Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Nationals Thoughts

Still playing catch-up on the routines of the army of juniors, and still processing and formulating possible worlds teams in my head, but here I go.

General Thoughts

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-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.

Simone Biles

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.

Kyla Ross

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 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

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.

Ashton Locklear

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'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 :)


  1. I just wanted to let you know that your blog is my favorite. I look forward to reading your posts, especially when I have a long day at work.

  2. Hey Catherine,
    So with only over a month until Worlds, are your podiums, teams, and predictions still the same? Are you still as excited about Worlds as you were at the beginning of the year? By that, I mean do you think it will be a good/exciting competition?

    Personally, I find it extremely heartbreaking that so many gymnasts are getting injured. Plus, there's virtually no depth anymore not even in the Big Four. I pray Romania will send a team because they have been having the worst luck lately. I can't get that excited over a competition knowing that the best aren't competing.

    I'm sort of a fan of Simone's gymnastics, but a competition isn't interesting for me if the winner is obvious. I know this is gymnastics and "anything can happen" but what are the chances of Simone falling? Either way, I think she could win with a fall.

    By the way, gymnastike says that Baumann has withdrawn from Pan Ams due to an "elbow hyperextension injury". Is that really serious? Will she still be in contention for Worlds?

    1. Mostly...except the US. Although of course it's not fluctuating because of depth, but because of lack of created by the injury fest. I'm excited, I always am about prestigious competition. But I don't think the team final is going to be near as good as it should be. China and Romania barely have 6 healthy seniors, Russia are dealing with the injury list and lack of readiness of some of their top girls and the US are even suffering.

      Yes, I believe Simone can win with a fall. I would prefer a close tense AA competition...but I enjoy her so much anyway that I don't have a real problem with it.

      Elbow injuries can be niggly. Reportedly she is training again. She did get back up and finish a very solid bars routine in the immediate aftermath. She could be totally back on track by selection. Here's hoping because now it looks like she'd be a big contender for this team. Certainly didn't anticipate that.

  3. I'm glad you mentioned the overscoring. It's obvious Biles will claim AA gold again, barring injury. I'm unsure if Ross will be able to repeat although I bet she'll beat the other USA QF round AA gymnasts.

    The whip + arabian (A+E direct) is worth 0.2. So essentially it is a G skill (whip+arabian = biles)

    1. It's so unnecessary. These girls don't need bloated scores.

  4. Im just happy because a few weeks back on another of your blog posts i was saying USA is gonna definitely show up on bars this year and i knew from the start that BB was our weakest event this year not UB. I am very happy to see these diversely interesting routines and to see the US have so many possible bars workers all who could score atleast a mid 14 (nichols, baumann) but then to see so many competitive world class bars routines makes me happy as well. I always had faith girlies lol!!!

    1. It's definitely an interesting shakeup! Especially Ashton of course since she was out of the blue, whereas Madison has always shown potential when healthy.

  5. I agree with you about Brenna not making the Worlds team, and honestly I'll be surprised if she even gets a traveling alternate spot. Unfortunately her Worlds for me is starting to shape up like Anna Li's where Marta would rather keep a surgery-bound non-present team member on the roster rather than use her on bars, even in the prelims.

    1. It's sad. I don't see her fitting in? She should by rights have had last years worlds, to have this one shot down by injury/recovery is so cruel.

  6. So sad about Brenna, I really hoped she could step up after Ebee's departure, which was a great opportunity for her to shine, but it seems like she's physically not that ready and mentally falling apart a bit too. I like Ashton, she really shone at the right time. I generally like Russian-style bars routines and she does hers well. Dismount a bit low though. What else can I say, Simone's the queen and looks to be for quite some time, health permitting. She's just crazy good. It's after gymnasts like her and Gabby Douglas that I don't make Rio predictions - you have no idea who is going to pop up as the next big star and eclipse the current junior stars. (See recent examples: Priessman, Ohashi). Kyla is still boring but will be sent and will do just as Kyla always does. Not really very interested in Skinner, but glad that Maggie the underdog is getting some time in the limelight. I think she's well earned her spot to Worlds, frankly, and is certainly useful in a team comp. Not like there are loads of competitors anyway. I'd use her at least for TF FX, but probably not more than that unless there are injuries.

    1. Oh Maggie. Another one potentially down. And it will hurt, she wasn't about to bring in massive scores, but she is one of those 'glue' type solid gymnasts that are immensely valuable, can slot in anywhere if needed.

      Brenna yes, that is just so frustrating and sad. She has been in fairness to her coach fairly injury free. The timing sucks quite a lot when you consider her Antwerp experience. I don't think having 5 versions of her bars routine has helped either.

  7. HI Catherine, thanks for your dedication to the blog.
    Ok well for me other than Simone Biles, Ashton (Bars), Baumann (beam), and my excitement for Maggie having the meet of her life. I was quite bored. the Juniors Competition was so much more exciting quite honestly. I don't know what is going on with this group of Gymnast, to me is like they have no fight. is like they have accepted Biles dominance and that Kyla is her anchor and we all will just play our part. or maybe i am been dramatic. nobody is stepping up to me. I truly believe that the fierce five will have a hard time competing with these girl if they decided to come back, but i don't think so. this group is just so easily injured and inconsistent.
    They still are going into Worlds as favorites, because quite frankly the competition in the USA is more challenging. but they are not going to crush the competition.
    I cannot wait to 2015 to see Dennis, Bailey, Maroyne, Douglas, Raisman. maybe put a little more heat on Simone. and also internationally at the YOG i was not impress by the compettion other than Wang Yang that girl is firecracker love her. But this year is a wash for me

    1. Yes there wasn't a huge amount of top girls in the seniors. I would really, really love to see Gabby come back to challenge Biles next year when Bailie and hopefully Nia will be right up there near the top too.

      I am hoping, but only hoping, that China can give them a run for their money.

  8. First time commenter here, just would like to say how much I appreciate all the thought and effort that goes into your posts!

  9. I think brenna is too inconsistent but I think Madison vs Alyssa I believe Alyssa should win and be on the team because she is capable of the third beam spot like no other

    1. Brenna is just struggling with injury and readiness. It's a tough one. Ashton's bars are better than Madison's, but she's weaker on beam. And both outperform Alyssa on bars...

    2. I feel as though Alyssa is a huge bonus to the team definitely after pan ams and the loww beam scores

  10. At this point I would think the team is pretty much set with the recent injuries. There are only but so many girls. Rachel Gowey is out and Alyssa Baumann has a hyper extended elbow which is why she's out of Pan Ams so I'm thinking no Worlds for her. Logically that only leaves Skinner, Nichols, Locklear, and Kocian to compliment Biles and Ross. The other girls are simply not ready or useful enough on any event.

    1. Umm...just because she had an injury to take her out of pan ams don't mean she won't be at worlds so..plzzz stop

    2. Laurent Landi said she would definitely be back for Worlds selection camp

    3. Hopefully in fine form. Also Maggie too. If both are out it will actually be tough to form a team!

  11. Well that's good to hear about her being back for Worlds camp. Also Bryce there is no need to be rude, I was just making an assessment of the situation. I wish her all the best and I did not disrespect her.

    1. I'm completely sorry if u feel disrespected but I didn't mean it that way and I wasn't trying to be rude

  12. I'm following comments and will be posting tomorrow. Right now I am exhausted :p

    There's also a junior nationals/YOG thoughts post to go up although I wasn't able to fully follow either. Let me just say in closing...YOU GO WANG YAN :D