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

Pre-Classic: A Land of Ignorance

Pre-Classic is my favorite part of the elite season because it’s the silliest. We’re all so damn confident about how things are going to go this season despite having seen precisely zero gymnastics from the major and most of the minor contenders. Remember your feelings about Ashton Locklear precisely 365 days ago? Because they were a tumbleweed made of cricket sound effects.

That’s what makes Classic exciting. At this moment, we know nothing, but by the end of podium training, we’ll basically be set and have a good idea of what we’ll see this year. To help fill in the possible picture of who might go to Glasgow to be the trusted attendants in Queen Simone’s Royal Court, here are a few ramblings about what I’ll be watching out for at Classic because I realize I haven’t posted anything that isn’t about Al Trautwig in a long time.  

Amanar Watch 2015: Beyond Biles, Fact or Fiction

Eeeeeeeverybody thinks she has an Amanar this year. We’ll see. We’ve been down this road before. People often like to show up to Classic going, “Sup bitches, I gots me an Amanar,” and then it isn’t so much with the great. See Gowey 2014, Raisman 2010. Still, enough people have past Amanars, current Amanars, possible Amanars, Un-anars, or fantasies about having Amanars that the US should be expecting to cobble together at least three 6.3+ vaults for Worlds. There’s obviously Biles, Dowell has had a 2.5 for years now and needs it, we have Skinner with her social experiment, we know about Raisman and Douglas’s past vaults, Nichols had a Campanar that time, Key has been training one since she was a fetus (You guys! She’s training a Wombanar in there! My aunt’s cousin saw it!), Gowey had that one for a hot second last year but didn’t vault at Pan Ams because of yet another in her Pride Parade of injuries. Right now, there are a lot of possibilities, but we need some facts.

Of this group, a hit 2.5 will probably be the most important for Maggie Nichols. She has elevated herself out of you’re-here-too, Paul Ruggeri, alternating-my-ass-off territory almost solely on the basis of having a Campanar, but if she could legitimately score as a top-three vaulter this summer in competition, that would be a huge boost for her team hopes. She needs to prove that she’s not only a strong AAer, but convincingly top 3 at least somewhere and probably two-wheres. It’s a big competition for Nichols. Conversely, Skinner will be rooting for as few Amanars as possible. The more people with competitive vaults, the less necessary her vault becomes, and she doesn’t have as many competitive events to work with in the first place.

Bring Out Your Bars Specialists 

Last year, Locklear and Kocian made the team to ensure that the US was a little less horrifying on bars, and once again on a team of six, the opportunity can present itself for bars specialist to work her way onto the team and save the day. Though the standard is tougher this year. With Ross continuing to be Ross and Biles, Key, Nichols, and a whole host of other people showing bars D-scores in the low 6s with high-14 totals (6.1 is the new 5.8), anyone hoping to make the team specifically because of bars will need to show significantly higher scoring potential than that. Possible bars specialists need to be scoring clearly into the 15s, otherwise there will be people already on the team for other events who can do the job just as well. So I’m keeping an eye on those scores. That’s why it will be tough for someone like Gowey. She mashed together an upgraded routine for this year (with more upgrade potential still) but maxed out at the 14.7s at Pan Ams. Biles can get that. Desch is in a similar boat. She upgraded like crazy this year to put together some really solid routines, but she’s not in top-three contention on these events.

Douglas will be interesting to watch with regard to the quest for bars 15s. Because she’s Gabby Douglas, she automatically seems like the default bars worker based on her past accomplishments. But, her Jesolo bars routine was very work-in progress. She’ll need to show some development since then to solidify any kind of status on this event. Comparing her score to the incumbent bars workers, the injury-returning Locklear and Kocian, will be telling, though certainly Douglas’s abilities on other events can help her cause.

The crop is deeper this year than it was last year, so there probably isn’t going to be room for a whole gang of bars specialists again. We’re going to see the likes of Locklear, Kocian, and Dowell all trying to out-bars each other for what might not even be one spot. (Biles, Ross, Raisman, Key, Douglas, Nichols, Skinner is a fairly realistic, serious-scoring group of seven to choose from, and it includes none of them. Although, that team may be slightly questionable on bars and could use a boost if someone earns it.) We know Dowell’s top routine has the difficulty edge over everyone, but she’ll have to bring that routine, along with a whole bushel of consistency and a clear scoring edge over the recent world team members in order to overcome the general Martha-thumbs-down feeling that has pervaded her elite career.

Who Is Good At Floor?

Simone is. Aly Raisman is. Aly has spent the last 5 years making teams because of beam and floor, so to solidify her spot on the prospective team, she’s going to need to reinforce her position on floor and emerge as the clear #2 behind Biles and her 19.500. She has the difficulty to do it already back in her routine and looked on track at Jesolo. She’s kind of the Olympic champion, you know. The US has a formidable 1-2 punch with Biles and Raisman on floor, but the third floor worker will be an interesting topic. Key’s scores render her a very strong possiblity, and of course there’s Skinner as well. As on vault, Skinner will need to use Classic to prove that she’s still top three, with Raisman coming in this year to challenge her status a little bit more. Skinner vs. Key on floor should be a fun one. Skinner needs to win that to make her argument. Does someone else pop into possible 15 territory?

These are the questions I want answered. Amanars? How relevant and necessary are the bars specialists? Gabby’s still Gabby, right? And who’s third on floor? I expect all the competitors to do their best to answer them in a timely and clear fashion. As for beam, my impression right now is that it won’t be decisive in team selection. With Biles, Ross, Raisman, Douglas, and Key all seeming like realistic beam options (to varying degrees) who can make the team for other events as well, selection may come down to choosing the team for the other three events and then just using the best beamers from that group, who will probably be the best beamers in the country anyway. It makes it very tough for Baumann, though, since beam is kind of her thing, but she doesn’t have the other asset events. 

Also, Sabrina Vega is a person again. So that will be interesting.

Classic Gymcastic

This week, I appeared (and by “appeared,” I mean “giggled in the background while being surprisingly bad at pop quizzes”) on Gymcastic with gems Jessica, Uncle Tim, and Lauren to talk about the Secret Classic and my feelings about Wu Jiani’s amazing celebration, that woman in the background of Kyla’s floor routine, the Texas Dreams leotard, Martha’s taste in music, and maybe a little bit of gymnastics. Maybe.

Have a listen. I command thee. Which you should be doing every week anyway, because they’re the best. If you’re sitting around thinking, “Hey, I’m looking for a way to get nothing done on Wednesdays, but what do I do?!?” This is your answer.