The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

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.

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.”


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