Monday, 4 August 2014

Classics: Thoughts on Juniors

What an interesting meet Classics always is. First, because there are sooooo many gymnasts, more every year in the junior ranks. Brand new faces barely out of Level 10 willing to impress, veterans showing new routines for the season, upgrades a-hoy, girls going all out to impress at the start of the season, while others are holding back a bit for a steadier pace, ready to unleash at nationals. The sheer variety of styles and strengths on display always floors me. For those who don't like US gymnastics, they should really look deeper. You can't categorise this small army.

Firstly, congratulations to Jordan Chiles on winning the junior AA! I wasn't expecting that at all, although I'm not sure why. The loss of Bailie Key and Laurie Hernandez is a big one and Nia has had quite a few struggles with injury in the last while. Norah Flatley gets hyped a lot, but she is quite clearly not an all-arounder yet. I suppose because Jordan is so young, too young for Rio. Her floor was one of the highlights, the full package...great tumbling, presence, spark. Vault...yeah I'd like to see some work on that block, and her form is a little scrappy on beam though her flow and style on that event have come on bigtime. Bars also are better, her swing and handstands, but she was too close to the bar on each release and was lucky to get that score. A thrilling day for her and a well deserved outcome, I'd just like some tidying up on her execution.

Jordan Chiles. Copyright - John Cheng

We need to talk about Deanne Soza, immediately. I noticed her potential last year but WOW she took my breath away. Talk about talent! I'm a little tired of getting excited about a US junior and then seeing that her bars are bad or average, but no whiff of that here. They made my night (before a certain $ came along), no exaggeration. BEAUTIFUL form, swing..and skills! Huge release move, an inbar stalder shoot to high which is rare as Christmas, a gorgeous Ezhova and a full-in DLO. Fantastic. Beam and floor look strong too...she made me a little nervous on the former, but saved so well. Gorgeous switch leap-Onodi combination. She's another too young for Rio who needs to slow or halt the upgrades and just polish everything. Seriously impressive work from this little one.

Morgan Hurd is too cute for words. Noticed her gorgeous floor at the Nastia cup earlier this year and I was excited when she qualified elite and looking forward to some lovely clean work. Not only was she clean...but so consistent and confident! Wonderful to see, she was holding herself on and off the apparatus like a veteran. Thrilling to see her do so well in the AA. And...this isn't relevant, but she kind of proves a major point about Chinese gymnasts looking younger than their years. Unlike some of the Chinese girls, Morgan (adopted as a baby) has grown up in a privileged environment with plenty to eat. Yet she looks about 6-7..

I haven't really been paying a whole lot of attention to Maile O'Keeffe and Megan Skaggs but they both seem to have shot forward in terms of improvement. Will be keeping an eye on them, especially Maile on beam.

Nia Dennis has been battling injury, so it wasn't overly surprising that she wasn't at her best. Even so, she showed what she is capable of when healthy. She has killer potential and I really hope she's able to demonstrate that next year when she's senior and hopefully fully bounced back.

Norah Flatley's beam was gorgeous as anticipated. I'm curious about the long term plan for her though. Perhaps we will see more from her on bars at Nationals, but her routine at Classics was fairly dull and empty I thought. Nice floor work, but she's not standing out there and her FTY doesn't look like it will be anything else in the next while. She remains a beam specialist, albeit a gorgeous and most valuable one, in my eyes. She's with Chow, and Chow is great, but he's not great at vault and Norah doesn't have the power of Gabby or Shawn for instance.

I was expecting quite a bit from the Parkettes crew, Christina Desiderio, Molly Frack, Margzetta Frazier and Megan Freed, especially the first two but it wasn't their day. Molly didn't do AA. Christina in particular is so much fun to watch on floor, hopefully she can improve and really get up to where the top few are.

Speaking of falls, there were so,so many on beam. Not that it'd be unexpected when there's so many juniors, plenty competing for the first time on podium, at the first major elite competition of the year. It's moreso that it was sad to watch, given that quite a few needed this meet to qualify to nationals. On the other hand..I saw no falls or big errors on bars?

Victoria Nyugen's beam was so, so beautiful. Yes, she went into a handstand in the middle of her series but it didn't work to save her balance and off she came. Nonetheless, it was amazing..and admirable that she didn't let the fall faze her. Great floor from her I thought, looking forward to seeing her develop. Unfortunately, another bad meet from Alexis Vasquez who was pulled from two events. She's struggling with a hip injury. Here's hoping she can come back strong next year as a senior.

Victoria Nyugen. Copyright - John Cheng

Jazmyn Foberg was the only MG elite girl healthy enough to be present. She was quite solid but not outstanding, which is fine in one her age. However, while she may not be as pushed as Laurie is or as Ari is on vault, her bars were quite new and she struggled with them halfway through. A fluke, or yet another exhibition of too much too soon..hard to know.

Rachel Baumann was lovely to watch on beam and floor, but I kind of expected more. It was refreshing to see her perfect technique in her passes, but I'd like to see more than the typical WOGA standard emanate from her routines. She could be great.

Shilese Jones is another who stood out on floor...with a 1.5 twisting double back! Great pass, she's powerful and interesting to watch.

For all the criticism American artistry or lack of gets, there was quite a lot on display here. Olivia Dunne really stood out, gorgeous, gorgeous presentation. From an 11 year-old at that. Likewise, Emily Gaskins who is just stunning. Pity about her routine, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

The Good

Floor These young ones are continuing the legacy of strong floor work. Lots of big tumbles- double layouts, 1.5 double back, double arabians, 1.5 to triple etc. Some lovely dancers too and many who have excellent presentation

Beam combinations Building from the ground up, lots of juniors are working the code very well. BHS-LOSO-LOSO, switch-Onodi, aerial cartwheel-LOSO, aerial-aerial-side aerial etc. Lovely scales from a few too.

Variety Is the best part of Classics. SO many girls from so many gyms, different ages, sizes, styles,'s great.

Leotard game was oh so strong

The Bad 

Injuries, dropouts and girls competing not yet recovered Too many to mention.

Bars Despite many cool connections and skills shown, overall I was not impressed. There was a lot of average work on display and poor skills foundation and form. Sigh.

Leaps So many were bad


Floor Jordan Chiles
Vault Jordan Chiles
Bars Nia Dennis
Beam Norah Flatley


Floor Morgan Hurd
Bars Deanne Soza
Beam Tough. Nia Dennis
Vault Norah clean

Favourite Leos

Nia Dennis. Copyright - John Cheng
Buckeye. Always get it right...this is beautiful, colours chosen and their use, and the design. Stunning.

Emily Gaskins. Copyright - John Cheng

CGA have got it going on here. I'd prefer if the sleeves were plain white though. 

Bailey Ferrer. Copyright - John Cheng

We see this shade and fabric quite a bit, but the tiny star-like pattern of the chrystals make this stunning. 

Honourable mentions: Shilese Jones, Olivia Dunne, Morgan Hurd, WOGA

Dishonourable mentions: Lexy Ramler, Delanie Harkness

Lots less pink than usual! Some nice attempts at red and lovely blues and pinks.


Better than it has been, and it's not usually too hyped for juniors anyway. The one score that stood out (I'm sure there'd be more if I studied this) was Jordan Chiles' bars. Substantially overscored. Deanne Soza's bars were a little underscored compared to some other routines also. 

Who was your favourite junior? Was the format of splitting it fair or unfair? Can a rotation really be 50 minutes long??


  1. What happened to Laurie Hernandez?

    1. She dislocated her knee and tore a tendon at camp. She could be back for Jesolo maybe.

  2. Molly Frack did not do AA because she is recovering from a foot injury. She was still in a boot as late as 3 weeks ago.

  3. Been keeping an eye on Maile O'Keefe after seeing her TOPs videos on YouTube a few years ago, so I'm thrilled to see her doing so well! I expect her beam and floor to develop to something special, she's quite poised for a youngin!

    Emily Gaskins is also another gymnast I just adore for her gorgeous floor work. I love that she almost looks like a ballerina first, gymnast second.

    I expect Norah is being paced slooooowly which is smart, but she doesn't have show much personality on floor, which is a shame particularly when so many juniors do already. I expect Chow will be focusing on bringing up her D score on bars and eventually a DTY on vault.

    Jordan Chiles did great but she doesn't need to be winning classics yet! I'm so torn with letting kids be paced slowly but if a kid is naturally talented and skilled, why not let them have a go? Not sure where I stand on that one!

    Also really curious to see how Nia will go having Gabby in the gym. I hope it's positive for her training.