One week from today, the US national championships will already be underway, and you will already be losing your mind about some such situation. Gymternet. So by way of an initial toe-dip into the world of previewing this competition, let’s get into the rosters and start lists, which have already been released.
In all, 17 women will compete in the senior field at nationals. This marks the smallest senior field of the quad so far, but it’s up from those 2013 and 2014 national championships when just 13 women competed in the seniors, which was an unnecessarily small field.
Of the group that competed at Classic, Gilstrap, Hollingsworth, Jeffrey, and Vides did not make the cut for nationals, while Malabuyo and Adams withdrew due to injury.
The entirety of the Pan Am Games team is, indeed, slated to compete at nationals. We were informed at Classic that this would be the case, though a significant consideration will be the allowance we should have for those athletes downgrading or taking it easy coming off a long, major competition. We don’t necessarily need to see two days of full difficulty, especially from those who competed in the AA final and multiple event finals (or from those who have concussions). Though at the same time, I imagine it will be somewhat hard not to go all out with such an evenly matched and competitive field heading ever closer to worlds selection.
The IEC minutes from May tell us that the national teams for both seniors and juniors will be expanding from a minimum of 6 to a definite 10, which is a change from what was initially published on the 2019 qualification chart. USAG things. It’s quite interesting (where’s that money coming from, Bankruptcy Magoo?) and indicates that more athletes will be invited to the selection camp this year than we saw last year. In 2018, the top 8 seniors in the AA were immediately named to the national team following championships, and 9 in total were invited to the worlds selection camp—Ragan Smith, Alyona Shchennikova, and Jordan Chiles were added to the group for camp, while Jade Carey and Trinity Thomas did not attend because they weren’t going for worlds.
Surely, everyone who makes the national team will get an invite to the selection camp this year, so we’re looking at an expanded field…but not expanded enough to encompass everyone who could/should be there. When you take the top tier of all-around gymnasts—which I’d define as Biles, McCusker, McCallum, Eaker, Wong, Hurd, and Lee as long as she’s back to four events at nationals—that’s already 7 of your 10 and far from a complete list of the competitive seniors in the US.
So if you find yourself getting bored watching Simone win everything, watch that top-10 AA race. With people like Carey, Finnegan, Jones, Chiles, Torrez, and Skinner, there’s going to be a serious fight for those last few national team spots. Not all of the people on that list are going to make the national team, and if precedent is an indication, not all of those people will even get invites to the worlds selection camp. So even though we always say results don’t really matter until selection camp, tough cuts will happen starting…soon.
Tom Forster’s penchant for using the AA standings for all team decisions may soon drive me into a frustration coma, but it does make the AA race at nationals for those lower spots all the more exciting if that’s going to be the only thing used to determine national team and selection camp invites. I mean, he wouldn’t ignore someone like Jade Carey even if she bombs bars and beam at nationals and places really low in the AA—because those events are wholly irrelevant for her, and she’s Jade Carey, and vault and floor. You would have to be insane. But also….?????? Precedent dictates otherwise.
And how is that aggressive emphasis on AA placement going to be reconciled with the allowance for the Pan Ams athletes not be at 100% or do everything at nationals? Watch that space.
The cut after Classic has shrunk the junior field from 37 down to 29, which is still a pretty big group as far as junior nationals go.
Kayla Di Cello
The field for nationals contains a couple people who did not compete at US Classic (Mya Witte and Love Birt) but had previously qualified to nationals, as well as Sienna Robinson, who had to withdraw from US Classic at the last minute.
The most likely contenders for the national title are the group of 6 that have recently separated themselves from the pack—McClain, Di Cello, Blakely, Barros, Greaves, and Alipio. All six are close enough to each other that it’s going to take a seriously hit two-day competition to win the title, and consistency rather than difficulty will be what separates them from each other.
Unlike on the senior women’s side, the US men who competed at the Pan Am Games will not be participating at nationals. (Genki Suzuki was originally on the roster to do both but no longer appears on the start list for nationals.)
In some respects, that means the men’s national championship will tell a less complete story because there are areas in which members of the Pan Am Games team can aid a potential US worlds team, and we won’t get to evaluate those possibilities again until the selection camp in early September should they be included in that roster.
Justin Ah Chow
Adrian De Los Angeles
Colin Van Wicklen
If you haven’t kept up with the US senior men in a while, not too much has changed since last year, so don’t feel like you’re out of the loop. You’re still looking at Sam Mikulak as the top all-arounder in the country—when he has it together, and also most likely when he doesn’t—and Yul Moldauer as the #2 all-arounder in the country. They remain a step above, and the general expectation is that the US will need to send those two to the all-around world cups next year to have a reasonable shot at getting an additional Olympic spot through that method.
With those two continuing on as the big boys, the US will be looking for three remaining people to fill out a world championships team, and the heavy focus at nationals will be on which group of three people can best combine to provide at least one high-scoring routine on all six events, and in some cases two.
In that regard, focus remains on HB, where Mikulak provides really the only high-level score the US has on the event. High bar is Moldauer’s weakness among the six pieces, so the US is likely looking at two of those remaining three gymnasts on the worlds team needing to provide a high bar option.
Anyone who gets a high 13 on HB at nationals is therefore worth setting aside in the consideration pile, but we may not get a definite picture of HB at nationals because you have people like Neff and Malone not competing. Neff scored 14.000 on HB during that Pan Ams all-around final, which is higher than any non-Mikulak gymnast got at nationals or selection camp last year, and despite the routine that shall not be named from the Pan Ams team competition, Malone has some chops on HB and showed a 5.8 D in that AA final. In last year’s worlds team final, Modi and Van Wicklen showed 5.6 and 5.2 respectively (Modi did 5.8 in qualification), so if you can beat those difficulty numbers and do it with a vague level of cleanliness, you’re in the mix.
But it’s also important that the US not get too bogged down on the topic of high bar. For all the talk about it, the US ended up placing 3rd among the 8 teams in the 2018 TF on that event (with a little help from the splats of others), while placing 6th on rings and 5th on vault. Caveat: Moldauer had to be used on rings and was not at his best at that point, which created a somewhat misleading scenario since, under normal circumstances, you’d expect him to score much higher than he did. But the US still would really like a third rings score that can go 14s.
What made Colin Van Wicklen compelling last year was that he possessed a 5.6 vault (having a 5.6 D-score vault is the “having an Amanar/rudi/Cheng” of men’s gymnastics—the medal-contending teams each should have at least couple 5.6 vaults, and if the US doesn’t have any and has to put up a slate of 5.2s instead, that’s a major start value disadvantage right from the beginning).
The ability to bring a vault with another event or two, or rings with another event or two, will be particularly advantageous to any gymnast competing at nationals. And reconciling your vault gymnasts, your rings gymnasts, and your pommel horse gymnasts with the pressing need on high bar will be the great struggle of our time.
55 thoughts on “US Nationals Rosters”
This has been bugging me all week.
Say, hypothetically, a country’s second and third best gymnasts both have an average score of x over the last year. Gymnast A achieved that by scoring x+0.1 exactly half the time and x-0.1 exactly half the time. Gymnast B achieved that by scoring exactly x-1.5 exactly half the time and x+1.5 exactly half the time. The implications of this depend hugely on which country this is.
If you’re a strong team and we’re talking about the AA, one of these athletes will get two-perred, and it depends entirely on Gymnast B’s performance. In most cases you want Gymnast B to go. A score of x+1.5 has a shot at medaling, maybe, or getting your country’s highest placement if the #1 gymnast falters, or at least gaining a clearly inconsistent gymnast an opportunity to get some finals experience. A score of x+0.1 or x-0.1 probably doesn’t do much for you. So you have a 50% chance of getting the result you want and it hinges on the performance of the gymnast you want to advance.
If you’re the U.S. women though, or a few other countries in specific situations (China on UB at Asian Games maybe) you actually want Gymnast A to go through. An x-0.1 will almost guarantee a 2nd medal, an x-1.5 will not. So you can let’s say guarantee 2 medals – but only if Gymnast B puts up her less stellar showing in quals. You have a 50% chance of getting the result you want, but it hinges on the performance of the gymnast you don’t want to advance and it requires rooting for her to falter.
Since the country can’t really choose which gymnasts in the top 24 (or 8) advance, the only way to guarantee the outcome they want is to leave Gymnast B off the team entirely. Which I am not quite advocating.
But this is how occasionally high scoring but inconsistent gymnasts on top teams lose the team medals. Sure, they can falter and team results won’t necessarily be affected. But the team’s total medal count will be lower.
Big gymnastics is fun. But sports strategy is also fun. I think that the U.S. is incentivizing the wrong things right now if the goal is maximum medal counts.
Even if teams are selected by AA, it should not be one day of AA. It should be an average, or even a min, or an average of best 3 out of 4 (say, two days of nationals and two days of selection camp). It’s possible to design a reasonable, unsubjective, mathematical selection criteria that works better than is being used now.
Ok that scenario is kinda fascinating. Did you have anyone in particular in mind as gymnasts A and B btw?
I think the problem with selecting based on AA standings is not so much that you might leave off a generally strong gymnast who just missed that one beam routine, but that you will never take a gymnast who is world-class on two events but below average on the other two. There should obviously be some consideration for having backup routines for team finals, but picking by AA (even averaged over several comps) means you could leave a bars medal at home just because they vault a Yfull.
If your goal is to maximize medal counts, then you only want 2 AAers since you can only get 2 into the final anyways! After that, a UB specialist is worth more medals than another AAer. I guess injuries are a thing, but for a 5-3-3 meet you don’t need more than 3 AAers.
So you’re saying leave Riley McCusker at home? Can’t say I disagree, however Tom seems to be in love with her. They are going to play up her Pan Ams as some sort of great success because she came home with the most medals of the Americans.
I think I’m saying encourage we’re about at the point I would encourage McCusker to downgrade. That right now they are fairly explicitly rewarding hitting big routines when it doesn’t matter for the country (Classics, selection camp) at all costs because they are pretty much using straight AA standings from those meets to select. I want to see scores from international assignments be part of the selection, and to explicitly reward hitting in international assignments and low variations in scores. Maybe not actual scores but falls and D score which are less subjective?
I’m still working through implications of all this. I’ve been pondering it for a while but yeah, though not this exact situation the situation this week brought it to mind again.
How did LJR qualify if she got well below a 51 at classic (and American Classic too)?
Apparently at camp. And absolutely nothing against LJR, but I do not like that gymnasts are allowed to qualify at camp secretly where scores are not published and routines can’t be seen. This is very much against the transparency that USAG should be striving for. It’s also unfair to gymnasts who don’t have the opportunity to be invited to camps and perhaps get preferential treatment. For instance, there is a rumour floating around that Skinner did her bar routine in two halves when she qualified at camp. Whether that’s true or not, who knows because no one saw it. Thomas also qualified at camp, sight unseen.
Gymnastics has a reputation for shady stuff and this kind of backroom dealing does not help it.
I should add, I’m OK with giving the gymnasts more opportunities to qualify – those opportunities just need to be public. The secrecy is not cool.
USAG put out a press release that Skinner qualified to Nationals at US Classic, so that camp rumor is debunked. https://usagym.org/pages/post.html?PostID=24214
The public doesn’t need to know what happens at camps, coaches and parents do. It’s fun for us when we get info/videos, but that’s not the “transparency” they’re striving for.
I’ve gotten confused on this year’s nationals qualification process. If Skinner qualified to nationals at U.S. classic with a 3 event score, does that mean she can’t compete AA at nationals?
I don’t mind the camps be used for qualification. Other sports have closed practices and athletes get added/cut without the public watching every practice or try-outs.
Transparency is explaining your decisions on placement and team selection. I don’t think everything needs to be streamed or open to all of the world to see.
I mean the coordinators have done a pretty good job at selecting teams if you look at the American team’s results at nearly every international competition since 2003.
responding to shamrockstar: it is my understanding that skinner didn’t compete bars at us classic. does anyone know if she will only compete three events at nationals?
The public doesn’t need to know what happens at camp if they are a training camp. If they are used as a qualifying event for a national championship, they should be public.
Name me another individual sport where people qualify to a national championship at secret competitions.
I have no idea what other sports do, so I can’t argue with you there, but I don’t see why it matters. Camp verification is a competition, and either you think it’s legit or you don’t. I don’t think the public being able to watch is what legitimizes it. Until a couple years ago worlds selection camp wasn’t broadcast, were those not legit?
Anyway, including more athletes like LJR doesn’t take anything away from the athletes who qualified via other means. People are just mad they don’t get to watch camps.
Sara- Skinner should only be competing VT/BB/FX at Nationals. She can still get an invite to World Team Camp and then compete the AA there. However, I don’t anticipate Skinner making a serious run at the World team at this point, she’s been on one already. She’s already deferred this coming year at Utah and it is clear that her priority is the Olympics.
Skinner could definitely get invited to worlds team this year and i think she still did plan to do AA at nationals?
The thing is that worlds before olympics year is sort of a dress rehearsal. so i think skinner would still try to go for it even if she’s already on worlds team before.
As far as 2020 is concerned, carey is not really her direct competition anyway…so skinner still have some remote chancce.
i mean this whole mess should hopefully be prevented so that starting from now the US doesn’t have to deal with someone doing the individual nominative spot.. Well, it might not matter anymore now that they are going back to 5 person team after 2020…
Based on Morgan Hurd’s performance at Classics, and then doing worse (and looking worse) at Pan Ams, I hope she shows full/increased difficulty instead of watering it down. Otherwise, I think the worlds team should be (for team final):
Biles: all 4
McCusker: beam, bars (she still looked good on these despite mistakes- she scores well internationally here)
McCallum: vault, floor (they need a strong vault and floor and Hurd’s vault looked real weak at Pan Ams in addition to not seeing her upgrades yet)
Wong: vault, floor, bars (she just looks like she’ll be consistent when needed and can slot in anywhere)
Eaker: beam (obvi- I mean she can do AA if necessary now)
Alternate: A strong floor worker that can do AA (Hurd, Carey, Lee if she’s ready, etc)
If anything, the argument for Jade Carey is there for vault/floor finals but I don’t think I’d take her because she wouldn’t contribute to a team score at the olympics. If they take her though, that probably takes McCallum or Wong’s spot.
I just haven’t seen enough from Hurd that make me think she’ll score higher than anyone else already on the list above even with upgrades. I just don’t want to see Hurd chosen based solely on past performance even though others are currently clearly better and scoring higher.
Who knows how this selection will work though, and who knows how she’ll look at championships.
Even if she isn’t at her best at Nationals, or upgraded, CAMP is the most important as its closer to when Worlds is. So Morgan can have a disaster at Nationals, and still will be in the mix, and if she pulls it together at camp, she will be fine.
I forgot to mention, whats actually scaring me about Morgan is her vault. She is drifting to the side more and more to where her hand almost clearly misses the table. At touch warm up in Pan Ams, she missed and crashed, but then pulled it together barely getting her hands on the table. Hopefully they work that out and fix it.
ChumChum- exactly- that vault at Classics was okayish and it looked worse at Pan Ams form-wise. If they’re looking for her to contribute on vault, bars, floor (with upgrades), it just looks like there are better score out there.
@ChumChum- agree, especially about vault where they could actually use her scores when she’s on. But if she waits to show full difficulty until at camp it will still feel ick to me. I really feel like Wong can do everything she does for the team and can do it better right now. Upgrading at camp wouldn’t give her time for consistency.
It feels very old-school-Marta to select her based on reputation and potential rather than someone else showing difficulty and consistency. Like Aly over Laurie for AA – both capable of second place to Simone easily but Aly with way weaker bars.
If she’s pacing, her method is worrisome. But again, could be eating my words later since we haven’t seen her at full difficulty.
Hurd doing US Classic and then Pan Am Games gives her special consideration at Nationals. She doesn’t have to do the AA there. There is zero doubt in my mind that Hurd will get an invite to selection camp. There she needs to finish top 6 and she makes the team–Tom is pretty set on creating the World team based on AA results.
That seems like a weird comparison to me (maybe I am misunderstanding). Both at the time and in hindsight it seems glaringly obvious that Aly should’ve gone over Laurie for AA in Rio…? To me that is if anything an argument for not just giving the second AA spot to whoever‘s scores get propped up the most at domestic meets to justify their inclusion on a competitive team.
Im not real impressed with Morgan so far this year and the deterioration of her vault plus her recent surgery have me concerned – but IMO past performance should count for something – it shows that a gymnast is capable of hitting under pressure and can be reasonably expected to do so again, thus not squandering an opportunity on a gymnast who won’t take advantage of it. I don’t think that’s part of the old school that should be abandoned.
I guess you’re right about Aly/Laurie. My comparison was really more about having two competitors with equal scoring potential for the all around and literally picking one for, what seemed, favoritism on Marta’s part. Both of them could have placed second at the Olympics and the decision felt like nepotism, especially when it really came down to who competed bars in qualification and Laurie could score higher there.
I do agree that its definitely not a perfect comparison- I was really just trying to highlight that if it’s Wong/McCallum/Hurd that are in the mix, then to chose because of past performance or expectation feels wrong.
However, again, we haven’t seen Hurd’s best so…who knows!
I just really want good ole Tom to not completely ditch team building strategy just to be opposite Marta.
I actually wouldn’t be mad if Carey is left off the worlds team. She is going to Tokyo as a specialist clearly. So let someone else get the experience who may also have a shot helping the team in 2020.
Completely agree. I just think the line up shows potentially a vault/floor deficiency (“deficiency”) and if they’re going the “we want two people to each event finals” route, they’d need her vaults.
Floor has become stronger this past year, but I agree there is still a small deficiency with vault. You have Biles of course, but beyond her, there is a very small selection of consistently good DTYs. Hurd and McCusker’s vaults continue to be worrisome; Wong and McCallum have consistent DTYs, but it’s a stretch for both of them to make the same team. I could see the US having to put up a questional DTY in a team final at the Worlds if the current situation doesn’t improve.
Regarding Hurd, I think her going to Pan Ams was a poor decision. Her performance at Classic was solid enough and supported her “I’m intentionally not at 100% right now, but am still competitive” strategy. It was inconsistent for her to say she’s still building up but then to push for an international assignment. All it did is cement the fact that she’s currently not top 3 on any event and added extra concerns about her vault consistency.
I don’t quite understand this argument. If Jade goes to the Olympics as a specialist, she would still be a contributing part of Team USA and striving to add to the medal count. Exposure to big international competitions is as valuable for her as it would be to an AAer. That said, I don’t see Worlds as being a place for Olympic hopefuls to get “experience.” The team shouldn’t include someone who would not maximize the team’s potential just because they might be in contention for the Olympics next year. If they are a top-three AAer this year, they should go. If they are bringing in big scores on specialist events this year, they should go. If Carey demonstrates that she could win medals on VT and FX, then they should take her.
Anon- She doesn’t need to go to Worlds, she’s been once in 2017 and she’s been doing the World Cups. She easily could have made a run for the Pan Am team to get more experience but chose not to. Maybe she gets sent to another World Cup or two. She’s obviously accustomed to competing on her own and not with the team. That’s what she will be doing in Tokyo anyway.
Right, she is very experienced already. But my point is that I don’t think the Worlds team is about experience – it’s about bringing home the most medals possible. For example, let’s say Simone, Morgan and Riley are the top three AAers at camp (just a hypothetical here) – you should of course bring them to Worlds. Also hypothetically, let’s say Leanne Wong comes in as AAer #4. Obviously she is a big contender for the Tokyo team, but unless she looks more likely than Carey to take home an individual medal somewhere, why bring her to Worlds (except as an alternate)? Wouldn’t Carey’s higher scores (in this hypothetical scenario) on VT and FX yield a higher team total?
Again, all that is hypothetical; the actual rankings and scores will probably be different. I don’t think Jade HAS to go to the Worlds, I just don’t quite get why she shouldn’t.
Has Carey ever had a team international assignment?
Yes. She went to Pan Am Champs last year and did excellently winning team, vault and floor.
She also has worked experience from Montreal in 2017, so it’s not like she would be going into Tokyo completely blind if Stuttgart doesn’t happen. I think it’s smarter to leave her off and let those who actually depend on this competition for their Olympic chances, at the very least to get the experience and confidence heading into Tokyo since Tom has brought back the 1990s-2000s selection strategy.
What ever happened to Jordan Bowers? She was one of my favorite Juniors and she’s just seemed to disappear!!!
Some drama with her gym, last I heard.
Her mom tweeted something about conflicts with the old gym, so she switched but is still training elite
i want to know about Jordan Bowers .. where is she ?
I did the numbers and the best team …ie most
F medals for team USA is Biles, McCusker, Eaker, Carey, and sunisa Lee with Grace McCallum as alternate. I looked at the highest scores fot 2019 and those gymnasts have the highest scoring potential for the USA. But I wouldn’t be opposed to see Morgan on the team if she brings back her difficulty. The only top score Morgan has for USA is on bars with a 14.70 but Sunisa can do better than that and she can bring in a big floor score if needed.
See this is exactly what worries me. Why are we looking at best scores? Average also has problems (can disincentivize competing). I want to see RQS for elite. Average the top 3 or 5 scores in the past 6 months and then what team maximizes medals.
But highest individual scores aren’t going to matter for the team selection. Placement in the World Selection Camp AA is what is being factored as Tom stated he prefers to do.
Im not understanding why Sunisa is even discussed? Her ankle is still giving her issues. Her bar scores didnt blow anyone away at Classics, not a Locklear or Eaker specialist on one huge event type distance between anyone. She has built in deductions. Dont see it happening. We will see. But if she wants her value shown its gotta come more than just bars. AA! Not sure her ankle will let her. Or if she is fully healed. Grace being consistent, having worlds experience, potential upgrades, to have Sunisa be chosen over her seems a stretch. We will see how she is progressing at Nationals.
Also, Leanne Wong has so much potential, i really expected her to score higher at Classics due to her win over McCallum at American Cup. Did she water down? Her technique is gorgeous..pointed toes, feet straight in her tumbling passes. She just needs more experience…she is my darkhorse for the Olympics
She’s injured. Doctors advised she not compete in Lima, but she was talked into it by coaches because they didn’t have an alternate with them in Lima.
Didn’t Forster specifically say that she wasn’t injured in his FB post?
That theory/rumor doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It was 4 up 3 count right? They had two perfectly reasonable options. It was a team chosen by AA score – there is no reason they couldn’t compete 4 AAers. Or if there was some reason not, they could have put up 3 on a few events. They still would have won. There was no reason to put up an injured athlete who did not want to compete. (A mildly injured athlete who herself wanted to compete against a doctor’s suggestion is a different matter.)
I just thought that if she competed AA there was literally no reason for Finnegan to be there…seems like a rumor and I think Tom has been pretty transparent…do we think he’s lying already?
Finnegan had two vaults.
I also doubt this rumor: there was an obvious alternate there, and there’s no reason for Forster to lie about Wong’s injury status in any case.
There was no alternate there. Jones didn’t travel with them.
Or at least said that nobody was injured and to squelch that rumor***
I wish the gymnasts on the Pan Am team would’ve been encouraged to skip nationals or compete only a few events, and that they would’ve been assured it wouldn’t affect their standing or being in contention for the Worlds team. Two weeks back-to-back-competition (three with Classics) with all the travelling seems insane. I hope no one gets injured.
Also I’m just rooting for Riley, Kara, Morgan, Suni, Grace and Simone to all make the team. Tokyo too. Don’t bust my bubble.
Agreed. Set a target score in the AA/ or on individual events which would auto-qualify them to Selection Camp.
Does anyone know if there’s a way to get in to watch podium training without having a ticket to the competition?
I’m not sure why the US would send Sam or Yul to qualify for another non-teammates spot in Tokyo at the AA world cup series next year, being that neither could guarantee a win at them and there’s no one on their team that could medal that wouldn’t be on the team if they did.
I imagine Japan, China and Russia will all be sending very strong athletes on these. Each of them have talent so thick, they have gymnasts that can medal that won’t make their Olympic teams. The US doesn’t have that ‘problem’.
The US has a strong B Team, including Sam. As great as Sam is in this hemisphere, reality is that he’s top 10 in 5 events internationally, not top 3 in any, which makes him roughly #5 internationally – that’s been the case his entire career. The US will get an extra spot at next year’s Pan Ams, maybe.
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