The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – April 13, 2018

A. Say Yes to Jesolo

The Trofeo Citta di Jesolo—or as it is known in the US, “[Pause] Italy meet”—is upon us once more with many of the best countries in the world converging on Jesolo, lured by its format of having barely any rules about roster size. A one-stop shop for international experience!

With the individual US gyms stepping up to send gymnasts (in absence of USAG sending an official team), the assembled roster is shaping up much like in other years with the US group a mix of top seniors (Smith, Malabuyo) and newbies at their first rodeo. Meanwhile, Russia has sent a pretty solid senior and junior squad this year led by Melnikova, Brazil is getting Saraiva and Barbosa back out there, Romania is sending a full team to show it still has a program kind of, and Italy is bringing the typical large army of everyone.

Junior Team/AA – Saturday April 14, 4:00am ET, 1:00am PT
Senior Team/AA – Saturday April 14, 10:00am ET, 7:00am PT
Event Finals – Sunday April 15, 8:30am ET, 5:30am PT

Only on FLO for us Americans.

On the US side, it will be fascinating to see how the scores put up by Smith and Malabuyo compare to what we’ve seen this year from Hurd as we start to clarify the picture of who the most significant contenders will be this summer/fall among a group that remains rather indistinct.

B. Pac Rims Team

On that note, the US has announced that it will be sending a team of McCallum, Hurd, Chiles, Lee, DiCello, and Bowers to Pac Rims this year following last weekend’s selection camp. The three seniors and three juniors follow exactly the all-around results from verification.

It seems like an approach specifically designed to avoid controversy at this point—not a bad idea. But, that will not be a usable system to decide a team when we get to competitions that matter, like worlds. This Pac Rims team is not one that maximizes scoring potential on all the events, which is fine for now, but you can’t just take the top AAers to worlds. They’re going to have to stick their necks out for selection at some point and decide what the new NTC approach/system is going to be, and do it pretty soon.

C. Tokyo

Running simultaneously to Jesolo will be the final competition in this run of all-around world cups, Tokyo.

The women’s roster features the much-anticipated return of Trinity Thomas to competition, though to get the shiny she will have to work past favorites like Mai Murakami and Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos in what is a fairly deep field of competitors, also including Simakova, Seitz, Sugihara, Victoria Woo, and Volleman. While it originally appeared like Simakova would be here to give Melnikova a rest for a single week, also nah. Melnikova is just at Jesolo instead. MUST COMPETE ALL MEETS.

On the men’s side, Sam Mikulak will be in action for the first time since Winter Cup, trying to unseat Shirai and Dalaloyan for the top AA places.

Competition will go similarly to the format of American Cup, with the men’s and women’s meets running simultaneously but staggered since the men’s event is so much longer. Action begins with the men at 10:50pm ET/7:50pm PT on Friday night and will last for over four hours so be sure to get some…like hardtack and shiny trauma blankets or whatever? Four hours. Gah.

NBC will be streaming.

D. Regular Signing Period

The NCAA’s “regular” signing period began on Wednesday (most gymnasts sign during the “early” period, but not all), and we do have a few significant stragglers adding themselves to teams for next year.

Trinity Thomas – Florida
Florida is going to return 18 of its 24 current lineup routines for next year and is adding a class of five scholarship gymnasts, led by Thomas and Johnson-Scharpf. So things are probably looking OK.

Norah Flatley – UCLA
She lives. Flatley competed as a L10 in a few JO events this year to show that she can still do gymnastics in public since it has been so long, most recently winning bars at the Iowa state championship. She’ll join a class of Marz Frazier and VT/FX specialist Sekai Wright that will be expected to improve on this season’s team despite the departure of Peng.

Rachel Baumann – Georgia
Georgia’s quest to add someone to fill the open scholarship spot for next year went well, as Rachel Baumann will be joining a year early to fill out a large, roster-refresh style class of top L10s. Georgia will also be adding walk-on Sterlyn Austin to the large 2019 class, whom they’ll look to for depth options on vault and floor.

Cammy Hall – Utah
Hall has qualified for this year’s JO Nationals and is expected to contribute on vault and floor for Utah. She posted a career-high 9.825 on vault at the Region 7 championships yesterday.

Kristina Peterson – Oregon State
Jasmine Gutierrez – Arizona State
Natalie Payne – TWU

Emily Anderson – Seattle Pacific
Olivia Zona – George Washington
Maddy Langkamp – Iowa State

CGF also has Jensie Givens, a UB/BB specialist these last few years, joining Alabama next season, presumably in a walk-on role.

In other NCAA news, the carousel has begun. I don’t expect as many coaching changes this offseason as we had last year, which featured an unprecedented amount of turnover, but as performance-based coaching decisions become more common and swift (you don’t have to be a monster to get fired anymore!), we will see more changes and exchanges and whatnot.

Team Outgoing coach Reason Incoming coach
Rutgers Louis Levine Contract
not renewed

E. USAG Nationals

Because every competition is called the exact same thing, it can get confusing, but this intermediate weekend between regionals and nationals brings us the USAG collegiate championship, a championship specifically reserved for programs able to offer between 0 and 6 scholarships (as opposed to the DI norm of 12 for the big-girl programs).

This is not to be confused with “USA Gymnastics Championships,” the national championship for the non-artistic events, and “U.S. Gymnastics Championships” which is P&G Championships now that any reasonable company won’t touch this trash monster with a ten-foot pole.

Maybe get some new names?

USAG nationals has had the correct championship format worked out for a while now with two four-team semifinals, followed by a four-team final, followed by event finals. WHHHAAAAAA?

Semifinal #1
April 13, 2:00 CT – Lindenwood, Bridgeport, Air Force, Penn

Semifinal #2
April 13, 7:00 CT – TWU, Yale, Cornell, Brown

Team Final
April 14, 7:00 CT

Event Finals
April 15, 1:00 CT

Lindenwood is the favorite for the title this year, but watch out for TWU, especially as the host of the meet this year. We’ve seen TWU’s scores soar at home, and Lindenwood just barely got out of its semifinal. Yale has also enjoyed a program-best season this year with records flying all over the place, so keep an eye on that as well.

F. GymCastic

This week, we recap NCAA regionals, US verification camp, and Commonwealth Games—also featuring a very special lambasting of USAG for its handling of non-disclosure agreements. You would expect nothing less!

G. Beam routine of the week


I’m very interested to see what kind of E score this routine gets in Tokyo in the current beam score-scape. Thomas was going high 8s in the US domestically (8.700 for the routine above, and a bunch of that was the dismount), and while NO ONE is getting high 8s on beam at seriously FIG-scored meets right now, Thomas is one of the best nominees in the world for a high execution score because there’s so relatively little to take in terms of built-in deductions. If she hits, it will be a useful standard to evaluate what a “good” beam execution score is right now.

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