Things Are Happening – August 30, 2019

A. Russian worlds team

Following Russian Cup, High Priestess Valentina announced the Russian teams for this year’s world championships—at least until someone looks at her the wrong way and gets immediately retired for it.

For the women, the team is Angelina Melnikova, Lilia Akhaimova, Daria Spiridonova, Angelina Simakova, and Aleksandra Schekoldina. That’s about where I arrived in analyzing the Russian Cup results, which means something must be very wrong because Valentina and I agree and yet a red sun hasn’t even risen in the north.

This team covers the bases about as well as possible. I mean, you’re correct to be very, very concerned about beam, but there was no avoiding that with any possible squad. This team does give Russia its best floor options, with four people to choose from depending on who can stay standing in training, though I’d also note this is not exactly the most reassuring vault group.

Which brings me to the odd affair of the alternate, which has been named as Anastasia Agafonova. Agafonova doesn’t bring a vault. And when you look at the team—where Spiridonova doesn’t have a vault and Simakova just gets 12s now—what would you even do if one of your planned vaulters isn’t able to go? Worlds is going to be interesting.

The Russians have a little more luxury of choice on the men’s side—so the final decision is being delayed—but Dalaloyan, Nagornyy, Belyavskiy, and Stretovich have been named to the initial team. The possible surprise there is Stretovich, who earned this position after his 2nd-place all-around performance at Russian Cup, where he outscored Dalaloyan and Belyavskiy. It’s going to be a tough call for the final spot, though I look at that group of four that have already been named and the biggest hole for me is a third rings routine. Perhaps also a third vault because Belyavskiy. So keep an eye on Abliazin and Lankin for that last position. They would seem to be the best fit. I mean, I’m trying to get Poliashov on that team, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t really see it right now.

Also I must say I have some serious concerns about these husband rankings following Russian Cup:

I mean, what sort of code of points were they even using?

In case you were curious, Valentina is still cartoonishly awful in every possible way. After bemoaning how disappointing all the women are for being not more people, she turned her attention to the greatest shame of all, Aliya Mustafina:

you were, by far, her biggest disappointment.

“Why are you talking about Mustafina, the person did not compete at the Russian Cup, the person refused to participate at the European Games in Minsk? We’re representing our country, after all, and not some Bangladesh with underdeveloped gymnastics.”

Not some Bangladesh.

I’m absolutely going to need Aliya to get Bangladeshi citizenship right this minute and compete for Bangladesh at the 2020 Olympics purely out of spite. Now that’s a fake-citizenship I could get behind.

B. Dutch Gymnastics: The Trials

Dutch gymnastics has organized a 4-weekend competition known simply and ominously as…THE TRIALS (I’m all about this), designed to thin the herd and determine the teams for this year’s world championships. The series begins this weekend with a women’s competition pitting the Dutch against teams from Italy, Norway, and Sweden.

The Netherlands has already winnowed its possibilities for the women’s worlds team down to 8—Eythora Thorsdottir, Naomi Visser, Tisha Volleman, Lieke Wevers, Sanne Wevers, Vera van Pol, Sanna Veerman, and Sara van Disseldorp, and that sounds about right. There’s not really anyone else right now who needs to be in that 8. But there are several different directions you can go with that 8, largely depending on the status of Sanne Wevers. She is not competing at this first THE TRIAL but is still in the mix for the second THE TRIAL for the women in two weeks.

Celine van Gerner is also doing a farewell performance after the competition because Netherlands. We need more farewell testimonials in this sport.

It will be worth following the Italian team here as well, which consists of Asia and Alice D’Amato, Giorgia Villa, Elisa Iorio, and Desiree Carofiglio (and I think Martina Maggio, though she’s not listed on the Dutch Federation’s event roster). Scuttlebutt on the Italian gymternet is that Italy is going to save Lara Mori so that she can try to qualify to the Olympics through the apparatus world cups instead (STAB ME), even though I think she would be a perfect complement to the big four 2003 seniors on a worlds team. If that 2003 group has a weakness, it’s typically floor. Mori is kind of good at that floor thing.

To me, the teams that haven’t yet qualified to the Olympics—even those who look likely to do so, such as Italy—can’t really afford to play the extra-spot strategy game until team qualification is assured.

C. Chinese selection

China held its first of two tests for selecting its world championships team—and the surprise winner was Li Shijia, who proved she’s not some Bangladesh with a huge number (I’m going to assume those scores are…not real life scores).

We know Li Shijia as a beam queen (get in line, it’s China), but she placed top 3 on every event at the trial and competed a DTY, which is a big-ass deal for Chinese selection purposes and satisfies several important question marks if she can keep this up at the next trial in a couple weeks.

Before this competition, I had three gymnasts I felt were locks for worlds—Liu Tingting as the best overall gymnast, along with Zhang Jin and Qi Qi because they’re too necessary for vault and floor to be absent from a team. In regard to those three, I still feel the same. Liu TT finished 2nd AA at the trial, Zhang Jin was 3rd, and Qi Qi won both vault and floor.

If you add Li Shijia to that group of three, you’re in pretty good shape for covering the events—except for the gaping chasm that would be a third bars routine because you can’t use Zhang Jin or Qi Qi on bars. That’s why I’m kind of like…hey, Fan Yilin exists. (Because China already qualified a team to the Olympics last year, Fan could go to worlds this year and still be eligible to continue doing the apparatus world cups.) But if not, Luo Huan gives you bars and a reasonable backup in the all-around. Tang Xijing also has a possible bars routine and showed a DTY at this trial, which would help you feel a little more comfortable about China’s vault.

Chen Yile did compete at this trial, but apparently her scores were not great.

D. Jesus H Christ, Japan

I cannot. I have 100% nones. Not a single any.

Mai Murakami won a meet today, scoring 56.665 at the All-Japan Senior Championship. But no, it was important not to put her on the worlds team. Just as it was important to pick the 2019 worlds team in March 1856 because of the procedures and the reasons. Why would anyone want her on the worlds team? Silly billy. Sae Miyakawa is back as well and got a 15.000 on vault. Nope. Don’t want that either. Pass pass pass.

E. Mersin Challenge Cup

The first day of qualification is complete in Mersin (qualification finishes on Saturday, and then all finals will be Sunday, streamed on the Olympic Channel), and most impressive was that they actually had enough women to complete a full vault field. So Mersin is already ahead of Zhaoqing.

Typical challenge-cuppers Teja Belak, Tjasa Kysselef, and Tijana Tkalcec placed as the top 3 on vault in qualification and will be the medal favorites there. We’re also going to see a lot of Tsuk back pikes in that final.

On bars, the qualifying cutoff was 9.500 to make the final. So there’s that. I was impressed by Nazli Savranbasi’s bars potential at previous challenge cups, so I’m eager to see what she presents in the final after qualifying in first place.

To the dude-boys. Aurel Benovic, a little baby newt that we met at some previous challenge cups, has a big D-score advantage in the floor field and qualified in first. Saso Bertoncelj doesn’t have the biggest D in the men’s PH field, but he definitely will have the cleanest routine and will be the favorite for that reason. On rings, Ibrahim Colak should crush the rest of the field like a little walnut, and with just 8 competitors in that qualification field, everyone who tried made the final, including Neofytos Kyriakou and his 2.5 D score.

I fully unironically love these meets.


In dumpster fire affairs, Scott Reid has reported that USAG received complaints about both Anna Li/Wu Jiani and Maggie Haney prior to these recent investigations, with complaints coming in 2017 for Li/Wu and 2016 for Haney.

Sounds like those abuse reports were handled so, so responsibly. Mark Busby thinking Legacy Elite was called Elite World Gymnastics really speaks to how seriously and attentively this work was being done.

So then you have two options when considering Li Li Leung telling the press at nationals that USAG had no knowledge of complaints against Anna Li prior to her selection as athlete representative. Either she was lying, or the system is so effed up that no one knew about, remembered, or bothered to look up this report from 2017— and there was no system of recording it so people could look it up in the future (say 2 years later), or no way to reconcile and compare reports that went to USAG before SafeSport existed with reports that go to SafeSport now. That one ain’t good either.

There’s also a story going around today about Simone’s brother being arrested in connection with a triple homicide, which…I understand why it’s news—she’s a prominent public figure and he’s her brother—I just have nothing to say about it because it regards neither Simone nor gymnastics.

G. GymCastic

This week, we talk about Russian Cup and investigations—going into Maggie Haney, Anna Li/Wu Jiani, and all the typical drama of Russian competitions, which feels quaint by comparison.

42 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – August 30, 2019”

  1. I am getting mad in advance for when team China gets 0.5 lower E scores than everyone else on BB and UB at Worlds despite having massively better execution.

    That said those verification scores are totally fake.

  2. I cannot believe Japan is going to let their cultural tightness and rigidity get in the way of putting out a solid team for Worlds. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some dirty politics mixed in with this because even with set rules, no sane committee can let a healthy Mai go unused. This is the Worlds that will qualify Japan to THEIR OWN Olympics. If they miss out it will be one of the most shameful, humiliating event in Japanese gymnasts history.

    1. Any combination of 3 of the named World’s team would qualify Japan for Tokyo. Unless their entire team is injured, it’s happening. Let’s get real.

      1. Well, it sounds like Asuka Terramoto has a broken/injured finger, so that’s already cause for concern if true. A broken finger does not sound like a big deal until we remember that was the injury that sidelined Larisa Iordache for most of 2016 (and Romania in general).

      2. Ok…Let’s get real…

        Japan isn’t that far and above and completely safe from qualifying. Spencer has crunched the numbers. Additionally, other teams are getting stronger. Italy is going to be way better than they were last year. Belgium is building depth. Germany has veterans that can hit under pressure. Great Britain will be stronger than last year. Canada and France are medal contenders. It’s not a done deal.

        Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Great Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia all have the capability of surpassing Japan. That is 9 teams right there. Not to mention Hungary and Ukraine have some potential as well.

        Japan not qualifying is well within the realm of possibility.

      3. Well, Hungary has kicked out Nora Feher, so they are busy making stupid decisions of their own. I wouldn’t count on them to beat Japan.

    2. I think their adherence to procedure is admirable. They shouldn’t change it for Mai if they wouldn’t for anyone else (and they have a history of massively early selection, so they wouldn’t).

      The procedures themselves are idiotic and I hope someone is in deep shit over them. Japan will qualify, but they will lose 2 great and one stretch medal opportunities because of this.

      1. I agree that they shouldn’t just randomly change their rules, but also they should have changed them the LAST time that this threatened to keep Mai out of Worlds – she was named alternate and then just happened to go and was far and away their strongest competitor. That should’ve been enough of a signal that this system needed some room for exceptions.

    3. “I cannot believe Japan is going to let their cultural tightness and rigidity get in the way of putting out a solid team for Worlds.”

      Thank you for this comment. Until I read this I thought Japan was batshit crazy for not taking Mai but your phrasing flipped this for me. I have all the respect in the world for a person, or in this case country, who places other values ahead of winning. Good on Japan for refusing to compromise on their culture and values even if it means sacrificing having their best team compete. As someone from a Western culture consumed by the importance of winning, medals and fame its refeshing to see that there can be another take on life and competition.

      1. The issue I have here is that it sounds like Mai didn’t know that this policy would be applied. I may be completely wrong about this, but from what I gathered Mai believed there was an appeals/petition/etc process that would actually be honored, otherwise she wouldn’t have missed the competition in question at all (IIRC her injury was quite minor and it was more of a preventative issue). I agree that rules and cultural integrity are very important, but that can’t supersede an existing redress policy, presumably one which exists at least in part for the safety of the athletes. If there was a system in place for petitions, that means they should have room to honor a petition that comes in, especially for Mai.

      2. I’d be more sympathetic to Japan’s selection process had they not felt the need to explain the process by besmirching Mai. From what I recall, their reasoning was basically “if she’s not healthy enough for this competition, what makes us think she’ll be healthy when worlds comes around.”

        And then beyond that, their fourth selection for the team was someone out of the blue – not the 4th strongest gymnast at the specific qualifying meets.

        So Japan doesn’t earn any “good for them for following their stated procedures” points because there is some shady stuff going on besides the Mai situation.

  3. Is the website now white and red for everyone else or is my phone just being stupid? It looks really weird to me rn.

    1. It is white and red for me too! I think it looks great. Maybe it’s a Tokyo 2020 theme thing.

  4. Artur Dalaloyan IS the best husband in Russian Cup (since Nikolai Kuksenkov doesn’t compete Husband yet). You don’t need a code of points to know that. Not so sure about the rest of the results for Husband though.

  5. Re the two possibilities of why Li Li told the media that USAG was not aware of the complaints against Anna Li prior to July. If we give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is not lying and that it is the second situation, it leads to a very interesting question as to who within USAG IS aware of these abuse reports and chooses to send them to the media rather than raise them to the attention of Li Li. Because these reports don’t just get their way to Scott Reid by themselves…someone has to send them to him. And there have to be a limited number of people with access to those emails. And is this person actively hiding the emails from Li Li when she asks if there is any reason why Anna shouldn’t be the athlete rep but then sending them to the media later to make USAG look bad? This person must really want USAG to go down.

    1. Wouldn’t the complainant get a copy of the report/complaint? I can see a situation in which Reid is writing about this consistently so people are going to him / families who are in the same boat re USAG inaction are telling each other who to go to with evidence etc.

      Or someone is disgusted with the USAG lawyer.

      1. That makes a lot more sense than a disgruntled person inside USAG hiding reports from execs and sending them to the media. That sounds extremely unlikely.

      2. Did you even read the article Reid wrote on Anna Li? Reid has copies of USAG emails between Busby and Stark. Those had to have come from somewhere.

      3. I just seriously doubt someone is both intentionally hiding abuse reports from the executive team “to make them look bad” or whatever and then also leaking them to the press. The second half makes at least some sense (though I think they’d get caught pretty quickly) but the first step sounds ludicrous. Of course USAG is ludicrous so I suppose it’s always possible.

        Also there’s quite a few other ways for those emails to get out. For example, they could be part of publicly searchable legal proceedings. Reid is a journalist. Finding sources for information people are trying to keep hidden is literally his job.

  6. I don’t know if it’s just translation that makes it kind of off, but referring to Aliya as just “the person” is peak Valentina

  7. “I just have nothing to say about it because it regards neither Simone nor gymnastics.”
    Bless. This take is exactly the summation of the situation that I needed.

  8. so no paseka for worlds team, guess US is pretty now have a lot easier path to getting that silver for vt also.

    1. Carey was likely locked for VT silver regardless, she was consistently outperforming Paseka in world cups. It opens up the race for bronze, though. I’m rooting for Yeo Seojeong.

      1. Carey isn’t a lock for anything. A large step on the Amanar and a crunched landing on her Cheng would take her out of the medals.

        She might not even be named to the World Team. I could see USAG overlooking her to make a point…accept the individual spot you earned through the World Cup because you don’t have a chance at the 4 person Olympic Team.

        What is more important to USAG? A potential World VT silver? Or losing a +1 Olympic Spot?

      2. Team USA is great and very likely to get lots of medals, but other than Simone – barring injury – I don’t think anyone is a lock for anything.

        Paseka has been known to bring it when it counts, and Jade’s not so far ahead of her (although I would personally take neither of them to Worlds).

      3. It would be ferociously stupid, even by USAG standards, to leave Jade home to send a message. It sacrifices a medal for literally no reason. If USAG doesn’t want her on the Tokyo team, they just won’t select her. End.

      4. I don’t think they’ll leave her home if she’s top 5 in the AA. But if I were in charge, I would leave her home not “to send a message” but just because I would prefer to use Worlds 2019 as a test event for the gymnasts who are in consideration for the 2020 Olympics. It’s not a punishment for Jade. She gets to go to challenge cups to gain her international experience.

      5. Worlds isn’t a test event. Trials and selection camps are test events. Worlds is a competition. You send your best gymnasts to competitions. Jade Carey is one of Team USA’S best gymnasts. If they don’t send her to Worlds, they are dumb (sadly a possibility because Tom Forster is, in fact, dumb).

        Also, Carey is a lock for VT silver if she hits. I thought that part was a given. Obviously anyone can lose a medal in EF if they miss, even Simone herself (except maybe on floor). This kind of thing shouldn’t need to be explained lol.

      6. I’m just saying what I would do if I were the team coordinator. I would treat Worlds 2019 as a test event to give team possibilities international experience, because the US is going to win team gold in 2019 no matter what, and because I care more about ensuring a team Olympic gold in 2020 if something happens to Simone before Tokyo than about getting the option of an additional, non-gold medal on vault in 2019.

        Trials and selection camps don’t provide the same environment to test out potential gymnasts, because they don’t have the major international competition trappings like competing under FIG judges against foreign gymnasts in a foreign country on a podium in front of an enormous crowd for a week-long meet.

        In the hypothetical world in which you are team coordinator, feel free to send Jade Carey to all the World Championships you want. I can understand your reasoning, but like I said, if I were in charge, I’d rather give Wong/Eaker/Chiles/whoever the Worlds experience than a gymnast who is already going to the Olympics and cannot contribute to the team.

  9. she’s not gonna be on the tokyo 4 member team. but that wont affect her status for 2019 team. i am pretty much betting they will bring someone to grab that silver on vt and fx (either jade or skinner, whoever better in selection camp)

    shamrock: bringing jade to worlds 2019 wouldn’t make US lose an olympic slot….

    1. Under Martha I’d say you’re right, but under the current system I am betting they take top 6 AA after camp. That’s more or less what they’ve said they will do.

    2. I am not dumb. Of course I know Carey gong to Worlds wouldn’t cause the US team to lose a spot. Apparently you can’t read between the lines.
      By leaving Carey off the World Team it would push Carey to accept the nominative spot and not try for the 4 person team. Keeping Carey on the World Team might give her some sense of thinking she can make a 4 person team. If she does make that 4 person team then the US loses a spot. I would think that USAG would rather give up a potential VT silver at Worlds and leave Carey home to focus on World Cup (she’s going to another one I have heard) than to have her go to Worlds, MAYBE win VT silver and then by some miracle make the Olympic Team. It’s unlikely Carey force herself on the team with a top 2 AA finish at Trials. But you never know. She was 3rd after day 1 so we can’t say she won’t ever be in the top tier in the AA on a given day.

      1. All of that can and should be avoided by understanding how the qualification process works and being clear about it to the gymnasts – “hey Jade, you are great and we want you on this team, but when it comes to the Olympics you already made your choice to be an individual, you won’t be in consideration for the team then”. That solves it here and now. It will never happen though because USAG doesn’t know what honesty is and I hate that we are all overthinking a very simple situation because we have to account for USAG’s flaky nature.

      2. “I hate that we are all overthinking a very simple situation because we have to account for USAG’s flaky nature.”

        Hey at least it gives us something to talk about while we wait for the team selections to be settled.

    3. They absolutely should bring Carey to Worlds because she has the best chance of the non-Simone Americans to bring home individual event medals. Vault is a weakness internationally and Carey should have no problem snatching the silver medal. Floor is a bit more competitive, but again, Carey should have an easy silver as long as all passes are landed well.

      There is no other American who has that good of a chance at an individual medal. Skinner would be the the next most likely event medalist (on vault), followed by Eaker (on beam).

      Lee, Hurd, McCusker, and McCallum are definitely in the mix to make event finals but wouldn’t be favorites for medals in most cases. Lee seems most likely with her bars set; unfortunately, bars is hands-down the strongest event internationally. McCusker and Hurd could also make bars finals, but neither have the difficulty to propel them to the medal stand. McCallum, Lee, or Hurd could definitely make the floor final, but aren’t favorites for medals. Finally, any of the above 4 could make a beam final, but beam is too unpredictable to even speculate on right now.

      If for some reason Tom Forester went entirely off the rails and decided that Carey has to stay home, I’d make the unconventional decision to go with Skinner to have the best chance at maximizing medals.

  10. Does the US care enough about individual medals to send Carey or Skinner? Just like in 2016 with Skinner, I can see them both being left off the team, and even Eaker, with Tom saying he was focusing on the team final if any of those 3 fall outside the top 5.

    1. I don’t think so. I mean maybe they would if it was a gold medal possibility or an event where we had no other options, but we already are bringing our best bet for a gold medal on 3/4 events in the form of Simone. Not to mention them literally saying that top 5 AA at camp is the most likely team. But apparently a lot of people think that silver/bronze VT medal matters to USAG… so… we’ll see I guess.

      1. I agree with you 100%
        Additionally, any of the US ladies will have a strong chance to win silver on FX. Murakami is out. Melnikova will likely challenge. MDJS and Saravia have an outside chance.
        In fact I would argue that FX is a better chance of silver than VT.
        There are def. more medal contenders on VT IMO.

    2. People here are acting like Carey winning SILVER medals is somehow ground breaking and worth bringing her onto the team regardless of her place at camp! Sure Jan. We must take Jade, we MUST win the ever elusive SILVER MEDAL. After clearly the US will win Team GOLD, and AA Gold, and Vault Gold and Floor Gold , but we NEED THOSE SILVER medals on those same events the US will win gold on if Simone lands on her feet. Thats your justification for why Jade should be on the worlds team? Log off. lol. Jade has her silvers from world. Let another girl go who has prospects for 2020. Careers are so short these days… Give the experience to the girl who has 2020 for the TEAM on her mind and a shot. Stop being greedy for Silvers! lol

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