Category Archives: Elite Things

Euros Team Selections

The European Championship is less than a month away, and if you’re me, you’re already way too excited about it. Nominative rosters have been released and several countries have announced their final team selections, so let’s check in on who’s definitely going, who should be going, and every nation’s overall prospects.

Once we get closer to the event and the teams are finalized, I’ll do a full scoring analysis.


Nominative roster:
Viktoria Komova, Angelina Melnikova, Angelina Simakova, Uliana Perebinosova, Maria Kharenkova

We know this nominative roster is nonsense because Perebinosova is injured and not going to Euros, so it probably just reflects some elaborate Valentina mind game (“I’d rather take an injured ghost than you, Varvara”).

At this point, I would consider Melnikova, Komova, and Simakova locked. At the even-year European Championship, there is no all-around final and the team competition format is 5-3-3, so if you’re a nation like Russia that’s expecting team gold here, selection is all about finding three people for each event. This locked group would give us

Vault: Melnikova, Komova, Simakova?
Bars: Komova, Melnikova, (?)
Beam: Komova, Melnikova, (?)
Floor: Melnikova, Simakova, (?)

So from there, you more or less need one more person for each event. Now, you could use Simakova for bars and beam and Komova for floor, but you want to protect Komova as much as possible, and there are higher-scoring options than Simakova on bars and beam. The most value you could add to this team immediately would be with Ilyankova.

Vault: Melnikova, Komova, Simakova?
Bars: Komova, Melnikova, Ilyankova
Beam: Komova, Melnikova, Ilyankova?
Floor: Melnikova, Simakova, (?)

That’s the best available bars trio, and while Ilyankova is not an ideal beamer, I don’t know that there’s a more reliable option out there right now. She could end up doing beam at Euros. For the remaining spot, a lot comes down to whether you trust Simakova to vault (she should have a vital rudi but missed for 12s a couple times at Russian Cup). If you do trust Simakova, then you’re left looking for only a floor routine and another possible beam option. That’s why Kharenkova—now a beam and floor specialist—has seemed an appealing choice. Yet, her inconsistency and general Kharenkova-ness could be her undoing.

Still, Russia may elect to roll the dice with Kharenkova and put up this team.

Vault: Melnikova, Komova, Simakova
Bars: Komova, Melnikova, Ilyankova
Beam: Komova, Melnikova, Kharenkova
Floor: Melnikova, Simakova, Kharenkova

If that’s too scary, then you replace Kharenkova’s name with Alexeeva (if healthy) or Zubova in the above scenario, though Zubova is in the exact same consistency boat as Kharenkova. I’m not sure there’s much of a difference. It’s all terrifying.

Another sensible option could be to hitch the wagon fully to Ilyankova for beam and go with Akhaimova as the fifth team member. Akhaimova could provide a third floor routine as well as a backup vault option instead of Simakova—though Akhaimova’s vault scores haven’t been that big lately either.

Needing a third DTY (Russia just can’t show up to the team final with some full) is how Nabieva or Trykina would get on the team, but floor would be a real problem in that case.

This may be the hardest team to pick, but Great Britain is in the running for that as well. Continue reading Euros Team Selections


Tom Forster – Team Coordinator

USAG announced today that everything is totally fine and fixed, so you should stop asking questions and also bye.

And by that, I mean that Tom Forster has been selected as the new National Team Coordinator. Or, sorry, the new High-Performance Team Coordinator. Because that makes it all different and better. Nothing to see here. The performance is going to be so high. You won’t believe how high the performance will be.

Fans of the 90s will remember Forster of Colorado Aerials as the coach of Theresa Kulikowski, Kristy Powell and Doni Thompson—and Kerri Strug for a hot minute during her whistle-stop tour of America. Since then, he has held a lower-profile and more behind-the-scenes role in the elite coaching scene, and he was not the primary elite coach for the recent athletes from Colorado Aerials who may have been on your radar (Emily Muhlenhaupt, Kiersten Wang, Sharaya Musser).

That, quite honestly, could have been an influencing factor in the decision. He hasn’t had an opportunity to be publicly horrible in quite some time, which already put him on the high end of the list of candidates. And that seems to be the general reaction from within the gymnastics community—”it could have been worse”—what with names like Peggy Liddick floating around, and all. The consensus: he’s the best of the available options. The national team coaches seem to be optimistic about Forster, which means he will be given a chance rather than being thrown to the wolves immediately after the announcement. But of course, the proof will be in the…not being an aggressively ego-driven abusive maniac? Just that. We’re asking so much, I know. Stay cautious, my friends.

It may be unfair, but USAG has taught us to mistrust its process and automatically mistrust anyone it might think is suitable. Kerry Perry likes you? Well then what’s wrong with you? Continue reading Tom Forster – Team Coordinator

2020 Olympic Qualification Explained…But Like Actually

The 2020 Olympic qualification process is so weird and dumb, you guys. You are completely forgiven for putting off trying to understand it for as long as possible.

But it’s starting to be that time of quad…

Recently, the FIG released an entirely unhelpful gibberish video (the part about continental championships is actually indecipherable) that was supposed to explain this cuckoo-pants fever dream of a system to the uneducated masses. Thank you, it didn’t. Try again, but this time pretend like you’ve had a conversation with a human person before.

Anyway, here’s the actual deal.

What’s the team format for the 2020 Olympics?

Qualification is 4-4-3 (4 on the team, 4 compete each event, 3 scores count).

The Team Final is 4-3-3 (3 up, 3 count—the format we know well).

Translation: All four selected teams members will be all-arounders. It’s terrible.

How do teams qualify?

The top 3 teams from the 2018 Worlds Team Final advance to the Olympics.

Then, 9 more teams from 2019 Worlds Qualification will join them.

12 teams. Done. That’s all. No bothering with Test Event qualification this time. Team qualification is finished by the fall of 2019.

How do gymnasts without teams qualify?

In the all-around at 2019 worlds, the best 20 women and 12 men who aren’t part of qualified teams will also go to the Olympics (limit 1 per country) along with the top 3 from event finals who aren’t part of qualified teams (limit 3 per country).

These spots are for the individual, not for the country. So it’s not Switzerland getting an Olympic spot; it’s Giulia Steingruber specifically getting an Olympic spot.

What’s the deal with these specialist spots?

Oops. Don’t call them specialists. You might get murdered. They’re simply individuals and can compete all events at the Olympics if they choose.

This quad, there are several new methods of Olympic qualification open to any individuals, whether they’re part of a qualified team or not. Qualified teams can earn two more spots through these routes, bringing their potential Olympic teams up to six members.

Event World Cups
The overall winner of the event world cup series on each apparatus gets a spot at the Olympics (limit 1 per country). These spots are also for the individual, not for the country.

The event world cup qualification series begins in Cottbus in November 2018 and ends in Doha in March 2020. Each gymnast’s best 3 results during that period count for the final rankings.

All-Around World Cups
The top 3 countries at the end of the four 2020 All-Around World Cups (American Cup, Stuttgart, London, Tokyo) earn spots at the Olympics. These spots are for the country, not for the individual.

Continental Championships
The top 2 finishers in the all-around final at the 2020 continental championships earn a spot at the Olympics. That spot is for the individual, unless that gymnast’s country is already qualified as a team, then it is for the country.

What if I’m just pretending to be interested in all this but really only care about how it affects the US women?

Thank you for your honesty.

The US women will qualify a team of four gymnasts to the 2020 Olympics after placing among the top 3 teams at the 2018 World Championship (let’s be real here).

The US women will gain a fifth Olympic spot by sending athletes to the all-around world cup events in March and April of 2020 (American Cup, Stuttgart, London, Tokyo) and placing in the top three in the overall standings at the end of those four meets.

The US women will gain a sixth Olympic spot by sending athletes to the 2020 Pan American Championships and placing someone in the top 2 in the AA final.

The US will then select its team of six (four gymnasts competing for the team, two gymnasts competing solely for themselves) following the Olympics Trials as usual.

So, for US women’s purposes, the 2020 American Cup is the first meet that will matter for earning those two extra individual spots. You don’t have to worry about it until then.

The US will not bother with the individual event world cups since Olympic spots earned there are for the athlete rather than for the country. The US wants to be able to pick its own team, rather than have its team determined by external competition results.

I heard that people who are on the worlds team can’t compete at these other qualifying events. What white nonsense is that?

I know, it’s weird.

Countries that have already qualified teams to the Olympics cannot send the gymnasts who earned that team qualification off to earn more Olympic spots at the event worlds cups and continental championships. (This does not apply for the all-around world cups.)

Explain specifically for the US women, please and thank you.

So, since the US women won’t attempt to get a spot from the event world cups, this really only applies to the continental championships.

Basically, it will mean that the all-arounders on 2020 Pan American Championships team cannot have been on the 2018 worlds team. Not a big deal in the end.

And that’s that.

-12 teams of 4.
-Various individuals.
-Qualified teams can send up to six gymnasts to the Olympics given the right circumstances.

American Cup Preview

American Cup.

Obviously, what we’re all most looking forward to is the NBC team’s inevitable bungling of the delicate task of communicating what has been happening with Nassar, the Valeri resignation, and the overall melting of USA Gymnastics into a primordial pile of slime. Did I say looking forward to? I meant EYE STAB.

But I guess there will be gymnastics too. Snore. Here’s what to expect.


Stay with me. We’ll get to the women in a second. But first you have to read about the men. All things being as they’re supposed to, this should end up a contest between The Kenzo and The Yul. They finished third and seventh respectively at worlds last year and have shown the highest scoring potential of the bunch in the past year or so. Most of the other competitors are all-arounders at a slightly lower level or have a couple really strong events but not the six complete routines needed to stand out.

At worlds, The Kenzo outscored The Yul in the all-around final by about a point and a half, which is where his favorite status originates. Still, weird things happen at American Cup so it’s far from wrapped up. We need only look back to last year when The Yul defeated The Oleg to take the title. By contrast, The Kenzo is still pretty new to the AA game and is a less-established favorite than The Oleg was then. He certainly has the difficulty edge over The Yul by about a bajillion tenths—but so do most people since The Yul’s aim is always to make it up on execution.

That’s what he’ll hope to do compared to someone James Hall, whom you’ll remember from having Resting Stoner Face and being a solid all-arounder. Hall is just coming off winning the English Championship with an 84, which is not necessarily a DUN DUN DUH world-beating score, but repeated at American Cup should put him right up there. That’s around what Modi scored to finish 3rd last year.

This will also be a significant competition for Allan Bower, who (kind of) controversially did not make the worlds team in 2017 despite finishing second at nationals with an 86.1 on the second day. He followed that recently with a somewhat disappointing Winter Cup to finish 4th, behind Mikulak, Kimble, and Modi. If Bower wants to get a team spot this year, he’ll need to show not just the ability to score well as an AAer, but more importantly that he has standout events the team might need. That’s what we haven’t seen yet from him. Otherwise, it’s hard to see him getting much of a look in a Mikulak-Moldauer world.

Sun Wei of China always attends American Cup and is sort of there, not really at the level to make a Chinese worlds team but also way better than most other people/countries. Look for him to be the type who can sneak up there and then everyone goes, “Oh, yeah, him” and then forgets about it two seconds later.

Francisco Barretto Junior has a few events—high bar is usually the best but he also scores well on PBars and sometimes horse. Nestor Abad of Spain is replacing Joel Plata and will inevitably break your heart. I fear Phillipp Herder will follow the great German tradition of showing up at American Cup and falling 150 times because he’s German and it’s pommel horse, but do keep an eye on floor and PBars. Petro Pakhniuk is mostly known as a PBars specialist, so I’ll be interested to see how he stacks up in the all-around.


The favorites

American Cup is never much of a competition on the women’s side, partially because the US gymnasts are just better than everyone else, partially because it’s the first week of March and no one else is even trying to be remotely good yet, and partially (especially pre-WC era) because of SCAM SCORING. Oh SCAM SCORING, I love you so much.

That’s why the presence of Mai Murakami adds an exciting twist to this year’s proceedings. Murakami qualified first at worlds in 2017 and was on track to defeat Morgan Hurd in the all-around final if not for a fall on beam on her double spin. A full-strength Murakami is the strongest gymnast in the competition on vault and floor and has the ability to win the whole thing, the main issue being whether we’re actually going to see a full-strength Murakami. She’d need to bring full floor-tumbling difficulty to have a solid shot at this, which may be a lot to ask at this point in the year.  Continue reading American Cup Preview

US National Team Camp – July Update

We have finally emerged from the cave. Now that we are graced with rosters from the monthly national camps—like the one that concluded today—this has given birth to a new phenomenon wherein one looks at the roster, recognizes 90% of the people, but then also says, “……Her? What is a…that?”

So, let this be a place to keep track of which characters made a cameo in which of the monthly episodes; what international assignments resulted from those camps; applicable placements in senior (S), junior (J), and physical abilities (PA) standings; national team status; Classic/nationals qualification status; recent results; expected D-scores; and anything else important to know about these friends both familiar and foreign. Continue reading US National Team Camp – July Update

US National Team Camp – Who Are These People?

We have finally emerged from the cave. Now that we are graced with rosters from the monthly national camps—like the one that concluded today—this has given birth to a new phenomenon wherein one looks at the roster, recognizes 90% of the people, but then also says, “……Her? What is a…that?”

So, let this be a place to keep track of which characters made a cameo in which of the monthly episodes; what international assignments resulted from those camps; applicable placements in senior (S), junior (J), and physical abilities (PA) standings; junior/senior status; results dossiers; most recent D-scores; and anything else important to know about these friends both familiar and foreign. Continue reading US National Team Camp – Who Are These People?

Jesolo Seniors Live Blog

Today, the senior US team rumbles into Jesolo to international-experience up a storm against teams from Russia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, France, and Belgium.

Earlier in the day, all the US juniors scored 199 billion to run away with the competition. BUT NO ONE SAW IT COMING. Perea took the AA with 57.550, followed by O’Keefe with 57.300 and Malabuyo with 56.700. Those would have been really good junior scores in the last code, let alone this one.

The first half of rotation 1 has Italy on vault, France on bars, USA 1 on beam, and Russia on floor. The second half has Brazil on vault, Canada on bars, Mixed Group on beam, and USA 2 on floor. They’ll rotate from there.

Continue reading Jesolo Seniors Live Blog