A. Locklear Classic
Last weekend brought us the WOGA Classic, the headline performance being the return of Ashton Locklear to elite competition for the first time since 2017. Locklear competed beam and bars, scoring 12.550 on beam and 12.350 on bars for a two-fall performance that was sort of…Nastia 2012 Trials-esque?
I say that because the first half monster-connection was just like 2017 and clearly the on-the-bars skills are back (except for #ButHerInbars), but getting to full-routine-hit level with a dismount will take some more time. Unlike Nastia 2012 Trials, Locklear has that time.
For the most part, Locklear’s bars routine looks similar to her 2017 composition, except it seems she’s looking to add a toe 1/1 + full-twisting double tuck dismount combination to get her D-score up to 5.7—compared to the 5.5 from 2017. The FTDT isn’t there yet, but presumably that’s the plan.
Of course, the most entertaining part of Locklear’s comeback performance was Sophina the Diva over here impatiently chilling on the cable waiting for her to rechalk.
In the actual standings, Yurika Yumoto of Japan took the senior AA with 51.350. Yumoto was on that B-squad Asian Games team for Japan last year, and her 13.500 beam score, along with the fact that she outscored Nagi Kajita here (Kajita made the worlds team last year), should keep her in the conversation in 2019.
Placing 2nd in the seniors was Sloane Blakely, who went 50.050 despite an utter barstastrophe because of her massive 14.850 beam score. In the juniors, Kayla DiCello dominated as expected, though Skye Blakley’s three-event score (didn’t do bars) was competitive with what DiCello put up on those pieces. Love Birt took second in the juniors, followed by Sydney Morris in third.
B. This weekend
Your assignment this weekend is Winter Cup. It is not optional. This is not an extra credit assignment. This is part of your semester grade and will be on the midterm. At the conclusion of Florida/Alabama tonight, you are compelled to switch your viewing over to Winter Cup to take in the race to make the US men’s national team.
Senior prelims/AA finals are this Friday evening, followed by a second day of competition on Sunday night to determine event champions. Because the first six national team spots are determined by AA ranking, gymnasts who get those spots won’t necessarily have to compete on Sunday should they not wish to (i.e., nap time, boys!). Those aiming for the remaining at-large national team spots will have to compete on Sunday as well to try to get maximum event points.
Remember that this is the Winter Cup of Splats, so while the usual suspects will be expected to snatch those six AA spots…it’s Winter Cup. You never know who’s going to end up doing a sideways PBars routine for 3.550. It might not even be Marvin Kimble. In comeback town, Eddie Penev is doing five events, people. As he told Kensley, “As for winter cup, I’m doing five events and I couldn’t be happier given I had surgery 6.5 months ago to the day. I’ve upgraded pommels, pbars and high bar! Slightly watered down floor, but it should still be the highest start. And vault just a Simone-esque man-amar.” I mean…enough said.
Donnell Whittenburg is also competing as (currently) a non-NT member, looking to get back on the national team and change the script from the general weirdness that was his two-event comeback at nationals in 2018.
In other events, don’t forget that qualifications in Melbourne, the second Olympic apparatus qualifier, begin this coming Thursday (Thursday Australia time, so Wednesday night for those of us in the US). It’s happeninggggggg.
C. Jesolo team
Meanwhile, it’s already almost Jesolo time. Jesolo is being held unusually early this year, the senior AA/team session overlapping with American Cup on March 2nd, so it’s basically milliseconds away.
That’s why it’s probably good that the US women have a nominative roster put together, with a senior team of Jordan Chiles, Shilese Jones, Alyona Shchennikova, and Sunisa Lee, and a junior team of Kayla DiCello, Olivia Greaves, Sophia Butler, and Lilly Lippeatt.
If this holds, that would mean every senior currently on the national team has a world cup or Jesolo assignment for 2019 except for Kara Eaker, Ragan Smith, and Trinity Thomas. That also means that presumably Butler and Lippeatt have been added to the national team following the last camp, since they…weren’t otherwise on it?
D. Baku roster
We now have our hands on the killer roster for Baku, the third event of eight in the apparatus Olympic qualification series, coming just a few weeks after Melbourne.
Russia is sending Maria Paseka, Anastasia Ilyankova, and Aleksandra Shchekoldina on the women’s side, so it won’t be boring. Paseka is perfectly suited to this route as an event specialist since she can absolutely win vault and wouldn’t make sense for a main Olympic team of AAers, but we also haven’t seen her in a while, so…
Spiridonova went to Cottbus to try to get bars points at the first qualifier, and now Russia is sending Ilyankova to Baku to do the same thing. Since only three results can count for each athlete over eight meets, it makes sense for nations that are going all-in for these spots to vary who they’re sending and not put all their eggs in one basket, especially if that basket is Russian.
China is sending Liu Tingting and Chen Yile—just to compete since they’re ineligible to earn qualification points as part of the 2018 worlds team—but also Lyu Jiaqi. Keep tabs on her. She’s currently ranked 3rd on bars after Cottbus and is planning to compete at both Melbourne and Baku as well, a serious darkhorse challenger if the major favorites end up qualifying through other means. For example, Derwael is currently in 1st on bars, but most likely going to qualify at 2019 worlds as an AA individual or with the Belgian team, and Andrade is currently in 2nd but most likely going to qualify as part of the Brazilian team at 2019 worlds, so if that happens, both of their points would be redistributed and Lyu would end up with 1st-place points from Cottbus.
As always, you can check out the qualification calendar and read up on the current standings and ranking point allocation rules. What it lacks in sense, it makes up for in complications!
On the US side, Trevor Howard and Colin Van Wicklen will be going for the men (Howard is currently ranked 9th on both rings and vault after Cottbus), and Jade Carey will be making her second qualifier appearance. I’m very interested to see how she stacks up against Paseka on vault, as well as against Ferrari on floor, someone else who is aggressively targeting that spot with a realistic shot at it. It’s not a cakewalk.
E. Elite qualifiers
At Monday’s US elite qualifier at Gliders, Emily Lee got her AA qualification score to the senior US Classic. If you recall, Lee recorded a massive beam score at the elite qualifiers last year (and did so again here with 14.500) but didn’t get to compete beam at American Classic because she got injured on a Shap 1/2 on bars and had to pull out mid-meet and withdraw from the US Classic as well.
In the juniors, Ciena Alipio and Sienna Robinson got their qualification scores. The series continues today at World Champions Centre with junior and senior qualifiers running this afternoon and evening.
It’s a party! This week, Evan and Kensley join us to talk WOGA Classic, Skinner 2020, Iordache’s potential return, and all the latest NCAA —including a commission about the bubble teams for regionals qualification this year.