The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Post-Championships Olympic Prospects

So…what happened at nationals? Nothing? Probably nothing.


Simone did Simone things and was brilliant in spite of taking up arms for World War III about her day 2 wobblefest beam routine. This is the major problem with NBC basically bestowing her with five automatic gold medals. Beam is still beam. “Oh, you only won four gold medals at the Olympics? Loser disappointment.”

Aly Raisman also received 5 out of 5 brick houses for bringing back Steady Aly to a degree we haven’t seen since 2012. Her eight routines were all exact duplicates of each other, just like we expect from her. It may be a hologram-fraud situation. MIHAI IS A CHARLATAN.

B. ???

Mostly, we need to talk about NBC’s team graphic, which made every human go, “But really?” and featured a wildly haphazard and truly offensive number of superfluous question marks. A) Three question marks is always too many question marks in a non-ironic context. One question mark will suffice. B) I definitely don’t have that many question marks about this team.

Laurie Hernandez came to nationals with a chance to confirm her spot on the Olympic team by hitting her normal routines, which she did. Tying Raisman on the first day and finishing third overall simply reinforced that she has become an integral part of the team at the level of Raisman and Douglas. She’s not Plan B. She’s Plan A.


As for Miss Gabrielle, she’s doing fine. Bars was blech, and that more than her wobbly opening beam routine (since as of right now I wouldn’t have her on beam in the TF anyway) has provoked the overreaction about her team status.

She finished fourth in the AA and continues to be a reasonable team final option on any event. Even with her sucky bars, she still finished 6th there, which remains usable. You wouldn’t take Gowey (5th place) to the Olympics over Douglas as long as you’re a person who isn’t insane, and there’s no way in frozen hell Martha is putting both Kocian and Locklear on the same Olympic team. That team may score incredibly well (it’s the best-scoring team in the calculator), but it would also mean that Martha wouldn’t have the luxury of breaking anyone into kindling and dousing them with lighter fluid during the prep camp—at least not without first needing to find the key to the alternate dungeon, which she has lost—so it’s not happening.

Douglas would have to seriously screw up trials (as in multiple falls, of which she had none at nationals) for anything else to start to entering the conversation.

D. Bars bars bars bars bars

Madison Kocian did herself a massive favor on the second day by equaling Locklear on bars and finishing 5th overall, even with a yfull. After two days, Kocian was 1.350 behind Douglas, meaning she might actually have finished ahead of Douglas if she had done her DTY. While vault has literally zero percent to do with Kocian’s role on an Olympic team, a 4th-place finish would have been a major coup and essentially would have placed her on a golden throne and eliminated all question marks from the graphic.

Kocian matching Locklear’s 15.700 on the second day was a big deal because all bars being equal, Martha takes Kocian over Locklear 100% of the time. The power of the all-around. The only true argument Locklear has is if she’s beating Kocian on bars by a real margin (more than a tenth), and Kocian put a stop to that trend on day two.

The struggle in being a challenger, like Locklear, is that you have to make your case every single time out. She was ahead of Kocian at classic and on day one, but one good routine from Kocian on the second day makes it so easy to revert back to the presumptive team.

Personally, I’m still quite high on Locklear, and if I were Martha, I would be much more inclined to consider her than I think Martha actually is. It shouldn’t matter that Locklear does only two events to anyone who doesn’t suffer from alternateophobia. So what if she can’t fill in as a backup on vault and floor in case of injury. That’s exactly what you have alternates for! Go get Nichols or someone.

Unfortunately, Martha does suffer from an acute case of  alternateophobia. So even though it should simply come down to whoever scores better on bars at trials —since the other events are so irrelevant for them—it won’t. Grumble grumble grumble.

The other thing hurting Locklear is that there’s no way she’s getting properly rewarded for her superior execution at the Olympics. They’d just give her a 9.033 E score anyway, which will be only two tenths higher than some wonky-legged albatross. As usual.

E. Some Nichols

There’s no real opinion to be had on Maggie Nichols’ showing at nationals. This was just a practice. She didn’t show her important events and wasn’t in top form. Mirroring Douglas, Nichols had a rusty old tire of a beam routine on the first day and the same on bars on the second day, but what truly matters for her is trials.

Unless Nichols has an Amanar and the double double back on floor at trials, she’s not making the team. There’s no way. But if she suddenly does, she remains capable of breaking the Biles, Raisman, Douglas, Hernandez, Kocian royal court.

One thing helping Nichols is that the non-Biles/Raisman floor scores at nationals were just OK. Hernandez, Douglas, and Skinner were consistently in the 14.800 zone. Nichols can score over 15 on floor, which gives her a couple tenths to add to her argument, along with the .3-.5 she would bring to the team with an Amanar. One of those two things would not be enough. If she’s only bringing a couple tenths on floor, that won’t earn a spot on a team, and if she’s only bringing the vault, then she’s just another Skinner but without the EF prospects.

If Nichols’ routines at trials are able to increase the prospective team score by a total of .5-.6 across vault and floor, that’s equivalent to what Kocian brings with bars and would start to be a compelling case. There’s a long way to go to, but it could happen. Plus, keeping her in the mix makes this at least somewhat interesting for us heading to trials, and that’s the most important thing.

F. Alternate dungeon

We’ll also need to come up with three more people for the completely unnecessary charade of naming alternates. As long as Nichols shows the AA at trials, she will be an alternate if she doesn’t make the team. Same with Kocian if she doesn’t make it. Locklear will probably be there, but it isn’t necessarily a guarantee.

If Kocian makes the team, Locklear must be on hand as a replacement should Kocian’s body start to Kocian. If Kocian ends up an alternate, however, Locklear does not need to be one as well because Kocian would already be fulfilling the replacement-who-does-bars role.

As for the remaining spot(s), I don’t really buy the growing argument for Hundley getting one. She has put out fantastic and heartwarming performances so far this summer, but those spots are still more likely to go to Skinner or Smith or Baumann. If through some 2003-style disaster one of them ends up on the team, those three can still provide a worthwhile event or two in a team final. Hundley’s burden is that she’s solid everywhere and great nowhere. She doesn’t have any TF routines.


I’m devastated by how non-heartless the committee was in selecting the trials qualifiers. They basically just picked everyone and broke no hearts whatsoever. I DON’T EVEN THINK I KNOW YOU ANYMORE. Fifteen people is a lot of people to take to trials given that several of them are not in the mix even for an alternate spot.

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