Category Archives: Meet Recap

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?

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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

2005 World All-Around Final — Gymnastics + Math = F-

The theme of this summer’s recapping project will be the first year of the quad. This being, you know, the first year of the quad.

Up first, the ever-controversial 2005 all-around final, the meet that taught us several important lessons regarding how basic counting of numbers works and how Tsarina Liukina just generally doesn’t have room for your shit.

Let’s meet the stars of the year 2005!

Nastia Liukin!

Some Kristal Uzelac frontal lobe!…?

I want to say…Cleo?

Oh, did I say this was 2005? Sorry, I meant 1841, apparently. Australian John Tesh christens the competition by informing us that “every girl dreams of being a princess” but tonight only “one wish will be granted.”

Oh. Oh good. We’re still doing that.

At least it’s not just a US thing…?

We’ll begin the meet on floor.

BOOP.

You guys, I know Chellsie is solid on Dress Transformation Sparkles, and I’m sure she’ll score well on Dreaming Only of Husbands, but I’m kind of worried about how competitive she’ll be on Bird Friendship.

It’s like, “Honey, stop doing those sit-ups and go to cotillion,” am I right? I mean, the whole point of this is to marry rich and wear tiaras…priorities, lady! Continue reading 2005 World All-Around Final — Gymnastics + Math = F-

National Championships Round-up – CAN, AUS, FRA, BEL

All the countries of the world (all of them) have suddenly decided to start national championshiping like it’s going out of style, so here’s a quick rundown of what happened this weekend, what we learned, and what this tells us about possible teams for world championships.

It may seem like worlds are still a long way off, but…well, yes, that’s kind of true. And yet, four months isn’t that long, and most countries won’t get the whole gang together again until then. This is already our last, best chance to prognosticate wildly, and if you think I’m not going to take that chance…

Lauren has compiled all the results for the meets I’m about to talk about so that no one else has to do it.

Canadian Championships

Unsurprisingly, the big winner at the Canadian champs was Ellie Black. She dominated the qualification day, placing first by multiple points, though things got much more real for her in the all-around final after a fall on bars nearly saw her drop behind Rose Woo. That would have been a serious upset. Black’s ultimate margin of victory was just three tenths, but with full difficulty and a hit meet, it would have been a lot, lot more.

Isabela Onyshko did not have an ideal championship, one that will probably be remembered for that E-score in the 2s on bars in qualification more than anything else (because if you think I’m going to stop talking about that…). Onyshko did “recover” on bars in the AA final for a one-fall 12.734, which was enough to get her a 4th-place finish, but she would have been expected to run second to Black here, all things being normal. Still, Onyshko did perform well enough on beam to take that title and hasn’t given away her status as Canada’s #2 senior AAer just because of this meet.

Shallon Olsen won the vault title because of course she did. She finished only 6th in the AA since…she’s an event specialist and isn’t here to make friends. And by make friends, I mean do bars or beam.

Olsen did not bring back the Amanar at this meet (going DTY along with the 1/2 on tucked 1.5), but if she does get the 2.5 back during the summer, she’ll be a favorite for worlds selection because, well, anyone with a vaulting program more difficult than DTY/Lopez will have at least a vague look at a medal this year. Even though her form can get funky, she’d be among Canada’s most likely finals contenders. Continue reading National Championships Round-up – CAN, AUS, FRA, BEL

European Championship – Event Finals Day 2

And thus, the European Championship comes to an end for another year. We’ve grown so much over the past five days. Last week at this time, we were all just little Olegs, tiny egg children gazing up at the world from our too-big pajamas with wide-eyed wonderment, and now we’re full-grown Berkis, all too aware of the unjust cruelty of a cold, cold world.

Just imagine…when we began, we didn’t even know that Kyla Roos had switched her nationality to Toorkey, a giant rabbit child was coming to eat our families, or that “I’m going to record an electronic version of ‘Que Sera Sera,’ and it will be a D+,” is a sentence a human person would say. So young. So naive.

But, before we part, we have several more lessons of the adult world to learn from the remaining five event finals. So, grab your face mask, your wooden stake, your onions, and your emergency contact information, because we start with men’s “vault.”

Men’s Body Chuck

First, by way of a social PSA, we really need to discuss the epidemic that is Artur Dalaloyan.

Young people these days are bombarded with constant images of his perfect TTY and his glorious twisting form, where he sticks landings and ascends directly into the sky to join Mount Olympus as a stream of rainbow-colored sour candies rains out of all his orifices. And yes, his vaulting is gorgeous, but it’s just one type of vaulting, and it’s not realistic for most people. To set him up as though he reflects a common level of vaulting for others to strive to achieve can lead to so many unrealistic expectations and body image problems among preteens and other vaulters.

Dalaloyan opened the Body Chuck final like a vicious tease, tricking us poor hopeful wretches who don’t know any better into believing that the days of watching experimental surgeries from the 1760s masquerading as a gymnastics event were finally behind us. Continue reading European Championship – Event Finals Day 2