoming senior, at the age of 13, but they at least had London looming ahead.
Ariana has fabulous potential on vault and floor in particular. But what's the rush?
Irina Alexeeva has already attracted a lot of attention, Russian-born, WOGA gymnast with a flair for floor and beam. She competes at HOPES level, which is between elite and Level 10. Indeed she achieved the scores needed for elite I believe this year, but it was decided to not advance just yet. A wise decision given that she is 2002 born and therefore not senior until 2018. Yet, yesterday at Masillia she scored 15.850 on beam, with a d-score in the mid 6's. This score no doubt has a bonus included but think about it, 5 years from senior and she had more difficulty than anyone in the worlds beam final. It is like Aly Raisman trouncing seniors on floor, in 2005. I thought when Irina debuted this routine that it was too much for her and that she struggled a bit, and although the score from yesterday indicates that she must have mastered it totally, it is still craziness.
Not to mention Jordan Chiles, 2017 senior, who has a DTY and is also training an amanar. Not doubting her ability at all, and it looks good in the video, but I'm just hoping it stays in the pit until 2015. Or indeed Laurie Hernandez who showed up this year with immense upgrades on every event. Like Ariana her teammate, her skills look secure. But it could have waited another year.
What do you think? Am I fussing about nothing? Or is the trend for more difficulty younger and younger indeed worrying? We only have to look at examples like Katelyn Ohashi and Jordyn Wieber for athletes who it did no favours to. The code demands so much from gymnasts these days, but there has been no advancement in the structure of the body and how badly pounding can affect it. Look at the injury list before/during/after worlds. The longer gymnasts do these skills, the more likely an injury is. In the US, the depth of talent means you pretty much need to make a name for yourself. But pacing has never been so important. Being a superstar junior is not much good if it ultimately means that your senior career takes a huge hit.