Category Archives: Stuff and Nonsense

Things Are Happening – June 14, 2019

A. US junior worlds team

Following competition today at the national team camp, the junior worlds team for the US has been named—Skye Blakely, Kayla Di Cello, and Sydney Barros, with Konnor McClain as the traveling alternate.

We even got scores. SCORES YOU GUYS!

So, they went purely by all-around results to decide the team and alternate, which will appease the fairness police but is not my preferred strategy for team selection—it’s safe, but isn’t necessarily the peak scoring team or the best option for event medals at what is very much an event-final focused meet. For instance, based on these results the top-scoring team for a 3-3-2 format would be Blakely, DiCello, and Alipio because Alipio scored that huge 14.400 on beam.

The big surprise here, however, is Konnor McClain missing out on a team spot by four tenths and instead going as an alternate. From the scores, it looks like a miss on beam and potentially some struggles on floor. McClain was on the nominative roster and favored along with Di Cello going in because of her results at Jesolo and would have been on the team with a hit here. We’re also missing Olivia Greaves, who was on the nominative roster as well and would have been in the mix but didn’t get the bars score here that she would have needed to make her argument.

If they all repeat what they did here at trials in the actual team competition, Blakely and Di Cello’s scores would count on every event for a total of 112.25. That’s a strong number, very competitive with what Russia’s team can score, though with presumably some domestic bounce in this case. If you look at those huge E scores that Blakely received en route to her magnificent 56.500, we’re probably not going to see gymnasts get those kinds of numbers in Gyor.

Russia looks like it will have the difficulty advantage over the US, so it may just come down to whether Russia does a Russia all over the place on the first day or not. And with Listunova on floor, Gerasimova on beam, and Urazova on bars (if they all end up competing), Russia’s probably coming in with the pre-meet title favorite on those three events. Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 14, 2019

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The Japan Problem

I would say everything turned terrible this weekend, but like it wasn’t terrible before. Everything continued being terrible this weekend.

The big news is that, for reasons entirely beyond the grasp of sanity, Japan has decided Mai Murakami is not eligible to be selected for the world championships team. That’s sort of a problem in that, you know, she’s the defending all-around silver medalist, the best gymnast in the country, and one of the best gymnasts in the world. Oh also Japan’s performance at this year’s world championship will determine whether it qualifies a full team to the Tokyo Olympics. Just that.

We’ve always quaintly made fun of Japan’s preposterous selection procedure, where they select the worlds team 88 months in advance for some reason, base selection on placement at irrelevant meets, and pick gymnasts who are not the best options and who don’t even end up competing in the team final (cough), but it was all games and sprinkles until it started to affect Mai Murakami.

So here’s what Japan is trying to pull: Japan uses the combined standings after two days of national championships and one day of the NHK Trophy to determine the majority of the spots on the world championships team. This is despite those events being held in April and May and worlds being in October. Apparently, no one has ever seen the problem with that.

Out of the 5 members of the worlds team, 4 of the spots are assigned based on those combined standings at the conclusion of the NHK Trophy. So this year, the top 3 all-arounders booked their spots on the worlds team—Asuka Teramoto, Hitomi Hatakeda, and Aiko Sugihara. (Chiaki Hatakeda actually placed 3rd, ahead of Sugihara, but she is still a junior.)

In addition to those three, Nagi Kajita, who placed 7th overall and 5th among the seniors, was selected as the 4th members of the worlds team. Of note, she was selected ahead of Ayaka Sakaguchi, who finished 5th overall (4th among seniors), which is significant because it was a weird decision that didn’t look to be in the best interests of the team score, and was also an instance of Japan looking past the official standings to make a selection—showing that it’s not all “the results are the results” all the time. Continue reading The Japan Problem

Things Are Happening – May 31, 2019

A. A dissertation on the nature of the mixed combination bonus on women’s floor exercise

Since the dawn of humanity, it is our curiosity that has defined us as a people. The quest to seek out new frontiers, the passion to uncover the unknown, the

OK Simone has some upgrades.

She tweeted the gymternet to the ground this week by posting a Biles + front layout and a triple-twisting double back. I know.

I mean, girl was going out of bounds all over the place last season, so she’s got to start making these passes harder on herself, I guess.

So just to clarify, Simone won the floor title at worlds last year a full point ahead of silver medalist Morgan Hurd, and with a D score 0.9 higher than anyone else in the final. Now she’s planning to add an acro combination worth 0.2 and a new element that’s presumably going to be rated at I-value.

The Biles to front layout will replace the Biles + stag, for an upgrade of a tenth over last year’s peak D score of 6.7. What the triple double would replace…we don’t know yet. Potentially it would go in place of the double double tucked to add another 0.1, but there could be all kinds of rearranging of other passes as well. You wouldn’t put it past her to ditch the front 1/1 through to full-in for being too easy (I mean, what is she, an infant?) and swap out that full-in for a harder element in combo. Many, many options.

(Yes, I know, the triple double is on a tumble track, but also it’s Simone so of course she can, and at this point she wouldn’t be posting it if she weren’t adding it for real.)

Also, because I’ve been really into named skills lately: Naming conventions are such that the triple-double would be known as the Biles II, even though it would be her third eponymous skill, because you only number them within a specific apparatus, not overall. It would be her second named floor skill. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 31, 2019

Things Are Happening – May 24, 2019

A. NCAA code changes

Acting in his official capacity as essential interpreter between the NCAA coaches and us lowly peasants, Greg Marsden has kept us updated on the decisions made by the WCGA about rule changes in NCAA for next season.

The big-girl committee votes in June on whether to adopt any of these things for realsies, so for the moment consider these merely as proposals.

The big headline is the lowering of the base value of routines from 9.5 to 9.4. Currently, routines start at 9.5 and have to earn 5 tenths of bonus to get up to a 10.0 start. With a 9.4 base instead, everyone would now have to earn 6 tenths of bonus to get up to 10.0.

What I like about this proposal is that it functions as a relatively non-micromanaged way of encouraging a little more risk. It says you have to do something else, but it’s up to you what that something is. An understandable criticism of more specific changes like requiring a same-bar release (which was not recommended by the WCGA) is that it would lead to even more boring and compulsory routine construction than we have now.

Part of the hope from the 9.4 proposal is that teams will have to get a little more creative in adding that extra tenth of risk so that we’re not seeing the same routine over and over and over again. I also hope this would help brings bars, beam, and floor a little more into line with vault, where much of the lineup on most teams is not starting from a 10 these days. If we see more teams say, “Well, we’re just going to have to put up a 9.9 start or two on floor now,” I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s a positive for keeping the events scoring similarly and a positive for differentiation.

Of course, in reality everyone’s just going to figure out the lamest and most boring possible way of adding another tenth and do that. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t going to affect too many routines on the very top teams, where the majority of gymnasts already have more than 5 tenths of bonus—or have options of easily adding another tenth that they’ve only chosen not to perform because there’s no point.

As a way of undercutting its own decision and rendering it kind of toothless (the NCAA gymnastics special), some bonus and skill values have been increased accordingly with the lowering of the base value. You can check out Marsden’s thread for the whole rundown of skills.

On bars, those who have a D same-bar release or an E transition would get an extra tenth of bonus and therefore wouldn’t need to alter their routines. People with Shap + bail and a DLO or FTDT dismount would also not have to change their routines because that content already gets 6 tenths in bonus. So don’t expect to see a lot of changes in bars composition next season.

I would have preferred to see some other adjustments considered on bars—saying that a bail doesn’t fulfill the turning element requirement anymore (you should have to show the ability to pirouette as part of your breadth of bars competency) or downgrading the DLO and FTDT dismounts from E to D—to require a little bit more be done on the bars, but no luck.

On beam, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the idea of the double wolf turn being bumped up from D to E. Fun. So very fun. Because when I watch NCAA, I think, “This really needs more people attempting double wolf turns.” They’re also planning to bump up some CV for combination dismounts, but one thing I really like is the proposal that acro + dismount combinations on beam can no longer fulfill up to level. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 24, 2019

Things Are Happening – May 17, 2019

A. Ashton Locklear retired

From the world of US elites, Ashton Locklear announced her retirement yesterday after a long bout with the concept of having knees. Locklear last competed at the WOGA Classic in February on bars and beam—and at that point was also discussing the possibility of adding back floor—but she has now decided that enough is enough.

Locklear had a successful run, making two world championship teams in 2014 and 2017, advancing to two world bars finals, and winning team gold in 2014. In terms of future prospects, she has been constantly injured, and there wasn’t truly a realistic path to team selection for her at this point.

In announcing the retirement, her talent agency released a statement saying, “WE DEFINITELY KNOW WHERE COMMAS SHOULD GO.”

It also includes a doctor’s note (so that she can get out of PE, I think) and an explanation that her 2018 knee surgery has prevented her from continuing, even though she came back to…you know what, never mind. You can just retire. You don’t need a reason. You don’t need a doctor’s note. It doesn’t have to follow logically. You can just be done. It’s fine.

B. Zhaoqing World Cup

The World Challenge Cup circuit gets underway again in a couple days with the Zhaoqing event, which runs Sunday to Tuesday for some reason. Because the FIG is always so clear with its organization and naming of events, a little clarification. The World Challenge Cup events are completely different from the Apparatus World Cup series and have no bearing on Olympic qualification whatsoever. They’re just the normal apparatus events that we’ve had before. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 17, 2019

Things Are Happening – May 9, 2019

A. The loser is everyone

Scott Reid at the OC Register has a bunch more information this week about the wildly typical and predictable barf-trench that was USAG’s attempted hiring of Edward Nyman as its first ever director of sports medicine and science.

The reason for Nyman’s firing—that nonspecific “conflict of interest” that USAG flopped out there—was, according to USAG, that he failed to disclose Safesport-related complaints or allegations of misconduct against New Heights Gymnastics, the gym owned by his wife Amy. The latest update of the article states that Safesport is also reviewing an issue of some description involving Nyman himself.

Um, so, yeah. Not great. I encourage you to read the complete article (and the full statement from Nyman that originally appeared in near-full in the article) because you’ll be left going “Who are these people?!?!” It may be the most #TeamNobody situation we’ve ever had to endure with USAG. And that’s saying quite a bit.

There’s a lot of back-and-forth between the two parties about who actually knew what, and disclosed which, and who lied when, and who is corrupt, and which accusations are true and false. I have no idea, I wasn’t in these meetings, but a few things are clear.

USAG has no excuse for the wild failure that was this attempted hiring. The lack of appropriate vetting and lack of any kind of intra-organizational communication betrays a continued inability to function at a basic minimum level of professionalism. Regardless of what Nyman may or may not have disclosed, USAG needed to be able to find out itself that this was a poor choice, especially because—as we’ve learned from Reid’s piece—USAG’s in-house counsel knew about the safety/training complaints regarding New Heights. USAG can blame Nyman, but that information is on USAG to know before it hired him.

As any competent organization would have. Nyman’s statement is full of personal agenda and should be taken with a bucket of salt—his categorical defense of New Heights against all claims because that would never happen can only provoke the question “how would you even know?”—but the picture he paints of USAG as a corrupt, disorganized, image-obsessed mess is nothing new.

As for Nyman, we don’t know what will come of these Safesport issues, if anything, but even their very existence is disqualifying. You can’t take a position of high-profile leadership at USAG when you are connected in any possible way to unresolved Safesport complaints, regardless of the ultimate findings. I mean, that should be obvious, right? Am I taking crazy pills? While USAG bungled this in every possible way, it did the right thing in terminating Nyman. It would have been far worse if we had learned this information later, after he had been on the job for a while.

Other thoughts:

  • USAG cited his “poor judgment” in its explanation of Nyman’s firing, and viewing the bizarre caps lock decisions in Nyman’s own personal defense, I can’t argue. Fair assessment. Also, you know, the Safesport stuff and taking it upon himself to disclose the Stephanie Peters complaint against a men’s national team member to the press (which is a whole extra bag of huh??? we don’t know anything about yet)—but the caps lock, you guys. Intense Trumpy Lee Tracy vibes.
  • One of the other things I can’t get past in that statement is the conversation between Amy Nyman and Mark Busby—the USAG lawyer—at Congress where he supposedly told her she had nothing to worry about with those complaints. Why on earth is a USAG lawyer making that determination, why is that being communicated in an informal conversation at Congress, and why is that informal conversation viewed as “I guess it’s fine now?” No. None of that. None of that is how it should work. See lack of professionalism above. Have you all learned nothing?
  • Nyman says he was never owner nor co-owner of New Heights. I had said he was co-owner because of the BGSU press release from when he was hired there, which refers to him as a co-owner. So there’s that.
  • A quote from John Manly in the article claims that Nyman was hired to replace That Guy at USAG. That’s not really accurate. The strategy is to try to draw a link between the two and USAG’s trashiness, but Nyman was hired to a non-treatment, administrative role. There’s no need to misrepresent what’s happening. The regular representation is bad enough for USAG.

B. Waller, Waller everywhere

OK fun stuff time now! After much speculation, Chris Waller has been hired to replace Miss Val as head coach at UCLA. It can’t be considered a surprise since he has been next in line for that job for seven hundred years and is supremely qualified for the position. He has put in the time. Still, you can’t help but notice that the hiring is rather un-UCLA in its even, predictable normalness. You half-expected Miss Val to pop out of a cake and be like, “The new coach is me!”

We’ll see how it goes. Despite the fact that Waller has been there for so long, being the face of the program is a very different position from what he has had before. He’s not simply going to be able to say, “let’s keep doing what we’ve been doing” because he’s not Val and can’t try to be. That will be a difficult tightrope because many will be waiting to say, “Ugh, it’s not the same” the second Waller goes out there and isn’t Val, and yet he can’t go out there and be Val because that would just be weird. He’s a different person who will have a different identity as head coach and will coach a team with a different culture. At the same time, I don’t expect there to be much of a leash or much forgiveness time if the team gets all blah (see Clark, Jay). He’s going to need to win and win quickly.

And now with enough of that chatter out of the way, here are some GIFs of Waller from those Reese’s Cups. You know, the important stuff.

The other big coaching news of the week concerns Utah hiring the McCools following their departure from…not getting the Arkansas job. Courtney will still be a volunteer assistant coach because of whatever nonsense that’s about, with Utah’s official coaching staff comprised of Tim Farden, Carly Dockendorf, and Garrett Griffith now. You’ll notice that Robert Ladanyi is nowhere to be found, but no official word yet on where he has ended up. Stay tuned.

Chris Swircek is also stepping back to a volunteer coach position at Stanford.

C. Chinese nationals

Women’s qualification concluded at Chinese Nationals today, with Liu Tingting leading the all-around standings, followed closely by Ou Yushan (junior), and Luo Huan.

Luo had an important day, placing third all-around and among the top-3 EF qualifiers on both bars and beam. I mentioned last week that she needed a result here to avoid looking superfluous. It’s still a tough road for Luo because she doesn’t have the vault and floor scores, but she did her job on her important events to stay in the main mix, especially with Chen Yile and Li Qi absent here.

LTT is in control of China (just…as a country) at this point, even advancing to the floor final in 2nd place with a 13.100. And, yes, the fact that 13.100 and a 4.7 D got into the floor final in 2nd place is still very much a cause for concern. Zhang Jin leads that event by a ton with 13.850, but no one else really got a score. Unfortunately, our great floor hope Qi Qi fell on an attempted double double tuck (that also didn’t look close in PT). She’s still going to be essential for floor, but that result was a bit disappointing. Qi Qi did, however, hit a very proficient DTY on vault, something the team needs.

Meanwhile, the project to turn world tumbling champion Jia Fangfang into a floor option continues as she did advance to the floor final with a Tingting-matching 13.100—and did it with less-than-ideal landings on a couple of those passes (but a definitely ideal landing on the FTDLO). The dance elements aren’t there and are probably never going to be there, but if she can fill in with enough tumbling difficulty, she can be a real option.

Liu Jinru did hit her DTT for a solidly high vault score, but with the presence of Qi Qi, you wonder if that alone is going to be enough for her to continue challenging for teams because the floor score was only in the 12s, despite advancing to the final.

Fan Yilin qualified in first place on bars of course, and Luo Youjuan made the beam final, so we’re going to be OK. This competition also brought Shang Chunsong back to us, and she advanced to the floor final with this routine.

In the junior department, Ou Yushan’s beam is life-changing, so if you’re looking to be totally over all the seniors and getting obsessed with a junior, here.

Just cursorily based on today, I’d probably want Liu Tingting, Zhang Jin, Fan Yilin, Qi Qi, and Luo Huan as a first-choice team of five—using a Yfull on vault rather than compromising elsewhere—but there’s still plenty of time to change that. I was hoping for a little more from Tang Xijing here. She did place 6th AA and did advance to the beam final, but not a totally convincing performance that I would put into a team of five right now.

D. GymCastic

Yep, it’s the Morgan Hurd/Heath Thorpe episode! You can listen here.

Things Are Happening – May 3, 2019

A. AHHHHHHH!

Well, hm. Let’s just get this over with. This week, USAG continued USAGing all over the bathroom walls with its attempted hiring of Edward Nyman as its first full-time director of sports medicine and science. Nyman has a PhD in biomechanics, was an assistant coach on the Bowling Green team for a hot second in the 2012 season, and has spent time as coach (and co-owner) at New Heights in Ohio with his wife.

So, first of all, mark 2019 down as the year that USA Gymnastics became aware that sports medicine exists, which is very rad and excellent and prompt. The previous approach was just a napkin scrawled with, “Martha says carrots give you the fats.”

Anyway, the press release announcing this AMAZING HIRE was almost immediately destroyed, and a day later he was gone. Another check plus for the winners!

There’s a whole sub-story here with Simone—among others—tweeting displeasure at the pick, but I’m not going to get into those weeds too much because that’s all a red herring that didn’t have anything to do with his one-day tenure. The idea that Simone’s tweeting is what got rid of Nyman fit into a comfortable narrative of “you people object to every hiring no matter what and won’t let USAG move on because you just want it to burn,” but it turns out USAG is continuing to do a pretty good job of burning itself without anyone else’s help since this debacle was solely down to the expected amount of USAG incompetence.

Just after hiring Dr. Nyman and putting out a press release with glowing quotes from Li Li about his amazingness, USAG realized that JUST KIDDING. Turns out, he has a disqualifying conflict of interest for the position. A.k.a. they had an “oh shit, it’s going to look bad for us if people find out about whatever this is, better axe him now” moment. I guess that’s an improvement over “Just lie, they’ll never know.” …….. I guess?

USAG hasn’t released what this conflict of interest is, but the fact that they didn’t—you know—uncover this conflict of interest during the hiring process speaks to a very familiar absence of trying or, if we’re being as charitable as possible, absence of competent communication. Are you a real organization? Because you’ve never acted like it once.

It’s also worth asking what kind of conflict of interest a director of sports medicine would even have, and what kind of conflict of interest it would have to be for USAG not to know about it during the hiring process. Then again, USAG has never exactly shown the ability to reach the third result on a Google search in its employee research, so…

The NEW USA Gymnastics: It’s the same. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 3, 2019