Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Draft COP 2017-2020

Ugh, another long break without posting. I've been dealing with minor but intensely annoying health issues...after a long, long time of my hypothyroidism being stable to the point I'd forget about it, it's now not at all and the solution of decreasing meds was an absolutely terrible one so now I'm very very very hypothyroid (ic???) and the fatigue is a total killer, not up for much other than work and work is a nightmare with it. Complete nuisance when med changes take so long to take affect. Moving on...the draft COP for the next quad!

https://www.docdroid.net/J5HZsI1/wag-cop-2017-2020-draft-1.pdf.html

Anyway, this will be short! In good news...

Note: Handpsring fwd on- tucked double salto fwd off: If the 2nd salto is not completed because the gymnast lands on the feet and bottom simultaneously, then the vault will be recognised as Handspring fwd on- Tucked fwd Salto off


This had better make it to the final version OR ELSE. They'd want the wording watertight also. Another good bit of news lurking is that the forward element will be scrapped from floor, meaning no daft front or side aerials. It wasn't ever something I felt really strong about, but it was definitely jarring to choreography and for that reason, it's welcome.

The 2 point penalty for vaulting with one arm is back, I'd be interested to know how strict that will be followed in practice..must true propulsion be in evidence from both hands or will touching the board be a grey area?

The arabian double layout, the Dos Santos II, is now a H. YES finally! Maybe it will encourage someone to actually do this skill.

I haven't delved fully into it to see changes to combinations/connections etc. on beam and bars but will be doing so. Looks like Netherlands are being punished for underuse of acro skills on floor, floor will need 3 dance skills and 3 acro skills and 2 extra skills...not 100% about these two skills, if they are compulsory or allowed or what. If they're not compulsory, they might as well be since everyone will use them to drive difficulty.

What I definitely don't like is devaluing of vaults. I don't really see the point of trying to bring it more into line with other events, by its very nature it's very quick so execution will always be much higher than others. It just seems unneccessary and will for me take away from the excitement of ranking and scoring a little bit.

I definitely have some more reading to do. While it is the draft, I'm sure a lot of it will end up finalised. What are your thoughts? Favourite change? Worst? What have they overlooked? Who should get a raise for FINALLY seeing the danger of the Produnova?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Highlights of Glasgow

Yup, definitely still wishing worlds was yet to come instead of finishing a few weeks ago.

Location

Glasgow is a great city, I really enjoyed it. Not exactly spectacularly different to Dublin...certainly they have the same mild at best-wet and cold at worst weather systems, but that's okay since I don't have much time for the sun anyway. I'm getting good at picking hotels and always aim for an old one that's not a dump. Our hotel was not only a spectacular Victorian behemoth of a building, it was right in the centre and above the train station, which was a whopping 2 stops away from the arena. Seriously convenient. Glasgow seems to have a bad reputation here, most people made a face and suggested Edinburgh instead, a very nice city which spectacularly lacked the main reason for going in the first place. I get the impression it used to be a rough place but you can tell a lot of work has gone into regenerating it and I always felt safe, even on Hallowe'en night which is a spectacularly dangerous night back home. Very friendly place.

The arena itself is fantastic, very fancy. The seats are tiered quite high and I'm not happy that the 'priority' seats released first afforded me seats in the upper tiers only, despite buying a few hours after release. Clearly I am dedicated, do not shaft me on this. I'll know next time not to go ahead and buy, I just thought that was the availability. Lol. Antwerp was very, very different. Anyway, the view was fine, I just suffered jealousy of the people with seating much lower down. But it WAS good to get a great overall view, and our best seats were for the AA which was most important to me.

Stage

I never realised that introductions were missing from worlds, but it really added a lot to the atmosphere and it was wonderful to see teams and individuals recognised like this, with their huge flag behind them and some very catchy music-sometimes even matching the gymnast in some way. Nice bit of hype-building and I really hope that's not the last we've seen of it.

Diverse finals/better depth

It was just great to see much more diverse finals than we are used to, echoing MAG almost. This hasn't been an overnight change, but was more noticeable than in past worlds I thought. It's a big jump from the last Olympics and will be interesting to compare to Rio's finals. Vault was as usual the most diverse, but beam wasn't far behind for once. Two Dutch girls. While beam itself has suffered bigtime this quad and inconsistency even among the best is still a major issue, the fact that it's less deep than last quad is balanced out for me by the refreshing different styles on display, afforded by the diversity of the finalists. If only they could stay on the beam.

Floor and bars are stronger than ever, which is very exciting and bodes well for next year. And that was a floor final without Aly Raisman. Considering the quality of this year's floor final, there were quite a few big names missing. When you think that next year we'll be expecting Simone Biles, a second American such as the aforementioned Aly though medal-winner Maggie was certainly a worthy finalist, Ellie Black, Giulia Steingruber, Shang Chunsong, Ellie Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Larisa Iordache/?? Catalina Ponor ??, Vanessa Ferrari, Sae Miyakawa, Ksenia Afanasyeva and more to be vying for places...

On bars, the standard has definitely been raised. There have always been routines of the calibre the 4 gold medallists showed (what a sentence) but not quite so many. And there are plenty that are right behind them. The fact that most routines are fairly similar and shap-heavy is a bit of a drag, but some managed to stand out, such as Shang Chunsong with multiple releases, and Ruby Harrold for her unique skillset. A great routine to cap off the final.

The AA rankings both in qualifiers and finals were certainly an unusual mix, it was great to see Giulia Steingruber qualify 2nd behind only the untouchable Simone Biles and even though a fall on beam put paid to a repeat in finals, it really bodes well for how far she has come as an all-arounder. A shaken Romania clawed back to great places in the AA, from which they were completely out of the top 10 in qualifying-Larisa Iordache of course admirably clawing her way to bronze and Laura Jurca showing her potential finally to finish in 8th after qualifying 22nd. The best though was seeing Mai Murakami completely unexpectedly finishing 6th. It will be great to see Russia have more of a presence in the AA next year hopefully, with Seda's inconsistency putting paid to any glory there, but it was nice to have the focus more spread out.

GB Bronze Team Final

I don't think anyone expected that, and it blew the roof off. To get their first ever team final medal on home soil is just incredible. Seeing their reactions when the score came in and the realisation that their vault scores had been enough - it looked like they didn't let themselves believe it could be even after Russia imploded- was just such a great moment, historical and heartwarming. I didn't think it was possible-they are still a team that are on the way, having made huge strides but still affected by issues such as depth and messy form lowering scores, and of course it's a team final that didn't have Romania in it and had Russia counting no less than 4 falls-but it comes to the same thing, it doesn't matter what you CAN do, unless you can put it together when it counts like in the team final, and GB certainly accomplished that.

Netherlands qualifying for team final

Up there in terms of achievements with GB's medal. Who'd a thunk it? Doubly fantastic since it means they've qualified a team to the Olympics. Their greatest achievement to date on worlds and Olympics stage was Celine Van Gerner placing 12th in the London Olympics. Competing singly for her country, since NL haven't qualified a team to the Olympics in a long, long time, if ever. And this isn't even through the Test Event, but directly through worlds. This is a team who I was hoping would individually make a final or two, so that I would be able to watch them in person, but I never anticipated team final. One of those elegant types to enjoy watching but withhold hope from. They definitely had some issues in team finals, which was perhaps not surprising, but were nevertheless glorious to watch from the very moment they came on stage and performed their stunning and elegant salute, encompassing all they are as a team.

Netherlands individual qualifying and finals

Staying with the Dutch girls, I was flabbergasted to see Lieke Wevers qualifying 5th into the all-around. In the best way. Considering her start values, it highlights how vital execution and expression can be to scores, and how seriously FIG can take it. Sadly, Eythora Thorsdottir was just barely knocked out of the AA herself, but snuck into the beam final. Of course, she proceeded to have the oddest fall there but she was in good company with 50% of the finalists falling and it was still great to see her in person. I didn't dare hold out hope that Sanne Wevers would hit in the beam final, after qualifying second but having a nightmare in team finals-no outright disaster but failing her connections and thus a composite requirement, but lo and behold, beam silver! Brilliant result!

US steadiness

When you see teams with enormous potential dealing with enormous flaws- such as mass inconsistency from Russia, chronic lack of depth, political issues and abysmal bars from Romania, lack of depth, politics and power from China, form issues, lack of depth and minor inconsistency from GB etc. etc....it is just so GREAT to see a team nail everything. 12 solid, hit routines. Not only do they show power and consistency, but confidence, and the skills are always secure, you never have to hope the gymnast will rotate it fully. It's refreshing. Their qualifications performance was just so jarring and odd, but never fear, they were back to their robotically solid selves when it counted.

Watching Simone Biles in person

History in motion, she is fascinating to watch and it's fun to think that I've so far been able to see her in action twice, considering she will go down as one of the most legendary and talented gymnasts of all time. It's just bizarre to be blown away by her routines and know that she still has more to give and the potential for yet more difficulty.

China

Getting their act together for team silver. I've become too used to falls and mistakes from them, and qualifications did not inspire confidence, so I was thrilled to see them so solid in finals. Not perfect, (why can you never stay on the beam Wang Yan??) but 11/12 and a really quite super vault rotation of all things is still not to be sniffed at.

Shang Chunsong 4th AA, general hit record

She has previously stood out at worlds for all of the wrong reasons, so to witness her hitting again and again (yup, fell off beam after waiting far too long for the judges in quals but...just quals) and coming so close to beating Larisa Iordache was wonderful. She'll always be let down as regards AA as long as she carries a flat FTY, but to come so close is impressive. It's also nice to see her become the face of her team, and gain a ton of fans. The spread of her story has definitely helped, and has helped explain her circumstances etc, but I do feel a bit uneasy about it considering how detailed it is, just wondering does she know or did she give permission for all of it. Anyway, to come away from worlds with 2 4th places and one of them undeservedly low is disappointing, but she still has great performances and showed more of her potential than she has previously on the international stage.

Russia

Coming back from being a complete nonentity in the all-around and a meltdown in the team finals to shine in event finals, with no less than 3 golds and 1 silver. Despite some qualms about colours of some of those medals, there's no doubt they were impressive and it's great they were able to make a comeback.

Harsh scoring

I definitely have some issues with individual scores but overall, I felt the scoring was harsh and fair. It was reassuring to see them come down hard on things, on a relatively equal playing field.

Last but definitely not least..

Meeting the Biles

Still feels bizarre to have been invited to meet them, and very flattering to have my blog recognised. I had a great morning to start off event finals day 1, lovely people.


I'll probably do a part 2 to this, with lowlights, routines, things like that. Definitely still more to talk about this worlds. What were YOUR highlights? Favourite unexpected hitters? Or moments from off the competition floor? Best hair bow?


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Event Finals

I'm definitely still in the post-Glasgow slump. Hard to believe it's been and gone, when I've been waiting for it since the moment Antwerp worlds ended.

Anyway, last things first! How about those event final podiums?

I've gone through vault already, and my opinion hasn't really altered. I think the top two were deservedly close, but the edge was with Hong un Jong. When they are both performing the same vaults though with their own set of flaws, it's so hard to call. I'd like if the podium was slightly reshuffled, but I'm definitely not mad or anything. It was really sad to witness Giulia Steingruber injuring herself after already fearing the worst when she put up 5.8 for the second vault. Thankfully, it looks like she avoided doing any major damage and will still be good to go for Rio. I really love how diverse that final was- USA, China, Russia but also Mexico, Switzerland, North Korea, Great Britain and India. Another low point was Dipa Karmarkar's Produnova- looking forward to the day they are either removed or no longer worth the risk-and also Alexa Moreno Medina's lack of mastery of her vaults, they were really just about rotated and a complete scramble.

Bars though, definitely had crazy judging. A tie was justifiable, but not 4-way. The podium to me should have been Viktoria Komova-Gold, Fan Yilin-Silver, Daria Spiridonova-Bronze. Daria had a few too many handstand errors to be further up, while Madison Kocian is possibly justifiable for a tied bronze. I think that while she is very dynamic, she has too many tiny form errors adding up such as leg separations/bent elbows. I'm not sure if this was visible on any streams, but each time a score came in, the big screen showed it against the current highest score, which was pretty cool. For bars they used a different 15.366 every time as current highest, but when Vika's score came in, she showed up against herself as the score to beat. Highlighted how very weird the whole thing was. Interesting podium ceremony to witness too! Very curious to know if there will be repurcussions from this...hopefully not future tie-breaking at worlds.

I went into beam without any high hopes, knowing that most finals these days have a ridiculously high number of falls. Even with that though, I held out for Wang Yan to medal and the Dutch girls not to fall. Eythora had the unwelcome draw of first-up, and had such a strange fall. Looked from my angle and from watching it back that it was salvageable, but I'm glad she even made the final and it was still a glorious routine, though a bit frightening when her head veered back near the beam after dismounting. The biggest shock from Viktoria Komova's routine wasn't that she had a major error, but that she didn't jump off in resignation like we are too used to seeing time after time. A nice routine otherwise with the usual gorgeous form, although it was overly hesitant. I can't enjoy watching her beam because it's too nerve-wracking and she rarely flows anymore. What was somewhat funny was the shock and negative reaction to her score from the crowd around us when her score came in, who seemed to have forgotten the major save and how costly they are. I've seen some comments around that the best part of the final or the 'real victory' of it was her not falling, which is really quite sad. Anyway, back to business of beam finals with more actual falls, from Ellie Black on her full twist, Wang Yan on her layout and Seda Tutkhalyan on her layout full. None of these were a surprise, all 3 have been splatting regularly all yearThey all seem fully capable of their high difficulty, but seem to get a bit lost in landing of their hard skills in a competitive setting. Hopefully they can rework things a bit, even downgrade, to get proper consistency.

Thankfully, we were graced with some hit routines. Simone Biles pretty much nailed everything, I was particularly pleased her 2.5 wolf had no wobbles and her Barani-once a vulnerable part of the routine-was completely secure, everything after that especially the super-flighty BHS-LOSO-LOSO series and practically stuck dismount was a bonus. Considering how sadly used we are to seeing several wobbles, broken connections and really hesitant work if not outright falls from top routines, it is such a relief to see such clean, difficult work in a flowing routine. Lieke Wevers, as the second qualifier, stepped up to the plate and delivered a gorgeous routine. Not quite as steady as she can do it, but it was much closer to her lovely quals routine than the messy TF one. Pauline Schaefer also had a nice routine -plenty of little wobbles-but nothing serious. It's well composed and impressive even without her own skill in it. I love this podium, but that was a rough final. Far too many falls and major errors. I'm over this quad's beam and looking forward to whatever FIG have in store for it after Rio.

Floor was such a great final routines-wise, so deep. But the podium...not happy with it at all. Simone Biles had yet another great routine and claimed gold by a mile, no arguments there, but silver and bronze are questionable. Ksenia Afanasyeva completed her tumbling and leaps with ease, not so much her turns though. She received 0.3 in d-score for a turn she did not complete, bearing in mind Shang Chunsong did not receive credit for a turn she did not complete. Both were obviously not around, so where was the consistency there? Afan's routine was a bit lacklustre by her old standards, little expression or enthusiasm and just dull, but it was the d-score that I had the major problem with. It didn't deserve to be in the top half of the scoreboard as a result. I would have put Sae Miyakawa in second- she had a glorious routine, super clean tumbling with only 2 slightly short landings to mar it and really and truly deserved a medal. Shang Chunsong had the floor routine of her life-such a pity she didn't complete the turn, but even with that, she deserved a slightly higher score. It seems like they are killing her for her legs/knees in twisting passes (which isn't even clear in real time), but not killing Maggie Nichols, whose leg form is much looser/untidier in her tumbles. Both were great, I would have had them tie or Shang barely ahead.

What does your floor podium look like? Who would you have put ahead on bars? What are they going to do with beam to fix it? This time exactly a week ago it was all over....aghhh the realisation that the next European worlds are FOUR YEARS AWAY...

I definitely have more stuff in my head to post, moreso reactions rather than rehashing competitions, in the next few days.


Saturday, 31 October 2015

What a day

Just a short one because I only have my phone and blogging on it is a bit painful in terms of long posts. Having a brilliant time at worlds and I have a LOT to write about but today gets a special mention.


First of all, I was invited to breakfast by none other than Ron and Nellie Biles, Simone's parents! They are fans of my blog. I am a big Simone fan so it was a great experience to meet such lovely people, I feel very grateful and honoured. Worlds is even more fun when something completely unexpected like that happens.


Secondly, what a competition! I don't even know what to say and I'm really looking forward to watching the broadcasts. It was obvious vault would be close, but I'm not sure what to think about the podium order. Both Hong un Jong and Maria Paseka had excellent vaults, but I thought Hong would have just edged it. Not quite as dead centre as Paseka perhaps (I'm a need the stream to verify that) and she did have deep hips on one vault, but they were overall much neater as Paseka's vaults are definitely marred by the huge straddle-like leg split she has on blocking. One of those results that could go either way I suppose, but a tie if not an outright win for Hong sits better than me. It was great to see Maria's emotion though after a so-far worse than mediocre showing for Russia.


Simone was always going to have her work cut out for her for gold, given that she has 0.8 less difficulty than either of the other two, so she would really have needed sticks for both vaults, or almost sticks. Although she managed it in qualifying, I think her ranking was fair this time around given her landings.


And bars. LOL bars. On the one hand, this was another that was always going to be close so a tie was not hugely surprising. However, a record-breaking tie like that is beyond bizarre. To me, Viktoria Komova seemed to be just that bit slightly ahead of the pack. Most of the rest had more tiny errors, less dynamic, flattish releases, flexed feet, shallow inbars, bent elbows. Madison Kocian is a fabulous bars worker, very zippy and precise but I do think she has more of these tiny flaws than the rest and falls slightly below their level. I don't think too many would have pegged her for gold. Not that anyone would peg 4 girls for gold anyway.


On the one hand, ties are fun. Gold for everyone! All of the amazing routines are world champion routines! But it does scream of inadequacies in the judging system that so many couldn't be separated. The debate about that will rage for quite a while I think..

Sunday, 25 October 2015

This is why predictions are a fool's game

I was thinking about doing them earlier this year, but couldn't get any kind of proper idea of podiums together at all, so I abandoned it. Which is just as well because..

Romania are not only not in team finals, they're far from it, in 13th place. I was afraid they would struggle to make TF earlier this year with news of lack of motivation and poor scores..then less afraid when Catalina Ponor came back again. It's not surprising that they missed it, Romania have been heading in this direction for years, but it is shocking when it actually happens- and it to miss by so much.

China had their best rotation on vault, and then completely messed up bars and beam. And floor, though that's not a surprise. They had major issues but also suffered from some dodgy scoring it seems. My hope is that they can only be better than this in team finals, not least because they only have to field 3 per event.

Giulia Steingruber qualified second to the AA, ahead of Gabby Douglas. Both had falls, so they're equal. Gabby is not competing at her full level of ability, or her 2012 level, but she is nevertheless very strong so it's seriously impressive for Giulia, who continues to steadily improve, to surge ahead of her.

Japan competed super strong, despite losing a key player to injury recently, and qualified higher than anticipated. They are always steady but their difficulty usually makes them hover much lower.

NETHERLANDS are in TF and are going to Rio! This is a beautiful team but I didn't hold out hope for that as they're also quite inconsistent. Not only was the team effort super impressive but they also have Lieke Wevers 5th in the AA and Sanne Wevers 2nd in the beam final and Eythora Thorsdottir 8th! Sanne's beam was a highlight for me.

Team USA were fractured and nervous, not showing their usual businesslike consistency at all. For the first time since 2010 in worlds or Olympics, they had a fall. 4 in fact, from 3 routines from 3 girls. This is not what we're used to, not from this level of talent. Of course, they still qualified 5 points ahead of anyone else, but even that doesn't change the fact that qualifications went about as bad as it could have for them.

Aly Raisman was shaky and showed none of her usual rock-like tendencies when she competes for her team. OOB on the layout was a disaster and knocked her out of floor finals, then compounded with the bars fall, huge bounces on her amanar landing (on what was otherwise quite a nice one for her) and a very safe downgraded bean routine meant she was also knocked out of the AA final. No individual finals and she was practically a given for AA and floor silver!


Some things though, are not that surprising..

Larisa Iordache was always going to have an uphill battle to be anything like the gymnast she was last year, having a tough year injury-wise and team pressure wise. It's not too shocking to see her far down the list of AA qualifiers, although it is sad. I was very much hoping she would knock it out of the park somehow and show herself capable of AA bronze. She COULD still do that, but it's looking unlikely.

Simone Biles was her usual superhuman self, acing everything and leaving everyone else in the dust. Her 15.933 on floor means she could have fallen and still qualified first which is just ludicrous and says everything about her ability. It also makes dirt of the argument that she would never score anything approaching 16 for it at worlds as she had been doing in the US. Beam has where she's shown more vulnerability (well, any) and the wolf was the culprit there, but I don't think she'll have any major issues and it wasn't enough to prevent her qualifying first. Nor was the fact that she competes a 5.6 vault enough to stop her doing the same on vault, where's she's up against girls with 0.8 more difficulty. Killer execution is still important it seems.


What is great about this worlds is how open it is. Gold is a lock on some events, but precious little else is. There's a huge amount of non big-4 in event finals and high in the AA qualifying list...more than I can remember seeing in the last few years, and that's always a positive thing. Team bronze is up for grabs, so is the AA and floor after Simone, vault is going to be tight, and bars is an interesting one. The scoring of the Chinese gymnasts is going to be shaken up in event finals when they're all on an even keel. Not to mention the prospect of a Dutch medal on beam. I am EXCITED.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Back...just in time :)

I think it's a sign that Chrome will NOT let me sign it to blogger there and I have to use internet explorer that I suck at blogging this year. This is due to a combination of a job that is bananas, killer fatigue, a ridiculously addictive book series taking up my time, and not having a laptop most of the time. BUT anyway, worlds is HERE and I'm flying out on Tuesday! At about 7am but hey, the flight cost a tenner.

At the moments my thoughts are much less cohesive than usual, it's difficult to catch up. I just watched most of Russia's qualification which was very interesting and I'm now watching USA's podium training stream. I tried to watch Romania's qualification, but the unblocker won't work for it. Another sign....by all accounts it would be a depressing, frustrating watch so I might be better off giving it a miss. I will try GB's next though. The most impressive thing from Russia's qualification is probably Seda's save on her layout full. I'm not used to impressive fights to stay on from them, it was great.

I'm fairly surprised at Mykayla Skinner being officially named as USA's alternate. It doesn't make a whole bunch of sense, since she is the best non-Simone EF medal hope that they have. I could not be more thrilled that Brenna Dowell is finally ON the team, WILL compete, AND will get a named skill! I just want all of the good things for her and am so impressed she is in this position at all. Not only are they potentially squandering an EF medal though, Mykayla is of little use on beam and bars so not exactly number 1 alternate material. Of course, it doesn't really matter when they have such an insane advantage anyway, but they normally act as if every tenth and medal count so...yup, surprised. But pleased. I was so sure it was between Brenna and Maggie. Maggie of course looks far too strong to be 'just' an alternate....but she doesn't stand out enough to be used extensively otherwise, and she would slot in anywhere.

I'd like to also belatedly chime in with the general sentiment on Alaina Kwan and Kylie Dickson competing for Belarus. It stinks. It was of course already dodgy enough considering neither girl has any connection at all to the country and has never been there, but to replace their own National Team girls without even an attempt at equal footing for places is pathetic. I cannot read/watch interviews with the two girls either as they have no idea what they're doing other than 'Yay worlds!'. They are young, but they should be coached a little better. One of the more infuriating phrases was how they described the US team as being 'already picked' without any sort of appreciation that they are nowhere near the standard required, and did not even make Nationals....aghhhh. I must remember to check up on how they're doing now.

I'm still absorbing the news that Romania won't make team finals. Mental. In a way, considering how weak they are, fresh injuries and their star not at her best, it shouldn't be surprising. But it's so shocking! I feel like I can't really comment on team's performances yet until I work my way through the streams. I'm impressed by what I saw of Russia but I've seen precious little else.

Back to the stream for now. I cannot WAIT to see Simone live in action again. I will post a bit during worlds but since it'll be my phone, it won't make for 'proper' posts either.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Every single Nationals leotard ranked

Except podium training because I am but one person. Here we go!

And the winner is....



Olivia Dunne Day 2. This is perfection. Black makes the best background, and the mesh is pretty with not too many sparkles. The design is so original and striking, and perfectly proportioned. This is a dream and has nothing I would change. 10/10

Honourable mention


MG Elite Day 2. This was the best photo without pesky obscuring medals. Stunning colours, and I love how the fade is vaguely vertical, it's unusual. Somewhat celestial. Gorgeous sparkle patterns on this too. 9.5/10

Read on for the rest of the 63 leotards in total...


Monday, 17 August 2015

Nationals

I'm going to do this post differently to the usual, I've tried twice and both times gotten completely bogged down in it. Definitely some post-Nationals exhaustion going on- GMT makes it an ordeal! So I'll do it in a Q&A format, mixing up juniors and seniors. Feel free to add questions in the comments and I'll stick my view at the top of this post.

Are you happy with the order of the junior podium?

Ideally I'd like Deanne Soza on it. She is everything....except competitive fire but she has time for that hopefully. I was sort of rooting for Jazmyn as the underdog as she really surprised me even though she already has last year's title. But she gave it away on floor...although they only took 0.2 for her out of bounds when it should have been 0.4 but that was enough. Not that I don't love Laurie. Ragan has improved a ton, really enjoying her beam and floor in particular. A pity her bars are letting her down and her vault block is still dodgy but the vaults themselves are secure. So yes, I'm happy with the podium.

Shouldn't Gabby Perea and Morgan Hurd have made the national team?

Although Gabby would have had she not fallen, I doubt either of their coaches expected it at this point of the season so it's unlikely the girls fully expected it if they hit. Gabby is so young and although Morgan is 2001, she hasn't been elite that long and her routines are still getting there, her difficulty is quite low. The spots will be saved for seniors but next year when only Jordan Chiles will be on the NT, they'll be added. Probably at January camp.

Cute incoming! Copyright USAG/John Cheng

What's wrong with Kyla Ross?

Seems to be endurance. Whether it is her typical reduced endurance compared to others or is directly related to a niggling injury is impossible to know. Worlds is still 2 and a bit months away which is a lot of time. There's no point in writing her off at this point. If she is consistent at September and selection camp she could make the team. She may be better off taking a break and focusing on Rio though.

Who should be the second all-arounder at worlds based on Classics and Nationals?

Gabby I think. I am torn between her and Aly for it. Aly's bars duhhh are a weak point but they are better than before and they score decent internationally so they mightn't be a hindrance. Her amanar though...needs to improve or be dumped as it's currently not worth doing. If anyone can though I think she can. Not that it will be beautiful but I expect it to be secure. On the other hand, Gabby showed consistency and is strong everywhere. She wasn't perfect but there was nothing worrying. It's possible she could bring her amanar back. But Aly is soooo reliable and has a monster floor to balance out bars. Hmm.

Why was Nia's d-score on floor so low on Day 2 when she hit her passes?

She didn't do the front full before the double tuck, so she lost 0.5. Not too sure if that was intentional or if she realised she was slightly off and it would have killed the pass. Nor did she do it Day 1 but the judges closed their eyes and awarded it 5.7. Sigh.

Favourite junior Texas Dreams army member?

Emma Malabuyo I think. She is just lovely. Abigail Walker is too cute, so tiny!

Biggest surprise this junior season?

Jazmyn. I really thought she would fall back, seeing as she won last year in the absence of Bailie and Laurie. Although she's lacking a standout event - at least until she gets more comfortable with her tumbling - she is super strong, and so consistent. A mini Aly in the making. Would love to see her clean up her foot form on bars though. Sydney Johnson-Scharpf was a nice surprise too. After creating a buzz a few years back, she seemed to be fading and was plagued with inconsistency and dreadful bars. Major improvement even though she still fell. While her bars will never be pretty, they're noticeably better. And her floor complete with Dos Santos is amazing! Delighted she is back in the game.

Best improvement between Classics and Nationals, junior and senior?

Brenna Dowell. WOW. Fluke falls on both events at Classics...to killer AA sets both days. Hands down on bars day 2 but doesn't really take away from her achievement. To go from training only 20 hours a week during college with just a few elite skills retained to this is incredible. I'm beyond impressed. Delighted she's been invited to the selection camp but unfortunately, US depth is more than likely going to squeeze her out, again.

Brenna is perfection. Copyright USAG/John Cheng

What about Laurie's floor?

I....don't like it. It has grown on me slightly but I can't like it. I've defended her style a billion times but this one crosses the line for me, I think it's her facial expressions. So unnecessary. She also has far too many static exaggerated poses that interrupt the flow. I'd like her to draw back a bit.

Just say no. Copyright- USAG/John Cheng

Feelings on Jordan Chiles?

Jordan is enormously talented with killer potential. She unfortunately remains extremely inconsistent. I thought she would have progressed more as a competitor and I think the amanar was a bad decision. I'm unsure if she will be made as much as she could be at her current gym.

Most shocking fall?

It's a toss up between Simone on floor or Aly on beam. The solidest of the solidest on super-strong events for them. Just plain weird.

Saddest fall?

A good few contenders but I'm going to go with Gabby Perea on beam. She was doing so well! And she's so young with gymnastics beyond her years in terms of precision and polish.

How about that shamrock leo?

I for one am THRILLED it wasn't mentioned in the broadcast. Either the trio did their geography lessons or didn't need to, which would be better again. I don't expect people outside of the British Isles to understand the complicated make-up of the UK and how Republic of Ireland is NOT in it but part of Ireland is blah blah...but if you're pandering to Glasgow as the host city with your music and plan on incorporating colours etc....then you need to get these right. Pandering is fine with me, once some very basic research is done. Although I'm sort of hoping she makes the team and wears a leo with a big Welsh dragon on it because that would be hilarious LOL.

How about the senior podium?

Well gold was a given. Interesting that Simone has increased the lead she had in 2014 with a fall, and with fantastic competitors who weren't around then. Silver and bronze were very much up for grabs and I thoroughly enjoyed that fight. I was delighted for Maggie who was the model of consistency and of course, continuing to show her crazy improvement on 2013-2014. And it was great to see Aly up there too looking like she never left.

Most baffling composition/skill?

Bailie Key's beam! The layout caused major issues day 1 and she was still short day 2 even with the obvious extra effort that went into it. Clearly, they've worked out that this is her best option. I think if she could hit bhs-loso-loso then she'd have it, it's the obvious choice and is valuable this code. The layout needs to become a pike so she can land it seeing as it will never get layout credit anywat and she can work up d-score on turns and leaps, or they could try out bhs-arabian if she has the lift for that. Or arabian-walkover. Something.different.please. Her dismount needs to be dumped too, she gets no set on it and the deep landing is a killer. If she can't get the triple full around, I wonder could she do a 2.5? Or even a double tuck, for a better landing.

Skill-wise, the wolf turn. Although it was everywhere in varying levels of competence, the worst was Texas Dreams. Not one of them can do it, and yet they all do. I get the thinking behind it, I know it's valuable. But it's also a crime.

Favourite junior beam?

Ragan Smith. A joy to watch. So confident and solid, and difficult too. Except the wolf because of course that was hideous.

Pick a worlds team based on Nationals?

A lot can happen in the next 2 months. Simone duhhhh. Aly, Gabby and Bailie. That's really all that is needed to decimate the field. As I said before, I'm hesitant to include Mykayla for a vault medal when that's not really guaranteed. Pretty deep field there. I'm taking Maggie as a guaranteed solid team player usable anywhere, and has an amanar for TF. Number 6 is one of Mykayla, Madison or Kyla. Impossible to call.

Who has shown the best comeback thus far between Aly and Gabby?

In competition, Gabby. Not without flaws, but not with falls or dodgy errors either. Shows room for upgrades nearly everywhere except floor, I think that's maxed. But she has looked extremely dodgy in PT, whereas Aly has looked amazing all of the time in training, and was great in Jesolo. She has actually increased the height on her tumbles and has worked hard to improve problem areas. Aly edges it, barely.

What are Nia's chances this year and next?

Slim. Not making Pan Ams was damning. I'm glad she had good performances at Nationals and am hoping she can add back some of her difficulty and get her form back on track, it's definitely deteriorated. She still shows crazy potential but I'm not sure with the depth that she'll get the chance to shine this quad especially with so much to work on still. She is also seriously injury prone.

Favourite senior bars?

Ashton Locklear. I prefer her line on bars to Madison.

Thoughts on Emily Gaskins?

She's not standing out, and has deteriorated unfortunately. I don't see a whole lot happening for her and I don't think all of the gym changing has helped at all, rather the opposite.

Favourite under-the-radar senior?

Lauren Navarro. Not a good competition for her but I really love her beam.

Junior?

Emma Malabuyo. She has stunning work. Also Trinity Thomas, she's quite powerful without being wild.

Best redemption from last year?

Cristina Desiderio. She fought bars and won, so pleased for her and a well deserved 5th place.

Fiercest routine?

Simone's Day 2 beam needs to be mentioned. The determination and almost anger was brilliant to watch. Taking absolutely no nonsense from the beam with a much smoother barani landing after awful trouble all week, and cements it all with a stick. Amazing.

Most impressive on floor - Simone or Aly?

They are both ridiculous. I can't pick.

180! Copyright USAG/John Cheng
Worst overscore

Jazmyn receiving only half of the OOB deduction that she should have done. It was way too obvious for that to be excusable, ridiculous. Or Simone's vault which was not as good as Day 1 and wasn't stuck....scoring higher, receiving the stick bonus. I almost forgot, just like the judges, Nia received CR for a requirement she did not fulfill on floor Day 1.

Major future talent that underwhelmed?

Morgan Hurd. Not that she wasn't noticed, just related really to the low difficulty she has. But she has got it all. Also I am majorly hoping Deanne Soza gets it together. Have you SEEN how perfect she is? These two are the queens of form and technique AND they are both from unknown gyms.

Most bad-ass moment?

Aly landing an amanar with her leg completely locked in a stance that would break so many....and no big deal, not affected. Surreal almost.

So what's Simone's next step?

Further world domination. The 2015 AA and FX titles, and VT (upgrade dependent maybe for gold again?) and BB medallist. Record breaking 4-time National champion next year, and another haul in Rio. Un-freaking-believable gymnast. We should never 'call' anything or any medals but once she's there, that's it.

Gymnastics-wise, I'm sure they'll be firming up that barani. Possibly a bit late for the Mustafina bars dismount, so I doubt we'll see that or the potential Khorkina this year. I think the Cheng is quite possible, since it was planned for this year.

Most important thing to take away from this meet?

The seniors are aiming to peak in October. The juniors are getting podium experience, trying out typically a lot of upgrades and tweaked routines and it does not matter if they splat all over the place, unless they never do anything but.



There were just so many great leotards going on. They're going to get their own post. As I mentioned at the top, if you want to ask me any questions directly I'll edit them into the post. Hard to think of all aspects of what I watched.

Who made your week? Or broke your heart? Favourite routines? Biggest surprise? Favourite lack of geographical knowledge embarrassment?















Monday, 3 August 2015

Classics

Ahh Classics. Such a great competition with so many new routines, new upgrades..and consequently lots of falls and rough bits. This year was no different.

First, Simone Biles. It is just so pleasing to watch someone so masterful at work. I do get a bit nervous watching her on bars and beam, but less so over time. She really is the most talented gymnast we have ever seen (remember: this is a fact. It does not mean you have to like her gymnastics) and continues to be at the top of her game without showing any signs of peaking or maxing out her difficulty. The best her competition can hope for in terms of gold is that they can upgrade enough that a fall or other huge mistake from her can topple her, but of course, she herself continues to upgrade. She is certainly untouchable in this year, but if the likes of Gabby Douglas and Maggie Nichols continue on their trajectory they may be able to spook her. A bit.

Her beam was a little wobbly and hesitant, hopefully we can see a steadier version at Nationals. It's great to see her bhs-loso-loso series so super solid though. The barani is one of my favourite moves on beam, so obviously I'm delighted to see it make its mark. She has a nice beam composition for her. Bars were as expected, solid and unexceptional. I'm hoping she might do the Mustafina dismount this year though. On vault, I see no reason for her not to at least attempt the TTY next year along with the Cheng...a bit disappointed not to see it but it did make sense if she felt a bit off in general on vault during podium training. Nationals isn't far away after all. Floor was....brilliant. I wasn't sure what we were going to see other than energy. It did take me a few goes to really appreciate the music..still not a fan of the super fast dancey bit towards the end but I love her choreography and her charismatic style oozing through it. Her tumbling was phenomenal and so were the landings, it's so great to see her control the bounce. The full-in DLO looks cleaner every time. Still curious about that last pass...looks very upgradeable, if not this year then next.

Gabby Douglas was a pleasant surprise. She looked extremely dodgy in podium training especially her pet piece, bars. I honestly never thought she'd get through that routine. Fierce competitive nature was definitely in action. I am a bit baffled at her floor music and choreography but the tumbling looks well, she could probably sneak in a little upgrade or two. Beam and bars were so solid, I hope she can upgrade these two though to really make the most of her comeback. I'm not sure what I was expecting from her, but what we did see seemed too much to wish for at this stage. She's not someone I'd automatically root for as I'm not the biggest fan of her style, but I'm thrilled at this force of nature of a comeback. It's exactly what the sport needs. A huge step up from Jesolo for Gabby and while I'll hold her completely cementing her on teams until she gets through the greater challenge and endurance required of Nationals..she's pretty much there. A huge asset to any team, without a discernible weak spot.

Photo copyright- USAG/John Cheng

Aly Raisman's strong performance was less of a surprise, she already had a good showing at Jesolo. I certainly didn't expect to see an amanar though! In fact, I didn't think we'd see one at all...the fact that hers is messy I thought would negate the d-score advantage, as her DTY is much cleaner. Well it's still messy but despite her landing I thought it seemed quite secure, Her beam was a it surprising. Hit her skills with the odd slow connection or two, but I didn't expect her overall slight sluggishness on the event. She said herself afterwards she didn't fully concentrate on the little things, which definitely makes sense. Hopefully she can be more precise and solid on beam like she usually is at Nationals. Still pleased at the improvements she has made on bars, though they'll never be anything more than decent she can certainly claw back a few tenths in execution there hopefully. Floor was the crowning highlight, even with the fluke fall...it's such a great routine. Really enjoying the music, choreography has improved too and the tumbling is just amazing. First pass as good as ever, the upgraded second pass was solid in training and I'm sure we'll see it stood up perfectly in a few weeks and the DLO is a welcome change, and very well done. Her energy levels are fantastic and she looks well on track for Rio.

Maggie Nichols improved in such a short space of time, and keeps getting better. It's not so much her upgrades although those are fantastic, but her style. Her execution has really improved but the most important thing is that she is now light on events she was previously heavy and laboured on. Her beam and bars are so different to how they used to be, and her floor flows a lot better. Really remarkable improvement. I loved how close it was between her and Gabby, but I thought Gabby scoring higher on floor was arguably correct, as Maggie still faces quite a few deductions for messier tumbling...

...I've just been completely thrown off course by the news that Simone Biles has gone pro. Also it's getting pretty late so I'll finish this tomorrow :)

..Several days later...

I hate when things get in the way. Anyway, back to Maggie. Markedly improved as she is, I'm a little unsure how she will be scored internationally. She invites a lot of deductions that gymnasts like Simone Biles and Kyla Ross will not, an example being the aforementioned messy tumbling form. Lots of niggly little things in her bars too. She also doesn't have the years of experience and the reputation that someone well known for sloppy execution has- Aly Raisman. For this reason, I think Gabby Douglas will continue to have the edge on her. But, they're close, and upgrades can make all the difference.

Kyla Ross had an unfortunate day. To come off bars twice is so bizarre to see from her. It was disappointing that she had to pull out of the all-around prior to competition after tweaking an ankle injury, electing only to do bars and beam - a good and correct decision of course, but who didn't want to see her standings in the AA against the rest! I'm glad she redeemed herself on beam, including a nice save. Much as I LOVE the bhardwaj, I'm not too sure this is going to be a keeper for her. Not just because she messed it up and when that happens, upgrades tend to disappear from her routine..but just, height wise. She has precious little room between the bars to twist and be in the perfect position to grab the bar, it's a tiny margin of error. I'd love to see her make it work though. I'm hoping they'll do it Day 1 of Nationals at least to see how it goes, or at least try it in podium training to see if it's a runner.

I'm looking forward to seeing a determined Kyla hit every single thing at Nationals. Although she continues to churn out strong performances just when you think she's going to step back or be overtaken, I DO think she will be surpassed for Rio. But not Glasgow.

Bailie Key was a bit muted for me. Not personality/charm-wise...she was the same as ever though, but in her skills, on beam in particular. It's not just the "layout" that lacks amplitude, it's everything, even her dismount. Everything looks clean and precise, everything is landed fine, leaps are nice...but it's just blehh. Not that she has ever shown a lot of height in her elements on beam, but it has become more pronounced over time. My best guess would be that her foundation of skills was learned when she was a lot smaller and lighter, and they haven't really grown with her. She looked laboured. I find it a little shocking to see her bent in half on her beam dismount, or completely underrotating a triple. It just doesn't seem 'her', I'm so used to her executing everything to near perfection.

Her bars were very nice, hopefully she can show a few upgrades there. Vault was clean and well done as always, though it didn't seem either as easy or with quite the same pop off the table as usual. Hopefully she'll show her old brilliance there, especially since she said she may throw the amanar at Nationals. Floor...the less said the better. Nothing wrong with the tumbling aside from the underrotated triple, the DLO was beautiful for instance. But I cannot believe after such a promising showing last year that there's been such a regression. The music is better after a few listens but still woeful, and I don't think she works with it very well. And the dive and swimming bit...please no. Anyway, overall I think I'm being harsh calling her gymnastics laboured and flat. I hope to see her reinvigorated for Nationals. (Thanks to Cordelia for pointing out that she competed at Jesolo this year. I definitely confused her not being at Nationals last year).

Nia Dennis has had a very difficult few weeks, and that coming on top of a long history of injury, absence and inconsistency. With all of that going on, it wasn't surprising that she didn't do the AA. What was surprising was that she hit. Quite pleased with that, all things considered. Unfortunately, she was much sloppier than she has been in the past...I'm hoping that's temporary. I'm also wishing that once she settles down in her new gym, she can work on upgrading and adding back her best skill..the arabian. I missed it so. She showed a nice bit of power on vault too. Still, unless she shows massive improvement and upgrades, I don't see it happening for Nia. For which I will always lament, because she showed such massive potential from such a young age. Sigh.

Nia Dennis- Photo copyright USAG/John Cheng
Brenna Dowell was an absolute heartbreaker, but I'm so glad both of her falls were complete flukes rather than showing a lack of readiness or having taken on too much. Falls aside, she showed lovely work...especially the bars combination. She's highly unlikely to progress to worlds, but I'm looking forward to seeing her nail everything at Nationals with steely determination. A fabulous competitor.

Sabrina Vega was a complete mystery going into the competition. She's always had lovely gymnastics and I was looking forward to seeing that, and she didn't disappoint. Gorgeous leaps and dance, I was gutted when she fell on floor. Unsure of her motivations for coming back or her future, but if she just enjoys competing with no expectations then good for her. I'll continue to enjoy watching her. Expect for the bent knees on beam, I didn't miss them. At all.

I'm so glad Lauren Navarro had a nice steady beam after falling on bars, but I'm not too sure how long she'll stay in elite. I did think she might surprise, but she'd need a lot of improvement for that. Considering all of the confusion over Ashton Locklear's lack of scoring, it doesn't sound like something USAG has done before. Lovely bars, hopefully she can bust out the full difficulty or close to it with no coaching help at Nationals. Alyssa Baumann and Madison Kocian have I think, had their day. Both are not strong enough in the AA to stand out, and both don't have enough difficulty on their standout event to force their being picked.

Mykayla Skinner was well, a mess. Very clearly not ready. Highlights were a beautiful DTY and a surprisingly nice bars set...she's always had a lovely easy swing there when it comes together, which it did for her there. Not much else did though, with too many lowlights to mention...the beam fall, the very low Cheng landing, her music, baaad floor landings, her music, her music....why did they let her use that music?? It's impossible to work with even apart from the annoyance factor. And it's such a shame, because she can dance very well. I really love her 2013 music and choreography. Sigh. I'm hoping to see much more energy and readiness from her at Nationals. Hopefully not an amanar though. Either way, I don't see her in Glasgow. She is not a guaranteed vault medal...vault is getting deeper all the time. There's 2 medals up for grabs after Simone and quite a few will be angling for them, among them Wang Yan, Sae Miyakawa, Maria Paseka, hopefully Ksenia Afanasyeva, please please please Marcia Videaux will have a FIG license and Giulia Steingruber, who will hopefully regain her DTY.

All in all, a fascinating competition. I can't wait to see the kinks worked out at Nationals, with hopefully less falls and errors. The juniors were a little all over the place, I'm going to discuss them properly after Nationals.

Favourite gymnast:
Simone Biles stole the show

Favourite floor:
Simone Biles. Breathtaking. Aly was a not-too-distant 2nd though.

Favourite vault:
Simone's roof-scraping amanar. Just amazing. Runner-up is Alaina Kwan who floated a gorgeous textbook FTY out of the sky. Beautiful.

Favourite beam:
Hmm. Maggie or Simone. Lovely composition from this pair.

Favourite bars:
Bailie I think. Or Brenna, ignoring the fall.

Favourite leo:


Ashton Locklear. Photo copyright- USAG/John Cheng
Simple but stunning. The sleeves made it, and the classic monochrome.

There were loads of inoffensive ones but not that many stood out. Except for McKayla Maroney's pink flower leo, which totally stood out. It's a beauty, but seemed a bit much as a 'team' leo. It's a very individual one to me. Not because of who wore it previously, I'm not into that. Just seems a bit much. Imagine if they had qualified 10 girls? As for Texas Dreams...if only the black bit was matte! I would be thrilled with it then. I did like the concept, but shiny black just didn't go.

So, can you even remember Classics this long after the competition? Favourite performances, biggest heartbreaks? How is your number 2 AA for worlds shaping up in your head after Classics? Who is winning the most annoying music battle?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Too sick to blog :(

I woke up this morning with a charmingly awful cold, complete with aches and pains. Very frustrating as quite aside from the sick headache, my head is also bursting with thoughts on Classics!


I'm loving the interesting comments so far and can't wait to blog at some stage this week. 'Til then, death to the common cold particularly in July and hurray for all sorts of fabulous routines and comebacks.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Classics - 4 and a half hours til Juniors!

I am SO EXCITED.

I didn't get to watch podium training live but I did feast on USAG's videos and I'm watching the senior archived PT. Not much point in watching the juniors...there is just too many and without the benefit of people pointing out everything, it's too much of a jumble and there's too many coaches and gymnasts to get in the way of viewing.

Aly Raisman looks unbelievable. Like a fresh healthy senior, not one in her 5th year. She is super impressive and the ease and floatiness in a skill like her Dos Santos is just incredible. I'm really loving her double layout too, very well done considering it's the third pass, and the fact that it replaced a somewhat ugly triple full is a huge point in its favour too. Vault looked a little iffy but I think she'll pull out a decent DTY in competition. Bars are still improved, still...Aly of course, but the noticeable effort to improve that we saw in her Jesolo bars continues. She is ready, and a super-solid AA contender.

I'm quite glad there is no upload of Simone Biles' floor. I want to see the debut of her new routine in a competition setting. The tumbling alone will make it and I'm happy she mentioned new leaps being added, hopefully that means she can dump the old B dance skill she was counting. The whole package together should be interesting. Her amanar didn't seem to have its usual oomph so seems like a wise decision to save the Cheng for nationals.  I bet she will vault as good as ever by tonight though. I am really loving her beam, the barani looks great. I will always prefer the crisp precision of someone like Bai Yawen on beam but there's no denying Simone's mastery and I love her composition. I saw nothing of her bars but she reported them as going well. She is just so...exciting! I can't wait.

I haven't seen much of Kyla Ross and hearing that she was quite rough, I won't exactly seek out footage of her either. Sad to hear she seems to have tweaked an ankle but she's still doing bars and beam so thankfully it can't be that serious and she can prove herself in the AA at Nationals. I can't wait for this Bhardwaj!

Gabby Douglas was painful to watch at times. Good DTY but I wouldn't be confident in the reports of an amanar coming soon. Bars were a struggle and a half, so much so that I don't see it coming together for her tonight either, but hopefully they do. I expected beam to be better than it was, or at least show more ease. She has time, but can't help wondering what she would look like if she had stayed at the gym that made her a superstar.

I had thought Bailie Key was finally moving in the right direction on floor music and choreography wise but there has been a clear regression. Techno-Viking weird battle music, odd music changes AND she starts swimming of all things...this routine has got it all. I'm definitely not on board with it but hopefully with tumbling added it will distract me from the bad things. Sadly, I don't think we will ever see her beam improve. The "layout" looks like it's here to stay and she lacks lift on all of her elements, including the dismount. I'm very curious to see all of her routines together, and how she will score against Aly for instance.

Very sad to hear of Felicia Hano's injury on her second vault. I'm a little puzzled as to why she is even training one...both of her vaults would need to be high difficulty to be worth doing a second one at all. Hopefully she is back to business soon.

I haven't seen enough of anyone else to form any semblance of cohesive thought. It's such a pity Kyla is out of the AA, her scores against whatever Bailie and Aly can put up. The identity of the second all-arounder at worlds is still very much open I think. I'm excited to see Ashton back in action, and Maggie who has very exciting routines and upgrades. Her bars at Jesolo were so fabulous, looking forward to seeing them again and the debut of her amanar...although I heard that was a little rough. I did see a bit of Mykayla and Sabrina on beam but nothing of Brenna...another interesting bunch to watch! Not to mention Nia Dennis who has had an interesting few weeks. And Lauren Navarro, who I still think could surprise.

And that's just seniors. I deliberately am avoiding even news of the juniors, I want to be surprised. I think it will be a battle between Jordan Chiles and Laurie Hernandez but I really want Deanne Soza and Morgan Hurd to be right up there also. It will be an interesting meet now that Nia Dennis and especially Bailie Key have moved up. I'm also rooting for Olivia Dunne, Elena Arenas, Colbi Flory, Christina Desiderio, Maile O'Keeffe...the list goes on.

What are you most excited to see? Will Simone break 62? What will the margin be on floor between her and Aly? How many juniors could you pick out of a line-up? How many gross leotards will there be? Do you feel sorry for those of us watching in GMT? You should. Seniors won't end until 2:30 AM and that's without being drunk dreaming of bad Chinese takeaway food to keep me awake.




Thursday, 16 July 2015

I'm back!

It's such a relief now my sister's wedding is over- free-time wise that is. Not only was I part of the bridal party I- get this- volunteered to make her cake despite never having made a wedding cake before, or indeed ever icing any cake at all before. Youtube was extremely informative and after 1 or 2 practice runs I was (overly) confident it would all work out. Hahaha. I almost kicked it down the garden amidst the stress and frustration two days before the wedding. Somehow (well, I did dump a tier) it actually worked out! Good old ribbon-around-the-base trick.

Ta-dah!



Much too lazy to edit out the facebook URL. Anyway, hurray but never again. Unbelievably stressful and time consuming.

Moving on - I kept up with gym news but was unable to properly follow actual competitions. Even Pan Ams passed me by in a tired daze of recovery. On the plus side, the time to Glasgow which I am attending is really flying by! I'm really looking forward to getting back into the swing of things watching competition-wise and actually blogging, with Asian Championships and US Classics looming. Speaking of Glasgow - seeing as the last day of competition in Glasgow is falling on Hallowe'en, myself and my boyfriend will be dressing up for the arena. As 70's Nadia and Bela naturally. Feel free to say hello!

70's malnourished Nadia but 90's Bela for that white-haired roguish recognisability, obviously.





Friday, 19 June 2015

The return of Viktoria Komova

This week saw the return of Vika to serious competition, finally. I realise she performed at the Mexican Open late last year, but I see that as a more of a tentative practice run.

Long story short, she looks good. I was not expecting such a nice DTY and her floor difficulty. I was, however, expecting some issues with adjusting to her height in an otherwise clean, crisp, beautiful bars routine and a beam routine marred by wobbles and we did get those but all in all, she showed immense promise here.

I'm unconvinced though of a few things. For one: upgrades. An amanar does not look viable, especially considering her growth. I think she'd be better off focusing on a lovely DTY capable of scoring 15-15.2 range. One good thing the code has done is reduce the margin between the two vaults and therefore disincentivise dodgy amanars. Her floor difficulty looks a bit ambitious to me. Yes, yes, first big meet back after so many injuries and absences, but I do question even with time her ability to throw those passes consistently, especially given that she has famed endurance issues. Floor comes last, and this competition was spread over 2 days so it's a little hard to tell. One thing that I'd like to see done is ditch the 1.5, she'd have an easier time without really losing out if she just did a stag from the double arabian. Her twisting was ganky to say the least, perhaps switching it for a 2.5 would mean she'd have an easier time, and save on execution deductions. And to further conserve her, a double tuck instead of pike at the end. I realise she needs more difficulty not less to contend, but the landings on the DLO and double arabian didn't inspire me with confidence and she could do with some saved energy to actually.have.choreography. This was a fairly miserable routine and it doesn't matter to me if you look stunning by putting your arm in the air by dint of exquisite line/carriage/dance training. It sucks and it makes a mockery of the idea of a routine melding dance and expression with tumbling. Give me a flexed-footed crappy leaper like even *gasp* Mykayla Skinner, she legit performs.

I also don't fancy her chances of bringing back the Patterson but I do think the Fabrichnova is achievable and would be great to cap off that bar routine with. Hopefully with more time in the gym she can get used to her height. Maybe take some tips from watching the likes of Kyla Ross or closer to home, Svetlana Khorkina,.who I can just imagine eye-rolling at every whack off the low bar! I'm hoping that she can become more confident on beam too, which of course, is also a big adjustment after growing quite a bit.

I feel positive after seeing her performance, but I'm reticent too due to her long-standing endurance issues, long-standing ability to slip on a banana peel and be out for 6 months and long-standing ability to rise hopes before dashing them again. Long live her strong return to the sport, certainly we saw more from her than I would have thought possible. But I will hold myself back from outright glowing optimism.

What are your thoughts on her return? Prospects of contending for an AA medal? Will be see less anaemic choreography or is the routine doomed? Can she be kept away from dangerous things like curbs and the side of mats?


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

USA! USA!

The US are currently dominant, and have been for this quad and a good portion of the last. Before then, they were steadily rising and certainly had a healthy dose of victories, but couldn't have been called outright dominant. The code has been almost universally blamed for this. A key point to remember is that US dominance is bad, while USSR dominance for essentially decades was good.

No. Bias shouldn't come into this. Dominance is bad full stop. Aside from anything else, it is freaking boring when gold will be won by 7+ points in a globally attended team final. The top 4 is no more in the sense of close competition. There's 1, and then 3-all of whom seem to deteriorate year on year despite the addition of new seniors. And then the rest, countries like GB, Germany and Italy who can't quite get up there to the same level.

Because of the code and the demand for difficulty? The code suits the US..now. It was not made for them, and certainly FIG themselves are not relishing the fact that it IS suiting them so well. Bruno and Nellie have both condemned this reality. The US adapted to the code. The level of difficulty increased steadily year on year. We have now gotten to the point where H skills and amanars are nothing out of the ordinary and the gymnast with the most difficulty of this quad, Simone Biles, is throwing far more than her compatriots of previous quads, Jordyn Wieber and Shawn Johnson. The reason why they've been able to do this is because of the resources, coaching and training that they have. Many of the coaches that fled from the east on the collapse of communism are ensconced in US gyms. This exodus, predictably, has had a major knock-on effect on the quality of coaching in their former countries. Much bigger salaries and a much greater quality of life is a huge draw of course.

Rather than a centralised state-funded programme, the US operates privately funded gyms on a grand scale. In that way, the success of individual gymnasts and the National team is not impeded by economic downturns. Programmes like that of the Ukraine are sad former shadows of themselves- even in the last 10 years. Money is not an object for the US, although of course the gymnasts and gyms also benefit from the National team training camps, a big part in the success story since 2000. The girls enjoy the best of both worlds- their coaches learn from top elite training staff. It's the little things too-they are able to have flexible arrangements as regards schooling, with several being home schooled or supplementing with online classes. This is not an option in other countries with more rigid educational structures with the direct effect of less training time or the altogether worse-education being willfully ignored. A few years ago, most of the gymnasts sitting the BAC that year in Romania failed it.
In short, the US are so good right now because they have mastered the code...because they have the resources, coaching, back-up, facilities.... everything in place to do so. And none of the other powers do. That is not the fault of the US. It's a direct result of keeping to the old ways when they no longer suit. People are no longer enrolling their children in gymnastics in countries like China and Russia. The private, individual system works in tandem with a national team set-up, and clearly works brilliantly. Countries like GB have come on quite a bit with this (although clearly have a long way to go) whereas adherents of the old ways are stagnating and/or deteriorating.

The difference in resources is the problem. NOT the code. The code is inherently flawed and could do with a complete overhaul, but the US would adapt to that too. They'd be able to handle anything the FIG can throw at them, and that's the key to their success.

Last year, we witnessed Mykayla Skinner being bumped to 4th place in the worlds floor final, after performing her incredibly difficult routine to the best of her ability. The bump-er was the last performer, Aliya Mustafina, who had only 3 passes, but much less deductions. This is what the code can be made to do, reward execution at the expense of messy difficulty. There needs to be more scope to do this within the scoring. If they added back in RSV which I will keep advocating for, then gymnasts who perform difficulty effortlessly and cleanly such as Simone Biles would still be rewarded and the motivation to chuck a skill would be much diminished. It is false to assume that there is only one perpetrator of this - girls of many countries are performing skills they have no right to do. With the very odd exception, the US believes strongly in performing only that which you are capable of, and perceptions of the contrary are quite unfair.

Blaming the code itself is too easy. There are many reasons why WAG looks so ridiculously top-heavy, and the code is only a symptom, not the cause.

In other news, I have a shiny new laptop :D Use of the internet is no longer an insurmountable struggle, hurray!


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Chinese Nationals AA results

I hate being too busy/worn out to blog. Hoping to make some changes this year that will have a positive impact. The first, and easiest, is buying a new laptop. This one after 5 years and even switching OS to linux to increase its longevity is now running so slow I expect to hear dial-up noises any time now. When typing, text appears in bursts. Fun...

Anyway, Nationals! Here are the results of the AA today,  translated by the wonderful Golden China

Source- golden-china.tumblr.com

Translating ain't easy and english-speaking regularly-posting great sources for Chinese gymnastics are extremely rare, so hurray!

By all accounts, we were not blessed with a hit-fest. Very, very few went clean. One of which, astonishingly, was Shang Chunsong with a very respectable score. I always expect her to come to grief on bars somewhere. Made up for that a bit with a very nervy beam, but all in all, a great day for her. Wang Yan was lucky to place second after she sat her beam dismount, left out skills, and then had some big error/possible fall on her double double on floor. I am waiting and waiting for her to learn to be a competitor since she has so much to give, and now that she's senior, I'm getting impatient. She could be so great! But, it's early in the season and I'm prepared to keep rooting for her. Chen Siyi is a nice surprise considering she has some health issues, although her scores aren't particularly outstanding. Liu Tingting had a meltdown on beam sadly but Mao Yi seems to have been quite impressive today. She's a super twister and is definitely one to watch.

Hoping to catch up on available videos sometime this week! It will be very interesting to see how the team is formed for Glasgow. Shang Chunsong is the only lock, I expect Wang Yan and Mao Yi/Deng Yalan to feature. The rest is very much dependent on health. In our top 10 from today, the top 5 are age eligible, plus Bai Yawen. Let us hope Yao Jinnan continues to be not in contention. Rio is far more important and shoulders are so pesky and fragile.

Overall, I'm uneasy about the amount of falls today. It's early, and there are health issues, but I continue to despair over how ill-suited China is to this code. And so injury-prone with their body types.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

4 person teams

I had the title written as chocolate orange biscuit cake for quite a while before noticing. Upcoming family weddings can do that...still, at least I'm more with it than the FIG committee members who just voted for 4 member Olympics teams.

The team is the last thing the FIG should be touching, it's bad enough that they were recently reduced to 5. They can send specialists all they want....this is what teams of 6 allowed for. Qualifications are already diverse, if they take a look at London results there are plenty of girls from non-gymnastics countries struggling to post a half-decent score. THAT'S diverse, that there are spots for them. I do enjoy watching their routines..they often have interesting dance for instance..but if you're going to hit spots, they should be taken from the bottom.

Taking a look at the 2012 beam qualifications, 39/83 girls scored less than 13 on beam, 24/79 on bars and 19/60 scored less than 52 in the AA, which is all made worse by Olympic score inflation. We do not need to open qualifications any wider than they already are. Allowing bigger teams allowed for specialists in the team setting. Other specialists can qualify already.

The team competition is the quintessential competition. For a Tier 1 sport with massive Olympic viewership, they should be arguing for more spots in general, not slicing them from the top. It's just baffling, even understanding that a country can qualify 2 non-team specialists. Do these girls get to rotate with their fellow National Team members of the team in training, or are they isolated? Are they allowed one coach each in addition to the team's coaches?

This decision puts huge pressure on to keep up in the all-around, and that's not even going near what the guys have to do to cover 6 events with 4. China are screwed there..

Why do the FIG seem to veer away from what's actually needed? Is it fair that one committee member who voted was a big 4 representative? Do they deserve a cake?


Sunday, 29 March 2015

The US in non-pink shocker

I'm still sort of absorbing event finals. It's difficult to know what to say about the juniors since their major competition might as well not exist at all. Infuriating to say the least.

First of all, although we had seen the odd few bits of footage of Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas as they sought to come back, nothing really shows where someone's at than a competition. Hence the rabid excitement for their post-London 'debut' at Jesolo, and they 100% delivered. It's so great to see them back in the game.

Aly's floor was her highlight, with passes of 1-5-double arabian-layout (this was tucked in training! Kept in bounds in team final/AA), Dos Santos (this is the stick I was talking about yesterday), double layout and double pike. No fugly triple full thankfully. The first leap in her leap series is absolutely abominable-switch half? with the most reluctant back leg I have ever seen. Really needs to go. She definitely seemed that bit cleaner in competition than she did in training, with noticeably more effort to keep the double layout tidy. 15.2 is a HUGE score and one that's an enormous threat to someone like Mykayla Skinner. Her DTY was strong, but didn't look especially Amanar-able. Best to clean it up than lose several tenths by adding the extra half twist, particularly since the gap between the two vaults is less than last time around in London. Bars were somewhat of a surprise, I was really dreading it...and they were fine. Not amazing, but really one of the strongest routines she has done. And the shaposh-Tkachev combination is really cool. As for beam, she looks right back to business there with lots of connections and the Patterson back in action. Alas, there was an attempt at a split full that was beyond poor. Overall, highly impressive competition from Aly. The groundwork is definitely laid, just some improvements here and there. She's not going to challenge Simone, who is stronger than Aly's main competitors Gabby and Jordyn ever were, but she's right up there with the rest and remains of immense value on a team.

There was definitely less certainty over Gabby's readiness, given the fact that she has been off for longer and has done a bit of gym hopping in the meantime. But she has definitely proven that this is for real and in no way resembles previous shoddy comebacks we have been witness to. Bars are certainly giving her trouble, and this was evident in training too. She struggled through the routine, broke connections and seemed relieved to dismount. However, what she does do in the interior of the routine is very difficult and coupled with her now non-crooked piked Tkachev (Hallelujah!) is responsible for maintaining a high SV. I have confidence she will get back to her old self here in time. Beam was another story, she looked fantastic there. The ease in the standing full is just lovely to watch. I prefer her line now, she's still lean but more filled out. Although her tumbling is there on floor and looked good, the routine seemed slightly scrappy and as if it needs a good bit of work to come together. VERY nice DTY though, but I didn't get the best angle to see her block. Another highly impressive comeback and it was thrilling to see her and Aly neck-and-neck with just 0.2 separating them in the final AA standings.

Simone Biles had another typical competition. 15.95 on floor AND vault, 15.15 beam and 15.05 bars. 62.1 total YAWN this is so easy for her. First qualifier to every single EF. She leaves everyone in the dust and she STILL has more to give. Of note, she mentioned in an interview after the TF/AA that her next step is floor and vault upgrades. This is where I think the double layout last pass is going to come in...has anyone else noticed that the way she does her current full-in last pass has altered? She now does it straight up and down like McKayla Maroney infamously did her double tuck, and it makes me think it's preparing for an upgrade. As for vault, she launched her amanar incredibly high off podium-we nearly always see it on-which really sells the TTY upgrade. Likewise her Lopez although it doesn't get the same sort of pop off the table is stupidly easy for her and I expect to see a Mustafina in its place soon, working towards a Cheng for Rio possibly. I'm curious will we see that barani on beam at all, and also what she'll do with her bars..the Mustafina dismount and trying hard to get that Khorkina in or another Shap transition so that she's not counting a B there is my guess.

Every time she competes, we see again how she's not only THE greatest gymnast of our age, but will go down as the greatest ever. Which of course, depends how much favourtism you put into 'greatest'. She is executing the greatest difficultly ever seen in an AA programme, and does it extremely cleanly. That's basically it.

Bailie Key was a pleasant surprise, I expected her routines to look more sluggish than they were, based a bit on what she looked like in training. Her vault was much improved although still not 'her' in terms of dynamics, and her floor was really lovely. Considering it was played out of sync, we'll have to wait to get the full effect of it. Her bars show such a magnificent line, really stunning work. Again, handstands were short but I'm fairly sure they'll be better in time. As for beam, the routine is not playing to her strengths. The arabian was okay but still isn't executed high enough, the layout was another example of her head escaping a concussion at best and was so low she struggled to land it, and the double pike is not suiting her...very low landing. Again, I want to see her with Victoria Nyugen's routine. Bailie took second partly because other major contenders had issues or also aren't fully back yet, but would have been right up there regardless. A strong showing, she can and will be significantly better by summer I'm hoping.

I like being proved wrong and Kyla Ross certainly showed that she means business in elite and still has a lot to offer. I really love her new bars dismount and am delighted to see her bring back connections there. Lovely vault as always and although her floor was almost comically messed up and so rudely interrupted by non-stop rubbish by the commentators, it's clear that she's working very well with her new music and the choreography is her best yet- so sassy! Beam was a little tentative for her and considering it hasn't changed in a long, long time and doesn't contain any significant risk, I have little patience for wobbles from her. I know, I'm mean. As for floor, what a weird fall. Glad to see she herself is laughing about it on twitter now, but at the time it was very scary. I thought she might have hit her head and that thought only grew stronger when she biffed the landing of her second pass and bounced out and then turned a leap into essentially a beat jump-I was afraid she was concussed and should stop until I saw the replay of her first pass showing she in no way hit her head, phew! It's beyond bizarre to see Kyla fall and it was very damaging since she also had OOB deductions and no leap series. Despite this, she still had a very strong showing and I hope her health allows her to continue, and also persuades her to do something with beam.

Maggie Nichols is back with a bang! I was really curious to see her bars and beam and she really didn't hold back with either. Although we've seen strong work in progress on bars, she really seems now like a different person on that apparatus, I know I wasn't the only one who was puzzled and thought at first she was Kyla with a slightly different line and composition! I knew it wasn't...but couldn't think properly. Killer combinations, really nice line-could be a little straighter though, and really zippy work. On beam I love her barani and although I am a sucker for BHS-LOSO-LOSO, she lands hers really low-they're a world away from Victoria Nyugen's for instance. Another awful split full which needs to be binned. Strong vault too, and floor- and she had the wherewithal to invent a leap series after her first one was rudely interrupted by slipping on the floor. It's good to see her back and she's definitely shaping up again to be a solid dependable use-anywhere team member. Such a pity she was injured just before Nanning. I'm really pleased she's come on so much on bars, quite unexpected too given how she looked there a few years back.

Alyssa Baumann has a really nice beam and I like her passes on floor, great execution. Overall, I don't feel she stands out enough on an event or as an all-arounder. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to dedicate myself fully to the stream and missed some bits-and missed several names of other competitors. The US girls competing outside of the team were really hard to follow. 

As for the juniors, as mentioned, I only got to see the odd tiny bit outside of event finals today and I didn't have time for the whole stream today. I opened the link and left it so it wouldn't disappear when the stream ends but Firefox wasn't very co-operative..I was going through it and had got most of the highlights but before I could see some stuff at the end and go back to look at other routines earlier in the stream, the browser crashed. Pfff. I'll be catching up on whatever goes up on youtube, as well as whatever goes up from the previous days that I missed or we all missed.

Norah's beam was stunning. Fantastic routine and her flighty layout is fabulous still. I'd like to have seen more of her since I was pleasantly surprised that she held her own in the AA standings. Laurie's floor was interesting, I'll really need to see it a few more times without annoying chatter and proper music volume to really decide on it. I just loved her last routine so much I'm sad not to see it, and this one has less choreo... I missed her stalder-fest bars sadly. I'm thrilled she's come back so strong and won the AA. Victoria balked her second LOSO on beam (she got it yesterday) which was unusual, but she did get the aerial-Onodi-sheep (which was broken yesterday) for a big score still. She's just so tiny! I'm really looking forward to her in general. Check out yesterday's routine in gif form here. I remain on the fence on Ragan Smith. I'm not convinced, but would be unsurprised for her to accelerate and suddenly be amazing. Her DTY is shocking in a bad way and should be scrapped until she grows. Lovely FTY though. Interesting that the judges made their point with the scoring yesterday by scoring most of them the same since the DTY's were poor by comparison.

Highlights

Arianna Rocca of Italy's pike front half vault. Stunning, stunning, absolutely gorgeous. It was shown right before Simone went on floor and she appeared in the vault final too. So glorious.

Comeback queens! Great to see Aly and Gabby in action and also to see beautiful work from French veteran Anne Kuhm.

Simone dominating and basically giving a masterclass to everyone else all the time is a joy to watch.

Kyla flying off the floor is seriously hilarious WITH the knowledge she did no damage to herself.

Killer difficulty from those out of competition for nearly 3 years

Gorgeous floor choreography from Canada

Plenty of admittedly one-country-only competition in the senior AA with one in front, but several behind so close to one another

Lowlights

Meltdown on bars from Enus Mariani, the only event she did. She's not had an easy time and it's heartbreaking because she is phenomenal

Ellie Black didn't have a good competition with lots of falls and mistakes..possibly she's competing too much but either way, she could do with a rest.

The commentators. Just no. I am incredibly grateful for a free stream and I did know ahead of time they are fond of talking..but previous years I tended to watch routines on youtube and didn't have to rely on stream only since previous years weren't choked by a particular company having exclusive rights. Shut up. Shut up PLEASE even for floor. Given the fact that they were never not talking, I couldn't help but think that they were in an awful situation where any silence would mean they'd be taken out the back and shot. Also, cutting to interviews during the competition was a little weird and would have been better during rotations/warm ups or at the end only. Still, hurray for the stream we were allowed to have!

Favourite leotards

I really liked Ellie Black's EF one, and I quite liked France's white one for TF/AA. Very elegant. My favourite though was Elisa Meneghini's EF leo. Black with lime green/diamond necklace detail and more of the same on the sleeves. It sounds a bit mad but it was just amazing-could have done without the nude triangle. I'm a bit 50/50 on the navy and black Italian leotards, I liked them in theory and the Celtic-esque detail but they were overly shiny and a bit too busy overall. Likewise the US blue/purple leotard...it felt a bit disjointed or something but again, lovely in theory.

FGI stream-via just-gymnastics tumblr




This doesn't do it justice whatsoever, it was so much cooler in action. Maybe when there's a better photo rather than a screenshot.



Who was your favourite comeback queen? Will Simone score a 63 in the future and have it be legit? How surprised were you that the seniors came out in red, white and blue after the juniors had worn pink? Not that we have much evidence other than photos of them-long may their meet live on in photos and scoreboard form. Isn't this such a nice friendly competition with fabulous trophies that could be made that bit better by enticing back more federations, gagging the commentators and not having exclusive rights behind a paywall?