This weekend, it’s all about Peru. The nations of the Americas are heading to Lima to compete for the Pan American gymnastics championship.
At stake is qualification to the 2019 Pan American Games (the top 8 nations advance). But more pressingly, this competition serves as a final opportunity to make a world championships case for gymnasts from nations that haven’t yet decided their final teams and are using this competition to test out borderline candidates.
Friday, September 14 – Men’s Qualification/AA/Event Finals
10:40am ET/7:40am PT – Subdivision 1
(Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Costa Rico, Uruguay, Trinidad & Tobago, El Salvador, Bolivia)
3:00pm ET/12:00pm PT – Subdivision 2
(Colombia, Venezuela, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador)
7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT – Subdivision 3
(USA, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile, Guatemala)
Saturday, September 15 – Women’s Qualification/AA/Event Finals
11:10am ET/8:10am PT – Subdivision 1
(Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Jamaica, Panama, Dominican Republic, Bolivia)
1:30pm ET/10:30am PT – Subdivision 2
(Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Trinidiad & Tobago)
3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT – Subdivision 3
(USA, Brazil, Canada, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cayman Islands, Aruba)
Sunday, September 16 – Team Finals
11:50am ET/8:50am PT – Men’s Team Final
5:00pm ET/2:00pm PT – Women’s Team Final
The trampoline competition has been streaming on the Peruvian federation’s Facebook, so we’re optimistic that artistic will be as well.
So what’s the deal here? The US women’s team will enter as the clear favorites, but team gold shouldn’t be considered the inevitability that it typically is when the US women enter an arena.
The US is sending a B+ team of McCallum, Carey, Jones, Eaker, and Thomas that will have to perform up to its capabilities (or at least not fall five times) to be sure of fending off Brazil’s A team of Saraiva, Andrade, Barbosa, Fidelis, and Oliveira. This Brazilian team is strong enough that a gymnast of the quality of Hypolito was relegated to alternate status, and the difference in team selection strategy closes some of the expected gap between the two countries.
I don’t want to overstate the size or significance of that gap closing, however. Comparing recent scores for the selected teams, the US maintains what should be a comfortable advantage across all four events and will enjoy a large edge in floor D scores in particular, mostly because of Jade Carey and her 6.3.
Here’s what this US team just did at nationals, using the better score of the two days.
|Jones 14.7||Thomas 14.4||Eaker 14.45||Carey 14.2|
|Carey 14.65||Jones 13.95||McCallum 13.8||McCallum 13.8|
|McCallum 14.6||McCallum 13.9||Thomas 13.75||Eaker 13.55|
|Thomas 14||Eaker 13.55||Carey 13.75||Thomas 13.45|
|Eaker 13.7||Carey 12.95||Jones 13.3||Jones 13.4|
Here’s what this Brazilian team just did at event nationals, also using the better score of the two days.
|Barbosa 14.1||Oliveira 13.65||Saraiva 14.3||Fidelis 13.75|
|Saraiva 13.8||Barbosa 13.5||Fidelis 13.35||Saraiva 13.65|
|Fidelis 13.7||Saraiva 12.05||Barbosa 13.15||Barbosa 12.9|
|Oliveira – X||Fidelis 11.15||Oliveira 12.95||Oliveira 12.75|
We have nothing recent to go by for Rebeca Andrade—because we haven’t seen her in competition for a year—and Brazil’s ability to make the US actually a little nervous would depend on her. Throw an Andrad-manar into those vault scores and her 6.1 D into those bars scores, and things look a little more competitive for Brazil. But that’s quite a bit to ask of Andrade right out of the gate.
Regardless of whether the top difficulty is back, Andrade’s performance will be significant and revealing for the Brazilians because it will test whether she’s far enough along to get herself a spot on the worlds team. I’m also interested to see if Oliveira’s bars make a strong enough case for her as Brazil grapples with the issue of trying to create a complete team, while also beefing up the typically weakest event, bars. Brazil needs Fidelis and Saraiva on the team but would rather not have to rely on them for important bars scores, a dilemma that’s defining team selection right now.
Also looking for answers from injury comebacks will be the Canadian team. The Canadians have taken a similar approach to the US, leaving top gymnasts like Black and Moors home in favor of a squad of Padurariu, Chrobok, Denommee, Marois, and de Jong, one that enters as the current favorite for team bronze.
Padurariu is key. She was sailing along until getting injured in February, and we’ve seen very little of her since then. At full strength, she’s capable of nation-best scores on bars and beam, so her performances here should provide some useful answers for worlds selection. I’m very eager to see how her scores measure up against Onyshko’s recent numbers. You’d love both of them on a worlds team but also wonder if their strengths overlap too much and would expose weaknesses elsewhere. To me, there may also be a vault spot open for Canada (because do you want to count Moors or Onyshko or Padurariu there?) that several on this Pan Ams squad might be eyeing.
As for the US, even though we got a good sense of everyone’s current level at nationals, we’re still looking for a few answers from this team’s Pan Ams performance. The world agrees that Biles, Hurd, and McCusker are the front runners for Doha, and that as long as everyone has now achieved head-screwed-on-properly status, Jade Carey should go as well. But, Carey has yet to show full-strength vaults this summer, so look for her to solidify her status if she’s ready to step up the difficulty. What that Carey Amanar actually looks like right now (and what it might score) is still an outstanding issue.
The 5th worlds spot for the US is the one provoking true debate. It’s also the reason I would have preferred to see Jordan Chiles on this team. She’s a major contender for that spot because of vault, and this meet could have been a worthwhile Amanar test. Alas, that will have to come at the selection camp.
Numerically, Kara Eaker makes a strong argument to go to worlds to get a beam score, at least based on what she has received so far this year. Yet, taking someone exclusively for beam is a risky proposition—both because of having to hit and because of fears that everyone’s beam scores will get destroyed again, and suddenly what you thought was a 14.400 is now a 13.600 and not delivering the advantage you anticipated it would. Here, Eaker needs to hit both her beam routines and score well into the 14s in front of a non-domestic judging panel to make her case.
Grace McCallum also has a Peszek-style argument for worlds contention. It’s that “I got 4th in the all-around at nationals and you can use me anywhere” position. Dwindling team size has meant that kind of gymnast is usually the first to go, but if the US feels like it’s basically covered with Biles, Hurd, McCusker, and Carey and just wants to throw in another realistic option on any event, McCallum is your gymnast. The recent 2018 trend of valuing AA standings exclusively in team selection (see: this team) also benefits McCallum, who was the top finisher in this group at nationals and will be looking to win the all-around here to make her Peszek case. Meanwhile, someone like Shilese Jones will be looking to do the same and say, “Hey, I’m that person now instead.”
As for the remaining countries, I’m taking Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Chile as the other teams to qualify to TF and the 2019 Pan American Games, but watch out for the hosts Peru as well as Cuba, both also in the mix. Cuba is bringing a major medal threat in Vidiaux, though I wonder whether they have the depth of team scores without Ferrera. There might be some counting 10s and 9s at the beginning of lineups. Cuba isn’t sending any women to worlds this year (grrr), so this is basically worlds for Cuba. They want that top 8.
Danusia. Don’t forget about Danusia. She’ll be there repping Jamaica and keeping beam dismounts cool.