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Selection Camp Preview

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A sprinkling of gymnasts has blown into Indianapolis for the US women’s world championship selection camp. And by sprinkling, I mean exactly six people. They will spend the weekend trying to cut each other with crystals to earn one of the four spots on the worlds team.

The first day of selection is an all-around competition tomorrow (Friday) at 5:40pm ET, which will be streamed on Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Flo. According to USAG “a competition setting will also be replicated on October 9,” which…wait what does that mean? Typically on the second day of selection, gymnasts compete two important events to try to solidify any position they might have (which is also what the selection procedures say will happen, that the gymnasts will compete some events but not all of them on the second day), so let’s assume that’s what “a competition setting will also be replicated” is. But who can say? Certainly not us because the second day won’t be streamed.

Who’s trying to make the team for Also Worlds? Ciena Alipio, Kayla DiCello, eMjae Frazier, Olivia Greaves, Konnor McClain, and Leanne Wong.

Kayla DiCello and Leanne Wong—Olympic alternates and the lone athletes in this field who made it to Olympic Trials—will enter as heavy favorites as long as they’ve been able to maintain some semblance of their level from the Olympic selection process. Even the performances from their weaker days, like when DiCello was falling all over the place to finish 11th at nationals, or when Wong got an 11.5 on beam on the first day of trials, would probably be enough to make worlds in this field. Officially, only the all-around winner from day 1 automatically makes the team, but this is the Forster Era, so it would be a revelation if the entire team isn’t just the top 4 all-around. (But in a field of just 6, that might—might—also be the team that makes sense.)

One would think there’s been enough time since Wong’s adventures with COVID quarantine in Japan that it shouldn’t materially hinder her performance here, but that will at least be a factor to keep in mind.

After Wong and DiCello on Team Favorite, we have Konnor McClain and Olivia Greaves on Team Wildcard. Because both had to withdraw from the Olympic process with injury (and McClain hasn’t even competed all four events in 2021), their status is a mysterious curtain of mysteries. If they’re both healthy and competing normally, they have great arguments for worlds. In the Before Times, McClain was consistently getting 55s and 56s in the all-around, which is the kind of score that would not only make the worlds team but could win the selection competition outright. Not to be forgotten, the last time Greaves existed she scored 54.650 at the March camp to finish third, right behind…DiCello and Wong. A mid-54 is also a very making-the-worlds-team kind of score.

If single event performances are taken into account (!), McClain has the world-class beam to make the case for herself, even if all four events aren’t up to the level needed for a strong AA score. Greaves, meanwhile, has the bars chops to win that event, or at least place well there (now that DiCello is free from Senoh bars, she could return to getting high bars scores). Since only three athletes from each country are allowed to compete each event at worlds, Greaves’ bars would fit well as a complement to the strengths of other likely team members.

And then there’s Team Upset: Ciena Alipio and eMjae Frazier. These two have shown lower all-around scoring potential, with Alipio peaking at 53.450 and Frazier peaking at 53.300 this year, which means they’re most likely hoping team selection isn’t based on the all-around this time, and/or that McClain and Greaves are not back to their full competitive level, opening up a slot or two for them to sneak up the ladder.

For Frazier, I’m looking to see whether she throws out some second vault. The vault field at worlds this year is deep at the top (Andrade, Melnikova, Murakami, Devillard, maybe Qi) but drops off quite significantly after that, meaning there will be opportunities for some unexpected people to get into that final. It may not take a hugely difficult second vault to make a mark this year, and if Frazier’s looking to make an event argument, that’s the best place she can. There’s also room for her to increase her D on floor to start building that score (and placing top 3 on floor here is doable), but everyone should have been humbled by the scoring at the Olympics enough to…not assume an E score in the 8s.

One of the tough things for Alipio is that her best event, the one where she might make an apparatus-specific argument, is beam. If DiCello and Wong are indeed looking like two strong all-around choices, and if McClain is doing McClain things on beam (or looking like an all-arounder), Alipio will find it hard to be one of the top three beamers. Basically, Alipio needs this thing to be a splatfest bloodbath where others are not performing up to their peaks so that she can rise to the top four.

The final team will be announced on Saturday after they…replicate a competition setting or whatever.

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