A. Is for Ashton
I alluded to ASHTON DRAMA ALERT last week because she had been mysteriously removed from the national team list on the USAG website. Really, just her gym was stricken from the record, not Ashton herself as a human person.
The deal right now: Ashton Locklear has left Everest. As for the rest…don’t worry about it. Yet.
So I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about Ashton’s gymnastics moving forward. (What? Actual gymnastics? Say it ain’t so?!?) We’re at a turning point for one-event specialists with the increasingly shrunken team sizes not benefiting those specialists who come from team-focused countries that don’t care about apparatus world cups.
Did the last world championship—along with the impending emergence of Gabby Perea—serve as the writing on the wall for Locklear’s time as a US bars specialist and international team member? For the answer to be no, Locklear would have to get enough crazy bars difficulty back to shove herself onto a 5-person worlds team with only one contributing event. It’s possible (she and Kocian both made a 6-person team), but her bars would have to be really worth it.
In that respect, I understand the occasional push we hear that ASHTON IS GOING TO TRAIN THE ALL-AROUND AGAIN, the idea being that having prelims-usable sets helps her chances to make a team. But at the same time…don’t. The real way she makes a team again is if her bars D is so aggressively good that you can’t NOT take that routine—meaning it provides a significant upgrade over a Biles or Smith “well, we could just use that and it would be fine” routine. Working hard to get a 4.8 D score on floor doesn’t help her stay healthy enough to unearth her “you must take me” difficulty on bars.
Plus, if you’re looking to 2020, Ashton’s route would be in one of the individual spots since a 4-4-3 (Q) and 4-3-3 (TF) format is very unfriendly to one-event gymnasts. Being a legit medal contender on bars (with the other events entirely irrelevant) is how she’d get that spot. The question now is whether she physically has that in her still.
B. Melbourne World Cup
Qualification has concluded at the first world cup event of the year in Melbourne, and it was…fine I guess?
Chen Yile, the savior of China, leads the field on bars by nearly a full point and on beam by more than 1.5 points. Because she’s, like, better than everyone else.
But also exactly as we would expect from China’s future. What really gives Chen the upper hand is her legit DTY and still being intact enough to do Chinese floor composition without dying. So while she didn’t compete those events in Melbourne, those are the assets that give her a major leg up over someone like Luo Huan. They also make her a real AA threat, like Shang Chunsong if she could vault.
Chen’s challengers on bars in this meet, Du Siyu and Rianna Mizzen, both ended up pretty far behind in qualification, Du collapsing on her 80 millionth pirouette and Mizzen having enough leg breaks and handstand problems to take her E-score well down.
Alexandra Eade has the lead on floor with a hit 5.1 routine featuring enough Brestyan’s style tumbling for Mihai to be like, “Well, I don’t actively hate this the entire time…”
This third pass, though. I don’t quite get it. It looks like a placeholder, but it was that way in 2017 as well.
Godwin has a bit more difficulty in her routine (5.4) but got landing-deductioned to death in this instance to sit third. She’s probably still the favorite in the final if she comes through with a hit.
Emily Whitehead leads vault after the expected favorite Liu Jinru went with just a Tsuk 1/1 and a handspring pike 1/2 (I’m guessing based on the D scores) to qualify in 5th. We’ll see if she’s ready to bring her real difficulty in the final, which would put her well ahead of the field.
On the men’s side, news was dominated by very small baby child Milad Karimi breaking his arm on PBars, and also China being like, “We’re bonkers better than all of you, and none of these people are even going to make our worlds team.”
Stay tuned for finals, which you can actually watch on the Olympic Channel.
C. Commonwealth Games teams
We experienced a little bit of an earthquake in the selection of Commonwealth Games teams this week. It began when Ellie Downie revealed to us that she’s going to be all crutches and boots for a few weeks and wasn’t really ready to come back when she did, which means she won’t be participating in the Birmingham World Cup (replaced by Tinkler) or the Commonwealth Games.
Crap. After that horror, England announced that the team for CWG will be Tinkler, Fragapane, Fenton, Kinsella, and Simm.
Tinkler, Fragapane, and Fenton were considered locks, and I expect Kinsella got the spot as “replacement Ellie” since she can give them a 13.0 on floor and theoretically a DTY. The semi-surprise was the omission of Becky Downie, presumably because she’s not ready and has barely competed and doesn’t have her full difficulty yet (just that). I’d still say that a 70%-ready Becky Downie is better than any other choice, but England did have the option of using Simm instead and went that route. Simm is the best non-Downie bars worker of the remaining options.
The men’s team for England will be Whitlock, Wilson, Hall, Cunningham, and Tulloch, which pretty much covers the bases for a team final scenario—except for missing out on the Brinn Bevan pommel horse routine. He was the other serious option/team snub.
Canada made an interesting selection of its own with the women’s team, going Rio Redux. It’s Black, Onyshko, Olsen, Woo, and Rogers, with the big surprise being the absence of Brooklyn Moors. (Padurariu injured herself at Elite Canada.) Moors is still expected to compete at American Cup and Pac Rims, so the decision looks like it was based on spreading out assignments and giving more people opportunities.
Still, you would expect the best possible group to be used for CWG since it’s the most prestigious of these competitions, and Moors has proven based on worlds and beyond that she’s among the best five Canada has right now. That’s why the announcement came as a bit of a surprise.
The Commonwealth Games gymnastics competition is April 4-8 in Australia.
D. Verification nation
As you know, this Sunday the US women will be competing amongst themselves for international assignments at the LSU verification meet. Well, some are there in the attempt to get international assignments. Others are going just to show skills and progress. Because PROVE YOURSELF TO MARTHA EVERY MONTH culture dies hard.
In addition to Sunday’s verification, USAG announced that it will be holding another one-day verification at WCC on April 8th to select the six-member team for Pac Rims. Yes, that is the same weekend as NCAA regionals and Commonwealth Games. No, you won’t survive. The Pac Rims team is three seniors and three juniors again this year (the normal format) after being six seniors in 2016.
So, don’t worry US elites. You’re still competing all the live long day. Speaking of which…
Everyone is going to Jesolo anyway. Despite the US not sending an official team through USAG, American gymnasts are still able to compete at Jesolo as individuals, and it looks like 50 million of them will be doing exactly that, just like always.
The group includes Ragan Smith, Emma Malabuyo, Adeline Kenlin, Olivia Dunne, Alyona Shchennikova, Grace McCallum, Tori Tatum, and Sydney Barros. So essentially there’s no difference between this and a normal year. That also explains why gymnasts like Smith and Malabuyo will not be competing at LSU this Sunday, with Texas Dreams recognizing that if you’re not trying for an AA world cup assignment and have decided just to go to Jesolo instead, there’s no point in being there.
Jesolo will be April 14-15. It’s getting busy around here.
F. Injury parade!
Elena Eremina is having back surgery and will be out of training for 6 months, more or less putting her out of commission for the 2018 competition season. That’s a huge blow to Russia and will force Valentina to turn Mustafina and Komova’s cryogenic reanimation chambers up to 50 while whispering, “Hey gurlllll, imma need you to do floor now.”
Reconciling the bars gymnasts with the floor gymnasts and squeezing all the needed scores onto a single team could get interesting this year. And by this year, I mean every year.
In other news, Sanna Veerman has a broken toe and is out of American Cup for the Dutch, who will not send a replacement. Instead, France will send Lorette Charpy to fill out the field of nine.
They couldn’t send Juliette Bossu because she’s also out 3-6 months with a patellar tendon injury. Everything is terrible.
G. Men’s national team
USAG named the 12 athletes who will make up the current national team following Winter Cup. The top six in the AA automatically got spots: Mikulak, Kimble, Modi, Bower, Melton, and Yoder. Meanwhile, the requirement for Moldauer to make it back onto the national team was basically just, “Heyyyyyyy friennddddd,” which he successfully fulfilled to make it 7.
Penev and Whittenburg did in fact injury petition their ways onto the team to make it 9, so the remaining 3 spots went to Naddour, Bailey, and Wiskus because of the reasons apparently.
H. Marian and Andreea
You guys. Marian Dragulescu and new head of the Romanian federation (and professional silver lining) Andreea Raducan are in a huge fight on social media, and everyone else is living for it. So basically, here’s what’s going down:
Marian was like
and Andreea was like
and then Marian was like
So Andreea decided that he’s
and never trains, but Marian says he couldn’t because
and then Marian pulled out his medals the prove that he’s
so Andreea was like
Then Marian went on Facebook again to say
and Andreea was like
So Marian was like
and Andreea was like
And that’s basically where we are.
This week, Jessica and Kensley recap all the juiciness of Winter Cup for you in case you happened to be watching NCAA and the Winter Olympics and missed all of it (not…autobiographical…at all…).
Then I roll in to talk about all the latest bad-guy news and the latest NCAA 10s and cracky scores. It’s kind of my jam.
J. Beam routine of the week
That height and chest landing position on the back full, you guys. Is it laid out? Is it tucked? I don’t care. It’s awesome. This is why, when gymnasts land tuck fulls all ball-shaped and crunched over and people go, “Well, it’s a hard skill, what do you expect them to do?” the answer is OLESIA DUDNIK IS WHAT WE EXPECT THEM TO DO. BE THAT OR NOTHING.
Also note that this routine got a 10 with that dismount. Whenever NCAA gym gets cracky, it’s important to watch this routine and remember that the approach to scoring was way stupider in elite in the 80s. And then, you know, just snap a bunch of pencils or something.