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Things Are Happening – July 13, 2018


A. Qualified

Following American Classic, our list of senior gymnasts currently qualified to nationals has grown longer.

Morgan Hurd – 2017 worlds team member
Ragan Smith – 2017 worlds team member
Jade Carey – 2017 worlds team member
Ashton Locklear – 2017 worlds team member – OUT
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
Gabby Perea – April verification
Adeline Kenlin – April verification (2 events – UB/BB)
Alyona Shchennikova – April verification
Shilese Jones – American Classic
Shania Adams – American Classic
Madeleine Johnston – American Classic
Kara Eaker – American Classic
Madelyn Williams – American Classic (3 events – VT/UB/BB)
Audrey Davis – American Classic (2 events – VT/UB)
Riley McCusker – American Classic (2 events – UB/BB)

We’ll see Biles and Malabuyo at US Classic (and obviously any petitions they might need after that point will be granted). Plus, there are others in the mix like Olivia Dunne, whom we expect to add her name to this list at Classic or through petition, so it should be a pretty hearty field. Last quad, the senior fields at nationals got too small and exclusive (13 people in 2013 and 2014), so I’m pleased to see we’ll be back over 20 competitors this year.

The currently qualified juniors are

Kayla DiCello – February verification
Sunisa Lee – April verification
Jordan Bowers – April verification
Sydney Barros – April verification
JaFree Scott – April verification
Leanne Wong – April verification
Lilly Lippeatt – April verification
Tori Tatum – Junior Pan Ams
Konnor McClain – American Classic
Skye Blakely – American Classic
Olivia Greaves – American Classic
Ui Soma – American Classic
Aleah Finnegan – American Classic
Levi Jung-Ruivivar – American Classic
Sydney Morris – American Classic
Ciena Alipio – American Classic
Karis German – American Classic
Zoe Gravier – American Classic

B. Men’s National Qualifier

On Saturday, the US men will compete in their own version of the American Classic at the OTC—except there has been not a whisper of streaming or anything…because men’s. You’ve all opted out of the stream, and you didn’t have a choice.

Come on, guys. Grab a phone, make like a Russian, and instagram it or something.

Several of the big names will be competing—Mikulak, Penev, and Whittenburg—though all three have already qualified to nationals by virtue of being on the national team. Penev and Whittenburg have both been out with injury this year, so putting up scored routines here is a critical benchmark for them heading toward nationals and heading toward a worlds selection process where their overlapping FX/VT strengths will probably pit them head-to-head for a spot.

Keep an eye on…your local carrier pigeon or something…for results from this one.

Juniors compete at 12:30 MT and seniors at 6:00 MT, and you can check out the start list here.

C. Valeri in Brazil

Well well well well well well well well. Valeri Liukin led a national team camp in Brazil this month, his second time doing so this year. A guest-coaching stint may just be all this is (there has been no official announcement that he’s taking over or doing anything permanent), but Brazil does have a history of hiring Russian expats to lead the women’s program.

If you’re Brazil…I guess go for it? While Valeri’s distressing Atler-Ohashi past with relation to unhealthy weight and body-image coaching practices made him an untenable choice for the US right now, I also don’t believe it is “you can never coach anyone ever again!” disqualifying. If it were, the US national coaching staff would be an instant ghost town because that kind of BS used to be the norm. A simple public recognition of past mistakes might have been sufficient, expressing a commitment to creating a healthier atmosphere moving forward and learning how to coach fitness and weight properly. And if I’m the leadership of the Brazilian program, that’s still what I’m looking for before he could take over. It’s not a lot to ask.

D. Athlete Task Force

Remember that time Kerry Perry went to Congress two months ago and was like, “The Athlete Task Force is a thing!” but it definitely wasn’t? Well…it’s now a thing.

An Athlete Task Force is a nice idea if it has any actual influence on policy, but…come on. Unfortunately, our experience with USAG (and every other organization that has ever pretended, “We want you to have a voice!”) tells us this announcement will prove mere lip service to the ambiguous idea of ATHLETE EMPOWERMENT, a cynical attempt to be seen doing something that looks not-terrible. The ham-fisted way this was rolled out doesn’t exactly bode well.

Note that the duties of the Athlete Task Force outlined in the announcement are all crazy vague. You guys, they’re doing “key athlete-focused initiatives for the organization.” Oh those. You know, the initiatives. Very specific. Thank you.

The expected reality is that the Athlete Task Force will meet once in a blue moon, say good things publicly, and have no actual decision-making powers or influence at all as its recommendations are placed directly into that shredder-shaped filing cabinet under the desk.

Also, Ivana Hong and Steve Legendre are already the athlete reps on the board of directors. Shouldn’t they already have a voice? How is this different? Wasn’t this an opportunity to give more athletes input into the process? (If that’s what you actually want, which it isn’t.)

The first time a member of this task force publicly states a disagreement with USAG policy or a criticism of something USAG has done (without being quietly and immediately removed from the task force), then I’ll start to listen, but until then, I’m not optimistic that this is anything more than PR.

E. More terrible

As if the litany of injuries currently facing the top European contenders were not enough, Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary is now injured as well and will have to miss Euros.

Kovacs remains the leader of the Hungarian team, and her absence is as devastating to Hungary’s prospects as Steingruber’s absence is to Switzerland’s. While Hungary has other up-and-comers like new seniors Feher and Peter (and exciting junior Bianka Schermann, who will be senior next year), the program is still all about Kovacs to a large degree. Hungary making the team final in 2016 was a big deal, but it’s hard to envision a repeat now.

This does take away any of the controversy regarding Hungarian team selection now, as the team of Feher, Peter, Devai, Böczögö, and Makra is the aggressively obvious choice. Still not a bad group.

F. Mersin Challenge Cup

A brief check-in with the ignored step-sister of the Challenge Cup circuit, Mersin, which I haven’t talked about at all yet because it was not well-attended on the women’s side (the field lacked enough bars routines even to make up a full final).

But, we did see the return of Dipa Karmakar to competition with a handspring lay 1/1 and a Tsuk 2/1 that were difficult enough and landed-upright enough to win the vault title in a walk. Stay with those. Work on them. Don’t do a Prod. Those vaults, even with those landings, would be at least in contention to make a worlds vault final.

Otherwise, Turkey had a good meet, cruising to gold and silver on the other three events, and taking three of the six gold medals on the men’s side. Little Rhys Back Garden also successfully endured all of his dramas to win the title on PH.

G. GymCastic

This week, we have a commissioned episode on our favorite floor routines EVAH! If you think I wasn’t going to include those crazy Romanian ones from the 70s along with all of the actually good routines, then you don’t know me at all.


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