Saturday, 11 October 2014

EF Day 1: Vault and Bars

For a mid-quad worlds, this is proving to be a truly exciting one in individual competition. Today for WAG, the vault and bars finals were contested.

Despite the fact that several of the people who ended up on podium were not a surprise, the competitions were very tight and very tense with some surprises thrown in. First, to vault!

Simone Biles has spent most of the year since Mckayla Maroney's latest batch of injuries as the known favourite for the vault title, which continued until Asian Games. At that competition, Hong un Jong of North Korea vaulted an extremely floaty amanar and a much stronger Cheng. Her improvement, and 0.8 d-score advantage were suddenly big threats to Simone. Would Simone go for the Cheng that has been in the works for quite some time, or even a Mustafina hinted at earlier in the year on her ask.fm? The idea of an upgrade was shot down, and so her execution would be the decider.

Hong un Jong is the 2008 Olympic vault Champion. Remarkably, she survived the long banishment of her country for cheating and emerged after the London Olympics with the same vaults, the Amanar and Cheng. The difficulty on both has gone down, to 6.3 and 6.4, but still makes a gymnast with them formidable. Last year, she used the difficulty to push through and take bronze behind McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles. Neither vault was particularly inspiring, with her Cheng especially struggled around. Considering the fact that she is now 24, the fact that she has improved the form and landings on both vaults is just incredible. It came down to the wire, especially with Simone only having a small hop on her amanar and just a tiny shuffle in place after a perfect Lopez, with Hong edging her out by less than half a tenth.

I'm very pleased for Hong un Jong and her coaches reactions were very touching. 6 years on, and just as good as ever. The absolutely tiny margin of victory just goes to show just how strong a vaulter Simone Biles is, to almost beat her. I'd imagine the death knell has been sounded on her Lopez, and while I'm sure an upgrade will look great, it is a pity as it just such an exceptional vault, so textbook and so pretty. There is something inherently pleasing about her vaulting, and it's the certainty. She isn't going to mess up, we're not afraid she will twist into the ground, land off the podium, not get her twist around in time, block completely wrong etc. etc. She'll block dead-centre with straight arms, lift into the ceiling, and land securely. Refreshingly great. I really look forward to seeing her develop on this event. Our gold winner showed that anything's possible.

A lot has been said about Mykayla Skinner and her vaulting, especially of course the block on her Cheng. Certainly the technique is quite wrong, she's twisting off one hand too early and the other hand is not repulsing her. We know this. But she has doing her job really well at her first world championships, a team extremely few would have put her in at the start of this year, and today was no exception. Her Cheng was very clean in the air with a great landing. It's not the most dynamic but it's still worthy of a good score, which she certainly achieved. Her DTY has improved quite a bit, form was tight and clean. She was much more pleasant to watch than those whose landings are far from a sure thing. Great effort from her and a well deserved bronze.

Alla Sosnitskaya vaulted the exact same vaults as Mykayla. Her Cheng is very new for her and it's quite dynamic, she looks to me to get more airtime than our other Cheng vaulters. It's such a tough vault! But it was from perfect, or even great. Almost a perfectly stuck landing but she was completely out of bounds, and it had loose sloppy form throughout. The DTY was much cleaner, but with bent knees. She has had a great competition and 4th here is a triumph that she can build on. I know she has an amanar in the works and I don't doubt that she's capable, but I hope they focus just as strongly on her execution. She could be really good.

Giulia on the other hand has been struggling a bit these worlds. Most notably, she has developed a block about twisting which threw her DTY out the window and has been limiting her at just the wrong time of year. Her Rudi certainly showed deterioration, very messy in the air and really fought around, and while her FTY was so much nicer, it was just an FTY really. Alexa Moreno fought valiantly on her vaults and so too did Phan Thi Ha Thanh but both really showed how hard their vaults are, and it wasn't surprising that their difficulty, especially Alexa's, didn't place them higher. Claudia Fragapane shows much more ease in hers, but they are relatively easy. It's strange how it looks like she's doing a completely different vault to Simone's Lopez BUT she really sharpened up her form on her DTY which I am very happy with.

Matchy matchy! Source- John Cheng/USAG


All in all, a tense fight for gold and a very strong field. Vault finals seem to be getting stronger all the time, long may that trend continue! Next year we'll more than likely see an upgrade from super-vaulter Simone and maybe even another comeback from McKayla Maroney...?

Highlights

No falls!

No Produnovas!

No 'impossible' vaults like an amanar from Phan to rightly give everyone heart failure

Very strong field and difficulty

Good variety of vaults

Lowlights

Um..I suppose form loss on some vaults

Some vaults were a bit of a struggle to land

Favourite vaults

1. Simone Biles Vault 2 Lopez
2. Simone Biles Vault 1 Amanar
3. Hong un Jong Vault 1 Amanar

Leotards

Niiice effort by the US, a little too shiny for my liking but simple and striking and of course, not pink. I like the simplicity of the North Korean leotard and the matching podium looked well, again! Not a big fan of Alla's leo, Alexa's was pretty, Claudia's was nice but needed more oomph, Giulia's was pretty also and I'm undecided about Phan...I think I like it?

Bars

Well, that was an extraordinarily deep and exciting final.

First up was Aliya Mustafina in her Pikachu leotard, the strong colouring of which highlights the fact that she's not well. All things considered, I didn't think she would upgrade as expected, and she didn't. Playing it safe when you're not at the top of your game is always wise, and it was very clean and nice to watch, albeit (and I feel mean) boring. It's not a routine I would have thrilled with had it medalled, despite how clean it was. I hope she can return and show us just a little bit more on this event.

Another super-clean gorgeous routine from Daria Spiridonova which unexpectedly propelled her in front of Aliya. What was a highlight of the whole competition was how delighted the latter was about that! Daria's lines are superb but her score was still a surprise, a nice one.

Having Ashton Locklear right after those two showed just how Russian her routine is in composition. Luckily we have some Brits to shake it up a bit. Anyway, Ashton showed no signs of her inexperience and delivered another great routine, hitting her massive combination with ease. It really build the tension with 5 elements! Her sickled feet (and Mustafina's and Lisa Hill's..certainly Ashton's not the only one) put me off a bit but a very enjoyable strong routine to round off her great worlds. The scoring and placement was right too. I know she ended up 4th, but in a field like that...amazing.

Rebecca Downie has been great all year, after a very disappointing 2013 in which she struggled to hit her fantastic routine the whole year, coming to grief yet again in Antwerp's bars final. But the Euros and Commonwealth 2014 bars champion has come on quite a lot since then, and this jam-packed routine was another hit for her. I love her variety of releases. That said, this wasn't her cleanest and she seemed to have to fight through it, but no major error and that rounds off an excellent year nicely.

Having a Bhardwaj AND a Zuchold means you belong in every bars final in my opinion. The former skill has been cleaner for her and the latter threw off a subsequent pirouette forcing her to count a fall...but it's just a treat to watch this routine. Ruby is so dynamic and daring, and she finished it off so well with a stuck dismount, declaring afterwards that she was just so thrilled to make the final at all.

It's great to see Lisa Katherina Hill in this final, and she certainly had the skills for it. It wasn't the cleanest and she had to save it a bit and fight, but she got through it nicely and I really loved her Bhardwaj, very clean.

Dun dun DUN arrival of the big hitters. Defending champion Huang Huidan was up first, and really went for it. Great Jaeger, dismount, smoother on her turns than she has been, really getting the handstands and minimising deductions. Just fantastic work and a well deserved huge score as a result.

And everything to play for Yao Jinnan, up last. The most nervewracking routine of worlds so far for me, as I really really wanted her to finally get a gold. It was thrilling to see her catch everything, nail her turns and the dismount. Her pirouettes are really stunning, just so precise. The Tkachev lets the whole routine down for me, it's flat, but the rest does make up for it. A very smartly constructed routine as it's so short..but 6.9 difficulty means she's far from messing about. And THAT SCORE! Finally a win for her! I understand that gold and silver could be argued for either way, but I was much more emotionally invested in Yao Jinnan winning so I'm very happy with the podium.

Highlights

7 hit routines

Tense, down-to-the-wire scoring

Lots of variety, transition heavy routines, balanced routines, rare skills, pirouettes..

Not-so-highlights

Ruby coming off bars

One or two routines sloppier than they have been prior to now

Russian routines were identical

Favourite routines

Our podium exactly. 

Leotards

Ashton looked good in USA's patriotic flavour of the day. I really like the red GB leotard and Lisa's was nice also, if slightly low at the neck. The winner is Yao Jinnan in lovely regal purple.

Source- Reuters/China Daily


Of course, we have to have some drama. First, Yao's lack of number. This was addressed after the competition in which it was stated that it fell off right before, and that it was presented to the judges and accepted. (This is what happens if you do back spins...Claudia Fragapane has permission to do this on floor). Even if it wasn't, too bad if the judges didn't catch it. Seeing accusations such as 'cheating again' is enraging. How could they possibly benefit? Who would risk an 0.3 ND? Seriously?

And, the tears. Huang Huidan was moved after her dismount and it was touching to see. Hitting a great routine when it matters most, it's perfectly understandable to feel such relief. This got ugly after Yao Jinnan's score came in and she was still crying, miserably this time, and STILL CRYING in the press conference, right beside Yao Jinnan. I have no patience with that. To hit such a fabulous routine and lose has got to be hard, but it should not have been such a surprise...Yao consistently beats her when they both it. It is perfectly acceptable to feel upset, but she should have sucked it up, sincerely congratulated Yao who after all, has just cemented her place on the Champions wall after years of trying and working though injury to do so, and waited until she was alone to let our her frustration and disappointment. It was quite in contrast to Aliya Mustafina who looked absolutely thrilled to be beaten by teammate Daria.

Nothing wrong with emotion, but there is when it dampens things for not just your teammate, but your friend...they train together in the same group. It's just...awkward. How is Yao supposed to reflect on a job well done and her triumph at last when she has to console her friend and no doubt feel misplaced guilt? It it just...annoying and unnecessary. In discussion earlier it was rightly pointed out to me that we cannot expect these girls to have the full maturity of their age due to their lack of socialisation, they are after all in a very insular and intensive training environment. Nevertheless, I am disappointed in Huang Huidan's inability to mask her feelings in public for her friend.

Now that I've got that way, I do want to emphasise that I am DELIGHTED with today's competitions. Only one fall, nothing too dangerous, and above all, lots of tense competition and nervous waiting for scores. Just as it should be.

What were your favourite routines/vaults? Do you agree with how Biles/Hong and Huang/Yao placed? Can tomorrow live up to today's competition? The US leotard for tomorrow has been described as 'fun'- does this scare you also?

21 comments:

  1. This was the first good vault final in years in that nobody fell, nobody fell and still won a medal, and nobody was injured. It was great to see real competition from the ladies on vault. Also, I'm so happy that Yao finally won!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They seem to be getting better! Next year will have Wang Yan, Rebeca Andrade and another Chinese vaulter Deng Yalan in the mix hopefully.

      Delete
  2. I was surprise with the level of competition and how excellent everyone did, but the order of the podium was not to my liking but i will take it. I truly believe that Simone and Skinner had better execution and in more control of their landing than Hong un Jong so the order to me was Biles, Skinner, Jong.
    in the bars Finals I felt that Mustafina had the better execution of all the gymnast and should have received a 9.0 to 9.2 execution and gotten bronze. I also think that Huidan was better than Jinnan. and I love me some Jinnan but she got lucky.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. To me Huang was the better bar worker over Yao, especially after watching the handstands, the height of her piked jaeger compared to Yao's flat tkatchev.

      I think Mustafina was cleanest and should have passed Spiridonova and Locklear, but it's tough to sort those routines. They were all very good.

      Delete
    2. Skinner takes a hit for twisting on her Cheng the way she does, blocking/twisting early. In the air, hers is cleaner/straighter, but neither have particularly good amplitude. Simone of course, displayed perfect execution but even less difficulty. Hong's advantage was massive, and considering the improvement to her vaults, she deserved her win. Had she vaulted like she did last year, I would NOT be happy.

      I thought Mustafina's handstands were the best, but for all-over line, Spiridonova was better, her feet weren't sickled. I was wondering did they get her a little bit for rhythm? Or just for going up so early in the final? She hurt herself with her difficulty really, but I'm happy she played it safe as she's clearly not in a position to do all she can and has done.

      Delete
  3. This entire championships has been surprisingly exciting. The prediction was that it was going to be a boring and subpar Worlds, but with the exception of Team Final where the US is depressingly way a head of everyone else, we've been treated to a lot of close and tense performances and quality work. These event finals have been free of scary landings or unexpected disasters so far and I hope they will continue that way! I love it when everyone (almost) hits! Yes, I agree with the placing of all the gymnasts in both finals. It is arguable that Huang had slightly better execution (Yao had a handstand that was way short) and thus should have won I consider it pointless to argue over, unless you're looking for something to be mad about. I too wanted Yao to win and she delivered a gold medal performance. It's pretty off-putting to hear that Huang couldn't stop crying/moping a la Komova, but it's not something I think we should hold against her too much: another thing to take into consideration was the atmosphere. This was a home crowd and the air was electric. It could have zapped Huang's nerves quite a bit, made her more emotionally volatile than usual. But yeah, all the same, don't want to see that kind of break down from her again.

    Wait, now what's all this about the Chinese being accused of cheating?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait, never mind - I just read the translation of the Huang-Yao interview, so my perspective has changed. Guilt tripping your teammate, however unintentionally, is not cool. Yao can't even enjoy her win because she has to worry about Huang's feelings. Show some control for heaven's sake and get it together - lie through your teeth if you have to! Geez, it's like the Sui Lu-Deng Linlin incident all over again. And now there are already people who are complaining that Yao shouldn't have won and that just makes this situation more annoying...

      Delete
    2. I really think Huang should have just sucked it up and be happy for her teammate's success. She has a silver medal at worlds and already has a world title on bars; it was Yao's chance to shine.

      Also did anyone catch Bruno Grandi's article post Nanning regarding pssibly updating the code to bring more of a balance between execution and difficulty? I find it interesting and honestly, and should have been addressed earlier.

      I honestly think bringing back compulsaries to competition will help decide that balance between execution and difficulty. Can you just how much the podium could change if compulsaries were at this competition??

      Delete
    3. Wow, so it looks like he wants the difficulty score to be divided in two (not sure if he means having 2 scores in difficulty or cutting it in half, i.e. 6.2 sv goes down to a 3.1 sv). And putting more emphasis on detailed deductions from execution in .1, .2, .3 etc.deductions....hmmm

      Delete
    4. It was really exciting until Sunday when some results were a little baffling and not in a good way. Ah well! That was kind of inevitable.

      I think I'm not fully taking into account how much Huang has improved on bars, and even again on Saturday compared to earlier routines. She used to be well known for wonky turns with dodgy technique and hands, leg separations, bad Pak leg separation and a really bad dismount. She has fixed a lot of that, her turns look a lot smoother (but, Yao's are better I think) and her legs are glued except on that Pak, and she ditched the dismount into the bargain.

      The problem is, I cannot cannot contemplate Yao NOT winning with a hit routine. The devastation. She doesn't have bundles of mental strength to begin with so 2 years in a row...

      Bruno's article is interesting. I think it deserves its own post, along with discussion of other remedies. After beam/floor post and after worlds thoughts :)

      Delete
  4. I truly tink Huang was robbed. Yao's routine is so boring and I think Huangs pirouettes are much prettier since she has that unique arm movement with her free arm (does tat even make sense?). Daria was awesome and I totally agree with her getting 3rd.
    That said though, it really rages me that routines like Becky Downie's are not sufficiently rewarded, just like it happened to Beth. British bars as a whole are really unnapreciated in the current CoP. Becky and Ruby had by far the most awesome and crowd pleasing routines in the final, it's all so exciting and unexpected. I would love to see the zuchold upgraded to an E element and more reward to low-to-high transfer+release, I don't agree that it gets rewarded just as much as transfer connections.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yao's routine is so smart! I think it's really clever. Chinese routines seem to love being up on the bar long enough to get a whole raft of deductions taken. See: Tan Jiaxin, Shang Chunsong. Short and sweet with a good variety..pirouettes and transitions. I thought there was too little between the two routines to outright 100% say one was robbed, and I'm also too happy Yao finally won something.

      Becky's execution was noticeably down in that routine based on what she can do. You're dead right in that the code doesn't exactly rush to reward going that extra mile. There's one aspect to the old code..it was at least in it in the 80s, ROV, that I will be discussing in the 'code solutions' post. We could benefit from it for sure.

      Delete
    2. I get that it's smart given the current CoP, but still, since she got rid of the gaylord, Yao's routine is the one that least excites me out o the chinese in nannjing. Tan has 3 releases plus that awesome dismount, shang also does 3 releases, one o them being an F skill and huang has that crazy good jaeger and different dismount. Anyway, I don't wanna come off as a hater, I think Yao is awesome and I can live with her winning. I do think the chinese do too many pirouettes though, I've thought about it before, maybe the healy, ling and ono should just be considered the same skill to avoid their pirouette fest but that's just what I think, I'm pretty sure a lot of people would disagree.

      By the way, can't wait for your code solutions post.

      Delete
  5. Hey Catherine, will you be posting about Bruno Grandi's proposed changes to the scoring system?? He wants to divide the D-Score in half apparently. I think it's an interesting idea, but it will make scores so much lower...What do you think??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll be responding to all of these comments tomorrow, and I'll post about that in the reflections post, to come after BB/FX post. I love the fact he acknowledges the shortcomings of his own code years after they became evident...

      There are numerous other thoughts on what can be done too. It might deserve its own post now I think of it.

      Delete
  6. I definitely believe Huang deserved the gold. Huang's execution was FAR more than .033 better than Yao's. Yao's difficulty is only one tenth higher, and Huang's execution was definitely at least one tenth better. It's great to see Yao succeed after how much she's missed out, but Huang was better, unquestionably so in my mind. As for vault, it was a great close race and could have justifiably gone to either Hong or Simone. I personally would have probably given it to Simone, but I can't complain about the results as they are. Great competition.
    I love transition-heavy routines as well, hence why you'll never see me complain about the prevalence of Shaposh variations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Simone has perfect technique and form on both vaults, so it is a shame she lost out in that sense.

      Delete
  7. The 16.233 blog (which has been a bastion of common sense throughout Worlds) has a good analysis of the Huang/Yao situation: http://16-233.tumblr.com/page/10
    And here's my own take, for whatever it's worth: Huang Huidan hasn't won a single UB title since her surprise gold in Antwerp. Yao Jinnan nudged her out at both Nationals and the Asian Games. After completing her EF routine in Nanning--possibly the best she'd ever done--perhaps she thought she could defend her World title. But then Yao hit the routine of her life, too, and that was the end of it. I'm sure that Huang is happy for Yao, but also sad for herself. In an interview immediately following the final, she said that she doesn't like losing. Also, I think that Huang is consistently better than Yao in daily training. Before Worlds, Coach Xu Jinglei even described Huang as "extremely stable." Yao, on the other hand, tends to be a mess in training. She's had a number of chronic injuries that sometimes prevent her from doing certain skills or full routines. At least once this year, she couldn't train at all. It must be hard for Huang to hit routine after routine in practice while Yao falls all over the place, and then lose to Yao every time they're head-to-head in competition.

    Just one fan's humble opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm still annoyed about the 2003 neutral-deductions TF debacle so Yao winning without a number is AOK with me! Although this year had me fuming again in men's AA where there was the issue with Sam Mikulak being allowed to remount PB despite over 30 seconds having passed since he fell - the EXACT same thing happened to Oliver Hegi of Switzerland last year on HB and he was not allowed to continue the routine. I feel like some of the pernickety rules are a bit silly (obviously you should be allowed a longer time to remount the apparatus if your grip has just randomly broken) but if they're not applied consistently then it's incredibly unfair. Of course it's not exactly the gymnasts' fault either (well seeing as Hollie Vise didn't have her number at all that's probably someone's fault, but Yao's falling off, if that's what happened, seems to have just been an accident) but it's frustrating.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My favorite routine was Ashton's she was clean her lines and handstands connected with a near stuck Landon's. But I new the Chinese would get the judges home favorite bloke always

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I don't think it's favourtism so much as being outranked. Ashton's max d score is 6.5 I believe, whereas Huang is 6.8 and Yao Jinnan 6.9. Ashton has cleaned up a lot but she suffers for her foot form, quite sickled.

      Delete