Category: Elite Things

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Have Mersin! (Challenge Cup)

The world challenge cup tour got underway once again this weekend in Mersin, Turkey and…you’re fine that you missed it. You’ll definitely live. But here’s what happened.


Canadian and Australian Nationals


At Canadian Nationals, what is becoming an increasingly fascinating and evenly matched intra-country rivalry between Ellie Black and Ana Padurariu delivered another thriller, with Ellie Black coming from behind to take the national title after trailing Padurariu by nearly 8 tenths following the first day.

On day 1, Padurariu put up a stellar performance and led the field on both bars and beam (bars a casual point better than anyone else in the competition), hitting cleanly enough to get the job done on vault and floor even though the D-score isn’t quite up there. Ellie Black hit 3-for-4 on that first day of competition as she did Normal Ellie on three pieces but missed beam to take her total down below Padurariu’s. The highlight of Black’s performance was the reemergence of her rudi (competed as her second vault), a potentially significant 4-tenth upgrade for her personal all-around goals and for a team that had just two competitors showing vault difficulties higher than 5.0 here.

On day 2, Black was the star, eradicating that beam miss from the first day to hit all four pieces and record a 56.608—the highest single-day AA score between her and Padurariu. Meanwhile, Padurariu came back to earth a little bit on the second day. She fell on beam on her side aerial + loso series and scored lower on bars— it wasn’t miss on bars or a bad routine, but she took out her Komova + bail combination from the first day and had a bit more trouble on the dismount, so the score was lower. On the bright side for Padurariu on day 2, she pumped up the floor difficulty to outscore even Olsen, potentially adding to Canada’s embarrassment of floor riches.

Third-place in the all-around went to Brooklyn Moors, who of course stole everyone’s life with her floor routine, scoring exceptionally well on the first day but falling on her final pass on day 2 to drop down those event standings.

While floor is always going to be the star for her, Moors won the beam title here with two strong hits—over 14 on both occasions—which to me is the more important accomplishment. As we look toward four-person teams in 2020, the need to deliver realistic routines on most apparatuses is increasing. By placing 1st on beam and 5th on bars here, Moors is continuing to show progress in that department.

Also showing progress in the beam department was Shallon Olsen, who built upon her evolution into a beamer in her freshman season at Alabama by placing fifth there. She also won the vault title because duh.

Fourth position in the all-around belonged to Isabela Onyshko, who had a couple iffy moments here and there but put up pretty competitive peak scores on bars and beam, going 13.550 on bars on the first day and 13.600 on beam on the second day.

Junior Zoe Allaire-Bourgie competed with the seniors here due to excellence and was sitting 4th all-around after the first day but did not compete on day 2.

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Chinese Nationals — What Happened There?

If you were looking for a comfy, cozy competition where the expected people won titles and a clear picture of the potential Chinese worlds team emerged…Chinese Nationals was not that. Honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So let’s get into it. Here’s what you need to know to keep up as a responsible gymnastics citizen of the world.


Your national all-around champion is Liu Tingting. In recent months (year), LTT has been limited to only bars and beam, but she has returned on all four pieces in 2019—using a Yfull on vault and a fully Netherlands-ified floor routine to build up sufficient scores to let her exceptional bars and beam routines carry her to competitive all-around totals.

The highlights are always going to be bars and beam, but this lovely turn-a-thon floor routine ranked quite well throughout the competition, and given a Chinese team that’s still grasping at straws when it comes to floor, this is at least a “well, we can always use Tingting” routine that reduces the potential urgency to find floor workers—even if the D score is pretty low.

Continuing her tradition of rising to the occasion in the all-around competition at nationals, two-time defending champion Luo Huan snatched a silver medal this year, putting together a comprehensively hit two-day all-around competition, with 14+s on bars and beam in both qualification and the AA final.

Things fell apart for Luo in the event finals, with misses on both pieces souring the final impression of her meet. Of the people who competed at nationals, she is currently a top-3 necessity on bars and beam, but China has a lot of people who can be “the bars and beam gymnast,” like Chen Yile who missed the competition with injury, so it’s not going to be a secure position for Luo moving forward.

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Perfect Chinese Beamers Who Never Saw the Light of Day

With the Chinese national championship getting underway this week, now is an opportune time to delve into the most important subcategory of all the subcategories of Chinese gymnasts—perfect beamers who show up to nationals and are better than anything anyone has ever attempted and deserve all the gold medals, and then immediately disappear into the sands of time never to be seen again.

Whether they are injured forever, are only useful on beam, have never once actually hit a routine in their lives ever, or are just criminally overlooked in a controversial scandal, these gymnasts never competed on a major international team, which only adds to their legend.

(Note: There will be recency bias here because…YouTube. The most perfect Chinese beamer to have ever Chinese beamed probably competed domestically one time in 1985 and then turned to liquid like Alex Mack and seeped out of memory forever, but we don’t know who she was and have never seen her, so…you know…let’s talk about the last 15 years.)

Liu Hou

If you can’t get on board with this front aerial to two feet connected to Rulfova, then I have nothing for you. The sheer extension on the layout stepout mount and front aerial. The moving dismount tribute to Yang Bo to indicate humanity. It’s a win for all of us.

Liu Hou was a stellar beam junior in the 2004 quad—this little baby beam routine from 2003 is a must-watch as well—and actually had pretty solid longevity for a “never saw the light of day” Chinese beamer, continuing through to get some international assignments in Europe in the spring of 2007.

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State of the National Teams Address

Now that the NCAA season has ended with KJ successfully verbal vogueing Oklahoma to a 4th national title…

..let us (and by us, I mean me) take a moment to get reacclimated to the world of elite gymnastics and the state of the various national teams. Because we need something to occupy the time until things get good again.

Beginning with the US because I know that’s what you’re here for.

United States

The US team gave us an unexpected gift this spring by sending nearly every healthy senior national teamer on an international assignment—like they have money again or something. That means we actually have something to go on rather than the usual prognostication using only cloud shapes and whistles. Over the last two months, we’ve seen everybody—though of course, having actual performances and results to go on has only made things more complicated rather than less.

Taking only the international assignments from 2019, here are the top scores received by each athlete on each event. (So that means the AA total is the sum of those best scores on each piece, not the highest AA score received at a single day’s competition).

Top 3 on each event are in bold.

Simone Biles 15.400 14.300 14.200 14.900 58.800
Sunisa Lee 14.200 14.700 14.150 14.333 57.383
Emma Malabuyo 14.533 13.633 14.400 14.233 56.799
Leanne Wong 14.666 14.100 14.066 13.933 56.765
Grace McCallum 14.566 14.200 13.833 13.866 56.465
Kara Eaker 14.066 14.100 14.666 12.466 55.298
Alyona Shchennikova 14.433 14.633 12.966 13.166 55.198
Morgan Hurd 14.233 14.300 12.933 13.633 55.099
Sloane Blakely 13.633 13.500 13.766 13.566 54.465
Shilese Jones 14.700 11.600 13.033 13.800 53.133
Riley McCusker 13.133 14.400 12.166 13.366 53.065
Aleah Finnegan 14.400 12.866 12.533 12.866 52.665
Gabby Perea 13.567 12.900 12.367 13.333 52.167
Jade Carey 15.066 0.000 0.000 14.600 N/A

So, we’ve got a little bit of a race on our hands.

At least so far. The US women won’t compete again for a while, but the story of June-August will be the clash between those who have been making teams so far this quad (Hurd, McCusker, McCallum, etc) and those new or newly healthy seniors (Lee, Wong, Malabuyo, etc) who have recorded some of the top numbers so far this year. It’s a deep field, and not everyone is going to worlds.