The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Pan American Games: Women’s All-Around

Expectations for the women’s AA final haven’t changed since before the meet, when a podium featuring two Americans and Ellie Black was the obvious assumption. Still the case—we just now know that the two Americans competing for those spots are Riley McCusker (or Brilly McCooster, obviously my favorite pronunciation ever to happen) and Kara Eaker.

But don’t count out Flavia Saraiva. She managed the fourth best score yesterday, which included a fall on beam, so a clean day from her today should also produce a very compelling total. An all-around medal going to anyone outside that collection of four, however, would qualify as a true upset.

The top four are joined in the primary rotation group by Martina Dominici and Thais Fidelis, while group NCAA4EVER begins on bars with Danusia Francis, Ariana Orrego, and Sandra Collantes all rotating together, along with Victoria Woo.

McCusker qualified in first place, and she’ll be encouraged by that especially because it was done even with a weak landing on her DTY for a sub-14. Eaker had a truly stellar day to qualify in 2nd position—continuing to prove that she’s a real AAer now—but she’ll have to maintain a similar level today to try to fend of Ellie Black, who qualified pretty far behind the Americans but with a miss on beam. A good hit from Black today should also put her into the 56s.

We’re promised ESPNU coverage, but I’m going to have the ESPN3 Spanish stream up again as necessary backup. Because Cold Beach Volleyball doesn’t look so close to finishing.

The rest of the US team is there in the crowd watching their teammates. BUT WILL THEY ALL STAND UP AND CHEER THE SAME WAY AT THE SAME TIME???? OR WILL ONE LOOK LIKE SHE IS FROWNING????

Donatella’s flat top is on fire as usual.

Athletes have walked in and are preparing for the touch.

Dominici is going very German with the leo today. “If you’re not from Peru, you are dead trash.” – this crowd

Cold Beach Volleyball is over, so we’ll get gymnastics on ESPNU now with B and K.

“Thank you for that extreme close-up of me blowing my nose” – Ellie Black

Rotation 1

Black – VT – Waiting for 7000 years. Hs front lay full – basically stuck, very strong landing, maybe just a little hop up in place. Initiates with the pike, a bit of knees, will be a big opening score. 14.450

They have no acknowledged the other rotation groups at all so far, so looks like that’s the approach. Which makes sense. But also Nush.

Eaker – VT – Another stick on her 1.5 today. Basically identical to her team vault, but with more of a knee bend to find the landing this time.

13.950 for Eaker. They took a few tenths for the more extreme knee bend, also potentially being a little tighter today. Scoring was loose overall on the first day.

McCusker – VT – better DTY than in the touch or on the first day – still comes in short, chest down, hop forward, things to take, but improvement there.

14.250, so multi-tenth improvement on the first day’s vault.

Fidelis – VT – really really clean full, nice shape in the air, small hop forward. 13.700

It was an 11.250 for Ferrera on beam, so we can imagine.

Dominici – VT – DTY – comes up a little under-rotated, feet facing nearly sideways when she landed, which means she had to take a large lunge forward and then another step after that –

12.750 for Francis on bars, which is a bit down from qualification.

Saraiva – VT – she also comes up a bit short on her DTY this time, low landing with a hop forward. Good amplitude, so it will skill keep her in contention. 14.150.

Collantes – UB – giant full to 1/2 to jaeger, good toes but can’t swing out of it, has to take an extra swing back and forth which will destroy the score…though not as much as the dismount to her knees will…Dear. 10.950.

I just imagine the facial expressions B and K are making to each other right now during this broadcast that’s showing nothing.

Castro – BB – CHI – switch, nice position – bhs back pike series, leg up check to keep it on the beam – aerial with a check, unconnected straddle jump – switch 1/2, small wobble but better – wolf – aerial, lean – switch side – 2.5, well underrotated and sits it. Ooof. I also didn’t clock a dance element combination there, so this could get low.

10.650 for Castro. 4.5 D, 6.150 E.

Alvarado – BB – bhs loso series, pretty solid, small arm wave – aerial, smooth – side aerial, just another little check, but pretty good extension on this acro, as well as her leap series – split jump 1/2 from side, leg-up check to keep it – punch front full, small step. Good routine. Lots of pretty moments.

So Ellie Black will be leading after 1. The top non-vault score will belong to Vidiaux with 13.000 on bars.

Kara Eaker’s resting “where am I?” face during competitions is one of my favorite things. She’s neither happy nor tense nor angry nor excited nor fake smiley. She’s just like, “I’ve never had a kiwi before.”

No surprises there in that first rotation, but also nothing determined yet. It’s 1) Black, 2) McCusker, 3) Saraiva, 4) Eaker, 5) Dominici, 6) Fidelis.

12.450 is a pretty big beam score for Alvarado and well deserved.

Rotation 2

Ferrera on FX – huge full in, large bounce OOB again – strong landing on her 2.5 in her second pass – 1.5 to front full is fine – split leap 1.5 is close to around, big lift and extension in that leap as always – switch full, around but with a little shuffle – double pike, another large bounce and OOB. Not bad but not doing her full difficulty and struggled to control passes that are easy for her like the full in and double pike.

Eaker – UB – Chruch to Pak, good – Van Leeuwen, clean legs – good next hs – clear hip full right on top with the danger of going over but she didn’t – great piked Jaeger – NCAA ready handstands – DLO, hop back. She’s continuing to nail these routines.

13.950, one of her biggest bars scores. She’s gone 14 maybe once? So that’s great for her.

McCusker – UB – stalder full to Maloney with legs into Tkatchev, hit – small hesitation on handstand put pulled it back – took her Ricna wayyyy too far and falls. INTERESTING. Pak, lovely – toe shap 1/2, nice – toe on – dismount with a lunge back.

The replay of Morgan’s mom yelling “SHIT” in slow motion was the highlight there. Same.

13.150 for McCusker. Well, we’ve got a meet now.

Fidelis – UB – Maloney to pak, leg break, one dodgy flapper – VL was good – 1/2 turn to piked Jaeger, comfortable – tkatchev, a little wonky but caught comfortably – orphan 1/2 turn handstand – double tuck, hop

Eaker now has five tenths on McCusker. Black still to go.

Dominici- UB – toe full, hit – Maloney to pak, good legs together for the most part – VL, fine – piked jaeger really smooth – finishes with a double tuck, hop –

12.750 for Francis on beam, also a couple tenths down from day 1.

13.300 for Dominici on UB.

Saraiva – UB – piked tkatchev a bit of a butt scraper – pak with some legs – Maloney to tkatchev – 1/2 turn, short of hs – toes full, fine – big beautiful double front but overdoes it and bounds forward a couple times. A hit, but plenty of things to take.

12.800 for Flavia.

Black – UB – Maloney to Hindorff, hit – Shang, well caught – piked jaeger to Pak, comfortable but legs apart – a bit of legs in VL and pretty much all skills, but nothing large on anything – giant full, pretty solid vertical – toe tuck 1/2 out, PERFECT dismount, and stuck

Luciana Alvarado just did…something…on floor that will need to be entered into the wolf turn hall of fame. It was like a wolf turn single where she caught her foot and just kind of…wolf-hopped over into the corner on all fours?

I want Bart and Kathy to talk about bedazzled leos for 80 years.

K Diaz – FX – nearly gets the double L – double pike, FAB landing, stuck – 2.5 to front tuck, small hop to the side and some legs in twisting – switch to split leap full, a little bouncy – double tuck, short with a crossover lunge – 2/1, lost steam in these last couple passes, another short one with a lunge

14.300 on bars for Ellie, which is another excellent score for her. She’s leading the AA by .850 now. But now she has to keep the beam score close to Eaker’s.

So this rotation is still going on. We were just sitting around forever.

Orrego – BB – bhs loso series, right off the beam – annnd…now a second fall – switch to switch 1/2, well short on the switch 1/2 – aerial with a beck into split to bhs – 1.5, hop back

Rotation 3

Black and Eaker have separated now after the McCusker fall, though she should still be comfortable with a medal. But she’d need a Black beam mistake to get back into top-position contention.

McCusker – BB – hits triple wolf (a little slow) and double wolf – split leap to aerial to straddle with a check at the end, but she’ll probably get the series – bhs bhs layout series, very secure – switch to switch 1/2 to Korbut, she has been shorter on the switch 1/2 at this meet than she was at Classic – side aerial to split to back tuck, a little shuffle – bhs bhs double tuck, lunge back. Good hit, some checks and breaks, but a good hit.

We see a good double pike on floor from Francis in the background

Castro – VT – full, legs in the air – lunge back, but mostly efficient full – not a lot of distance, some piking. She’s not from a major team, so we’ll say it’s an NCAA 9.700.

14.200 beam for McCusker.

Kathy can’t joke about making a comeback because the gymternet would be like, “DO IT”

Fidelis – BB – bhs loso loso, very smooth, a little tentative but it didn’t show in any kind of check – switch to switch 1/2 to straddle, a foot out of place on her straddle but mostly strong – aerial to split to bhs, another solid series – side aerial, arm wave check – a little low on punch front but mostly secure – double pike, hop back. Good, good routine. Not big numbers but an efficient day heading to her best event. 13.000

Ferrera – VT – big DTY and a little better landing than last time, kind of out of control with a lunge to the side and another hop around, which is to be expected from Ferrera – legs apart in the air but not too bad

Dominici – BB – switch leap mount – switch and switch 1/2 – round off layout, pretty in the air, checks but hits it this time – punch front, check – side aerial, very comfortable – wolf to straddle, high straddle jump – switch side, well controlled – double pike, hop back. Nice routine.


12.800 for Dominici. She has a .500 edge on Fidelis after three events.

Saraiva – BB – round off bhs mount to split jump to Korbut, smoothly done, comfortable – round off layout, nailed it – just a bhs loso today, check – switch ring, lovely – aerial to split ring jump, a little more rushed on the ring shape in that one – side somi with a little lean – split ring leap, that’s ranked in 2nd place among her three rings in this routine – double pike, lunge back. Hit today. Should be a big score.

“Some of you might know that my wife is Olympic champion Nadia Comaneci.” We need to get Bart a T-shirt with that on it.

I know that we’re all annoyed by the world feed, but I am enjoying just hearing Bart and Kathy improvise about various topics.

Guys what could possibly be taking so long to come up with this score? Was there solar wind? Did you die?

13.500 for Flavia.

Black – BB – switch leap mount – good – small adjustment on double turn but hit – front tuck, secure – bhs layout, solid pop, just a bit of bouncing – switch to switch 1/2 to bhs, small hesitation at the end so may not gets the series, feet in the leaps – side somi, another very small adjustment – 2.5, hop forward. She’s having a strong day. Bam bam bam.

Black 13.900, basically a point better than her fall in qualification, as you would expect.

Eaker – BB – switch mount and a huge break and falls – 2018 event finals all over again – Y spin – aerial to split ring jump to bhs was a gorgeous series as always – side aerial to one loso, also downgrading her losos like Flavia – switch ring to bhs Korbut, super smooth, pretty pretty pretty – switch to switch side – bhs bhs 2.5 with a hop forward.

Great routine after the mount fall of course, but this AA final is pretty much officially the Ellie Black show so far.

Black will have more than a point on McCusker heading to floor, and now Eaker will be 2 tenths back of McCusker.

Saraiva is a point back of Eaker, so that’s probably not changing. It’s basically AMERICA FIGHT for silver and bronze on the line on floor unless something crazy happens like a fall.

Rotation 4

Fidelis – FX – 1.5 through to double arabian, does well to control the landing and keep it in bounds because she was right into the corner, just a small step to the side – full-in, bounce back – switch full to wolf jump, a little short of landing position on the leap, but close – double tuck, bounce – switch ring to split ring – the music is a little too big for the choreography here – double pike, another scoot back

13.250. She finishes at 52.700.

Dominici – FX – huge full-in, smooth position in the air, larger stumble back – double Arabian, two little shuffles forward – switch to switch leap 1/1 – double tuck, rebound-stagger on landing – split leap full, comfortably completed – double pike, a bit short, small hop. Not her most controlled tumbling, but a reasonable routine and a strong  and consistent competition overall today. 12.850.

Orrego – VT – full, pretty solid form in the air, mostly laid out – bounce back. NCAA 9.750

Saraiva – FX – huge DLO, great power, chest up, small movement on landing – great switch leap position – full-in, just a bit of chest position but solid control – split leap 1.5, definitely around – 1.5 to front full, cross over cover step – drops too early on the Memmel turn to get credit – switch ring – double pike, flexed feet, small scoot back.

Strong tumbling. Good control. The double Y was really the only significant issue.

Black – FX – front full through to triple full, just a touch under-rotated with a step – 2.5 through to double pike, takes it entirely OOB, she was off line and couldn’t get into the corner -a little steppy on a leap landing on the switch full, a little awkward – front 2/1, pretty controlled on landing.

BTW Flavia got 13.900 on floor, which is huge.

Black had a large margin heading into this, though.

Just 12.600 for Ellie, so she finishes with 55.250.

Eaker – FX – front lay to front 2/1 to front tuck, very clean – 3/1, bounce back  – definite credit on the double Y – back 2.5 to front full – OOOOFF, well under rotated, tried to tuck it, couldn’t save it and puts her hand down – basically a balance check on choreo – double pike, deep but secure – switch ring 1/2

Second fall of the day for Eaker. Like the magic dust just ran out for the second half of this meet.

12.600 was a really low score for Black, so if McCusker hits the floor she did yesterday, she can definitely move ahead of Black in the standings.

12.350 for Eaker puts her below Saraiva, so she’ll be out of the AA medals presumably

McCusker – FX – full-in with a bounce back, looked OOB to me – front 2/1 to front tuck to stag, does well to get that back on line since the front 2/1 landed a little crooked – leaps lovely of course – bounce back on double pike – gets her triple wolf, a little slow like the one on beam – switch ring is pretty – switch 1/1 was borderline around – double tuck, nailed it.

It wasn’t as strong as her 14.050 from qualification, but it was still strong. Will be pretty close.

13.525! McCusker finishes just .125 below Black and in second place.

It’s close because McCusker has the D and has the execution and technique edge, but it feels right since McCusker had a fall and Black didn’t.

1) Black
2) McCusker
3) Saraiva

Some nice Jaeger work from A Gutierrez on bars – some legs on the pak but clean releases here – double front 1/2 out, a little under with a hop to the side.

Of note, McCusker lost two tenths of D compared to qualification on floor, which was significant. That switch 1/1 did look a tad under to me. But I also had her qualification floor routine at 5.3 instead of 5.4. So to me this looks like a 5.2 routine, which is what she got.

Maldonado – BB – punch front with hop forward – bhs loso series, step back but hits it – switch, just a touch of bag leg – back tuck, very secure – switch 1/2, step back and arm wave break – strong straddle position – 2.5 and surprisingly falls, just crumples onto her knee.

Well, that was a fitting finish to this competition.

They’re inquiring Riley’s floor D score?

Inquiry rejected.

So it will be Black in 1st, McCusker in 2nd, and Saraiva in 3rd.

4) Eaker, 5) Dominici, 6) Fidelis, 7) Francis

See you back here in a few hours for the men’s AA final!

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