The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – March 24, 2017

A. NCAA weekend…wait, what?

You’re trying to tell me that there’s no NCAA gymnastics this weekend? Then what’s the point of anything? How do we go on? And why am I not in pajamas?

All the teams have another week off before next Saturday’s regionals so that they can rest, refresh, glue their legs back together, and learn to read or something. And so we wait, bereft.

In anticipation of regionals, I’ve started meet previews with Washington and Nebraska and will continue with the remaining four before next Saturday’s competitions.

B. AAI Award Finalists

The six seven finalists have been announced for the annual AAI Award, voted on by the coaches and bestowed upon the best senior gymnast in the country for just being so darn great. For all of its ALL ABOUT THE TEAM, I sort of love how secretly obsessed college gymnastics is with voting on individual awards.

Typically, six finalists are named, but this year we had a tie, so Moonlight was also included. So amazing on bars.

The finalists are Nicole Artz, Chayse Capps, Maddie Gardiner, Ashleigh Gnat, Kaytianna McMillan, Peng Peng Lee, and Baely Rowe.

Other semifinalists who didn’t make the final cut were Claire Boyce, Brianna Comport, Jennie Laeng, Meghan Pflieger, Aja Sims, and Majesta Valentine.

The award is somewhat mercurial, occasionally going to the obvious choice but also sometimes going to a gymnast the coaches feel deserves the same level of recognition but hasn’t received it because of being not-famous, as when Lindsay Mable won last year over Bridget Sloan. This year doesn’t really have a clear-cut winner, so…who do we think should win?

C. Doha World Cup

Thankfully, the World Cup tour is in full swing to keep us warm during the cold, cold week of no NCAA. This weekend, we move to Doha, the host of the 2018 World Championship and famous city where…women are photoshopped to have pink legs.

Ehhhh…anyone here a doctor? I feel like that’s maybe a disease.

Anyway, everything is going terribly because Wang Yan continued the new Chinese tradition of going to a World Cup event and getting a literal 2 after injuring herself. Wang had to stop mid-floor, then pulled out of today’s vault final. China’s just like, “We quit, goodbye forever.”

Except for Luo Huan, who took the bars title today with a very composed and precise set. She sort of ran away with things after the other gymnasts who had the routines to challenge (Liu Tingting, Rianna Mizzen, Zsofia Kovacs) all fell. Mizzen actually worked quite smoothly and confidently aside from the fall on the Hindorff connected out of her Shaposh. And even that was a mistake of taking it too far out—it wasn’t dumpy like a lot of Tkatchevs out of Shaposheseses.

Chuso took vault. Duh. At this point, she could melt down all her World Cup medals and make a country. Beam and floor finals are tomorrow, with Liu and Ponor doing battle on beam and Liu and Little doing battle on floor. Ponor did not make the floor final, and it’s your fault.

D. Stuttgart World Cup

Rounding out the action from last weekend, the Stuttgart World Cup event saw Tabea Alt only screw up bars and win the title because of having just the one problem. One bad event is like the March version of zero bad events. She placed just ahead of Melnikova in second, who won bars but struggled on beam and floor, and Hurd in third, who hit three strong events but had two falls on beam.

Melnikova and Hurd will still take those performances. This version of Melnikova looked much farther along than the concept of narcolepsy we saw fall face-first off every apparatus at the Russian Championship, and Morgan Hurd proved that she has real-deal difficulty and performance quality to challenge for a sport at Worlds this year.

Eythora Thorsdottir won’t take that performance so much. It wasn’t great. Though she did manage to connect a front tuck out of a 3/1 while entirely out of bounds and traveling backward at 34 miles per hour. So that was something.

Running simultaneously to the World Cup was a team competition where Russia used a hit beam rotation—WHAT????—to beat Team Germany 1, a group that featured Bui, one routine from Seitz, and the emergence of Michelle Timm. Timm ultimately beat Eremina and finished just behind Kapitonova in the AA portion, gaining recognition for her switch split + front layout 1/1 beam dismount series because NEW CODE.

E. Baku World Cup

Diana Varinska’s inbar stalders on bars are legit the most exciting thing to happen to Ukrainian gymnastics in about seven years. She took the bars title, Chuso won vault (duh x 2), and the rest of the competition was all about Ponor. Ponor took the beam title over Vasiliki “this new code of points is my homegirl because I barely even have to dismount now” Millousi. Ponor followed that up by overcoming the fact that all of her limbs divorced each other and began running a marathon in different directions on her final double pike on floor to win the title over Emily Little. Somehow.

F. British Championships, Jesolo, Euros

-In the non-World Cup circuit, this weekend also brings us the British Championships. Men’s and women’s all-around competitions are Saturday evening (local time), complete with streaming (!), with women’s event finals to follow the next day. It looks like the entire women’s Olympic team (minus Ruby, of course) is scheduled to compete.

-The US women are currently embroiled in the Jesolo/London selection camp, with the gymnasts who’ve qualified for those assignments officially announced on Saturday. The whole gang is in attendance. It appears we’re going with the basic empty gym photo instead of the team lineup photo this time, presumably to avoid the auto-creation of twenty tumblrs about where McKenna McKaylatonson is.

She’s dead, you guys.

-USAG also announced the 2017 Hall of Fame Class, which includes Gabby Douglas twice. TWO HALL OF FAMES, PLEASE.

Official HOF inductees are Gabby Douglas, Shawn Johnson, Chellsie Memmel, Mihai Brestyan (desperate cry for help to get him to come back…?), Sean Townsend, Miles Avery, and the concept of that time the 2016 team gathered in a circle and yelled, “We are the final five.”

Nominative lists for Euros are also here. Don’t waste too much energy on them, but note that Giulia Steingruber, Sophie Scheder, and Lieke Wevers are not included in case any hopes were getting up.

Romania’s team is listed as Cimpian, Crisan, Iordache, and Ponor, which seems relatively logical. Cimpian did not have an auspicious World Cup showing this week (like Ocolisan, who appears to be the odd one out at this point), but this group would fulfill the ideal mix of gymnasts who are actually going to win medals (Ponor, Iordache) and gymnasts who need to start being cultivated for 2019-2020.

Meanwhile, Valentina’s latest mind game is Kapitonova, Melnikova, Eremina, and Spiridonova. I would love this team, actually. Kapitonova has earned it with her AA performances lately at the Russian Champs and in Stuttgart, Eremina is the future, and Melnikova is probably still the highest-scoring AAer of the bunch when actually hitting.

The only problem is that this team would be crazy bars-heavy. Though that’s true of Russia as a country as well. There aren’t a lot of other options. Still, even if you don’t trust Tutkhalyan to hit beam (and why would you), she can get a vault medal in the current vault-scape. With Steingruber and Paseka not here, DTY/Lopez combos are going to medal all over the place.

H. John Orozco

John Orozco confirmed that he’s done now, mostly because of how gymnastics took a sledge hammer to his legs and was like, “WHEEEEEEEEEEE” over a series of years. We’ll always have  that time you sang at Olympic Trials.

Reactions and tributes are pouring in, and Al Trautwig and Andrea Joyce released a joint statement that reads: “Bronx Bronx Bronx. Bronx, Bronx, Bronx, Bronx. Bronx.”

I. GymCastic

This week, we took on the departure of Steve Penny and had no strong opinions about that at all. None whatsoever. The shrinking violets that we are.

We also ran through the highlights and lowlights from NCAA conference championships, I tattled and told tales from the Pac-12 Championship, and we learned some lessons from the Stuttgart and Baku World Cups about lighting, falling, and future stars of gymnastics.

J. Beam routine of the week

I usually try to go a little farther back in time, but what with thinking about last year’s AAI Award winner, and in honor of the emotional insecurity we all feel with regard to Minnesota’s beam heading into regionals, here is Lindsay Mable being all Lindsay Mable last season. It’s never too early to remember.


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