The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – September 19, 2018

A. US men’s selection camp

The two-day selection camp for the US men’s world championship squad begins tomorrow. And guess what. It will be streamed! Like a real competition! Well done, you.

It’s almost like getting more eyes on what you’re doing is a…dare I say it…good thing? And that it…helps promote the sport and the athletes competing? WHAT. The women’s program is like, “I don’t understand…”

Competition schedule
Thursday, September 20 – 11:00am local time (Mountain)
Saturday, September 22 – 3:30pm local time (Mountain)

The competition is limited to just the 8 members of the training squad—Mikulak, Moldauer, Modi, Kimble, Yoder, Bower, Van Wicklen, Howard—who will be divided into the 5 team members and 3 alternates following Saturday’s competition.

The big news is the withdrawal of Donothan Bailey due to injury—because he was just casually having a great year, with his best chance ever to make a worlds team. Ah ha ha. Dead.

Bailey’s replacement is Trevor Howard, who I suppose is here because of the potential 14.5 score he brings on rings. OK? That’s interesting to me because I wasn’t too, too worried about rings. If you have Mikulak, Kimble, and Moldauer, that’s not a terrible rings score by any means, so perhaps Howard’s selection is revealing of more rings anxiety (or more Kimble anxiety) than I thought there would be.

The Bailey withdrawal is the best news for Modi and Bower since it means they have less competition for those remaining couple spots. Based on the scores from nationals, the teams produced by swapping in and out Bailey, Modi, and Bower (and Van Wicklen for that matter) were so similar that only the smallest margin was going to separate who made the team and who didn’t.

Above all, Marvin Kimble is the major story to watch at this selection camp because he missed nationals. That means we don’t really know what we’re going to get from him—in addition to it being Marvin Kimble to begin with, so of course we don’t know what we’re going to get from him. His high bar routines will be the most important of the entire selection competition because that’s such a weak event for the US right now and because he can potentially bring nearly a full point over what a non-Kimble team would score there. Stay tuned.

B. is for Britain and also Becky

Lots to report on the British side of things today. At the team championships, the big development was the performance of this unknown upstart named Becky Downie, who won bars with a 6.6 D score, the highest in the world.

She’s so confident with all those impossible releases that the most significant challenge for her in this yeti of a routine will be getting the endurance back to avoid having to cast at horizontal as she gets toward the end. Put together, this set could challenge Derwael and would make Downie a medal favorite at worlds once again.

Not to be overshadowed, Ellie Downie also made her return at this competition (Becky’s like, “NO MY SHOW”). Ellie missed on bars for a 13.3, which nonetheless put her in second, but also scored 13.3 for a hit on beam with a not-pushing-it 5.0 D, good enough for third. Let your British-team anxiety be quelled. A little.

Amelie Morgan also continued her assault on our prognostications for next year (when she becomes senior) by placing in the top 3 on every single event, including winning beam. We also saw Alice Kinsella take second on beam and vault, Taeja James win floor comfortably with a 13.550, and Kelly Simm win vault with 14.050 (tied with Kinsella overall but higher on execution).

British worlds selection for the women will get interesting, and much will depend on how far along Ellie is on vault and floor heading toward the end of October. That will determine how badly you need a James on floor or a Stanhope on vault to shore up one of those events. Stanhope can be easy to overlook, but if you have Becky and Fenton both on a worlds team, you need everyone else to have a big vault score. Stanhope will stay in the mix because of that.

Speaking of worlds, the British men’s team has been announced as Whitlock, Wilson, Hall, Cunningham, and Fraser. Brinn Bevan is the alternate.

Because of the return of Nile Wilson, someone was going to get sliced off the team that took silver at Euros, and the victim turned out to be Courtney Tulloch. Tulloch is a big potential score on rings that the team will miss, but he also has fewer essential events to contribute than the other contenders (besides Whitlock). The team needs Fraser, Hall, and Whitlock for horse, Cunningham made a great argument for himself with his performances on vault and floor at Euros, so to fit in Wilson—who will be vital on high bar and floor and provides something very useful everywhere but horse—I can see why Tulloch is the one who had to go.

C. This weekend

The Szombathely World Cup begins with qualification on Friday, continuing with finals on Saturday and Sunday. Both days of finals begin at 3:00pm local time (9am ET, 6am PT) and will be shown on the Olympic Channel.

The men’s field features Verniaiev, Dragulescu, Shatilov, Calvo, Georgiou, Muntean, and most of the usual world cup suspects. Look out for Onyshko, Denommee, Kovacs, Karmakar, Devai, and Cintia Rodriguez on the women’s side, as well as Jonna Adlerteg who is on the list for both bars and beam. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen her on anything but bars.

We also have the Swiss Championships on Saturday, Ilaria Käslin entering as the favorite on the women’s side in the absence of Steingruber, and the men’s competition featuring the returns of Eddy Yusof, Pablo Brägger, and Christian Baumann for what should be quite an impressive group.

D. Last weekend

In addition to the Pan American championships and British team championships, last weekend brought us the first trial for the German worlds team, where Kim Bui won the all-around, bars, and floor. Sarah Voss won vault, and Pauline Schäfer won beam.

Elisabeth Seitz made her return at this competition in the all-around, not performing her full difficulty on bars in terms of connections, but looking like she’s reasonably close to getting back there given another month plus.

Carina Kröll also did herself a solid with silver-medal performances in the all-around and on beam and floor. If Germany is looking for some different options at worlds (especially on beam) after trouble at Euros, she could be positioning herself as someone to watch.

Elsewhere, Caitlin Rooskrantz proved she’s not just a bars specialist by taking the national all-around title in South Africa, and Dorina Böczögö won the national title in Hungary, a meet that also featured the return of Zsofia Kovacs.

E. Booooo

Celine the Cat will not be on the Dutch worlds team this year because she’s having Achilles surgery. If Eythora is available, the Netherlands should be able to slot her into the team and not lose anything from its Euros scores, but this does spoil our hopes of a potential Dutch dream team at worlds this year.

Because of that horrible situation with her coach and the aftermath, Sae Miyakawa will not be attending worlds for Japan.

F. GymCastic with MLT

Whew boy, here we go. You can now listen to Jessica’s conversation with Mary Lee Tracy and Miss Val. Warning: you may have to throw your device of choice against a wall several times during the course of the interview. I found MLT’s performance (and I use that word quite intentionally) to be both fascinating and extraordinarily frustrating. I can’t wait to debrief about it.

Amanda Jetter comes up several times in the interview, and she and her dad also spoke with Fox19, which is worth reading for your contextual and fact-checking needs (also your WHAT needs).

And then MLT started tweeting about it defensively, like no lessons have been learned from the Facebook incidents of 2018, and then deleted all of it. SIGH. One step forward, two steps back. One step forward, two steps back.

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