Category Archives: Meet Recap

Osijek World Challenge Cup

The series of spring World Challenge Cups continued this weekend with our annual whirlwind two-stop tour of the mid-level agricultural centers of eastern Europe, starting with Osijek, Croatia. Here’s what went down.

Men’s Floor

The Artem Show turned out to be the Artem Show, to the surprise of zero.

With a massive difficulty advantage over the rest of the competitors and among the field’s most comfortable landings (aside from a near bout of vomiting-off-starboard while trying to hold the stick on his side pass, but never mind) Dolgopyat distanced himself from everyone else and took gold my nearly 6 tenths.

Primarily on the basis of extra difficulty, Kirill Prokopev of Russia took the second position, while also continuing to take first position in the “he would be an offensive stereotype of a Russian man if he weren’t an actual person” contest. This is what Americans think all Russian people look like. Just to be clear, in our heads he’s saying, “Vodka Vodka Mother Russia Nesting Doll Babushka” over and over again on a loop. Don’t worry about it.

Our Chilean prince Tomas Gonzalez did win the bronze, but in unacceptable news, he was given an execution score lower than both of the top two, largely the result of a couple short landings early on with small hops forward. But, his E score did not appropriately reward his superior execution of skills in the air or the way he moves choreographically into his cartwheel before the wide-arm handstand, and you need to break down the gates of the FIG about it.

Elsewhere, we saw extremely stylish work from Luka Terbovsek of Slovenia in fourth, with lovely twisting and tucked positions and some very secure landings on his early passes. Also a small infant child named Krisztofer Mezaros of Hungary sneaked into the final somehow and had a learning experience.

Women’s Vault

The women’s vault final proved deeper than in Zhaoqing…in that we had the full complement of eight contenders for the final.

Still, as the only contender with two vaults of 5+ in D score, world cup veteran Teja Belak entered as the comfortable favorite. Despite being saddled with the burden of wearing her Heart of the Ocean leotard again, she successfully hit both vaults on both days of competition to win the title. We’ve seen meets lately where Belak will qualify well then struggle with the handspring front full in the final, but this time there was little issue aside from some lunges on landing.

By showing somewhat more landing control, Angelina Radivilova gave Belak a run with a comfortable full and something in between a Podkopayeva and a Lopez (credited as Lopez), though with a disadvantage of 6 tenths in D, she wasn’t able to make up enough ground. Continue reading Osijek World Challenge Cup

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Zhaoqing World Challenge Cup

Missed Zhaoqing (I can’t imagine why…)?

Well, here’s what went down in case you callously skipped out on your weekly date with Olly and the Olympic Channel.

Men’s Floor

In the floor final, Deng Shudi’s cheek scar took a starring role again as he continued to look like the experienced spy who’s been around a few times and doesn’t have time for this young buck’s foolhardy rule shirking. He used passes like a double front pike, 1/2 out to express the sentiment, “I’m me, meanwhile your side pass is a back layout, thus concludes the third presidential debate.”

Some OOBishness on a couple passes made things closer than they probably should have been, but Deng’s victory here was never truly in doubt.

While Deng more or less cruised, we did have some issues in this final. Poor Lim Kaeson took a combination rudi attempt to his fibula and, both Genta Tsuyuki and Ri Kwang Bom had moments where they attempted to stand up only to realize they were much drunker than they thought they were.

Still, it wasn’t solely a Deng show. Deng’s closest challenge came somewhat as a surprise (I mean not really because Japan, but still…) as Takuya Sakakibara used an exceptional tucked double double and overall superior landing control compared to the contenders to snatch a last-minute silver medal as the final competitor.

The race for bronze came down to cleanliness and landing control among a group of very similar routines. Ultimately Lee Seungmin used his superior twisting form—his toes and legs really stood out in this final—to place just ahead of his countryman Shin Jeahwan, who probably has more raw acrobatic ability but was also somewhat less controlled—and struggled on a Japanese handstand that will have been “tsk, tsk, tsk”-ed right to a lower execution score. In 5th place, Loo Phay Xing also performed a clean, pleasant, and composed routine, but with a 5.2 D, whatcha gonna do.

Women’s Vault

Only five people showed for the women’s vault event in Zhaoqing, and two of those five competed handspring repulsions as their second vaults, so that was that. The dichotomy of watching someone perform a Cheng (the #3 most difficult vault) followed by someone performing the simplest vault in the entire code of points had its own novelty, but this final isn’t going down in history, is what I’m saying.

Still, we were treated to that Cheng Moment from Yu Linmin, who showed some improvement over her performance at Chinese Nationals, landing short with some ragged shape but also displaying more realistic security in the landing. With that and a very sound DTY, she took the vault title here by a few tenths and will to keep herself in the mix for China. There’s a solid argument to be made that Yu has now at least earned a chance on the Asian Championships team.  Continue reading Zhaoqing World Challenge Cup

2006 Worlds All-Around: Gymnastics Is Over

Thank you for joining me on this solemn occasion.

Before we begin, please don your ceremonial black shroud and dramatically lengthy weeping veil—lace handkerchiefs out, ladies!—as we commemorate the 12th anniversary of the death of gymnastics.

Goodbye, old friend.

The year was 2006, and an open-ended scoring system had broken out across the continent, engulfing community after community in death, famine, devastation, and a war that pitted brother against brother. Whole cities were ravaged by the idea of having to manage a difficulty score and an execution score (TWO NUMBERS MY BRAIN COULD NEVER), and orphan children wailed at the lack of perfect 10.000s, which had definitely been attainable right up until that moment.

Doomsday predictions that the elimination of the 10 would result in hyenas picking apart the desiccated remains of a once-regal sport proved—of course—entirely correct. Having been continuously perfect from 1950-2005, gymnastics was instantly ruined and the sport promptly canceled following the installation of known non-blonde Vanessa Ferrari as world champion, even after falling on beam and having kneecaps. That gentle doe gymnastics could never survive such a hellscape, and nothing good ever occurred again.

But how could such a thing have come to pass? Let us travel back to the year 2006 to find out.

Matt, Christine, and Mitch greet us with the news that meet-favorite Chellsie Memmel has withdrawn from the all-around final with a shoulder injury, so everything is already just terrible. Enjoy your podium of moldy leftovers. This is the worst year.

No one knows how Memmel’s shoulder got injured. Do 50 more jams.

Memmel’s absence means the status of favorite defaults to Vanessa Ferrari even though she excels at…[whispers, vomits]…tumbling. But this cannot be! The open code of points will be the death of us all! How is she not Khorkina! Continue reading 2006 Worlds All-Around: Gymnastics Is Over

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?

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?