Things Are Happening – September 28, 2021

A. Chinese National Games

The Chinese National Games concluded over the weekend, with prospective worlds team member Wei Xiaoyuan taking the all-around title in a very tight race, just ahead of Ou Yushan and Luo Rui in 2nd and 3rd. Both Wei and Luo are on China’s nominative worlds team and should only have secured their positions with their performances at this competition, especially with so many of the other top athletes intending to retire after this meet. Meanwhile, Olympians Lu Yufei and Zhang Jin took 4th and 5th place, while Tang Xijing had a rough one with multiple misses, finishing in 13th.

In the women’s event finals, vault was a terror, with Yu Linmin winning the title despite doing everything except fall on her Cheng.

Deng Yalan nearly had it after a strong DTT, but a fall on her rudi took her down to second, and Qi Qi finished third with simpler, cleaner vaults.

On bars, Fan Yilin took another title at what is presumed to be her farewell competition, especially given her emotional reaction upon finishing her routine. Lu Yufei won silver, while bronze proved quite controversial with Wei Xiaoyuan taking the medal despite her coach clearly touching her as she tried to catch her Van Leeuwen, a major deduction that was not reflected in the final score.

The beam final brought a huge surprise, as a packed field including Guan Chenchen, Ou Yushan, Li Shijia, and Lu Yufei was defeated by new senior Zhou Yaqin, who achieved the impossible—getting her connections—to sneak into the gold position by a whisker ahead of Ou Yushan in second and junior Qiu Qiyuan in 3rd. Ou Yushan came back in the next final to get her gold medal with an Olympic-redemption floor routine, placing ahead of Zou Tong and He Licheng. Qi Qi and Wei Xiaoyuan both missed in the floor final.

In the men’s competition, Xiao Ruoteng said, “I haven’t been replaced YET,” beating Zhang Boheng by less than a tenth to take the all-around title. Sun Wei ended up in third, and worlds nominee Shi Cong finished 4th with 14s on every apparatus. Those who have been named to the prospective worlds team as event-specific contenders all confirmed their statuses, with Weng Hao winning pommel horse, Huang Mingqi winning vault, Lan Xingyu scoring 15.100 and finishing 2nd on rings behind the Olympic champion Liu, and Hu Xuwei winning high bar.

B. Worlds News

As of yesterday, the FIG has reopened the nominative registration process for worlds, with the current window now closing on October 4th. So I would guess we won’t get anything comprehensive in the roster department until then.

In terms of information we do have, the work plan has confirmed that there will be an event final touch warmup at worlds this year. The FIG approved the change earlier this month, but it was unclear at that point when it would go into effect. It’s now. In finals, the first four athletes will now get a touch warmup and compete, and then the second group of finalists will get their touch warmup.

C. Worlds Teams

It’s Tuesday, so Claudia Fragapane is injured again and has had to withdraw from the British team for worlds. No replacement has yet been named to join Becky Downie, Georgia-Mae Fenton, and Ruby Stacey on the squad. Taeja James is the only other gymnast who competed at the worlds trial.

Germany will be holding its second women’s trial for worlds on October 2nd. Pauline Schäfer, the lone Olympian who is back and trying for the team, competed only beam at the first trial and scored 13.250. The others going for worlds are Aiyu Zhu, Lona Häcker, Emma Malewski, and Lea Quass. Quass won the all-around at the first trial, though no one broke 50.

Meanwhile, the woe of how early the FIG conducts the draw for worlds has reared its ugly head again. Given Panama withdrawing and both Brazil and Ireland electing to send only one WAG athlete, subdivision 9 has already been reduced to just six gymnasts: the Mexico team, Rebeca Andrade, and Emma Slevin. Andrade and Slevin will both have rotation groups all to themselves. And then the FIG is like, “We need to reduce the length of the meet. But how?!?!?!” I have an idea…

D. US Women’s Camp

The US women held a pre-worlds-this-isn’t-a-selection-camp camp last week with 9 seniors in attendance: Ciena Alipio, Skye Blakely, Kayla DiCello, Amari Drayton, Addison Fatta, eMjae Frazier, Olivia Greaves, Ava Siegfeldt, and Leanne Wong. Presumably this will be the group trying for worlds at the actual selection camp on October 8th and 9th, though Konnor McClain has also expressed the intent to go for it.

As we’ve learned from the everything, it’s a fool’s game to try to map pre-Olympic level onto the period post-Olympics because we don’t know what the training status has been, but you would imagine DiCello and Wong will be the frontrunners for the team, given normalcy. Blakely and McClain should be in the mix as well given their scoring potential on beam, but with only three gymnasts able to do each event at worlds, that could get a little tricky. There’s no one in this group you’d take for a vault final and, outside the top all-arounders, there’s not a lot of scoring potential to be expected on floor, especially if they paid attention to what happened at the Olympics. (Ron Howard: “They didn’t”). So ideally you’d want to stack the team with beamers, yet the format doesn’t really allow it. That’s why, theoretically, Olivia Greaves’ ability on bars would fit very well onto a squad of four here, but she’s a big wildcard because we don’t know her level at this point.

Now, throw out everything I said in the previous paragraph because it’s painfully likely that they’re just going to take the top four all-arounders from camp regardless of what makes sense. You know there’s going to be some garbage like naming Skye Blakely to the team and then not having her do beam at worlds because there aren’t enough beam spots and she finished fourth all-around at camp or something. You know it. This is the confidence I have in the US women’s national team program at this point.

Anyway, by the actual selection procedures, only the all-around winner from day 1 of camp automatically gets a spot, and the rest of the team is up to the selection committee.

Things Are Happening – September 22, 2021

This was supposed to be about the nominative rosters for worlds, but since the FIG hasn’t released them yet following the September 20th deadline (tick tock, enemy), here are some notes on various things.

A. Worlds teams we do have

Following two worlds trials, the Dutch women’s team has been named as Vera Van Pol, Sanne Veerman, Naomi Visser, and Elze Geurts. While most of the team seemed straightforward based on the trials, there was some concern over whether Geurts—who posted the top AA score back at the first Olympic trial but didn’t make the team—would be named since she had to withdraw from the second worlds trial midway through, but she will appear at worlds. “So now you can all shut up about it,” said the Netherlands.

Canada’s women’s team will be Rose Woo, Cassie Lee, Laurie Denommee, and Audrey Rousseau. It’s nice to see Rose Woo on the team as she had a good argument for the Olympic team had Canada elected to focus on team score rather than event prospects. On the men’s team, look for Felix Dolci to do some actual things among this field at worlds.

France will send three women to worlds: Coline Devillard, Carolann Heduit, and Celia Serber. This is a prime opportunity for Devillard to challenge for a worlds medal on the one occasion each quad when she doesn’t get left off the squad because because she can’t contribute other events to a team score.

B. Chinese National Games

We’re currently in the midst of Chinese National Games. Qualification and team finals have been completed, with AA and event finals still to come later this week.

Returning to the all-around after not being able to compete floor (or successfully compete her DTY) at the Olympics, Ou Yushan won qualification, followed closely by Wei Xiaoyuan and Lu Yufei. Tang Xijing qualified in 5th—though did go on to have the highest AA score of anyone in the team final, so keep an eye on that. It was 2023 senior Qiu Qiyuan who qualified ahead of Tang in 4th, establishing herself as this fall’s exciting new junior who has never breathed pollution and hasn’t ruined your life yet.

Ou Yushan also featured on the Guangdong team that cruised to the title, though she struggled in the TF and it was down to Luo Rui to carry the province with her 55 in the all-around.

Both Wei Xiaoyuan and Luo Rui appear on China’s nominative roster for worlds, along with Li Shijia who qualified into the beam final in first place in her return from injury, and Qi Qi. So basically all the next gymnasts in line after the Olympic team.

The women’s AA will be at 3:00am ET/12:00am PT on Friday morning for those of us in the US, with event finals following the next two days and beginning at 2:30am ET/11:30pm PT. Streaming is here.

On the men’s side, Zhang Boheng has enjoyed a “leave THIS off the Olympic team, you turd-turtles” competition so far and is establishing himself as a medal favorite in the AA for worlds.

C. Romania

At Romanian Nationals, 2023 senior Amalia Puflea and 2022 senior Ana Maria Barbosu dominated proceedings with real competitive grown-up scores. Barbosu got a 14.000 on bars both days of competition. Bars. That is all.

D. NCAA changes

At its annual “let’s try to fix things, but not all of them, and not that well” meeting, the NCAA women’s committee resolved to add a rest day to the schedule for regionals and nationals. Now, the first and second rounds at regionals will be Wednesday-Thursday, with the regional final on Saturday. At nationals, the semifinals will be on Thursday, with the championship on Saturday.

This will lead to more stupid mid-week meets at terrible times that no one can watch even though it’s postseason elimination, but it’s a necessary change in the interest of athlete non-death. Next, we have to get them to hold the regional meets at better and staggered times instead of all at once (and establish that postseason meets can be held on Sundays, but don’t hold your breath for that one).

The committee has also added a new two-minute medical evaluation period if a gymnast gets injured mid-routine, after which they may still resume their routine if deemed able. Currently, athletes only have the fall-remount time on bars and beam to figure out if they still have a foot or not, and there is no mechanism to evaluate an injury on floor and still continue (if you stop and the trainer comes out, your routine is done). So this is better. Though I’m sure still full of problems. Is two minutes enough? Who’s getting the final word as to whether the two minutes can be invoked or not? How many minutes are you allowing for the inevitable music restart problems after you stop a floor routine?

US Men’s Worlds Team Named

Following two days of selection camp—contested by nearly 4 and a half gymnasts—the US men have named their team for the World Championships of Exhaustion, set for next month in Japan. Making the team were Yul Moldauer, Alec Yoder, Stephen Nedoroscik, Donnell Whittenburg, Alex Diab, and Brody Malone.

The only two athletes who competed at the trial but did not make the team were Cameron Bock and Akash Modi, who will default to non-traveling alternate status.

Since we’re all far too burnt out from the controversy of the various Olympic team selections, I found it very considerate that the US men’s program selected an utterly non-controversial team here, at least given the collection of athletes who appeared at camp.

Moldauer qualified for the squad automatically by winning the two-day all-around standings, defeating Bock (the only other person who attempted the all-around) by a bit under a point and a half. Moldauer had been trailing after day 1’s human tragedy of gymnastics where everyone fell 16 times on every single routine and Bock won with a 76, but both athletes pulled it back on the second day, with Moldauer’s 83.250 enough to give himself the win.

Also qualifying automatically were Alec Yoder and Stephen Nedoroscik through their pommel horse performances. Any athlete automatically made the team if he achieved a one-day score on any event that would have won a medal at the Olympics (yes, we all acknowledge that these scores were in no way comparable to Olympic scoring), and Yoder’s 15s both days and Nedoroscik’s 15.5 on the second day both achieved that.

In the burnt out minefield of fatigue that was this selection camp, the excellence of Yoder and Nedoroscik’s pommel horse work on both days stood out.

A fourth automatic spot, and the surprise of the group, went to Donnell Whittenburg thanks to his day 2 vault performance. The first day was disastrous, with Whittenburg falling on floor for 12.000 and then going on to miss both of his vaults. If he had repeated that performance on the second day, I imagine Bock would have made the team in his place. Instead, Whittenburg elected to focus exclusively on vault for day 2 and hit both his Ri Se Gwang (6.0 D) and his Roche (5.2 D) for an average of 14.800, which was just enough to get him on the team automatically.

Alex Diab only barely missed automatic qualification with his very strong rings performances, particularly on day 2 when he stuck his dismount, so it was a no-brainer that he would also be selected by the committee for one of the two remaining non-automatic spots.

Brody Malone competed only high bar here, hitting on the first day and falling on the second, but as he broke 14 on the first day and, you know, spent the whole summer earning his spot on every team, his selection to round out the six seemed a similar no-brainer.

Ultimately, Bock missed out because he wasn’t able to defeat Moldauer in the all-around and didn’t show any events that would be competitive to make a final at an individual worlds. As for Modi, he competed only pommel horse and scored 12s both days, though even with his best horse routines there wouldn’t really have been an avenue to select him for that event from this camp since only three people can compete on each event at worlds. If you have Moldauer doing the AA and Yoder and Nedoroscik…the positions are filled.

The only real issue at this selection camp—aside from Dry Erase Marker-Gate from day 2, never forget—concerned who was not in attendance. Quite controversially, the limited group of 12 competitors that was named for this camp following Olympic Trials did not include Allan Bower, Paul Juda, or Riley Loos, despite Bower being an Olympic alternate and Juda and Loos representing the future of the US men’s program and the kind of athlete that might greatly benefit from the experience of this post-Olympic worlds. So things have been weird since June. (Of 1976.)

This scenario was rendered yet sillier given the withdrawal of several athletes who originally qualified for this event—Sam Mikulak, Shane Wiskus, Brandon Briones, and Gage Dyer. The idea that there was no mechanism to replace them with the next athletes in line is pretty self-sabotaging and unhelpful and led to a camp where just 8 athletes were competing for 6 spots, even when there were other athletes who could at least have been competitive for a worlds position who weren’t invited. We end up in a situation where we watch Riley Loos show better gymnastics at the Koper World Cup than a solid half of the routines we saw at this camp. Hrm.

The Gym Quiz – September 17, 2021

Because nothing says “relaxing Friday” like a quiz. Right?

A little general knowledge, a couple deep cuts, almost an ounce of fun.

You can skip the entering-personal-info part if you want, but you have to put something in (fake, obviously) if you want to appear on the leaderboard at the bottom.

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The Leaderboard

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