The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

The Big Three…and Me?

As the Olympic Trials approach with the speed of molasses (more than a week?!?!?!), the only thing becoming clearer is that nobody knows what the hell we’re supposed to do about this 4th team spot.

To illustrate that, today’s Score Corner takes a look at the average score across two days of the national championship and how each contender slots into a 3-up, team-score scenario with Biles, Lee, and Chiles already in place.

Every single option ends up within 6 tenths of each other. Fun!

VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
MyKayla Skinner14.95013.62512.80013.375
45.55044.35042.92542.300175.125
VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Shilese Jones14.92514.35012.10012.875
45.52544.35042.92542.300175.100

In the event that Biles, Lee, and Chiles produce three compelling scores on bars, beam, and floor, those who can improve upon the Sunisa Lee vault number are going to add the most to the team, which is why we see those Skinner and Jones teams as producing the highest score.

In reality, I would be quite surprised if it ends up working out this way as I expect the ability to contribute a higher floor score, as well as real all-around options as needed, will be valued in selection. But, this is what we have from nationals.

VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Kayla DiCello14.52513.22512.60014.050
45.12544.35042.92542.625175.025
VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Leanne Wong14.65013.35013.17513.900
45.25044.35042.92542.475175.000

The next bunch of teams, with DiCello and Wong, comprises those who can add a little bit on vault and a little bit on floor. In this scenario, that’s not quite as beneficial as those who add a bigger vault number, but in practice this approach may be more treasured for its greater breadth of possible contribution (with Wong also harboring the potential to be able to increase that beam number if she were to, like, hit).

VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Grace McCallum14.55013.10014.20012.925
45.15044.35043.12542.300174.925

The fact that this team is so close to the others is an encouraging prospect for McCallum because it’s based in no small part on her beam—the only event she has never been called upon to contribute in a world team final. Even moderate improvement on the remaining events at trials could put her in the highest-scoring group.

VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Riley McCusker14.875
44.95044.70042.92542.300174.875

The average scores from nationals also paint an encouraging picture for McCusker because she is so close based on the strength of only one routine. Adding beam for a 14.250 would get her right up there, a score we’ve seen her achieve on plenty of occasions domestically before.

VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Skye Blakely14.62513.27513.50013.375
45.22544.35042.92542.300174.800
VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Jade Carey14.62513.77513.15013.450
45.22544.35042.92542.300174.800

I’ve chosen to include Carey here—even though she mostly confirmed she “has every intention” of taking the individual spot—for the sake of comparison.

Right now, Blakely and Carey are in the domain of those who just add a little bit of vault, but of course they’re quite different athletes with different strengths in real life. If Blakely were actually to influence a team score, it would be because of her beam, while Carey’s main gambit will be vault and potentially floor (though it’s not a given that her floor score is going to be high).

If Carey upgrades back to her normal vaults, she has a fair shot of being on the highest-scoring team of four at trials, though of course having her in the individual spot and getting six Olympians is a far better maximization of US medal chances than having her scores contributing a couple more tenths to a team that’s going to win anyway.

VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Amari Drayton14.42513.37512.85012.900
45.02544.35042.92542.300174.600
VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Emily Lee14.37512.60013.75013.450
44.97544.35042.92542.300174.550
VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Kara Eaker13.92513.30013.95013.350
44.95044.35042.92542.300174.525
VTUBBBFX
Simone Biles15.67514.72514.62514.800
Sunisa Lee14.35015.10014.30013.725
Jordan Chiles14.92514.52514.00013.775
Emma Malabuyo14.07513.90013.77513.475
44.95044.35042.92542.300174.525

These are the teams adding little to none over the baseline score of 174.525 that the first three provide on their own, though of course Malabuyo’s beam 14.600 from nationals—and to a lesser extent Eaker’s 14.200—would add a hearty chunk to the average-based team score if maintained over two days.

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