Category Archives: Secret Classic

Secret Classic LIVE BLOG

It’s here. It’s finally here. The fifth-most important night of the elite gymnastics season. Just like you’ve always dreamed about. I hope you’re as excited as Sveta.

In the eternally wise words of Martha Karolyi, “THERE IS NO NEXT YEAR.”

But first, it has already been a busy day in the gymnastics world, beginning with the women’s team final at the European Championships. It looked like it would be a close-fought thing between Russia and Great Britain, but that turned out to be a thousand types of false. Great Britain poured into the arena today with a chronic case of the no-thank-yous, featuring a Harrold fall on bars followed by Fragapane and Becky Downie falls on beam. Today just wasn’t a good day. At all. Though if you’re looking for positives, silver at Euros was a huge accomplishment for Team GB as recently as 11 seconds ago. Now, Great Britain can have a poor day, fall all over the place, and still finish second rather comfortably.

It’s sort of a shame because I was getting ready to complain about how drastically Russia was being held up in executions scores (those vaults…), but it didn’t end up mattering because the Russians only managed to fall a distinctly un-Russian once (Seda’s inevitable mistake on her full on beam) and were therefore able to allow Mustafina to clomp through her half-a-floor-routine at the end and still win easily and deservedly.

In the clawing fight for bronze, France recovered from a bars catastrophe in qualification and hit nearly a complete meet, using superior bars D to outpace the home Swiss, who counted falls from Kaeslin on bars and Steingruber on beam again, an Italian team that improved on its qualification performance but was still a little too fallsy, and a Romanian team that had an unfortunate little beam experience that it could not afford coming off normal Romania bars.

The European Championship was directly connected via rebounding flight series into the junior Secret Classic, where WOGA’s much hyped Russian-named Russian-DNA Russian, Irina Alexeeva, triumphed by the slimmest of margins. Aleexeva has added a strong floor to her already well-publicized WOGA-junior-beam-Ohashi-magic, which helped her come out just ahead of Texas Dream Emma Malabuyo, who used a DTY to gain a bit of an edge but finished a touch behind Alexeeva on the remaining events. Gabby Perea of Legacy Elite sidled in for third, winning bars (as we would only expect from a Li family joint), but I was most impressed by her fantastically nailed beam routine in which she taught a clinic on how to land a full-twisting back.

Pre-event favorite Jordan Chiles finished fourth, following what has become a very, very familiar pattern for her. She hits a solid Amanar which makes everyone go, “WOW SHE’S THE BEST FUTURE WORLD CHAMPION OF ALL,” but then she falls on beam and flies out of bounds a couple times on floor to plummet down the rankings. Every time. Just behind Chiles were GLASSES Morgan Hurd, Maile O’Keefe, and Deanne Soza, all of whom had three strong events but one issue-riddled event, that event being beam for Soza and Hurd and bars for O’Keefe.

Fun fact: If the top-five juniors here (Alexeeva, Malabuyo, Perea, Chiles, and Hurd) had competed as a team at senior Euros today, they would have finished 0.162 behind Russia for gold.

But enough of that racket! It’s time for the seniors! What of the Raismanar? And the Hernandebars??? And the whoeverfloor????? Too many questions. Let’s get some answers. HA HA HA HA. Just kidding. We won’t get any answers today. It’s just Classic. Martha only wants you to be at 74% right now. Continue reading Secret Classic LIVE BLOG

Secret Classic Podium Training

I haven’t been obsessively refreshing the USAGym youtube page all day. You’ve been obsessively refreshing the USAGym youtube page all day. What is obviously the most important day of your life, Secret Classic podium training, is finally here and the videos are flooding in for our intense dissection needs, providing us with…WAIT.

Has Skinner gotten rid of both tomato-armpit AND stab-a-boob???

THIS WILL NOT STAND. This better just be a podium training acro-through, and she’s saving the difficult and important parts of the routine for competition. Otherwise, I don’t know what I’ll do. Shut up with that full-in dismount whatever, I WANT TOMATO ARMPIT. I mean, we do get “rigor mortis pottery” at the beginning of this video, and then “I’m nervous about my upcoming hip replacement surgery” toward the end, but THAT’S IT. Not good enough. She also appears to have added in her own homage to Ol’ Flappy. Derivative.

In important upgrade news, Laurie Hernandez showed up like a monster to upset the bars cart with this upgraded 6.4 bars routine.

Serious team final implications with this, as it potentially gives Hernandez a second event to help make her case (along with beam). This separates her from the pack of 6.1 bars options (like Biles and Nichols) and helps turn the attention away from vault (and who has an Amanar) and onto what Hernandez can potentially add on bars and beam, which could total more than an Amanar adds anyway. The execution is fine, though not ideal (those damn stalder full legs), so we’ll need to see how this is evaluated to see how much she’s really gaining here. To be a viable bars option, you have to beat Biles by at least a couple tenths since the team could always just put up Biles and be fine. Continue reading Secret Classic Podium Training

Secret Classic Preview

It’s happening. No turning back now.

Secret Classic. This Saturday. The biggest little competition in gymnastics. I say that because classic isn’t really…important. It doesn’t matter who wins. If you screw it up royally, you can still become world champion later that year. And the popular kids totally only do bars and beam, anyway.

For reference, if we look back to 2012 Secret Classic, Douglas did three events and messed up beam, Wieber did two events and messed up bars, Anna Li fell on bars, and Ebee had several natural disasters on both beam and floor, all of which we remembered exactly zero percent once we got to nationals and trials when it was ALTERNATE SPOTS FOR EVERYONE. So, I would caution against reading too much into the inevitable falls we’ll see at classic. People can (and do) come back from them later in the summer.

At the same time, this competition will set the tone for the composition choices we’ll see this year (if you have an upgrade, it needs to be shown yesterday), which will better separate realistic from unrealistic team permutations and clarify who are the favorites versus the challengers.

It’s also just plain exciting because OLYMPIC SEASON YOU GUYS. Classic is the beginning of the end of this journey…

Oh no. No. I feel a fluff piece coming on. Can’t stop it. Run. Save yourself.

“It begins [PAUSE] as a dream. [CHALK BUCKET. ADJUSTING GRIPS TO INDICATE HARD WORK.] But for five young women [PAUSE] what was once no more than a fleeting fantasy [BLURRY BLACK-AND-WHITE FILTER OVER THE CHEERING CROWDS OF GABBY’S 2012 WIN], is just a few short weeks from reality. [COLOR AND RESOLUTION RESTORED. COPACABANA BEACH.] Rio de Janeiro. [CHRIST THE REDEEMER STATUE.] All those long nights, spent bathed in golden dreams of a land called Rio, come down to this. [TIME LAPSE OF ARENA FILLING UP. WATCHFUL EYES OF MARTHA KAROLYI] A vault. [MARONEY’S 2012] A stick. [SIMONE STICKING THE BILES] …A lifetime. [BACK TO THE GYM. SOLITARY FIGURE REMOVES TAPE IN THE CORNER AS THE LIGHTS TURN OFF.]”

OK, now that we’ve got that out of my system, for the hour at least, here are a few of the routines and people I’m most interested by and will have the keenest vulture eyes on during Saturday’s Secret Classic.

1. The Gabbanar and the Raismanar

So much of the team composition (whether Hernandez or Nichols is better suited to help the team, whether a bars specialist is required to up the D score), will be decided by how many people have viable Amanars. Nothing that occurs this weekend will be more critical than the State of the Amanars Address.

There’s no guarantee that everyone will do every event, especially the leg events, but I have to think that Proof of Amanar is among the top priorities for all the top non-Simones. Nichols isn’t competing, meaning we’ll have to wait to see where she is on her vault journey (it begins as a dream…), but Raisman and Douglas can set the vaulting tone. Continue reading Secret Classic Preview

Checking Out Some D – Classic Edition

Here we stand, firmly on the edge of the Olympic summer, a week away from one of the most anticipated days on the US gymnastics calendar, Secret Classic podium training. The moment of truth for every weird twitter upgrade rumor and composition question swirling around the US arsenal.

At this point in the year, the D situation usually remains shrouded in mystery, but with all the Pac Rims and Jesolos and actually-going-to-world-cups in 2016, this time we have a slightly better sense of what everyone is planning to compete. That allows for a somewhat more credible assessment of team chances and, more critically, what upgrades and performances we need to see at Classic for certain people to solidify or improve their standings in the national team hierarchy.

I’ve taken the US senior elites’ current difficulty and arranged the Ds by size, and at this point it should become clear that this whole exercise is simply an elaborate excuse to make a bunch of tired and infantile D jokes.

For this purpose, “current” difficulty means the highest awarded in competition in the last twelve months. I did, however, remove the stick bonuses from domestic Ds because of UGH, so hopefully these D scores are a little more realistic than actual reality.

Let’s begin with the overall picture.



(I’m counting the Amanar for Simone, not the Cheng, since that will still be her #1 vault, but with Skinner…do we know which way she’s leaning?)

This is the moment for the official disclaimer that I’m well aware that D is only part of the package. If we were to put together the five US gymnasts who would contribute the highest cumulative difficulty at the Olympics, it would be this (for the moment).


I don’t think you’ll get all that many people arguing that this should be the ultimate Olympic team.

But, a competitive D is an essential component if a gymnast is hoping to contribute on an event in the Olympics, so let’s break it down by apparatus.



As has been borne out by both difficulty and overall scores during the past year, Biles and Raisman remain the US’s essential floor workers.

Floor is Raisman’s primary (and some might argue sole) justification for a spot on an Olympic team at this point in her career, but in terms of confirming her status this summer, Raisman must retain a serious multi-tenth edge over all non-Biles floor workers. If other people start wiggling into a reasonable proximity to Raisman on floor, we might start looking at other team compositions that could gain back those couple tenths elsewhere.

Nichols was the #3 floorsy last year, but there’s a large peloton of very similar contenders in the low-6 D range, so no one else is really making a serious impact crater on floor. From Skinner at position #3 in the above list all the way down to Hernandez in position #9, will there be all that much difference in score? Continue reading Checking Out Some D – Classic Edition