Hard to believe that worlds has been and gone. A whole year until Glasgow, where I will be in attendance! But, back to Nanning.
We need to talk about...
First things first, I really enjoyed most of the competitions, the all-around and event finals. Unfortunately, I found the team finals quite disappointing. Not because they weren't filled with fantastic routines, they were, or because the podium was in some way wrong, but because of how it exposed the weakness. The US were always going to dominate and they certainly did that, leading by 7 points. I have no issue with the US winning or dominating. Merely, how poor everyone else is by comparison.
Russia and Romania, once so strong, are held together by one girl each. They both had falls and errors, but that wasn't really the big issue at stake, moreso just how much lower the scoring potential was even with perfectly hit routines. Even had two other teams been able to keep up somewhat with the leaders I would have been happy. And, not forgetting, the US team was somewhat depleted for them having to rely on girls with very little experience. Can you imagine the scores had they had Gabby Douglas on bars and beam, Katelyn Ohashi on beam, McKayla Maroney on vault and Aly Raisman on floor? The US is ultra powerful and in a league of its own without several prominent gymnasts and it's a luxury beyond the imagination of everybody else in the arena. A team with several stars, rather than one outstanding gymnast and five very good/strong other. Next year and the year after, we can expect only more strength from the US.
It's just...bleak! I want to see more of a fight. Seeing Russia so hindered by depth and injuries, Romania with just about a team and such abysmal bars score and surprising weakness elsewhere, and China struggling so badly on floor, able to eclipse the others on a lopsided basis of supreme strength on one event.
I'm curious to see how team finals will pan out for the rest of this quad. Next year is a bumper new senior year. The US will gain a top all-arounder with massive scores in Bailie Key and strong contenders Nia Dennis and Alexis Vasquez. Romania will gain a much needed bars worker in Andreea Iridon and some strength on the other events in Laura Jurca, who, unfortunately, has not looked great this year. Russia get Seda, who is a massive boost to them, and also Maria Bondareva and Anastasia Dmitrieva. GB, who didn't do as well as expected, gain 3 fabulous girls in Ellie Downie, Amy Tinkler and Tyesha Matthis. That could well launch them into contention with the top 4, they have amanar capability now, and much needed d-score potential on floor too.
The US will no doubt continue to be at the top. I would just like to see them challenged a little more. It's funny, I don't feel this way in hindsight about the Soviets, and it's not because of preference. Romania and East Germany were good, strong teams. The US and China were progressing all the time. Now, it seems that the rest of the top 4 are in steep decline, which makes all the difference to me. Only the US is really able to keep on top of the code, but I don't think the code would be such a problem for the rest if they only had the depth.
What to say? Consecutive champion, and still not at her peak? 9-time world medallist with more to give, more in the tank, 5 Nanning medals despite not competing to her full potential except in beam event finals? She is simply astonishing. At a post-worlds conference, she stated that due to the consistency of her amanar, she has been given the go-ahead to train the TTY. She will also be working on a Moors in the gym. Just in the last day, she's released videos of a full-twisting double layout, with excellent form and technique, and a very flighty but very sloppy Khorkina, the bars upgrade that disappeared along with her hurt shoulder earlier this year. Because of course, it's actually hard to picture her as someone who missed the start of the competition season, who downgraded and held off upgrades like the Cheng to protect and save her shoulder. A gymnast who was that good, successful, dominant etc...on a sort of an off year? She is just bizarre. And not only did she win another raft of medals, but more hearts with the bee episode!
I really can't wait to see what next year brings for her. A Cheng, TTY, Khorkina and Fabrichnova on bars, full-out double layout and maybe something else on floor? It all seems very reasonable. Not sure about the Silivas beam dismount. It seems a little..much. One thing's for sure, Bailie Key will have her work cut out!
Very, very impressed. I really had not expected at all that she could have chased Simone so closely for that title. Big, big improvement on bars...they've been looking very good but so inconsistent for the last while. And a 6.5 floor, and improved form on beam...awesome. Both gymnasts are so similar in a lot of ways, the main difference to me seems to be what they are capable of. Larisa seems at or close to the limit, while the sky's the limit with her rival and friend. Romania are screwed when she retires, I feel.
What I'd most love to see from Larisa aside from some consistency in beam finals and continued ability to challenge for AA gold, would be more control on floor. She loses valuable tenths for being just too bouncy on finishing turns and landing leaps. Her choreography is wonderful but the lack of precision shows up all the same.
Yet another example in team finals of Aliya making room on her back for five other girls and saving the day for Russia, again. It's quite amazing and humbling seeing her deliver so strongly time after time for them, considering all of her niggling injuries, and the pressure. Individually it was quite a mixed bag, that awful fall in AA on floor, not having the difficulty to contend on bars, not having her acro series on beam..yet netting a bronze there, and on floor. I'm glad she got to redeem herself. I only hope she gets a break now..and better coaching, as per her own wish, although having a break is not.
Nobody in Russia is near her level. Viktoria Komova could be, if she was healthy enough and risked enough..other injured athletes compete all the time, but she seems to be well wrapped up and preserved. Hmm. Anyway, clearly there's no stopping Aliya anytime soon and I look forward to more surprises from her. It would just be so great if she could share the pressure..
Where does she go from here, would be my biggest question? Kyla competed with an injury and despite that, performed strongly for her team and triumphed where others faltered, bagging herself an AA bronze despite her low difficulty. I'm very, very curious about her future in elite. She expressed in interviews after competition that she knows she needs to upgrade. If she's healthy, it would be wonderful to see competitive bars and beam routines from her. Equally, it would be great to see her shine at Stanford. Hmmm!
Part 2 is a-coming soon! :D More individuals, assessment, general reactions, leotards, interviews.....the list goes on.