|Tonight, children, gather round and you shall learn of the miracle of the Professional Gymnastics Challenge, how a single day’s competition managed to burn for three whole nights. We enter this final stage of the event with the teams tied at two points each. We’re running out of events at this point, so the rope climb relay has now become one of the gymnastics apparatuses. It’s like a PE class from the 50s, but televised. I make fun because it’s so silly, but the relay turns out to be legitimately the most entertaining portion of the whole event. It’s a good lesson that sport is simple. Just put some people on a rope and make them race and shout. Basic competition is always interesting, unless it’s dressage.|
In a nearly identical finish, the US comes from behind and wins by a foot. There is some discussion about dropping to the ground versus completely finishing the climb, but whatever. It’s a rope climb. Are there real rules? As is always the case in relays, the US wins it in the transitions.
The US takes a 3-2 lead and we move on to the Audience AA portion. Apparently, people in the crowd were asked to vote about this round, which features one competitor per team on each event, but that part is all a little murky. What were the choices? Was it like a Sepp Blatter election? This round ends up working much better than some of the previous ones because the competitors are of equivalent level and performing equivalent skills.
The first two contests, Dalton and Gafuik vaulting double fronts and Ruggeri and Barbosa doing double backs on the pbars, are competitive enough but fairly clear in the final result. Gafuik lands very locked on his double front and Barbosa’s pbars work is much cleaner than Ruggeri’s.
We then turn to the uneven bars where Jessica Lopez performs an L-grip jaeger, a bail handstand, and a double front quite capably and efficiently with a few form breaks but strong overall quality. She is countered by none other than our beloved Kat Ding, who is so wonderful that she gets to single-handedly change the rules and no longer has to try to perform the same skills as Lopez, only the same ideas (a same-bar, a transition, and a dismount). While I question why we’re suddenly able to do this, it works better for the format. Allowing the gymnasts to do the same types of skills/equivalent skills instead of the exact same skills would result in fewer boring comparisons and forfeits. Ding looks rough early on her first handstand, but for being a year out of practice and competition, she looks near her usual Georgia self through the tkatchev, pak, and DLO and wins the point. Debatable, but we don’t care. It’s Kat Ding.
Next, Wynn the Ham takes the crown from Zam the Ham by instituting a posing contest on the rings. Petrounais mimics the skills with exceptional quality and even forces himself to preen to nearly the same degree. They are followed by Ponor and Shayla on the beam, doing bhs 1/1s again. Ponor’s is clearly stronger in the legs an the security on the beam as she completes the full turn with legs together while Shayla does not. After a tie and an audience vote, the point goes to Shayla. We’ll get to that in the second.
Then, Jana Bieger returns from the grave and uses her flung out tuck full to beat LAChong’s very underdone double front 1/2, which gives the the United States the round and the competition victory, in spite of Sam Oldham going much cleaner through pirouettes and a double double layout on high bar to take a point from Naddour.
BUT WAIT! We still have 30 minutes of show and an entire rotation left, so the World team suddenly decides to protest the Ponor/Shayla result, giving Ponor the point that she rightfully earned and keeping the competition going until the last event. Oh, look how well that worked out. I have no problem with this kind of built-up insanity (even though it does go very circus) because it’s not like anyone is watching to see who wins or cares about that or is under any illusions about this being a serious event with results and trying. Of course they should ensure it goes down to the last routine to keep up the feeling of this being a competition. Now, it’s 3-3 going to the last event, which will be High Bar and Women’s Single Rail (aka He Kexin Bars).
This rotation sends us back to the trends of forfeiting and rules that don’t make any sense. Laura-Ann Chong does a giant 1.5 with the final full turn after vertical, which no American gymnast does because there’s little need for it in NCAA and because the elite code would kill it with deductions and Martha would never stand for it.
Sam Oldham then pretends like he’s tall enough to have made it as a legitimate footballer before performing a rather strong tkatchev 1/2, jam 1/1, DLO sequence. Paul Ruggeri attempts the same but is over on the jam and misses. The US then invokes the double down, where he gets to try again but Oldham doesn’t for some reason. Ruggeri hits and wins and gets two points, which is super silly for his having fallen on the first try and not also giving the one who originally did it better a chance to do it better again. Oh, hilarious format.
Things get even better on the next challenge where we finally get to see Brie Olson’s deltchev and DLO 1/1 (even though the deltchev is more impressive when it is between the bars instead of on one bar). The World team gathers to discuss how to respond, but Nastia is extremely eager to make sure they don’t think they can throw in some ratty gienger and pretend it’s the same. She gets her own back for the double stag incident during the beam rotation by aggressively shouting, “That was a deltchev! It’s not a gienger! It’s a deltchev!” at Bogi. Once again, this should be the whole show, just give them a scene where they shout at each other about all the skills. Is there any doubt that Nastia came out as the all-star of this whole event? Way to commit.
Things go back and forth for the remainder of the rotation. Gafuik shows a strong jam 1/2 + Kovacs, while Legendre’s jam was ug-o on his attempt to match it. Chuso also performs a jam, then shows an empty swing to get all 1992 up in this competition. Is it bad that bar routines have become so static and predictable that I miss empty swings? She finishes with a tuck full and the US forfeits. Memmel is the only one who can do a jam, but she doesn’t have a tuck full. Plus, we don’t know if she is bars capable right now.
Lopez performs a couple tkatchevs in a row, and I’m surprised Shayla doesn’t counter because a streak of tkatchevs was her whole elite routine. Zam goes instead and falls on the first tkatchev and presents joyfully on the ground.
Boy Barbosa shows a triple double, and Dalton does well to stand his up but flings it out rather significantly and loses the point. Laura-Ann Chong does her double front 1/2 again to a much better result. It appears for a moment as though Nastia is the only one in the US corner who could do that (and that one was always debatable), but Alina Weinstein pops up and does an excellent version to get the point.
At this point, Team USA has already become the clear victor as Bieger shows a stalder tkatchev (a ricna, not a hindorff, John), and Girl Barbosa tries to match it with a ray and falls. Paul Ruggeri goes up in the final battle and seals things the competition with german giants, which no one was ever going to be able to match.
So, the US team wins 4-3. We all had a good smile and got to see some old and new friends be silly and perform some skills against each other. I give permission for this competition to return, but learn from some of these debacles and don’t be afraid to get rid of all the boring parts.