Sunday, 26 June 2016

Seniors Day 1

A day late, but I have a very busy Monday ahead. The Ireland-France game is about to begin, I don't care about football but this is historic stuff. A great pity France have world class players. I apologise in advance for the distraction the game is going to cause this post.

Anyway, seniors day 1! I'm so glad I didn't stay up to watch it, and watched the whole thing when I woke up at 9am instead. So much easier to absorb everything.

Simone Biles

Stellar. Just unbelievable stuff from her as per usual. Beam is where she can look slightly more human and have a few bobbles, but her routine was seriously strong and steady to start off her night, capped by another great full-in. (The French national anthem is so jazzy, not like our anti-British dirge - though I love it) I'm sure I repeat myself a LOT when I talk about her, but there just is always something so uplifting when watching her about to begin, the surety that here is someone who is in a class of their own, whose skills are easy for her. (IRELAND JUST SCORED FROM A PENALTY GET IN!!!!) The highlight of her floor was the Silivas, so floaty and beautiful and nearly stuck - and it's her third pass. I thought the lyrics in her floor were going to be changed though? The deduction is a whole point and while she could weather that deduction, she really doesn't need to risk it. Vault was stunning and her Amanar seemed slightly higher than usual, but could just be the contrast after watching everyone else vault. Would love to see her echo McKayla Maroney and stick it in team finals. Or the AA or EF, I'm not fussy. After waiting so long for her to throw the Cheng, it's looking glorious. Her bars are always good - short and to the point, but her handstands stood out for me and the stuck dismount was nice also. Methodical. Definitely TF worthy since she leaves such low margins for deduction only for the fact that she'll be competing so much that it'd be nice for a rest too. All depends on who else makes the team.

In short, while she is always great, this felt like a particularly extra-great night for her. Just such a pleasure to watch.

Leotard game - strong. Striking combination and I like the design on the front. 7/10

(Ireland are holding off France. France!!)

Aly Raisman

The Aly Raisman of late last year and early this year who was struggling a bit with consistency and not showing her usual self on beam in particular was nowhere in evidence. Fantastic to see her attack back on beam, nailing connections as if they were on floor. Her improved layout - much more airtime - is great too. She looks 2012-esque, her solidest beam in a long time in competition. (This game is filthy! So much on the line...a LOT of fouls and yellow cards) On floor and her first pass looks like it's never been away or downgraded, she even had a slight bit of room to spare after the layout. Super-high Dos Santos, floaty DLO with just a small hop back and a double pike with chest fully up. Great stuff, Olympic floor medal contender for sure.

Her amanar is decidedly less thrilling. VERY messy in the last 1.5 rotations, but fully around nevertheless, with her now trademark step to the side. Ligaments of steel. She doesn't need to be aiming for a more precise landing at the moment, would be nice to see in Rio though. An Aly with this much fight was never going to take any nonsense from bars, and sure enough although some struggle was evident with a break here and there, she finished without a major hitch to end her day. This is a great Aly with more tenths to fight for on bars and vault, so it's reassuring to see her in second - tied, but second nonetheless.

She has her ticket to Rio I think, no question. Leotard game - excellent. Beautiful neckline and sparkly belt in particular. A bright pink that's not sickly, very pretty. 8.5/10

Laurie Hernandez

Like Simone and others, Laurie didn't do AA at Classics, but unlike the former she's more of an unknown entity on all 4 as she seemed to be warding off some sort of leg injury earlier in the season. Starts on floor and her trademark energy was evident from the start. That DLO is still risky (NOOOO FRANCE SCORED!) in that she has no margin for error before she hits the ground. Hopefully she can learn to get a better set on it (OH CHRIST and again). The rest of the routine is great, love her unusual third combination pass especially. While I still love her dance and snappy choreography style, I'd still prefer it if the poses and expressions in particular were toned down. A very efficient vault from her, no sign of when it looked precarious. It's not as obvious on the USAG video, but on the stream she doesn't get much distance, seems to hit the table quite early. Nevertheless, chest up, the tiniest of hops and right down the centre, not to mention clean in the air. Good stuff. Beam used to be her weakest event, and flaky, but she's a much different worker there now. Confident. Quick connections, crisp BHS-LOSO-LOSO, sassy choreo. Her set on the double pike dismount is poor, so she has a very low chest on landing - better off with a touble tuck or a twisting dismount probably but a great routine nonetheless. Bars is another event where she has made great strides. She's got quite an unusual style there which is enjoyable to watch. Stalder-heavy, nice releases and a stuck dismount. She's no medal contender there but it's a big boost to her AA status.

A fierce display from Laurie which has done nothing but good to show her worth to the Rio team. Leotard game - too much shiny brightness for me, but an interesting back. 4/10

Gabby Douglas

 She has looked strong since she came back and after Glasgow and a strong outing early in the season has much less to prove than most. But this wasn't the best of outings for her, she just didn't seem fully on at any point. Beam was nervy with checks coming very frequently (about 10 minutes left in which WE NEED TO SCORE). On floor again she was lacklustre in terms of connection to the audience and expression, but tumbling was strong. I really like the back tuck she's added to her full-in. Gorgeous leaps. Keeps the energy in tumbling going to the end, but taken together it just wasn't an exciting routine. Quality vault, BIG air on that DTY and you can see the room for the amanar that's more than likely to come. That'll be her ticket to being the second AA in Rio. Bars have never reached her 2012 levels and it's probably too late to expect they suddenly will but are strong anyway and do her a lot of favours although she didn't do a skill this time around that they credited her with doing. Bad judging, but not quite at the level 4 years ago when she was credited with doing an amanar for a DTY.

A less-than-ideal day but not exactly damaging. I hope she gets her game face on tonight all the same. Leotard game - Interesting. She can carry that orangey-pink but the shine makes it too much for me. 5.5/10

Madison Kocian

The big test is as per usual her bars, and again (we are 45 seconds from not qualifying to the quarter finals...) she comes second to Ashton Locklear there, but great bars nonetheless and the big advantage she has over Ashton as we all know is the fact that she's much more of a team player and can slot in much better than the latter. (And we are out...but played much better than expected against MUCH better players) Marta is as always all about the team, and not so much the specialists. This is not like USOC forcing McKayla Maroney into the team for guaranteed (LOL) vault gold, bars has many more contenders with no certainties. Anyway, a lovely arabian on beam followed by a check or two and a broken connection, but solid work. She's stunning to watch on floor too with the usual WOGA tumbling style of connecting twists showing up in her second pass. WOGA also shows up in her vaulting in a clean and beautifully executed FTY.

A strong showing and she's in the mix for sure. Leotard game - a bit dull, but nice sparkles on the red. 5/10

Ashton Locklear 

KILLER bars, great to see. Gives very little away and great rhythm. She continued her visible improvement on beam, very quick-fire connections. I love her leaps in particular her lines make her wolf jump look amazing. I'd like to see her do some old-school elements, like a Kolesnikova variation, even a Kotchetkova or Onodi. She'll never do a major acrobatic element so they'd suit her. And a double stag just because I love them. Anyway, she's another who's right in the mix for this team.

Leotard game - love the colour contrast, but the design seemed a bit too juvenile and let it down. 6/10

Ragan Smith

Strong on 3/4 events with that weird Grishina-esque balk on floor decimating her score there. I just love the distance she gets on her DTY and bars dismount. Unfortunately her beam wasn't her best with some big checks there but she really nailed the dismount with a much more secure landing than we have seen. She really needed to knock it out of the park to challenge at the top of the leaderboard...but it's a 2-night competition. Even with that, I think she's fighting for an alternate spot as even without her less than perfect consistency record, she's strongest on the events they've got plenty of depth on.

Leotard game - STUNNING! Love the mosaic stained glass design, very unique and pretty. Chrystal pattern was gorgeous on the sleeves. The best. 9/10

Mykayla Skinner

She's not all the way there in terms of how strong she can be, but a good effort. Her amanar landing can be better than that and look much more secure. Very nice in the air with great height. The Cheng is just her thing, so reliable. She should be using that in a TF lineup were she to make the team. Needs a bit more oomph on floor to really nail all of her difficulty, she seemed to flag a bit in terms of energy towards the end. I didn't catch her beam and bars yet, but they're not really that important in terms of her value. It's hard to say where she slots in in terms of a potential team now, she could quite easily be a victim of 5 slots instead of 6.

Leotard game - props for a design I haven't seen before, I especially like it on the side. Colours were not for me and the shiny grey washed her out too much. 4.5/10

Maggie Nichols

It's hard to judge Maggie at this point as she is still coming back with a way to go before she gets back to her self again (hopefully in time for Rio selection). Her wolf turn on beam was a struggle and looks like it might have pained her, but she looked her usual strong self after that. A few checks, but nothing major and a great double pike to end with. Getting there. Bars were her usual though, strong and capable and she treated us to a stuck landing. Hopefully she keeps it up tonight and is able to bring back vault and floor by trials, she's a major contender for the team if she can.

Leotard game - I quite like the leo, but not the banana bit. 5/10

Alyssa Baumann

Started off with such a strong bars routine, only to come off again. After a bad meet at Classics it was the last thing she needed. Redeemed herself somewhat on beam with a gorgeous arabian, BHS-LOSO-LOSO series and Onodi-wolf connection but there were some checks in between and overall the flow was poor. She's another fighting for alternate when most other teams would kill to have her.

So all in all, regardless of a good portion of the team being locks for quite a while, we are still shaping up for a killer fight at trials, and Nationals is extremely important for those girls who are on the cusp to show how ready they are. Really looking forward to watching day 2 at some stage tomorrow as I can't stay up that late.

As of now, until Maggie is proved out of the AA, my team is Simone, Aly, Gabby, Laurie and Maggie. I don't think bars is important enough to warrant a spot when the team is so small. Let there be killing for the AA spots in quals.

Who has made your team? Who will win leotard game tonight? Can Simone get even better than she currently is? Can someone succeed in livening up Gabby? How many hairbows will Mykayla have? These are the questions that need answering.

All photos copyright USAG - John Cheng and L.Smith



Friday, 24 June 2016

US Nationals

Really the timing of Nationals is poor this year. I'm supposed to absorb hours of gymnastics while Brexit just happened AND Ireland has magically progressed to the top 16 in the Euros which means the whole country will shut down on Sunday for the next match? It's all so distracting, but moreso Brexit of course because nobody believed the British public could be that dense but yes.they.are and this is going to have a big impact on my country and the thousands and thousands of Irish citizens living there. Hell we even get to be an island with a border where one side is in the EU and the other side isn't, that's super special that is. GODDAMN I can't even explain the total shock in the media this side of the pond, this is an absolute disaster.

ANYWAY, on to gymnastics. Watched part of juniors live and am busy catching up. Not sure I can hold out til 2am for seniors, so may just watch them in the morning. Juniors was dramatic to say the least, delighted for Mailie O'Keeffe, sad for Emma Malabuyo in particular after her mid-competition injury, but also Morgan Hurd who I'm sure was anxious to prove herself after Classics only to fall almost instantly and Deanne Soza who personifies the heartbreak of this sport. I have learned to just enjoy her but she always gives me hope and takes it away again all the same. What I'm watching the most is Trinity Thomas' DLO rebound on floor, I can't get over it. Looks like we have a winner for best rebound since Gabby Douglas at SCAM 2012. While it's fascinating to have three clean, elegant gymnasts in Emma, Morgan and Gabby Perea vying for the title of best junior....gymnasts like Trinity are so fascinating. Quite reminiscent of junior Simone Biles. Overly bouncy, power a bit too much for her, and rough around the edges. And we all know what happened there. Trinity screams potential and I'm excited.

I'll be back tomorrow with longer posts especially after watching seniors :)

Happy purple ombre leo watching!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Happy gymnastics weekend!

And it's a long bank holiday weekend here, which is just as well because there's too much to watch in different timezones. I have major catching up to do still.

First, Classics (way behind on Euros..) Considering how tough Nationals, Trials and pre-Olympic training will be on dead certs like Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas, it made perfect sense for them to ease their way into it by opting out of the AA for Classics and only competing bars and beam. Sensible, yet disappointing when every opportunity for a good AA scrap between the top few is welcome. Aly Raisman on the other hand had more to prove after a somewhat up-down year in terms of consistency and realisation of full potential. It was fantastic to see her beam improved, much more reminiscent of how it was last quad, and an amanar that was safe and fully rotated with a decent landing. Floor was her usual top standard, no surprises there. Of course, she fell on bars, but it seemed very fluke-y and bars are not important to her status as a team member. Not the biggest of deals.

The showdown on bars between Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear was seriously exciting, and although the former has a 3-tenth difficulty lead, Ashton is the better bars worker and I'm pleased the (moderately inflated) scores reflected that. Madison will be out for blood at Nationals after she fell on a back tuck on beam. Sadly, Ragan Smith came to grief there too, on her Patterson dismount. I never feel that Texas Dreams gymnasts get a proper high 'set' on their beam dismounts. Contrast them with the likes of Catalina Ponor's glorious double pike from Euros TF....dreamy. Anyway, Ashton's beam was interesting. It's a routine I don't expect a whole lot from as her difficulty is low and her form is lacking on some elements. I'd much rather see her floor, it's a pity that after reading it's an event she was considered strong on, her back prevents her from training it. Although her beam last night was hesitant in flow, she has really cleaned up her form and it was pretty decent. Not a routine you would want to use outside of quals ever, but still, improvement is always good.

I'm seriously impressed that Nia Dennis competed. As exhibition, but nevertheless a full bars routine WITH a DLO dismount. She's not long after injury at all, and it shows such a positive attitude to want to be there and compete even though time is not on her side. She did get lost after the Pak but had a nice recovery and I was really expecting a flyaway dismount, so kudos to her. I'm a bit baffled that Bailie Key did not. The fact that she was on the roster, then not, then slated to compete by her coach, then did podium training and that was it is a bit odd. It would have been nice if she exhibitioned at least, or just did one event even, like Laurie Hernandez also. I enjoyed Laurie's bars, even if her technique seems different to the norm on some elements, which throws me off. Looking forward to seeing her and Simone and Gabby back in the AA at Nationals.

In terms of how the Olympic team is shaping up, I think Simone, Gabby and Aly have cemented their places, Aly being a bit more doubtful than the other two, but held up by her vast experience at being the team rock. It's a big advantage over the likes of Laurie and Ragan, and although their beams rival Aly's, their floors fall short, and so does vault now that the Raismanar is back and secure. The fourth spot is between Madison and Ashton and the fifth is a toss-up between a beam specialist type role which Laurie and Ragan are still in the running for if Marta wants to go that route, or the vault spot for Mykayla. Simone gaining the Cheng has somewhat negated the importance of that as now she's nearly a given for gold there, whereas before with her Lopez she risked being pushed out of bronze. Technically they don't need all 5 spots at all, the first 3 alone could cover everything and win easily, but 5 still makes for awkward choosing thanks to their depth. If Maggie can regain everything in time, she's a significant threat to Aly, but the latter's amanar could well keep her ahead as it's not a safe vault for Maggie to compete. It is tragic that such capable gymnasts as Alyssa Baumann and Rachel Gowey can hope for alternate at best, they'd be such an asset to almost every other country.

Romania for instance would kill for a gymnast like Alyssa. It is almost extraordinary to see how much they have backslid since London, and how overly reliant they are on Larisa Iordache and Catalina Ponor. Cata is facing enormous criticism at the moment for upping her game in the fight for the (sole) spot for Rio (seriously it won't sink in that there'll be no team) by training bars again, getting her DTY back, and regaining her floor and beam skills. It is an enormous credit to her that she can train and improve still. Her determination and fight are incredible, and if the whole National Team had that, they'd be in a better position. Of course, it's a vicious circle and the fact that they focus and rely on the same old faces is a major demotivator to other girls trying to make their way through the ranks. Their retirement rate of girls who are barely or not even senior is appalling. Looking at my post of girls turning senior 2013-2016 is particularly saddening for all the Romanian names who have dropped off.

The whole thing is infuriating and has been voiced many times over much more eloquently than I could ever attempt. It's obvious that their entire coaching system needs an overhaul. It's not just bars, there is too much focus on them. Yes it is disgraceful that hit routines can't break 13 but it's the marked deterioration on floor and beam that's more worrying. Outside of Catalina and Larisa and possibly Diana, the rest don't even look like elite routines anymore. The difficulty and 'special'ness of Romania on those events is not even in evidence. Hopefully the multiple people involved in Romania devolving into a Ukraine-type situation can stop playing the blame game and actually change things.

Moving on to US juniors, I've a good bit of catching up to do there. Saddened that Morgan Hurd struggled on beam and threw away the lead, would love to see her bouncing back at Nationals. Her bars in particular were fabulous, with such a surprising dismount - Fabrichnova- from one so tiny. Jordan Chiles has a nice advantage over the rest of the field with her amanar boosting her difficulty, but her power was to her detriment on floor when her huge, high tumbles sent her bouncing out of bounds twice and again on beam when she bounced back and fell out of her dismount. A great day for eventual winner Irina Alexeeva though her status remains murky and I heard she can't compete at Nationals, which is such a shame if true. I'm going to have a fun day going through the rest of the playlist.

And last but certainly not least, Euros! I missed the juniors entirely with work, sadly. A cracking senior team final, even if my stream was super glitchy. I'm not sure why it's still surprising when Aliya Mustafina after looking awful in podium training and dodgy in qualifications, pulls it out when it counts. I've every faith she'll be much improved still in Rio with her passes back on floor. It was great to see Giulia compete in front of a home crowd, and despite the same old consistency issues on beam, she really nailed it. A great Euros for her. I'm seriously in love with her Silivas, that thing is crazy high and fast. Her floor in general is so much better than it used to be, it was quite clunky and now everything seems so light. Her leaps are dreamy also.  I'm also impressed with Miss Consistency Angelina Melnikova. Talk about team player, the girl is a much-needed rock for her team. The equally talented Seda Tutkhalyan has her work cut out for her now in terms of Rio, her flakiness on beam in particular continues to plague her. GB had quite an up-and-down meet, though mostly good. Poor Becky Downie had 2 falls on beam in team finals, only to redeem herself with bars gold - beating the formiddable Daria Spiridonova and Aliya Mustafina. Although GB qualified first, they did well to finish second, counting other falls and mistakes too. France were seriously impressive, my highlight was Marine Boyer's beam and also Alison Lepin's beautiful bars. Stunning work.

A lot watched, a lot more to watch. Not sure exactly why I haven't posted in so long, but anyway, I'm back :D

Have you successfully watched ALL of Euros and Classics? Favourite junior/senior? Highlight routines? Best use of co-ordinating hair ribbon and sparkles?