The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – March 17, 2017

A. Weekend schedule

Friday, March 17
Scores Watch
6:30 ET/3:30 PT – DIII West Regionals
UW-Whitewater
UW-La Crosse
Winona State
UW-Stout
UW-Eau Claire
UW-Oshkosh
Hamline
Gustavus Adolphus
LINK FREE
Saturday, March 18
Scores Watch
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – ECAC DI Championship
Temple
Cornell
Brown
Yale
Penn
William & Mary
LINK  Ivy $
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – ECAC DII Championship
Bridgeport
West Chester
Southern Connecticut
12:00 ET/9:00 PT – Big Ten Championship Session 1
Maryland
Minnesota
Michigan State
Rutgers
LINK BTN
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – SEC Championship Session 1
Kentucky
Missouri
Auburn
Arkansas
ESPNU
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – EAGL Championship
George Washington
New Hampshire
North Carolina
NC State
Towson
Pittsburgh
LINK ACCN
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – MAC Championship
Eastern Michigan
Kent State
Central Michigan
Western Michigan
Northern Illinois
Ball State
Bowling Green
LINK ESPN3
3:00 ET/12:00 PT – MIC Championship
Lindenwood
Texas Woman’s
Illinois-Chicago
Illinois State
SEMO
Centenary
LINK
4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Pac-12 Championship Session 1
Cal
Arizona
Stanford
Arizona State
LINK P12
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Big Ten Championship Session 2
Michigan
Nebraska
Iowa
Illinois
Ohio State
Penn State
LINK BTN
5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Big-12 Championship
Oklahoma
Denver
West Virginia
Iowa State
LINK FLOG
6:00 ET/3:00 PT – SEC Championship Session 2
LSU
Florida
Alabama
Georgia
SECN
8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Mountain Rim Championship
Boise State
Southern Utah
Utah State
BYU
LINK FLOG
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Pac-12 Championship Session 2
UCLA
Utah
Oregon State
Washington
LINK P12
9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Mountain Pacific Championship
UC Davis
Sacramento State
San Jose State
Air Force
Seattle Pacific
Alaska
LINK FREE
Sunday, March 19
Scores Watch
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – DIII East Regionals
Brockport
Ursinus
Cortland
Springfield
Ithaca
Rhode Island
FREE

Conference championship weekend! First note: I’ll be at the Pac-12 Championship on Saturday so won’t be live blogging the day, but I’m sure I’ll have some observations to tweet.

I’ve also attached the day’s master schedule in chart form to help keep track of all the simultaneous flimflam and jibberjabber.

2017 Conference Champs Schedule

B. Meet notes

Check out my previews of the SEC and Pac-12 Championships for extensive thoughts on both of those meets.

We also expand to four judges per event beginning this week, an issue I haven’t really touched on yet this season. Rather than having two judges per event and averaging the scores, postseason routines are scored by four judges, the high and the low are thrown out, and the remaining two are averaged. Typically this doesn’t suddenly make a huge difference in how gymnasts score, but it can have the effect of blunting the influence of some random lunatic crack-smoker who sneaked in there somehow and is giving everyone a 10. That score gets dropped now. We’ve certainly needed that at times this season.

I remember several years ago there was one vault judge at SECs who was suddenly and randomly just like, “EVERYONE FROM LSU GETS A 10” and basically gave out a 50. Having four judges and throwing out two scores is essentially the NCAA gymnastics way of calling an Uber for the crazy lady.

I haven’t written a dedicated preview for Big Tens, but as is typical, Michigan enters as the favorite with the highest RQS of the bunch and best collection of 197s. Seven 197s have been bestowed in the Big Ten this year, six to Michigan and one to Nebraska. The level of gymnastics Nebraska has been showing lately sets the Huskers up as the #2 favorite and most likely spoiler. Nebraska’s bars execution and vault difficulty are legit. Michigan’s edge comes on beam and floor.

Iowa and Illinois will also be in there for 196s, but probably not in the hunt for the title unless Michigan counts a fall. Then it will be a ridiculous mad dash through a forest of potential winners. Both team are competitive on a couple pieces (Illinois’s beam in particular can challenge) but don’t have the full collection of competitive vaults, which really hurts. Vault alone could account for a three-four tenth deficit compared to Michigan or Nebraska, which is tough to make up even with strong showings on the other pieces.

The most exciting aspect of Big Tens may actually be Penn State, Minnesota, and Maryland’s fights to get a spot at regionals. Penn State needs only 194.900 to clinch, but Minnesota needs 195.725 and Maryland needs some teams to screw up, so it’s going to get tense. Full details.

Also, Oklahoma will win Big 12s and George Washington is the favorite to take EAGLs. The Boise State/Southern Utah clash at MRGCs should be a close one.

C. The Penny has dropped

After much thoughtful consideration and literally being forced to, Steve Penny has announced his resignation from USA Gymnastics in order to spend more time with his aggressively incompetent handling of sexual abuse that put the reputation of the organization ahead of the health and safety of its members. And also his family or whatever.

As has been pointed out by many, this in itself isn’t a solution, but it was necessary to create an environment where a solution could be allowed to survive instead of being put in a file somewhere and ignored for a decade.

I don’t have a strong opinion about whether Penny’s successor should be someone from inside gymnastics or outside gymnastics, but it needs to be someone who will create more separation and professionalism in the duties of the executive at USAG. An inherent problem that infects a lot of what happens in gymnastics is that the world of gymnastics is way too small. Friendships and personal relationships cloud judgment and decision making in what should be impartial situations, and regulations aren’t in place to separate people from situations where they have a disqualifying conflict of interest.

This happens mostly in relatively unimportant scenarios, like when judges are tasked with judging their BFF’s team or even judging their actual gymnasts at nationals where that kind of bias or previous relationship isn’t acceptable. But it also happens in very important situations, when the CEO is randomly calling Steve and Alaina Legendre to arbitrate sexual assault (not your role) and find out just how little he can do while still ensuring that they won’t sue, or when people don’t believe abuse claims against Larry Nassar because he has been nice to them before. Or even when Steve Penny is going into the room with the Olympic selection committee (not your role) or standing in the back cheering when Gabby Douglas hits vault at Trials (not your role). A level of professional distance must be created that does not currently exist.

D. DOUBLE WORLD CUP ACTION

We have two (count ’em two) World Cup events this weekend, beginning in Baku where qualification has already wrapped up and the competition is apparently taking place under mood lighting from 1993 because there are no rules in this sport anymore…?

Gymnasts have had it far too easy for far too long with, like, being able to see the apparatuses. Time to start cracking the whip.

We’ll all agree that’s the reason Shang Chunsong received an execution score in the negative numbers and Ocolisan got an actual 9. But also Romania bars.

It looks like someone turned on the lights on for the second day (miracle of miracles), when Ponor qualified first on beam and floor and was like, “I’m better than you, and that absolutely is a ring position so shut your stupid mouth.”

Stuttgart has two events going on this weekend, an AA World Cup beginning on Saturday, and a team cup that began on Friday. The US has sent gymnasts to the World Cup portion (Morgan Hurd and Allan Bower), where Hurd will compete against Thorsdottir, Melnikova, Alt, and Schaefer among others, and where Bower will lose to Oleg Verniaiev. The team competition actually contains its own even heartier field, with Bui, Seitz, Sanne Wevers, Spiridonova, Eremina, Shelgunova, Akhaimova, and Kapitonova all in action.

Pretty much just whichever Russians needed to stop in for a quick German surgery between meets.

E. GymCastic

This week, we broke down (emotionally) the Russian Championship and how Seda fell on beam 165 times and Melnikova just landed all her dismounts eye-first and it was everything we ever could have wanted. Then we sorted through all the highs and lows and Italian juniors from Gymnix, in addition to the weekly segments on NCAA judging, Steve Penny’s existence, and the Larry Nassar case. We also discussed how Grishina is living sixteen simultaneous soap operas, so be sure to give it a listen.

F. Beam Routine of the Week

In honor of the weekend’s upcoming conference championships, this week’s beam routine marks the last time a gymnast got a 10 on beam at any conference championship, Cory “shoulder roll” Fritzinger in 2004.

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