The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

(Terrible) Things Are Happening – July 15, 2016

A. John Orozco


John Orozco suffered his 118th ACL tear and is out of the Olympics, to be replaced by Danell Leyva. Orozco’s injury is a lesson that as long as you work hard and are kind and generous, shitty things will keep happening to you forever because life is garbage. Get ready for all the emotionally exploitative narrative fluff at the Olympics!

Leyva is the natural replacement for Orozco on PBars and HBar (as long as he has his high bar together………) though this does mean that Leyva will also have to go on pommel horse in the team final. Orozco’s scoring potential on horse is higher than Leyva’s, but it’s also horse and America, so scoring potential isn’t always that meaningful. Someone was going to get a 13 anyway. Might as well be Leyva. Leyva and Orozco are similar enough that this probably shouldn’t change expectations for what the US will accomplish in Rio all that dramatically.

Leyva finished very well in the all-around at trials and thought he should have been named to the team based on that, but he also handled it like an adult person and is now going back to the Olympics. Just throwing that out there.

B. Team GB Women

Great Britain announced its Olympic teams this week, with the relatively non-dramatic women’s team being Downie 1, Downie 2, Fragapane, Tinkler, and Harrold. This is the expected team,  a decision far less wrought than GB’s 2012 team selection. Jupp and Simm would have been right in the running, but they’re both very 6th-person-on-the-team and fall victim to the limited size of the Olympic squads. Also, #CatherineLyons2020

In fact, this is the exact team that performed in the 2015 team final (since Simm competed only in qualification). It’s a well-rounded group that brings critical DTYs and can realistically aim to finish second to the US on floor in the team final. Bars will feature the Downies and Harrold and can be brilliant or terrifying, or both at the same time. Beam is, of course, the scariest because of Great Britain. At their best the Downies and Fragapane can put up competitive scores, but everyone is a fall risk. I’m already nervous about it.

C. Team GB Men

The men’s selection was far more dramatic, as it seems to be for most countries these days, marked by the shocking exclusion of Dan Purvis in favor of Brinn Bevan, who is joined by Whitlock, Wilson, Thomas, and Smith. I didn’t even really consider that possibility (because when is Purvis not on the British team?), and I remain emotionally devastated at the idea that My Purvy will not be at the Olympics. I’m seriously considering photoshopping him into a photo of the team in place of Louis Smith. Too soon?

PapaLiukin has a very good writeup of the reasoning behind the decision (vault, vault, vault, vault, and more vault) and the most likely TF lineup. It’s a risky little game—so I can’t be too angry because I love risky teams—to dismiss Johnny Solid in the hope that Bevan brings in a big vault score and that Smith justifies his place for one event. If Bevan doesn’t get a big vault score, it’s tough to argue his value over Purvis.

As for Smith, he often does justify his place on teams for just one event because his PH score is so high that it negates the couple extra tenths Purvis could have brought on floor or PBars. Picking him does make sense, but I have to admit part of me was hoping Smith would be left off just for the inevitable social media tantrum. Yes, I’m part of the problem, not part of the solution.

D. Russian team

So there’s that. At least until someone else’s knee ligaments fall into a gully. Through all of this, it seems like the message to Seda is, “Ugh, I guess we’ll take you, but the second Afan can walk again, we’re sending you to that dungeon under Kazakhstan that we definitely don’t have shhhh.”

This still has the potential to be a very good team, even if it’s too dependent on Mustafina and Melnikova and will have to rely on Tutkhalyan to do hit-routine things. This group of five can more than get by, and with no other team looking all that overwhelming, “getting by” may yet be enough for silver. Floor will be an adventure.

E. Axelle Klinckaert

Because things continue to be awful, Axelle Klinckaert is injured and off the Belgium team, denying the world an opportunity to gaze upon her floor routine, which is so bizarre, and I adore it completely.

Some of her choreography is pecking. I love it so much I just want to smash it.

Klinckaert was working a DTY and was by far Belgium’s best AAer. The team takes a serious hit with this injury and probably falls to 12th in the ranking of the teams heading to the Olympics, although making it as a team was the big accomplishment for Belgium anyway. The rest is gravy.

F. Italian team & TF prospects

Italy’s Olympic team will be Ferrari, Ferlito, Fasana, Rizzelli, and Meneghini, which is probably as strong as it could be. Bars is going to be a problem, but it was going to be a problem no matter which team had been selected. They’ll need a big number from Rizzelli there otherwise things are going to be all kinds of 13. On the other events, Italy should be able to put up 3-4 quite solid scores with Ferrari and Ferlito doing the heavy lifting.

If I were Italy, though, I would be worried about Brazil sneaking ahead and upsetting the order of things. Italy has consistently made team finals recently, and should again with this group, but Brazil may have that extra vault and extra Flavia to shift things around this time and make things interesting, especially with beloved Netherlands also hanging around being all beloved and Netherlands.

The real argument against Netherlands repeating as a TF squad is vault. Italy, Brazil, Japan, and Canada have the big-value vaults and Netherlands doesn’t, which means they’ll likely have to rely on someone having errors unless the judges are truly in love with spinny beam for 15s.

G. Baumann, Hundley, and Florida

A few “elite retirements” have been announced in the wake of trials, but it’s sort of….yeah. You’re going to college. We knew that. No one really needs an announcement about it.

Maggie Nichols is going to Oklahoma and has already received 10s on every event, and Amelia Hundley will head to Florida as planned. This Florida class remains stacked, but the injury to Alyssa Baumann and her projected nine-month recovery period changes some expectations for lineups, putting more pressure on Hundley, Gowey, and Chant to do Sloan-replacement work. If Hundley can avoid MLTitis, she’ll be the team’s rock star. The routines she showed at trials were so NCAA 9.950 I couldn’t even stand it.

These developments are why I didn’t fully subscribe to Emily Gaskins’ reason for switching to Alabama being that she was never going to make lineups at Florida. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. Now Baumann is out for what looks like a season, and Hernandez is obviously going to feel a really powerful lure to go pro over the next few months. It will still be an incredibly deep team come 2019, but things change all the time. We have no idea what those lineups are going to look like in January, let alone three years from now.

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