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?