The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Pan American Games Preview

Welcome to the most interest you’ve ever had in the Pan American Games! The competition begins tomorrow (Saturday), with the session-by-session schedule found below.

For US viewers, every session will be streamed on ESPN3 in Spanish, so you should be able to watch every moment. There will also be some TV broadcasts (i.e., the US women’s team session on Saturday is slated to be included in the ESPN2 window), though the TV coverage windows are listed as multi-sport, so you might want to have the web coverage on standby just in case. The TV coverage will have Bart and Kathy on the call, and here’s a live shot of me learning about that just yesterday.

July 27
4:00pm ET/1:00pm PT – Women’s Qualification/TF Subdivision 1 –
Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Jamaica, Dom Rep, Cayman Is

6:20pm ET/3:20pm PT – Women’s Qualification/TF Subdivision 2 – Chile, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Panama

9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT – Women’s Qualification/TF Subdivision 3 –
USA, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Uruguay, Bolivia

July 28
5:30pm ET/2:30pm PT – Men’s Qualification/TF Subdivision 1 – Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Ecuador, Dom Rep, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Bolivia

9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT – Men’s Qualification/TF Subdivision 2 – USA, Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, Peru, Jamaica, T & T, Costa Rica

July 29
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT – Women’s All-Around Final
7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT – Men’s All-Around Final

July 30
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT – Event Finals Day 1

July 31
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT – Event Finals Day 2


In the women’s team competition, expect the US to take the gold medal, nothing new there. Canada is sending an exceptionally strong team that could have made a legitimate run at gold if this were one of the years (like, every other time) when the US sent a fully B-squad group to the Pan American competition. But with the near-A-team level of the US squad this year, it’s unlikely that they can be caught by the Canadians, especially a Canadian team that will now be without Ana Padurariu because the world is stupid and I hate everything. Padurariu has been replaced by Isabela Onyshko, who can of course do the job but not with the bars and beam scores we expect of Padurariu.

For reference, if we do a “domestic scoring” comparison between the US Classic and Canadian Nationals (caveat, that was in May), this US group would go 173.300 compared to the Canadian team at 167.665, so the US should have some margin for error.

I do like Canada as favorites for the silver medal. A full-strength Brazilian squad could have given the Canadians a run here, but the injury to Rebeca Andrade has of course stunted the Brazilians’ scoring potential, and word that Jade Barbosa had maybe a little something ouchie-related going on in training doesn’t help. Still, with Saraiva and Fidelis and the gang, bronze should be very doable for Brazil.

An interesting lineup note: we’ve learned today that the US will be putting up McCusker, Hurd, and Eaker in the all-around and that Leanne Wong will be competing just bars and beam. Under normal circumstances, you’d certainly have Wong contributing vault instead of Eaker, which leads one to believe there’s something going on with Wong, even though it could be as minimal as resting/precautionary considerations.

The doesn’t really change the baseline all-around podium expectations that it will be two Americans and Ellie Black, but there will be an internal race for the US spots (Eaker outscored Hurd at Classic) and we would expect nothing less. Get excited for this one because it should be an exceptionally delightful all-around final overall when you add in Saraiva and Fidelis as contenders, Brooklyn Moors as potentially the second Canadian (though she’d have to hit in qualification to stay ahead of teammates), the mystery that is Yesenia Ferrera and her return to competition here, Danusia Francis competing for Jamaica. We’re truly living in a golden age.

Also please note that Toni-Ann Williams is slated to compete for Jamaica despite The Unpleasantness That Shall Not Be Named happening only five months ago.

On the events, vault is a pretty deep apparatus in the Americas right now and should be a hotly contested affair, though with Shallon Olsen the favorite for gold. Still, if Ellie Black pulls out that rudi again, we could have a nice intra-nation battle. Marcia Vidiaux of Cuba has also shown us a rudi and a Tsuk 2/1 in the past, though we never see it consistently (Cuba things). If she has those and is hitting, don’t ignore her chances. She is the defending Pan Am Games vault champion after all.

Yamilet Peña is also here—thankfully no longer doing the double front, though that does stunt her chances of big scores, let’s be honest. Aleah Finnegan showed a second vault at Classic (Omelianchik) presumably with the intent of making the vault final here, Paula Mejias is competing for Puerto Rico and has placed well on vault in the past, and Franchesca Santi from Chile has a DTY—so it’s a solid clan.

Bars is not as strong across the field, and the US will be looking to put McCusker and Hurd into that final as top medal favorites. Ellie Black certainly has the chops to get one of those “Damn girl!” 14s she gets sometimes, which would put her in line for a good result here, and Onyshko (or even Woo) could be a compelling second Canadian. Lorrane Oliveira primarily makes Brazilian teams for her bars—though she’s going to be tasked with contributing more this year without Andrade—and if it’s one of Barbosa’s good days, you never know. She’s a delight on bars, but also…Jade. Outside those top 3 countries, keep an eye on Nicolle Castro for Mexico. Hers is a glory-or-disaster routine, but she has scored 14 before.

Prognosticating about beam is a fool’s errand, but you’re looking at Eaker and McCusker aiming for the top 2 spots there, Black making another final (and hopefully Moors if she repeats what she did at nationals), and of course the most important thing is the plan to get Danusia Francis into a final somewhere, and by somewhere, I mean here. Francis has been denied her dismount mat for beam, and it’s very important to me that she, at some point, use the mat anyway to usher in the protest movement of our generation. Event finals at Pan Ams would be as good a time as any.

Floor should be an interesting one because—as long as Morgan Hurd is still holding back a little on her routine—this particular US team is not super floorsy in terms of bringing the huge difficulty. If Hurd steps up the composition compared to Classic she’s a good bet, and I still expect two US entrants into the final, but there should be an opening for Moors and Black and Saraiva and Fidelis and Ferrera and and and. Like vault, floor is a higher-level event for this competition’s roster. I haven’t mentioned Argentina’s team yet, but Dominici should be fairly compelling in the all-around and might have a shot at the floor final in that she can score into the 13s.

OK. Men’s competition. In an unusual twist, the US men are actually sending a weaker team than the US women are. Typically for meets such this, the US men are like, “Let’s go boys!” and the women are like, “Is there a Four Seasons? Otherwise pass.” Last time around—with very different timing with respect to nationals—the US men sent Mikulak and the whole gang.

This time, it’s Neff, Malone, Suzuki, Breckenridge, and Bock—presumably on a mission to see who might be able to give the US team a high bar routine in the hope that it’s not another year of “Colin Van Wicklen counts as a HB specialist now.” Also highly fascinating will be the performance of Brody Malone, the standout freshman who dominated the AA in Stanford’s upset performance at nationals this year. It will be worth watching how he actually matches up with some of the other senior elites in an FIG competition.

Brazil is sending a formidable group that’s pretty much at worlds-team level, with Arthur Nory and Francisco Barretto and Arthur Zanetti, so they’ll look to sweep up a solid bucket-worth of medals (perhaps vat?) with that squad. Canada has also sent nearly the same team that finished 18th at worlds last year, though now including Minnesota’s Justin Karstadt, who recently recorded the top AA score at the men’s Elite Canada competition.

Mexico is sending some favorites like Daniel Corral and Fabian de Luna. Meanwhile, Colombia will have to do without Jossimar Calvo here, so fling my corpse right into the mud.

I’ll be back with live blogs of the women’s competition tomorrow.

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