All posts by balancebeamsituation

US Nationals – Men’s Day 2 Live Blog

Critical topics heading into day 2:

1) Akash Modi. Modi did the most of anyone to help his worlds prospects on the first day by finishing 2nd AA, but perhaps even more significant were his top-3 finishes on FX and HB. Do that again, and he would be on a presumptive worlds team heading to the selection camp. Right now, the US needs third routines on both those events, and he’s making a case as a best-available-option type among depleted ranks.

2) Sam Mikulak is going to worlds, and going as the best AA threat the US has, but his competition history makes it nearly impossible to consider him as a true contender in the AA despite his scoring potential. We’ve been burned so many times. A hit day 2 wouldn’t change that outlook, but it would at least allow us to pretend.

3) Yul Moldauer’s 6th-place performance on the first day was not the end of the world by any means. In fact, it’s only significant if it’s reflective of back problems that will continue to hinder him in the coming months. Then, we have a problem. If not, he’s still your US #2. And even with a weak day on Thursday, he still put up scores on floor, rings, and vault that would get him onto a worlds team. His day 2 performance is about allaying our injury fears.

4) What’s an Allan Bower to do? The Grace McCallum of the men’s side, Bower had an excellent day on Thursday (until high bar) but is still left in that same, unenviable position of not having enough team-final-level scores in his repertoire. His lone top-3 finish on Thursday came on horse, and if you’re taking someone just for horse, that person is Alec Yoder, not Allan Bower. Bower finished only a couple tenths behind Modi in the all-around, but because of his distribution of strengths/weaknesses, his case is not nearly as strong as Modi’s right now. He needs some very high event finishes (which probably include some other people missing) to truly make his case, though a repeat of day 1 should certainly be enough to get him to the selection camp.

5) So, the selection camp. The committee is currently looking for 8 people to advance to September’s camp. Mikulak and Moldauer are of course going. Kimble’s petition must be granted. Modi’s events on day 1 made his case (even if he misses on day 2, I think he should still go to camp). You want Yoder’s pommel horse 15 as an option. If Bower repeats day 1, he has earned a spot because of his AA ability. I think the same goes for Donothan Bailey, which I wouldn’t necessarily have picked heading in. If you were selecting a worlds team based on day 1 alone, Bailey would be on it. His issue is that his strengths and scores sort of mimic what Modi would bring to a team and would also be rendered entirely redundant by Kimble. His spot in the 8 is likely still dependent on hitting a complete meet on day 2, but if he does, you want him at the camp as an “if Kimble isn’t ready, he can put up something” option (and quality alternate). Continue reading US Nationals – Men’s Day 2 Live Blog


US Nationals – Senior Women Day 1 Live Blog

The senior women’s field is…not the one we started with. The latest post-PT withdrawals of Emma Malabuyo and Madelyn Williams bring us down to 21 competitors. Still solid.

Malabuyo was struggling was back problems at Classic, limiting her to only two events, and those limitations mean there’s no point in pushing through two events of a national championship where she could risk re-injuring it for exactly no reason.  Continue reading US Nationals – Senior Women Day 1 Live Blog

US Nationals – Junior Women Day 1 Live Blog

The junior women’s field has remained shockingly intact, the withdrawal of Ui Soma the only real development since the release of the initial roster (the seniors are another story, but we’ll get to that later).


Your viewing strategy for the first rotation should be basically…BEAM, with occasional side eye to the favorites when they go on vault and floor.

Opening with a game of Who’s The Shortest? The winner is all of them.

When you trip walking onto the podium but are also the best gymnast in the competition. Continue reading US Nationals – Junior Women Day 1 Live Blog

US Nationals – Men’s Day 1 Live Blog

The gentlemen are here.

There is much uncertainty after the Mikulak/Moldauer big two. This was already the case, but it is heightened by the withdrawal of Marvin Kimble (hamstring) and with Whittenburg competing only rings and PBars. Many will feel there’s an opportunity a-brewin’.

Watch your Bowers and Modis and Yoders and Van Wicklens and Meltons and Bocks and Baileys and Wiskuses and Neffs.

Stream (TV – geoblocked)
Stream (YouTube – not geoblocked)

Also, if you want a point of comparison as the scores come in, here are the results from Winter Cup.

Star of all your circus nightmares, John Macready, is here hosting the festivities. Apparently intros are already done, and we’re warming up. You mean there wasn’t even a national anthem to make fun of?

It’s hard to express how much more pleasant it is to listen to Terry Gannon than to Traut’s Wig.

Sigh. Andrea’s still here. WHO NEEDS A BUCKET OF BEADS?

We’re talking about licking Sam Mikulak’s face now. They know their audience.


Whittenburg – SR – opens with Planche, solid – L sit up to maltese, not quite the biggest difficulty or precision he can do – small hesitation up to handstand – double pike to Maltese – up to planche – real struggle in his final handstand – DLO 2/1 dismount with hop forward. A good routine. Will still score well, but not normal Donnell well. 14.150.

Neff – VT – Kas 1/1 with step back, nice.

Moore – PH – a little pike in swing – smooth through Magyar and Sivado – leaning on dismount circles but gets it done.

Modi – VT – Kas 1.5, good, hop forward. 14.300.

Melton – HB – second 1/2 of routine  – tak 1/2 is pretty short – DLO 1/1, deepish with a hop forward

Mikulak – SR – Maltese lower to iron cross, smooth – Planche, good – front saltos through to iron cross, kind of low with a smirk – front pikes to handstand, secure – secure handstand, small hesitation – double double tuck with hop back. Good. 14.350.

Step back from Yoder on dismount on HB

Moldauer – FX – front full to front 2.5, hops OOB – back 2.5 to front 2/1, small hop – double arabian half out, small hop – frotn 1.5, small slide as well – 2/1, first stick of routine – 3/1 with medium hop back. Still a fine one,great form obviously, but not as controlled on the landing.

Stephens really struggling on horse and hops off. A couple times.

Dyer – FX – front double pike an ddouble double, small hop – front 2/1 to front full, small hop – 2.5 to 1/2, stuck – getting the sticks in the second 1/2 of this routine – full in with hop back

Bock – PH – a little sluggish on an opening scissor – a small leg break into travels but just one and mostly clean, just started getting low at the end – has to muscle up his dismount but should be fine overall.

Bailey – SR – planche lowered to iron cross, a little loose – handstand with a hesitation – double double tuck with a stuck

Wiskus – PH – loses his legs pretty early, into a full tuck shape, and has to hop off – finishes well.

Justus – FX – 1.5 to front full, little hop – 3/1, short with a bounce forward

Stephenson will have the lead after the first rotation because of vault, but he got a 14.800, with a 5.2 D and huge E score. Mikulak in 2nd and Modi in 3rd after successful starts. Moldauer 4th (Technically Mannon is tied with Mikulak for 2nd after hitting his speciality PH, but he’s not doing AA.)

Little moments of sloppy from the big names in the first rotation but nothing major to report. Yoder and Melton both stuck on 13.000 on HB. Both would have hoped for mid-13s.


Mikulak – VT – Kas 1.5, came in just a bit short and nearly held onto the stick but had to hop back – tiny hop, will be good score.

Modi – PB – peach – some legs in peach 1/2 – solid Bhavsar – good height on tippelt – healy down – diam – stutz, all fine – STUCK double back 1/1 – great ending after some form in the beginning.

Van Wicklen – VT – just a littttle short on his Dragulescu with a hop forward and deep chest. Still a big vault

Moldauer – PH – falres his way into our heats, great toe point and rhythm through these travels – mashed his legs together at the end of his flare work, which caused him to lose rhythm. He did exceptionally well for a while to keep going, but couldn’t finish it in the end and comes off. 12.900.

Oyama – VT – Kas 1.5 with hop to the side, good form.

Good stick on double pike from Stephenson on PBars – a clean routine overall.

Bailey – VT – also a Kas 1.5 with a hop forward, keeps it in the area.

Good power from Howard on floor – some hops early on double front 1/2 out and double tuck 1.5 – front 2/1 to front 1/1 with hop – is able to stick the 2/1 – double arabian, just overcooks it a bit with a lunge forward

A step back on a double pike on PBars from Breckenridge.

Bock – SR – rings looks exactly as hard for him as it is – he has full Nile Wilson purple face – the woes of being super pale and trying to do rings – some hesitations in holds and handstands, some dips – double double tuck with hop to the side.

Crazy Kolman from Quiana on HB but he caught it. Comes to grief on a tkatchev 1/2 and can’t catch.

Neff – PB – front toss up, solid – peach – peach to one, some sloppy legs – diam, good – stutz is short of handstand – I expect some E score hits here for handstands and legs – double pike, hop back.

Love the flare out from Jeffreys on the 1/2 out of the first pass we see from him on floor. Sticks a front 2/1 final pass. Good.

The 14.200 for Van Wicklen’s Dragulescu does not help him. He needs to stand out on vault and that score won’t.

Bower – SR – he doesn’t work with the same speed as others but it’s efficient and difficult, no legs breaks at all, extended position, nothing huge to take. Solid.

14.800 is GIGANTIC for Bower. Moves ahead of Mikulak but 2 tenths.

Yin. Your hair. Why.


Moldauer – SR – good Maltese – and rise up to maltese into iron cross, super clean and smooth – tucks and pikes to iron cross, good horizontal position – straddle planche is the first little struggle but small – double double tuck and nearly stuck. Should be a very good E score.

Yoder – PH – nice scissors and excellent one-arm pommel work early – incredibly smooth, no leg breaks – super clean, SUPER routine.

Breckenridge went super close on Yamawaki to Gienger combination on HB and had to muscle it out somehow – basically caught it with his face – Tak 1/2 is pretty short – DLO 1/1, deep but holds stick

15.150 for Yoder. Big

We need to talk about Nedoroscik’s pommel horse goggles. Because I mean same.

Oyama – PB – healy – peach 1/2 with arch – peach – tuck back to arms, good – tuck 1/2 solid – front straddle, may have clipped the bar – double pike, welllll short with a big lunge forward

Neff – HB – Yam, good – layout tkatchev to tkatchev 1/2 – tak 1/2, vertical is OK – layout tkatchev 1/2 – tak – endo full, pretty late – hop full – double double layout with hop back. Good overall.

Bailey – joining midway – had a leg struggle on a peach 1/2 but otherwise OK – finishes double front 1/2 out, short with hop forward

Moldauer went 14.400 on rings, which will help his overall standing quite tremendously. Neff goes 13.700 on HB, which is a fine score but nothing that will get his HB routine noticed.

Bower – SR – rushes out of maltese – iron cross to maltese, not bad – a little hesitation in straddle planche toward the end – DLO 1/1, really tucked actually, with hop back. Won’t be a huge score but will be a solid contribution to AA total. A hit.

Whittenburg – PB – peach 1/2 is fine – double tuck to arms, good – tuck 1/2 to arms skills – but then completely loses it in a handstand with some hand placements and leg form – double front 1/2 out – showing that he still needs time. Has to muscle up out of a lot. Which he can do of course, but big deductions

Mikulak – PB – small early hesitation on hs – healy – peach 1/2 is short – peach – tuck 1/2 – front straddle to swing through, great – Bhavsar, smooth – Tippelt, secure – arch and hand travel in a stutz – double front 1/2 out with a stick. Not an awesome one from Sam, but he’ll get by with a score. 14.300.

Mikulak being so Mikulak at nationals so far. He’s winning, but it’s not…great?

At the halfway point, it will be Mikulak in first, Bower 2nd, Modi 3rd. Moldauer moves up six spots to 6th.


Howard – SR – pretty good maltese work into cross – front saltos to cross, also securely held – hesitation in handstand – second one is better – double double tuck with a hop

Oyama with a DLO 1/1 on HB with a hop back

Bock – PB – small tracel on handstand early – peach – tcuk 1/2 – stutz is very clean – frotn straddle to arms, good – bhavsar, nice – tippelt, struggles a bit up to handstand but keeps it going, sticks double pike, some tucking but good

Really nice stick on vault from Bower, looked like he was coming in under for a while but got it around in the end and stuck it – some knees throughout and some legs on block, but great landing.

Modi – FX – front double pike, smalel hop, good – 2.5 to front 2/1, small hop as well – front full to front 1.5, another small hop. All small but all existing on these landiwngs – good Russians – V sit to handstand, smallest hesitation – front 2.5, some sloppy –  2/1, stuck – some legs and knees here and there – 3/1, a little short, small hop but fine

Melton really deep on double double tuck rings dismount with a lunge. Needed a better dismount there.

Bower and Modi keep pace with each other, both 14.350 in the 4th rotation.

Moldauer – VT – Kas 1.5 is clean, small hop to the side – That will help too. 14.700 is a big score for a 5.2 start.Still back of Bower and Modi but moving up.

Mikulak – HB – Falls on Cassina to start. Sam at nationals. Repeats and hits it – Kolman hit – layout tkatchev to tkatchev to tkatcehv 1/2 – good – Zou Li Min – tak 1/2, not bad – hop full – stalder – DLO 2/1, stuck, of course.

Kyte Crigger is a person’s name and not an unclear racial slur – Sticks double pike on PBars.

Sam goes 13.700 on HB with a fall, which is still only one tenth behind the top HB score of the day, which tells you why he is always a lock.

Van Wicklen – HB – Yam – layout tkatchev to tkatchev 1/2, good – Taqk 1/2, OK – layout tkatchev 1/2 – tkatchev – stalder – DLO 1/1, stuck, that will score well.

Mikulak behind Bower now.

So it will be Bower, Miklulak, Modi, Moldauer after 4 events. No one else that close so far.

Van Wicklen 13.950 on HB, which is top on that event now. That will get him some attention because he can fill roles with that routine. It really would have helped him if he had shown a successful Dragulescu.


Bailey – FX – double front with bound forward – front 2/1 to front full, sutck – 2.5 to layout, nailed – front 1.5 and covers into low-to-floor – 2/1, stuck – double arabian with medium hop. Simpler routine but super secure and some pretty moments.

Wiskus – HB – high Yamawaki – hop full – big Kolman with some legs – Kovacs, solid –

Mikulak – FX – 2.5 to double front, stuck! – front 2/1 to front tuck 1/1 – good flares – back 1.5 to front full, stuck – 2/1, stuck – 3/1 gets a little raggedy andy but gets it around with a small hop. Will be a huge score. 14.750.

Melton – VT – double front, gets it around, a little too deep, with a hop back

Sean has an ouchy knee and it looks like it.

Bower – PB – peach with some mushy form – tuck 1/2 – healy – diam – front straddle – stutz, solid – tuck 1/2 to arms – double pike, stuck. Another fine one. Some deductions in there, will lose his lead to Mikluak, but good.

Modi – PH – a few too many legs breaks in some of his travels, and then really leaning on his dismount to get it done – not his strongest but a hit.

Suzuki has some really nice positions on PBars – finishes double pike with hop back

14.100 is still OK for Modi, but not a I’M THE POMMEL score. He’s still .3 behind Bower.

Moldauer – PB – lovely front straddle – peach a little quick, but peach 1/2 is great – long swing diam is nice – tuck 1/2 – a little awkward catching it – double front with a huge lunge – great start, but loses it a little at the end with the dismount.

13.800. Won’t help him catch the first three – Mikulak, Bower, and Modi – and he’s not exactly going to a big score for himself.

Modi is three tenths behind Bower but could make that up. Neither on an awesome event for them to finish, Modi on rings, Bower on HB.

Bailey is probably too far back of them, but he gets to finish on a strength, PH.


Modi – SR – Good cross sit – tucks and pikes to cross, a little high – L sit, fine – some arch in swing to handstand – double double tuck with a big bounce back on landing, was fine until then

Justus on HB dismounts DLO 1/1 with some pike and a lunge forward

Brodarzon with a Kas 1/1 and a little hop – nice form –

Mikulak – PH – lost his hand on a scissor, worked through it but very typical of his day – and then he slams his heel into the horse and comes off – Second fall of the day – finishes very well.

Modi finishes 84.100.

Bower – HB – Yam, good – Tak 1/1 is not bad – Kovacs is very close, swings through it – Tak – stalder – DLO 1/1, stuck. Not a ton going on there in that routine and some significant form and swing errors.

Just 12.950 for Bower, still falls behind Modi.

Suzuki – HB – Yam, good – Tak 1/2, nice shape – layout tkatchev, hit – tkatchev 1/2 – Tak – front stalder – hop full – DLO 1/1, tiny bit short with a hop but quite nice to watch on HB.

So it will be Mikulak 1, Modi 2, Bower 3 right now. Waiting on Moldauer and Bailey to go. They’ve let Bailey back in.

Moldauer – HB – Yam a little close – tak full was insane, at horizontal, what even was that – tak 1/2 is also poor – Kovacs even was just normal, not the usual gorgeous perfection – nice hop pirouetting elements – goes for triple double layout dismount, shortish with a lunge forward

Moldauer’s struggles the most surprising part of the day.

Moldauer will go in behind Yoder.

Bailey – PH – was going well but totally lost his legs toward the end and did an entire series of circles in tucked position – he manages not to come off but probably will be the equivalent of –

13.850 for Bailey, still goes into 4th place, just ahead of Yoder.

So our final standings are

  1. Mikulak – 85.150
  2. Modi – 84.100
  3. Bower – 83.850
  4. Bailey – 83.550
  5. Yoder – 83.400
  6. Moldauer – 82.700

To be quite honest, the US should be concerned by this performance, because it was not good from most people. Mikulak won comfortably despite two falls. Modi had a nice day. Bower had his moments, Bailey had his moments, but Moldauer was weak, Whittenburg was not close to being full-strength back, and Kimble was missing entirely.

What we learned on day 1:
-Whittenburg is not near worlds level at this point and opens the door for someone to pop in to do vault and floor. The US will need someone to do it.

-Mikulak is the best AAer the US has to offer, even when he falls twice.

-Moldauer had a poor day. It’s not a big deal if it’s a one-off, but discussions of a back injury are a concern because they may indicate that this was not just a one-day performance.

-Modi and Bower took advantage, particularly Modi, who had some errors but managed to finish 2nd on floor and 3rd on HB. He needed to show events where he was top-3, and he did that. Bower also had a good day until HB, but had just one event where he was top-3, pommel horse.

-Alec Yoder did his job on pommel horse to look like the clear option for “if we’re taking a PH specialist”

-Donothan Bailey actually did place top-3 on three events, VT PB and HB, which helps him as well.

-Van Wicklen leads on HB for the day, which is significant because of the need for the US to find HB routines. If he can show a hit vault as well on the second day, he’ll stay in the conversation.


2018 US Nationals – Senior Podium Training & Preview

Item #1: Morgan vs. Ragan vs. Riley

Yes, I’m beginning this preview with a little twist and not starting with Simone. Now that Simone is back and already looking inevitable again, the big story shifts to figuring out who will be her all-around partner in the role that Kyla Ross and Aly Raisman inhabited so diligently last quad. It’s going to get real.

Morgan Hurd is the defending world champion, Ragan Smith is the defending national champion, and Riley McCusker is the only non-Simone American to have gone 57 this year.

Only 2 people will be able to go in the AA final at worlds.
Only 3 people will (most likely) go in the AA in qualification.
This town ain’t big enough.

Well, it’s big enough for them all to go to worlds, potentially. That would be…sort of a good team. But this town definitely isn’t big enough for everyone to fulfill her AA dreams at the same time.

On both difficulty and execution, all three are tightly packed and could end up finishing in any order. At US Classic, McCusker ended up a little more than a point ahead of Hurd, who had a fall, while Hurd had 0.3 more difficulty than McCusker. If Smith had done AA, she likely would have been ahead of both on difficulty but behind both in the final scores because of her miss on bars.

(Smith did have some more Stadler Tkatchev-ing problems in podium training today—I saw two mat slams and a tuck-to-save—but worked it out occasionally. That Ricna will be one of the key skills of nationals.)

While an actual decision about where all three stand in the all-around picture will be made based more on selection camp and closer-to-worlds training than on this competition, nationals should still give us an indication about which way the wind is blowing. Does McCusker have the floor composition and vault consistency to keep up with the other two? Is Smith back to full strength? Is she adding the upgrades she teased at Classic? I didn’t notice any upgrades in podium training for Smith for the moment, save for a triple wolf on beam instead of double wolf. Even without upgrades, she’s still looking at a modest D-score advantage. But is she ready to beat the others? Continue reading 2018 US Nationals – Senior Podium Training & Preview

2018 US Nationals – Junior Preview

Junior nationals! It’s like senior nationals, but doesn’t matter as much.

Reinforced by, well, everything has been the emergence of a junior Big Four—sort of like the Russia, USA, China, Romania version of the Big Four, except no one is Romania, may she rest in peace. Sunisa Lee, Jordan Bowers, Leanne Wong, and Kayla DiCello have created some real distance from the rest of the pack and every expectation is that they will fight it out among themselves to see who is the 2018 junior national champion.

Juniors compete on Friday and Sunday at 1:30 ET, streaming online.

For the win

What’s exciting is that each of the four looks just as realistic as any other to win the title. A convincing argument can be made for all.

Scoring Potential – This is where Sunisa Lee has the advantage. When she is hitting her intended D scores on all four pieces, she cannot be caught. Her potential bars difficulty is worlds ahead of the other juniors right now, but she also boasts the top floor score of the group with 13.800. I wouldn’t have guessed that without looking, but it proves that it’s not all about the bars and beam for Lee. The big test for her will be bringing all that difficulty back (she did not show full D at US Classic) and doing it in hit routines across two full days of competition, therefore not rendering herself vulnerable to the Sturdy Gurdys who don’t have such big routines.

Winning Pedigree – The best way to figure out who’s going to win is to look at who has won before. The top juniors have ventured to a couple major international competitions already this year—Pacific Rims and the Junior Pan American Championships—and on each occasion Jordan Bowers has come home with the all-around gold medal, outscoring the very people she’ll be expected to outscore to win a junior national championship this week, and doing it in front of the discerning judging panels of international competitions. Continue reading 2018 US Nationals – Junior Preview

Dude Week 2018: Euros Event Finals


The host nation couldn’t have started the final day of competition any better as Dom Cunningham pulled out the upset victory on floor exercise to take gold ahead of a number of his higher-D colleagues.

Cunningham’s 6.1 D may have seemed to put him at a disadvantage, but his routine was noticeably free of the major OOB errors that befell the medal favorites and their 6.4 Ds. Top qualifier Artem Dolgopyat went out with both feet on his first pass, a 0.3 neutral deduction that took him down to second place, with Nikita Nagornyy suffering the exact same result on his opening triple back, putting him in 4th place. Both finished less than three tenths behind Cunningham.

Artur Dalaloyan did not go OOB but did have a major stumble back on a front double pike that gave him the lowest E score of the top four finishers, nonetheless still good enough for bronze based on difficulty and lack-of-OOB-ness.

Alex Shatilov went through cleanly but wasn’t quite as crisp in the landings to take fifth place, which obviously should have been first place because Shatilov. He and Nguyen had to settle for 5th and 6th, while the two who fell, Zapata and Onder, occupied the bottom positions.


We can officially crown our new king of pommel horse as Rhys McClenaghan hit his super-difficult routine for 15.300 to pretty much bury the rest of the field, deservedly receiving both the highest D score and highest E score of the final. It wasn’t close.

The big surprise of the final was the mistake from Max Whitlock, who didn’t so much fall at first, just lost his rhythm and had to stand atop the pommel horse looking down at it like a stern father who isn’t mad at the pommel horse, just disappointed.

“Sigh. I just thought we taught you better than that.”

Also I’m pretty sure there’s a statue of that exact image in a Florentine piazza somewhere. Continue reading Dude Week 2018: Euros Event Finals