The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

On Kyla, Gabby, and How It Doesn’t Really Matter

It occurs to me I never wrapped up my thoughts on the national championship, so here are just a few behind-schedule cognitive tangles about that competition before we move on to remembering that there are still two more national team camps before the WC squad is named and two more months until the actual competition.

On day 2 of nationals for the women, the world righted itself, with most of the competitors remembering that hitting routines is a thing you should probably do. It also reinforced why prospective team selection is such a fun game. There are a TON of realistic permutations for Worlds teams this year, all of which will end up scoring very similarly to one another, and some of which belie visual impressions from the competition. But which one do you choose?

Take Kyla, for example. Expectations are a funny thing. Kyla has been a top-2 AAer for the US this whole quad, majoring in not sucking at bars. So when she suddenly has a nasty Nationals and looks weak on bars, the sky is falling. That was certainly the attitude of our broadcast team. Al was even asking whether Kyla would make the selection camp. (Tim was like, “Derp. Obvi she’s making the selection camp.”) Yes correct, Tim.

But to me, and contrary to the overall tone of things, Kyla helped her chances to make the team with her performance on day 2 of nationals. At least, she made an argument for including her in the squad that she didn’t make on day 1. No, bars is not happening. But at this moment, it’s not really about bars for her. That’s the big change in expectations we have to make. With her current routine composition, Kyla isn’t making the team to do bars in TF even if she shaves several inches off her height and lands a dismount. (If she returns to her planned 6.3 and can hit by selection camp, it’s a different story, but that’s a lot to do.) Right now, it’s about beam. That’s where she can be top three. And she stepped up like hell there and did her job on day 2.

In fact, because she did her job (scoring several tenths ahead of a connection-free Aly Raisman and a strong Alyssa Baumann, and a point ahead of a wobbly Gabby Douglas), suddenly a team with Kyla on it makes a little sense now and outscores many of the other permutations. At least on the day. Playing the same game I did for day 1 scores, here’s the way some possible teams stack up according exclusively to their day 2 scores. 

Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Key, Kocian, Ross – 185.500 (Day 1: 181.750)
VT – 47.500: Biles 16.300, Nichols 15.850, Raisman 15.350
UB – 45.850: Kocian 15.600, Key 15.300, Biles 14.950
BB – 46.100: Biles 15.900, Ross 15.250, Raisman 14.950
FX – 46.050: Biles 15.850, Raisman 15.500, Key 14.700

This team didn’t score very well based on day 1 scores, but on day 2 it was stellar. Note that there’s a serious name missing from this group. This is why the numbers and team combinations sometimes don’t reinforce original visual impressions. Gabby had a pretty nice performance on day 2 (not Classics nice, but solid), and Kyla did not. Nonetheless, here we are, with this team and a 185.500. Now, I still think Gabby is necessary to the team and is among the safest selections, but she needs to show some “you have to take me” scores at camp to confirm her spot, particularly by outscoring Bailie Key on bars. Showing Classic-level beam would be nice too, though that wouldn’t be so nice for Kyla.

And to be fair, it’s not like a team with Douglas on it is scoring at all differently from this one. It’s just an interesting development. If you’re asking me my team, Gabby is on it without much hesitation.

Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Douglas, Kocian, Ross – 185.400 (Day 1: 181.850)
VT – 47.500: Biles 16.300, Nichols 15.850, Raisman 15.350
UB – 45.650: Kocian 15.600, Douglas 15.100, Biles 14.950
BB – 46.100: Biles 15.900, Ross 15.250, Raisman 14.950
FX – 46.150: Biles 15.850, Raisman 15.500, Douglas 14.800

Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Key, Kocian, Locklear – 185.400 (Day 1: 181.350)
VT – 47.500: Biles 16.300, Nichols 15.850, Raisman 15.350
UB – 46.350: Kocian 15.600, Locklear 15.450, Key 15.300
BB – 45.500: Biles 15.900, Raisman 14.950, Nichols 14.650
FX – 46.050: Biles 15.850, Raisman 15.500, Key 14.700

Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Douglas, Kocian, Locklear – 185.300 (Day 1: 182.100)
VT – 47.500: Biles 16.300, Nichols 15.850, Raisman 15.350
UB – 46.150: Kocian 15.600, Locklear 15.450, Douglas 15.100
BB – 45.500: Biles 15.900, Raisman 14.950, Nichols 14.650
FX – 46.150: Biles 15.850, Raisman 15.500, Douglas 14.800

(I REALLY like this team, but it relies on someone—Douglas—pulling a third beam routine together to be as competitive as the others.)

Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Douglas, Kocian, Baumann – 185.200 (Day 1: 182.600)
VT – 47.500: Biles 16.300, Nichols 15.850, Raisman 15.350
UB – 45.650: Kocian 15.600, Douglas 15.100, Biles 14.950
BB – 45.900: Biles 15.900, Baumann 15.050, Raisman 14.950
FX – 46.150: Biles 15.850, Raisman 15.500, Douglas 14.800

Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Douglas, Key, Kocian – 185.150 (Day 1: 181.950)
VT – 47.500: Biles 16.300, Nichols 15.850, Raisman 15.350
UB – 46.000: Kocian 15.600, Key 15.300, Douglas 15.100
BB – 45.500: Biles 15.900, Raisman 14.950, Nichols 14.650
FX – 46.150: Biles 15.850, Raisman 15.500, Douglas 14.800

Some of these options emphasize why Bailie Key is part of a safer team selection (she can go up on any event whenever and give you a usable score, which is a very convincing argument with Martha), but if you’re only using her for bars in TF, there are other choices.

Biles, Raisman, Nichols, Douglas, Key, Ross – 185.100 (Day 1: 181.600)
VT – 47.500: Biles 16.300, Nichols 15.850, Raisman 15.350
UB – 45.350: Key 15.300, Douglas 15.100, Biles 14.950
BB – 46.100: Biles 15.900, Ross 15.250, Raisman 14.950
FX – 46.150: Biles 15.850, Raisman 15.500, Douglas 14.800

More than anything else, these scores reinforce that it’s all essentially the same. Based on day 2 (a day of hit routines), all these different teams—leaving off Kyla, leaving off Bailie, leaving off Gabby—are scoring within a few tenths of each other. Choose any of the above, and it will be fine. The final scores will turn out about the same, and no one will have much of an argument that the selected team is unfair. Do whatever. Have a ball.

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