The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – May 19, 2017

A. NCAA roster moves
Weirdly, all was quiet on the NCAA coaching front this week. As in, not a single person even got fired. Where am I? Is this space?

We did have some news on rosters for next season, the biggest development being that Peng Peng Lee has officially been granted her sixth year. Typically, gymnasts get five years in which to complete their four years of eligibility, but a rare sixth year can be granted in extraordinary circumstances. Peng gets what Peng wants, and Miss Val gets what Miss Val wants.

To receive a sixth year as a result of injury, an athlete must show that she was sidelined for two whole years of her eligibility because of the injury and prove that she was not physically capable of competing gymnastics for the entirety of those two seasons. Peng’s ACL travails took her out for all of her first and second years at UCLA, which is why she was granted the sixth year.

Now, UCLA’s returning lineups for next season look like this, losing two beams, two floors, and a vault while keeping the big three on bars and the big four on beam intact.

Vault Bars Beam Floor
Cipra Meraz Gerber Ohashi
Kocian Honest Mossett Toronjo
Hall Savvidou Kocian Ross
Hano Kocian Ross Cipra
Ross Ross Lee Kocian
Preston Lee Ohashi Mossett

Your current mission, should you choose to accept it, is once again trying to figure out which 12 gymnasts UCLA has on scholarship for next year now that Peng is back. The age-old mystery. Nancy Drew and the Case of the 12 UCLA Scholarship Spots was my favorite book growing up. Theoretically, it’s Dennis, Glenn, Glenn, Hall, Hano, Kocian, Lee, Ohashi, Preston, Ross, Toronjo, Tratz?

The other no-one-saw-it-coming development is Lacy Dagen’s announcement that she’ll be joining Oregon State starting next season, following her release from Florida. This is Oregon State’s second “older sister transfers from Florida the year before the younger sister starts at Oregon State”—one of the most creative recruiting strategies of the last several decades. Because of injury, we didn’t see enough of Dagen at Florida to know how she’ll be able to contribute to Oregon State, but presumably her full on vault and DLO on floor—early-lineup/backup options on Florida’s roster if she had been healthy—will be weekly assets for OSU.

B. Osijek
Following last week’s Koper-xtravaganza, the challenge cup circuit moves to its second and final destination for this portion of the year (what a circuit!), that famous mid-tier European manufacturing center you totally and definitely would have heard of if not for gymnastics, Osijek.

First of all, they’re doing this weird thing where the men’s events aren’t going in order, so the first day of qualification featured men’s floor, horse, and pbars.

Just…immediately disqualified. Unacceptable.

Anyway, qualification is already complete, so here’s the basic rundown.

The women
On vault, Andrade elected not to participate this week, likely leaving the title open for Devai, the top qualifier. Belak and Kovacs could give her a close run, though Kovacs’ second vault isn’t difficult enough to make a dent in most fields.

On bars, Iliankova hit, so she qualified 700 tenths ahead of any of the other gymnasts. Kovacs and Shelgunova are a step above the other contenders in D score, so they’re likely to take the remaining medals with hits in the final. In sad news, Diana Varinska got a 6.5 E score because of course she did.

I’m really enjoying Iliankova’s use of the Ezhova, even though it’s entirely useless for CV. She’s showing you don’t need to have a Tkatchev 1/2 to perform the Ezhova. I’m waiting for someone to try Ricna + Pak + Inbar shap + Inbar 1/2 + Yezhova + Shap 1/2 for 0.9 CV. I mean, impossible disaster, but I want it.

There’s even a little more opportunity for Iliankova to code-whore this up with connections as is.

Both Crisan and Holbura made the bars final. The bars final. Because 12 is the new 14.

On beam, just two gymnasts managed execution scores in the 8s, Kovacs and Iliankova. They qualified 1-2, ahead of Crisan and Saraiva, who showed the highest Ds in the competition but also had errors. Saraiva got a 5.9 D, so presumably she added back some of the early-season difficulty that she didn’t show at Koper. Beam should be the most interesting final.

On floor, it looks to be a battle of three for the medals, with Saraiva, Fidelis, and Akhaimova qualifying well ahead of the rest of the field. With Saraiva back and competing three events here, it looks like her ankle smash from last week was more scary than breaky.

So, Diana Varinska missed the bars final but made the beam and floor finals. Ukraine. Also, Devai got 0.7 in neutral deductions on floor to finish 20th. SEVEN tenths.

The men
On floor, Prokopev qualified first ahead of Bram Verhofstad in second. Verhofstad is my new favorite because during the floor medal ceremony in Koper, he wasn’t sure what to do, so he just copied everything Eddie Penev did exactly in sync.

Including putting his hand over his heart during the US anthem. Oh…um…you don’t have to do that part. He’s the best. I identify with him. #Verhofstad4ever.

Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan tied for first on horse, so it will be interesting to see if he can challenge the typical horse stars Bertoncelj and Seligman in the final.

In other news, Calvo barely got into the Pbars final in 8th, Zanetti is far and away the favorite on rings, and Medvedev will probably win vault again if he hits. We’ll just watch to see which new salto shapes he invents in the middle of his vaults this time.

On high bar, Tin is keeping his streak alive, finishing first in Koper qualification, Koper final, and Osijek qualification so far. Deurloo is right in there with superior difficulty, but it always feels like a miracle when he gets through a routine. The deductions are there to be taken. Jossimar did not make the final because of 6.8 E score.

As last week, NBC is streaming both days of finals.

C. Asian Championships
We are also treated to the Asian Championships this week, though some of the sting was taken out of the competition since all the top Japanese gymnasts (men and women) have skipped the meet in favor of the domestic NHK Trophy (also this weekend), which is much more significant for team selection reasons. I mean, we’re less than five months away from worlds. About time for Japan to name its 2019 team.

That meant that China rolled to both the women’s and men’s team titles. For the women, China sent Liu Tingting, Luo Huan, Liu Jinru, and Tan Jiaxin as its team of four. I’m not super clear on why Tan was selected over….say…just picking someone at random…Zhu Xiaofang, but it’s not like it mattered for results. Liu TT and Luo both hit the all-around, cementing their current 1-2 statuses as we wait to see where Wang and Shang will be in 2017.

Meanwhile, Liu JR got a 9 on floor. Sweetie…

Tingting scored a now-massive 56.800 in the AA and a 15.300 on beam, though word on the street is that the scores were a little glug-glug-sniff-sniff, so take that for what you will.

North Korea ended up finishing the team final in second, ahead of the Z-team that Japan decided to send, but that’s nonetheless a big deal for a PRK group that didn’t even include Hong’s vault. Kim Su Jong seems to be their new one, with a 14.450 on vault that went just one tenth lower than Liu JR.

Kaitlin DeGuzman—Oklahoma 2019-2020, competed at nationals last year before dropping back to L10 for 2017—is also at the meet competing for the Philippines. She finished 17th AA with a 45.600.

D. Skill database
This week, I’ve made some additions to the skill database, including new pages for the Nabieva, Ezhova, Galante, Yang Bo, stag ring and a few others.

E. GymCastic
It’s a commissioned episode this week as Jessica and I mostly just make each other giggle but also relive some of our favorite myths, legends, and insane unexpected moments in gymnastics history.

That means we get into everything from the fake Russian pregnancy-doping German TV interview, to Vera Caslavska’s body-suit protest, to the Sydney vault disaster, to the NCAA champs streaker, to a mess of weird historical tidbits about wooden legs, impossible scores, and the prince of Greece. We had way too much fun.

Remember, if you want to commission your own episode (or join a group commission), you can do that on the website.

F. Beam routine of the week
More than just a beam skill.

I love the quickness of the mount, the way she snaps those legs down and doesn’t make a meal of it. And of course the back extension roll is a treat.

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