The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – June 14, 2019

A. US junior worlds team

Following competition today at the national team camp, the junior worlds team for the US has been named—Skye Blakely, Kayla Di Cello, and Sydney Barros, with Konnor McClain as the traveling alternate.

We even got scores. SCORES YOU GUYS!

So, they went purely by all-around results to decide the team and alternate, which will appease the fairness police but is not my preferred strategy for team selection—it’s safe, but isn’t necessarily the peak scoring team or the best option for event medals at what is very much an event-final focused meet. For instance, based on these results the top-scoring team for a 3-3-2 format would be Blakely, DiCello, and Alipio because Alipio scored that huge 14.400 on beam.

The big surprise here, however, is Konnor McClain missing out on a team spot by four tenths and instead going as an alternate. From the scores, it looks like a miss on beam and potentially some struggles on floor. McClain was on the nominative roster and favored along with Di Cello going in because of her results at Jesolo and would have been on the team with a hit here. We’re also missing Olivia Greaves, who was on the nominative roster as well and would have been in the mix but didn’t get the bars score here that she would have needed to make her argument.

If they all repeat what they did here at trials in the actual team competition, Blakely and Di Cello’s scores would count on every event for a total of 112.25. That’s a strong number, very competitive with what Russia’s team can score, though with presumably some domestic bounce in this case. If you look at those huge E scores that Blakely received en route to her magnificent 56.500, we’re probably not going to see gymnasts get those kinds of numbers in Gyor.

Russia looks like it will have the difficulty advantage over the US, so it may just come down to whether Russia does a Russia all over the place on the first day or not. And with Listunova on floor, Gerasimova on beam, and Urazova on bars (if they all end up competing), Russia’s probably coming in with the pre-meet title favorite on those three events.

B. National team camp

The seniors are also present at camp this weekend, and those interested in a spot on the Pan Am Games team competed on Friday along with the juniors as part of their selection process. We’ll know who made the training squad of eight for that Pan Ams team following American Classic on the 22nd.

The entire senior national team is in attendance (though not necessarily all trying to verify for Pan Ams) with the exception of Ragan Smith, whose internet stalkers have confirmed that she’s changed plans and is looking to start at Oklahoma for the upcoming season rather than pushing for 2020. Because we were all thinking, “Oklahoma isn’t good enough right now and really needs Ragan Smith.”

Previously, by my unofficial count, I had Oklahoma short one scholarship gymnast for the 2020 season, so it seems like they were preparing for this. Or at least leaving open the possibility. Who’s excited to waste a lot of energy over the next six months speculating about whether Smith is going to be an NCAA star or elite-burnout victim? I know I am!

As we previously knew, MyKayla Skinner is attending this camp as a non-national-team invitee. There was some question about her not being on the roster for American Classic, but since Skinner hasn’t competed elite in quite a while, she doesn’t have a qualifying score and therefore didn’t meet the roster criteria. She did get a special invitation to this camp, however, which will give her an opportunity to get an elite score again.

C. FIT Challenge

Last weekend’s Flanders Challenge brought some good news for a few national teams in need of exactly that. I mean, the Romanian juniors won the junior team title. It is a new dawn. (Also, the Romanian seniors finished 11th on bars. It is the same dawn.)

Before this meet, I had been a little worried about the Netherlands. Lately we’ve seen Sanne Wevers and Celine van Gerner sort of in and out and out again (van Gerner has had to withdraw from European Games because she’s not fully back yet), but here, Naomi Visser won the all-around title with 54.533 and hit a tremendous bars routine for 14.100, and Lieke Wevers made a triumphant return to all-around competition with 52.198. Her best scores came on vault and bars in the 13s, but obviously I’m just here for the floor.

If the Netherlands can keep Visser and Lieke Wevers on this track, and have Thorsdottir and van Gerner ready along with the usual gang, then I’m 1000% on board.

Australia had Georgia Godwin and Emma Nedov place 3rd and 4th in the all-around competition, which was a positive result especially because Godwin didn’t have the floor she wanted at this competition, splashing out of bounds on her double front both days. With floor usually Godwin’s big point-getter, it’s important when she can place well in the all-around without leaning on that number.

I don’t think a lot has changed for Australia overall, but Emily Whitehead put up a solid performance here to place 7th AA. She wasn’t in the top-scoring group of five in terms of peak scores at nationals, so this result definitely helps her argument to be that “I’ll lead off, and you can count my score on every event if needed” gymnast come world championships.

The headline news for Belgium was the upgrade to Nina’s bars, where she has added a Downie to her routine and reorganized some other composition, currently ditching the Bhardwaj in favor of a Pak to Van Leeuwen combination. That second change is a wash because she loses 2 tenths from changing the Bhardwaj to the Pak (1 tenth in skill value, 1 tenth in CV out of the Stalder Shap) but gains those 2 tenths back in CV for the Pak to Van Leeuwen combination. But, adding the Downie does give her an additional 2 tenths in D over last year’s routine, bringing her up to 6.7.

Also significant for Belgium was the performance of new senior Fien Enghels, who piked Stalder-ed the crap out of this routine for 14.200 (the feet, I know, but still), establishing herself as a compelling challenger to disrupt the traditional Belgian five. Enghels will be part of the European Games team for a chance to continue proving that.

Isabela Onyshko also placed 6th here with bars and beam scores that, while not up to the level of her scores from Canadian Nationals—they were never going to be—should keep her in the mix as a “you can go up on bars in TF” possible team selection.

D. NCAA news

In NCAA news, Bailie Key officially announced her retirement, which had seemed only inevitable based on the last two years of injuries and being unable to compete for Alabama. We’ll always have that one beam routine where she scored 8.475. Which is the saddest sentence I’ve ever heard.

There has been a lot of criticism of Alabama for giving scholarships to injured former elites—this was also the line against UCLA about 5 years ago, and then they started winning so it was fine—but honestly, it was Bailie Key. Nearly every program would take that shot if presented, and if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out.

Also, official word has finally come that Suzey Suze is stepping down as Georgia’s volunteer assistant and retiring for the second time—although she told the team this information at nationals and obviously it got out within 13 seconds because there’s no such thing as a secret in NCAA.

It’s the right move. It’s time for this to be Courtney’s program and not Suzanne and Courtney’s program. (That whole drama this season involving Georgia Elite that I couldn’t possibly be less interested in really exacerbated that “whose program even is this?” dynamic.) For all of Suzanne’s protestations that she’s just an assistant and Courtney is the head coach and people are misrepresenting the dynamic…I mean, come on. You’re Suzanne. You’re automatically in charge of every room you walk into, even a closet. It was never going to be any other way. We see who the gymnasts turn to for validation immediately following their routines, and it isn’t Courtney.

But I’m sure going to miss having Suzanne on the floor…again. I mean, who’s going to deliver our bedazzled stilettos and honest background facial expressions now?

E. Championship meets

The headline news from Brazilian Nationals was the ACL injury to Rebeca Andrade—that she still managed to score a 13.767 for that floor routine where she injured her ACL has to be some kind of a record—but some other gymnastics also happened. Thais Fidelis won the all-around title by less than a tenth over Flavia Saraiva and only two tenths over Jade Barbosa, with Lorraine Oliveira in 4th (but also won the bars title), so the healthy four is very much still the four.

In other developments, 2005-baby Ana Luiza Lima won the floor title with a 14.100 and a Dos Santos, so…hello you.

In France, MDJDS won the all-around title by a billion millions with Lorette Charpy in 2nd and Claire Pontlevoy in 3rd. Juliette Bossu competed only bars, winning that event, and Coline Devillard won vault. Marine Boyer didn’t compete but is not expected to be out long. So in all, the French five (MDJDS, Charpy, Boyer, Bossu, Devillard) doesn’t appear to have changed.

This weekend is going to be a little slow, but with American Classic, Asian Championships, European Games, and junior worlds all still coming up this month, we have some busy times in our future.

F. GymCastic

This week’s commission: the epic SHAWN AND NASTIA episode you’ve always wanted (probably).

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