Things Are Happening – July 21, 2017

A. Get it together, Canada

Breaking a bottle of champagne over the hull of controversial worlds team announcements, Canada went and named Ellie Black, Isabela Onyshko, Shallon Olsen, and Brooklyn Moors to its world team yesterday, leaving out Brittany Rogers.

It’s a bit of a weird one—not in terms of event-final implications since it probably doesn’t change anything—but mostly because it makes for a fairly lopsided squad. For the all-around spots, Black and Onyshko were always going to be the favorites because, well, they’re the two best AAers Canada has right now. Onyshko was not ready yet at the Canadian Championship, but in form, she’s the obvious choice to go along with Black.

As for Shallon Olsen, if she has her Amanar back, she’s the most likely of any of the Canadians to make an event final. (If not, this situation is even more fraught, so let’s just assume she does.) That leaves us with the final spot, which went to Brooklyn Moors, presumably for floor since that’s her most internationally competitive event. By default, that means Olsen can’t compete floor, her second-best event and the one where she typically has the highest D of all the Canadians (form form form, I know, but still).

This is what I mean by lopsided. For your two specialists, you’ve basically taken VT/FX and FX. Beam was never going to be much of a consideration for the specialists because Black and Onyshko are their two most likely event finalists anyway, but then Brittany Rogers seemed like a logical gymnast to pair with Olsen, Olsen doing VT/FX and Rogers doing UB and throwing in BB because whatever.

Instead, they’ll have Olsen to do VT and Moors to do FX. (And presumably throwing in UB and BB because whatever. Moors is a treat on beam, but she’s not going to get a big score there.) Watching Moors on floor is an objectively delightful experience, and we’ll all be better off for having her floor routine in the rotation at worlds instead, though I do wonder if there’s a little Blinded by the Pretty and Blinded by the Pod syndrome going on here. Moors has a fantabulous Podkopayeva on floor but at Canadian Champs was still awarded D scores of 5.2 and 5.1. Making an event final on floor is a lot to ask of someone with a 5.2 D score if she hasn’t upgraded, even in the current score-scape. She’d basically need a Simone-level E score to keep pace.

On Moors’ side, however, is that Rogers isn’t exactly a favorite to make the bars final either, particularly with bars being a deeper event this year than floor is. With Russians, Chinese, Americans, Brits, and Germans, it’s tough to get into a bars final, whereas there aren’t as many relevant countries on floor. Still Rogers does intend a 6.0-6.1 D score on bars, which is in a competitive county with the favorites.

A more compelling argument in Moors’ favor was likely the exceptionally gorgeous floor routine she did on the first day of Canadian champs, which scored 13.867, setting her apart from the 13.4s and 13.5s we’ll expect from the rest of this worlds team. It was the prettiest, cleanest, and best floor routine we’ve seen from a Canadian this year. It may, however, be a bit of confirmation bias to highlight that particular score over others, since it has been the outlier. Moors’ average on floor this year is 12.958, and for a normal hit, she has more frequently been at 13.500. Consistency is an issue for her, but that doesn’t really factor in this decision because…well…we’ve all lived through Brittany Rogers. One isn’t more likely to hit than the other.

The real issue may be that you have several people on this team who can/will score around where Moors is likely going to score on floor, whereas Rogers provides the potential for something no one else on the team has.

Another factor in selecting Moors was probably the idea of gaining major competition experience for future teams (whereas this would be Rogers’ last competition), which…meh. My position on using “gaining international experience”/”she has international experience” as an argument is that it’s too ambiguous a concept to be considered in making team selections. While having been there before seems like it would make things easier, there isn’t actual evidence to support the idea that people who’ve been to worlds/Olympics before perform any better than people who haven’t. You pick the best team in any given year and just trust the preparation.

B. WHERE’S NORAH????????????????

Retired from elite. The volcanic lava stream of questions about what’s happening with Norah Flatley after she was not included on the Classic roster (I weep for her mentions) can now end as she posted a PLEASE STOP ASKING ME WHERE I AM instagram retirement, telling us that she’s leaving elite, dropping back to L10, and then going to UCLA for 2018-2019.

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What an amazing journey it's been. I've been extremely blessed to have done elite gymnastics these past 5 years. I am truly grateful for USA gymnastics for giving me the opportunity to represent Team USA in international competitions. I definitely could not have reached the top level of this sport without an amazing support system behind me. My parents have been my number one fans through the ups and downs. They have sacrificed so much to give me the opportunity to achieve my goals. I love you both with all my heart❤️ And to Chow and Li, I can not put into words the gratitude I have for you both. They have been like second parents to me and shaped me into the person and gymnast I am today. Thank you for always believing in me and helping me achieve my dreams. Thank you for pushing me every single day to be the best I can be. Thank you for teaching me to always have high standards in everything I do. Even after all the injuries you both have stayed by my side and given me confidence that I can come back from any obstacle that is put in front of me. I am forever grateful for my coaches.❤️ I would love for everyone to know that I will be retiring from elite gymnastics. I can't wait to finish one more year as a level 10 with my amazing Chow's team! I am so excited to be joining the UCLA team next year to represent the most amazing school💙💛. Thank you all for the love and support through the years, I absolutely can't wait to see what the next chapter holds💗

A post shared by Norah Flatley (@norah.flatley) on

It makes sense. She has been injured for so long, and dropping back to L10 gives her a chance to fulfill Val’s occasional requirement for the ever-injured that you have to show you can get through a L10 season healthy to prove some kind of NCAA-schedule durability. Although she’s also Norah Flatley, so…

C. Desiderio to LSU

LSU isn’t planning to let its #2 position slip. With the departure of a significant batch of routines from Ashleigh Gnat and company, coupled with how much better Florida, Alabama, and UCLA are going to be next season, LSU was beginning to look vulnerable in its lofty position and was certainly not a lock to hold onto a top-two spot for another year. So, D-D and Jay went to work.

This work culminated in the announcement that Christina Desiderio is joining the team a year early, to compete in the 2018 season.

There’s so much joining a year early going on in NCAA these days. Don’t you people have, like, school to finish or something? Who am I kidding, of course you don’t.

Before NCAA gym, I didn’t even know that finishing high school in three years instead of four was a situation. I’m like, “THAT WAS AN OPTION THE WHOLE TIME?!?”

D. U.S. Classic update

A few more developments since the roster was released. Because there are so many damn juniors in this competition (47 at latest count), the junior national team will be competing in the senior session to spread things out a little bit. They’ve done this before once or twice. In 2009, Vega, Jetter, Bridgey, and Casanova competed with the seniors instead of the juniors, and “VEGA GETS TO ROTATE WITH HER IDOL NASTIA” was a thing. I know. Scraping the bottom of the storyline barrel in the year after the Olympics.

So, Malabuyo will be rotating with Smith and the other senior Texas Dreamers, while the remaining junior national team members (O’Keefe, Kenlin, Lee, and Dunne) will be in a group with McCusker, Hurd, Chiles, and Frazier.

We’ve also had three withdrawals from the junior ranks: Jacqueline Moran, Corinne Bunagan, and Emily Lee. (Although I was surprised to see Emily Lee on the list in the first place since she hadn’t recorded a qualifying score this year and hadn’t been to a camp.)

E. Head coaches

Utah State got itself together and elected to go with the delightful Amy Smith as its new head coach, replacing Nadalie Walsh, who is now at Illinois.

Meanwhile, Alaska has hired Tanya Ho (assistant from Sac State) as its new head coach, leaving us with just one head coaching position left to fill.

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 Tanya Ho
Utah State Nadalie Walsh To Illinois Amy Smith
EMU Josh Nilson Family reasons

F. GymCastic

This week, Jessica chatted with John Manly (represents world/Olympic medalists in the cases against Larry Nassar and USAG) about the Nassar plea as well as representatives of Parkour about how the FIG is being a bit of a turd in trying to claim jurisdiction over their sport.

Plus, we break down a whole bunch of ranch camp news, the American Classic, elite qualifiers, various national championships around the world, and the Olivia Cimpian nationality situation.

Also, I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Apparently that’s a thing.

G. Beam routine of the week

This is Norah Flatley’s beam routine from that first year of junior nationals when she scored a 17,000 and everyone was like, “WHO IS THIS CREATURE THE CHILD SHALL LEAD US.”


21 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – July 21, 2017”

  1. Piecing together the actual rules for Worlds: is it max 4 gymnasts per country, max 3 gymnasts per event in quals, and max 2 per AAF/EF? Are those the constraints, or are there others?

  2. On the NCAA front, I saw that UCLA posted a pic of 6 incoming freshmen (minus Pauline Tratz, who I guess is still competing elite for Germany this summer). What are they going to do with 7 more freshmen?! They didn’t even use half of the nine freshmen they brought in last year. Their team is enormous.

    1. I know right?! I think Val must take any level 10 who wants to walk on, hoping for the “diamond in the rough” sort of stories and also giving her a chance to to help the girls transition to life without gymnastics. She seems very into that, which is admirable if not nessicary the best use of resources from a competitive stand point. Also of note is that one of those six is coach Waller’s younger daughter, his eldest graduated from UCLA this year after being on the team for a year or two and then being a team manager the rest.

      1. I think a lot are California girls that use the Gymnastics walk-on as an edge to get in UCLA – if things go well the first year and they are having fun and/or see the possibility to compete ( rapidly dropping with each addition) great, if not, they are still in at UCLA. Most ( not all, but most) didn’t turn down other offers of full ride scholarships to attend. And if you want to do a hard major – premed, engineering, etc. – it’s really hard to do and get good grades while being an athlete. Although early registration for the courses you want is another nice perk – especially your first 2 years.

    2. Is it really fair to the girls to overload the team. They have hopes of competing and it’s never going to happen. There are so many teams where they would get a great education and be a competing part of team. I’ve noticed a lot of teams “loading ” the squad (ie Florida, Oregon, UCLA, LSU) and it is a bit heart wrenching to watch them “be thrilled ” for the great ones who get the opportunity when we all know they are secretly hoping for a sprained ankle so they might have a chance to show their stuff. Even worse, is having them be team support or managers after it’s too late for them to join another team. They just look like depressed groupies hoping the chosen will remember to high five them at the end of a routine. Also the overload harms other teams. There really should be a squad limit.

      1. Post note. Did the elder Waller daughter ever compete. I don’t remember her. I did enjoy her singing the national anthem with Peng and Hallie. She seemed like a very sweet person

      2. I do agree it would improve the sport to have more balance, but I assume that these girls walking on to top 10 teams are aware that they are sacrificing their chance to compete by attending the school of their choice. I was a musical theater kid but was always aware that I’d never be the star, just making the cut as a member of the chorus meant I got to participate and be included, that was enough for me. I guess I see the girls who do support the same way and think they’re smart enough to know that if they wanted to compete they’d have chosen a different school.

      3. And quick check on the Road to Nationals site, looks like Alex Waller has no competition record for the two years she was on roster

      4. I agree that being part of the chorus or ensemble is a great experience but at least you were performing. How would you have felt just sewing costumes or cleaning up after the stage crew. You would have been contributing but it would be a huge difference to really being part of th cast. I look at the faces of some of the “supporters ” and some of them look a little bleak. I know it’s their choice but they have worked hard for years so they are obviously passionate about their sport and I’m sure there is a glimmer of hope that they may get an opportunity

      5. Miss Val has said that she looks for walk-ons to have potential to score a 9.9 on at least one event. And look at how successful some of them have been – Sonya Meraz is the example who comes to mind immediately, she competes pretty much every single meet, but apart from her, there have been MANY UCLA walk-ons who have become staples of the lineups. You ask “is it fair” to the girls? They know what they’re getting into – the walk-ons likely could get scholarship money to lower-ranked schools (or maybe they’d just quit gymnastics) but they’re a part of the UCLA program, get life coaching from Miss Val, and may at some point even have an opportunity to compete. Seems fair enough to me. And if they’re not happy, they can leave.

  3. I hope Norah is able to compete AA in level 10 and qualify for nastia cup. It would be awesome to see her compete on a big stage one last time before NCAA!

  4. I find the whole Canadian thing very confusing. If you’re set on taking Moors (which seems to be the case) why take Olsen over Rodger? Rodgers and Olsons vault scores are within a couple tenths of each other, and Rodgers was the reserve for the vault final at the Olympics. Their chances of making the final are pretty similar (plus, I’m always more convince Rodgers will land with all her limbs attached than Olsen , but that’s a different story). Then Rodgers has a shot at 2 event finals, Moors can do beam and floor and fulfill her role as “Canadas next big star or whatever”, Spencer would be happy, and we would all be way less confused.

  5. Canada was always going to have a lopsided team, whether the final athlete was Brooklyn or Brittany. If Brittany had been on the team, she would have been left out of competing her second best event (vault) because of the two all-arounders and Shallon. Obviously to her, that’s better than not competing at all, it’s still the same lopsidedness. That said, with Brooklyn on the team, I don’t really think Shallon is really missing out on competing floor, as her floor scores haven’t been that great this year. I think it’s really just down to a one event per gymnast comparison – Brooklyn’s floor vs Brittany’s bars and all the rest was kind of just noise.

    I did find the wording of Dave Brubaker’s quote in the press release rather interesting where he says that the key aspect is the ongoing verification and that there are two strong alternates who could step in, depending on what happens between now and the final camp in Sarnia. That suggests to me that this decision may not be final.

  6. Spencer, I don’t watch Game of Thrones either. I’m too busy trying and failing to keep up with the final season of Orphan Black (sigh). So you’re in good company! 🙂

  7. Is it possible Onyshko is only doing bars/beam? And the battle was actually between who would go between her and Rogers? If so that team actually works perfectly. Black and Olsen AA. Onyshko-bars and beam Moors-floor (and vault) Would also make the alternate statement make sense because both Rose and Rogers are good backups for Onyshko on bars. Just a thought.

  8. I think many mid-range teams would be better served going with one all-around gymnast and three 2-3 event specialists.

    Bringing two all-around gymnasts leaves just 1 spot on each event for a specialist. I think we’re going to see some surprisingly low scores making it into event finals at the worlds this year as the result of gymnasts not being able to compete in events they’re specialists in.

    Is there some sort of stigma of not qualifying two gymnasts to the all-around? If I were organizing a mid-range team, I’d try to get into as many event finals as possible where there’s a greater chance at bringing home a medal.

  9. For the Canadian team my guess is that Onyshko and Black will do AA with Moors and Olsen as the specialists. Olsen and Black are locks, they’re the two gymnasts that can easily make an Event Final, and in Black’s case the all-around as well, and have serious chances of getting a medal. Olsen will do vault (duh) and Bars and Moors will do Beam and floor. Moors has to do floor because otherwise it doesn’t make sense, and Beam because Olsen. Olsen has been upgrading her Bars to become more competitive in the AA, likely so she could actually make a second Olympic team rather than as an individual. So I could see them putting Olsen up on bars to test upgrades and see how she could improve on that apparatus going forward. It’s also important to mention that despite Olsen obviously being pretty weak on Bars, she’s hit pretty much all season, so why not give her a second event where she’s pretty much guaranteed a hit. It’s also important to mention that the federation said that Rogers and Woo are right there with the four that were selected and that they could be swapped in depending on if they improve in the continuing verifications or if injuries occur. Woo has been on an upward trajectory this season, so if Onyshko isn’t quite up to AA or isn’t able to get her Beam to a competitive level, coupled with upgrades Woo can put in. Then they could switch her out in favor of Woo which the crowd would love since Woo’s hometown is Montreal. If Rogers is able to prove that she can hit, since she’s also been inconsistent this season (like how she didn’t even get at least a 10 at elite Canada), and cobble together an event Final worthy routine on bars, then they could swap her in for Moors. Some have also said that it’s possible that Onyshko is the specialist with Olsen/Moors and that Moors/Olsen will do AA. This argument does make some sense, since that would actually fit perfectly for the specialist thing along with Onyshko having sealed with minor injuries, but that would also mean that Moors or Olsen would be doing AA, which would basically open the door for the possibility throwing away a spot in the AA Final unless one or both of them improved a ton since nationals. The second Canadian AAer, regardless of whether or not it’s Woo or Onyshko probably won’t be contending for a spot in event finals to begin with, so it’s really about who could place higher in the all around final since both would be pretty safe in terms of qualifying. I know that Onyksho is really good on Beam, but the field is way too competitive for her to make it, with two Chinese, two Dutch, two romanians, at least one American and one or two Brazilians all almost locked into the final assuming hit routines, not to mention that Black is better than her on Beam, unless qualifications ends up being a splatfest.

    1. Onyshko made BB EF in Rio, so I’d say it’s certainly likely she’d make the final again with a bit of luck. Not a long shot by any means.

      1. The thing is, there are at least 8 in the world right now who will score at least a 14.5 just by hitting. Onyshko got that same score before the CR dropped half a point, which means that she will have to have a way better Beam routine than she had at the olympics in less than three months, which is possible, but I don’t see it happening. Even if she does manage to cram in those upgrades in time for worlds, it’s even more unlikely that they’ll even be prepared, considering that’s a lot to get ready in just three moths time, especially when you consider that after the olympics she had several small injuries (I believe she had a little bit of ankle issues throughout the first half of the year). So it’s certainly possible, but I’d be surprised if she made an event final, even if qualifications end up being unsteady.

  10. I wondered too why some NCAA schools have such large teams..UCLA is so big…and some very small teams like Utah….In the long run, it really doesn’t matter unless a team has a ton of injuries and has no back up.

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