Things Are Happening – June 20, 2019

A. US Olympic selection procedures

USAG has been releasing information all over the place this week. You’re shocked I know. (Except for when it comes to the senior national team verification from last weekend, in which case, it didn’t happen.)

Item #1) The 2020 Olympic selection procedures are out, including a couple significant changes from the previous quad.

First, the top TWO all-around gymnasts from Trials will now automatically be named to team. That’s back to how it used to be. In 2016, only the winner of Trials automatically made the team.

So…that’s kind of a lot for a four-person team. That’s half the team. You guys know how I don’t much care for “automatically on the team based on this all-around finish” rules because it can handcuff the ability to select the actual best possible team for a team-final format. Probably won’t, but it could. You might have a Carly 2004 situation that changes up some permutations.

I know they’re trying to make Olympic Trials seem as though it’s not the pointless charade that it obviously has been for the last several quads (like Martha didn’t have that team picked out 6 months beforehand…), but this is not my favorite.

The procedures have also introduced what is already known as the Simone Clause, whereby athletes may now injury petition directly onto the 2020 Olympic team. Pretty obviously the only person who would ever have an injury petition like this accepted is one Simone Andromedon Biles, just in case she’s injured and can’t compete at Trials. (Previously, it was possible to petition to Trials if you were injured, but not onto the team itself.)

But on the previous note, I once again like the opportunity to not be handcuffed by the results of the selection competition, so this allows you to put the person onto the team that you need to get onto the team. Like Simone. Cough Japan cough.

Item #2) USAG also unveiled new Safe Sport policies that are largely of the “shouldn’t that have been the policy already…?” variety. They emphasize reporting obligations on issues like verbal abuse and harassment (which are still the purview of USAG, which is going to keep being a problem) and adds policies regarding private coach/athlete interaction and parents being able to view training.

This is all progress, but I still come back to the issue that as long as one organization is expected to be the safety oversight organization, the athlete advocate, the coach advocate, the club advocate, and a promotion/marketing mechanism, you will have conflicts between those interests and you will have problems, no matter how many well-intentioned policy changes are introduced.

Also, the use of the British spelling of travelling totally makes me think they just copy/pasted these policies from some British organization’s rules. I’m not saying they did, I’m saying I wouldn’t be surprised.

B. Handspring front 2/1

We have a new vault! This week at the Korea Cup, Yeo Seojeong successfully completed the handspring front 2/1. She had attempted this vault before, unsuccessfully, but clearly some progress has been made in the intervening months. At least, you know, in terms of landing on her feet and kind of staying there. It’s nonetheless semi-terrifying.

The vault is a 6.2 D score, ranking it behind the Produnova and the Biles as the third most difficult vault in the code of points, and she managed a 15.100 for this effort. (E judges, meet me at camera 3…)

The cool part of this is the old “injured or happy?” question based on her facial expression afterward. It’s gymnastics. You’re never quite sure.

Yeo took the vault title (in a legit field that also included Chuso and Paseka, so credit there), Lee Yunseo of “we don’t need the Korean” fame won the bars title with a score over 14 to show that she may actually someday fulfill the potential we’ve seen from her on bars, and Luo Huan won the titles on beam and floor in a “you might regret not having the events I can do if you don’t pick me, China” kind of way.

C. Asian Championships

The Korea Cup stole some of the top competitors that might otherwise have ventured to the Asian Championships, which were a little depleted in terms of the field. And by a little depleted, I mean a lot depleted. But, we also got to watch some gymnasts do some hip circles on bars for D scores in the 2s, which is one of my favorite pastimes. (Not sarcastic.)

At the end of two days—because splitting the AA competition up and doing vault and bars one day and beam and floor the next day is all the rage now, sigh—China’s Zhou Ruiyu and Lu Yufei cruised in the all-around with scores in the 53s to go 1-2, with bronze going to Japan’s Natsumi Hanashima. China also dominated the team competition, winning by 5.5 points over Japan, with South Korea in third.

In the men’s competition, Lee Chih Kai won the all-around title over Hu Xuwei and Liu Rongbing of China. It’s not exactly China’s A team, but beating the Chinese MAG at anything…you take it. Liu probably would have been favored here going in, but a HB-tastrophe took him down to third. Milad Karimi also finished a surprisingly low 10th after pommels went…nope.

China did take the men’s team competition title—though Japan’s R team kept it fairly close—with Taiwan finishing in third place. Event finals still to come.

D. This weekend

You’re all commanded to watch the American Classic this weekend, which will be streaming on USAG’s YT, so you can talk about all the new juniors you just invented starting now and those three and a quarter seniors who are there.

The format and times of the competition have been changed (two days before the event, you know, like one does) so that the first session (10:15am MT) remains juniors only but the second session (1:45pm MT) will be juniors/seniors combined.

We also have the conclusion of the Asian Championships, for which there has been streaming, and some other results to watch, including from Dutch nationals.

Next week, action at Junior worlds and the European Games begins on Thursday the 27th, so it’s about to get…I don’t know…interesting or whatever? There will be things to shove your eye holes in front of.

E. GymCastic

Bela and Nunno and complaining about them! That’s basically the deal in this week’s commissioned episode.

29 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – June 20, 2019”

  1. I thought the handsome front 2/1 was legitimately good. Locked leg landing and twisting into the landing but still she got it around just as good as a lot of Amanars or Chengs that we see scored surprisingly well. If she doesn’t get injured, she’s got plenty of time to clean that up before 2020.

    1. I agree! The form in the air and distance was excellent. Landing was shaky but overall the vault was secure.

      1. I agree as well! I was expecting much, much worse from Spencer’s warning.

  2. Can we just get rid of the team competition and qualify the top 3 all-arounders and the top 2 per event and call it a day? Then whichever country gets the most medals is the best team.

    1. I think that makes sense. I guess the AA and events have athletes from so many different countries that aren’t necessarily in the mix for the team competition, so to heighten the drama of that competition they need to reduce the number of athletes on the floor. That’s my guess anyway.

      1. No, it has to do with FIG rules that require a certain number of judges on the competition floor. Since smaller competitions such as the Asian Championships or Commonwealth Games have a small set number of competing countries they have to split up the team competition into two days because they don’t have the number of judges to field 4 events for women or 6 events for men.
        AA these days are typically made up of the top flight (1-12) of teams with only a few individuals (WAG at least).
        In 2018 only 3 of the 24 AA finalists came from a country outside of the top 12: Golgota (ROU-13th), Kovacs (HUN-17th) and Perez (ESP-18th). There were none from South Korea (14) Australia (15) or North Korea (16) and no one from a team ranked below Spain.
        In 2016, only 2 athletes qualified to the AA finals that were not from competing teams: Lopez (VEN) and Steingruber (SUI).
        In 2015, only 4 out of the 24 were from countries out of the top 12: Iordache (ROU), Steingruber (SUI), Jurca (ROU), and Makra (HUN).

  3. I think that makes sense. I guess the AA and events have athletes from so many different countries that aren’t necessarily in the mix for the team competition, so to heighten the drama of that competition they need to reduce the number of athletes on the floor. That’s my guess anyway.

  4. Top 2 AA from Trials automatically qualifying seems completely legitimate in the 4-4-3, 4-3-3 format, ignoring petitions. I feel like the reason it didn’t work was 5-3-3 relied so heavily on event specialists, which 4-3-3 doesn’t so much.

    The chance of a petition screws with things, unless, in the case of a Simone petition, they declare that she won AA and gets one of the two automatic spots.

    1. The US will likely go with 2 AAs and 2 two-event specialists, so advancing the top 2 AA at trials makes perfect sense. Even if the US only uses Simone to do the full all around in team final, there is no way under their current dominance that they won’t aim for a gold-silver AA finish in Tokyo.

      1. I think the concern is not that we won’t want our best two AAers but that, for example, we get a McCool situation again – through some strange combination of circumstances whoever ends up 2nd is not really our 2nd best AAer, and we are stuck bringing her even though she’s not part of the optimal team.

        I think that outside of petition situation that’s relatively unlikely, because really for Tokyo because of the format everyone needs to be an AAer. There can be some weaker events we don’t intend to use, but if you are on the team, it has to be assumed you can be put anywhere in a pinch.

        It also takes some of the controversy out of the selection committee’s hands, which may also be a large part of the motivation.

      2. What if Simone is dealing with an minor injury situation at Trials and only competes two or three events… She won’t be one of the guaranteed AA spots on the team after Trials, but in reality it’ll pretty much lock in THREE gymnasts to the Olympic team.

        Speaking of injury – did anyone else hear about the rumoured significant injury to one of the gymnasts at the verification event last weekend? Apparently USAG is keeping quiet due to the privacy of the athlete and letting her reveal what she wants, when she wants. No one has a clue who it is though…

      3. I don’t know what you are talking about with McCool. She was one of the best beamers in the country, and Martha just decided not to use her in TF, using Mohini instead, which nobody ever expected.

      4. Back in the day I used to make Spencer-style spreadsheets of top-scoring athlete combinations. IIRC McCool was not on our top-scoring team at the time, but we had to take her because she got 2nd AA at trials.

        Kupets was originally supposed to go on BB in TF, Bhardwaj went in as a last minute replacement. McCool was not super consistent. It was her first year as a senior and she was nervy in prelims and Martha made the (debatable) decision of benching her for finals.

  5. Will the vault now be named the Yeo with the new naming rules?

    Also, Luo Huan will be in that 4-person Tokyo team. Mark my words.

  6. I also don’t like this notion that the top 2 AAs at Trials automatically qualify. It locks up half the team based on results that may not be reflective of the US’ actual best lineup. That said, hopefully what will actually happen is that Simone will be at Trials and win the top spot, meaning that only one team slot is at risk of going to a less-than-ideal candidate. Still don’t like this, but it may yet work out in the end. Personally, I’m rooting for a team of Simone, Morgan Hurd, and two more AAers with complementary strengths, like Sunisa Lee/Riley McCusker and Leanne Wong/Mykayla Skinner. Currently, Jade Carey and Kara Eaker look like the two best bets for the other two spots.

    1. Dream situation: Simone Biles and Mykayla Skinner claim the two guaranteed spots in AA at the Olympic Trials. (I don’t think this means Skinner will be doing the AA in the Olympics, it just insures she’s on the team – she’ll obviously be the vault/floor specialist – but who will lose out… )

      1. Actually everyone will be doing the AA in the Olympics if they want to because the format is 4-4-3 in prelims. Also, the individual qualifiers are also allowed to do AA. So all 6 selected would do AA unless someone is injured and can’t do an event or someone doesn’t train an event.

    2. the best 4 person team should def be 2 well round aa and two complementary specialists with usable nonspecialist routines.

      jade pretty much more or less locked up one of the individual spots. i agree also that the other non-nominative spot will likely go to someone like eaker or specialist in the same mold. we haven’t seen any bars specialists so far this quad that’s dominant like the kocian/locklear last quad so for right now, unless someone can challenge eaker for it, she’s probably the one if she can consistently place 2nd behind simone or even beat simone if simone ever messed up…

      I definitely can see the US willing to put up at least 3 AA routines in 2020 qualification. Heck, I would almost bet that they would probably put up 6 AA routines in qualification just because they are the only few (maybe the only one NOC) that could do that? So far the only reason we haven’t been able to see more AA routines in qual (see the gabby/hernandez, ally situation) is because of the need for specialist to qualify. so 2020 will be the only time that they could put up as many AA routines as they want to.

      1. What happens if Jade Carey tears her Achilles in June 2020? She wouldn’t be available for the 2020 Olympics, so who goes in her place, doesn’t the spot go to the next athlete in qualifying which means it could be China or Australia or Jamaica or another country?

      2. Yep, which is why going solo was a great choice for Jade and a terrible choice for everyone else involved.

  7. I don’t understand why USAG let anyone get a nominative spot. Why not hold trials now too while you’re at it.

  8. Who do you think McCool bumped off the team by being the surprise 2nd place finisher at Trials? I would have thought she would have been on the team regardless, but maybe I’m remembering her through rose-colored glasses.

    1. Probably Chelsea Memmel – she was injured but might have been healthy by the Olympics and the USA might have been willing to risk it.

    2. I always thought the composition of that 2004 team was a bit wonky. I get that Marta wanted three DTYs but it made for an oddly unbalanced team. My hunch is that if Marta could have chosen two out of McCool, Humphrey, and a healthy Yim, McCool may have found herself on the outside looking in, but Courtney’s guaranteed spot and Yim’s injury made that a moot point.

      1. I can’t find my old spreadsheet and even worse I can’t even find the scores from 2004 Trials so I can recreate it. Emailed a relative who might have it.

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