The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – January 24, 2020

A. American Cup Roster

The full American Cup roster has (finally?) been revealed, so let’s get into it.

RULES: The countries that finish in the top 3 in total ranking points at the end of the all-around world cup series in 2020 get an extra Olympic spot. Which is why this is one of the better fields the American Cup has seen in a long time, particularly for the men.

The US is bringing its biggest guns to the men’s competition with Mikulak and Moldauer both on the list. There really wasn’t much of a choice, at least with Mikulak, because the competition is going to be so steep for these Olympic spots. Russia has broken its American Cup embargo and will send Nikita Nagornyy, who obviously enters as the favorite, while Ukraine is sending Oleg Verniaiev, who can always win depending on the state of himself, China is sending Deng Shudi, and Japan is sending Daiki Hashimoto, the future king of gymnastics. It’s a tough group.

Even with Mikulak, there’s no guarantee that the US gets a ton of ranking points out of this field, but of course Mikulak is also capable of a top finish if he has one of his good ones. I was slightly surprised to see Moldauer announced as the wildcard entrant simply because only the main entrant from the host nation is eligible to receive world cup ranking points, while the wildcard’s results aren’t used for those purposes. (For instance last year in Stuttgart, Seitz finished 3rd and Bui finished 7th, but since Seitz was the wildcard, Germany got ranking points for Bui’s finish.) I thought they might have wanted to preserve Moldauer, as the nation’s #2 AAer, for events where his score could help the US get ranking points.

But also American Cup? I guess?

In addition, the men’s field includes Lee Chih-Kai, James Hall, Pablo Brägger, Nestor Abad, Andreas Toba, and Diogo Soares—so there are significant figures and ranking-point contenders even among the people I didn’t mention at the beginning. A 13th competitor is still to be announced, a spot that should belong to South Korea if they choose to accept it, but would otherwise go to Italy.

There’s a different dynamic at play in the women’s field because the US is so strongly favored to win the series—and because the group is not quite as deep. Morgan Hurd will be the primary US competitor with Kayla Di Cello announced as the wild card, a pretty typical “get the new one some senior experience” choice.

On that note, however, I was a bit surprised to see Russia sending Lilia Akhaimova as its choice rather than some of those amazing new seniors like Urazova or Gerasimova, athletes who theoretically would make Russia favorites for the second Olympic spot from the AA world cups, after the US. Last year, Canada finished among the top 3 countries in the AA standings, though Ellie Black’s injury from worlds is keeping her out of this meet, and while that does mean we all get to be blessed by Brooklyn Moors instead, it also means a big AA finish is not a sure thing for Canada. And don’t even get me started on Japan not sending Mai. Is this a try?

What I’m saying is, this roster will make other countries feel like they’re totally in this. Italy, for instance, is sending Giorgia Villa. With a hit meet, I’d favor her for the best non-American finish. We also have a few no-shows on the women’s side with the Netherlands and Belgium being like, “Yeah, we’re not getting that Olympic spot,” meaning Australia and Ukraine have been given the opportunity to participate. (Brazil also must have declined a spot to allow Ukraine in, which is a bit surprising because…Flavia.) Australia is sending Godwin and Ukraine is sending Varinska, both of whom are 54-able all-arounders who could do quite well among this field of…nearly entirely 54-able all-arounders with Hitomi Hatakeda, and Amelie Morgan, and Zhang Jin, and Sarah Voss, and Roxana Popa, and Claire Pontlevoy rounding out the group.

As a whole, it’s a really even roster, which could lead to some wackiness in the final results.

B. Melbourne Roster

The nominative roster has also been released for February’s Melbourne world cup—the 6th of the 8 events in the apparatus world cup series.

The big news there is Jade Carey’s presence on the roster, which should confirm that there have been no “do I want to go for the team instead?” second thoughts as she’s going to Melbourne to rack up more points—a prospect made easier by top challenger Yu Linmin’s absence. Yu won Stuttgurt last fall and was positioning herself for an assault on Carey’s spot at the top of the vault rankings, but now Yu won’t get any points from Melbourne, while Carey could get herself to the maximum of 90 points with a victory.

Even if Carey does get to 90, she could still be tied by others also getting to 90 at subsequent events (someone like Yu) (“Never mind I’ll find, someone like Yu……”), but she would nearly have the Olympic spot sewn up with a win in Melbourne. A win is not a given as she’ll have to defeat vaulters like Paseka and Devillard and Qi Qi, but consider Carey the favorite.

Current bars favorite Fan Yilin is not on the roster, allowing a slight opening for spoiler contender Anastasia Iliankova to get in the mix with a win (or at least get herself to 2nd place, which could be significant if China finishes first on more than one apparatus).

Most surprisingly, serious beam-spot contender Emma Nedov is not on the roster for her home-nation world cup event, which would have been a huge opportunity for her to rack up some points. Very few of the other beam contenders are in attendance here either, which means beam will remain the least defined of the women’s events, even after Melbourne. That also means that China’s two beam entrants—new seniors Ou Yushan and Guan Chenchen—are kind of still in this even though Melbourne will be their first competitions in the series and they have only exactly 3 events in which to get points.

Because Carey is currently in a better position to take the vault spot than the floor spot, Lara Mori and Vanessa Ferrari are currently in an intra-country fight to be best positioned to take advantage of that and get the individual Olympic spot there, and both are on the roster for Melbourne.

For the men, the most exciting race continues to be high bar, where Epke is back on the list for Melbourne to try to catch Miyachi, who won Stuttgart in Epke’s absence and is also slated to compete in Melbourne. It remains quite possible that we’ll end with both athletes on 90 points, having to go to the highest-total-score tiebreak. Vladislav Poliashov also has a chance to get himself into a strong position on PB, vault is a total free-for-all, and even though Weng Hao leads PH, he’s in danger of losing the intra-country tiebreak to Liu Yang (rings), which means second place on horse is significant, and there are still a ton of contenders for that.

Petrounias is also attempting in a last-ditch push for the Olympics and must win the rings title in Melbourne, otherwise he’ll be out of contention.

(A note: I took down the page I used to have up on the site detailing the current Olympic apparatus qualification rankings because I was operating under the impression that all athletes who qualified to the Olympics at 2019 worlds would have their points from previous apparatus world cups redistributed to eligible athletes who finished behind them. But, the actual rules mention only those who qualified as part of a team having their points redistributed, making no reference at all to those who qualified in the all-around or through event finals. To redistribute points from only the team athletes and not the others makes literally no sense as a concept, but it’s what the documents say, so I’m just kind of “we’ll see…”-ing it for now.)

C. Non-roster things

-Sunisa Lee posted a training clip of a Nabieva 1/2 to Yezhova, followed by a Maloney to Gienger. It’s hard to know how this would change her start value if it were to make it into the routine (and all be connected) as we don’t know what would be kept and what would go, but we can presume that the Nabieva 1/2 will be an H, which adds a tenth at the very least.

-Isabela Onyshko has informed us that she will be going to Stanford next season—as part of the same class as Irina Alexeeva. So there’s REALLY no bars excuse next season.

-Laurie Hernandez posted a clip of herself doing a double tuck on floor to let you know that there are levels of accomplishment in between “no gymnastics” and “I’m on the Olympic team.”

-Oh. Also. John Geddert’s house and Twistars were raided by the Michigan attorney general’s office. Would you look at that.

…Did they confiscate that stupid necklace?

-Metroplex includes an elite qualifier this weekend in addition to the college meet, and there’s such a crap-ton of competitors in the elite optionals division (including Hopes athletes) that they had to split it into five sessions over two days.

D. GymCastic

We’ve got a lot. First, our regular episode of the week, in which Jessica discusses her time at the national team training camp, what she learned in athlete interviews, and the upgrades she saw. And also I rant about NCAA scoring.

And if you’re a Club Gym Nerd member (which I highly recommend), we have full daily episodes for you from camp featuring the interviews with Simone and Laurie.

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