The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Women’s Nominative Rosters

The FIG has released the nominative rosters for world championships, which are extremely important and binding (just kidding, this is nothing).

Still, I’m going to run through the list and make some general observations and reflections on what’s happening here, especially for the major teams.

1. Australia

The nominative team of six is Georgia-Rose Brown, Talia Folino, Georgia Godwin, Emily Whitehead, Emma Nedov, and Kate McDonald, but the Australian women are yet to compete at Australian Classic, which comes later this month. So definitely treat this team as a placeholder.

Godwin, Brown, and Nedov are essential, but I’d consider the remaining two spots as still to be won. Whitehead, Folino, and McDonald (and potentially Chipizubov as a beam option, though she is not on the nominative list) are all trying to prove that they deliver the best option for counting-worthy scores, particularly on bars and beam for when the inevitable important-routine fall for 11.733 happens in qualification and their routine has to count instead.

2. Belgium

The nominative six are Maellyse Brassart, Nina Derwael, Jade Vansteenkiste, Julie Vandamme, Margaux Daveloose, and Fien Enghels. This group of six, plus Senna Deriks, are in Germany to compete on Saturday with crucial selection implications hovering over their performances. Because right now you have Nina, and then…uh…we’ll see.

Without some of the typical members of the Belgian collective like Axelle Klinckaert and Rune Hermans in the mix currently, there are golden opportunities for some unfamiliar characters to make this team.

Right now, my preferred Belgian five would be Derwael, then Brassart to do any event as needed, Enghels who has a ton of ability on bars as well as delivering a realistic possibility on beam, Vansteenkiste who has excelled on floor this year, and then probably Senna Deriks to provide a third bars score and reasonable possibilities on any event—though I could see that spot going to Daveloose instead.

But…complications between the lines: Deriks isn’t listed on the nominative roster at all, Enghels is listed sixth in a non-alphabetical team order (where you’d typically put the alternate), and Brassart is competing as an individual in Germany while the other six are competing as the Belgian team. Hmph. We’ll know a lot more after tomorrow.

3. Kaylee Cole

The Stanford senior is off to worlds to represent Bolivia again. We haven’t seen Cole compete for Bolivia since the 2015 Pan Am Games, and she hadn’t previous attempted to do both NCAA and elite at the same time. If the aim is to get that Olympic qualifying score rather than just go for the experience of going (also perfectly legitimate), she’ll have to add back bars, which she has not been able to do in NCAA, even in years when Stanford desperately needed bars routines.

Side note: Cole is listed on Stanford’s 2020 roster as competing VT, UB, and BB, but not FX, where she has figured significantly in her college career to this point.

4. Brazil

There is an obvious four for Brazil right now in Saraiva, Fidelis, Jade Barbosa, and Oliveira, who will be called upon to do pretty much everything at worlds. Of course, Rebeca Andrade would have been the obvious fifth, but with her injury, there’s not a natural replacement who adds anything much to the team score.

The other two listed in Brazil’s nominative six are Carolyne Pedro and Isabel Barbosa. Carolyne Pedro has been the fill-in for Andrade at meets lately, so I’d expect to see her at worlds again. There’s a legitimate argument for Other Barbosa in that she adds more to the team on beam and floor than Pedro, but I think Brazil is probably most worried about having a third bars score to go with Main Barbosa and Oliveira, since Flavia’s bars can be so…uncertain. Pedro gives you an option on bars that Other Barbosa doesn’t.

5. Laney Madsen

Madsen has competed twice for Bulgaria this year—European Champs and the European Games—and will be the Bulgarian representative at worlds this year in the hope of qualifying a spot to Stuttgart. Her 48 AA score from Euros is believable for that goal, but her 43 from Euro Games is not, so she’s going to have to be on.

6. Woo over Onyshko

Canada has already announced its official team, going with Victoria Woo to join the Big Four while relegating Isabela Onyshko to alternate status. Black, Olsen, Moors, and Padurariu have been locks for the team for a while now and will do nearly everything at worlds, and you’re happy with that group on almost every event—just lacking that third vault and third definite bars score.

Last year, Sophie Marois made the team to provide a DTY as that third vault, but apparently without a similar option available this year (*whispers Denelle Pedrick softly into the breeze*), Canada looks to have taken the next-best-AAer approach instead by selecting Victoria Woo. Woo’s most impressive event is beam, so there she provides another option if Moors makes you too nervous, though I wouldn’t say her inclusion addresses the team’s needs on vault or bars much. That’s why I expected the 5th spot would go to Onyshko to provide a third bars routine so that Moors doesn’t have to count again this year, but no.

If you’re concerned about what this team does on vault after Black and Olsen…correct.


What do we do about China? China has not yet conducted its final trial for the worlds team, so the nominative roster of Li Shijia, Liu Tingting, Qi Qi, Tang Xijing, Zhang Jin, and Yin Sisi is an in-progress look at the possible team—though a fairly realistic one.

Li Shijia’s victory at the first trial helped her emerge as a useful-looking AA option at worlds, so then with LTT on UB/BB (and as a possibility on FX if needed) and Qi Qi on VT and FX, you’ve more or less got two routines on each event covered. If you then add Zhang Jin for VT/FX and Tang Xijing for UB/BB while also delivering a 4th vault possibility with her DTY (China?!?! Four vaults?!?! I never!), the events are fairly well covered.

The compelling argument against that particular team of five is that it’s an overreaction to China’s perceived weakness on vault and floor, over-covering those events with more routines than necessary and leaving a surprising hole on bars. That team of five would not score nearly as well on bars as China could, with some compelling athletes missing out who would definitely increase the team’s scoring potential. Yin Sisi is listed as the sixth member here and could replace one of the previously mentioned five with her TF-ready bars routine. And as we know, Luo Huan can also deliver UB/BB and be a backup option on vault and floor. (As others have pointed out, Fan Yilin is being kept in a separate group of athletes going for individual apparatus assignments, but I still don’t understand why since she’s technically eligible to do both.)

If Yin or Luo show that they are outscoring Tang Xijing on bars (or bars/beam) at the next trial—or if Zhang Jin’s vault and floor scores start to look kind of superfluous and/or inconsistent—we could see an adjustment to the nominative roster.

8. Czech Republic

The Czech Republic just sneaked in, finishing 24th at worlds last year to advance a team to this year’s competition. The top gymnasts from that team—Jirikova, Holasova, Ponizilova, and Halova—return as part of the six options for the Czech Republic, joined by Sandra Jessenova, the daughter of Hana Ricna and brother of David who also competes for the Czech Republic. Sandra trains at Parkettes and we know her as Sandra Jessen, but…when in Rome. It’s another Nicole Pechanec/Nicole Pechancova situation.

Also, Anna-Maria Kanyai is listed here, which is worth discussing. Kanyai competed for CZE last quad, then went to Bowling Green to begin an NCAA career last season. She competed in the UB lineup for Bowling Green in five meets, then was part of the mass roster departure toward the end of the season when the stories started coming out about the coaching staff. Now she’s back and part of the Czech Republic’s nominative roster for worlds.

This Czech team is full of action.

9. Alexa Grande

On the list for El Salvador is Alexa Grande, a veteran who last competed at worlds a full 8 years ago. So sit on that.

10. Ada Hautala?

New senior and Finnish national champion Ada Hautala is missing from Finland’s nominative list, which I have to assume means she must not be fit because otherwise you’d obviously send her to worlds.

11. France

France has already confirmed its team of five, and it is the most sensible selection, adding Aline Friess’s rudi on vault to the core four of MDJDS, Boyer, Charpy, and Devillard.

Overall, it’s a well-rounded team that should excel on vault and beam and is the current cool, hipster pick for an upset team medal. The team is a little soft in terms of the third bars routine. They’ll have to use Friess on bars (they would prefer alternate Pontlevoy there instead if these were teams of six, but alas no), and I’m not really sold on the third floor routine, though that was unavoidable. Honestly, those are relatively minor concerns compared to the concerns and team holes many of the contending teams have.

12. GB

GB has confirmed that Ellie Downie, Alice Kinsella, Georgia-Mae Fenton, Taeja James, Becky Downie, and Amelie Morgan are the final six from which a team of five and one alternate will be selected, but the identity of that alternate is still unconfirmed. And it’s going to be a tough one.

On the one hand, you have Taeja James, whose whole career has been “and none for Taeja bye”-themed when it comes to being selected for teams. But in the absence of Fragapane (who is missing and presumed injured), you really do want another bigger floor score to lift that event up. On the other hand, you have Amelie Morgan, a solid AA option with a theoretically secure beam routine (also one of the more reliable DTYs), and it would be thematically consistent with Great Britain’s historical selection procedures to leave a solid beam routine you actually might need sitting on the sidelines—and instead just fall all over the place in the team final. What? Nothing.

Note that Morgan is also listed 6th on this non-alphabetical nominative list, a further cue that she may be in mind as the alternate. On the third hand, when was the last time these gymnasts even competed in a public setting with scores to look at, so how do we know anything?

13. Maria Kharenkova

Kharenkova’s fast-tracked citizenship change has allowed her to compete at worlds this year in the hope of qualifying to the Olympics. While her 48s and 49s at Russian Cup weren’t going to make a dent on the Russian team, they will put her in contention for that Olympic spot.

14. Germany

Germany’s team selection for its home worlds might have seemed the most straightforward of any of the major countries, with a core group of veterans in Bui, Schäfer, Seitz, Scheder, and Voss that has comfortably and consistently separated itself from the pack over the last several years.

Complicating matters has been the emergence of Emilie Petz, who won the all-around title at the most recent German trial. Scheder missed the same competition with injury, and unless that dynamic reverses itself back to normal, we could see Petz named to the team. Watch on Saturday for how Petz does to see if her race for an upset worlds spot remains on track.

15. Mai

End of notes.

We’ve known Japan’s team for a long time now, and the thing is…I do think Japan should get to the team final even without Mai since Teramoto and Hatakeda and Sugihara (sometimes) remain a legit scoring force. But it is not the sure thing it should be for a program at Japan’s level. Without Mai, Japan doesn’t look as strong as France or Italy or Canada and could be fighting it out with the likes of Great Britain, and Brazil, and Germany (and Netherlands and Belgium if they have big qualification days) for those last spots in TF.

16. No Dipa

Dipa Karmakar is not present on India’s nominative list, though with that trash beast of a federation, it will be a miracle if they send anyone to worlds.

17. Irina Sazonova

Iceland has included Irina Sazonova on its nominative list, a 2016 Olympian whom we have not seen compete for nearly a year and a half and who last went to worlds in 2017.

18. Crisan for the save

For a while this year, Romania was down to 2.75 senior elites and a Pringles tube full of dust to round out the squad, but the nominative roster does at least have Ioana Crisan returning to the fold. I mean, it’s still horrifying, but less so if she’s able to get close to her past level. I believe Crisan is the only Romanian besides Iordache in 2017 to have scored a 13 on bars this quadrennium.

19. Steingruber comeback is on

That’s all.

20. No Tonya Paulson

Paulson of Sweden took the Youth Olympic Games by storm last year, finishing 7th in the AA, but she does not appear on Sweden’s nominative roster. Presumably for Sweden reasons. We do have Jonna Adlerteg and Jessica Castles as SWE’s two representatives, and now that Adlerteg has returned to the AA, they’ll be in a fight with each other to see who can get the nominative spot to the Olympics through the all-around standings. Both are capable. Ideally, Castles would get in through the all-around and then Adlerteg would get in as well by making the bars final, but it’s a tough road to two spots.

21. The US women

I have nothing to say about the US women’s nominative roster of Biles, Lee, McCallum, Hurd, Wong, and Chiles because it’s just the AA standings from nationals and should not be dissected in the slightest. It means nothing.

We’re used to trying to read the tea leaves of the US nominative roster because Martha would totally use it as a mind game and leave off people she currently felt were too fat and/or disappointing, but with Tom, it looks like it’s just the nationals all-around standings and there’s no deeper strategy than that.

Now, if Tom also uses the selection camp all-around standings to name the worlds team, with no deeper strategy than that, then we’re going to have a real problem. But we’re not there yet.

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