The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

US Men’s Worlds Selection — Day 1

The US men have gathered at the training center this week to compete for the remaining three spots on this year’s worlds team, with Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg already locked for the team based on their results at nationals.

So this is where we’re starting:

Average score – NationalsFXPHSRVTPBHB
Brody Malone14.50014.30014.05014.52514.80014.225
Donnell Whittenburg13.52512.92514.85014.37513.87513.225
TBD
TBD
TBD

The highest-scoring team from nationals based on two-day average would have seen Asher Hong, Colt Walker, and Stephen Nedoroscik join that duo, but the primary question of the week regards whether the US is actually willing to take a one-eventer for his medal potential in an EF. Or is someone who can cover more events reliably like Yul Moldauer (or Shane Wiskus if his scores improve from nationals) more appealing in a year where Russia’s absence presents the best chance for a team medal the US has seen in a long time?

And then there’s the Paul Juda factor. Juda missed nationals with injury but was added to the national team and the selection camp through the petition THIS TEAM IS DIRE ON HB process. His potential ability to deliver a high bar score could be a complicating development today.

With only 8 people invited to participate (whyyyyyyy), all 8 will either be named to the team or named as one of the replacement athletes.

They’ll start on rings, with Hong, Walker, Juda, Wiskus, and Moldauer going on that one.

Hong – SR – good opening cross position – inverted cross, a little high – to maltese, good flat positions on maltese elements – front tuck to handstand, small hesitation – DLO 2/1, stuck landing. Strong start. This is an event he’d be counted on for a TF routine at worlds. 14.300

Wiskus – SR – hits solid maltese positions – yamawaki jonasson to L sit, good – some movement in handstand – drops a little on swing to handstand, muscles it back up – double double tucked, holds the stick with a lean to the side. 13.800

Juda – SR – maltese – uprise to planche, high position, some hip arch – up to handstand, slight hesitation – jonasson and yamawaki to straddle sit – to planche, quick hold – DLO 1/1, a little pike, good landing. In my definitely expert view, I imagine the scoring delay here would be about that final planche. 13.000

Moldauer – SR – planche, small drop in position – maltese, gets the rings under control on second matlese – yamawaki jonasson to a good flat cross position – has to bring the rings together some to hold final handstand – double double tuck, nice stick. 13.650

Walker – SR – good opening planche work, small hip angle – yamawaki jonasson to a smooth L sit – long wait in handstand, hesitation – double double tuck dismount, a little short, hop forward, arm wave to prevent another hop. 13.900

Rings review: We didn’t learn much there. Whittenburg and Hong remain your top two rings routines, and then Malone can be a third rings routine in TF, but it’s also a place you could choose to rest him by putting in a fairly equivalently scoring backup, of which there are a couple.

Everyone on rings scored lower than on either day of nationals.

Up next is vault. Just four vaulters with Juda not going there. Juda opting out of some events here means there’s probably zero chance they put Juda and Nedoroscik on the same team.

Wiskus – VT – Kas 1.5 – nice distance and direction, small hop forward. 14.500

Moldauer – VT – Kas 1.5 – pretty vault, good leg form and direction, small hop. Not as much distance as Wiskus. 14.650

Walker – VT – handspring randi, large bounce back, just does save himself from landing disaster with a quick bounce. 14.550

Hong – VT – excellent Ri Se Gwang, wow. Stuck landing. Fab. 15.200. Actually thought they were going to go higher than 9.200 on E since they went 9.300 for Wiskus today.

Looks like we’re not seeing a second vault from him.

Vault review: Hong and Whittenburg (you hope, after Paris) are your top vaulters, and Walker brings the additional start value over 5.2. Walker scored about the same as Wiskus and Moldauer with an off landing, while they hit to potential, so you bet on Walker there.

On to Pbars next, which is the deepest event for this group. Pretty much no matter what team you pick, you’re going to have three good TF PBars routines on it.

Of the four AAers, Hong leads so far by a point over Walker, then Moldauer and Wiskus are tied for third/last.

Juda – PB – a bit short in first handstand – peach with a walk on one hand – diam, good – bhavsar, smooth – tippelt, secure, a bit of hip angle in handstand – healy – double front, hop forward with a little lean as he tried to hold the stick initially. 14.150

Moldauer – PB – tcuk 1/2 to arms, good – makuts, smooth – diam, just a little late – large issue on peach 1/2, a lean that he has to pull back with lots of form – stutz also some manner of struggle with some elbows and angle – makuts work and layout 1/2 are good – double front 1/2 out, chest down, hop back. 14.100. That’s the first problem-on-an-important-routine we’ve seen today.

Walker – PB – makuts, hit – peach, up to handstand – great finish position on giant diam – bhavsar, nice amplitude – tippelt, same – healy, clean – stutz, comfortable – double front, little hop. Good one. 15.000

Hong – PB – bhavsar, good height – tippelt, nice height – makuts is clean – diam, right on top, stutz is clean – double front 1/2 out, super deep landing but also held onto the stick. 14.700

Wiskus – PB – peach 1/2 some walking and arch – peach – nice high front 1/2 to arms – diam, solid – high front straddle to arms – tippelt is REALLY low, at the very least, if not sat – double front, hop.

Pbars Review: Not what Moldauer and Wiskus needed in that rotation. Moldauer scored well under Walker and Hong, and Wiskus had at least a medium error on his tippelt, if not a large error if he sat it. From that, you’re happy with Malone, Walker, Hong as your PBars 3.

And it’s just 13.950 for Wiskus. Ruh roh. Hong remains easily in the AA lead, and now Walker has opened up a point on Moldauer, then Wiskus slightly behind that.

High bar should be…unique. The US has Malone and end of list on high bar. So…some of these people will have to go in TF whether they have good routines or not.

Moldauer – HB – zou li min – tak 1/1 is nice, good finish – tak 1/2, same – Kolman, caught – tkatchev, low but hit – rybalko, late but usual – 815 giant swings in this routine – DLO 1/1, stuck landing. Well that’s basically as well as he can do on HB.

13.600. Which is like a 50 for him.

Walker – HB – zou li min – tak 1/1 very crooked but gets it around – tak 1/2, also quite late – Kolman, hit – Kovacs, solid – layout tkatchev, some piking – tkatchev – yamawaki – DLO 1/1, some pike, hop. 13.700

Hong – HB – Kolman, high but close catch – Kovacs, also strong amplitude – tkatchev – german giants – inbar with a elbow struggles – DLO 2/1, lunge back. An improvement on nationals. 12.700

Wiskus – HB – Kolman, caught – Kovacs, also hit – layout tkatchev – tkatchev – so no Cassina today and he’s looked consistent as a result – tak 1/1 and tak 1/2, late – DLO 2/1, hop back. Solid. 13.700

Juda – HB – layout kavacs, nice – kovacs, very high – layout tkatchev – tkatchev to piked tkatchev, strong – tak 1/2 is horizontal – DLO 1/1, piking, deeper landing with a lunge. Great start, lost himself some valuable tenths at the end.

Juda still gets 14.050, which is noteworhty in its lack of 13ishness.

High bar review: Paul Juda kept himself in the conversation there with a hit on HB and 14 when everyone else was a little meh (and getting GIFTS to score as high as they did, I felt), but is an advantage of .350 over Walker/Wiskus on HB enough to outweigh what Nedoroscik can bring on horse?

Walker takes over the AA lead from Hong slightly.

On to floor, a deeply critical rotation for…well everyone. But especially Moldauer.

Walker – FX – front full to double front pike, hit, bounce back – 2.5 to double front, high, step forward OOB with one foot – front lay to front 2/1, pace – 2/1 side pass, stuck – he would be getting 50 rhythm deductions in WAG – 3/1, a little under, bounce back. A hit. Landing things on most passes, but you were never worried he was going to eat it. 13.800

Hong – FX – front full to double pike, nice (he just sat it one second ago in warmups) – DLO 2/1 is high, lunge back OOB – front tuck full to double front, deeper but hit with hop – 2.5 to front lay, holds the stick with a lean and had to otherwise it would have been other OOB – 3/1, bounce back. Another hit with some things. 14.300

Wiskus – FX – front full to double front pike, hop – 2.5 to double fornt, hit it, somewhat deep with hop – double double tuck, chest down, lunge – 2/1, stuck – punch randi, hop – 3/1, basically stuck, just a little rebound. 14.400

Moldauer – FX – he needs one of those 14.7s right about now – punch randi, a bit short, hop – front 2/1 to front full, stuck – double arabian 1/2 out, little bounce – 2/1, stuck – 2.5 to front lay, stuck – 3/1, swims some and a little hop. Not his very best landings but should be a good score. 14.450

Floor review: In theory, you’d have both the locked athletes Malone and Whittenburg going on floor, but that is a recipe for scary, even before Paris. So you want some other floor scores herre. Moldauer did win that battle, but Wiskus and Hong were right there with him.

One event left. In the all-around, Hong moves back ahead of Walker by a couple tenths. Walker has .5 on Moldauer, who was a tenth on Wiskus. Moldauer would need to gain .750 in the final rotation to move into the AA lead, which is doable given his PH and everyone else’s. But of course the big routine here is Nedoroscik’s.

Hong starts us off on horse with a comfortable routine, good flare work, not the highest or straightest but didn’t give away major unexpected errors. 13.400

Wiskus is also through comfortably in the category of gymnasts who are just trying to stay on for 13s. 13.800 is strong for him.

Juda was going quite cleanly until one of his hand placements on his flare was only half on the horse, I was surprised he was able to keep it going after that but it caught up to him a couple circles later with a fall. And then he pretty much nearly fell on his dismount he had to swim and lean so much to try to make it into a stick. 12.800

Moldauer ahhhhhh. He was going so brilliantly until a major struggle to get up to handstand on his dismount, muscles up there after a while but…not ideal. 13.500. Ouch.

We have a warmup break before Nedoroscik and Walker go. I thought for a second Nedoroscik was up for his routine and was like…why isn’t he trying?

Nedoroscik disaster on one pommel to open. He someone stays on the horse but he was scraping up against it and moving at negative one mile per hour for a while there.

Walker finishes us on horse with a….stay-on – during a Russian travel he was basically scraping the pommels and lost leg form, and then he almost fell into an abyss on his dismount.

Nedoroscik still going 14.450 on horse even though he was moving backwards for a while there is my jam.

Walker finishes with 13.550.

Now to plug in some numbers!

So, your top scoring team based on average scores from nationals and selection would be Malone, Whittenburg, Hong, Walker, and Nedoroscik (assuming that Malone and Whittenburg are locked).

That’s interesting to me because I don’t exactly think of that as the…consistent team, which is what you’re usually supposed to get from average. There are major holes on horse and high bar, of course, but I’m not exactly sold on the hitting ability of that floor rotation. I think Moldauer’s semi-misses on horse and PBars today may have hurt his “I can be a consistent score across many events” argument, but I still think it’s compelling.

When you isolate only the athletes’ best scores across the process, then Moldauer would come into the team, but it would be for Hong, which doesn’t seem the most realistic to me right now.

If you do a hybrid and use only selection camp scores for the athletes who competed today (and then the nationals average for Malone and Whittenburg), then you have Malone, Whittenburg, Hong, Walker, and Wiskus. Which is another thing.

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