The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Worlds 2018 – US Women’s Podium Training

Welcome to the moment in your life that makes you a true gym nerd—spending a perfectly good Tuesday watching podium training.

Most importantly, you can expect to use this PT session to learn about lineup decisions and alternates based on what order everyone competes.

We’re doing in-front-of-the-screen introductions this year again, but it’s like a tiny baby screen compared to Glasgow and Montreal.

US starts on bars with the touch warmup. McCusker far off on a Ricna but it’s just the early touch.

Right now it looks like the order people are warming up is Hurd, McCallum, McCusker, Biles, Smith, Eaker. (Typically assume first four are the intended competition lineup.

Taking their full warmup turns now. Pleased that Smith seems to be hitting her releases. Hurd also very crisp. Biles being Biles.

Hurd UB – inbar Shap to stalder full to tkatchev, solid – Ricna to Pak, good legs – stalder shoot – inbar 1/2 – inbar 1/1 to full in, hop in place. Another crisp set. Good. Very assured Worry about the lateness of the inbar 1/1, though. That’s 5 tenths.

McCallum UB – Weiler 1/2 – Stalder Shap to tkatchev – Pak with big leg break directly to Shap 1/2 – toe full super late – FTDT, stuck. Fine. More foot and leg issues than Hurd, which will lead to more deductions, also quite late on a full piro.

McCusker UB – stalder full to Shap to Tkatchev – Ricna to Pak to Shap 1/2 – all hit – toe on – step back on dismount – Good hit. A little tighter than she is sometimes, like she was being careful, especially on the Ricna, but good. Careful worked.

Biles UB – Wieler 1/2 to Shap to Tkatchev, good – toe full to piked tkatchev to excellent Pak – toe Shap 1/2, good legs – double double, too easy. Awesome set. Accidentally leaves Laurent hanging on the high five, though, so full point off.

Smith UB – inbar – Stalder full with a huge arch and has to come off the bar. I jinxed her, definitely. Sorry about that. Inbar 1/2 to jaeger – piked Ricna, hit – Ricna to Pak, good – stalder shoot – FTDT, short with lunge forward. It’s always something isn’t it?

Eaker UB – Toe SHap to clear hip to giant Ray – to Pak – arch on low bar and has to recast – and has to recast again – and falls on Shap 1/2. clear hip 1/1 – toe 1/2 to piked jaeger, falls again. Oh Kara. DLO.

Well, the first four are definitely the four. That’s what we’re learning from this podium training rotation.

McCallum redores her second 1/2 – the toe full is way better.

McCusker doing a million stalders in a row and they’re all beautiful obviously.

Smith tries her stalder 1/1 again, and it’s good.

US done on bars. Biles looked excellent. McCusker, Hurd, and to a slightly lesser extent McCallum went through with clean sets. Smith did look improved, but did have a pirouette fall on her actual competition set.


Moving on to beam. Methinks we’ll learn a lot based on this lineup order. Can’t wait.

Order of first touch warming up is Hurd, McCusker, Eaker, Biles, Smith, McCallum. These first two lineup orders seem to indicate to me that Smith is the alternate right now.

Hurd BB – small arm wave on tuck full, good – side aerial, hit – bhs loso, no trouble – aerial to split to straddle, very good positions – switch – transverse split jump 1/2 – full turn with a check, of course her biggest wobble of the whole thing – switch ring, small adjustment – double pike, lunge back. Really good set. She looks on so far.

McCusker BB – nice wolf triple and wolf double – aerial to split to straddle – bhs loso loso, smallest lean – switch to an abbreviated switch 1/2 position to Korbut – large break on side aerial – double tuck dismount, a little short with a hop. One large break in there but otherwise quite good.

Eaker BB – switch mount to split ring leap, still her most questionable ring position – check on Y spin – aerial to split ring jump – side aerial to loso to loso, small arm wave – split leap to side somi – switch ring to bhs keeps moving through choreo to switch 1/2 (perfect) to Korbut – ooooh I’m dead at that whole series – switch to switch side, nice – 2/5 with a hop. She looked like she was rushing in the first 1/2 of that routine, but it’s a good sign how she steadied herself for a very solid second half.

Biles BB – easy wolf triple – split to wolf – barani with a check – bhs loso loso, switch to switch 1/2, breaks connection into back tuck – front pike a little deep with a check – aerial with an arm wave – split jump – full-in dismount with a bounce back. Not her strongest beam set but also hit and Simone and whatever.

Smith BB – wolf triple, pretty good, not too wobbly – bhs layout, a hair short with an adjustment step – tuck full, solid – aerial to split to straddle – nice position on front tuck, step – large wobble on side split 1/2 – straight jump 1/1 from side with a lean – double pike, good, small hop. Some balance errors but an acceptable hit.

McCallum BB – back dive mount – wolf triple to wolf double, deliberate but confident – straddle 1/2 from side – side aerial to loso with small hesitation but no check – front tuck, a little deep with arm wave – switch to aerial – sissone – full turn – double tuck, nearly stuck with a lean.

Well, that was a very good group of beam routines. No falls.

Hurd back up for another go – tuck full, nailed – side aerial aerial with a check to split jump straddle jump. Nice.

McCusker second turn – aerial to split to straddle, lovely – bhs loso, solid – switch to switch 1/2 to Korbut, switch 1/2 better this time – side aerial

Eaker second turn – Y spin, lovely – aerial to split ring, a little short on ring split –

Biles second turn – barani – switch to switch 1/2 to back tuck, redoing that combo that she missed in the turn, good this time – front pike – aerial to split to straddle – no troubles this time

Smith is working her side jumps – also much better this time – aerial to split to straddle, good

McCallum still a little deep on her front – everything else solid

With the assumption that the first four are the lineup on each event, that looks correct based on what we’ve seen so far.


Moving on to floor for warmup now.

Simone just literally tiptoed out of a Biles. The warmup double Arabian Smith just did is the best that skill has looked in a while.

McCallum sits a combo pass in the touch and has a very “this floor is a fart” facial expression. Better on second try.

Hurd FX – double double tucked, pretty much perfect on landing – double layout, a little bounce back, a little pike down – switch ring to split 1.5, some leg but looked to get it around – front lay to front 2/1, a little hop back – Ferrari – split jump full, good – double pike, strong.

Hurd is looking excellent today. No shades of the iffy performance from selection. Interesting that she’s up first in these lineups.

McCallum FX – super high double double but a struggle bounce-up landing – front lay to front 2/1, good – leaps look good – 3/1, stagger landing but solid – split leap 1/1, good – double tuck good. Solid after that first landing, which snuck up on her it looked like.

McCusker FX – piked full in, a little short with a hop – nice split leap 1/1 – front 2/1 to lay to stag, some knees in the front 2/1 still but looked better from this angle at least – wolf double – double pike, shuffle back – switch ring – double tuck, no problem. This routine is looking more sure. Interesting lineup position for qualification.

Biles FX – double double layout, bounce back, too high and easy, needs to add 7 more twists – Biles to stag, super solid – switch to split 1.5, a little borderline in landing position – front through to full-in, bounces out for her obligatory OOB – hilarious wolf double that she has to whip around and kind of gets away from her – double double, strong, small bounce.

Smith FX – DLO, not bad, some legs apart, secure landing – 1.5 through to 3/1 attempt, a little too short for credit, probably – small hop forward on double Arabian but fine – wolf triple – double pike, some knees, small hop back. Pretty solid set.

Eaker FX – 2.5 to front 1/1, good – front lay to front 2/1 with a lunge forward – double Y to full turn, a little off balance – 3/1, a little under with a hop back – switch ring and switch 1/1 – double pike, chest down but solid.

No troubles really for the US in their floor routines. Doesn’t seem like they’re having trouble with the floor.

McCallum redoes the double double that wasn’t great in the routine, no problems this time.

US decides it’s done on floor with two minutes left in the rotation.


So, now we move to US on the bye rotation, so I get to complain about that for a whole rotation.

Two full teams, one team of three, and six individual gymnasts in this subdivision. But by all means, we need a bye rotation. I can’t possibly see how you could fit them into four groups instead of five.

So, as we wait and watch New Zealand and Slovakia and whatnot, let’s talk about the US lineups.

It seems pretty clear right now that Smith is the alternate, that Eaker will be off everything but beam, and McCallum will be off beam. That means Biles, McCusker, and Hurd will all do the AA and we’ll watch with bated breath to see who makes the AA final.

Was that Simona Castro busting out a DTY?

What’s going to be interesting for the US is that they seem to be going with a “Hurd is our leadoff” in qualification, but she’ll need to be in the final three on most of these events in the team final, especially based on what we’ve seen today.

Can also imagine some controversy about lineup order and score building if it ends up being close for the AA final and she doesn’t make it.

Teams are not spending more time than necessary on this floor.


US back out and the coaches are prepping vault.

Morgan jamming to the rotation song. As one does.

McCallum the first to go to real vaults. Secure DTY. Next attempt is pretty short with a lunge to the side.

Simone does a Cheng, which I think is like a timer for her now?

Simone with an easy Amanar that she basically dances out of. STAHHHPPP.

Hurd moving up to DTYs now, step to the side.

Smith pretty deep in a DTY with a lunge forward.

Eaker with a secure 1.5 but tucked at the end.

McCallum also showing a round-off 1/2 on, tuck 1/2 second vault.

McCusker a little short on her DTY with a hop forward.

McCallum VT – DTY, pretty solid, just a little crunched at the end with a hop back. Small hop.

McCallum VT 2 – round off 1/2 on, tuck 1/2 – quite good, just a small hop in place. Looks very easy for her. That’s a 4.6 D.

McCusker VT – falls forward on a DTY. Eeep. Well short.

Hurd VT – medium hop back on her DTY. Good.

Biles VT 1 – just goes with the Cheng, after all. Interesting. Hop back.

Biles VT 2 – Casual best Amanar ever, almost. Huge and just a small step.

Smith VT – way off to the side on her DTY, both feet landing outside the area, but just a small hop.

Eaker VT – sticks her 1.5, still with the rather large tucking at the end.

McCallum does another DTY, really short with hands down.

Vault is the US’s weakest event in this podium training session. Several don’t look comfortable.

Ahhhhh, now we get to see the Biles from Simone. Very good. Small hop. Definitely worth doing if she keeps doing it like that.

Some times from McCusker and Smith as Simone poses for pictures with the volunteers.

McCusker – better on the DTY, still short but landed it. It would be enough to keep her in the AA race against Hurd.

That will do it for the US in podium training.

It will be tough to get used to the idea that vault isn’t this team’s best event. There are some struggles there. Biles and Hurd looked good.


If you’re just skipping to the end here…the lineups.

VAULT: McCallum, McCusker, Hurd, Biles
BARS: Hurd, McCallum, McCusker, Biles
BEAM: Hurd, McCusker, Eaker, Biles
FLOOR: Hurd, McCallum, McCusker, Biles

No qualms with those four being the four on each event. It’s correct. Interesting floor order. Interesting Hurd order in general because based on today, I’d have her on either three or four pieces in TF.

Some things to work on for the US, but not too many. Some of those DTYs, basically. McCallum had a struggle moment or two, a floor landing, a couple of her vault attempts. I had stopped being worried about McCusker’s DTY, but now I am again. Hurd had a very good day. Simone is Simone.

Smith has continued to improve. She looks better than selection camp and worlds better than nationals, but her as alternate is the right decision. She’s not necessarily adding a score to any event right now. Her best-looking one is beam, and the US is already stacked there. Eaker will just do beam, as expected. The race for the top-2 on beam will be fascinating because all four who are competing there are very capable of making the event final.

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