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




  1. you are the best, I love your questions . .for the hairbows of Mykayla it is an open question :D
    On a more serious route for me Gabby has made a serious mistake when she had changed gym,coach Chow is one of the best.. I also think Simone can improve even if it seem impossible given the level she is already at!
    Tomorrow we will see..

  2. I was most impressed with Laurie she may not have the highest difficulty but she was artistic and told a story with artistry and flexibility with toes pointed she pretty much did I'd artistic too bad it's not artistically anymore with the open ended scoring because she like baillie before the injuries was a joy to watch she may not medel on bars but that was a pretty darn good routine if taken I tiers that was right below the top ub workers but with a Ashton form she can def medal on bb I believe shows a dancer almost hip hop maybe not precieved by the judges but that routine was rock solid ahold have scored higher this girl if rock solid tonight will be in contention

  3. My team is the same as yours at this point. Having 5 gymnasts who can put up good routines on all of the events is, in my opinion, better than risking taking someone who can put up one stellar and one average(Locklear) or one stellar, one average, and two less than desirable routines (Kocian). Yes, the US will lose a shot at MAYBE getting a UB bronze but they are likely going to be getting team gold, two AA medals, one vault medal, at least one beam, and at least one floor. By stacking the team with AA gymnasts who have different strengths, the US can make sure to qualify two gymnasts into the finals on beam/floor. If someone falters in QF, there WILL be another who will capitalize on her teammates mistake and step in/two per country that person out (Ex- Maggie on floor at Worlds last year).

    1. Maggie is a low probability shot for beam or ub final. as for fx, she has to prove that she is at least her 2015 self. and that has not happened.

      There is no point having 5 AA with the last AA has no outstanding EF worthy routine. you can only have a max of 4 person doing AA in qual anyway.

      The point of someone like Kocian is not so much as trying to win ub medal but it is to make the team well rounded and also to put an exclamation mark on the ub rotation. If you have Maggie she could do bars but she score really just about the same as simone on that event which means gabby would have to be the ub anchor. And it also mean that Maggie would have to make up additional points on vt and fx (which at this point she hasn't proven it after the injury). And you are also making ub becoming weaker rotation.

  4. I mainly agree with your list except for Maggie. She didn't have a good meet today either so unless she is flawless and in the top 3/4 in trails, she will be staying home. My team after Nationals is Biles, Raisman, Hernandez, Douglas and I would honestly take a bar specialist but I can't decide between Locklear and Kocian.

    I'm a big Aly fan this time around and I really hope she can improve that Amanar because I'm sure Gabby is ready with the Amanar and that might put her slightly above aly. I also hope that Aly adds atleast the leap after her double pike. Even .1 could make the difference for her.

    1. I pretty much second this team with Kocian in it for the reason that she is an AA and they can use any of her other 3 weak events in qual if needed. Also I think her not insignificant higher 0.2 D score would help her internationally also. Both her and Locklear are hammered on E internationally but at least Kocian will have the D to help her out.

  5. Simone, Aly, Laurie, Ashton and Kocian. If there were no two per country rule, I wouldn't present this. But here you still have a shot at 2 medals on bars, 2 AA, 2 Floor, and 2 Beam. If Skinner were likely to medal on vault, I would think of removing one of the bars specialists. My impression though is that she is more likely to qualify but not medal. Kocian medaled at worlds, and to me Locklear is cleaner. So you'd have to use Madison on floor and vault for qualifications, and you'd sacrifice D with the FTY, but they should still qualify to finals were you only have three scores anyway! For beam in qualifications, just choose whichever bars specialist had the highest average from Nationals, Classics, and Trials.

    Laurie Hernandez personifies exuberant freshness! She is magic positive energy charisma. Rio will adore her.

    Let's say, instead of bringing both bars specialists, USA bought another all arounder. What would the benefit of this strategy be? Well, it might be what is internationally expected. It might make sponsors happy. Both of those things I don't consider important. It might be a better "insurance policy" if someone is feeling less than perfect. This one is important. You'd think that's what the alternates are for, but I was reading something yesterday that they can't sub in an alternated after the opening ceremonies? If that's actually true, the "insurance" aspect of another all arounder truly is important. But to me, bringing one does not raise your hopes for an all around medal (because of 2/country), and hurts your chances at a bars medal.

    I was rooting for Maggie so very much. Her gymnastics is gorgeous and I love her flexibility and expressiveness of hands and fingers.

    1. a team of simone, aly, laurie and 2 ub specialists won't happen. this team has bad weakness on 3 events as an injury to 1 of the 3 AA will be a complete disaster.

  6. My team is Simone, Aly, Laurie, Madison and MyKayla with alternates Gabby, Maggie and Ashton.

    VT- Laurie, Aly, MyKayla, Simone
    UB- Aly, Simone, Laurie, Madison
    BB- Laurie, Madison (to give her a bit of a break), Aly, Simone
    FX- Laurie, MyKayla, Aly, Simone

    VT- Aly, MyKayla, Simone
    UB- Simone, Laurie, Madison
    BB- Laurie, Aly, Simone
    FX- Laurie/MyKayla, Aly, Simone

    This team has a good chance at good individual success as well as getting the highest team score. This team also takes away the situation of who does AA in quals in the Simone, Aly, Gabby, Laurie, Maggie team.

    1. problem is that they don't like to put biles on ub in TF. also with Mykayla being weak on ub and bb and kocian being weak on bb, this team is not likely to happen.

  7. My team of biles, raisman, hernandez, douglas, kocian hasn't changed for the past month. And this is actually the top 5 AA And my team still remains the same. At this point, Maggie will have to prove herself before I can really put her on the team. And she hasn't done that at P&G. It sucks to have a last minute injury but even she must know that at this point it's really up to her to prove it.

    Low chance of US medaling in ub, but that doesn't mean an ub specialist is not useful for more points. if you take away the ub specialists and put Maggie in, you will have to make up at least 0.5 points from anything else that Maggie can contribute in vt and fx. And Maggie would also have to do bar and hope for at least a 14.8. She probably could get another 14.8 but she really have to prove that she can add back more points on vt and fx and that hasn't happened.

    The other reason why Kocian is useful is that it would allow simone to have a rest in TF in ub. We have seen how this has been consistently the strategy that they have done in both 2014 and 2015. And I am pretty sure that they will have simone resting the ub in TF again in rio... if there is no ub specialist, you are forced to have gabby as your ub anchor. Not saying that gabby sucks at bars (because she is definitely not) but it's nice to have an exclamation and giving up as little possible in this event as possible to the Chinese and Russian.

    The other problem Maggie is facing is that her two strong events of vt and fx are where the us is the strongest right now. so it doesn't help her. marta does not like to have an imbalance team.

    I did also flirt a little with the thought of skinner being on the team for a possible 2nd vt medal. the vt she showed at pg both days are certainly podium worthy esp given the current status of paseka (which we will know more about this weekend). She seems to get lower score domestically than international... but in the end, I think skinner will probably end up being only alternate. as having skinner mean simone will have to do ub in TF.

  8. You're back! Quick aside, how goes it in Ireland? I know you and the rest of the UK, heck, the world just kicked in the balls with Brexit.

    Marta has said her ideal team is Simone, Aly, Gabby, Laurie and Maddie, and honestly that is what I see as most likely. As stated by previous posters, whether Kocian is a legitimate UB medal threat (given how she scored last year I wouldn't count her out) is less important than boosting the team total and forming a well-rounded team that actively mitigates any possible weak spots.

    The one that is most in question of the core group might actually be Gabby. Not because Marta won't select her - in fact I'm sure she's a lock - but because numerically she adds less to the team than you would think. Hell, if Swaggie or Bailie were in full health Gabby's place would definitely be in jeopardy.

    Maggie's comeback has been too quite for her to factor into Rio at this point. Now, that could change come Trials, but for now there isn't really any way to justify her spot. With Skinner you have medal worthy vaults but it doesn't make sense to bring her for that alone as it hurts the rest of the team.

    In the end, Simone, Aly, Gabby, Laurie and Madison make the most sense. How I wish Ragan was in main contention and that Bailie competed...

  9. No doubt, the US team really dominates the women's gymnastics competition :)