The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Canadian and Australian Nationals


At Canadian Nationals, what is becoming an increasingly fascinating and evenly matched intra-country rivalry between Ellie Black and Ana Padurariu delivered another thriller, with Ellie Black coming from behind to take the national title after trailing Padurariu by nearly 8 tenths following the first day.

On day 1, Padurariu put up a stellar performance and led the field on both bars and beam (bars a casual point better than anyone else in the competition), hitting cleanly enough to get the job done on vault and floor even though the D-score isn’t quite up there. Ellie Black hit 3-for-4 on that first day of competition as she did Normal Ellie on three pieces but missed beam to take her total down below Padurariu’s. The highlight of Black’s performance was the reemergence of her rudi (competed as her second vault), a potentially significant 4-tenth upgrade for her personal all-around goals and for a team that had just two competitors showing vault difficulties higher than 5.0 here.

On day 2, Black was the star, eradicating that beam miss from the first day to hit all four pieces and record a 56.608—the highest single-day AA score between her and Padurariu. Meanwhile, Padurariu came back to earth a little bit on the second day. She fell on beam on her side aerial + loso series and scored lower on bars— it wasn’t miss on bars or a bad routine, but she took out her Komova + bail combination from the first day and had a bit more trouble on the dismount, so the score was lower. On the bright side for Padurariu on day 2, she pumped up the floor difficulty to outscore even Olsen, potentially adding to Canada’s embarrassment of floor riches.

Third-place in the all-around went to Brooklyn Moors, who of course stole everyone’s life with her floor routine, scoring exceptionally well on the first day but falling on her final pass on day 2 to drop down those event standings.

While floor is always going to be the star for her, Moors won the beam title here with two strong hits—over 14 on both occasions—which to me is the more important accomplishment. As we look toward four-person teams in 2020, the need to deliver realistic routines on most apparatuses is increasing. By placing 1st on beam and 5th on bars here, Moors is continuing to show progress in that department.

Also showing progress in the beam department was Shallon Olsen, who built upon her evolution into a beamer in her freshman season at Alabama by placing fifth there. She also won the vault title because duh.

Fourth position in the all-around belonged to Isabela Onyshko, who had a couple iffy moments here and there but put up pretty competitive peak scores on bars and beam, going 13.550 on bars on the first day and 13.600 on beam on the second day.

Junior Zoe Allaire-Bourgie competed with the seniors here due to excellence and was sitting 4th all-around after the first day but did not compete on day 2.

At the very top of the Canadian picture, little has changed. The big four are Black, Padurariu, Moors, and Olsen. That quartet pretty much covers things on beam and floor, especially if Moors continues beaming like she did here. As was the case last year, Canada is left with two needs: a bars routine to go along with Padurariu and Black and a vault to go along with Olsen and Black. And one remaining team spot to fill those needs. In 2018, that fifth spot went to the DTY from Sophie Marois. Marois did not compete at nationals this year, where none of the other competitors really got a “take me for vault” kind of score. That said, Denelle Pedrick once again competed in the L10 group and could realistically use her DTY to bump up the team score from the big four by more than half a point and should be kept in mind.

In the bars department, Onyshko placed 3rd overall on that piece, behind only Padurariu and Black. Add that to her 4th-place AA finish, and I think she has done a solid job getting her name back into the mix. Onyshko could very comfortably be part of a team of five for Canada, lead off bars in the team final, do beam in qualification if needed, and generally be a realistic AA-competing stopgap plan should anything happen to anyone else. The only issue with that is the lack of third vault. Although, if you’re looking purely for a bars score, Jessica Dowling’s 13.800 from day 2 was the highest individual non-Black/Padurariu score.

Placing 6th all-around was Haley de Jong, who is heading to Georgia in a hot minute and is going to be a thing.

Speaking of Georgia…


To a large extent, competition at Australian Nationals was also a two-woman show. Georgia Godwin returned from her “what is the world supposed to do without you?” absence to win the national all-around title, with Georgia-Rose Brown competitively on her heels. Brown had the cleaner competition overall, but with a deficit of around 1.5 in D score compared to Godwin, Godwin is always going to have the advantage if she hits most of her routines.

The national bronze medal went to Emma Nedov, who recovered from troubles on beam and floor on the first day to hit those events on day two (but with a miss on bars). Her day 2 all-around score put her second, just ahead of Brown, and her 13.550 on beam was far and away the strongest beam score of the competition.

The golden fleece for Australia this year is the prospect of qualifying to the Olympics by finishing in the top 12 at worlds. Australia placed 15th last year, but it’s worth clarifying that the Doha team was without Godwin. If Godwin had been able to compete at worlds last year, Australia likely would have finished 13th—just on the outside of the spots but in contention. Certainly close enough to entertain it as a possibility.

Taking only the best score over the two days of nationals, the highest-scoring team of five for Australia would be as follows:

Georgia Godwin 13.875 13.675 12.575 13.750
Georgia-Rose Brown 13.775 13.650 12.975 12.850
Emma Nedov 13.875 13.350 13.550 13.025
Talia Folino 13.875 13.200 12.125 12.150
Kate McDonald 13.425 13.375 12.825 12.325
213.325 41.615 40.700 39.350 39.625

The first three (Godwin, Brown, and Nedov) are more or less locks, Godwin bringing essential scores on three pieces and a floor number Australia can’t live without, Brown delivering necessary routines on bars and beam and useful scores on all four, and Nedov bringing a critical beam—and also probably the all-around if nationals results are anything to go on.

The other two spots on that team appear fully up for grabs, keeping in mind that in contrast to a team like Canada that should approach worlds selection with the team final in mind, Australia is going to be all about scoring well in qualification’s 5-4-3 format and needs to make sure there are four viable scores on every event, even if only three will count. Of note, Alex Eade suffered a knee injury right before nationals that kept her out of competition. Overall for Australia, the floor difficulty scores are still a little anemic, so Eade’s ability on that event remains critical. She has the second-highest D on floor next to Godwin, so if she’s able to get back to full strength for worlds selection, she’d have a place on my team.

McDonald hit competitive scores on bars and beam on the second day to get herself into this highest-scoring team of five, but Emily Whitehead has a bit of a D-score advantage on McDonald on both those pieces (and has shown a critical Y1.5 on vault in the past), so I’d say she probably still enjoys the advantage despite scoring slightly lower on those pieces here.

Folino’s vault scored very similarly to many other vaults at nationals, but I do like her as a potential possibility because she has a bit more content on bars and beam than a lot of the other options. Because beam is not really Godwin’s thing, Australia will be in the market for a fourth beam routine to round out a team of options that can all count if Godwin has a weak one, and in that regard new senior Elena Chipizubov has garnered some attention. She didn’t have a great time on beam at nationals, but the routine is theoretically there.

To make it in the top 12 at worlds, Australia will have to pass up at least one team that has been stronger the last couple years, like a Belgium. The Belgians are in action over the next couple weeks with a championship this coming weekend and the FIT Challenge the following weekend, and I’ll be eager to compare the Australian scores to what the Belgians record. That will be a helpful marker as to how competitive the Australians might be heading toward fall.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for your Heath Thorpe update, he placed 2nd on floor and 3rd on vault in event finals and stuck a Man Lopez as his second vault for a 9.700 E score.

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