Things Are Happening – August 23, 2019

A. Russian Cup

Friday was qualification day at the Russian Cup, and with Mustafina not quite ready to compete yet (a.k.a. SO RETIRED) and Nabieva deciding to sit in that armchair and be a shining comet at the Aurora Games instead, it was hard to see the point heading in. But still, qualification went pretty much exactly as “throwing a bag of laundry down a flight of stairs” as you would need it to. Valentina’s One True Daughter Vladislava Urazova had a fantastic competition to place 1st by a margin of nearly three points, while everyone else can try Sears.

Angelina Melnikova sits in second after falling on beam and doing the jitterbug a couple times on floor (although I’m very much here for that fake triple L turn where she just kept turning). Melnikova is a hair ahead of Elena Gerasimova, who hit a big beam routine for 14.200 but fell on bars. Famed all-around gymnast Lilia Akhaimova was the next closest, excelling on her good events but also receiving a solid beam score and not fully dying during bars, which was enough for 4th overall.

As Urazova and Gerasimova are still juniors and Melnikova is a given for the worlds team anyway, Akhaimova is the one who probably did her case the most good with her performance today. Especially compared to Simakova who sits in 7th with a 51.467 (and a vault fall, sigh) and Schekoldina who is 10th with 50.133, though both did go 13+ on floor and Russia will still be looking for a third floor routine if Mustafina can’t get back there. Keep an eye on that. Schekoldina’s AA score was mostly deflated by a disastrous bars number, but she did viably well on vault and floor and is in the mix.

In terms of bars gymnasts, Daria Spiridonova performed a 6.1 D score and hit (!), but Anastasia Iliankova crashed her dismount—though still made the bars final with 13.3—and Perebinosova went 12.300. Everything’s going awesome. Speaking of that: Klimenko and Eremina sit in 11th and 12th.

Paseka qualified second into the vault final behind Akhaimova with 14.2s on both her vaults. She also attempted to do bars at this one and went 12.1.

So we don’t know anything, basically. But what I’ve learned is that there’s definitely a spot for Mustafina on this Russian worlds team if she’s remotely close to back to her usual self, despite what Valentina might claim. The all-around final for the women is tomorrow (10:00am ET US time).

For the dude-boys, Nagornyy qualified in first place, with Belyavskiy in 2nd, Stretovich in 3rd, and Dalaloyan in 4th after a couple not-so-muches on a few pieces. Poliashov didn’t get the kind of number he would have preferred on pommel horse and is currently 6th.

B. 2021-2023 world championships

As if grappling with the Olympic qualification procedure were not enough, the FIG is out with the new qualification procedures that it will introduce for world championships in the next quadrennium.

Most significant is the limit on the number of teams able to compete at worlds (even in the second year of the quad), which will be capped at 24 and assigned through a FIFA-style continental quota system. For the women, that will be 13 teams from Europe, 5 Pan-American, 4 Asian, 1 African, and 1 Oceanic. For the men it’s almost the same, but one more for Asia and one fewer for Pan-America.

These spots will be assigned based on the results of the continental championships, an effort to give those events a little more oomph and have something real riding on them. It’s a solid idea, but I don’t enjoy the continental quota system as a concept because you’re going to end up artificially eliminating some solid teams from even qualifying a squad to worlds…and really for no reason at all…which will end up sullying the overall quality of the event. If it’s possible to have all the best teams there, you should want all the best teams there.

The number of qualifying individuals will also be capped, with qualification coming through the continental championships and the apparatus world cup rankings. There is such a wide disparity in quality among the gymnasts at any given worlds—with some of the gymnasts simply not at a world championship level—that I’m in favor of imposing a minimum standard and qualification cutoff as a way to shorten the competition, and this seems a reasonable way to do it. (Based on the numbers, they’re not actually going to end up cutting out that many gymnasts compared to current worlds, and I would honestly be in favor of limiting the field a little farther.)

For smaller programs with lower-level gymnasts, a limited, more exclusive world championship would essentially mean that the continental championship turns into their worlds. The big meet of the year. The continental championship is typically a more financially feasible prospect anyway, a smaller competition with less travel distance and time, so it works for those tiny programs as a more attainable mid-range goal to focus on, with the hope of growing the program large enough to become one of the bigger fish in the continental pool, so that worlds can then become the goal at that point.

Along with this qualification plan is a proposed schedule for worlds which limits qualification to one day for each men and women instead of two. This presents some issues because I don’t really think they have limited the field far enough to make it reasonable to hold qualification all on one day in what is supposed to be 5 subdivisions for the women—which is what they do at the Olympics, but there are half the athletes at the Olympics. Those are going to be some long-ass subdivisions.

C. Coach investigation news

Because that’s a category we have. Anna Li maintained that the complaints leading to a SafeSport investigation into her and Wu Jiani are untrue, while also discussing for the first time that she’s a survivor of That Guy.

Scott Reid reports that Maggie Haney is also under investigation for verbal and emotional abuse of gymnasts and has been for several months—longer than the Li/Wu investigation—with USAG aware of the claims since at least March.

Another stitch in the rich tapestry that is this effed up sport.

Maybe the real reason they can’t suspend coaches while an investigation is ongoing is that there wouldn’t be any coaches left.

D. Upcoming competition rosters

The world challenge cups—no Olympic qualification implications—get started next weekend in Mersin and will run for the next month, right up into worlds, and we’ll also have the US selection camps to look forward to.

Mersin Challenge Cup – August 30-September 1
The Mersin event is going to be a sparsely attended challenge cup, one that should be dominated by the Turkish team on the men’s side since Onder, Colak, and Arican are all scheduled to compete. The women’s competition will be one of those world cups where…you have two vaults? Enjoy automatically making the event final and losing to Teja Belak! Some fun opportunities for bars medals as well for some people who might otherwise be not so much with the bars.

US men’s world selection camp – September 4-8
The field is Mikulak, Moldauer, Modi, Howard, Wiskus, Bower, Van Wicklen, and Whittenburg, and it’s going to be pretty intense because…I don’t know either.

Szombathely Challenge Cup – September 6-8
Szombathely should be a bit deeper than Mersin, particularly with the Ukrainian and Israeli men sending their very best to this competition, though it’s the comeback of Krisztian Berki that highlights the preliminary roster. He lives! We’re also supposed to get a look at the return of Roxana Popa, who is slated to compete here.

Paris Challenge Cup – September 14-15
The Paris event should be the deepest event of this four-meet challenge cup series, largely because of the presence of all the top French gymnasts, as well as Great Britain sending Ellie Downie and Claudia Fragapane. Russian is also sending a large contingent to this one, mostly dudes, so mark down that weekend. It should be a fun meet. Unlike the other events, which take at least three days, the Paris world cup is just a Saturday and Sunday. Qualification for all events Saturday, finals for all events Sunday.

Also, the French women’s squad was back at WCC last week as part of the Cecile World Peace Tour.

Guimaraes Challenge Cup – September 19-22
Rosters aren’t out for this one yet.

US women’s world selection/Prep camp – September 21-26
The US has still made no actual, official announcement regarding which gymnasts will be participating at the selection camp, but we know that Faith Torrez and Shilese Jones got invites (and we can then probably assume that Emily Lee did as well because she finished ahead of both of them at nationals and RANK ORDER). So, it’s going to be a big group. There is a regular camp coming up on September 5th, and we’ll have to see if anything changes or becomes official at that point.

It looks like a big-tent approach to selection camp this year, which is not necessarily a bad thing in a group that’s this deep, even if some gymnasts are going who aren’t realistically going to make the worlds team. No need to artificially limit the gymnasts you have to choose from.

E. GymCastic

This week, I’m alone for a full explainer on the insanity that is the 2020 Olympic qualification process, in which I explain the methods of qualification and answer all your questions. And it takes 40 minutes. Because that’s how preposterous this qualification system is.


21 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – August 23, 2019”

  1. I checked the top 24 of last year’s WAG worlds to see what the continental spread was and… it was 14 Europe, 4 Asia, 5 Americas, 1 Oceania, 0 Africa. So, the new rules basically “take out” one European spot to “give” it to an African team. They really won’t artificially eliminate teams at all. We will just see less teams at worlds in both years instead of just the pre-olympic year.

    (MAG would “give” three European spots to accomodate one African, one Oceanian and one American team if we did the same thing, but Australia and Colombia are usually top 24 teams for MAG and weren’t last year.)

    1. It works out nicely based on recent results, but it does make it hard to react to changes. Especially with small teams, it’s not improbable that a 5th place Asian team could be scoring significantly higher than the 14th place Euro team.

      I do like the general idea a lot, and the point that Worlds isn’t the best goal for every federation is a very good one.

      1. I do think that’s a valid point, but the thing is, they really needed to reduce the size of mid-quad worlds. With absolutely everyone taking part with a full team, nobody wanted to host it, which is why they got stuck with Doha last year. This was their biggest priority, and like, I can’t think of a better way to pick a fixed amount of teams for worlds other than the way they did it. What were they going to do? Compare results from different continental meets to create a worldwide ranking? SHUDDER.

  2. Friendly reminder that if the Tokyo 2020 qual criteria were used in 2016 Larisa Iordache & Farah Ann Abdul Hadi would have qualified

  3. I failed to get my question submitted in time, but I have a non-US Olympic qualification confusion: how many spots can a nation which DOES NOT qualify a team earn overall? I know it is one per country from the AA at Worlds, but can a country which qualifies an AAer also qualify additional athletes through event finals? As an example, can Mexico qualify Frida Esparza through the AA standings and also Alexa Moreno through the vault event final? Then, I know there is no way for non-team countries to qualify via the AA World Cups (they won’t even be invited), but can they also earn additional spots via the continental championships or apparatus World Cups? Following up on the Mexico example above, if Frida Esparza and Alexa Moreno both qualify at worlds, and then another Mexican gymnast places second at Pan-Ams next year, does she also get a spot? Is there a limit to how many gymnasts each country can qualify overall? This has been confusing me for so long, and I would love to know if it’s actually spelled out anywhere.

    1. The magic number in this scenario max is actually seven (7)! Here’s how that might go down (follow along at this FIG link at question 20:

      Let’s try to get seven individuals to qualify for Romania. In the 2018 Worlds USA, Russia, and China all qualified teams. ENTER ALTERNATIVE WORLD-LAND. By some weird happenstance, in team qualifications all three of these teams (USA/RUS/CHN) somehow score 11th, 12th, and 13th in qualifications (I’m thinking sabotage a la Brazil’s nationals with a power outage that only effects them–flickering lights and 0’s on vault for safety). Romania, not effected by sabotage, finishes 10th in team quals.

      Criteria I: finish in top three teams at 2018 worlds (nope, Romania missed that)
      Criteria II: finish in the next top nine teams ranked at 2019 worlds (nine new teams are ahead of Romania, no team allocations)
      Criteria III: one per country can qualify via 2019 all-around qualifications standings. Denisa Golgata is ranked 20th in the AA. *Nominative spot for Denisa!*
      Criteria IV: up to three per country can qualify via event finals at the 2019 worlds. Denisa had done well to get into the AA, but sadly made no event finals. However, three of her teammates did and not only that but all three won bronze medals. Their names are: Sandra Izbasa (VT bronze), Ana Porgras (UB bronze), Catalina Ponor (FX bronze). *Nominative spots for Sandra, Ana, and Catalina!*
      Criteria V: one per country can qualify via the 2018-2020 individual apparatus world cup. Bereft at being left off the worlds team, and feeling the need to restore the glory of the sport anyways, Nadia Comaneci comes out of retirement and finishes first in the beam standings at the event world cups. *Nominative spot for Nadia!*
      Criteria VI: one per country can qualify via the 2020 all-around world cup standings. Since Romania placed in the top 12 standings as a team at worlds (even though they didn’t earn a team spot), they are invited to participate in the four AA world cup events. Since these are endurance monsters, Romania splits up the work of these competitions to Daniela Silivas (American Cup), Aurelia Dobre (Stuttgart), Camelia Voinea (Birmingham), and Ioana Crisan (Tokyo). After tough competition, their cumulative scores leave them in 3rd place as a federation, granting them a spot. *NON-nominative spot for Romania!* (spoiler alerts, they’ll give it to Ioana)
      Criteria VII: one gymnast per country can qualify at the all-around final at continental championships. Throwing off the shackle of injuries, and returning to her first competition since 2017, Larisa Andreaa Iordache wins the 2020 European Championships all-around. Since there is no Romanian team, this is an individual spot. *Nominative spot for Larisa!*

      Romania’s “team of individuals”:
      1. Denisa Golgata
      2. Sandra Izbasa
      3. Ana Porgras
      4. Catalina Ponor
      5. Nadia Comaneci
      6. TBD spot the federation gets to decide
      7. Larisa Iordache

      And they can all do the all-around at the Olympics!

      //author’s note: hope I answered your questions…yes Mexico could get all three of those spots you pointed out. The world would really have to go crazy for the above all seven spots to happen to a non-team federation.

      1. Thank you for bringing Nadia out of retirement. I hope she will win 5 golds in Tokyo (cannot win 6, as despite being represented by 7 gymnasts, Romania would not have a team there).
        Just one small addition about Criteria IV. It is true that a bronze medal would guarantee a spot, but most likely it would not be even needed, as only the gymnasts from countries that did not qualify a team, or who have not qualified already in AA are eligible for spots through EFs. Most likely just making it to the final would be enough, except on VT perhaps, where India, Dominican, Chuso (if she does not qualify in AA) and Koreas may make things interesting.

      2. Thank you so much for answering! It will be really interesting to see how this all shakes out at Worlds this year.

      3. Romania Spots:

        2019 Worlds AA: lets say Ana Maria Puiu qualifies for AA finals slightly above Denisa Golgota, which actually happened this year at the FIT meet (Puiu placed 8th and Golgota was 10th after a rough day)

        2019 Worlds EF spots: lets say that Carmen Ghiciuc and Alexandra Mihai qualify to beam finals, and Denisa Golgota qualifies to FX. these finals are likely to be full of gymnasts from fully qualified teams, so its likely that they would outright earn spots.

        2020: If enough teams decline the AA world cups, the offer will go down the list until it hits Romania. Romania can then send Denisa Golgota, Silviana Sfiringu and Ioana Stanciulescu to the different world cups in hopes of them qualifying spots.

        2020 Euros: Hypothetically Ioana Stanciulescu is the second highest scoring AAer, and she is able to nab a spot for Romania.

      4. also its totally BS how many spots AAers get. All non qualified athletes who make an event finals should be given first priority, then the rest of the spots should go to AAers. Spencer wrote an article showing that if last year was 2019 worlds, that the 80th placed AAer would make the olympics… way too far down!

      5. Is Ana Porgras back? I fell in love with her in 2010-2011, but she retired. Don’t get my hopes up if she’s not actually back!

  4. will be interesting to see who will be on RU team this year. without Musty, they will be probably looking for maybe a nabieva comeback? lol

    1. Nabieva with an Amanar is a very interesting prospect. While Nabieva doesn’t have a second vault that could put her in the mix for a World event medal, she does bring a consistent backup bars routine that Paseka currently doesn’t have. With Mustafina out for Worlds this year, this is Nabieva’s best chance at making a major team.

      I think a lot will depend on the state of Paseka’s Cheng. If it’s as bad as it was at the European Championships, then a vault medal is not even close to guaranteed – especially with (presumably) 2 much stronger Amanar/Cheng combos from Americans. However, if Paseka improves her Cheng at least to 2017 levels, I think she’ll go to Worlds.

      1. It would be but is there ANY indication that she has one?? I thought Nabs said she had no more plans to compete this year, not to mention she was slightly injured at Universiade.

        I love Nabs and I would love it if she was on the worlds or Olympic teams but an Amanar from her this year is about as “interesting a prospect” as like… Ragan Smith coming out of retirement to go to Worlds selection camp. It would be interesting, but there’s also no reason to think it would happen.

      2. I didn’t hear about Nabieva not wanting to compete anymore this year and am surprised if that’s the case. 2019 is the weakest year for the Russian women in memory and is the best chance for an “outsider” to make the team. The fact that Daria Spiridonova getting through one bars routine is enough to raise eyebrows is indicative of how sparse the talent pool is in Russia at the moment.

        Nabieva making the team is of course a massive long shot, but there is no better chance than this year.

      3. Here’s a tweet from Luba Baladzhaeva (the woman who does eng.gymnovosti) in which she’s translating Nabs’s recent live-Instagram: “she thinks she won’t have any competitions this year. She doesn’t want to go to Voronin Cup and says she needs to focus on her health right now as her back and leg hurt.”

        Not to mention that she skipped Russian Cup, which is a mandatory part of team selection unless you have some kind of special status with the team coordinators.

        Like I said, I would love to see Nabs at Worlds and I agree with you that the small team sizes + lack of depth makes this a good year, but speculating about her chances with an Amanar when there’s no evidence that she is training one or that she even wants to go to Worlds just seems ridiculous to me.

      4. Why is speculating “ridiculous”?? Looking at current elite athletes and discussing possible team combinations – both guarantees and long-shots – is what gymnastics fans do.

      5. I said “ridiculous” because Nabieva can’t make the Worlds team. She’s not a long-shot, she’s someone who is literally not in the running. You know who else could make the Worlds team if they had an Amanar? Mustafina. Eremina. Pretty much any Russian NT member with a second event.

        It would be fun to speculate about what the best Russian team would be if all current team members were at their absolute full strength, and whether they could challenge a current US team, but IMO that’s totally different from saying that Nabs has a shot at the World team this year if she just pulls out an Amanar.

        Anyway all that said – I’m sorry for being grumpy and telling Anonymous (you?) that you can’t speculate. I am really tired of hearing people make claims like “oh Sunisa will upgrade her vault” (to what?!) or “Mykayla is going to clean up her execution and upgrade all four in the next eight months!!” when they make no logical sense based on all of the evidence. But that’s my problem, not theirs or yours. I am not the comments police and I’m sorry if I ruined the fun.

  5. Thank you for Gymcastic this week! So informative and love the snarkiness to go with.

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