The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

American Classic – What Even Was This Meet?

Fear not, I have finally returned to the land of the living and have fully watched…whatever the American Classic was supposed to be. So let’s get into it.

First, a few brief lengthy notes about the inevitable gymternet controversy that cropped up surrounding the stream of this meet (WHO COULD HAVE SEEN A CONTROVERSY COMING), sparked once again by USAG’s inability to plan anything or answer a simple question. In this case the question was, “What even is this meet?”

USAG clearly had no idea. On one hand, it tried to make American Classic into a real public meet this year and sell tickets (exactly 11 of them, I think), yet on the other hand, it still gave coaches/athletes the option (as exercised by Grace McCallum and Riley McCusker) not to be shown on the live stream—an inherent contradiction.

Which is it? A public meet or a secret meet? Pick one.

My expectation is that if the American Classic is a public meet where the organization sells tickets that anyone can buy, streams the meet live, uses the meet for selection purposes, and promotes the meet using specific athletes, then opting out of a live stream should not be presented as an option. Just as no one would allow Simone to opt out of being shown on TV at nationals even if she wanted that, or no one would allow an NCAA athlete to opt out of being shown on the SEC Network. This isn’t training. It’s THE SHOW. The paying customers are going to see your routines anyway.

If, however, you’ve decided the American Classic is a rinky-dink little nothing competition held at Nancy’s guest shack or whatever in order to allow athletes to play around and get experience—more like the other elite qualifiers—then who even cares. (Exactly no one cared that we didn’t see McCusker’s routines from the last elite qualifier.) Either way is acceptable, but USAG has to decide one way or the other and communicate to everyone what it wants this meet to be.

Communicate that this is another US Classic and if you’re not ready to show routines to the world, that’s fine, but then this completely optional public meet is not for you.

Or, conversely, communicate that this is not a real competition and shouldn’t be treated as such—and then don’t hold it in a big arena and don’t sell tickets.

Once again, USAG creates an entirely avoidable mess through poor communication (and not attempting to reconcile its own aims with what the national team/coaches prefer), and then walks away and lets everyone else get upset about it.

Ultimately, USAG did tweet McCusker’s beam routine, so you might live, with her name misspelled and never corrected. (USAG is becoming a full satire at this point, and I’m in the front row.)

McCusker’s bars (with a 7.700 E) never materialized, which I don’t love because only releasing the super perfect routine and not the 7.7 E score unintentionally reinforces one of the uglier parts of gymnastics culture—sending the message that you are only worth being seen when you are perfect and that mistakes are something to be ashamed of. It’s the same way I feel when NCAA teams live-tweet meets but only mention the hits and pretend the people who fell don’t exist, treating them like they must be hidden from view due to being huge disappointments.


Anyway, the actual gymnastics…

  • Jade Carey competed her first elite bars routine for 12.650 (4.8 D), a totally acceptable Aly Raisman-2010 set where it’s clearly her weakest event but Romania would also gladly burn down the Deva castle to have it. I’m eager to see where Carey ends up in all-around standings now that she has this bars routine. If you add a 12.650 bars score to her results from nationals last year, she ends up 7th AA, a couple tenths behind Hurd and right in the mix. At this meet, she showed just bars and beam, falling on her beam dismount.
  • Only seven senior athletes competed the all-around, allowing Shilese Jones to use her big DTY to win despite a fall on beam. Jones was the only senior who vaulted a DTY, and it makes a huge difference.
  • Kara Eaker scored 14.850 for a lovely beam routine that she can even improve upon as the summer progresses. Eaker competes with the composition the 2017-2020 code expects of beamers, which will allow her to continue scoring this high as we go. Bars keeps being a problem, but I have to believe it will come along because her handstands are glorious. Still, we must discuss how they’ve given her Hernando’s Hideaway, which is basically GAGE self-parody. Come on, Armine. The Cold War is over. There are plenty of songs for everyone.
  • Audrey Davis did a casual Healy to layout Jaeger (a real layout Jaeger that could get credit as a layout Jaeger), and we haven’t been talking about that enough. It happened, you guys.
  • Be sure to watch Isabel Mabanta’s leaps on floor. She’s very much in line to fulfill the annual Luisa Blanco/Erin Macadaeg role of the new senior elite you’ve never heard of who shows up randomly and is beautiful. I’m not surprised she had the highest floor E score among the seniors.
  • Alyona Shchennikova’s strained relationship with bars dismounts continued, falling on her 1/2 turn to double back. She came back to hit beam after that, and it’s supposed to be the other way around!
  • We did not get to see Emily Lee’s beam (a routine for which she scored 14.650 at an elite qualifier) because she had a scary peel off on a Shap 1/2 on bars and pulled out of the rest of the meet.
  • Deanne Soza fell on beam and therefore missed the three-event qualifying score she needed for nationals. She’ll have another chance to get the score at US Classic and must be at nationals because toes.
  • Madelyn Williams achieved her three-event score to nationals by competing a lovely bars routine to the tune of a comically inappropriate song for a gymnastics meet. I can’t stop laughing about that being in the playlist. Why. Her 14.250 reigned as the highest bars score among seniors.
  • There were always about six Blakely’s going on any event at any given time. Sloane, the senior sister, had a number of falls but did stand out with massive height on beam and falling directly into a back extension on floor.
  • In the juniors, Kayla DiCello cruised to victory with a massive 55.400—the 3rd-highest AA score in the US this year, juniors or seniors. She managed that despite basically falling on her Ferrari on floor and just getting lucky that her subsequent choreography was on the ground, directly connecting it to a “my life is actually hilarious” facial expression.
  • Aleah Finnegan proved worthy of the family mantle with her awesome execution on beam, recording an E score of 8.650, which was higher than both Eaker and McCusker. She also fell on her bars dismount amusingly, so her meet really was the whole package.
  • We saw a number of FUN variations on wolf turns, from the “I’m basically going to do this standing because easier” to the “my leg is going to be 1000% bent throughout”  to the “my amount of turns is oneth and a half.” We also saw fun variations on side jumps, from “not even close” to “I’ve fallen.” Mostly those two variations.
  • What have we learned? Nothing. Wait until US Classic. And then wait until nationals.
%d bloggers like this: