The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – July 12, 2022

A. US Pan American team named

Last week, the US named the women’s teams for the Pan American Championship/”this time, it matters” worlds qualifier, going with a senior team of Skye Blakely, Lexi Zeiss, Elle Mueller, Zoe Miller, and Kayla DiCello.

This marked the first selection decision of the new leadership era, and we saw a couple encouraging signs here—namely that this team is not just the all-around standings printed out with a sticker of a duckling yelling, “I quacked it!” at the top.

Kayla DiCello placed down in 7th in the all-around (!) on the first day after misses on vault and beam, which means she would not have made an AA-standings team. But, her bars and floor scores nonetheless put her on the highest-scoring team of five in a 3-count format based on that first day of selection competition. That highest-scoring team is the five who were ultimately named.

Skye Blakely14.00013.40014.30013.550
Lexi Zeiss13.70013.45013.25013.700
Kayla DiCello12.55013.70011.30013.700
Elle Mueller13.60012.25013.35013.650
Zoe Miller13.30013.90011.85012.350
41.30041.05040.90041.050164.300

Now, whether being on the highest-scoring team was the actual reasoning for DiCello’s selection or whether it was just, “duh, it’s Kayla DiCello,” we couldn’t say. But, the highest-scoring team based on the first day of competition was indeed the group selected for both the seniors and the juniors. Addison Fatta, who placed third in the all-around but did not factor into the highest-scoring team, was named the senior alternate.

So that selection approach a very good sign. Except there was also a second day of competition, which funks things up. On day 1, the athletes compete the all-around, and on day 2, they compete two apparatuses—a vestigial verification camp format from the days of yore. This time, the athletes competed only bars and beam on day 2. No one—senior or junior—did vault or floor, even those who might have benefited from a chance to improve their vault or floor results from day 1.

What we did see on day 2 was a beam victory for Ciena Alipio that changed the highest-scoring scenario and would have put her on the highest-scoring team (using either average score over the two days or the higher score from either day). So I’d say Alipio has the best argument for getting screwed over here, and it provokes the question: what even is this second day? Are the scores being taken into account for selection? If not, get rid of her. And if they are, it seems there should be a day off in between so that everyone would be encouraged to compete the events that might help their team case the most.

B. Worlds Qualification

The African Championships concluded over the weekend, with Egypt taking the lone team spot available at worlds for both men and women, defeating the South African women’s team in the showdown session of the event. Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa won the all-around title and will be joined by fellow Olympian Naveen Daries at worlds, as well as new senior Fatma Boukhatem and veteran Lahna Salem of Algeria.

Here are the updated qualification charts for both men and women:

WOMENTeamsAll-Arounders
Europe
August 11-14
1323
Pan-America
July 15-17
511
AsiaChina
South Korea
Japan
Taiwan
Aida Bauyrzhanova (KAZ)
Rifda Irfanaluthfi (INA)
Milka Gehani (SRI)
Dildora Aripova (UZB)
Nadine Joy Nathan (SGP)
Ominakhon Khalilova (UZB)
Korkem Yerbossynkyzy (KAZ)
Sasiwimon Mueangphuan (THA)
AfricaEgyptCaitlin Rooskrantz (RSA)
Naveen Daries (RSA)
Fatma Boukhatem (ALG)
Lahna Salem (ALG)
OceaniaAustraliaKeira Rolston-Larking (NZL)
Reece Cobb (NZL)
MENTeamsAll-Arounders
Europe
August 18-21
1323
Pan-America
July 15-17
46
AsiaChina
Japan
Taiwan
South Korea
Kazakhstan
Carlos Yulo (PHI)
Mahdi Ahmad Kohani (IRI)
Abdulla Azimov (UZB)
Khabibullo Ergashev (UZB)
Yogeshewar Singh (IND)
Gaurav Kumar (IND)
AfricaEgyptHillal Metidji (ALG)
Abderrazak Nasser (MAR)
OceaniaAustraliaMikhail Koudinov (NZL)
William Fu-Allen (NZL)

C. Pan American Championships

Up next in the qualification journey is the Pan American Championship, and WONDER OF WONDERS it is actually going to be streamed, with options from the Brazilian federation on YouTube and the PanAm Sports Channel. Live scoring is here. The juniors get started on Thursday with qualification, followed by senior qualification on Friday, junior event finals on Saturday, and senior team finals on Sunday.

Of important note, the worlds spots for the teams are determined by the results of qualification on Friday, not the standings of the team final on Sunday. The US women compete in the first subdivision on Friday, while Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Argentina all go in the fourth subdivision. For the men, the US and Canada go in the third subdivision, and Brazil in the 5th. The Friday schedule is here (Rio time):

panamschedule

The senior team finals on Sunday are at 10:00am for the women and 4:00pm for the men.

Worthwhile to watch will be how a first-choice Brazilian side featuring Rebeca Andrade and Flavia Saraiva (though now absent Jade Barbosa, who withdrew) matches up against this US team that has some big names but is absent the college Olympians and McClain. I’m also curious about how the scores from this Brazilian team compare to what we’re seeing from the likes of Italy, China, France, and Great Britain so far this year to gauge what the team final and perhaps medal hopes might be for this group. We’ve only seen limited apparatuses from the top Brazilians in 2022, so there hasn’t been much basis for comparison yet.

For the five team spots available for women, the US, Brazil, and a strong Canadian group (despite the absence of Ellie Black) will get to worlds easily. We haven’t seen much of Mexico this year, but the quality of athletes being sent should get in, and then we get to see whether this is more of an Argentina year or more of a Colombia year. Could Cuba’s team of mostly never-seen-the-light-of-day gymnasts turn out to be amazing? Always possible.

With just four team spots available for men, the US, Brazil, and Canada trio doesn’t leave as much room for others, where Colombia has lately been the next-best team in the region, but we shall see if Mexico or Argentina can put up a fight.

D. French Championship

Carolann Heduit took the all-around title at the French championship over the weekend, out-touching Aline Friess by a mere tenth with Heduit having the far superior first day when Friess fell on vault, but Friess righting the ship on the second day for the highest all-around score. 

De Jesus Dos Santos, Charpy, and Devillard were all absent for this championship, so it doesn’t necessarily provide the most comprehensive look at what a five-member French team might be when we get down to it this year, but noteworthy was Marine Boyer finally hitting beam on the second day for a 14.000, a high-level beam score that you’d want on a worlds team, which we’ve seen from her until this month. In fact, Boyer also defeated Heduit in the all-around on the second day of competition.

E. American Classic

Everyone fell on everything and only four seniors competed, but it was a streamed gymnastics meet that happened.

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