The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

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.

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