The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – July 1, 2016

A. The Greatest Uneven Bars Routine You Will Ever See

Step aside, Nabz. There’s a new sheriff in town.

I love Russian Cup soooooooo much. It’s difficult to quantify the amount Mustafina is over this routine. I would say she’s having none of it, but she’s actually having negative numbers of it. She gets about halfway through and is like, “Mission complete! Bye bye now.”

This is a COMPETITION routine.

I would rather watch this than a gold medal routine any day. I basically haven’t stopped laughing. Praise be to Aliya.

B. Russian Cup

Did other routines happen? Because it doesn’t even matter at this point. I’m set.

Afanasyeva did not participate because of her case of chronic Russia, but she is theoretically still in the running for Rio. They’re pretty much just planning to cover her in healing spells and wheel her out on a gurney for qualification, hoping for the best. I figured it would be Mustafina who would have to be carried around the Rio competition floor by four strapping German nurses, but it looks like it will be Afan instead. #cantpredictgymnastics.

Melnikova and Mustafina are obviously leading the way (Mustafina even added a full-in to her spin-exercise routine!), but GET THIS, Tutkhalyan hit beam. I know. Given the serious physical and emotional trauma Russian beam inflicts upon us all, that would seem to be a big deal in spite of her frequent falling problems (at least she could get a 14), but Russia may view Tutkhalyan and Afanasyeva as too similar. Tutkhalyan may just end up being the backup in case Afanasyeva can’t go.

The picture has been complicated because of bars. Russia needs to be phenomenal on bars because it’s bars, but Russian Cup was not a phenomenal bars showing. Several people struggled, including Paseka, who would would be a theoretical TF choice for bars in some team combinations. If I were Russia, I would be quite concerned about the bars score on a team without Spiridonova. Even though Spiridonova brings just one routine, they can’t really afford bars to be just Mustafina and some 14s. Plus, Spiridonova would bring another high probability event medal. The question is whether you get more from Spiridonova’s bars or from Tutkhalyan’s beam and floor. (Or from Paseka’s vault?)

The biggest risk in a Mustafina, Melnikova, Paseka, Afanasyeva, Spiridonova team is that Russia really must be sure Afan can give them floor (and beam) at a team final level. Otherwise, Tutkhalyan is absolutely necessary. They may not have the luxury to wait until the last minute to see if Afanasyeva can go on floor because there’s very little backup for her if she can’t.

C. Baumann out

Welp, it was inevitable. Fifteen whole gymnasts staying intact throughout the selection process? Never. Alyssa Baumann injured her elbow in training and is now out of trials, rendering the trials competition, scientists estimate, somewhere between 42 and 51 percent less glorious.

Baumann was having a solid summer, in spite of the bizarrely in-depth coverage of her irrelevant bars routines that made it seem like she was a big old smoldering disaster. She was looking much closer to the alternate race than I thought she would be heading into the process, but now the race for the final alternate spot just got a little more open.

Next stop, Florida’s anchor spot on beam.

D. Canadian Olympic team!

The Canadian Olympic team is Ellie Black, Isabela Onyshko, BRITTANY ROGERS, Shallon Olsen, and Rose Woo. Feelings about Brittany Rogers can always be summed up entirely through caps lock.

I was on team Madison Copiak for the final spot, but she got all 12sy on the last day of trials, while Woo hit a critical beam routine. With Black, Onyshko and Olsen covering floor (and Black, Rogers, and Olsen covering vault), the holes on the team appeared to be on bars and beam, and having Rose Woo hitting solid beam sets for 14s means that Canada shouldn’t have to use Rogers in the TF. Brittany Rogers is a gorgeous beam worker, but those of us who have lived through the last four years of Georgia beam lineups know exactly why this decision was made.

This team is better than the Canadian side that finished 6th at worlds last year, particularly with Shallon Olsen adding that third comfortable and competitive vault and floor routine that the team lacked in 2015. I still am concerned about a third bars routine, but they should be right in that hunt among the second-tier teams and a repeat of the 2012 result is not inconceivable.

E. I hear the Romania died

How much of a disaster is Romania? Let me count the ways!

With Larisa Iordache in a race against time to have working fingers again, it seems only fitting that she would trip into a gaping abyss and get a concussion while Catalina Ponor simultaneously contracted SARS or whatever.  So…why even have Romanian nationals at this point?

The Romanian Olympic spot is going to Becky Cameron.

F. Paige Zaziski to Michigan

This got lost in the shuffle of nationals and trials, but Zaziski’s transfer to Michigan is a fairly significant roster shakeup. I would say it’s worse for Arkansas than it is good for Michigan, though it is good for Michigan.

Zaziski did not have quite as impressive a sophomore year as her freshman year, when she was getting 9.9s on vault and bars and doing the AA, but she was still good for a 9.850 on three events in 2016 and can be a viable mid-lineup contributor on several pieces for Michigan. Michigan has some serious gymnastics coming in (Osman, Funk, O’Hara, Shchennikova) and was not necessarily in dire need of a transfer, but this helps consumer confidence in the team’s depth a ton.

For Arkansas, Zaziski was their #2 gymnast behind Wellick, and losing her has not come at a good time, when the team is also losing 2016 seniors Dillard, Canizaro, Glover, and Freier. That means Arkansas is returning just two bars routines and three beam routines from last year’s final lineups. Heather Elswick redshirted 2016 and has another year, and the freshman contingent is large, but…Amanda Wellick and Guests?

G. Macey Roberts to Utah

Utah filled out its newfound roster hole by adding sophomore Macey Roberts, a transfer from Maryland. I’d primarily expect to see her contending for floor, where she showed a double pike, rudi routine that was good for consistent 9.8s last season and could be in the mix, though she also did also compete vault every week.

H. Penn State

Contrary to what the Penn State athletic department hoped, we did not all just suddenly forget about everything when Rachelle resigned. Because we’re not goldfish.

Jeff Thompson remains the head coach, so now, a group of Penn State alums is saying, “Oh, hey, incorrect.”

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