The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – March 22, 2019

A. Individual Apparatus Olympic Qualification

The first half of the Olympic apparatus qualification series concludes tomorrow in Doha (it will resume in November in Cottbus), so we’re starting to get an actual, reliable impression of how things will go.

On women’s vault, Jade Carey just did outscore Maria Paseka to take her second victory in as many weeks, but it was a close one. The #1 qualifier Paseka performed what was not-even-arguably her best Amanar ever in the final, but she struggled to control her landing on the Cheng (still an improvement over last week’s miss, though not as strong as in qualification), which put her just behind Carey.

Carey now has 2 wins and 1 second place to give her 85 points out of a possible 90 points in the qualification standings. As I’ve noted before, we expect Andrade to qualify with a team at 2019 worlds and therefore have her points from Cottbus reassigned, which would then give Carey the maximum 90 points.

So…done, she’s qualified for the Olympics right?

Not so fast. It’s still quite possible, especially if Carey stops attending events at this point, for someone like Maria Paseka to win three of the four remaining competitions and get 90 points of her own, sending the two of them to a tiebreak of best scores. Which could go either way. That’s why, even though the US women’s nonsense apparatus rules stated that the org would pay to send athletes to only 3 competitions, they’re going to need to send Carey to a couple more next year if for no other reason than to try to keep Maria Paseka from getting wins.

Otherwise, this spot is still up for grabs. Speaking of spots that are still up for grabs, bars. Nina Derwael won her second event in the series in Doha, just outscoring Fan Yilin in the battle of the bars queens that we’ve always hoped for—but this is very much an Olympic backup plan for Derwael, who is highly likely to qualify a spot at 2019 worlds. When points are redistributed after the 2019 world championships, I think we’re going to end up with two 30-point competitions for Lyu Jiaqi and two 30-point competitions for Fan Yilin, and that’s going to be goooooood down the stretch.

For the men, Lee Chih Kai recovered from a rough competition in Baku to win his third pommel horse title so far in the series, snatching the maximum 90 points for himself. Like Carey, now he just has to make sure no one else gets to 90. But with Lee, there’s the added complication that he may very well qualify at 2019 worlds, which would give Weng Hao of China his glimmer of hope back.

On floor, Shatilov’s victory in Doha has given Israel three titles in four events, but since the first two of those went to Dolgopyat and the third to Shatilov, the leader in the standings is currently Carlos Yulo with one win of his own along with two 3rd places. On rings, Liu Yang has not participated in the last two events, but since he won the first two, he must still be considered the frontrunner if he competes in the second half of the series.

For tomorrow, the story will be Carey’s pursuit of the qualification lead on floor in addition to her lead vault—as well as the fight for second place between Mori and Ferrari. On beam, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . Those standings are still so ambiguous that we won’t really know what’s happening until next year. Marine Boyer has a good shot to take the lead after this meet, but she’s also one of those athletes we expect to become ineligible after 2019 worlds.

For the men on Saturday, watch for Yang Hakseon’s sudden push for the vault spot after winning in Baku, as well as the Srbic/Zonderland/Miyachi high bar battle entering its fourth round. On Pbars, Zou Jingyuan is going to win, but since he’s ineligible for an apparatus spot, there’s a good chance that Ferhat Arican can continue his run of 2nd and 3rd place finishes to keep the lead there.

B. What else?

Saturday also brings the all-around world cups in Birmingham. On the men’s side, Nikita Nagornyy is getting the nod for Russia and hoping to follow Dalaloyan’s lead from last week by taking the win over Pakhniuk and Sun Wei, who are both competing here as well. Kazuma Kaya, always capable of getting a Japan-level AA score on a good day, is hoping to break that podium, and Bart is hoping to go 6-for-6 after coming dramatically close in Stuttgart. On the women’s side, Riley McCusker makes her 2019 debut, with Ellie Downie and Aliya Mustafina aiming to keep her from the title.

Last weekend, Ellie Downie put up a strong AA performance (with even stronger potential displayed) to win the all-around title at the British championship, and if that is any indication of her current level, she should place very well in Birmingham. Sadly, an injury to Kelly Simm at the British meant that she has had to be replaced on the Euros team by Claudia Fragapane, who is nearly fully back and placed second to Downie in the floor final. If you’re looking for some requisite British team controversy to sink yourself into (and when aren’t you?), Georgia-Mae Fenton won the bars and beam event titles at the British and yet is not on the Euros team.

I think there’s an argument there. Not so much for beam because Fenton doesn’t have the D, but for bars certainly at an individual Euros. She is an event final contender, whereas Morgan and Kinsella are sort of filling the same role as one another—the #2 AAer. I would say if you’ve got Downie, Morgan, and Fragapane, you’ve got two people for floor and beam and AA covered, and vault covered as well as it can be, so what you’re left needing is another bars score to go with Downie.

Simultaneously to the all-around world cup, the Superstars of Gymnastics exhibition will be running in London, and we can only hope it is Alexei Nemov Show levels of insane. Otherwise, don’t bother.

C. GymCastic

On this week’s GymCastic, we took a deep dive into Vallapalooza, along with updates on the results from Stuttgart and Baku.

Short version: Simone good. Aliya beam upside down. Seitz DTY back. Rebeca Andrade all the scores in the team competition. Marina Nekrasova full-body unitard in Baku. Eythora beam perfect.

I mean, she actually goes apple-picking in the middle of this routine. Or, she’s selecting which talking birds will be her life-long attendants on her visit to Ye Olde Talking Bird Store.

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