Monday, 22 September 2014

Worlds thoughts

It's almost here! And there have been some changes even since the predictions post.

In typical Russia fashion, their team has changed. In, out, in out...shake it all about. Maria Paseka is out. Ekaterina Kramarenko remains in despite sustaining some sort of foot/ankle injury recently. Viktoria Komova, who was never in but who could well have been chosen last minute, is officially out of contention. Ksenia Afanasyeva, who was briefly mentioned as a possible team member despite not being fully recovered, is also out of contention. Polina Fedorova and Tatiana Nabieva will be fighting for the last team spot. Edit: I believe it's been confirmed Tatiana won that particular battle, relegating Polina to alternate.

So, what does this do? It means no amanar. Aliya Mustafina will no doubt plant a strong DTY for a good score, but it's really a blow to lose Maria Paseka. Alla Sosnitskaya and I suppose Ekaterina Kramarenko will complete the vault lineup. Ideally to counteract a weaker than expected vault rotation they'd need some stacked bars, which they don't really have. Nobody, not even Aliya, has the difficulty displayed by the team in London. It's a puzzler to know what these changes will do to Russia's TF placing. Because of course, other teams are struggling too.

It's so odd to see USA weak. Especially for me as a new fan, not used to 'mid-quad slumps'. I am not surprised to see that Brenna Dowell won't be making the trip to China. Even if she was hitting AA at camp as rumoured I did think it would be too little too late for Marta who quite rightly highly prizes consistency all season long. Especially since Marta spectacularly showed last year that Brenna does not get breaks. No McKayla Maroney, no Elizabeth Price, no Brenna Dowell, no Peyton Ernst, no Maggie Nichols, no Lexie Priessman, no new Fierce 5 comeback. It's going to be very interesting but I believe they have the edge still.

Last night (this morning?) the Asian Games Quals/TF took place with a predictable massive win for China. Which was no surprise given that they sent their A-team, most others held off on doing that. Fascinating to see this team in action as a 'warm-up'. It is a little concerning given the closeness in timing between this and worlds, hopefully it won't have any impact for when their performances really need to count. First, congratulations to newcomer Chen Siyi for landing a very respectable DTY, a new skill for her that she has been crashing for most of this year. Shang Chunsong is dealing with some pain (strain is the word I think) in her hips for which she has needed Cortisone shots. Sensibly, she watered down on floor as a result. Disappointing to see her fall on bars and score atrociously in execution on beam, but hopefully she can bounce back and compete strong and pain-free in Nanning. Yao Jinnan also competed recovering from an injury which affected her training, but it was a while ago now and with any luck won't be an issue whatsoever to her by worlds.

I expected a bit more from China on beam (Bai Yawen for instance did not compete a routine worthy of the medal I gave her) and they weren't without headcase moments and substantial errors, BUT, overall it was a very strong showing. Vault is no longer a big worry for me (hurray for improvement there also from Tan Jiaxin) and bars will definitely pick them up and plant them well ahead of any other team there. They have no less than 4 routines at almost 7.0 which is phenomenal and is a big reason why they still have the silver edge in my view. Other teams being weak on vault too could easily get them over the hump of non-fantastic beam and floor. Although looking at Shang Chunsong's beam again and I don't know where they got 8.3 from. China seem to get the brunt of artistic deductions on beam when most everyone is guilty of poor rhythm and half-hearted choreography. Also, yes she brought her foot up. Not even high really. Everything else was so precise grrr.

You can find videos on this fantastic channel that needs to be in your subscriptions.

On the topic of Asian Games, Hong un Jong got together with Oksana Chusovitina and relived her glory days on vault. Much better vaults than we have seen in a long time from her AND with her difficulty advantage on Simone Biles, 0.8, she will really give the latter a run for her money if she vaults like that again. It also puts pressure on Mykayla Skinner who is at a big disadvantage since she may or may not score incredibly low for her Cheng what with the most bad-ass-but-worthy-of-harsh-scoring-block of all time. Could well be our podium, but Giulia Steingruber and Phan Thi Ha Thanh stand to gain bigtime if the judges give the one-armed Cheng the stink eye. Back to Asian games, where Chuso also unleashed a much better looking Rudi. All hail the vault elixir of youth she and Hong un Jong have been knocking back!

I'm struggling to place Russia, Romania and GB. The latter have not been doing that well on floor this year. A good bit will depend on the readiness of Gabby Jupp who I am THRILLED has made the team. Raer Theaker is a loss on floor, but Gabby with good bars and beam will more than make up for that. So much the better if she has floor too, but I wouldn't expect it and after so long out it would be wiser to hold off.

Have any of your thoughts about worlds changed recently? Predictions? What will crop up next in this mid-quad 'Who can suck the most' competition? Sorry, sorry, most impolite but um, somewhat truthful...

As an aside from worlds, but a very important one: wishing and hoping that Deanne Soza makes a full recovery from her recent eye infection. The last update was more positive, with optimism from doctors on her treatment and it mentioned that Deanne was able to distinguish a silhouette of her father. 

It must be incredibly hard for her to deal with, not least because she is so young, never mind the fact that she is a superbly talented athlete with enormous potential. Speedy and full recovery to her and her sight. 

Update: She's continuing to improve and was able to read letters from a screen today. SO THRILLED to hear this. Her vision is very blurry and it's too soon to tell about her right eye vision but this is so much less bleak than the first update or two so it's just fantastic news.

Copyright- Christy Ann Linder


 


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Worlds Predictions

Ahhh, that time of year :D I have a massive advantage on the last one as worlds are actually in a few weeks instead of a year.

I won't do teams as they are all largely in place or with very little room to manouevre, even the US. I will say that I don't see Brenna Dowell on the team. In my mind it's Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Mykayla Skinner, Alyssa Baumann, Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear.

Moving on to the fun

The All-Around

1. Simone Biles

Woah, unorthodox choice I know! She hasn't raised the roof on her difficulty level since Antwerp..bars and beam changes probably cancel each other out. What she has done is clean up, she's technically better than ever AND her landings are so much more precise. It will all help. I think she would need to fall and have a significant other error for someone to have a shot at catching up to her.

2. Aliya Mustafina

3. Kyla Ross

I'm not overly confident in the order of these two. Aliya looked super strong at Russian Cup, better overall than last year. Kyla meanwhile has downgraded further. It's hard to know. Larisa HAS upgraded her floor and beam and her bars look stronger than ever...so she could of course feature here. The reason why she doesn't is because she has never gotten it together in the AA when it really counts while the other two are absolute beasts in competition.

4.(th again) Larisa Iordache

5. Vanessa Ferrari

Vanessa still looks very strong. Larisa will fall off beam I think. 

Team Final

1. USA

SHOCKER. It won't be easy as we all would have imagined at the beginning of the year. Losing Ebee, McKayla Maroney and injuries to Peyton Ernst, Maggie Nichols, Lexie Priessman with no Fierce 5 comebacks...it's definitely not a glorious pool of depth. But they still have the goods..even though China technically has higher potential d-scores.

2. China

3. Russia

4. Great Britain

5. Romania

Now I'm really not confident in this..but at the moment it makes the most sense. China have killer, and I mean killer, bar routines. Their lowest d-score out of 4 is 6.7-8. If they all hit then it's a major boost. Likewise with beam, strong potential there as usual. Russia are just...not really a strong team. And just today they have lost Ekaterina Kramarenko. Viktoria Komova will almost surely be on the team now, but they'll still be weak. As ever, Aliya Mustafina does not a team make and she'll be carrying them. The second strongest team member is Maria Kharenkova. Together I can see them dragging the team above the twin onslaught of GB and Romania.

Romania recently spectacularly lost to Germany. It makes me very unsure of how equipped they are to deal with GB. GB are lacking depth in some areas but may still be able to surpass a greatly weakened Romania who didn't even choose a team as there was nobody to leave behind.

GB..hmmm, mystery. I'm not sure what the story is with Raer Theaker and Rebecca Tunney but I got the impression they're not going to be in contention? Gabby Jupp on the other hand is back! This could go either way for them. 4th would be an enormous achievement even with their new strength. 5th is just as likely. Romania veer from 3rd to 5th to me, they don't have 'it' for 2nd this year at least I don't think.

Vault Qualifiers

Simone Biles
Mykayla Skinner
Giulia Steingruber
Oksana Chusovitina
Hong un Jong
Phan Thi Ha Thanh
Ellie Black 
Maria Paseka

I'm a little stumped here, I feel a bit out of the loop. Hmmm. *Added Maria Paseka! We could see a suicidal Prod though of course. Perhaps Mahmoud as the last I saw of Pena she didn't look particularly strong and crashed a layout front if I remember correctly.

Bars Qualifiers

Ashton Locklear
Becky Downie
Ruby Harrold
Yao Jinnan
Huang Huidan
Aliya Mustafina
Daria Spiridonova
Kyla Ross

Madison has more difficulty than Kyla, but not as clean.

Floor Qualifiers

Simone Biles
Mykayla Skinner
Larisa Iordache
Shang Chunsong
Claudia Frangapane
Giulia Steingruber
Vanessa Ferrari
Roxana Popa

I haven't seen a huge amount of great floors this year. Mai Murakami is struggling at the moment, I don't see her getting her tumbles back and into this final, sadly.

Beam Final

Larisa Iordache
Kyla Ross
Simone Biles
Aliya Mustafina
Maria Kharenkova
Shang Chunsong
Bai Yawen
Andreea Munteanu 

I'm very confident in this finals line-up, out of all the EF ones.

Vault podium

1. Simone Biles
2. Mykayla Skinner
3. Giulia Steingruber

Ta-dah! So that was straightforward enough.


Bars Podium

1. Yao Jinnan
2. Huang Huidan
3. Becky Downie

Yeah so this is impossible! The Russians have lesser difficulty which could get Becky into the medals if she hits everything for hers. Much like Euros. This is one of those predictions that feels right, but so many variables involved..

Beam Podium

1. Larisa Iordache
2. Maria Kharenkova
3. Bai Yawen

BOOM, Larisa has to hit beam in a final when it actually matters, just once. Maria is quite steady with a lot of difficulty...but I have big issues with silver and bronze. Where is Kyla, how will Bai Yawen be scored, what about Simone's higher difficulty now...all legit concerns. It's a tough one.

Floor Podium

1. Simone Biles
2. Larisa Iordache
3. Vanessa Ferrari

All 3 of these routines have 6.5 difficulty. Gold is obvious. Not so much the others. I dumped Mykayla Skinner after comments made me look harder at Vanessa Ferrari who I initially forgot about for floor finals altogether and needed reminding from Cordelia Price! Mykayla does have a good shot though at this podium.

Even when we're this close, there's still a huge amount of 'what if'. What's right here, what's definitely wrong? What's downright bizarre? 



Monday, 8 September 2014

Things

First, since it's freshest...

Gymnastike.

Like most people, I'm not impressed by the days-late apology. It definitely reads like a necessary and false apology generated by the backlash, rather than true remorse or even understanding of what they have done. This is compounded by the fact that the apology is directed by their action in covering the story at all, with zero mention of how they linked and exposed their very young target market to porn. No more, no less. 4chan has absolutely no place at all on a gymnastics news site and the utter failure to even acknowledge that is despicable.

It's worth noting that Gymnastike has several dedicated, well-meaning and knowledgeable writers and contributors. They are not to blame for this. (Although some gymnastics writers on the site are to blame for the lazy, copy-pasted click-me articles). Unfortunately they suffer for representing the site as a whole.

I'd hope that they have apologised directly to McKayla Maroney. We of course don't need to see it and she's under no obligation to disclose anything at all for 'closure' for her fans or anything. But I'd like to think they did personally apologise! 

Has the apology changed your view at all? Do you think USAG and/or FIG should still sanction them?

Junior Nationals

Which did in fact take place weeks ago, yup. I didn't catch all of it but enough. A very different competition without Bailie Key stomping over everyone! And with infinitely less sass with Laurie Hernandez out also.

Nia Dennis was strong, but nothing like her full potential. Odd mistakes on THE most secure skill ever...her fully upright arabian. Floor errors, etc, much less dynamic DTY than last year, bars downgrades. It's not fully surprising given that she's not long back from injury, but if she's not more consistent and looking more at her ease in her routines next spring for her senior debut I will be a little concerned. She could be amazing. Training with Gabby Douglas too is very good for her I feel, it's a strong motivator and both girls have similar strengths.

I don't need to see an amanar next year or anything. I'd settle for the super strong DTY back in action, more spring and ease in her floor and an upgrade or two on bars.

I remain unconvinced about Norah Flatley in the AA. She too was dogged by silly mistakes...the two on beam was utterly shocking. But it's not that...it's how her other events compared to beam are progressing, and they haven't in my opinion. I'm also puzzled as to where her bars are going...she's not making the most of the code there really.

In fact, both Alexis Vasquez and tiny Victoria Nyugen are more impressive on beam to me. Super clean, still with that killer variation and flexibility. Just that bit cleaner than Norah. Not that I'm hating on Norah or anything. I'm just not getting the love. Yet.

Likewise Jazmyn Foberg. It is phenomenal that somebody who failed to qualify for Nationals her first year as an elite should win it the next. And even when we take into account the absences and injury list, this is still an enormous achievement and one which she fully deserved. 8 for 8, solid. But...there's usually a but...she's not standing out particularly on any one event just yet. She sure could in the future, but not right now. I'm interested to see how she progresses. Although, I fervently hope her difficulty stagnates. The huge leaps forward on floor and bars in particular are a little concerning, possibly too fast. Bars in particular, her releases are completely and utterly flat and on both events she's not at her ease.

Morgan Hurd is more than just a great dancer with adorable glasses. She is SO CLEAN! Look at her lines on bars. I love little technique queens and have my eye firmly on her. She didn't hit 8 for 8 but so what, she's very young.

Similarly, Deanne Soza is amazing to watch. Especially on bars but she has massive potential on every event. Her mistakes were crushing for me as a new big fan but again, lots of time to improve.

Jordan Chiles had a truly mixed season. From winning Classics, to disaster, to climbing back up the ranks admirably on night 2. I'd like to see her keep her current difficulty and just focus on the consistency. No need for more upgrades yet. Although..that front triple full looks amazing. I couldn't say no to that..

YOG

Clashed abominably with work, so much so that I only got to watch event finals. All in all, it wasn't really overly impressive. While some girls did stand out, there was nobody that really proved they have what it takes to make major inroads into worlds AA next year. But, perversely, I'm also a little glad about that. I do not want anybody peaking for a competition as a junior.

You may have noticed I focused on one gymnast in the run-up to this competition as my 'one to watch' and who I was most excited about. A few weeks prior, I wrote this article. Wang Yan definitely performed as expected. In fact, she surpassed expectations in some regards..with some upgrades on bars and beam (that barani though!) and she nailed event finals. Well deserved medals there. She also lived up to the headcase side unfortunately, throwing herself out of floor finals in quals and messing up in the AA too. She definitely proved herself as a 'someone'. Very valuable for next year for her team, and hopefully incredible experience for her. She's capable of more and I'm really hoping we get to see that.

Flavia Saraiva is quite frankly, a delight. She moves very well and is so wonderfully clean. I'm happy she got this chance to compete as individually she will always be outshone by Rebeca Andrade although of course, Brazil have more than enough room for two stars. They can complement each other quite well. As expected, Flavia did not have the difficulty to get right up and compete for the top spot, nevertheless, she's showing great potential. Bars, long a weak piece for her country, have shown some progress. Hopefully some nice steady addition of difficulty towards Rio will propel her up the rankings.

Laura Jurca was well, crushing. No medals is so disappointing. I have been out of the loop, but perhaps she is recovering from injury? Let's hope she can bounce back from this competition and add some difficulty while still maintaining consistency.

Speaking of consistency, Seda Tutkhalyan managed to prevail despite spectacularly lacking in that department in general. She is above all, interesting. Brimming with potential. I'm delighted with her beam routine in particular and she has certainly shown fantastic progress on bars. She definitely has it in her to be even stronger all-around and I'm looking forward to seeing her senior debut..hopefully with vaults that land where they are supposed to!

Ellie Downie did extremely well, although she was another showing inconsistency. Such power! Although I remain disappointed she isn't emulating her big sister on bars, her floor and vault are pretty awesome. HUGE DTY, I definitely think we'll see an amanar next year, which would be a first for GB. GB really have a strong crew next year with Tyesha Mattis and Amy Tinkler firmly in the mix too.

Sae Miyakawa broke my heart with her floor routine. And then made it soar on vault. She deserved to beat Ellie Downie on form and not because the latter had her second vault downgraded. We need stills of Sae's form mid-flight blown up and pasted in gyms across the world. Stunning work.

Who was your favourite? Most likely to make it big as a senior? Who will be the Komova?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

McKayla Maroney and Gymnastike

I am really, really flabbergasted by this situation. It really goes beyond a disgusting act to link to the (fake) photos. Gymnastike's site is utilised by a young audience who should never in any way be exposed to this content or indeed 4chan itself, the dregs of the internet, on a site designed to showcase routines and (stolen) news stories about their favourite gymnasts.

It's an incomprehensibly terrible decision. This 18-year-old gymnast who they excitedly hype over when she is competing and lament when she is not, is reduced to porn clickbait? And not only that, but their sole reaction to the explosion of animosity towards them as a result of the article has been to a) remove the link, b) remove the tweet linking to the article but keeping the article up AND updating it and c) defensively respond that they are essentially being brave by reporting on 'uncomfortable subjects'.

This is not brave. This is the lowest of the low. They should be utterly ignoring this thrashy gossip. This is not gymnastics news. McKayla Maroney's photos, doctored or not, leaked or not, are not news. They are not relevant in any way and nor is her sexuality.

I am delighted that USAG have responded overwhelmingly against gymnastike's TMZ-esque article. It will be extremely interesting to see what repurcussions there are. If gymnastike was still a self-starter I'd expect it to die. But of course, it's owned by big money now. Many have seen it degrade from a huge and wonderful source that revolutionised the gymternet and kicked others into gear like USAG themselves, to a money-grabbing entity with extremely poor reporting, to essentially sitting on Lauren Hopkins utterly fantastic website pressing refresh and copy-pasting her work. But I never expected anything like this. If anything, I imagined they could meet a huge pitfall if the aforementioned website owner took action against them.

You can do your bit to support ethical reporting, as Bekah and others have been detailing. Unfollow, unsubscribe, don't click and fund them via ad revenue for a site that then turns around and produces articles like this. The fact that there hasn't even been an apology is utterly, utterly galling. If they have their media access revoked it would be completely fitting and well deserved.


McKayla is an extremely accomplished gymnast who has been through a lot. She has already responded admirably to this, as expected. I look forward to seeing her rise above this and return triumphant to the competition floor, where she belongs. A world away from seedy stories.