Category Archives: Meet Recap

American Classic – What Even Was This Meet?

Fear not, I have finally returned to the land of the living and have fully watched…whatever the American Classic was supposed to be. So let’s get into it.

First, a few brief lengthy notes about the inevitable gymternet controversy that cropped up surrounding the stream of this meet (WHO COULD HAVE SEEN A CONTROVERSY COMING), sparked once again by USAG’s inability to plan anything or answer a simple question. In this case the question was, “What even is this meet?”

USAG clearly had no idea. On one hand, it tried to make American Classic into a real public meet this year and sell tickets (exactly 11 of them, I think), yet on the other hand, it still gave coaches/athletes the option (as exercised by Grace McCallum and Riley McCusker) not to be shown on the live stream—an inherent contradiction.

Which is it? A public meet or a secret meet? Pick one.

My expectation is that if the American Classic is a public meet where the organization sells tickets that anyone can buy, streams the meet live, uses the meet for selection purposes, and promotes the meet using specific athletes, then opting out of a live stream should not be presented as an option. Just as no one would allow Simone to opt out of being shown on TV at nationals even if she wanted that, or no one would allow an NCAA athlete to opt out of being shown on the SEC Network. This isn’t training. It’s THE SHOW. The paying customers are going to see your routines anyway.

If, however, you’ve decided the American Classic is a rinky-dink little nothing competition held at Nancy’s guest shack or whatever in order to allow athletes to play around and get experience—more like the other elite qualifiers—then who even cares. (Exactly no one cared that we didn’t see McCusker’s routines from the last elite qualifier.) Either way is acceptable, but USAG has to decide one way or the other and communicate to everyone what it wants this meet to be.

Communicate that this is another US Classic and if you’re not ready to show routines to the world, that’s fine, but then this completely optional public meet is not for you.

Or, conversely, communicate that this is not a real competition and shouldn’t be treated as such—and then don’t hold it in a big arena and don’t sell tickets.

Once again, USAG creates an entirely avoidable mess through poor communication (and not attempting to reconcile its own aims with what the national team/coaches prefer), and then walks away and lets everyone else get upset about it.

Ultimately, USAG did tweet McCusker’s beam routine, so you might live, with her name misspelled and never corrected. (USAG is becoming a full satire at this point, and I’m in the front row.)

Continue reading American Classic – What Even Was This Meet?

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Guimarães World Cup – Finals Day 2

The second day of finals from Guimarães brought more Nightmare Cat, more rambling Olympic Channel insanity, and much more YORG, along with medals in the remaining five events or whatever. Let’s go.

Men’s Vault

8th place – Rene Cournoyer (CAN) – Rene sat his opening double front vault, then went all hoppy on a Kas 1/1 landing to drop him to 8th.

7th place – Robert Tvorogal (LTU) – Tvorogal performed the same vaults as Cournoyer with the same result, also sitting his double front. He did land his Kas 1/1 with more control, though, to take 7th.

6th place – Simon Lopez (MEX) – Lopez struggled a bit landing his handspring 2/1, squatting deep and lunging to the side, which took him out of contention.

5th place – Marco Rizzo (SUI) – Rizzo had the only hit double front in the final (1 for 4!) and did so for a competitive score, but he just didn’t have the second-vault difficulty, performing only a Kas.

4th place – Fabian De Luna (MEX) – De Luna started very well with a cleanly twisted Kas 1/1—just a medium bound forward—but he too sat down his double front to miss the medals.

3rd place – Takumi Sato (JPN) – A sideward lunge nearly off the mat on a handspring 2.5 took Sato down to third, but he followed that with a stuck Kas 1/1, if a little deep, to keep himself in the medals.

2nd place – Jorge Vega Lopez (GUA) – Don’t worry, his name is still very much YORG, apparently. Vega controlled his landings quite well on both the handspring 2.5 and the Kas 1.5, with just small steps, though his knees and ankles may have died after coming in short on the handspring. Unclear. A couple form things, but a good showing.

1st place – Manrique Larduet (CUB) – It was an absolutely fantastic Dragulescu, insanely high and comfortably completed, that earned Manrique the gold here. He needed to be that good for gold, since his opening Kas 1.5 was landed deeper than the others with a significant lunge back. Continue reading Guimarães World Cup – Finals Day 2

Guimarães World Cup – Finals Day 1

To open the competition, everyone had to run out at ill-timed intervals while being shouted at by the Horned Nightmare Cat, so everything is going fine in the world.

Anyway, here’s what else happened on day 1 of finals.

Women’s Vault

8th place – Emily Thomas (GBR) – Thomas had qualified in second place but fell on her Tsuk full here, dropping her to last.

7th place – Sara Peter (HUN)  – Peter intended a layout Tsuk full as her first vault but tucked it and hopped well out of the area, putting her down below the others on difficulty and execution despite a strong second vault.

6th place – Ahtziri Sandoval (MEX) – Sandoval stumbled backward with two large lunges on her opening Tsuk full, which took her out of contention in this final.

5th place – Tijana Tkalcec (CRO) – Tkalcec opened with a fairly nice front handspring pike 1/2 that had her in medal contention, but a large lunge back out of her FTY with some crazy legs on the block and a pike down put her in 5th place.

4th place – Laurie Denommee (CAN) – Denommee started with a reasonably NCAA Yurchenko full with just some knees and a small step back, but a more significant hop back on her handspring pike 1/—in addition to a straddle on the table—saw her finish just out of the medals.

3rd place – Victoria Mata (MEX) – Mata performed very well in this final, executing a high handspring tuck 1/2 as her first vault with just a small hop, followed by a FTY with laudable distance and shape. It was her execution (the best in the final) that allowed her to survive lower difficulty and still medal.

2nd place – Gabriela Janik (POL) – Janik’s opening handspring tuck 1/1 gave her a slight difficulty edge, and she did well to show a clean tucked shape at the end of that vault. She did have a multi-step stumble backward on her Tsuk full second vault but was able to use her few tenths of difficulty advantage to stay toward the top.

1st place – Yeo Seojeong (KOR) – Yeo’s victory here is a lovely example of everything wrong with the vaulting code. She had the weakest performance of the final, taking a huge stumble backward with multiple lunges on a DTY, followed by a hands-down fall on a rudi, and yet managed to win gold exclusively because of her massive D-score advantage over the others.  Continue reading Guimarães World Cup – Finals Day 1

What’s Happening in China?

Now that the entirety of the Chinese national championship is behind us, let’s examine all the major developments, who’s in the mix for worlds and Asian Games selection this year, and how competitive China looks internationally.

A. The emergence of Zhang Jin

Up until about 8 weeks ago, Zhang was squarely in China’s second tier of elites—she had a vault sometimes, but didn’t have bars, and was probably going to get 12s on beam and floor. Get on the pile with the others.

Starting with her all-around victory in Stuttgart in March, Zhang began to move into the first tier of options, particularly because China is in fairly extreme need of vault and floor scores at the moment and doesn’t have that many internationally competitive options to choose from. Zhang is now one of those options after the 14.850 (which includes .3 internal bonus to explain it…kind of) she scored for her DTT in the all-around final and the 13.300 she received on floor, which puts her currently #1 among China’s vault scores and #2 among China’s floor scores. There were internal bonuses here and there at this meet, which explain some of the crazy numbers you’ll see, but not all of them.

Even repeated at worlds, a 13.300 on floor in a team final is going to dig China quite a hole compared to the likes of the US, Russia, and Japan, who will be expecting to go high 13s and into the 14s for each floor score, but it’s probably as well as China can do right now and is better than things have looked.

Critically, Zhang also recorded two scores over 14 on beam during the course of the competition (Qual and EF) for what was probably her most impressive event of the four at this meet. When looking forward to potential five-member teams at worlds this year, there isn’t room for three VT/FXs and three UB/BBs, so crossover between the strength groups is important when it appears.

With new senior and potential future hope Li Qi currently injured, Zhang Jin is stepping directly into that same role as a realistic VT/BB/FX three-eventer, who ultimately finished second in the AA final despite not having much of a bars routine, which speaks to her success on the other pieces.

B. Chen Yile is China’s best all-arounder

This much is clear. Chen dominated AA qualification and was the highest-scoring all-arounder in the team final—though she pulled out of the subsequent AA final just to give you a heart attack. She did, however, return the following days to compete in the bars and beam finals—winning bronze on bars and silver on beam—so you’re probably going to be fine.

Chen is exciting because she — like Liu Tingting circa 2016, back when we were young and full of hope — has typically lovely Chinese bars and beam that can score mid-14s, as well as a floor routine that can go comfortably into the 13s and a DTY. The bars, beam, and floor carried her in this competition and ensured that even though she showed only an FTY this time around, she was still the best four-eventer in the meet by a comfortable margin. Fully healthy, Chen is your biggest lock for China right now and would be likely to go on all four pieces in a major team final.

Still, getting her vault difficulty back up is not an insignificant factor, even though she could still make teams while vaulting a handspring nothing. Continue reading What’s Happening in China?

Nationals Postmortem: Semifinals and Individuals

The worry heading into the national semifinals was that everything would go exactly to plan and the top six teams would all advance comfortably to the final. Thankfully for our purposes, that didn’t happen. Because otherwise snoozeburger.

Alabama’s elimination and descent to a fifth-place semifinal finish, ultimately eighth overall, reigned as the big story on Friday and marked the first time Alabama missed Super Six since 2007—what had been the longest Super Six streak in NCAA. This 2018 situation almost exactly mirrored what happened to Alabama in that 2007 semifinal, when Alabama also did not count a fall or even have a disaster meet, just got stuck with some meh routines for 9.7s and 9.8s to end up fifth in the semifinal as Nebraska snatched the upset and finished third, advancing to Super Six. Just like what happened here.

It was basically the same meet, 11 years later, except instead of Georgia outperforming expectations to finish fourth as we saw in 2018, that year it was an upstart Oklahoma team led by first-year head coach KJ Kindler. We never heard from her again.

On the bright side for the Tide, Alabama came back from that 2007 result to finish the following regular season ranked 4th, and then went on to be national runners-up just two years after the disappointment of 2007. Continue reading Nationals Postmortem: Semifinals and Individuals

Super Six 2018: What. Just. Happened?

UCLA wins! Just like we all predicted!

Except not. UCLA had situated itself cozily among the pack of four legitimate title contenders entering nationals—but was certainly not the leader of that pack. Third place would have been seen as a very solid result and sign of improvement in 2018, so winning a title will go down as a true upset. Not a completely baffling, shocking upset, but something along the lines of Oklahoma winning its first title with the tie in 2014. Oklahoma was likewise among the top contenders that year, but actually winning a championship was a leap for that team—about a year earlier than expected at the time—and similar is true for UCLA. The Bruins made the unforeseen leap this year, when next year (with the additions of Frazier and Flatley, having a fuller-strength Kocian) and the following season were supposed to be UCLA’s biggest shots at another championship.

Instead, it’s a 2018 title for the Bruins, their seventh overall, as they jump back ahead of Alabama for sole possession of third place on the all-time list.

So what just happened? An extremely competitive, deliciously exciting Super Six is what just happened, a meet that stylishly sends the Super Six postseason format to its rightful place—super six feet underground—while still serving as an excellent advertisement for next year’s four-team final since this…basically was a four-team final.

It’s tough to beat this year’s Super Six on excitement level, though I’m not among those shouting from the rooftops about the amazing quality of the actual gymnastics. There were fantastic moments of course, but what made the competition so exciting and enjoyable wasn’t some amazing high level of peak performance. It was that everyone had issues, keeping them all bunched together. Team “I just want everyone to do their best and hit at the same time” will not have enjoyed this one because that’s not remotely what happened. Team “GRRR BLOOD WAR PLEASE” will have enjoyed this one because it was close and dramatic and full of equal peaks and valleys. I enjoyed this one.

We saw an unexpected number of mistakes from teams that should have been able to go 24-for-24 in Super Six. Our national champion won with two falls, which hasn’t happened since Florida’s infamous beam in 2013. No one hit a complete and fantastic meet of four events, which also serves to stunt some potentially brewing controversy. Not a single one of the six teams, even UCLA, can righteously say “We deserved that win based on our performance on the day.” No one did, no one completely nailed it, so they all left it in the hands of the judges. If Oklahoma showed up and had been completely lights out again this year, Oklahoma would have won, but that’s not what happened, which gave us a thrilling meet and an upset winner. Continue reading Super Six 2018: What. Just. Happened?

2001 World Team Final: Obviously Inadequate Hamstrings

The beginning-of-the-quad recap project continues today with a trip back to a far-off land called 2001, the last year in which a team final was held in the season immediately after the Olympics.

If you’re wondering why we don’t do that anymore, allow me to…

Yeah. That. It’s pretty much that.

My favorite part is how she has a balance check after the fall.

That GIF said, having a full-team worlds the year after the Olympics does give us a chance to see some highly unexpected people—who will obviously never be allowed to see the light of day ever again after disgracing their nations with their very existences.

We also get some highly unexpected final team placements (because of reasons like China fundamentally not being able to even…), which is exciting and interesting in its own way. It’s why I wish we had team finals every year. “It would be a catastrophic mess” is a reason for it, not a reason against it.

Embrace the mess. Khorkina clearly has.

The year 2001 also takes us back to the good old days when worlds were on ESPN—starring Bart—and were kind of, sort of, almost treated like a real sport. Or something. What a concept.

Sadly, that also means we’re barely reaching the requisite amount of vaguely inappropriate jabbering commentator stew (except for Bart’s “Postcard from Ghent,” and we’ll get there I promise). Which will never do.

That’s why it’s exceptionally important that Eurosport swooped in with Monica “YOU get an eating disorder, and YOU get an eating disorder” Phelps for the final two rotations. So…we’re more than set.

Such a savage buzzard. So unnecessarily blunt. I know we shouldn’t be encouraging her. I know. But…come on. This actually is one of her better-behaved broadcasts. She doesn’t even call anyone “chunky.” Someone got some notes?

Anyway, we begin on ESPN with Bart telling us that the Russians have been inconsistent so far in the competition.

MY WORD THIS CANNOT BE. The Russians?!?! Inconsistent?!?! Continue reading 2001 World Team Final: Obviously Inadequate Hamstrings