The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – May 14, 2021

A. US Classic Roster

The roster for the US Classic has been released, and she’s a big old girl. This year, 42 seniors are registered for Classic, which is extremely high for an Olympic year. At this point, the crop of senior elites has usually been winnowed down to only those who are legitimately in contention for the team or are too young to have been destroyed. The last couple Olympic-year Classics had 24 and 21 seniors, so we’re nearly doubling what is typical, which can pretty much entirely be attributed to the Olympic delay and two whole years of new seniors who are just getting their first shot now.

The size of the senior roster has forced a format change and the addition of a second senior session. The junior session will now be Friday, May 21st at 6:45pm ET (FLO), so that the first senior session can replace it on the 22nd at 1:00pm ET, with the second senior session following at 7:00pm ET. Neither senior session will be on FLO, with the first session on Peacock and the second on NBCSN. So you’ll all survive.

Skye BlakelyCiena Alipio
Sophia ButlerSydney Barros
Skylar DraserSimone Biles
Addison FattaJade Carey
eMjae FrazierJordan Chiles
Laurie HernandezKayla DiCello
Shilese JonesAmari Drayton
Hailey KleinKara Eaker
Temple LandryAleah Finnegan
Emma MalabuyoKaris German
Grace McCallumMorgan Hurd
Konnor McClainAlonna Kratzer
Chellsie MemmelEmily Lee
Elle MuellerSunisa Lee
Katelyn RosenLauren Little
Jamison SearsRiley McCusker
Ava SiegfeldtZoe Miller
Faith TorrezKaylen Morgan
Mya WitteAnya Pilgrim
Lexi ZeissLyden Saltness
MyKayla Skinner
Leanne Wong

The only significant absences in this senior field are Olivia Greaves and Lilly Lippeatt, both of whom already have their nationals qualifying scores. I do like that they didn’t fully hand-curate the sessions (if they had, Hernandez and Memmel would have been in the TV group with the other specials) because it will slightly reduce our fury at who is being shown and who is not during Simone Grip Hour.

I’ll preview the competition in the main next week, but the big deal here will be the Memmel moment, making her return to competition with some serious stakes attached because as far as we know she does not have a qualifying score and will need to use her performance at this meet alone to try to avoid another 2012 situation. Based on the last camp scores we got, Hernandez would also be qualified to nationals only on vault, beam, and floor and would need to get an AA score, but we also didn’t get scores from the last camp, so…

B. British Trials

Last weekend brought the final events of the women’s British Olympic trials series, which upended some things because Georgia-Mae Fenton won the first day and Ondine Achampong won the second, just like you predicted. (Grains of salt: a grand total of four people competed the all-around on both days of this latest competition.) The hit routines from the second day only—sigh—are available on their YT.

Neither Downie competed following the death of their brother last week, so in stunningly reasonable fashion, British Gymnastics has delayed selecting the British team to allow Becky Downie a chance to schedule another time to complete her final trial. The same consideration was extended to Ellie, but she decided to pass. It’s going to be very strange to see a British Olympic team without Ellie Downie, their best gymnast the entire quad.

If Becky hits bars to her capability in her final trials, there still should be a place for her on the highest-scoring British team, not to mention that would reconfirm her status as the team’s best individual medal hope.

Based on the six trials results so far and Euros, the peak best-scoring team would be Gadirova2, Kinsella, and Fenton, but a big bars score for Becky would see her replace Fenton on that highest-scoring-potential team. Morgan is also quite close and a very reasonable choice, but a lower vault difficulty tends to put her down in team permutations compared to what Fenton did at the last trials or what Kinsella did earlier in the year at previous trials, despite Morgan’s superior showing at Euros.

Another consideration may be that Jennifer Gadirova’s floor score at the most recent trials was quite low, so if she’s not fully back on floor yet, there may be concern over putting her on the same team as Becky. Almost like it’s not so helpful to try to pick a team based on people’s progress or health in early May.

C. Pan Ams

The Pan American Championships are still a go for Rio the first weekend of June, but Canada has decided to withdraw. That means Canada won’t have an opportunity to gain a +1 in addition to its four-woman team or an additional individual man to go along with Rene Cournoyer. Brazil will be especially optimistic about its chances to get a second woman into the Olympics now. Jessica Lopez is also confirmed on the competitors list.

The current plan for the US men is to show up for qualification—when the +1 Olympic spots will be decided—and then immediately get out of town before finals.

USAG just casually hasn’t announced the men’s team, even though we know it must have been selected ages ago because Whittenburg mentioned on social media that he was the alternate, but anyway, the team is Bock, Juda, Loos, and Guimaraes. They will go to Pan Ams to try to earn an Olympic spot that will almost surely be given to none of them.

D. Up Next


This weekend brings us the NHK Cup, the end of the road for Japanese Olympic team selection. The results of the NHK Cup will be combined with the two days of competition from All-Japan, and the top 3 in the all-around will automatically make Japan’s women’s team.

Then, among the people who finish 4th-8th in the all-around, their scores will be added to the qualifying three to see who creates the best team score, provided that individual contributes to the team total on at least two events. If no one fulfills that, then the 4th-place AAer will be selected to round out the team. Although, the selection procedures also say that the 4th spot can go to someone “recommended by the head coach.” Where was that in 2019, one might ask.

Murakami Mai and Hatakeda Hitomi are already in excellent shape heading into NHK, while Hiraiwa Yuna and Sugihara Aiko need solid competitions to confirm their spots, and Teramoto Asuka needs to nail it (with a big vault especially) to get back in the mix. To me, it’s incumbent upon Hiraiwa to stay top three to get an automatic spot, because otherwise the traditional team of Murakami, Hatakeda, Sugihara, and Teramoto…still pretty much looks like the best-scoring group. But when has Japanese selection ever matched what I thought was logical.

Women’s competition is on May 15th at 1:15pm local time (12:15am ET/9:15pm PT), with men’s competition on May 16th at 12:10pm local time (11:10pm ET/8:10pm PT). Live scores will be here.

The current situation for the men’s team is a little funkier because there are so many more opportunities for things to go wrong, but Hashimoto Daiki’s huge performance from the second day of All-Japan has put him in the best position, ahead of Tanigawa Wataru and Kaya Kazuma (all three of whom I’d want on my team). But there are basically 700 people who can jump into looking like realistic contenders with a good day at NHK.

L10 Nationals

The former JO Nationals is now known as the Developmental Program National Championships (not to be confused with developmental camps for prospective elites, because USAG has about three words and must name all things the same thing). The meet will run this weekend with junior and senior A, B, and C age groups on Saturday, and junior and senior D, E, and F age groups on Sunday. I’ll have a page for the results with the seniors’ college commitments, which is really the only reason to pay attention to it.

E. GymCastic

There was a special guest at the women's national team camp this week. How do we feel about this? And what do we hope was said? Morgan Hurd discussed her potentially misdiagnosed knee injury in the run up to the Tokyo Olympics. Bart Deurloo announced his retirement. We pay tribute. NCAA Week 5 Friday featured the most 10s given out in a single day in college gymnastics in 19 years. Spencer is……going to be fine. We discuss which 10s might have been the realest, the problem with going stick-blind, and bring Correct or Corrupt to a possible 10 that wasn't. Plus, feedback on how judges get assigned to meets, how receipts would change everything, the judging of Suni Lee's vault, and when/why handstands became the be-all, end-all of bars Jessica has some awards of the week, an ode to Jordan Chiles, a score protest to honor, and some ideas for future post-routine celebrations SURVEY We want your opinion! Tell us what you think here. EXTRA CLUB CONTENT Club Gym Nerd members can watch the video version of the show, join us for live podcasts once a week, get extended and early releases of interviews, and have early access to live show tickets. Please login to your Club Gym Nerd account to watch this episode. Not a member? Join here. JOIN CLUB GYM NERD Join Club Gym Nerd (or give it as a gift!) for access to weekly Behind the Scenes episodes. Club Gym Nerd members can watch the podcast being recorded and see some of the gymnastics we discuss, plus get access to all of our exclusive interviews and Behind The Scenes episodes. Week One of College & Cocktails: The Friday Night NCAA Gymnastics Post-Meet Show is available to sample (even if you aren't a Club Gym Nerd member yet). Watch or listen here. Buy our awesome clothing and gifts here. We have a Ukraine Fundraiser design, all proceeds go to the CARE Ukraine Crisis fund. RELATED EPISODES & RESOURCES College & Cocktails: UCLA at Utah What Happens in the Air, Stays in the Air NCAA Gymnastics with Vanessa Atler College & Cocktails: Minnesota at Iowa with Evan Heiter Can You Count to 3? College & Cocktails: Arkansas at Auburn College & Cocktails: Dial 1-800-Kazakhstan College Gymnastics Is Back College & Cocktails: Auburn at Florida Project K Episode 2 Project K Episode 1 Sitting in Pits Made of Mattresses Gymnastics History and Code of Points Archive from Uncle Tim MORE WAYS TO LISTEN HERE  
  1. 10-A-PALOOZA
  2. What Happens in the Air, Stays in the Air
  3. NCAA Gymnastics with Vanessa Atler
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