The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – February 8, 2019

A. Skinner 2020?

MyKayla Skinner says there is a 70-80% chance she’s going to defer the 2020 season at Utah to try for Tokyo. Well now. On the one hand, that would suck for Utah’s 2020 chances even with Abby Paulson and Jaedyn Rucker coming in as they’d mostly just have to do replacement work in making up for the Skinner, MMG, and Lee scores. On the other hand, Utah’s 2021 roster would be kind of stacked with Skinner, O’Keefe, Soza, and Paulson.

[Edit: Maile O’Keefe says she is joining Utah’s team a year early for the 2020 season. So, looks like someone is planning for Skinner’s absence…]

The nominative individual event qualification route is made for an athlete like Skinner (and if it had been in place in 2016, she would have gone to the Olympics), but it’s also more-than-onerous to try to jump into that process at this point. While there will still be four apparatus qualification events held from November 2019-March 2020, in order to meet USAG’s outlined nonsense options and be eligible to go to those competitions, Skinner would have to qualify to 2019 nationals, compete there, and either win an event on day 1 (so, beat Simone on vault or floor, good luck) or make the 2019 worlds team and go on to win a medal in an event final at worlds. And even then, she’d have to go to the remaining apparatus qualification events and do well enough at 3 of the 4 to win the series on either vault or floor, beating everyone else that has had an extra year of opportunities to get good results, including Jade Carey. So…like…hard. Not theoretically impossible, but really tough and starting soon.

Skinner does not have to go that route, though. She has other options that involve a little bit more time and peaking for the 2020 nationals and trials process. Skinner could aim to be selected for a non-nominative individual spot at the Olympics, one earned by the US from the 2020 all-around world cups or continental championships. That spot (or spots) can be given to anyone and will be assigned at 2020 Olympic Trials like the rest of the team. Skinner at 2016-elite level would be a compelling option for one of those spots.

But to do that, she would really have to root for Jade Carey to be unsuccessful in her quest for a nominative spot. If Carey does get her spot through the apparatus world cups, not only would that mean there’s only one individual, non-team spot remaining for everyone else instead of two, but it would mean that the US would already be compelled to send Carey as a VT/FX gymnast to the Olympics in an individual role—so why send another VT/FX gymnast in the other individual spot? It would be overkill.

The remaining option would be for Skinner to up her bars and beam in addition to bringing vault and floor back to elite difficulty, aiming for one of the four AA spots on the main Olympic team. It’s not out of the question. Skinner did finish 4th AA at Trials in 2016, and she wouldn’t suddenly need crazy scores on bars and beam, just enough to be usable as a first-up in qualification. But of course, the spots on the main team of 4 are so limited that they’ll be extremely tough for any non-Simones to get, and the same considerations of event strengths/weakness that kept Skinner off the team in 2016 in favor of a gymnast with a big bars score could be in play again.

So basically, it’s hard. But it would be fascinating to watch.

B. US elite meets

This weekend brings us the WOGA Classic, with the international elite session on Saturday at 7:00 CT. Of note, Ashton Locklear is expected to make her return there (and has teased competing floor in addition to bars and beam), so that’s a thing. We’ll also see Kayla DiCello, who is probably the top US junior right now, as well as all the WOGAs of course, and a hearty contingent from Japan that includes Nagi Kajita, who competed in qualification at worlds, and Yurika Yumoto, who was on the Asian Games squad.

For Locklear, if she’s aiming to make a run at 2020 for one of the individual spots, it’s important that she get back out there and soon for the same reasons that were discussed in Part A with Skinner— except without the option of getting a main-team AA spot.

The difference for Locklear is that, if she were to get her bars back to the level of 2016, she would present a solid complement to Jade Carey in the two individual spots (should Carey earn a nominative spot) and wouldn’t have the same overlap concerns as Skinner. So Locklear could have a little bit more luxury to wait until 2020 to be at her best.

Kensley will be at the WOGA Classic/Valeri Boy Thing live blogging the event on

On Monday, Gliders will host the optional sessions of its elite qualifier, so presumably we’ll have another handful of new junior elites at that point.

C. Last weekend’s results

We had a bit of an upset at Elite Canada last weekend as Ana Padurariu defeated Ellie Black for the all-around title in addition to winning the event titles on bars, beam, and floor. Damn, girl.

Padurariu was dealing with an injury for most of 2018, which meant we never really saw her at her very best. Even in winning a beam medal at worlds, she wasn’t back on the leg events at that point. Fully returned, Padurariu is starting to prove just how formidable a 1-2 punch she and Black will be for Canada for the next couple years. Black did take 2nd place in the AA and won the vault title, so all the precious was shared between those two. No one else can sit with us.

But also, perfect human Zoe Allaire-Bourgie did compete along with the seniors and took 3rd AA.

Sadly, Brooklyn Moors could not compete and has also pulled out of the Birmingham world cup with injury, to be replaced by Victoria Woo.

Elsewhere, at the Buckeye elite qualifier, Stephanie Berger and Faith Torrez got their senior elite scores to advance to US Classic, while Emily Golden, Ella Zirbes, Mya Witte, Lyden Saltness, Julianne Huff, and Joscelyn Roberson qualified junior elite.

Kristal Uzelac Floortreasure went 23.600 on her two events (the two-event qualifying score is 26.5) but had a vault score of 13.650, above the average she would need to reach that 26.5 mark, so she could get close to the required number with a hit beam routine at a future event.

At HNI, junior Sophia Butler scored a formidable 54.150 to the all-around.

D. Meanwhile

Larisa Iordache was kidnapped by a werewolf I think?

But if it means she can return to training, then I’m Team Werewolf.

E. GymCastic

CRACCCCCCK. Crack crack crack crack crack crack crack. Also a mini-commission about wolf turns.

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