The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – May 26, 2021

A. Who’s Going to the Olympics?

The women’s competition at the African Championships finished up earlier today, giving us two brand new Olympians to add to the pile. In an upset, Zeina Ibrahim Sharaf of Egypt won the competition to get an Olympic spot over her countrywoman Farah Hussein, who ended up in second. Both had some strong moments early in the day with Ibrahim looking very poised on beam, and Hussein having to wait 784 hours for her own beam routine before pulling out a confident set without major error. Going into the final rotation on vault, Ibrahim led Hussein by just 0.3, so it could have gone either way, but Hussein crashed her Yfull while Ibrahim landed hers, giving the competition to Ibrahim.

Because it’s just one per country, Farah Hussein will not get an Olympic spot, nor will Egypt’s Jana Mahmoud, who finished in 3rd place. The second Olympic spot on offer from the African Championships instead goes to Naveen Daries of South Africa, who fell on all four routines she attempted to finish 4th in the all-around but nonetheless gets an Olympic spot because no one (who wasn’t from Egypt) did better than her.

For fans of negative scores, we did have some at this competition, but it looks like they just showed up as zeroes on the final standings.

Ibrahim and Daries will be the second Olympians from their countries as Mandy Mohamed of Egypt and Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa already qualified at 2019 worlds.

The men’s competition is tomorrow.

This week also brought the announcement of four more Olympians on the men’s side, with Great Britain naming its team of James Hall, Joe Fraser, Giarnni Regini-Moran, and Max Whitlock.

The only member of the 2019 worlds team who did not make this squad was Dom Cunningham, who is understandably having his moment about it, but his results from the various trials this year really weren’t putting him in the highest-scoring team permutations, where Regini-Moran has passed him as the most useful FX/VT contributor, to join their typical top AAer James Hall, PB world champion Fraser, and Whitlock’s pommel horse.

Becky Downie also competed in her individual trial redo. I watch that first bars routine and say, “That’s all I needed. Put her on that team.”

The most sensible-seeming team to me that this point (which means it won’t happen) is the Gadirovas, Kinsella, and Downie. With the Gadirovas and Kinsella, you should be pretty content with the level of the vault, beam, and floor rotations. Especially if you assume Jennifer Gadirova gets back to her normal level by the time of the actual Olympics (she wasn’t quite there yet at the final trial), then those three provide basically your best three possible routines on VT/BB/FX. So then you’re just looking for the best bars routine you can to supplement that trio. Enter Becky Downie.

B. Hires and Retires

Washington announced that perennial which-big-program-is-going-to-snatch-her Jen Llewellyn has been hired as the team’s newest head coach following the departure of Elise Ray last preseason and the interim season from Ralph Rosso. Immediately after she was done competing at Oregon State, Llewellyn (Kesler) was unexpectedly thrust into the head coach position at Lindenwood for the team’s inaugural season and has been in charge ever since, enjoying her best result in 2019 when Lindenwood became one of the rare DII teams to advance to regionals.

In other developments, LSU vault coach Bob Moore—who has been in that position for 718 years and coached 4.57m national vault champions—has announced his retirement, leaving an opening on the LSU staff.

The elite world also saw a retirement this week with Marvin Kimble announcing that he’s done and won’t pursue Nationals/Trials this year following a wrist injury. Kimble had his best run at the beginning of this quad, making the 2017 worlds team thanks to his PB and HB ability and ultimately coming just 0.033 from the high bar final.

C. Meet Results

The results from the second day of Canadian Championships have now been released, with Ellie Black dominating day 2 as was foretold to pad her advantage to a casual 4.5 points over two days of competition. Brand new upstart Ava Stewart had a rougher time on day 2—everywhere but bars, where she excelled—but still managed to finish second on the day and retain that position in the overall standings.

The shakeup came in third place. Brooklyn Moors had been in third after the first day, but after receiving just an 8.600 on bars for her second performance, she fell to 8th position (despite the top score on floor), allowing Laurie Denommee to take the overall bronze medal.

Rose Woo did not compete the AA (did add vault on the second day) but hit both beam and bars to finish 3rd BB and 4th UB overall. Shallon Olsen hung on for the vault title, but finished just 11th in the all-around. Also note that veteran Jessica Dowling nailed bars and beam on the second day for 13.4s. Just saying.

Ana Padurariu provided an update that she got some nasty ankle surgery in the fall and is focusing on getting healthy for UCLA next season. Which succkkkkksss because if she weren’t injured she would be on this Olympic team.

So, where do we stand with the Canadian team? In a big old mess? Probably. Dude, this was supposed to be the easiest team to pick. Basically, Ellie Black is obviously a lock, Ava Stewart has probably earned it based on her performances this year, and then shrugggg?

If you take peak scores over the two days, you end up with a highest-scoring team of Black, Stewart, Moors, and Rose Woo. That’s sort of my default group, and I don’t think that one jank-o bars routine from Moors on the second day of nationals suddenly destroys her position.

But then what of Shallon Olsen? At nationals, her vault score was not enough to pick up the other events to get her onto the highest-scoring team, but the potential for a vault medal is…sort of appealing. Here, she did only barely outscore Ellie Black on the 2-vault rankings, but she has the historical medal pedigree in her corner. Plus the fact that her vault is a consistent and reliable score, as opposed to taking someone for a different event where she might fall.

A very legitimate strategy for Canada would be to say, “Hey, we’re probs not winning a team medal, so let’s maximize chances at individual medals and bring Olsen for vault, Moors for floor, Ellie Black for Ellie Black, and Ava Stewart because she earned it based on her AA performances this year.”

Rounding things up from last weekend’s Australian Championships, Georgia Godwin consolidated her day 1 lead to dominate the final standings, with new Olympic qualifier Emily Whitehead retaining her second-place position on the final day as well, and Breanna Scott taking third.

And for you Heath Bars out there, he followed up his bronze result in the all-around with a silver medal on high bar.

D. Future Schedule

This weekend is a little light compared to how things will be in June as teams start to get finalized and nations hold their last competitions, but we do have the Varna World Cup. Qualification is Thursday and Friday, finals on Saturday and Sunday, with all sessions starting at 2:00pm local time (7am ET, 4am PT). It looks like finals are on the Olympic Channel schedule for those of you in the US.

As is typical for the challenge cups in Europe, it’s not a bad field, particularly on the men’s side. High bar should be downright world class with Srbic, and Nory all on the list. On the women’s side, we thought we were going to get a Gerasimova/Vorona possible Olympic-decision showdown, but Russia has changed approach to make this more of a “lovely parting gifts” assignment for Perebinosova, Komnova, and Zubova.

There are no Olympic implications associated with the Varna World Cup—it’s just a regular ol’ world cup with Chuso and friends—which reignites the oddness that we’re holding these other world cup events but there has still been no news about Doha, the alleged final apparatus Olympic qualifier.

To me, time has expired. We’re getting pretty close to the deadline now, and if you haven’t even announced dates for the competition, let alone had a roster registration period or anything like that, how is it even supposed to happen?

Do I even bother asking, “Why didn’t you just turn Varna into the final Olympic apparatus qualifier?” or is it not worth the lost sanity?

For the weekend after, things get BUSY, with the US Championships, Pan Ams Olympic spots, the Cairo World Cup, German Nationals, and French Nationals.

Here’s a little taste (US time).

Thursday, June 3
4:00am ET/1:00am PT – Cairo World Cup, Women’s Q, Day 1
10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Cairo World Cup, Men’s Q, Day 1
10:30am ET/7:30am PT – German Women’s All-Around
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT – US Junior Men, Day 1
7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT – US Senior Men, Day 1

Friday, June 4
4:00am ET/1:00am PT – Cairo World Cup, Women’s Q, Day 2
8:30am ET/5:30am PT – German Men’s All-Around
10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Cairo World Cup, Men’s Q, Day 2
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT – US Junior Women, Day 1
3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT – Men’s Pan Ams (USA/Brazil subdivision)
7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT – US Senior Women, Day 1
11:00pm ET/8:00pm PT – Japan Event Championships Qualifying Part 1

Saturday, June 5
1:40am ET/10:40pm PT – Japan Event Championships Qualifying Part 2
5:30am ET/2:30am PT – German Event Finals, Day 1
8:00am ET/5:00am PT – French Men’s & Women’s All-Around
10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Cairo World Cup Event Finals, Day 1
2:00pm ET/11:00am PT – US Junior Men, Day 2
3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT – Women’s Pan Ams (Brazil subdivision)
7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT – US Senior Men, Day 2
10:20pm ET/7:20pm PT – Japan Event Championships Finals Part 1

Sunday, June 6
1:20am ET/10:20pm PT – Japan Event Championships Finals Part 2
5:30am ET/2:30am PT – German Event Finals, Day 2
8:00am ET/5:00am PT – French Event Finals
9:00am ET/6:00am PT – Pan Ams Event Finals
10:00am ET/7:00am PT – Cairo World Cup Event Finals, Day 2
1:00pm ET/10:00am PT – US Junior Women, Day 2
6:30pm ET/3:30pm PT – US Senior Women, Day 2

And then right after that, Russian Cup starts.

(Note: Germany will also have a final trial event on June 12th.)

E. GymCastic

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