A. Being a good gymnastics citizen
Let’s start this week with a roundup of the real things that we all need to know about so that we can all feel like we’re being a good gymnastics citizens when we back to doing the fun parts, the competition parts. We’re eating our vegetables first.
- The Preventing Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act has been signed into law. For our purposes, it basically means that anyone at USAG or who has been authorized by USAG to interact with minor athletes at any sports facility is now a mandatory reporter and must report any suspected child abuse directly to law enforcement within 24 hours. None of this “let’s investigate this internally/but what about the coach’s reputation that’s obviously more important than a child’s safety?!?!” nonsense anymore. You have to go straight to the police. Like a person.
- MSU is saying that all those people at the school who were told about That Guy have acquired a simultaneous case of Sudden Convenient Amnesia Memories, or SCAM, and are really sorry but have no idea who this Lerry Nussar person is. If that’s even his name! Who can remember?!?
- At least MSU is finally firing That Guy’s supervisor. Now. After all this time. Sorry, no credit for that skill.
- USAG claims that Maroney is definitely the only athlete with whom it entered into a nondisclosure agreement. Yeah. Mmmhmm. Sure.
- WOGA did a big bad and was accused in 2006 of allowing a coach to stay on after complaints about him touching gymnasts inappropriately, then moving him to the other location after complaints that he was sexually abusing an underage gymnast. Which he was.
B. Winter Cup
That’s right, it’s Winter Cup: The Splattiest Show on Earth! The US men are in Las Vegas this weekend, competing yesterday and again tomorrow in an effort to earn spots on the national team for the first half of 2018. The top 6 all-around after two days automatically make the national team, while a further six will be selected based on that weird-ass point system that they call a 10-point system even though it goes up to 11. You guys.
All the big boys are there competing with two exceptions—Eddie Penev is out with shoulder surgery so the competition is officially cancelled, and Donnell Whittenburg is still on his way back from injury and not competing yet. If they
need some sweet, sweet funding believe they may return to contend for an international assignment during the first half of the year, they can petition onto the national team.
Moldauer won the title last year but competed just three events this time because he’s totally too cool for school now that he’s the best AAer in the country, which allowed Sam Mikulak to take the all-around on the first day by about a kabillion points. Mikulak scored 86.300 despite falling on his attempted triple back rings dismount and vaulting a Y1.5 in a moving tribute to Maggie Nichols that was not lost on any of us. To do 86.300 with a mistake and a downgrade would be an extremely competitive international score these days, but also Winter Cup and US scoring.
There’s a pile-up well behind Mikulak with Kimble in second (83.500), followed by Modi, Bailey, Melton, and Neff. They currently make up the top 6 AA, though we’ll have to wait and see what happens on Saturday. Bower sits a surprising 7th.
On the events, Mikulak leads on PB and HB and is tied with Moldauer for the lead on FX. Moldauer sits in the top 5 on the three events he competed (FX, PH, SR), while Naddour hit PH to sit 1st there. So, expectations met. Marvin Kimble vaulted a Tsuk double pike to take 1st on VT, and Melton currently leads on SR. Alec Yoder hit PH to sit 2nd there as well as 2nd on PB. He’s currently 8th overall.
C. LSU verification
USAG announced that it will be live streaming the verification competition from LSU on February 25, so we all get to follow along as we see exactly how many times we can accidentally call it “the ranch” and then feel gross. Amazing what happens when national verification is held in a real place that appears on maps instead of at a secret forest crypt where you have to smear the blood of an orphan on a cursed chalice to reveal how to get there.
This is a superficially important development in that we all get to see routines and verification and that’s exciting from a sporting perspective, but it’s also symbolically significant in that it represents an opening of the doors of the forbidden city. There should be nothing that needs to be kept secret happening when the national team gets together. “The Russians might steal our routine ideas and Amanar technique!” is nothing, so secrecy only serves to provoke the question, what are you afraid we might find out? Streaming verification is a way for USAG to say, “We’re not doing anything we’re ashamed of…anymore.”
It’s still superficial. It’s still just symbolic. It still doesn’t actually mean that anything real is getting better, but I guess I see it as a kind of peace offering, which is something.
Tatiana Perskaia has been selected by the International Elite Committee (which is comprised of Steve Rybacki-nonvoting, Donna Strauss, Kim Zmeskal, Wu Jiani, Terin Humphrey, and Rhonda Faehn-nonvoting) to temporarily lead the selection decision…presumably because she’s the one who looks the most like Martha? Sigh. Tatiana coached Omelinachik in Ukraine before coming to the US to coach at Capital and was on the 2016 selection committee with Martha and Terin. So she’s definitely a figure of change…
Of note, the roster for this verification does not include Morgan Hurd or Maile O’Keefe, who are already competing at American Cup and wouldn’t be selected for the other world cups anyway, but also does not include Ragan Smith, Emma Malabuyo, or Gabby Perea, who would have been seen as three frontrunners to get those WC assignments, nor does it include Ashton Locklear, who is no longer listed as a member of the national team at all.
This opens the door for Jordan Chiles, Marz Frazier, Kara Eaker, Trinity Thomas, Adeline Kenlin, and Alyona Shchennikova for possible opportunities. Riley McCusker is also slated to appear, so we’ll see where she is on her injury comeback quest.
Last weekend, Amy Tinkler took the all-around title at the English Championships, outpacing Claudia Fragapane by two tenths. Also, they’re both basically bars specialists now, you guys. Bars ended up being the highest non-vault score for either. Bars.
Ellie Downie returned to competition on three events, placing 3rd on floor with some of her difficulty back and 4th on beam despite grabbing the beam on her double spin. So we’re all going to be OK.
Becky also returned at this competition (because of Double Downies) on bars only, performing a 5.0 D (which is like 2.1 for her) and placing 6th. The Commonwealth Games team of five was expected to be announced after the competition but will now be named on the 21st.
If the Downies are far enough along, you’d want Tinkler, Fragapane, Fenton, Downie, Downie as the CWG team given the 5-4-3 team competition format. As long as Ellie is doing the AA, that covers the bases quite well. If Becky is not yet ready, then Kelly Simm is probably the choice since she can give the closest equivalent to a competitive bars routine as well as a reasonable backup vault.
On the men’s side, James Hall took the AA ahead of Dom Cunningham in 2nd and Brinn Bevan in 3rd. Nile Wilson competed FX, PB, and HB, Max Whitlock competed FX and PH and beat everyone by 75 points on horse because obviously, and Courtney Tulloch competed SR, VT, and PB, debuting a Dragulescu on vault. Those six will have to become five for the CWG team.
E. This weekend
It’s WOGA Classic and Nadia Invitational weekend in the women’s elite world. The elite division of the WOGA “This Isn’t Awkward Now” Classic will compete Saturday, where the major players in the senior division will be Japan, most notably Hitomi Hatakeda who can occasionally bring bars scores in the 14s and is a contender for this year’s worlds team, and the WOGA elites Davis, Blanco, Moody, and Alexeeva.
On the junior side, the WOGA juniors will be there naturally, as will Konnor McClain and Kayla DiCello, but of course keep an eye on the three Chinese juniors attending: Yin Sisi, Wei Xiaoyuan, and Li Shijia. Yin Sisi is the one I know the most about, i.e. she’s exactly what you would expect of a Chinese junior who is practically perfect in every way on bars and beam. Floaty two-footed layout on beam, magical toe point, you know the deal. She gives some Liu Tingting vibes on beam and floor.
F. Aliya in depth
OK, we’re going to have to take this exhibition second-by-second because what else is this site for?
On bars, she did the NCAA special Shap + Pak + a whole bunch of nothing to get back to the high bar, but then stepped it up at the end with a toe-full connected to her dismount like good old fashioned Aliya. She’ll be ready this year. I mean, Valentina’s basically already complaining that Aliya got wayyyyyyy underscored for this routine because she was punished for being too traditionally beautiful.
But really, for a connoisseur of Aliya’s attempted beam connections like me, this was heaven. It’s early, you guys. This is just an exhibition showcase. She’s not trying to connect them yet and is dutifully grabbing the beam between every single arm wave like a good Russian. But this was a shot across the bow. Our girl is warning us that’s she’s absolutely going to try to get credit for switch 1/2 + Onodi + split ring + bhs, and I’m here for it.
The dream is that Aliya comes back with one continuous mixed series of seven elements directly connected into a dismount, and that’s the whole routine and it’s 30 seconds long, and then she throws a smoke bomb and disappears in a flurry of capes that appeared from nowhere.
This week, it’s Valeri, Fran, Geddert, and Michigan State in the news (so, the usual), along with some fun times being probably culturally ignorant about that insane Oleg interview. Then, all the happenings in NCAA gym, who got 10s, who should and shouldn’t get 10s, and which teams are real this season.
Mostly, it’s about embarrassingly mispronouncing words.
H. Beam routine of the week
Deep dive today! On the topic of Chinese juniors, Perfect Chinese Junior Who Never Sees The Light of Day is one of my all-time favorite categories of gymnast, and today’s entry belongs to Cui Jie.
Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of her because why would you have, but post-2008 Olympics, she and Yao Jinnan were THE THING among the Chinese juniors.
I love the 2017 code realness this routine composition is delivering. Attempted front aerial + back tuck + sheep jump combination? Front tuck to Rueda? Where are you in our current lives?