Things Are Happening – June 20, 2019

A. US Olympic selection procedures

USAG has been releasing information all over the place this week. You’re shocked I know. (Except for when it comes to the senior national team verification from last weekend, in which case, it didn’t happen.)

Item #1) The 2020 Olympic selection procedures are out, including a couple significant changes from the previous quad.

First, the top TWO all-around gymnasts from Trials will now automatically be named to team. That’s back to how it used to be. In 2016, only the winner of Trials automatically made the team.

So…that’s kind of a lot for a four-person team. That’s half the team. You guys know how I don’t much care for “automatically on the team based on this all-around finish” rules because it can handcuff the ability to select the actual best possible team for a team-final format. Probably won’t, but it could. You might have a Carly 2004 situation that changes up some permutations.

I know they’re trying to make Olympic Trials seem as though it’s not the pointless charade that it obviously has been for the last several quads (like Martha didn’t have that team picked out 6 months beforehand…), but this is not my favorite.

The procedures have also introduced what is already known as the Simone Clause, whereby athletes may now injury petition directly onto the 2020 Olympic team. Pretty obviously the only person who would ever have an injury petition like this accepted is one Simone Andromedon Biles, just in case she’s injured and can’t compete at Trials. (Previously, it was possible to petition to Trials if you were injured, but not onto the team itself.)

But on the previous note, I once again like the opportunity to not be handcuffed by the results of the selection competition, so this allows you to put the person onto the team that you need to get onto the team. Like Simone. Cough Japan cough.

Item #2) USAG also unveiled new Safe Sport policies that are largely of the “shouldn’t that have been the policy already…?” variety. They emphasize reporting obligations on issues like verbal abuse and harassment (which are still the purview of USAG, which is going to keep being a problem) and adds policies regarding private coach/athlete interaction and parents being able to view training.

This is all progress, but I still come back to the issue that as long as one organization is expected to be the safety oversight organization, the athlete advocate, the coach advocate, the club advocate, and a promotion/marketing mechanism, you will have conflicts between those interests and you will have problems, no matter how many well-intentioned policy changes are introduced.

Also, the use of the British spelling of travelling totally makes me think they just copy/pasted these policies from some British organization’s rules. I’m not saying they did, I’m saying I wouldn’t be surprised.

B. Handspring front 2/1

We have a new vault! This week at the Korea Cup, Yeo Seojeong successfully completed the handspring front 2/1. She had attempted this vault before, unsuccessfully, but clearly some progress has been made in the intervening months. At least, you know, in terms of landing on her feet and kind of staying there. It’s nonetheless semi-terrifying.

The vault is a 6.2 D score, ranking it behind the Produnova and the Biles as the third most difficult vault in the code of points, and she managed a 15.100 for this effort. (E judges, meet me at camera 3…)

The cool part of this is the old “injured or happy?” question based on her facial expression afterward. It’s gymnastics. You’re never quite sure. Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 20, 2019

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The Race to Tokyo – Women’s Team Qualification

This October in Stuttgart, the final 9 teams qualifying to the Olympics will be decided. But who will it be?

Using the principles of the National Team Rankings (I know, I know, I got behind and couldn’t catch up…), I ranked the contending nations based on how each country’s best-scoring group of five senior gymnasts would do in a three-scores-count format using each gymnast’s top score on each event recorded at a major international meet this year.

I do have a methodology departure from the previous National Team Rankings in that I’m using only major international meets** and excluding scores from smaller and domestic meets in order to provide a slightly more realistic impression that isn’t skewed by “I got a 14.500 on beam even though I’m getting at best a 12.700 at worlds!” national championship scores. I’m looking at you, Ukraine.

This method does cause equivalent problems of its own—Canada’s score is a little low because Moors and Olsen have competed only domestically so far in 2019, Brazil’s supply of countable routines is misleadingly paltry, etc—but there’s no perfect system.

Because this ranking is specifically about the race for the remaining 9 spots at the Olympics, I have not included the US, Russia, and China since they are already qualified. I’m also not including injured gymnasts that we know will miss worlds (like Rebeca Andrade) or gymnasts who have been deemed ineligible like Mai Murakami, in an effort to provide the most realistic picture of the race as it could play out at worlds. That means I’m saying Japan’s group of five must include the four gymnasts already named—since we know they’re going to worlds—and the fifth gymnast is selected only from those eligible through the inane selection procedures.

**I’m defining major international meets as FIG world cup events, continental championships, and larger-scale multi-nation competitions: Jesolo, Gymnix, the DTB Team Challenge, and the FIT Challenge.

1. FRANCE – 166.531
Melanie DJDS 14.433 14.033 13.733 13.833
Lorette Charpy 13.600 14.100 13.666 12.566
Marine Boyer 0.000 11.966 14.100 13.300
Coline Devillard 15.000 0.000 12.300 12.833
Carolann Heduit 13.366 13.900 11.666 12.700

166.531

43.033 42.033 41.499 39.966
If you’re using domestic scores, you’d put Juliette Bossu in there for her bars score instead of Carolann Heduit, but either way France is looking very strong right now as long as the major players stay/get healthy. This is a comfortably Olympic-level group of routines.
2. ITALY – 165.514
Alice D’Amato 14.633 14.400 12.466 12.700
Asia D’Amato 14.633 14.033 11.967 12.900
Elisa Iorio 13.633 14.300 13.350 12.633
Giorgia Villa 14.300 13.533 13.766 12.666
Lara Mori 0.000 0.000 12.633 13.866
165.514 43.566 42.733 39.749 39.466
This year, expect an Italian team packed with those new seniors to deliver the kind of scores on bars Italy hasn’t enjoyed in quite some time. I’m still a little worried about this group’s scores and consistency on beam and floor (be honest, you wouldn’t be that surprised to see one of the old standbys swoop to do those two events at worlds, would you?), but Italy is on track for its best team result in a while, and at just the right time.
3. CANADA – 165.496
Ellie Black 14.500 14.266 13.800 13.266
Ana Padurariu 13.533 14.666 14.333 13.600
Rose Woo 13.733 12.366 11.366 12.400
Victoria Woo 13.666 13.433 12.600 12.833
Laurie Denommee 13.566 12.866 13.133 13.100
165.496 41.899 42.365 41.266 39.966
Once Moors and Olsen compete at Pan Ams, we’ll have a better sense of how they influence the team score because they’d certainly be included in the best five (plugging in their scores from nationals, Canada would zoom to the top, but scores from Canadian Nationals, especially on floor, are notoriously 5-ish tenths higher than reality). Either way, Canada is in an exceptionally solid position for Olympic team qualification. Shouldn’t be a problem at all.
4. GREAT BRITAIN – 164.664
Alice Kinsella 14.200 13.800 13.566 13.100
Ellie Downie 14.500 14.066 13.333 13.466
Amelie Morgan 14.100 13.900 13.033 12.666
Claudia Fragapane 0.000 0.000 0.000 13.600
Phoebe Jakubczyk 13.558 11.733 11.700 12.833
164.664 42.800 41.766 39.932 40.166
Great Britain hasn’t done a ton of non-domestic competing so far this year, but when they have, it’s been successful (like the European Championship), so this ends up being pretty close to a first choice team, just probably with a Fenton or a Simm or a Becky in there. Or more than one.
5. NETHERLANDS – 163.847
Sanna Veerman 14.100 14.133 12.166 11.833
Eythora Thorsdottir 13.600 13.866 13.550 13.666
Tisha Volleman 14.000 13.000 12.366 13.333
Naomi Visser 13.800 14.100 13.433 13.200
Sara van Disseldorp 13.366 12.200 12.666 12.733
163.847 41.900 42.099 39.649 40.199
Netherlands has put up some reassuring performances recently, and if van Gerner gets back and Lieke continues this trajectory in her return as well, this can be a very formidable group.
6. BELGIUM – 162.963
Maellyse Brassart 13.600 13.300 13.166 13.100
Jade Vansteenkiste 13.733 12.866 11.333 13.233
Fien Enghels 0.000 14.200 13.033 12.866
Nina Derwael 13.566 15.233 13.633 13.066
Dorien Motten 13.666 0.000 0.000 11.866
162.963 40.999 42.733 39.832 39.399
We have seen a change this year for Belgium, an introduction of depth. For the last quad+, Belgium has fielded a competitive team, but an exact specific five had to be healthy (and as Mys and Waem left, Kinkcaert and Brassart took their places in that five). If people like Hermans and Klinckaert were out (as we’ve seen recently), Belgium just wouldn’t have a team score. Now, new seniors like Enghels and Vansteenkiste have come in to give Belgium a little more buffer for someone critical being out.
7. GERMANY – 162.514
Kim Bui 13.800 14.400 12.766 13.233
Elisabeth Seitz 14.500 14.233 12.466 13.200
Pauline Schäfer 13.450 13.266 13.666 0.000
Isabelle Stingl 13.600 11.333 12.566 13.050
Leah Grießer 13.133 13.150 12.800 12.800
162.514 41.900 41.899 39.232 39.483
Germany really should be one of the 9 qualifying teams at worlds this year and is too talented not to make the Olympics as a full squad—Seitz, Schäfer, Bui, Scheder, Voss is still such a formidable-seeming group—but what we’re seeing right now is a German team that’s exceptionally reliant on a select group of veterans all being healthy at the same time. You worry whether that next generation of backup routines/future stars is coming along or not.
8.  AUSTRALIA – 160.633
Georgia-Rose Brown 13.700 13.633 12.266 12.400
Emily Whitehead 13.633 13.233 12.833 12.500
Emma Nedov 13.333 13.333 14.100 13.033
Elena Chipizubov 12.866 12.166 13.200 12.766
Georgia Godwin 13.733 13.500 13.266 12.766
160.663 41.066 40.466 40.566 38.565
This spring, we’ve seen an Australia squad that’s attempting to make a push out of the borderline territory and into the qualifying group of 9. This 8th-place position is therefore encouraging, the lingering issue being that Japan and Brazil are both lurking below Australia here…for reasons that we’ll get to. 
9. JAPAN – 160.464
Asuka Teramoto* 14.600 13.266 13.333 13.600
Hitomi Hatakeda* 13.933 13.566 12.900 12.300
Aiko Sugihara* 14.100 12.866 13.000 12.000
Nagi Kajita* 13.033 11.766 11.366 12.833
Ayaka Sakaguchi 14.100 0.000 0.000 0.000
160.464 42.800 39.698 39.233 38.733
The * indicates athletes who have been named to the worlds team already and therefore must be included here. This is, of course, not the highest-scoring possible team Japan could come up with, but if they stick to these selection procedures, it could be the team that happens. Of the remaining eligible athletes, Ayaka Sakaguchi or Kiko Kuwajima seem to make the most sense for that last spot because they can deliver a DTY and a beam and floor routine, though they’ve only rarely competed outside of domestic competitions. Still expect Japan to be a couple points better than this, but it is perhaps worth being a little concerned if they send a team like this.
10. UKRAINE – 160.463
Valeria Osipova 13.933 12.400 12.266 12.400
Anastasia Bachynska 14.000 13.566 13.533 12.700
Diana Varinska 13.500 13.966 12.866 12.966
Angelina Radivilova 13.900 12.367 13.333 13.033
Yana Fedorova 13.555 12.667 10.600 11.100
160.463 41.833 40.199 39.732 38.699
Ukraine should be considered a major outsider for an Olympic spot, but the team is quite a bit better than last year’s 20th-place showing would indicate (they didn’t have a particularly great competition and didn’t yet have Bachynska). If Varinska and Bachynska both have legit meets at the same time, the score can be competitive.
11. BRAZIL – 159.445
Flavia Saraiva 14.600 13.266 13.033 13.666
Thais Fidelis 13.566 12.300 12.933 13.266
Carolyne Pedro 13.733 12.566 12.233 12.933
Jade Barbosa 0.000 13.650 0.000 0.000
X 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
159.445 41.899 39.482 38.166 39.865
Things are not quite as dire as all this, even without Andrade. Brazil went all-in on a very specific group of gymnasts in international meets early in the year, so there’s not a lot of backup scores to use right now. If you were to give the team the scores from Lorrane Oliveira and Jade Barbosa from nationals (high but still), they’re in the mid 162s, which is probably more reflective of where this team is without Andrade. In the 9, but not safely so.
12. HUNGARY – 159.281
Sara Peter 14.533 0.000 9.450 12.533
Nora Feher 12.966 13.550 12.800 12.466
Dorina Böczögo 13.750 12.650 0.000 13.000
Csenge Bacskay 14.100 0.000 12.266 11.733
Zsofia Kovacs 13.933 14.000 13.450 11.333
159.281 42.566 40.200 38.516 37.999
We’ve seen from Hungary’s team results in Europe this quad that the potential for contention is there. This is not yet a top-12 country, but Hungary has a good crop of new seniors this year and should be at least somewhere in the vicinity of the qualification spots at worlds.
13. ROMANIA – 158.730
Iulia Berar 13.266 12.533 12.950 0.000
Carmen Ghiciuc 13.466 11.933 13.100 10.933
Denisa Golgota 14.500 12.966 13.500 13.866
Ana Maria Puiu 13.600 12.100 13.233 12.900
Maria Holbura 13.233 11.300 12.533 12.966
158.730 41.566 37.599 39.833 39.732
Romania will not arrive at worlds with the expectation of Olympic qualification, but the way things have been going, the fact that it’s not completely out of the question feels like a win.
14. SPAIN – 158.446
Alba Petsico 13.600 12.566 12.033 12.766
Laura Bechdeju 13.400 13.100 12.033 13.250
Ana Perez 13.666 13.733 12.733 13.500
Nora Fernandez 13.766 13.266 11.500 11.600
Cintia Rodriguez 13.333 12.333 13.033 12.733
161.682 41.032 40.099 37.799 39.516
There’s some hearty talent in this generation of Spanish gymnasts, and a few newbies who are showing competitive scores on select pieces. There’s probably not enough depth to get up into the fancy places, but the scores haven’t been too, too far away so far this year.

Right now, I would say the next tier is countries like South Korea, Switzerland, and Mexico, but they’re currently a step lower, closer to a 154 kind of team total based on the scores so far in 2019

Things Are Happening – June 14, 2019

A. US junior worlds team

Following competition today at the national team camp, the junior worlds team for the US has been named—Skye Blakely, Kayla Di Cello, and Sydney Barros, with Konnor McClain as the traveling alternate.

We even got scores. SCORES YOU GUYS!

So, they went purely by all-around results to decide the team and alternate, which will appease the fairness police but is not my preferred strategy for team selection—it’s safe, but isn’t necessarily the peak scoring team or the best option for event medals at what is very much an event-final focused meet. For instance, based on these results the top-scoring team for a 3-3-2 format would be Blakely, DiCello, and Alipio because Alipio scored that huge 14.400 on beam.

The big surprise here, however, is Konnor McClain missing out on a team spot by four tenths and instead going as an alternate. From the scores, it looks like a miss on beam and potentially some struggles on floor. McClain was on the nominative roster and favored along with Di Cello going in because of her results at Jesolo and would have been on the team with a hit here. We’re also missing Olivia Greaves, who was on the nominative roster as well and would have been in the mix but didn’t get the bars score here that she would have needed to make her argument.

If they all repeat what they did here at trials in the actual team competition, Blakely and Di Cello’s scores would count on every event for a total of 112.25. That’s a strong number, very competitive with what Russia’s team can score, though with presumably some domestic bounce in this case. If you look at those huge E scores that Blakely received en route to her magnificent 56.500, we’re probably not going to see gymnasts get those kinds of numbers in Gyor.

Russia looks like it will have the difficulty advantage over the US, so it may just come down to whether Russia does a Russia all over the place on the first day or not. And with Listunova on floor, Gerasimova on beam, and Urazova on bars (if they all end up competing), Russia’s probably coming in with the pre-meet title favorite on those three events. Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 14, 2019

American Classic Rosters

We’re just 10 days away from the US elite summer season getting underway again with the BUM BUM BUM…American Classic?

The American Classic: Mattering since 2018.

I guess. We’ve decided.

The meet that used to take place at the ranch over 4th of July (#NeverForget) is now an actual public competition instead of a secret secret made of secrets. We even have a roster release and everything. Rosters are also out for the Hopes Classic which takes place the day before, but I don’t care about that, you’re too young. Go watch the Frozen trailer with Kylie C.

So here’s a quick breakdown of what’s going on with the field for juniors and the field for seniors (such as it is).

Juniors

Olivia Ahern (River City)
Ciena Alipio (West Valley)
Love Birt (First State)
Skye Blakely (WOGA)
Charlotte Booth (Brandy Johnson’s)
Sophia Butler (Discover)
Kailin Chio (Gymcats)
Addison Fatta (Prestige)
eMjae Frazier (Parkettes)
Elizabeth Gantner (JPAC)
Karis German (WCC)
Emily Golden (EVO)
Mia Heather (San Mateo)
Levi Jung-Ruivivar (Paramount)
Lauren Little (Everest)
Nola Matthews (Airborne)
Zoe Miller (WCC)
Sydney Morris (First State)
Annalise Newman-Achee (Chelsea Piers)
Sophie Parenti (San Mateo)
Anya Pilgrim (Hill’s)
Ariel Posen (MG Elite)
Joscelyn Roberson (NE Texas)
Sienna Robinson (Brown’s)
Katelyn Rosen (Mavericks)
Lyden Saltness (Midwest)
Jamison Sears (World Class)
Chavala Shepard (Hopes and Dreams)
Ava Siegfeldt (World Class)
Mya Witte (Genie’s)
Jamie Wright (World Class)
Eva Volpe (Pearland)
Ella Zirbes (Flips)

American Classic conflicts with Junior Worlds in Hungary, so we won’t see those who ultimately make the J-worlds team (Spencer, stop trying to make J-worlds happen, it’s not going to happen). Of the nominative group—DiCello, McClain, Greaves, Blakely—only Blakely is even on the preliminary roster here, though she’ll pull out of this competition if she makes the team. Continue reading American Classic Rosters

The Japan Problem

I would say everything turned terrible this weekend, but like it wasn’t terrible before. Everything continued being terrible this weekend.

The big news is that, for reasons entirely beyond the grasp of sanity, Japan has decided Mai Murakami is not eligible to be selected for the world championships team. That’s sort of a problem in that, you know, she’s the defending all-around silver medalist, the best gymnast in the country, and one of the best gymnasts in the world. Oh also Japan’s performance at this year’s world championship will determine whether it qualifies a full team to the Tokyo Olympics. Just that.

We’ve always quaintly made fun of Japan’s preposterous selection procedure, where they select the worlds team 88 months in advance for some reason, base selection on placement at irrelevant meets, and pick gymnasts who are not the best options and who don’t even end up competing in the team final (cough), but it was all games and sprinkles until it started to affect Mai Murakami.

So here’s what Japan is trying to pull: Japan uses the combined standings after two days of national championships and one day of the NHK Trophy to determine the majority of the spots on the world championships team. This is despite those events being held in April and May and worlds being in October. Apparently, no one has ever seen the problem with that.

Out of the 5 members of the worlds team, 4 of the spots are assigned based on those combined standings at the conclusion of the NHK Trophy. So this year, the top 3 all-arounders booked their spots on the worlds team—Asuka Teramoto, Hitomi Hatakeda, and Aiko Sugihara. (Chiaki Hatakeda actually placed 3rd, ahead of Sugihara, but she is still a junior.)

In addition to those three, Nagi Kajita, who placed 7th overall and 5th among the seniors, was selected as the 4th members of the worlds team. Of note, she was selected ahead of Ayaka Sakaguchi, who finished 5th overall (4th among seniors), which is significant because it was a weird decision that didn’t look to be in the best interests of the team score, and was also an instance of Japan looking past the official standings to make a selection—showing that it’s not all “the results are the results” all the time. Continue reading The Japan Problem

Things Are Happening – June 7, 2019

A. The weekend ahead

No world cup events to watch this weekend, but I am looking forward to see what transpires at the FIT Challenge in Ghent. All the main Belgians will be there, alongside what (at least per the nominative rosters) should be a strong crop of Australians, several of the top-tier Dutch, and pretty much all the healthy gymnasts in the entire country of Romania. With those teams together, this should be a seriously informative preview of the race for the last couple Olympic team spots.

This weekend also brings the national championships for both France and Brazil (hopefully there’s no electricity sabotage-protest at Brazilians again this year, and by that I mean hopefully there is an electricity sabotage-protest at Brazilians again this year). France is even live streaming event finals on Sunday at 2:00pm local time, so at least someone has it together. Sadly, Marine Boyer is out.

The weekend also brings another US elite qualifier, this one at Auburn (in Washington, not Alabama). There’s one session for optionals on Friday evening, and then three more on Saturday, so keep an eye on those results if you’re fascinated. At least weekend’s Parkettes qualifier, eight more juniors got their qualifying scores to advance to Classic (led by Frazier The Younger). No seniors got their AA scores, with Victoria Nguyen just missing out on the requisite number, but Abigael Vides of WCC did get a three-event score for vault, beam, and floor.

B. NCAA developments

We’ve had some fairly significant team commitment news come over the last couple days, most exciting to me is word that Italy’s Clara Colombo is heading to Nebraska. Colombo is a viable all-arounder who is particularly adept on bars and has come closest to making Italian teams in the past because of her ability to go over 13 on UB.

Getting the second-tier Italian elites who do well in Serie A but never make the big teams into NCAA gymnastics is an all-time dream, though the language requirements typically seem an insurmountable issue. If this is the start of a trend, I’ll be over the moon. It’s a match made in face glitter.

Other elites heading to college: Laney Madsen has announced her commitment to UCLA. We don’t yet know what season (it’s still a verbal commitment not an NLI signing, which the 2019-2020ers did last November), but UCLA is hard at work trying to establish what’s going to happen when the Ross/Kocian/Hano class goes, with Chiles and Moors already set to start in that critical 2021 season. Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 7, 2019

No Skill For You

Today’s journey addresses skills that were officially named for specific athletes in the code of points at some time in the past, and then the code was like “BYE CINDY” either to just the name, just the skill, or even both. Fun for the whole family!

Note: There are many instances of this phenomenon (like many), and this should not be considered an exhaustive account by any means.

The Khorkina(s)

As part of the vast international conspiracy against Svetlana Khorkina because so very many people are jealous of her beauty and greatness, multiple skills once named after her are no longer attributed to Her Regal Khorkness in the code of points.

The Markelov—as it is named in the men’s code—was once named for Khorkina, who had been performing it since her early days when she had a ponytail (laser beam sound effect) and ponytailed her way onto the international stage at 1994 worlds.

But nearly immediately following Khorkina’s retirement, the skill was snatched away from her for undisclosed reasons, so while it still appears as an element in the code of points, it is no longer attributed to anyone by name.

The Markelov is not the only skill that was viciously stolen from Khorkina. She also once had the hop 1.5 to front support named after herself, and her name no longer appears associated with that skill either.

It is not, however, all about Khorkina [crack of thunder, he’s struck down dead], as we’ve also seen the elimination of the named element The Ziganshina, which used to be the tuck 2/1 to front support. Like Khorkina’s elements, that skill still exists (and was in fact upgraded from B to C in 2013, so the code is into it), yet it is mysteriously no longer named after Natalia Ziganshina.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s horrible looking, but when has that ever been a consideration before?

The Chow(s) Continue reading No Skill For You