The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – August 2, 2019

A. Pan Am Games – final thoughts

Ellie Black.

End of final thoughts.

But not really. In terms of reading into the US women’s results from Pan Ams, which I know is our favorite pastime, I’d say…don’t so much.

By the time we get to actual worlds team selection, this competition will have paled in the memory nearly as much as US Classic and will be overtaken by things that will have happened more recently, like nationals and selection camp. That goes for both hits and misses. No one will be putting a ton of weight on Pan Ams performances, whether glorious or disastrous or somewhere in between (which was the reality for most of the competitors). The short-term memory is very small when it comes to selecting teams, and that’s largely how it should be. You want to select a team based on who is performing the best in the moment, not what happened two months ago. Worlds isn’t being held two months ago.

When it comes to Hurd, Wong, and Finnegan, we didn’t see a ton from them at Pan Ams, but they did the job successfully when we did see them, so it’s sort of a “checkpoint passed, move on to the next level, let’s see how you fare there” situation for them right now. We saw a lot more from Eaker and McCusker. Eaker had two excellent days and one rough day, performing stellar gymnastics in the team competition and day 2 of event finals, reasserting that she’ll be treated as an AA contender this year rather than solely a beam specialist, but she did fall twice in the all-around final to finish out of the medals. On balance, that’s still a successful competition, and those beam scores are just so very high that she will have a major advantage in all “best-case scenario, highest-scoring team” permutations.

More is being read into the performance of McCusker, which should also be marked as a successful showing overall. I mean, she won four medals. Still, because of past questions about her consistency, that fall in the AA final, the fall in the beam final, and the OOBs in the floor final carry a bit more weight because they are part of a trend. The question then arises: should that be taken into account when it comes to worlds team selection?

My answer: Not really. This is an argument specific to the US women’s team, but let’s not pretend like the US women aren’t going to win gold in the team final at worlds and that Simone isn’t going to win gold in the all-around. They are. That scenario gives the US more luxury to select its highest-scoring potential team regardless of consistency concerns. You can pick the group of five that you believe provides the highest possible scores, and if McCusker turns out to be part of that highest potential team (still several competitions to go), then she should go to worlds. Because here’s the deal: If she hits, McCusker has among the best non-Simone chances to win event medals at worlds and the US also wins the team final. And if she doesn’t hit, the US still wins the team final. There’s not really a downside to the US selecting a potentially inconsistent gymnast with huge scoring potential. You can go for your peak possible score on every event.

The only sense in which that inconsistency would come into play is if it ends up being really close for peak team score between McCusker and another gymnast like, say, Sunisa Lee who could also potentially win a bars medal. But who’s even winning that consistency race? I couldn’t say. Or perhaps it’s significant for the second AA spot. Still, if McCusker misses in qualification, then the other AAer would go to the final instead, and if she hits…well then she earned the opportunity for a spot in the final.

Meanwhile, if Forster just goes with the AA standings from selection camp again, it really doesn’t matter what you’ve done before that, but that’s rage for another day.

B. Nationals week!

Your life is scheduled below. Note that TV coverage for these meets is slated to begin 30 minutes after the listed meet starting time, which I’ve included below. For the women, I’m assuming the actual competition won’t begin until the TV start time because they’ve been given a two hour window and that’s plenty of time to run the whole women’s meet (unless you’re the Pan Am Games). For the men…who can say. We’ve missed rotations before.

USAG hasn’t posted streaming info for the juniors yet (or potential international streams for the seniors) or podium training, but we can assume USAG’s YouTube will be on that. Podium training for the women is always the day before the men’s competition begins.

Thursday, August 8
2:00 ET/11:00PT – Junior Men
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Senior Men – NBCSN

Friday, August 9
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Junior Women
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Senior Women – NBCSN

Saturday, August 10
2:00 ET/11:00PT – Junior Men
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Senior Men – NBCSN

Sunday, August 11
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Junior Women
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Senior Women – NBC

C. Nastia, come get your dad

Valeri Liukin did a word vomit with R-Sport, and I can only assume he thought that meant the interview was a secret because he said a couple baaaaads in there. From his claim that he had to leave the NTC position because of a “made-up reason” to his and the interviewer’s stupid and reductive opinions on TEH BLACKS in gymnastics, it’s…….well, don’t read it if you want to enjoy your Friday afternoon, that’s what I’ll say.

People really tell on themselves when they try to characterize Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas as the same style of gymnast. Have you watched them? Or did you just see black and stop thinking?

D. Nabieva News

The Aurora Games (August 21) released the list of Team World gymnasts that will be competing against the Team Americas gymnasts—Katelyn Ohashi, Alicia Boren, McKenna Kelley—and the list of Team World gymnasts includes both Our Nush and Our Nabs. So it will be a show. Almost like the person picking these athletes knew what we wanted or something…

E. The bill

The Senate is still a thing, apparently. Sigh. Anyway, the committee conducting hearings last year into how many times Steve Penny could plead the fifth has released its report. (tl;dr – Everything and everyone is terrible.) The report is largely review if you’ve been following every detail of this, and the damning information it contains about the USOC, USAG, MSU, and the FBI has been damning for years. But, it does compile all the worst emails together in the appendix section called Steve Penny Is a Gargoyle in case you aren’t already upset enough, and the discussion of the usability issues of the SafeSport database made me die a little because…I don’t have to explain, you know me by now.

The release of the report has been accompanied by the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act, which includes some positive things like more funding for Safesport, though to be honest most of the provisions seem kind of toothless. Of significant note, however, the act would give Congress the ability to decertify the governing body of an individual sport. That’s particularly interesting because even though it’s not like Congress is a swift machine of effective justice that would be decertifying NGBs all over the place, it is more responsive to political pressure than the USOC would be. USAG would have been much more likely to face decertification over the past couple years if Congress had enjoyed that power rather than just the USOC.

More fun: Anna Li and Wu Jiani are being investigated for verbal and emotional abuse. The increased frequency of reports like this may be disheartening, but it’s also necessary. It’s how you start airing out the culture, for them and for coaches in general. There are more categories than just “evil, sexually abusive monster” and “great positive coach,” and potential verbal and emotional abuse earning you an investigation instead of a trophy is a step in the right direction.

Of note, that piece has been updated with many more examples and accounts and it looks baaaaaaaad. Really bang-up group of characters we’ve got in this sport, huh? Great day for all. So, when is the announcement that someone under investigation obviously can’t be holding an athlete rep position?

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