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


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 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.


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


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'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?