The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – December 1, 2017

A. The Ponor

Catalina Ponor competed at the Mexican Open last weekend and cried during her farewell Beyonce (all Olympic medalists are entitled to one farewell Beyonce), convincing me to start taking this slightly more seriously as a retirement. We’ll see how the rest of the quad goes. #PonorforLate2019.

She was here, you guys.

She lived. She loved. She did. She done. She blinded her enemies with those hip bones. She won five Olympic medals. She tricked you into thinking Romanian gymnastics wasn’t on the road to a garbage dump for a solid 10 years.

And she did the worm. You know, the retirement worm. Obviously my favorite part. The other best part is when she takes off her flappy and throws it at that photographer.

B. Just Simone things

Simone got everyone talking this week when she casually blooped that she already has all her skills back, being back to real training for not even a full month and all.

Are we surprised?

As long as she has the endurance, the skills aren’t even that hard for her. Which is sort of the whole point of Simone.

So, plenty of time to learn some new stuff, right? There’s a juicy new quad’s code to work with.

Today’s Project: How would you adjust Simone’s 2016 beam routine to best take advantage of the 2017 code?

For reference, here’s a side-by-side comparison of how the 2016 and 2017 codes would treat her 2016 beam routine.

2016 2017
Wolf turn 2.5 – E Wolf turn 2.5 – D
Barani – E Barani – F
Bhs + layout stepout + layout stepout – B+C+C = 0.2 CV Bhs + layout stepout + layout stepout – B+C+C = 0.2 CV
Punch front + sissone – D+A = 0.1 CV Punch front + sissone – D+A
Switch split + switch 1/2 + back pike – C+D+C = 0.2 CV Switch split + switch 1/2 + back pike – C+D+C = 0.2 CV, 0.1 SB
Aerial + wolf – D+A = 0.1 CV Aerial + wolf – D+A
Bhs + bhs + full twisting double tuck – B+B+G = 0.1 CV Bhs + bhs + full twisting double tuck – B+B+G = 0.3 CV
CR – 2.5 CR – 2.0
Acro – GEDDC – 2.3 Acro – GFDDC – 2.4
Dance – EDC – 1.2 Dance – DDC – 1.1
CV – 0.7 CV – 0.8
Total D – 6.7 Total D – 6.3

Do you turn the wolf turn into a triple? Downgrade to a double? Or ditch it entirely?

How do you change the punch front and aerial combos to take advantage of CV and SB?

Punch front + one-arm back handspring + stag ring?

Side aerial + back handspring + Worley + straddle jump + Arabian? I’m only half kidding.

C. McKenna Kelley and Emily Schild

The NCAA preseason injuries are starting to pile up, as they always do. The most severe so far is McKenna Lou Kelley’s torn Achilles, which will keep her out for the entire 2018 season. The SHE’S MARY LOU’S DAUGHTER quotient is going to be so much lower this season. Not gone entirely (you know we’re going to see shots of her in a boot on the sidelines with Mary Lou doing some sort of pietà tableau—you KNOW it), just less.

Kelley’s injury means LSU 2018 will return only two floor routines from last season’s final lineup. It shouldn’t be too, too much of a problem (there are still 7 or 8 very usable options), but LSU is definitely going to need a high-scoring floor routine from Harrold this season to make up for the absence of Kelley.


For Georgia, the bad news keeps coming as the Suzanne News Network let us know that Emily Schild hyperextended her knee in training. She’s going to miss the beginning of the season but is expected back before the end.

In fact, all four of Georgia’s freshmen are currently injured. Oakley is the closest to getting back—they’re going to need more from her than originally expected to fill the gaps from these other injuries—and the hope is that Foss can get back from her March 2017 torn Achilles before the end of the season.

Dear Georgia, I’m really worried about your vault lineup. As in…do you have one? At the moment there’s Snead, Marino, Dickson, Johnson…Vaculik?…and…????? Are we going to have to force Vega to vault again?

I have a feeling Kupets In A Wig is going to be a really important contributor this season.


In other developments, Sam Ogden has been removed from Denver’s roster.

D. Massilia and Cottbus

The annual Elite Gym Massilia in Marseilles served as an opportunity to pop out of a cake for the next generation of Russian juniors, who are probably going to save gymnastics until they don’t.

The all-around champion of the masters division (the main competition) was Angelina Simakova—a 2018 senior—with a 55.500. Simakova also won the junior titles on beam and floor and, perhaps most significantly for 2018 purposes, vaults a rudi.

Her rudi looks really good there, but she did fall on it in event finals because of Russia and obviously. Simakova’s teammates won the remaining junior event titles with Klimenko taking bars and Schekoldina taking vault.

Ana Padurariu, the great Canadian hope, also had a significant competition, winning the open division that she competed in for some reason and then finishing third in the masters behind Simakova and Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos. DJDS had a mess on beam for 11, otherwise she likely would have taken the title over Simakova.

The meet proved nonetheless a worthwhile competition for the host French with Charpy taking 4th AA, DJDS winning bars, and Bossu winning floor.

Belgium’s woodland nymph Axelle Klinckaert also made her semi-triumphant comeback to the all-around in this meet, most significantly revealing her new floor interpretation.

Wait what?

Do I love it or hate it?

Absolutely both.

We’re going to need to talk about this in depth for multiple years. The best part of the music is when that street-performing clown baby just starts going, “LA LA LA! La La La.” The runner-up is when that woman just bursts into laughter in the middle because of fun with sound effects.


Meanwhile, the strongest Germans—along with a few of their best Russian, Chinese, and Dutch friends—gathered in Cottbus to watch Chuso win another world cup vault title and Seitz score a 2017-high of 14.900 on bars.

The competition also proved a successful one for a few gymnasts who have been prowling around the borders of actually making teams. Lilia Akhaimova scored 14.000 on floor, which could make her an appealing prospect for Russia as someone who, like, actually has a floor score, while Maria Kharenkova showed she can even do good things even outside of crazy-scored Russian home meets with a bronze on beam and a silver on floor.

The B-team Chinese showed well with Lyu Jiaqi and Wang Cenyu both medaling on bars and Wang winning beam. If all the 2016ers truly are as OVER IT as they sounded at worlds, China may need these two over the next year or three, the only issue being that they are bars and beam gymnasts. Like China needs more of those. The real good news for China is that Chen Yile and Li Qi are seniors in 2018.

E. Mexican Open Gala

The Mexican Open is an actual gymnastics competition, you guys, the women’s competition won by Yesenia Ferrera with the second-highest score on every event, but we’re all only here for the gala. No one should be allowed to gala except the Mexican Open.

In addition to her floor goodbye, Ponor also performed a moving tribute to her fraught relationship with Anger Beam.

Dear Nastia, this is how you pretend to do beam in an exhibition.

Also, this definitely happened. Hips.

But props for doing a real dismount and sticking it, too. Most are too afraid to do real gymnastics in exhibition. Not hips.

But let’s be honest, the guys have it way easier when it comes to gala performances because all they have to do is take off their shirts and everyone’s like, “That’s the best presentation I’ve ever seen,” while the women are expected to dance and emote or whatever.

Ahmet Onder gets it, electing to go for the classic bowtie-dress-shirt PBars striptease and literally one element. Nemov would be proud. You are all such hams. Stop encouraging them, he says encouraging them.

You know that thing where your biceps are so big that you physically cannot take your shirt off? That problem we all have?

And then just a bunch of cowboys. Because it’s like when you have to do a duel outside the saloon and you’re like, “that shirt was uncomfortable and I need to do a Kolman, OK bang bang we’re both dead somehow. Duel ended. Oops, I came back to life to be out of sync!”

F. NCAA training updates

Oklahoma is prepping its lineup of six 10.0 starts on vault.

IDs in order: Webb, Dowell, Schoepfer, DeGouveia, Jackson, Nichols, Showers, Catour.

Latest intrasquad from LSU.

For lineup junkies, here’s what Utah showed at its most recent intrasquad:

https://twitter.com/FullTwistingDLO/status/934578728868311041

And here are some whiteboard lineups that Alabama recently snapchattled:

According to the gymternet, you’re supposed to freak out that Bailie Key and Peyton Ernst are listed at the end with a line separating them from the other backups.

No injury updates have been released, but you’d think a healthy Key would be primo beamer at least, even if the other events aren’t ready (which they weren’t at G&G). At the same time, read exactly nothing into preseason lineups. They change drastically from minute to minute, reflecting anything from little aches and pains, to “you fell today and booooo,” to real injuries, and are also often used as mind games/motivation.

The news from Michigan’s intrasquad:

Arkansas training highlights, including the re-Wellicking.

George Washington highlights:

G. GymCastic

No new episode this week because of Thanksgiving, but we’ll be back next week with a discussion of Massilia, Cottbus, and a full recap of all the juiciness from the Mexican Open gala.

H. Beam routine of the week

Because it’s all about the Ponor tributes today, Ponor gets to be the beam routine of the week. I’m using the 2004 gold medal beam routine because her early days on beam really illustrate her best qualities, speed and aggression. Extreme confidence and extreme dominance of the apparatus like few others ever.

If you’re going to do a forward to backward combination, you better do it like Ponor 2004. And if you’re going to puck your dismount, you better do it like Ponor 2004.

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