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 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.