US World Championships Team Named

USAG announced the women’s team for the 2018 world championships today with relatively little associated drama or outrage. What is even going on in the world?

That’s what happens when you open the doors on the selection competition—everyone is less surprised by the actual team because…yeah, we saw the routines too.


The six traveling to Doha will be Simone Biles, Riley McCusker, Morgan Hurd, Grace McCallum, Kara Eaker, and Ragan Smith.

-Who’s in this photo?
-Only Simone. Bye.

No official alternate has been named yet. It’s not unusual for the US to wait to differentiate the five on the team and the traveling alternate for a worlds team competition until the last possible second (or how about just never tell anyone, including the athletes, and wait for the Christmas morning of start lists—FUN GAME!)

Still, it usually becomes pretty clear who that alternate is as we go. Right now, we’re in a position of assuming the alternate is Ragan Smith and that the nominative five remains the nominative five. We shall see.

I say this is an unsurprising team because 1) Biles, 2) McCusker has had a great summer and nailed the competition yesterday as a total lock, 3) McCallum took 3rd AA yesterday with what now looks like an essential floor score, so the fall on bars didn’t matter too much, 4) Eaker has been doing Eaker super consistently on beam, 5) Hurd didn’t have an awesome meet yesterday but didn’t fall or anything, wasn’t really on the bubble before that, and still makes a ton of sense for the team, and 6) Smith placed in the top 5 AA and ranked as the best among the “contenders.”

For the first five, yesterday’s competition really just served to confirm previous assumptions based on previous competitions. For the sixth spot, the original nominative alternate was Shilese Jones, and that looked likely to change after yesterday’s performances since she got outscored in the AA by Smith and Chiles.

I did wonder about including Smith on the team as the “current-maybe-alternate” because of injuries. She’s the most held-together-by-only-wishes of the six named to the Doha squad, and you typically want your alternate to be the healthy one who can fill in at a moment’s notice. Still, among the “other four” options, Smith definitely has the highest scoring potential and did the best yesterday. If you believe in her intact-ness, it makes sense as a decision.

If Smith continues to rise, she could supplant a member of the five, but it will be tough. The assumed five right now needs to use Hurd’s bars score (and hopefully floor score) and needs to use McCallum’s floor score, and Eaker’s beam score is astronomical, so to get a spot on the team over one of them, Smith would have to prove she has the better score than one of those people on a significant event.

Our next discussion is, who doesn’t do beam in qualification? I would have assumed McCallum, but she has been making her case for an AA chance and did so again yesterday by placing 3rd AA with a fall.

Another note: Imagine how you would have reacted to this team if you hadn’t seen Ragan Smith since nationals? If you hadn’t seen the routines or the scores from selection, and hadn’t known she placed 5th AA? This is why opening the doors to the selection camp is as good for the selection committee as it is for those of us who want to watch. It saves many headaches for everyone.

41 thoughts on “US World Championships Team Named”

  1. I’m totally on board with the Simone/Riley/Grace/Morgan/Kara team, but still not totally convinced by Ragan. While she obviously has improved from Nationals she still looked to be struggling on FX and UB, and this team doesn’t need her on her best event, BB, or on VT. I’m mostly worried about an injury to one of your bars workers, like Riley or Morgan, in which case you are relying on… Grace and/or Ragan? On bars? Obviously that’s not ideal, so I’d kind of thought maybe taking Shilese Jones to Doha would be a better option – she gives you a usable and reliable score on bars and of course, there’s the big vault score. But, Ragan has the potential to do a strong FX, which this team would like to have, so perhaps that was on the selection committee’s mind…

    Agree that the big remaining question is: who will be the third person doing the AA in quals, after Simone and Riley? Based on yesterday, you’d give it to Grace. Morgan will need to show that she is outscoring Grace across the board to grab that spot, and based on how much Grace has been improving with every meet, that will be quite a challenge.

    1. If one of our bars workers gets injured, Grace would be a perfectly suitable alternate. And if she isn´t doing well for whatever reason, we could also fly Alyona Shchennikova in, assuming the injury was to Riley, AND that it was sustained before quals

      1. Fair enough. Though I don’t know if they could fly in Alyona without having named her as an alternate. Are teams allowed to nominate non-traveling alternates in addition to traveling alternates for Worlds? If so, the US really ought to name a bar worker, just in case.

    2. Personally, I don’t think either of the two non-Simone AA spots is locked yet. We only saw one day of camp, so we don’t know if Morgan had a fluke weak day yesterday or what they’re been performing like as a whole. All of the options (I’m also considering Ragan as a possible real-team upset) are legitimately in range of each other and can shuffle in their order. Again, this is assuming Morgan looks more like she did around Nationals in the lead-up to Worlds (but Ragan could still complicate matters.)

      1. Yes, I agree that Ragan could be an upset if she continues to improve across the board. Obviously nothing is for certain, but the way Riley has been looking, I think she’s likely going to get the second AA spot after Simone – which leaves Grace, Morgan and Ragan vying for the third spot. I’d also guess that one of these three will end up as the alternate.

  2. Very good point re: last sentence. There would have been utter Youtube-comment outrage madness!

  3. My prediction: Grace will get the TCT / Maggie Nichols treatment and Morgan will get to do AA. Secondary thought — doesn’t Grace have two vaults? Her DTY is pretty solid, is there a chance she can make the VT EF if the field is somewhat depleted? Would be great to see her make two EF (fingers crossed for FX) especially if she doesn’t get to try for AA.

    1. Grace may get left out of AA, but I wouldn’t call it the Maggie Nichols treatment. Maggie Nichols placed 2nd AA at Nationals, showed up fit and ready at Worlds, clearly had the scoring advantage over Gabby, and would have easily qualified over Gabby in qualifications even had she done bars and fallen. In 2015, Maggie Nichols was clearly the 2nd best gymnast in the country. I still feel bad supporting Aly doing AA over her that year because Maggie deserved the chance, and if they weren’t going to pull Gabby due to bars, they should have pulled Aly.
      This isn’t true with Grace, as much as I like her. Grace hasn’t shown she’s definitely better than Morgan and she’s only beaten Morgan once at an internal competition with an incomplete judging panel. That should not be enough to pull Morgan from AA.

  4. I still think Morgan will get the 3rd AA spot, as she should and deserves. A lackluster performance at camp cannot take her out of contention, just like it didn’t take Gabby out of contention for AA in Rio. Plus… you don’t take a healthy reigning AA champion to worlds and have her do 2 events in quals, let’s be real. Granted, by the way things have been going I wouldn’t be shocked if Morgan were 2-per-countried, but she’ll at least be given a shot to qualify.

  5. I agree Grace has been awesome. But I fear she will not get to do AA because Morgan is reigning AA champ. Like Laurie in 2016 had to make way for Gabby. Not as big a deal as the Olympics obviously, but still.

      1. Oh, I guess you mean in terms of Laurie didn’t compete AA in qualifications not that she got 2-per-countried.

      2. I haven’t read it myself so don’t take as 100% fact, but I read that in Aly’s book she said Martha told her and Laurie from the beginning that Gabby was doing AA and either she or Laurie would not be. So yes, Laurie kind of had to make way for Aly, but it’s more a case of both Laurie and Aly having to make way for Gabby at the outset.

    1. Yes, I think Grace will not do AA… They are considering that Morgan has more experience, you never know how a “new” girl can react in a big meet situation.
      Well… There are countries that have to chose from the cream of the cream… Others that often struggle making a complete team.

  6. I’m thrilled to see Smith on this team, but if she’s only in contention to be an alternate, I don’t want her to do the same numbers as everyone else and begin to detieorate or risk another injury. Rest her and let her come back next season 100% healthy. As these girls begin to practice everyday leading up to worlds. I imagine you’ll see Hurd grow tremendously, but I am a little nervous if Smith/McCusker can handle the training camp – BUT – also Martha is gone and maybe TF won’t break the girls into pieces before Worlds.

    1. I’m curious about Ragan’s injury and recovery. It’s been about a full year since 2017 Worlds when she first was injured.

      Is it possible Ragan didn’t have the numbers before the Classic and Nationals in the summer which is why she looked so unprepared?

      Maybe she just started seriously putting in the work in the last six weeks or so – based on the fact she looked much stronger and better on three events.

      Question: Has Ragan’s bars issues always been on the same skill? It seems that way, but I’m not sure. Any chance they could take out the skill or change it in the next three weeks without changing her difficulty score too drastically?

      I kind of feel Ragan deserves a shot at the AA which she would’ve probably won gold at in 2017 had she not got injured. I mean gold is out of the question now (cough Simone cough) but if she’s healthy and has been on a training plan to peak for November, I love to see her go for silver (or the gold medal for all the regular humans). 🙂

      Though if Ragan is actually healthy and back to 2017 levels she could push both Grace and Riley out of the AA – I feel they would give Morgan the chance to qualify. If that happens people online would enjoy it since Ragan supplanting Riley would be somewhat controversial. 😉

      1. I too wish Ragan could get a 2nd shot at AA because her injury was so unfortunate, and it wasn’t lack of skill or performance that took the chance away from her last year. She didn’t get beaten, she got hurt.
        But I can’t see giving her that shot this year just based on that. Kind of like awarding Oscars to the person who should have won last year, you can’t make up for past misfortunes or injustices because it’s not fair to those in the current year. Ragan wasn’t responsible for her injury, but neither were Riley, Morgan, and Grace. It’s not fair to give Ragan a “make up” AA shot and supplant the athletes that have performed the best in AA this year. I really hope Ragan gets back to the top but unfortunately, she’s going to have to earn that place all over again.

      2. You never know… Gold doesn’t belong to Biles yet!… She could fall from beam… Twice… No wait… 3… 4… OK 5 times and so maybe she wouldn’t be the AA champion 😉

  7. once in a while usag does something right …lol… i m still mad at them about the whole jade carey thing but i guess that can wait for now….lol… even though it could really potentially blow up later…

    1. In his USAG Twitter Q&A today, Tom cited the Amateur Sports Act as preventing them from stopping any eligible gymnasts from trying for nominative spot

      1. ummh, not quite exactly sure how that is what it is even after i looked up the Act…. but okie…

  8. I wonder if there are any behind-the-scenes injuries that we may not know about. I hope that wasn’t the reason Morgan had some watered-down difficulty. If there are some issues like that, it might make sense to take more AA-ers to make sure the team is covered in every instance.

    Also, if Ragan can consistently show her usual strong beam by Doha, they may opt to use her instead of Kara, as she may be less of a wildcard for international scoring, and also capable of scoring comparably to, or outscoring, Morgan and Grace on other events.

    I hope Ragan really is on the mend! She looked great yesterday — better than we’ve seen her in quite some time. She didn’t look in pain like she did at Nationals. There were some rough spots, but some of that was clearly nerves — and it was her first high-stakes competition in a while (she was compromised at both Jesolo and Nationals, so the expectations were lower). Hopefully yesterday also helped to get her back in the saddle! Would love to see her compete at Worlds again after the devastating timing of last year’s injury.

    1. Also, re: Ragan v. Kara — as an AA-er, Ragan is much more likely than Kara to have a team role in Tokyo, so they may be inclined to give her the experience if she’s up to it.

      1. unless kara imploded on everything between now and doha, that’s unlikely…. everyone does have concern about kara connection heavy routine and rings, but she does show that she can hit the connection consistently so far. yes, the scoring was crack but ragan has quite a way to go to displace kara esp given she’s not completely healthy….

        you don’t take a beam specialist to worlds and not letting them do beam unless something really drastic happens

      2. If you actually look at the scores, Kara has been right with Ragan as an All-Arounder, as recently as selection camp. Ragan has fallen on almost every bar routine since Classics, Kara is well outscoring her on beam, and they’ve been within a tenth of each other on floor. Kara even medaled on floor at Pan Ams. The only event Kara has been truly weaker than Ragan is vault. And with Simone, Morgan, Riley, and Grace, Ragan’s DTY doesn’t seem necessary enough.
        Kara isn’t just a beam specialist. She’s more of Madison Kocian. Really good on one event, but actually a decent All-Arounder. At this time, I would trust Kara to back up bars and floor as well as Ragan in a mid-competition injury situation.

      3. Right … I guess I’m thinking more “healthy Ragan” v. Kara, not based only on what we’ve seen this year, but assuming Ragan continues climbing her way back up over the next couple of weeks.

  9. So anyone else also read up on tom ‘s twitter session?

    I like it! I think there should be more of these Q&A sessions. it would go a long way toward being transparent.

    He did state that there are some rules and credibility criteria that gymnasts have to meet to compete in Event worlds cup for 2020 nom spots. I think we would all be interested to see what they are…. But as long as things have been carefully thought out and contigency plans made, and the process is fair, I would feel ok with it…..

    I guess jade jumped the gun and took herself out even before knowing the complete rules that usag will put out regarding the event cup…. but that’s her choice….

    1. The Q&A was great. They should have Tom do one every month. Wouldn’t that be neat?
      Looks like the Event World Cup criteria has been carefully thought out…to make Jade the only athlete currently eligible to go. Ha ha. Probably wasn’t intentional but with the USAG a little part of you always wonders…it’s frustrating to know that if Kara gets left off the Worlds team, even she’s not eligible for World Cups yet, even though she’s clearly one of our best specialists.

      1. yes, jade is the only 1 eligible right now. but theoretically if aly, madison, and laurie come back and is placed on national teams then they are also eligible 🙂

        I do see a few potential problems with USAG criteria.

        1. must be a current national team member with a worlds or olympic medal on an event in 2016-9:

        See above… also if you got a worlds medal on an individual event in 2018, then you are already disqualified by fig/olympic rules to earn an individual 2020 spot, unless you just feel like you want to be macho and do a 2018 or 2019 event world cup for the heck of it?

        2. must be a current national team member placing first on an individual event at US nationals in 2018 or 2019:

        ok good luck with that one while biles is around…. obviously no one did that in 2018 since simone got 1st in everything on day 1. i think they should take this down a notch to maybe also include number 2?

  10. But can an athlete self-fund? Let’s say Jade gets the requiste scores at two of the three events she attends at the expense of USAG. Can she self-fund a third?

  11. Barring injury, the 3 AAers in prelims will be Simone, Riley and Morgan. There’s no two ways about it. Grace will do VT and FX. If Eaker is on the team she might just do BB and Grace will also lead off on UB. If Ragan is on the team, Grace will do VT/FX and Ragan will do UB/BB.

    Riley and Morgan have been on the AA podium all year it would be unfair to switch it up right now at the last minute. Plus, Morgan is the World AA Champion, there’s no way she will be benched in favor of Grace.

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