It's really quite odd to see such a depleted senior field compared to what it looked like at the start of the year, and then have so few actually do the AA. Ebee has of course gone to college, as has Abigail Milliet. Kennedy Baker dropped to Level 10 to prepare for college while others such as McKayla Maroney, Lexie Priessman and Peyton Ernst were out with injury. Brenna Dowell, Madison Kocian and Nica Hults were present but not healthy enough to compete AA. Madison Desch did, but seems to have totally faded, sadly.
The US is lacking depth...but for them, for their standard. Certainly they are a world away from the crisis facing Romania who have so few seniors that they are not choosing a team, they only have 6 girls. Given how we've become used to the US having the goods to send more than one team, it's downright odd to see so few healthy and in contention.
That said, we saw an incredibly impressive display of gymnastics. There's absolutely no doubt that even a weakened mid-quad US has the goods to dominate all...team, all-around, floor, vault and again should be able to make an impact on bars and beam.
Scoring was um, a bit sickening at times. I had thought that US overscoring had calmed down, but now I think of it that probably relates more to American Cup which certainly died down from hysterical levels in the last 2 years. Nationals though, 9.1-2 e-scores were being handed out like candy, especially to the top few. Simone Biles and Kyla Ross were big offenders here, both netting massive scores on beam in particular with 9.2 execution, other scores that stood out were Ashton Locklear's bars, and Mykayla Skinner's Cheng and floor. Over the top. What I tend to do instead of focus on the scoring is focus on the ranking, or of course, just the routine. Otherwise it's easy to get annoyed. Especially when you watch a so-close-to-perfect beam routine by Wang Yan score 8.233 execution and then watch Alyssa Baumann score over one point higher on the same event. Both judges were at opposite extremes and neither was correct. Bahh.
She just needs to be the first gymnast mentioned. At this stage, and after watching her compete the all-around 3 times in as many weeks, she is strange to watch. Almost scary. How can someone be that good and do everything with such ease? She improves all.the.time. As a recent gym fan, I have been able to follow her progress in 'real time' which is of course a bit of a novelty. In 2012 she stood out for her amanar and DLO-split jump in the clouds, but that was it. She didn't properly stand out until 2013 when she emerged as a huge all-around threat, but she managed to lose to Katelyn Ohashi. This weekend she emerged 4 points ahead of her closest rival, which would have been 3 had neither of them counted falls. She has become untouchable and it's fascinating.
The best in the US being the best in the world isn't exactly a new phenomenon. Yet the gap between her and the rest is actually shocking. What's most intriguing is how much more she has to give. Her floor didn't really tax her at all, you feel when watching her that she could do a triple double, Biles, double layout-split leap, Dos Santos/double arabian-leap, and a full-in too if 5 passes were still allowed. What I really loved watching was the control on her passes, she's no longer bounding all over the place. Clearly there has been massive work undertaken on her landings and it shows off her skill so much better. Her split position looks to be that bit better too. She's never going to wow anyone there, but nevertheless, more flexibility is always good news.
|Copyright- Christy Ann Linder|
I'm flabbergasted at how with her power and build she can throw an extremely flighty high BHS-LOSO-LOSO with perfect form. It's not an acro line that would immediately bring her to mind...I'd imagine her doing BHS-arabian or another aggressive series much faster, but it totally works. And it's not flat, which is a plague affecting the new resurgence of this wonderful acro line. She is consistently swaying just slightly to the side on the landing, but no big deal. It was the much easier aerial on which she came to grief on day 2, more than likely she was spooked previously by the dodgy execution and save of her 2.5 wolf turn. I'm not concerned, I bet it will all be rock solid by selection camp.
Bars are nothing to write home about at the moment, and more than likely never will be. She's taking it easy for the moment and giving her shoulder a break. And why not, when she can easily afford to downgrade. I do expect a Khorkina which she was training earlier on in the year (this will up her SV by 0.2 as she counts a C) to make a reappearance perhaps early next year, and also a Fabrichnova (add another 0.2). It doesn't need much, really. She has really come on in leaps and bounds on this event, which doesn't really show. But check out her routine in 2010. It's especially tough when the foundation exhibits glaring weaknesses.
There's not much to say about vault. Usual jaw dropping display. I was very pleased to see the Lopez back to its usual brilliance though after an uncharacteristically flat block at Classics, although of course, being superhuman, that was no impediment to her and she still landed it fine. She mentioned a while ago that the Cheng (and TTY) are out for this year but she's aiming for a half-twist upgrade on her second vault, which doesn't look like it should be a problem judging by how she dropped the Lopez out of the sky.
So to sum up..I cannot quite comprehend her talent. She's so far ahead of the field that it's crazy. And not only that, but the fact that she's not done upgrading and hasn't reached her full potential. I am in awe. The only barrier to repeating her AA world champion feat is her own health.
I was very pleased to see Kyla continue to look a lot better than she did at the start of the year, not laboured at all. The whip-double arabian upgrade looked a bit precarious and indeed was her downfall on night one with the whip getting dumped at breakneck speed for night 2. Not to worry, the stag jump was fantastic. What was even stranger on the first day than Kyla falling on floor was Kyla failing to stand her double layout bars dismount up. She floats through the entire routine only to come to grief at the last possible second. Of course, when you think about it..it must be tough to rotate it at her height but I don't think it will ever happen again. Certainly she was much more flawless night two which was great to see.
Kyla is of course a lock for Nanning, and despite a disastrous day 1 at Nationals, did absolutely nothing to change this status. Nobody can take her spot, which I totally thought was possible until exactly this time last year. Ebee I do think would have really challenged her but alas, injured and not doing AA last year, and retired this time around. I'd really like to see her challenged properly.
I'd still really love to see her push herself on beam and bars but I get it. Why change the formula? Her routines deliver, time after time. Not the gold but see above for why that would be impossible.
Maggie Nichols was a big surprise, and a welcome one at that. She has been coasting along on the 'b team' in my mind for a while with a lot to prove to really push herself forward into the limelight. And regardless of injuries and absences of others, she certainly did so in fine style. Solid, but mostly quite clean. Usable on any event. She's much, much better than Aly Raisman was in 2010 at the same exact mid-quad point and more rounded than the latter ever was, but she doesn't have a standout event and that continues to hurt her chances of making an impact on a team.
She is the perfect alternate. Yet the idea of having her as just alternate seems cruel when she pulled it out of the bag like that both nights and even noticeably cleaned up, doing a really nice DTY in particular on night two. But, someone who can fill in on any event and is healthy is worth their weight in gold. On the team though, she can do a few events in prelims. Appearances in TF depends mightily on another potential team member and how she would score in prelims, Mykayla Skinner. If badly, Maggie would slot in easily for good scores on floor and vault.
A fantastic outing but she still doesn't stand out and will need more difficulty, coupled hopefully with yet more form improvement, to really make a name for herself and shine individually.
I am so thrilled her leg form on bars cleaned up a lot, she was much, much better at keeping her legs glued together throughout the routine both nights. She is sickling which is the worst, but it's a fantastic routine and I'm thrilled she's working on the little things. Massive connections and d-score, if she connects it all I could easily see her achieving 15.3ish in Nanning with it.
Beam on the other hand is just not her thing and I'm more unconvinced than I was at Classics. Not because she fell, it's just not really strong in general.
Luckily, her star routine is I think strong enough to get her onto that plane. So much so, that she's in a stronger position than Madison Kocian who is more of an all-arounder than Ashton and has been on the scene a lot longer. Along with Mykayla Skinner, the scores of both girls at Pan Ams happening very soon will be extremely interesting and could decide quite a lot.
Alyssa Baumann didn't really stand out to me, unfortunately. Her beam is really good, that's for sure, but I'm not really swayed by her and I'm not exactly sure why. She remains alternate material to me rather than obvious team member. I keep expecting to see an amazing beam from her since that's what she's known for, but I'm not really seeing it. WOGA need to dump their arabians, I'm tired of seeing them chucked and landed low.
How frustrating for her though, to injure herself on the last routine. Given that she was able to get back up and finish her bars routine with the hyperextended elbow, it might just be minor rather than a nagging complaint that takes her out of worlds contention.
It's great to see Amelia Hundley back in action but her low difficulty isn't going to do the trick. She could quite easily make alternate though. Very, very annoying that the camera followed Simone on the sidelines on day two rather than Amelia's floor...
Brenna Dowell was heartbreaking. Only being ready for bars and then not actually ready on them...it's definitely far from what I was hoping for at this stage of the year from her, leading on from a promising early season.
I'm not sure where she goes from here. She's planning to do the AA at selection camp and certainly vault, particularly the amanar, and floor would be valuable back-ups from her. But I think it's too late. Marta wants them showing the same stuff consistently, not adding back routines at the last minute. It's different if your name is McKayla Maroney but Brenna has yet to really prove herself and in my view, isn't going to be trusted with anything other than bars and right now that's not looking great for her either. Devastating.
Overall, yet another illuminating Nationals. Some have stepped up, others faded away, and some are superhuman.
Best vault: Simone, just anything
Best floor: Simone
Best beam: Simone
Best bars: Ashton
Surprise, surprise, these were my favourite routines on each event too.
My worlds team is shaping up nicely. Simone Biles and Kyla Ross remain as locks, duh. At this point I think Maggie Nichols, Ashton Locklear and Mykayla Skinner make the most sense. The latter I really didn't think would make a worlds team, yet there's not actually much choice with no other obvious floor/vault specialist. She's still a wildcard as her scoring could go either way.
No. 6...nope, can't really name them. It's between Madison Kocian and Alyssa Baumann I think, whoever makes the most sense at the time. I'm too unsure about Brenna Dowell at the moment but she is in the mix still.
More to add to this post tomorrow, at least leotards :)