The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – October 9, 2018

A. US worlds selection camp

The US will be streaming a worlds selection competition for the very first time on Thursday at 3:00 ET. It seems like USAG is actually doing something right, so I’m off to sit in a small box and be shocked for 16 hours. I’m sure something will go terribly wrong like there won’t be scores or they forgot to invite the gymnasts, so don’t worry.

No official time has been given for the announcement of the team (there’s our USAG!), but it’s going to be sometime later on Friday.

By way of a preview, here’s what those camp attendees who weren’t named to the nominative team need to do at the select camp to change the default outlook.

Jordan Chiles – Hit an Amanar every damn time she even looks at the vault. If she’s not hitting an Amanar, she won’t disrupt the nominative team. If she is, she has an excellent argument to go to worlds to deliver one event, likely in place of Kara Eaker.

Ragan Smith – Score 14+ on floor and 14.2+ on beam. Smith will need to have magically gotten healthy since nationals, of course, but if we see 2017 Smith show up, you start entertaining the possibility of replacing the McCallum-Eaker duo with Smith and a vaulter.

Shilese Jones – A good all-around competition probably lands her the alternate spot at this point, but she could improve the nominative team’s scoring potential on vault, so outscoring the other DTYs by multiple tenths and going 14.8+ is her best route. It would also help Jones if Smith has a good competition since Jones and Smith complement each other well (Jones could be the vaulter named above, but would need Chiles not to be hitting an Amanar).

Alyona Shchennikova – Her argument is all about bars. She would need to score a 15+ on bars and beat Hurd by multiple tenths there to make a useful one-event argument similar to the one Eaker is trying to make for beam. Basically, Shchennikova needs to beat Hurd on bars by more than Eaker beats Hurd on beam to say she’s the one-eventer of your dreams.

If none of those things happen, the nominative team is probably safe. I’m viewing that nominative group as default right now, so at this camp, they just have to keep doing what they’re doing.

One other thing: No matter where you fall on the Jade Carey opinion spectrum, I think we can all agree that USAG needs to have some sort of set, public criteria by which it decides who’s eligible to go the individual apparatus qualification route like Carey is, and who is not even if she might want to. I’ll be interested to see if they scramble to put something together simultaneous to the selection camp.

B. Other worlds teams

China hasn’t yet selected who among its nominative six will be the alternate and who will be the five team members, but we do know that Fan Yilin is not among the options for worlds because she’ll be going the apparatus world cup route instead in an attempt to qualify an individual Olympic spot.

This is, first, a reminder that those apparatus world cup standings are going to get real and winning the series will be super tough. It’s also a reminder that the situation is quite different for China than it is for the US women since China can’t necessarily depend on getting an Olympic spot from the all-around world cups (it’s certainly possible, but not a guarantee), so sending realistic contenders to attempt the apparatus route is much more of a necessity for China in its quest to get the two individual bonus spots at the Olympics.

Things do get fraught because China—while probably now a favorite for a team medal at worlds this year—is not a lock for that either. If China misses out on a medal, there will be some, “But you could have taken Fan Yilin for bars” aftermath screaming.

For Germany—as we feared—Pauline Schäfer has pulled out of contention for worlds. She was limited to just bars at nationals, and she doesn’t really make sense for Germany if she can’t contribute beam and floor, which she can’t right now because of a foot injury. She’ll be replaced by Leah Grießer, and the alternate is now Carina Kröll. I’m desperately worried about beam.

Belgium has confirmed that its team is the obvious five of Derwael, Klinckaert, Brassart, Hermans, and Deriks.

The Netherlands has also confirmed that its nominative six (Wevers, Van Pol, Visser, Volleman, Veerman, Polderman) are still in place, with the alternate to be decided. More on that later.

Yulia Inshina announced her retirement this week. Back in 2011, Inshina competed at worlds for Russia and made the beam final. She later switched to AZE and has competed regularly at major international events for the last couple quads. Inshina was on the nominative worlds roster for Azerbaijan this year, so…apparently not.

C. Youth Olympic Games

The Youth Olympic Games, with its insane, arbitrary team competition and four-day qualification process is currently ongoing.

After three events of women’s qualification (everything but beam—because we’re living in a cuckoo clock), Giorgia Villa leads the way, followed by Anastasia Bachynska of Ukraine and Amelie Morgan of Great Britain. Tan Xijing of China is just behind and Ksenia Klimenko is having to play serious catch-up after falling on a Yfull. The women’s all-around final is Friday.

In case you care about the team competition where a bunch of random gymnasts are thrown together for some reason to represent nothing, Team Rosie Maclennan is leading the team competition. But you don’t care, because it’s entirely meaningless.

D. Getting ready for worlds

In a preparation competition, Belgium and the Netherlands beat up Romania and stole its lunch money over the weekend.

Belgium had an excellent competition, taking 4 of the top 7 all-around spots. Most important was the performance of Rune Hermans, showing countable routines on bars, beam, and floor, which should increase Belgium’s scoring potential from Euros on all three pieces. Also encouraging was Senna Deriks performing the all-around after being limited to just bars at Euros.

The only things holding Belgium back at Euros were injuries and a lack of depth, which contributed to the decision to pull out of the team final. It’s looking like a much heartier slate of routines now.

A strong performance for Naomi Visser from the Netherlands likely reinforces that she’ll be called upon to compete four events for a semi-depleted Netherlands side. Of slight concern may be Vera Van Pol competing only vault and bars since I was seriously counting on her for floor in team permutations.

We didn’t get a great or clear answer on the Sanna Veerman vs. Kirsten Polderman question. Veerman gives you bars, but if you have Wevers, Visser, and Van Pol, you may not care so much about her bars. Meanwhile, if you’re concerned about Van Pol on floor, Polderman did better there.

MY clear answer is that Elisabeth Geurts beat both of them on vault and floor, so if you’re looking for someone to supplement the team score right now and complement Wevers, isn’t it Geurts? Apparently not.

Romania…is Denisa Golgota. Otherwise, we saw a performance littered with 9s and 10s on bars that reignites fears that Romania could implode at worlds at not make the top 24. Ioana Crisan was listed in the tentative alternate spot on Romania’s nominative worlds team, but she was one of the brighter spots and recorded a 12.000 on bars and 13.100 on beam here, both essential scores. Right now, it seems clear you’d want her on the team rather than Holbura in the effort to avoid counting multiple 10s on bars.

E. GymCastic

Please plan on doing nothing else with your life except listen to GymCastic. Ever. From last week, we have two episodes for you—The Jade Carey Situation, and the Olympics of Difference Makers commission.

This week, we’re going to have TWO MORE episodes, a fun little debate where Jessica and I use the Jade Carey situation as a jumping off point to debate the merits of team versus individual gymnastics, as well as a commission all about 1993 NCAA Nationals. I mostly get distracted by the early-90s fashions and talk only about that.

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