The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – June 30, 2017

A. The week’s coaching news

We’ve now received confirmation that the Eastern Michigan head coaching position is just the Defense Against the Dark Arts job, with Josh Nilson setting a record by resigning 19 days after he was hired, citing family reasons. (Side note: it’s a shame asshole politicians have ruined “family reasons” for people who actually have family reasons.)

Just as a reminder, 13 months ago, Jay Santos was still the head coach at Eastern Michigan. So that will be Jay Santos, Sarah Brown, Josh Nilson, and New Coach all in a little over a year.

This week, Michigan State also happened to remember that gymnastics is about more than just ignoring sexual assault complaints. It’s also a sport, and Michigan State’s is a program that kind of needs to try to move on from the “make a card for Larry Nassar” era. So, last year’s interim head coach Mike Rowe has officially been named the permanent head coach, resolving one of still-open positions.

Team Outgoing coach Reason Incoming coach
Penn State Jeff Thompson Everything Sarah Brown
Michigan State Kathie Klages Larry Nassar Mike Rowe
NC State Mark Stevenson Retired Kim Landrus
Georgia Danna Durante Fired Courtney Kupets
EMU Sarah Brown To Penn State Josh Nilson
Illinois Kim Landrus To NC State Nadalie Walsh
Pittsburgh Debbie Yohman Retired Samantha Snider
Ohio State Carey Fagan Promoted Meredith Paulicivic
Alaska Paul Stoklos Retired
Utah State Nadalie Walsh To Illinois
EMU Josh Nilson Family reasons

B. NCAA postseason changes

A couple follow-up notes to yesterday’s committee announcement.

One of the complaints about the new and improved format is that it will lead to fewer opportunities (this is the same argument that formed the foundation of SEC resistance and stalled the move for years and years…and years and years).

A significant reason that the coaches from the mid-ranked, 11-20 teams are in favor of this change (the final format proposal actually came from the coach of one of those teams, not from one of the Super Six teams) is that it provides them a better opportunity to advance in the postseason because of the expanded super regional round. Now, 16 teams advance from the first round instead of 12, which is an accomplishment they can use for marketing purposes. We advanced. We won. We made the next round. We compete again. More rounds also provide more chances for the top-ranked teams to screw up, which let’s be honest, is the only hope the other teams have of making it far anyway.

Indeed, the name “super regionals” is super stupid, but it’s a term used in several other college sports, so they adopted it for accessibility and familiarity purposes. I think we just have to live it with. Sigh.

As for the issue of a play-in team potentially going three days in a row, it wouldn’t be an ideal schedule for those teams in terms of potential fatigue. But, most of those teams are highly unlikely to make it through to super regionals regardless of schedule, and for the ones that are good enough to make it to super regionals as a top-16 team, the play-in provides a tangible disincentive to being ranked that low in the first place. If you’re good enough to be in the top 16, then how about try not being ranked 30th. Stanford.

Teams will want to avoid the play-in (an extra chance to get knocked out, an extra day of competition), which adds more urgency and stakes to their regular-season performances, something we’ve been looking for. It also provides us with another level of enjoyment as the season winds down. We’re not just watching to see who makes regionals; we’re watching to see who avoids the play-ins.

C. Meets

This is kind of a dead weekend in terms of competitions, but in the US we do have the Elite qualifier/American Classic coming up in nearly no time—Elite qualifier July 6th, American Classic July 8th, national camp to follow—and the national championships in all the non-artistic disciplines happening right now.

So, you know, have a…good…tramping?

That’s all I’ve got.

This week’s other major competition was the Festival Deportivo Centroamericano in Guatemala, which made headlines for featuring the return of Cuba’s Yesenia Ferrera, who had been previously and dramatically exiled from the team but is now back and winning with a 54.550 in the AA and a 14.000 on floor. Not too shabby.

We also apparently had the NatWest Island Games. “You have to be from an island” is officially my all-time favorite premise for a competition. The winner, Tara Donnelly, is from the Isle of Man but competes internationally for Ireland, which means she can make teams for major international competitions. She went to World Championships and European Games in 2015 and scored 46s under the previous code, so hitting nearly 50 here under this code is a big step up.

D. Japan’s worlds team

Following the event national championships, Japan announced its women’s team for October’s world championship. Mai Murakami and Aiko Sugihara had already received automatic qualification to the team, and to no one’s surprise, Asuka Teramoto and Sae Miyakawa were added as the final two team members.

Murakami and Teramoto remain Japan’s top AAers and Sae Miyakawa is a medal hope on vault and floor (and did her job of showing more consistency at the event nationals), so those three were a given for the team. Once Sugihara got the automatic spot at the NHK Cup, that basically closed the book on the decision.

If Sugihara hadn’t received the automatic spot, however, I don’t know that she would have made the team. Teramoto has higher scoring potential in the AA and should do all four at worlds along with Murakami, which leaves just a UB/BB spot open for the other team member, Sugihara. Sugihara’s peak UB score this year is 13.6, while Hitomi Hatakeda has reached as high as 14.5 at Trnava (a somewhat suspect score but still). Likewise, Sugihara’s BB high this year is 13.55, while both Natsumi Sasada and Shiho Nakaji have hit 14.000.

On the men’s side, Kohei and Kenzo have the automatic spots, while the rest of the team will be decided later. Deciding men’s teams for the individual worlds is a beast because while they can choose six team members (compared to the women’s four), they still may put up only three people on each event, which is fairly ridiculous. Do you pick two AAers and then split the other six events among four people, a bunch of one- and two-event specialists? Or do you go with one AAer and then divide the rest of the routines among more multi-event specialists (as the US did in 2013 with Orozco, Dalton, Legendre, Wynn, and Naddour all doing 2-3 events)?

E. GymCastic

This week, Jessica provides her thoughts on the Daniels report, what it does and what it doesn’t do, and her reactions from the USAG conference call about the report.

In gymnastics news, we run down the national championships around the world from the last month or so, along with addressing various and sundry developments and dramas regarding the Atler interview, Oleg Stepko, Aliya’s baby, the Landis, and whatnot.

F. Beam routine of the week

In honor of Guatemala hosting the Festival Deportivo Centroamericano, this week’s beam routine belongs to back flexibility’s own Luisa Portocarrero.

Is it scandalous to say her mount is better than Kristie Phillips’ mount?

Interestingly, the Portocarrero is one of those skills left in disorganized-code purgatory because this isn’t a real sport that people are in charge of, apparently. Portocarrero still appears in the named-skill section, so she hasn’t been entirely purged as others were, but the skill does not have a number and no longer has a position in the code itself.

But, as recently as the 2016 code, the Portocarrero was listed in the named-skills section as a dismount (nope), which has been fixed for the 2017 code, so…good?

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