The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Trials 2016: The Olympic Team Is Nobody

If you don't start behaving, NO ONE's going to the Olympics. I WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND.

Continuing their mission to make everything complicated and impossible, the men concluded the first day of Summer Winter Cup last night, and it went terribly. At least for me.

If you don’t start behaving, NO ONE’s going to the Olympics. I WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND.

Sam Mikulak remained a lock for the team but aggressively botched his first two routines, still somehow managing to score 14.975 on PBars even with a fall. This competition successfully confirmed that Sam Mikulak could strip naked, glue tassels to his nipples, and do the macarena and still get a 16, while also doing nothing to deter conspiracy theorists who believe that the Chosen Ones will get the Chosen Scores regardless of performance (see also: Jake Dalton’s floor).

In the most important news and the only topic any right-minded person cares about, things didn’t go great for Paul Ruggeri on high bar for 14.650. It’s not so devastating if you look at the actual results (Paul remains in the top 3 on three events even after last night’s competition), but in the world of gymnastics where narrative is king and evidence is merely the court jester, it’s not a good look.

I said in the preview that selecting a team is way easier when Ruggeri is doing poorly and as such he couldn’t give the selection committee any reason to slap him with the alternate paddle, but that’s just what he did. Let’s all hope he gets saved by the algorithm. Everyone except Chris Brooks has messed up high bar at some point during the process, but Ruggeri did so more recently than some of the others.

He isn’t helped by NBC’s framing of the team race…

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(Whittenburg and Naddour are locks now…? Dalton isn’t…?)

Contrary to the power of the graphic, Ruggeri’s primary argument for the team right now is that he still ranks ahead of Donnell Whittenburg on both floor and vault (Ruggeri has the higher average and peak scores on both events across the summer competitions). As Whittenburg continues to fall in the race to be the 2nd AAer (another 5th place finish last night), his own arguments are becoming rings and PBars, rather than floor and vault as we sort of expected them to be. His scores on floor and vault so far can be matched or bested by a number of people, while his rings is his rings (almost always) and he won PBars on night one.

I do think Whittenburg probably makes the team. I don’t think he’s more valuable than Dalton, though, who should not be framed as in some random fight with Ruggeri for a last-ditch spot.

I also take issue with Naddour as a lock. I recognize that he did himself a huge favor by hitting pommel horse (just as significantly, pretty much everyone else looked awful there). He also scored well on rings and looked half un-terrifying on vault, but I have a lot of trouble putting together a team with Dalton, Whittenburg, and Naddour on it because of DEAR GOD HIGH BAR. You’re potentially losing a legit full point on high bar by having to use one of them instead of Brooks or Ruggeri, which is not cool. If you’re saying both Whittenburg and Naddour are locks, I start to have serious issues with adding Dalton as well. And Dalton needs to be on that team.

If you do put Dalton, Whittenburg, and Naddour on the same team, basically your only option to fill the team out is with Mikulak and Orozco, otherwise pommel horse is guaranteed to be just as big of a mess. I’m once again starting to think this might be the team because it’s the milquetoast compromise that isn’t completely horrible anywhere and is sure to frustrated everyone, but it’s giving away so much on high bar.

Speaking of these other lovely complications to the whole mess, let’s get to my other darling beloveds Orozco and Leyva (or as Emily Blunt calls them “dos Latinos”…never forget what happened there). Orozco and Leyva were both…kind of good in some places on the first night. LIKE WE NEEDED THAT, GUYS. THANKS A LOT.

I’m not even addressing Leyva’s stuck best-ever vault because don’t toy with us. We’ve lived through the trauma.

Elsewhere, Orozco nailed PBars and HBar, while Leyva nailed PBars and …nailed? HBar with routines that would be quite viable in a team final context. Orozco, however, somewhat shot himself in the foot later by not-so-nailing pommel horse. Leyva hit pommel horse but still scored 14.675, which is a very good score and usable for the US but also not exactly a TAKE ME SPECIFICALLY FOR POMMEL HORSE score. The same problem we’ve always had with Leyva on horse.

In this area, I don’t really disagree with NBC’s construction of the race (WHAT). If you’re too nervous about using Orozco and Leyva on pommel horse (justified), then they become PB and HB gymnasts, the same as Chris Brooks. All three would bring the same thing to the team, and Brooks has been the most consistent and has the highest peak scores of the three on both events. He got somewhat overshadowed there last night because of the Leyva and Orozco “comeback” performances, but Brooks still has the numbers on his side.

Brooks also remains the #2 AAer, which is a boon for his argument. The #2 is supposed to be Whittenburg, but he hasn’t shown the consistency at all so far in the trials process. Right now, Brooks is your #2, but the argument for Orozco to take that spot instead of Brooks is that he just “might” give you a usable PH score 1 out of every 4 times, which is something, and that his horse misses can still score better than hits from Brooks, Whittenburg, Dalton, or Ruggeri.

Donothan Bailey finished fourth! I know! That’s so cool. Of course, it reflects more on how everyone else screwed up than anything else, but still!

Yul Moldauer had some strong performances until high bar, though he remains not quite TAKE ME TO THE TEAM FINAL on any event to make a push for the five. I need him to go for 2017 worlds, though, once all the grandpas quit or take breaks to let their bodies heal.

Akash Modi has been on the periphery of the argument because of his potential on horse, but a 14.125 there only hurt his case. He still scored better than nearly everyone. Womp.

Hope that clears up nothing!

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