Monday 30 April 2018


Okay, I have a major issue with blogging and working full-time. Plenty manage it but I struggle to find the motivation and energy. There's a reason why a lot of this blog was written while I was unemployed. Anyway, my passion for the sport is the same. I am recovering from wisdom teeth surgery at the moment but I aim not to need to be post-op to actually blog.

Anyway, Pac Rims! Nice of Flo Gymnastics to allow USAG to upload videos of their athletes 24 hours later I suppose, much better than trying to find secret uploads somewhere. Morgan Hurd debuted a fabulous floor routine, I feel it's a great match for her and she really gets into the music and sells the choreography well. Although it was always something she's been good at, it's great to see her develop and I'm excited to see what her routine will be like in 2020 as her potential continues to grow. Beam aside, (which USAG have not uploaded) I don't feel she was as sharp here as she was at American Cup. Which is no bad thing, she doesn't need to be and shouldn't be at the top of her game in April with the summer competitions ahead of her and worlds several months away. Her double-double landing on floor was lower than normal but it's one of the few American ones that are fully secure and not too low so that's fine. Bars seemed to me to be not as crisp and flowy as normal although still very clean and technically good, just some of the ease was missing. Again, fine for this time of year. It's the beam dismount that's worrying, I hope they scrap it immediately and go back to the double pike or try a twisting dismount. It's incredibly dangerous to have a gymnast compete a dismount that they cannot land properly as it means they have a much smaller margin of error were something to go wrong on take-off, which by all accounts it did in the team/AA, although I have not seen it.

Here it is from podium training. This just screams 'NO', it's so not worth the landing deductions. Her face is miles below waist level and her knees are taking a huge strain with her body that bent over.

And here it is from American Cup. A disaster waiting to happen, thankfully Morgan is fine and managed floor right after her scary fall at Pac Rims and withdrawing from EF was just a precaution but I hope this is a lesson learnt for her coaches. Impressively hard dismounts need to be landed safely to be impressive.

She is not the only gymnast, nor even the only American gymnast with a low landing on her beam dismount or a non-textbook set on take-off, but the difficulty of the dismount and the amount that's packed into it makes it far scarier.

Moving on. All in all, Pac Rims to me fell completely flat without the participation of China and Japan. A great pity Brooklyn Moors withdrew at the last minute but there were what sounds like (maybe I might get to see them at some stage?) standout performances from plenty of gymnasts such as Marcia Videaux of Cuba on vault, Nicolle Castro of Mexico on floor and Zoe Allaire-Bourgie of Canada on bars.

Jordan Chiles is going to have a very tough time fitting into a team line-up this quad. A vault/floor specialist when the likes of Jade Carey and of course Simone Biles will be in the picture is not ideal. Still, she's very enjoyable to watch on both events and is a good alternate option perhaps, although Grace McCallum is very strong also with incredible ease in her vaulting and tumbling. I don't know enough about Kayla DiCello and Jordan Bowers although the latter in particular is intriguing, anyone who keeps their legs and knees and feet together throughout a double front and a tucked full-in gets my attention. Super clean and light tumbler, and although she came to grief on beam and isn't quite as clean there, there were a LOT of beam falls anyway and her beam structure is fascinating and seems well within her grasp. Sunisa Lee on the other hand seems to be doing too much difficulty, I don't really get the point of stacking her bars and beam that high when she struggles to hit them consistently and gets sloppy in the effort. Dump the Nabieva, taper down all of her beam connections and re-focus on the basics and she could be amazing.

In other news, Mai Murakami has won All Japan Nationals! It is heartwarming to see her this good and this consistent and this high-scoring and seemingly still improving, sooo many years into her career. In 2011 and 2012 she showed high difficulty but weakness and inconsistency. Seeing her gold-medal winning floor and her medal ceremony in person in Montreal is a real highlight of mine. Her scores here probably have some slight bias in them, but she remains a huge AA contender, creeping higher now every year. Thrilled to see her go out and hit her full floor difficulty as if it's nothing, showing no signs of slowing down. Japan really are great at holding on to their gymnasts for years. Asuka Teramoto, Aiko Sugihara and Sae Miyakawa (who badly needs to medal on floor this year) all show no signs of going anywhere either.

Speaking of veterans, it was great to see Aliya Mustafina, Viktoria Komova and Tatiana Nabieva at Russian Nationals recently. Aliya in particular, given that this is her competitive debut since giving birth, was particularly impressive and showed her DTY, full bars routine minus the inbars and her double arabian on floor. In an absolutely unsurprising twist, her beam is still relying on the same dodgy barely-an-acro-series for credit and is the event she was the weakest on. Understandably, she noticeably tired as the competition went on and had the greatest issues on vault where she scarily crashed a 1.5 intended to be a DTY but this lack of stamina is not a worry whatsoever at this point, she is extremely well versed in pacing herself and will no doubt steadily increase her ability to withstand competition until worlds itself. Recent news of her divorce makes her performances at Nationals even more impressive. What an athlete. Viktoria is that bit more together in her preparation and seems more equal overall in her AA effort, it will be fascinating to see how they progress. Against the backdrop of the two greats coming back, it was just amazing to witness the triumph of Angelina Melnikova, with such huge potential and so often such massive falls and flaws, hit every single routine and sweep the golds. I really hope she can continue the momentum and hit when it counts.

While never doubting the ability of Simone Biles to bounce back and have her Rio difficulty ready to go, it is mindblowing first to hear that she has it back, and then to witness further upgrades, including never-before-done crazy-Simone-level ones. Her coaching change was always going to be interesting in terms of her bars, as before although they were very smartly composed and kept deductions to a minimum, they were never a piece she was going to consistently make finals with. Now though, she presents with a shap-half, new Jaeger and a Fabrichnova dismount. Her form and technique, bolstered by new difficulty, could absolutely propel her into bars finals. Being coached now by the Landis who would have the WOGA-focus on bars is also going to have an impact on the ease and her swing in the routine. These are upgrades we will more than likely see in summer as her bars are going to need as much competitive repetition as they can get, as it's more than likely going to be significantly different than her old routine. Beam looked the same, still the same impressive skills with the casual addition of a double-double dismount which has of course, never been done. I would imagine that it's not going to replace her current full-in, but will be prepared so that she can throw it in sometimes. Podium training at all competitions, competitively at one day of Nationals, again at camp and worlds quals and EF but sticking to the full-in for AA and TF.

On floor we see two new passes as well as a gloriously easy and high double-double and double layout. The Moors looks all too easy for her, although not on a competition floor. The front full into full-in leap is a very fun pass, it looks incredible and is of course very impressive for what will surely be her last pass. For the other 3 she has a double-double, Biles, full-in DLO and now a Moors to play around with so even in an era of Jade Carey, Sae Miyakawa and Mai Murakami, her floor difficulty will still be ahead of the pack. Vault, ha. I would have thought having the Mustafina and amanar back would be impressive enough. She has a TTY and Cheng. Good god. I cannot wait to see her compete again. The sentiment of 'ugh it's so boring when she wins all the time and now she's going to come back and take all the golds away it's so unfair' to me is absolutely ridiculous. We saw the best of all time, and now we have the privilege to see her again with added difficulty. It is the kind of prospect that will see me at worlds next year.

Next week will see the start of Chinese Nationals. I am really hoping to see a possible worlds team with a good few options emerge. Chen Yile will be the most nervewracking one to watch due to her absolutely massive potential. Curious to see what Shang Chunsong looks like, although of course she is competing to help out her province and her appearance does not signal any international comeback. Depending on what platform videos end up on, I'll go through the competition here when it's over.

1 comment:

  1. Fun to see a post from you again - I always enjoy reading your insights. I had not heard any critique of Morgan's dismount and those screenshots are illustrative. I hope she does not hurt herself. I am impressed that she continues to work for difficulty and I'm interested to see how she can stack up as the depth in the later end of the quad increases.

    I love, love, love Mai. So fun to see a gymnast just continue to slowly get better and more consistent.

    I really look forward to seeing Simone back in competition. It really is exciting to witness such amazing talent.

    I hope life gives you time to blog here and there!