Things Are Happening – May 31, 2019

A. A dissertation on the nature of the mixed combination bonus on women’s floor exercise

Since the dawn of humanity, it is our curiosity that has defined us as a people. The quest to seek out new frontiers, the passion to uncover the unknown, the

OK Simone has some upgrades.

She tweeted the gymternet to the ground this week by posting a Biles + front layout and a triple-twisting double back. I know.

I mean, girl was going out of bounds all over the place last season, so she’s got to start making these passes harder on herself, I guess.

So just to clarify, Simone won the floor title at worlds last year a full point ahead of silver medalist Morgan Hurd, and with a D score 0.9 higher than anyone else in the final. Now she’s planning to add an acro combination worth 0.2 and a new element that’s presumably going to be rated at I-value.

The Biles to front layout will replace the Biles + stag, for an upgrade of a tenth over last year’s peak D score of 6.7. What the triple double would replace…we don’t know yet. Potentially it would go in place of the double double tucked to add another 0.1, but there could be all kinds of rearranging of other passes as well. You wouldn’t put it past her to ditch the front 1/1 through to full-in for being too easy (I mean, what is she, an infant?) and swap out that full-in for a harder element in combo. Many, many options.

(Yes, I know, the triple double is on a tumble track, but also it’s Simone so of course she can, and at this point she wouldn’t be posting it if she weren’t adding it for real.)

Also, because I’ve been really into named skills lately: Naming conventions are such that the triple-double would be known as the Biles II, even though it would be her third eponymous skill, because you only number them within a specific apparatus, not overall. It would be her second named floor skill.

B. Koper World Challenge Cup

Koper marks the third and final event in this little chunk of spring challenge cups (the series will pick up again in September), and qualification is already complete.

On the women’s side, the star competitor is Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary, who qualified in first position on both bars and beam and will be expected to take those titles since she enjoys a difficulty advantage over the rest of the fields. Still, watch out for her teammate and new senior Zoja Szekely on bars, who has legit difficulty as part of that club of new Hungarians that can refresh the national team’s supply. As for the rest of the bars field, it’s a little…a Romanian made the final. But that provides its own kind of fun. We’re going to see some Ds in the lower 4s in that final.

On beam, Kovacs should get a run from Ilaria Käslin, who has shown some very nice moments on beam in the last 12 months or so and has made the last two European beam finals. I was also pleased to see Ada Hautala of Finland make the beam final after she charmed the world at the YOG last year.

Coming off her victory at Osijek, Teja Belak leads the vault standings and will be expected to win again with hits in the final, though she’s not too, too far ahead of Yamilet Peña. Now that Peña isn’t doing the double front, it’s like, “Oh, your DTY is actually not bad. I never really knew you could vault before.” We have four 5.4 vaults in the final, so someone with a DTY may not actually medal.

Floor is the most tightly packed of the finals, with all eight qualifiers scoring within three tenths of each other in qualification and the surprising lead going to home hope Tjasa Kysselef, who’s like, “Um…I do vault…but sure?”

For the man-boys, a weird thing happened on floor where Shatilov didn’t make the final, so that one is cancelled, Rhys McClenaghan is well ahead on horse, Shek Wai Hung has a major advantage on vault, Ilias Georgiou is going to try to not collapse into a pool of goop on PBars this time, and Israel is like, “Our thing is high bar now. You thought it was floor? It’s high bar.”

Finals run on Saturday and Sunday at 10:00am ET/7:00am PT and will stream on the Olympic Channel.

C. LSU developments

LSU has been all over the place this week, what with proposing changes and adding co-head coaches. Administratively, we learned that Jay Clark has been bumped up to co-head coach, with a salary raise to go with the new title. My interpretation of LSU’s move here is as follows: “D-D is legit going to coach this team until she is 175 years old, and we need to keep you on board somehow even though it’s taking a lot longer for you to get this head coaching job than you thought when you started…here’s some money.”

The best part of this article is that they’re not exactly subtle about Jay’s unhappiness with the current coaching situation. YAY FOR AWKWARD.

At SEC meetings, LSU also proposed a scholarship glow up from 12 to 14, which has met with mixed response as a concept. The arguments in favor are reasonable—we all want more opportunities for more gymnasts to compete more gymnastics, great great—with counterarguments mainly centering on the idea that this will allow the top teams to snatch up more of the very best recruits, leaving fewer high-scoring athletes for the mid-range schools, and increasing the disparity in quality between the best and everyone else.

If you’re a frequent reader, you know I’m not particularly sympathetic to the “but then how will the #35 team contend for a championship?!?” style of argument because they’re not contending for championships as is, the nature of any sport is that haves and have-nots will emerge, and that artificial parity leads to an artificial product. At the same time, this number-of-scholarships issue would not have been on my top-15 list of problems we need to address in college gymnastics. My initial reaction was, “Oh, now we have to think about this too?”

D. US men’s gymnastics news

In the world of men’s elite, the US held a selection camp to determine the teams for June’s junior worlds and July’s Pan American Games. The biggest names did not participate in this selection, and based on the results it looks like everyone who tried for the Pan Ams team is either on the team or an alternate, with Bock, Breckenridge, Malone, Neff, and Suzuki named to the team and De Los Angeles and Loos serving as alternates.

Selection of the women’s team for the junior world championships will take place at the June national team camp (June 13-17), and selection of the Pan American Games team will be done in two parts. A training squad of 8 will be named following the conclusion of American Classic (June 22), and the official team of 5 will be named at the conclusion of the US Classic (July 20).

Those going for the Pan Ams team must verify full routines on hard surfaces at either the June camp or the American Classic, and then must compete at the US Classic in order to be selected.

Gymnastics at the Pan American Games runs from July 27-31.

OK, that ended up mostly being about the women’s team. Sorry.

Other US men’s gymnastics news surrounds the many proposals of rule changes to men’s college gymnastics (like women’s college gymnastics, but more urgent!), including returning to a kind-of 10.0 system with a conversion chart and switching to 4-up, 4-count to reduce meet length. Anyway, it’s basically a blood bath, and everyone is going off.

As for me…it’s so relaxing not to feel like I need to have a strong opinion about this. But also I can’t help myself. I think I’m more sympathetic toward rule changes than most because…try things? Maybe? Something? We’ll see? Will it do anything to stem the decline of men’s college gymnastics programs? Probably not. But it’s better than sitting still.

Counterpoint: That FIG-10.0 conversion chart is such a camel. They’re trying to balance the need to retain FIG routine composition because college and elite have a reciprocal feeder system and working under two separate codes would be detrimental to that, but they also want the marketing potential of a 10.0. And so they came up with a compromise that is…you guys.

You made a camel.

Although the biggest problem in men’s college gym, one not addressed by any of this, is one of accessibility.

E. GymCastic

WHERE THE 80S NEVER DIE. This week, it’s the hair Olympics of 1988. We talk the US 0.5 Rhonda-podium deduction and allllll kinds of cheating scores. Get in.


33 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – May 31, 2019”

    1. Why?

      Stanford’s recruiting would go through the roof – UCLA might lose some elites and perhaps Florida. Unless the elites that go to UCLA and Florida don’t have the proper credentials to meet the high standards of Stanford.

      Do you think Sarah Finnegan would’ve chosen Stanford if Jay had recruited her there? What about Shayla Worley (going back a bit)? Brandie Jay and Brittney Rogers? Kennedy Edney? Rumour was Jay lured Edney away from UCLA so perhaps he could have brought her to Stanford instead of LSU.

      Of course I don’t know what kind of students these gymnasts are (Finnegan won the AAI award so she’s pretty good at her studies since Elizabeth Price won it the previous year) and that could affect the types of recruits eligible to enter/compete for the Cardinal…

      1. The issue here is religion. Stanford and LSU are WORLDS apart. As a Nor Cal kid, I can tell you the cultural difference is profound. Sadly, Finny’s recent broom situation has made it perfectly clear she would not fit in at Stanford theologically at ALL.

      2. Northern California would be a huge culture shock for Jay Clark.

        Also, like you said, probably most of the elites that go to UCLA and Florida don’t have the academic credentials needed for Stanford.

      3. At this point it’s starting to feel like either Jay targets super-Christian athletes in recruiting, or they seek him out. Stanford already recruits from a small pool because of the academic requirements — that pool would get even smaller if the team became known for having a religious bent.

      4. Yes, thank you for bringing up religion. It seems to be a big part of college gym culture, and I imagine a motivating factor when choosing schools.
        My impression of the top schools is that LSU and OU have a strong chuirchy culture, UCLA – not so much, and the others lay somewhere in between? Like, you better be ready for prayer circles if you go to LSU. It has to be a determining factor for recruits (I know I would barf every time McKenna Kelly started praising Jesus)

      5. I just keep going back to that 2010 Kat Ding interview in my mind. That was Jay’s first year as head coach as Georgia, and that’s also the year the Georgia team dialed the religion up to 11. I don’t remember UGA being quite as overtly religious under Suzanne or Danna even though a lot of the individual athletes obviously were. I haven’t been following LSU quite as long…was LSU this religious before Jay showed up or is it a relatively recent development? In any event I couldn’t see Jay Clark being happy with Stanford, or vice versa.

        I’m not even sure I’d lump Oklahoma in with LSU in terms of “churchy culture.” Yes, a lot of the athletes on the Oklahoma team are quite vocally Christian, but I’ve never seen them do a prayer circle at a meet (admittedly I’ve watched far fewer Oklahoma meets than LSU meets because cable packages). LSU really seems to be on its own level (well, them and BYU I guess, for obvious reasons).

      6. When I think of religious schools, LSU comes to mind, followed by Utah. I have always assumed Oklahoma was slightly less ferverent, but maybe it was wishful thinking. I’ve always wondered where Florida was in the mix, and sort of saw it as a Southern UCLA Lite, with the Bruins being far left like the rest of the urban areas on the Pacific coast. It doesn’t really matter to me, except for when gymnasts leverage their amazing talent and work ethics to infringe socially on the rights of others. Reading those Tweets from Finny almost made me cry because I adore her gymnastics and general humility so much.

      7. Georgia always had an interesting mix of religious types. It seemed to come to the front more in the mid 00s across 3-5 years. Heenan was always openly religious/conservative but never seemed to have issues with the other girls. Kupets seemed to be a quieter religious type. Tolnay was the one where another coach tried to use the Yoculan marriage situation to sway her recruitment. And then you had Taylor and McCool who seemingly dialed the religion factor up to 11 after SYL turned over the program as someone pointed out. They were the senior leaders the year Ding implied there was a degree of exclusion.

        Danna always came across as at least somewhat religious and when she got the gig, going to a more conservative area was supposedly part of her attraction- then again she had just moved form Nebraska to Berkeley. But it never seemed to take over in the same sense even when a couple of the girls like Brandie Jay had been more religious themselves.

        I think the difference might have been the fault line between being a believer/practicing faith and proselytizing. I remember some of ‘traditional marriage’ posts from Taylor and McCool having some people steaming from the ears since they had both always enjoyed fan support from some of the gayer corners of the gymnternet.

        I’m not sure that or Clark going full/vocal Trump would play out as well outside SEC confines.

      8. Never even considered the religious angle here – just the academic one considering Stanford is miles ahead of most SEC schools and even ahead of the other California schools (depends on course/POV).

        I believe Kat Ding and I would get along based on religion. I think we share the same views/values – though I don’t really know her personally. 🙂

        LSU, Auburn, Arkansas seem like the biggest religion schools in the SEC.
        Not sure about Kentucky and Missouri.
        Georgia and Alabama seem like they could go either way depending on the senior gymnasts on the team and how religious they are and how much influence they have over younger teammates. Alabama seems on a whole – not talking about individual gymnasts – to be moving away from religion as a team theme (kind of cool and ironic at the same time).
        Are there churches in Florida? 🙂 JK I have never really viewed Florida as much of a religious school.
        During the Danna era at Georgia though the sophomore class (Chelsea Davis, Sarah P) seemed to not have the closest relationship with the new coaching staff and based on their socials both former gymnasts seem VERY religious. Even in interviews both gymnasts always just talked about competing as a business.
        Danna seemed conservative but I don’t think she pushed religion on the team. I always had the impression she pushed academics harder on the gymnasts – likely due to her background at Nebraska and Cal – which might not have gone over as well at an SEC school.

        I would imagine the Pac-12 schools are the least religious as a whole conference (Utah excluded). B1G schools I’m not sure – I’d say the ones in the bigger urban centres are not really religious. Penn State might be the most religious in the conference and they’re in a smaller university town.

      9. “Tolnay was the one where another coach tried to use the Yoculan marriage situation to sway her recruitment.”

        Please elaborate on this. Marriage situation? What other coach (Jay Clark)?

      10. This is hideous. Finnegan is merely another fascist forced-birth HUCKSTER attempting to run a cheap scam. SO glad she never won a national AA!

      11. Marriage situation is that Yoculan has been with her partner for about 20 years now. They had a commitment ceremony and are open about their relationship but his first wife would not grant a divorce. So he lives in Athens with her and the legal wife is still in the home town. The other coach was Patterson at Bama. Tolnay called to say she was committing to UGA as a courtesy to the UGA staff and basically got beaten over the head with a Bible. Supposedly someone used the same angle on Heenan’s mom. The whole brouhaha was supposedly going to come up in that Sarah and Suzanne SEC documentary but everyone lawyered up per internet rumors at the time.

        I wouldn’t consider Bama more secular than other programs in the least. For some reason Arkansas as religious has me imagining Renee Cook dressed as a slutty Nun- those of you who remember her post divorce attire will get it. I imagine all the big programs have a couple of girls who are pretty religious by most of our standards but never cause an issue.

        And FWIW- Vanderbilt is the only SEC school within shouting distance of Stanford academically but they do not field a gymnastics squad. Stanford and Cal are really the only two programs that have been top ten in gym and academics over the last 20 or so years. The fact that so many of the top flight mid 00s girls (Yim, Ashino, Tricase, Janiga, Hong, etc.) ended up at Stanford is really pretty amazing.

      12. Previous post should have said as a courtesy to the Bama staff not UGA staff…

      13. The fake “wife” who refused to grant a divorce sounds like the biggest *itch on the planet – I hope she is living a miserable life. Woman like her deserve nothing but crap. I imagine she’s a post-divorce Renee Cook wannabe. 🙂

        Now on to the real and important stuff.

        “And FWIW- Vanderbilt is the only SEC school within shouting distance of Stanford academically but they do not field a gymnastics squad. Stanford and Cal are really the only two programs that have been top ten in gym and academics over the last 20 or so years. The fact that so many of the top flight mid 00s girls (Yim, Ashino, Tricase, Janiga, Hong, etc.) ended up at Stanford is really pretty amazing.”

        Yeah I know Vanderbilt is the Stanford of the SEC – but they aren’t a gymnastics school so I didn’t mention them. I did say “most SEC” schools can’t compete with Stanford academically, which covered the issue.

        In recent years Alabama seems less religious than other SEC schools, perhaps it’s Duckworth’s influence and she doesn’t parade religion around as much as the former coaching staff. I would say comparing UGA to Bama during the Durante and Duckworth years as coaches the former seems more outwardly religious and even that’s a stretch (probably my impression by their fashion attire). I don’t recall any interview with either Danna or Dana were they talked about god after a win. I do remember around 2011-2014 the Alabama gymnasts would get into a circle on the floor and pray (?) after a meet with their competitors but they don’t really do that anymore. Maybe when they fact LSU but that might be more of a reflection of respect for their opponent.

        When the LSU team does a prayer circle what would happen if one or two of the gymnasts refused to take part? I mean it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and if someone doesn’t feel comfortable they should not be forced to participate and no one should hold it against them.

      14. Sarah Patterson wasn’t the only person to use religion during recruiting. Suzanne could give as good as she got in that department. Her tactics were to tell recruits about Alabama’s team members’ DUIs and also about abortions happening amongst Alabama team members to encourage them to come to the more Christian UGA instead.

      1. I would 100% agree if it were not for the incredibly candid and funny blog musings of Taylor Rice. The leadership in Stanford gymnastics was abusive and demonstrative of an “Ivy Exceptionalism” that is disturbing. I hope the culture of the team has evolved under new leadership and from the mere presence of EB Price… Then again, I am quick to give EB as much credit as possible at all times because she mirrors my own values. Talk about being a true protector of life!

  1. That 10.0 system for MAG NCAA is such an aberration that I am sort of fascinated. Like, it almost certainly is not going to work, but I still want to see it happen.

  2. Why in the world would someone think Clark would turn down a HC position at a school but be willing to accept the assistant coach spot??? And I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to be saddled with taking over a second program coming off multiple consecutive National Championships. And in 2015 LSU was it’s most highly touted recruiting class ever show up on campus…

    I’m not always a blind fan of Clark but the man knows how to recruit, take a supporting role to a strong HC, and put bar rotations together as well as anyone in the game. He is not going to take over another dynasty or step down to a program that needs a full rebuild or to be elevated for the first time.

    I took his comments to mean he is fine in his current role, wants to take over after DD leaves, and doesn’t want to play such a visible coach in waiting role at a second program.

    Humorously about 75% of his UB titles come from three athletes- Kupets, Ding, and Finnegan. I’m racking my head trying to figure out the other three titles- was he already the bars coach when Brown, Lichey and Co were competing at UGA? He should also get props for having about a half dozen woman place top three AA under his watch.

  3. My issue with the 12-to-14 scholarships change is that I think it sort of lessens the value of multi-event gymnasts and the value of good coaching and strategic recruiting. When there’s fewer scholarship spots, it makes more sense for coaches to recruit people who have multiple good events or potential for multiple events, and help them develop strong routines even on pieces where they didn’t have it 100% together in JO. I don’t like Oklahoma at all, but no one can deny that KJ is absolutely excellent at this and it’s a big reason for her team’s success.

    With a bigger roster, it seems like it might be easier for the big teams to just go shopping for the absolute best ready-made scores among the JO pool, even if they only contribute one event.

    I don’t know if this is really how things would pan out – it’s just a thought.

    1. Realistically, how many schools would choose to fund the extra scholarships? The top contenders would, sure, but what about the schools who offer gymnastics mainly as a Title IX satisfier? I’m thinking they wouldn’t lay out the cash unless they could also add two men’s scholarships in the money sports.

    2. LSU is bound and determined to ruin everything about NCAA gym now that they’re big enough for people to care what they think, so…

  4. The Biles into front layout is an incredibly combo but seems risky since Simone has had problems with the connected stag leap and regularly goes out of bounds on her passes. Although I love to see difficulty being pushed to the max, I think Simone’s best bet is focus on the landings within her current floor routine (with the Chusovitina instead of the Moors). Simone’s E-scores haven’t been as high as in the past quad and most of that is attributed to her issues with landings since her execution in the air is flawless.

    1. Yeah but her goal isn’t to win. She has stated I believe that her goal at this point is to push herself to the edge of what she is capable of. I don’t see her returning to the DLO 1/1 for that reason. Also, her Moors is beautiful. I think she can clean up the landing soon. I could see:

      Biles II (Triple Double)

      I believe that would push her D to 7.2?

      I also really want to see the Biles II on vault (triple yurchenko).

      1. Assuming she keeps the same dance difficulty, the tumbling you’ve listed here bags a 6.9.

        To get to the 7.2, she would have to keep the front full + full-in combo but upgrade the full-in to the Silivas. This would add .2 CB and allow her to count the C front full instead of a B (either the switch leap or the FLO, which one it formally is doesn’t matter much)

      2. Simone is not currently counting a B. Her current routine is:

        Chusovitina (0.8)
        Biles + Stag (0.7 + 0.1)
        Front Full into Full-twist double back (0.3; 0.5 + 0.2)
        Silivas (0.8)

        Double wolf (0.4)
        split 3/2 (0.4)
        switch split 1/1 (0.4)

        2.0 for composition requirements + difficulty and connections above = 6.6

        If Simone went for broke, she could do:

        Moors (0.9)
        Biles + Front Layout (0.7 + 0.2)
        Triple-double (0.9 or 1.0)
        Front full into Silivas (0.3; 0.8 + 0.2)

        Triple wolf (0.5)
        split 3/2 (0.4)
        switch split 1/1 (0.4)

        That would give her 7.3 or 7.4 depending on what they award the triple-double.

      3. 6/7/19 7:21 anon, Simone has two obvious options with the upgraded tumbling (as well as some others that score lower, such as putting the 3x2x in place of the Moors or Silivas and keeping the front full + full in as is, that I won’t discuss in detail):

        Conservative option, which is what Matthew Boyle suggested **in the comment I was responding to**, learn to read:
        Moors (I/.9)
        3x2x (near certainly I/.9)
        Biles + FLO (G/.7 + B/.2, .2 CV)
        Silivas (H/.8)

        plus dance of D/.4 split 1.5 – B/.2 switch half leap pass, D/.4 wolf turn, D/.4 switch full as she’s done recently.

        The elimination of the C front full + E full in pass in this option means she cannot count that C, so she is forced to count a B. Doesn’t matter whether it’s formally the layout or the switch half, but one must be counted.

        2.0 CR
        IIHGDDDB = 4.7 DV
        .2 CV
        Total difficulty 6.9.

        The harder option removes the standalone Silivas, and upgrades the front full cxn from full in to Silivas, as you described. This nets an additional .2 CV (now 7.1) and allows the C front full to count in place of one of the B skills in the routine (for a 7.2).

        I’m not entirely sure why you’ve decided she’s suddenly doing a triple wolf in the go for broke scenario, but yes, if she were to upgrade that as well she would get a 7.3.

  5. This is hideous news. Sarah Finnegan is merely another fascist forced-birth HUCKSTER attempting to run a cheap and illegal scam. SO glad she never won a national AA!

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