2018 US Nationals – Senior Podium Training & Preview

Item #1: Morgan vs. Ragan vs. Riley

Yes, I’m beginning this preview with a little twist and not starting with Simone. Now that Simone is back and already looking inevitable again, the big story shifts to figuring out who will be her all-around partner in the role that Kyla Ross and Aly Raisman inhabited so diligently last quad. It’s going to get real.

Morgan Hurd is the defending world champion, Ragan Smith is the defending national champion, and Riley McCusker is the only non-Simone American to have gone 57 this year.

Only 2 people will be able to go in the AA final at worlds.
Only 3 people will (most likely) go in the AA in qualification.
This town ain’t big enough.

Well, it’s big enough for them all to go to worlds, potentially. That would be…sort of a good team. But this town definitely isn’t big enough for everyone to fulfill her AA dreams at the same time.

On both difficulty and execution, all three are tightly packed and could end up finishing in any order. At US Classic, McCusker ended up a little more than a point ahead of Hurd, who had a fall, while Hurd had 0.3 more difficulty than McCusker. If Smith had done AA, she likely would have been ahead of both on difficulty but behind both in the final scores because of her miss on bars.

(Smith did have some more Stadler Tkatchev-ing problems in podium training today—I saw two mat slams and a tuck-to-save—but worked it out occasionally. That Ricna will be one of the key skills of nationals.)

While an actual decision about where all three stand in the all-around picture will be made based more on selection camp and closer-to-worlds training than on this competition, nationals should still give us an indication about which way the wind is blowing. Does McCusker have the floor composition and vault consistency to keep up with the other two? Is Smith back to full strength? Is she adding the upgrades she teased at Classic? I didn’t notice any upgrades in podium training for Smith for the moment, save for a triple wolf on beam instead of double wolf. Even without upgrades, she’s still looking at a modest D-score advantage. But is she ready to beat the others? Continue reading 2018 US Nationals – Senior Podium Training & Preview


2018 US Nationals – Junior Preview

Junior nationals! It’s like senior nationals, but doesn’t matter as much.

Reinforced by, well, everything has been the emergence of a junior Big Four—sort of like the Russia, USA, China, Romania version of the Big Four, except no one is Romania, may she rest in peace. Sunisa Lee, Jordan Bowers, Leanne Wong, and Kayla DiCello have created some real distance from the rest of the pack and every expectation is that they will fight it out among themselves to see who is the 2018 junior national champion.

Juniors compete on Friday and Sunday at 1:30 ET, streaming online.

For the win

What’s exciting is that each of the four looks just as realistic as any other to win the title. A convincing argument can be made for all.

Scoring Potential – This is where Sunisa Lee has the advantage. When she is hitting her intended D scores on all four pieces, she cannot be caught. Her potential bars difficulty is worlds ahead of the other juniors right now, but she also boasts the top floor score of the group with 13.800. I wouldn’t have guessed that without looking, but it proves that it’s not all about the bars and beam for Lee. The big test for her will be bringing all that difficulty back (she did not show full D at US Classic) and doing it in hit routines across two full days of competition, therefore not rendering herself vulnerable to the Sturdy Gurdys who don’t have such big routines.

Winning Pedigree – The best way to figure out who’s going to win is to look at who has won before. The top juniors have ventured to a couple major international competitions already this year—Pacific Rims and the Junior Pan American Championships—and on each occasion Jordan Bowers has come home with the all-around gold medal, outscoring the very people she’ll be expected to outscore to win a junior national championship this week, and doing it in front of the discerning judging panels of international competitions. Continue reading 2018 US Nationals – Junior Preview

Dude Week 2018: Euros Event Finals


The host nation couldn’t have started the final day of competition any better as Dom Cunningham pulled out the upset victory on floor exercise to take gold ahead of a number of his higher-D colleagues.

Cunningham’s 6.1 D may have seemed to put him at a disadvantage, but his routine was noticeably free of the major OOB errors that befell the medal favorites and their 6.4 Ds. Top qualifier Artem Dolgopyat went out with both feet on his first pass, a 0.3 neutral deduction that took him down to second place, with Nikita Nagornyy suffering the exact same result on his opening triple back, putting him in 4th place. Both finished less than three tenths behind Cunningham.

Artur Dalaloyan did not go OOB but did have a major stumble back on a front double pike that gave him the lowest E score of the top four finishers, nonetheless still good enough for bronze based on difficulty and lack-of-OOB-ness.

Alex Shatilov went through cleanly but wasn’t quite as crisp in the landings to take fifth place, which obviously should have been first place because Shatilov. He and Nguyen had to settle for 5th and 6th, while the two who fell, Zapata and Onder, occupied the bottom positions.


We can officially crown our new king of pommel horse as Rhys McClenaghan hit his super-difficult routine for 15.300 to pretty much bury the rest of the field, deservedly receiving both the highest D score and highest E score of the final. It wasn’t close.

The big surprise of the final was the mistake from Max Whitlock, who didn’t so much fall at first, just lost his rhythm and had to stand atop the pommel horse looking down at it like a stern father who isn’t mad at the pommel horse, just disappointed.

“Sigh. I just thought we taught you better than that.”

Also I’m pretty sure there’s a statue of that exact image in a Florentine piazza somewhere. Continue reading Dude Week 2018: Euros Event Finals

Dude Week 2018: Euros Team Final

Sheesh. Phew. Other sound effects.

Well…we knew a team would count three falls on high bar in the final. We just didn’t necessarily have the right team in mind.

The ultimate standings of the men’s European final informing us that Russia won gold and Great Britain took silver may look like a normal, ho-hum result, exactly as expected coming into the championship, but the sack of crazy that was this final took us on many strange and mind-altering journeys before arriving at its anticipated ending.

Through five events, a Russian performance squarely in the OK-not-great category had opened the door to a somewhat unanticipated challenge from the Brits. Now, there were still highlights from Russia on those first five events, mostly involving Dalaloyan and Belvavskiy, but a seat drop (bad kind) from Nagornyy on floor, Lankin getting caught in a dust devil on his rings dismount for some reason, and Nagornyy having an intimate moment with the left rail on PBars took the Russians somewhat off track. Continue reading Dude Week 2018: Euros Team Final

Things Are Happening – August 10, 2018


EVO Athletics—the gym in Florida where Aimee Boorman works now—announced today that it will be the temporary home of US women’s national team while a permanent training facility is constructed/discovered/wished upon.

That means that EVO will host events like the worlds selection camp and the prep camps this year (developmental camps are still scheduled to be held at the Flip Fest location as of the latest calendar).

Of course, the cynical part of me is going, “You just wanted to be vaguely associated with Aimee Boorman so that no one would criticize this decision because everyone loves her,” even though it’s not like Aimee is suddenly running the camps. She’s not going to be storming in with a cape yelling, “By your powers combined, I’m AIMEE BOORMAN!”

But, USAG did have to find a temporary location that’s free of NCAA conflicts of interest, current elite conflicts of interest, and being-just-someone’s-house conflicts of interest, with the necessary facilities and without a history of being terrible. EVO seems to fit those requirements well.

B. The deal with the nationals roster

As we discuss on this week’s GymCastic, the mystery of Deanne Soza’s qualification to nationals has been solved. Sort of.

The word on the street is that following US Classic, the International Elite Committee met and decided to lower the three-event qualifying score from 39.750 to 39.500, allowing Soza to get in with her performance from Classic. You know, like how you change the rules after a competition? And don’t even bother to tell anyone? How that’s a thing that happens? Continue reading Things Are Happening – August 10, 2018

Dude Week 2018: Euros Qualification

OK, so everything is terrible. Don’t worry about it.

After the death-by-a-thousand-pokes that is men’s qualifying day, the standings are official and we have learned that the odd team out is our dear Netherlands, finishing 9th. There were always going to be some potential stumbling blocks for this team, but a disastrous floor rotation would not have been super high on that list. Floor? That was supposed to be the good one. Instead, losing multiple points against its expected scores on floor is ultimately what took the Netherlands down, not just out of the medal conversation but out of the team final entirely. The Dutch men are basically the German women of this Euros.

In better news for Russia, it turns out they’re a lot better than everyone else. Like a lot. Russia qualified in first place by SEVEN POINTS despite being exactly as emotionally troubling on high bar as we all feared and expected. Russia ended up in 9th place on HB but won every other event, several by a significant margin, so it basically didn’t matter. We knew Russia was the best team here. We didn’t know Russia was the best team here by that much.

Great Britain did not have a perfect day en route to its second-place qualifying position— with a couple misses on vault and problems for Whitlock on floor—but even with a fully hit competition, it’s hard to see GB challenging the Russia we saw today. As things stand now, it appears Russia would need to have a super-duper-meltdown in the team final for Great Britain to take gold (not even just a regular Russia meltdown because that happened today on HB, and it was fine).

The Brits will retain silver-favorite status going into the team final since their qualification performance was still clearly better than anyone else’s, with the expectation that vault will improve in the final as well to boost the totals a little. Continue reading Dude Week 2018: Euros Qualification

Dude Week 2018: US Men’s Nationals

In just over one week’s time, you might find yourself watching the men compete at US nationals, simultaneously developing the sudden need to have extreme, loud, and uncompromising opinions about who should go to worlds based on the exactly three routines you just watched.

It’s an important part of the gymnerd experience.

To supplement these extreme opinions, here’s a little refresher on the major players and what their whole deals are right now.

We’ll start with Sam Mikulak (you know him!), who will be returning to his traditional status as all-around favorite at nationals this year. Last year, Mikulak was attempting to come back from his Achilles tendon transforming into the tentacles of a sadistic octopus and therefore competed only two events at nationals, horse and high bar. He was nonetheless named to the worlds team to compete high bar, but not without a little Simone-Morgan about whether he had truly earned a spot on the team with his performances in the lead-up to worlds.

This year, there should be no such controversy. Mikulak is back to competing the all-around and reminding everyone that the reason he gets named to every team every year is that he’s better than the other choices, especially on key events to the US team.

There’s always the worry about inconsistency, because Sam will fall sometimes, but his all-around scoring potential and strengths are far too valuable to the US team to be compromised by falls here and there. Mikulak went 86 at both days of Winter Cup to win the competition in a breeze, and would have recorded another 86 at the national qualifier had he chosen to compete vault. An 86 is the score this quad (all necessary caveats about domestic scoring included).

Best placed to challenge Mikulak will be exemplar of all that is good and right in men’s gymnastics, Yul Moldauer. Moldauer put himself directly in the mix with his American Cup score of 85.964, and seeing him win his second straight national championship would not be a surprise at all. The playbook on Moldauer is the same as it has been. He doesn’t have the huge, event-final type D scores, but it doesn’t matter so much because of his execution. Continue reading Dude Week 2018: US Men’s Nationals

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama