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.
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