The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – June 29, 2018

A. The Ranch

The DA and assistant DA in Walker County, Texas provided an update on the investigation into the ranch today, announcing that That Guy has been indicted on six counts of sexual assault of a child, and (the surprise here) that Debbie Van Horn has also been indicted for sexual assault of a child. This was for “acting as a party” in one of the assault charges against That Guy, according to the DA. Yikes. There’s more and more and always more.

If you haven’t been up on it, Van Horn is the one who was always sitting on the folding chairs amongst all the backpacks at every competition and you asked “who is that lady?” every single year—the trainer who we’ve said should have seen, should have known, should have watched, should have questioned, and should have followed up. But such a direct charge, acting as a party in the sexual assault of a child, comes as a surprise.

They didn’t announced any other indictments, but the investigation is ongoing. They did mention that several other people would have been charged with failure to report, but the two-year statue of limitations has expired, so they couldn’t charge them. They interviewed the Karolyis, Steve Penny, and Rhonda Faehn as part of the investigation, making a specific point of sassing Steve Penny’s lack of cooperation. “He didn’t provide much assistance.” Yep. We know.

Martha also definitely worked her magic because the DA and assistant DA were very keen to tell us about how the golden child did nothing wrong and was just a humble coach who was bamboozled by USAG. They found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the Karolyis, so it seems they’re off the hook here.

B. American Classic

While most of the US gymternet erratic-twirl-machine has been consumed with the news of Tom Forster becoming the new women’s High-Performance Team Coordinator, which I wrote up yesterday (short version: He sounds like the best of the available options, proceed with caution because of USAG and 90s coaching, hilarious GIF), we also received the roster for the newly broadcast American Classic on July 7th at Utah.

Senior elite
Shania Adams
Sloane Blakely
Jade Carey
Audrey Davis
Kara Eaker
Jaylene Gilstrap
Olivia Hollingsworth
Madeleine Johnston
Shilese Jones
Adeline Kenlin
Emily Lee
Isabel Mabanta
Grace McCallum
Riley McCusker
Alyona Shchennikova
Deanne Soza
Madelyn Williams

Junior elite
Ciena Alipio
Love Birt
Skye Blakely
Sophia Butler
Kailin Chio
Claire Dean
Kayla DiCello
Amari Drayton
Addison Fatta
Aleah Finnegan
Delaney Fisher
eMjae Frazier
Gabreille Gallentine
Elizabeth Gantner
Karis German
Trista Goodman
Zoe Gravier
Olivia Greaves
Maeve Hahn
Selena Harris
Kaytlyn Johnson
Levi Jung-Ruivivar
Alonna Kratzer
Lillian Lewis
Kaliyah Lincoln
Lauren Little
Mallory Marchelli
Konnor McClain
Sydney Morris
Brenna Neault
Sienna Robinson
Katelyn Rosen
Lyden Saltness
Abigail Scanlon
Ava Siegfeldt
Ui Soma
Calvary Swaney
Tori Tatum

The senior roster is fairly typical for American Classic, where the biggest names who have been competing recently do not attend because there’s literally no reason for them to, but we will see the likes of Riley McCusker, who’s getting back into competition form after a medium-sized injury absence, and Jade Carey, who has been adding skills on bars this spring.

USAG will be streaming the meet on YouTube, juniors at 11:00am MT, seniors at 4:00pm. Hopes sessions will be the day before.

Scores at this one are important because seniors need to have a 52.000 AA (or 39.750 three-event score, or 27.000 two-event score) to advance to nationals if they didn’t already reach that score at one of the verification meets or a USAG international assignment. (Jesolo and Gymnix don’t count for qualification since they weren’t official USAG assignments—because, you know, that makes the scores less valid or something?) As for the juniors, they need a 51.000 AA and cannot qualify with the three- or two-event score. Both juniors and seniors will have another chance to get their scores at US Classic on the 28th if they don’t get them at American Classic.

By my count, the seniors who have already qualified for nationals are Morgan Hurd (2017 worlds team member), Ragan Smith (2017 worlds team member), Jade Carey (2017 worlds team member), Ashton Locklear (2017 worlds team member – currently injured), Jordan Chiles (2017 worlds team alternate), Margzetta Frazier (February verification), Grace McCallum (February verification), Maile O’Keefe (2018 American Cup), Trinity Thomas (2018 Tokyo World Cup), Adeline Kenlin (April verification), Gabby Perea (April verification), and Alyona Shchennikova (April verification). Shilese Jones also got a 3-event qualifying score at April verification.

Note: Kenlin’s vault at the April verification was on a soft surface, so I’m not sure if that was allowed to count for her qualifying score. As always, this information is cobbled together and incomplete (because a public list is not kept by USAG due to FUN), so there may be others who have qualified already and we never saw those scores.

C. Russian Cup

We’re through two days of all-around competition for the women at the Russian Cup, and it has been so Russian and sort of disastrous. We yearn for nothing else. Basically what you need to know is that Melnikova won, everyone fell on beam at every available opportunity, and Nabieva has started trying again. Good times were had by all.

Except for Mustafina and Alexeeva, who both missed the competition because of stupid knees. Mustafina is apparently no longer aiming for the Euros team, so Euros is canceled, sorry everyone.

In the end, Melnikova wasn’t truly challenged by the field, leading the overall two-day standings by nearly three points despite not being at 100%—her knees were mummified, so she watered down her floor tumbling and struggled to get around her DTY. But, Melnikova was pretty much the only person who didn’t fall on beam in the AA final (Melnikova is a beamer now, get used to it) and looked good on bars, which was enough to distance herself from the rest of the field.

Ilyankova had a strong first day of competition to stay close to Melnikova and remind us that she has four whole events (which allowed her to hang on for silver in the end), but she struggled in the AA final with a fall on beam and a disaster-Yezhova on bars. AND I THOUGHT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE A BARS SPECIALIST. She does get bonus points for being 18 kinds of extra to get onto the floor.

AA bronze went to Komova, who had some problems of her own on the second day, sitting her final pass on floor and falling on a side jump on beam like some trash American. The brighter spots: bars was the stuff of dreams, her DTY was among the better ones, and her floor routine for this year has a ton of potential. We see occasional moments of actual engagement and investment in worthwhile choreography in that one (our elite standards are so low at this point, but still…)

Simakova was in third after the first day yet dropped to fourth place in the final standings because of vault and, you guessed it, beam. But really, we need to discuss Nabieva finishing fifth. AKA winning. She showed a controlled landing on a DTY on the second day (Nabieva legs, but it’s part of her charm), hit bars, only fell once on beam, and solidly three-quarter-assed a floor routine. She didn’t even stop in the middle or roll her eyes as a dance passage, which is admittedly a shame, but the second turn of her double L on floor was still heavily sarcastic. So I’ll take it. I’ll take it to the bank.

Obviously, I’ve been trying to find a way to shoehorn her onto the Euros team. It’s not going to happen, but that can’t stop me from thinking about it.

Based on this meet, and assuming Mustafina is out, a Euros team for Russia would have Melnikova, Komova, and Simakova as the front runners, a group that provides most of the routines you want in a TF. That trio would need to be joined by about one more solid routine per event to round out a team. Kharenkova remains very much in play to do beam and floor, and with a bars routine from Ilyankova (and backup sets on the other pieces), that could make a fairly complete team, if a little too sparse on vault for comfort.

If she’s fully fit, Alexeeva is also in the mix because she can provide a usable score on UB, BB, FX. It’s a shame she doesn’t have a DTY (you call yourself an American?) since that would really boost her argument.

Zubova may be in there, but she’s really only bringing a TF score on beam and has consistency problems, which doesn’t make for the best argument. Viktoria Trykina is probably in a similar boat, though she also has the potential to bring a vault score, which could boost her stock a little. As does Nabieva. Just saying. Best vault score of the AA final.

The competition continues with event finals tomorrow.

D. Aly is done with that flipping BS

When Aly began giving interviews about how everyone in gymnastics is an outright garbage person and she’s our only hope for a better future, she was still leaving the door open that she would continue with competition. She wasn’t training at the time, so it was more of an “I mean I guess?” kind of thing, but now that she doesn’t have to scream “TOKYO 2020” to get you to listen to her, she’s beginning to close that door.

She told InStyle “I always want to be involved in gymnastics, but I can make more change outside the sport,” which is very retirement-y. And also true. I mean, how many more Olympic medals does one need?

E. Rhys in the backyard with a pommel

Ostensibly because of financial things, Rhys McClenaghan’s club in Northern Ireland was like “BYE NOW FOREVER” to his coach Luke Carson, leaving Rhys with nowhere to train. So, he was forced to get his Caslavska on in the backyard with a one-pommel horse.

He’s now training at the Irish national training center in Dublin in preparation for the Challenge Cup in Turkey while he searches for permanent options. Rhys already represents Ireland at events like worlds, but he represents Northern Ireland when that’s an option at events like the Commonwealth Games.

E. QIAO!

Chow has officially been named the head coach of the Chinese women’s team. We’ve known this was going to happen for a while, but it’s an official THING now, the news coming on the exact same day that Forster was named the new NTC for the US. You mean like a contest?

I’m very here for a renewal of the US/China women’s gymnastics rivalry that was so enjoyable in the 2008 quad, but China has a ways to go right now because floor and vault are such comparative liabilities. Still, their “rival announcement timing” game is already at a 6.0 D.

His first order of business will be turning vault and floor into events where you have acrobatic skills and start values instead of…participation medals or something? #AlltheChowmanars

Also, I think this means we get to start writing his name Qiao Liang. At least I will.

F. And the rest

Trinity Thomas says that despite already starting classes at Florida next month, she’s still planning to compete at nationals this year and will put herself in the running for the worlds team. It isn’t unusual for gymnasts to do nationals and try for worlds on the eve of starting NCAA, though they typically will delay joining the team until January depending on how real their chances are. What makes Trinity’s situation different is that she’s already starting classes this summer.

In other NCAA developments, D-D got a gigantinormous raise, and Georgia has finally settled on a third (paid) coach in Jason Vonk, who most recently spent one year at George Washington before coming to Georgia. George Washington is going through assistants like EMU goes through head coaches.

In the quest to replace Charlie Tamayo after the credit card incident, Georgia has been through many twists and turns and offers to famous-name coaches who ultimately turned down the position, but the journey is finally done.

France has announced its team for Euros: Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, Marine Boyer, Lorette Charpy, Juliette Bossu, and Coline Devillard. This is the correct team and was a fairly straightforward selection that includes the country’s best three routines on every event. Olympian Louise Vanhille is the alternate. She can also deliver the goods on several events but doesn’t have that big necessary TF score on any one piece right now—the way she had on bars in previous years. Charpy and Bossu have sort of usurped her role in the squad.

Quietly, about a thousand more people have been added to USAG’s Suspended Members list for sexual misconduct. Good. Get ’em out.

G. GymCastic

This week, we caught up on the news with in-depth dissections of the suspension of Alex Naddour for sexual misconduct, the latest meet results from around the world, and the BRAZILIAN GYMNASTICS SABOTAGE. We have theories.

 

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