Saturday, 18 October 2014

EF Day 2: Beam and Floor

Bit of a delay on this, so let's pretend it just happened!

After the high of the first day of event finals, it was perhaps inevitable that the second day would be a letdown. Beam finals have been a bit desultory for a while now, and this one was no exception, in fact, it was worse than ever with only two gymnasts truly excelling. There was nothing wrong with floor, except for the debate over bronze. Beam went one better, with disputes over gold AND bronze.

Beam

Qualifying to this final were Yao Jinnan, Bai Yawen, Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Aliya Mustafina, Larisa Iordache, Ellie Black and Asuka Teramoto. The favourite was Larisa Iordache with her huge routine, with Simone Biles, Aliya Mustafina and Bai Yawen chasing her. Last year's silver medallist Kyla Ross had too low a d-score to really contend.

So, what happened?

Bai Yawen hit a glorious routine without even the suggestion of a hesitation or wobble. Showcasing why exactly people love to watch Chinese gymnasts on beam...the precision of the elements. This was particularly impressive given the fact that she is quite unknown and inexperienced, wasn't given the opportunity to compete on the event in team finals despite having qualified to event finals on it already, and was not just facing national pressure to do well, but local too. The fact that she scored under 9.0 in execution, even taking into account the low execution scores on beam anyway, was, I thought, hard to justify. Step on dismount, horizontal chest on dismount, and perhaps an argument that she could have had better rhythm and flow. Really exceptional routine otherwise.

Simone Biles, facing beam again after two less than satisfactory routines in team finals and AA, showed us what she's made of and delivered a much steadier routine. She nailed her flight series, hit her connections, threw yet another killer dismount and left the judges without much to deduct. There were three hints of wobbles though in the routine, but despite those, she really moves very well on beam with great flow and rhythm. Her difficulty score was higher than Bai's and she moved into first, with the difference in execution not making up for the d-score advantage.

And that was a bit of an issue for me. Simone unquestionably performed a great routine and deserved a medal. Bai, though, outperformed her. There should have been greater disparity in their execution scores, not because Simone's execution was lacking, but because Bai's is so exceptional. She has a precision and control over every single element that is not present in Simone's routine, nor indeed in most other beam routines. I am reluctant to bring into the question how much it would have meant to Bai Yawen to take gold in front of her hometown crowd in a country where gold is everything and rewarded highly...but, yeah, it would have been great for that reason too.

That wasn't going to be an issue though, because Larisa Iordache was the favourite and would surely hit after doing so well in the AA and TF and after falling in London and Antwerp beam finals, surely it was her time to get lucky. And...she fell, on the tuck full this time. Disappointing isn't the word. She has really improved her form on this event even in just the last couple of months, at Euros for instance I found her quite sloppy. Sigh.

Yao Jinnan falls. She wasn't a challenger and after winning bars gold I doubt it was really a big deal, her smile after coming off on the layout seemed proof of that.

Ellie Black falls. A super hard routine and her one chance in an event final to shine, and she comes undone on the full. Devastating, especially given how open bronze was.

Kyla Ross performs, well, very untypically. A huge wobble, two smaller ones, broken connections and quite a slow routine. It's a long, tough week and I'm never surprised when a gymnast who does the AA in prelims, team finals AND AA on top of making event finals, falters at the end of the week. It's a pity as she could have quite easily taken bronze had she exhibited her usual steady, clean routine.

Aliya Mustafina is anything but predictable on beam. The reigning world champion, but so inconsistent. It starts off well but then she breaks completely during her series, and without time to fully remedy it. Some really nice elements to it, but without an acro series her d-score is way down. But as the final pans out..it's not too surprising that she overtakes the routines with falls and weaker routines.

Asuka Teramoto is bouncing back from falls on her layout in both the AA and team finals. It's so satisfying when she hits it beautifully this time. Unfortunately, the routine is marred by a myriad of broken connections and with her medium difficulty and questionable dismount, it's not enough and she stays behind Mustafina.

The fact that a hit, clean, beautiful routine is beaten by one without an acro series has resulted in a lot of backlash, with accusations that Mustafina's name and reputation held her up. Had Asuka perfectly hit her routine, I think it would be a different story and actually a judging scandal. But she did herself no favours with all of the broken connections and not-fully-around dismount so I can see how this happened. The fact that a routine with no acro series ended up on the podium is not a testament to judging scandal or the power of reputation. It is a damning indictment of how weak beam is at the moment.

All in all, not the most exciting of finals. 3 falls and just not the highest standard when you compare it to the depth of the other events. To me, it was missing Andreea Munteanu, Maria Kharenkova and Shang Chunsong. The latter was rumoured to be replacing Bai Yawen and I'm so glad she didn't, but it would have been nice to see the two alongside each other in the final (legitimately, not at the expense of Yao Jinnan). I don't dispute the bronze, but I would have liked to see the order of gold and silver reversed.

Floor

The favourite this time, Simone Biles, was highly unlikely to be ousted or beaten because of a fall. Fresh from victory on beam, she was slated to compete second last, conveniently building the excitement of the final to a crescendo. Alongside her were Mykayla Skinner, Vanessa Ferrari, Erika Fasana, Larisa Iordache, Larissa Miller, Claudia Fragapane and Aliya Mustafina. The skill level was through the roof, with a laid-out double-double, 5 tucked versions and a full-twising double layout.

Mykayla Skinner has impressed me at these worlds, and continued to do so in her last final. Sharper form, better execution, really strong landings. Her signature skill looked straighter than ever. Leaps are still letting her down but she tried hard with her choreography I thought. A strong effort and a good chance for a medal.

Larissa Miller was a surprise qualifier, and she knocked out the popular Roxana Popa. This exercise was a joy to watch for just how beautiful her tumbling was, textbook double arabian, gorgeous combination tumbling. Very floaty.

Larisa Iordache had to bounce back from the crushing disappointment of yet another beam medal thrown away, and she did so in spectacular fashion. The big question was going to be, could she equal Simone's d-score again by throwing the pike full-in at the end? She pulled it around convincingly, and stayed in bounds on her second pass this time. It's just fantastic to watch her in motion, as the motion just never stops. The enjoyment of what she does shines through every movement, every bounce.

When her score came in I thought it should have been closer to 15, but the explanation that her Gomez hadn't been fully around countered for some of that, but not all. In my opinion, she loses tenths for the bounciness, not necessarily landings, but after leaps and turns, it's a sign of not having full control I suppose. It wasn't going to able to push Simone or properly challenge her, which was a bit disappointing.

Vanessa Ferrari's routine was a little sluggish, with one bad landing and she also missed her tuck back connection after the full-in. Although it wasn't her best, it was still great. It's wonderful to see a 24-year-old gymnast throwing such hard tumbles so many years later, and one of them, the double layout, a recent upgrade. It was unfortunately clear that she wasn't going to be a medal challenger in spite of the difficulty.

Erika Fasana's routine didn't make much of an impression on me, I found it was a bit lost amongst the other finalists. Nice tumbling, but it just didn't have the full package to make it stand out.

Claudia Fragapane's routine is always a highlight. She looked ready. HUGE air on the first pass, too much, as she rebounded spectacularly to prone position. In all the falls we have seen, I have never seen one quite like that. It's strange too, we've been hearing complaints that the floor is quite hard, yet the stronger athletes have been having no problem, with some sticking less than usual with the extra bounce they get on landing. It was a big moment for Claudia and so crushing to come to grief within the first few seconds. She performed the rest of the routine admirably, still selling her impassioned dance to the crowds. I can't wait to see her continue to improve and polish her performance but she really had a great worlds despite the fall.

Simone Biles was second last. Another explosively energetic routine, this time with bouncier landings than previously. I never get tired of this floor, it's quite artistic in its own way, because of the performer. Only she and Larisa displayed that magnetic connection. And straight into gold with a half-point lead.

Aliya Mustafina sat her first pass just two days previous, but this time she not only landed it, but added back the two whips preceding the double arabian. She's never one you can rule in or out really, and clearly decided that in her last final she had nothing to lose and should go for broke. Not having the triple full is so refreshing and I do like her choreography, though it feels a little empty and that she could do much more. Given her injuries, how much she has to carry her team and the long week, I'd imagine endurance is an issue and getting through the routine cleanly is more important than really emphasising the artistry.

When she had finished, I thought, well that will be 4th and well deserved. At least she has beam. But then she ousted Mykayla Skinner's position by a fraction of a tenth, 0.33. The delighted surprise on her face contrasted with Skinner dissolving into tears. But, in another display of how great the latter has been at these, her first worlds, she quickly controlled herself and accepted her placement.

I'm not sure how I feel about bronze. On the one hand, Mykayla Skinner's routine really was deserving. On the other, Aliya Mustafina showed more of the full package with exceptional dance elements. It's hard to say whether Mykayla was hard done by, but in this case, I do think Aliya was held up by her name. Had Larissa Miller performed that exact routine, I think we would have seen two Americans on the podium.

Far be it from me to deny what a truly great gymnast Aliya Mustafina is. I was very disappointed when she counted a fall in the all-around and was looking forward to seeing her bring home some individual hardware besides the team bronze. Bars I thought was her best chance, and although I expected her to place higher, I was thrilled with that podium and certainly bronze was her best hope there. Beam, well, the girls who fell and Asuka were quite unlucky, but I don't think anyone was 'wronged' for Aliya's bronze there. Floor though, being who she is DID I feel help.

Did you agree with the podiums? Was anyone helped by having a name, or wronged by not having one? How much worse can beam finals get? How much better can Simone Biles get? How weird are my tenses here?


13 comments:

  1. Every Championships has to have a dud of a final and beam was undoubtedly it. Only two gymnasts had unquestionably medal-worthy routines. They've been fairly restrained when it comes to E-scores, on every event except vault. I've seen several routines - many of the Russian bars in TF, Simone's floor in TF, Larisa's beam, that could have broken into the 9s but didn't. It's almost as if they are afraid to go 9.0 or above, few cases excepting. But anyway, I can't really be unhappy with Biles and Bai in their respective spots. Biles definitely had more micro-wobbles than Bai, but as the commentator pointed out that the judges have been cracking down on flow and rhythm this championships, and admittedly there were quite a few pause-and-take-a-breath moments in Bai's exercise. It makes sense considering what happened next with the bronze.

    I thought that Teramoto should have gotten it. In fact, I was sure that she did when she finished her routine. I knew it would be close but damn. Even taking into account the broken connections, her work on the beam was better than Musty's, and it left 0.01 ahead of her in difficulty. Neither Musty or Asuka's routines were particularly great, and if things had gone the way they should have (why, Larisa, WHY?!), they would have never had been in contention. Both routines were a bit slow, but Asuka's was more certain and her presentation so much more expressive. Now, the dismount was where the most obvious deductions came from, but even taking that into account I had a hard time really fathoming the E-scores. But - I guess Musty did have a slightly better flow in her routine, was just a little more fluent? And her dismount only had a step. Still, the fact that a routine lacking one of the basic elements of composition won a medal leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose it is more of a testament to how weak beam was, rather than biased judging, though there is no doubt that Aliya got lucky. But luck is part of the game, and always has been. All medalists were lucky that the other contenders fell/didn't even qualify.

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  2. I had to break this up into two parts. Floor was better. Gold and sliver were fully deserved, no question. I think Iordache just isn't quite as high in her tumbling and not quite as upright when she lands as Biles. You ever notice her Silivas, while great, is a little less tight in the tucked position? That might be leading her to be slightly less dynamic in the air. She had to work to get her Gomez round, lol, but it was a wonderfully exuberant and complete routine. Biles has been consistently amazing here and we all knew she would get gold unless something disastrous happened. She said in an interview she wants to train a Moors! I would rather see a triple double from her personally, but I can't complain, she's also going for a TTY.

    I have been so impressed with Skinner this entire championships. Not only has she delivered when expected, not only has she improved every time I've seen her, but she seems to have obtained a new level of confidence that she didn't have before. It's sweet to see her so glowingly happy. The DDLO is more laid out than I've ever seen her or any girl do. It still has form issues, but considering where it was in the summer - practically a DD piked - I couldn't ask for more. Artistically, I love her music, and even though the choreography is not suited to her abilities (it calls for her to be more elegant than she is), Mykayla has a good musicality.

    Ah, Aliya. So great to see her go for it. Heretofore, she's lacked the fight that we are used to seeing from her. Unlike beam, I do think she deserved the bronze here. Mykayla has the greater difficulty and tumbling, but it is ultimately her leaps that let her down. They're atrocious. Aliya's tumbling has never been too spectacular, but it has always been fairly solid and accurate. She sort of cheated her first triple Y around and her third turn she sort of fell out of. But overall, the routine did have better execution. I actually don't think much of the routine artistically. Russian floors this year are very forgettable. It's like her choreo is independent of the music and despite her elegance she doesn't put in enough pizzazz in it. I've actually felt that way about a lot of her routines, she's a little too "soft" and careful in her movements, if that makes sense. Her reaction to winning bronze was so touching. I've never seen Aliya react that way to anything, not even winning gold in London. Considering the crap she's been saddled with, this bronze must have meant all the more to her.

    Cat, what did you think of Khorkina's and Ferrari's interviews?

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  3. Also, did anyone else notice how many f@#king times they played the song "What Makes You Beautiful"?! Seriously. Were there no other songs they could play?

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  4. I'm no code expert, but I actually think Aliya's floor bronze was deserved. Mykayla performed amazingly well. Her tumbling was so impressive and clean, her form appears to be a lot cleaner and her endurance seems to get better and better with every competition. But the change of floor music and her choreography is shocking. Her leaps are awful and she is essentially performing an impressive acrobatic routine set to music. There doesn't seem to be ANY connection between her tumbling, leaps and dance. She can be the most amazing tumbler in the world and have BAMF skills but if she can't link it to her dance choreography then what's the point? I think her musical interpretation and choreography last year was far better suited to her abilities and would probably be better regarded on the international scene. The current one painfully highlights her weaknesses and that will work against her. Aliya really brought it- her tumbling might not be Skinner-esque but she ticked all the boxes that are required (great passes, beautiful leaps and turns, beautiful dance) in a way Mykayla didn't. I'm not an artistry snob, I'm one who thinks Simone actually is "artistic" but it is gymnastics at the end of the day, not cheer leading or acro. At least she didn't totally crush Mykayla's score, and it gives Mykayla's coaches food for thought... Aka get Zito on her case, stat.

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  5. I definitely think Asuka was robbed. She was one of the only three gymnasts in the final to hit her routine. There was no way Aliya should have had an E score within two tenths of Bai, especially is fluidity was as big in the judging as everyone is saying. And the execution gap between Aliya and Asuka was unjustifiable. As for Simone and Bai, I think it was similar to the vault final where either on top would have been justifiable. I'm glad with the result as is, and I would have been glad with Bai on top as well. I think I would have scored Simone .033 lower and Bai .033 higher, which incidentally would have tied them. I mean, obviously the judges only score in tenths, but you know what I mean. I wish they could have tied, they were super close, but I'm happy with either on top. Interestingly, Bai's switch leap looked a bit suspect to me.
    As for floor, this might not make the most sense, but it's not that Aliya got the bronze that bothered me, it's how the judging went about. I definitely think it was a justifiable result that Aliya came in third, but there was also clearly some dirty judging involved. Or incompetent judging. Mykayla's E score was lower than she did in QFs for her best routine of her career, while Aliya's was higher than she get in QFs for a fairly sloppier routine. Everyone else's scores remained fairly consistent, so it definitely appeared that Mykayla was being held down and Aliya was being promoted. To me, the most damning evidence is that Aliya scored withing a tenth of Larisa, which was ridiculous. I also think Simone's score was a bit inflated and Larisa's a bit restrained, but their placings were perfect, so I won't gripe too much. Like I said, I don't mind Aliya being in third in its own right, but the way she was scored was just so blatantly backed by an agenda.
    Now, Aliya a lovely person and this isn't meant to insult her in any way, but the judging was just so screwy where her medals were involved.

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    1. Actually Aliya's E score on floor was probably the most consistent out of all the floor finalists not counting her fall in the AA of course. She's scored 8.5, 8.533 and 8.533 for quaifications, team and event finals respectively. That pretty consistent to me. Reminds me of Kyla last year on floor where she scored the exact same thing for 3 completely separate routines. The only difference is Aliya's D scores weren't as consistent.
      JAY

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    2. And Aliya did worse in the EF than in QF. My point about the consistent scores was the judges hadn't seemed to change the curve dramatically. She shouldn't have scored higher for a lower quality routine when the others weren't given "bumped" scores either.

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    3. Aliya was also in the first subdivision so her scores I think are lower than say if she had done the exact same routine as in the last or nearly last subdivision like Larisa. I think that's why her scores seem "off" in comparison. For example Larisa did well in qualfications with an 8.733 execution score but compare her routine to Aliya's apart from her rhythm she should not have gotten a higher e score than Aliya. She had low landings a messy Gomez which I don't know if it was complete and a stumble on her Memmel. I also think she had better rhythm in the finals which maybe factored in as well. Just my opinion though.
      JAY

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  6. Heh interesting, I am a little alone in my views here! :) I've been dealing with minor health issues the last 2 weeks which has really slowed me down in posting but I have worlds stuff post and code post in the works. Also more than likely a body type rant too.

    Ah November, those interviews! They'll be in the next post. Valentina R just came out with a fresh pile of rubbish today actually.

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    1. I'm sorry about you health issues, I completely understand and will wait patiently for your next posts. Oh god, what did the dragon say this time?? I can't find anything on it.

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    2. Hope you are better, or feeling better soon

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  7. I definitely thought Teramoto should have had bronze on beam. I preferred Simone's routine to Bai's simply because of her higher difficulty. I was absolutely okay with Mustafina beating Skinner on floor although I also thought the actual scoring seemed kind of screwy. I felt like Mustafina put together a great routine combining beautiful dance and solid tumbling, and I just think Skinner can (and hopefully will!) do better in the latter categories. Also.. I usually don't really care for the whole "artistry" component since I frequently think people are confusing an aesthetic preference for slender girls and classical music and dance with actual artistic expression. But I still felt pretty mesmerized by Mustafina's performance.
    That said, I've heard others say that they felt Mustafina looked bored during her floor and barely even performed, so obviously everyone sees different things.
    Ferrari looked much better to me in QF or podium training or whatever earlier version of her floor I had seen. Bummer she couldn't pull through. I liked her evil-Disney-queen looking leotard.
    Excited to read your take on the interviews, especially Khorkina's. She cracks me up but I think I'd be so annoyed with her if I was a Russian gymnast.

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  8. Perhaps you have seen this Catherine, but this is Eythora Thorsdottir's beam from April earlier this year. I am a convert (I did like her floor previously, but wow at the flow of this beam).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PEcV1OYHRw

    In the junior code this a 6.5 beam - would have been lovely to see at YOG (if she was eligible?) 6.3 beam in the senior code. It does have a few problems in terms of optimizing scores - as the best routines show the minimum number of elements to reduce E score while this routine has 17 individual (and deductible) elements that will each have a varying amounts of deductions taken - so I expect even for such a beautiful routine, she would have an E that maxes in the low 8s.

    When I see a routine such as this, I am glad that routines with no rhythm and minimal choreography are harshly deducted. I'm sure Thorsdottir does not rack up the artistry deductions in the E score.

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