The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

The 2017 US Worlds Team

USA Gymnastics has just tweetnounced that the worlds team for 2017 is Ragan Smith, Jade Carey, Ashton Locklear, and Morgan Hurd.

So hmmmmmmmmm.

This was the rare year (among recent years) that we knew we were going to see a surprise no matter what because the second AA spot was so up for grabs. No clear option presented itself after the McCusker withdrawal.

BUT, it turns out that tonight’s big winner is Morgan Hurd, beating out Jordan Chiles and Trinity Thomas for the second all-around spot on the team. In the last post about team permutations, I noted that Hurd was close enough to the others to make it conceivable that she could beat both Chiles and Thomas at the selection camp. I assume that’s what must have happened for her to get the second AA spot since she was clearly behind Chiles and Thomas at nationals. She was still close enough that if she was the one who hit at camp…the choice makes sense.

As we learned from the videos (videos! From selection camp!), Thomas did not upgrade all the way to a DTY—put it on your Christmas list—still stepping up to the 1.5, though. That would have provided her with some lift in scoring potential, but not as much as she may have needed. Also, this is completely speculative, but while we got partial videos of everyone from the selection, Thomas’s routines were…more partial than those for the other major AAers. It could indicate errors that were taken out. That would make me more comfortable with the Thomas snub, if she totally botched selection. Otherwise, it is a snub, no two ways about it.

Chiles, meanwhile, has been named the alternate. I do still believe that Chiles has the higher peak scoring potential than Hurd when she hits because of her vault, but it’s close enough that just a few wobbles here and there would flip it, and if that’s what happened, then Hurd can very easily make sense as your AA option.

The thing is, however, that Hurd could show up at worlds, hit in the AA final, get a mid to high 56, and still not necessarily medal. She’s going to be in the hunt and a good contender, certainly, but it’s not a typical US-style sure thing.

That was going to be the case no matter who the US selected for that second AA position, but it’s something to get mentally accustomed to.

I won’t spend any time on Ragan Smith and Jade Carey because Smith was a total DUH, and once we saw the videos from selection of Carey hitting her two vaults and looking quite strong in the floor tumbling, Carey became a DUH as well.

Now…Locklear.

Let’s talk about this.

As we learned from the selection videos, Locklear still has not added back her inbar skills, which seemed to put her status on the team in doubt. But, you know, apparently not.

If Locklear shows up at worlds with a 5.5 D, she can still get a good score because Locklear (she should have the highest E and could break 14.5), but that’s not really going to be impressive enough in this field, is it? It shouldn’t be. I hope it isn’t because…5.5.

How the committee justifies putting Locklear on the team: Presumably they looked at what they had—which was Smith, Carey, and a second AAer that turned out to be Hurd—and saw that they were left with a UB/BB spot.

There’s not really anyone remaining who’s shouting her necessity for the team on bars and beam, so why not go with Locklear for bars? Locklear can still get close to the best bars workers and score a competitive total. Now, I would have preferred using that spot to take Thomas for beam in an Ivana-Hong-2009 role, but Thomas for beam wouldn’t be a caps lock MEDAL FAVORITE either. We can say, “Oh, Locklear shouldn’t be that competitive for a medal on bars with a 5.5,” but who would be super competitive for a medal in that spot?

That said, I also think Valeri+ may have been afflicted with a little “this team doesn’t have a true bars worker so we have to bring a bars worker!!!!!!” thinking, going for a well-rounded team when an individual worlds occasionally necessitates a well-lopsided team to maximize medal potential. This particular US group isn’t best-in-the-world on bars, and that’s fine. They could have just focused on the other events.

If you thought Trinity Thomas was a gymternet favorite before…

Now that she’s the snubbed and aggrieved underdog?

Watch out.

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