Category Archives: Stuff and Nonsense

Things Are Happening – April 9, 2019

A. European Championships

Thought you had a moment of peace? Wrong. Euros.

Podium training is already complete, and competition begins tomorrow with men’s qualification. The big news so far on the women’s side is all the absences. Aliya was originally not named to the Russian team, but then she was named to the Russian team because of Russia things, and then she was like, “actually pass…”

Nina Derwael and Axelle Klinckaert are not there either, nor are Zsofia Kovacs, Elisabeth Seitz, or Kim Bui. And Steingruber and Becky Downie and Sanne Wevers are all still out. So it will be difficult to find the point.

On the fun side, we do have Eythora, Melanie DJDS, Ellie Downie, Angelina Melnikova and the Russian gang, Pauline Schäfer, all of the new Italian seniors, and Diana Varinska.

Last year, De Jesus Dos Santos won the unofficial AA title (there was no actual all-around competition in 2018, just like there’s no team competition this year), and if she elects to compete all events, she’ll be a major contender again, along with Melnikova. Though you wouldn’t really be surprised if Giorgia Villa is just like, “I LIVE NOW” and gets a huge AA score. And if you’re a fan of investing in sugarplum dreams and then getting your heart broken, a good day from Ellie Downie and Diana Varinska and Eythora Thorsdottir could put them up there.

Maria Paseka enters as the comfortable favorite for the vault title, with Coline Devillard likely her best challenger. In the absence of Derwael on bars, we’re looking at Anastasia Iliankova with the best chance at a high score, with Jonna Adlerteg there for a good shot at a medal. It’s not a super deep bars field with so many major contenders missing, so people like Melnikova, Varinska, Villa, and Ellie Downie may also fancy their chances at a medal. Continue reading Things Are Happening – April 9, 2019

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Things Are Happening – March 22, 2019

A. Individual Apparatus Olympic Qualification

The first half of the Olympic apparatus qualification series concludes tomorrow in Doha (it will resume in November in Cottbus), so we’re starting to get an actual, reliable impression of how things will go.

On women’s vault, Jade Carey just did outscore Maria Paseka to take her second victory in as many weeks, but it was a close one. The #1 qualifier Paseka performed what was not-even-arguably her best Amanar ever in the final, but she struggled to control her landing on the Cheng (still an improvement over last week’s miss, though not as strong as in qualification), which put her just behind Carey.

Carey now has 2 wins and 1 second place to give her 85 points out of a possible 90 points in the qualification standings. As I’ve noted before, we expect Andrade to qualify with a team at 2019 worlds and therefore have her points from Cottbus reassigned, which would then give Carey the maximum 90 points.

So…done, she’s qualified for the Olympics right?

Not so fast. It’s still quite possible, especially if Carey stops attending events at this point, for someone like Maria Paseka to win three of the four remaining competitions and get 90 points of her own, sending the two of them to a tiebreak of best scores. Which could go either way. That’s why, even though the US women’s nonsense apparatus rules stated that the org would pay to send athletes to only 3 competitions, they’re going to need to send Carey to a couple more next year if for no other reason than to try to keep Maria Paseka from getting wins.

Otherwise, this spot is still up for grabs. Speaking of spots that are still up for grabs, bars. Nina Derwael won her second event in the series in Doha, just outscoring Fan Yilin in the battle of the bars queens that we’ve always hoped for—but this is very much an Olympic backup plan for Derwael, who is highly likely to qualify a spot at 2019 worlds. When points are redistributed after the 2019 world championships, I think we’re going to end up with two 30-point competitions for Lyu Jiaqi and two 30-point competitions for Fan Yilin, and that’s going to be goooooood down the stretch. Continue reading Things Are Happening – March 22, 2019

Things Are Happening – March 15, 2019

A. Baku

Qualifying has concluded at Baku, the 3rd event on our 8-event Olympic apparatus qualification world tour. This event proved a much deeper competition than Melbourne a few weeks ago in that we saw enough gymnasts compete on every event to actually earn all the ranking points on offer. Cool.

I’m going to talk a lot about standings and ranking points, so check out the current qualification standings heading into Baku, with an explanation of the rules and the various places where the FIG seems to be ignoring the rules. I’ll update the standings at the conclusion of finals.

On the women’s side, Jade Carey introduced her Cheng to the world and qualified in first place on vault.

Carey has 2nd-place points from Cottbus already on her ranking, so victories at Baku and Doha would put her in very good stead—especially because Andrade, who finished ahead of Carey in Cottbus, is likely to qualify to the Olympics as a member of a team anyway and therefore would not pursue this spot.

The two currently leading the qualification standings on vault are Oksana Chusovitina and Alexa Moreno, who qualified in 4th place and 2nd place respectively and are likely to remain ahead of Carey following Baku because they have competed in all three meets so far. Dipa Karmakar qualified in 3rd and already has third-place points from Cottbus, so she should stay close to the leaders after this event as well if she can mimic that result in the final.

The wildcards are Maria Paseka and Coline Devillard, who qualified in the next two positions in their first competitions of the series. They won’t be up toward the top of the rankings after Baku because they don’t have enough points from other events, but with Paseka’s Amanar and Devillard’s rudi, they should both be significant contenders for the big-money points as we go. Vault gettin’ good.

Bars had been the Team China Show up until this point with Lyu Jiaqi and Fan Yilin (not competing in Baku) dominating the standings, but here we have Anastasia Iliankova leading after qualification, followed by Jonna Adlerteg and then Lyu Jiaqi. On the strength of her previous performances, expect Lyu to continue leading bars after Baku, but Iliankova absolutely has the ability to win the series if she continues attending these events. Because Adlerteg and Diana Varinska (qualified in 4th) also have points from previous events, expect those two to rank quite well as long as they hit in the final.

On beam, it’s still very much a free-for-all because there has been little consistency in terms of the competitors from event to event so far, but Emma Nedov is looking good following her 2nd-place performance in Melbourne. She managed to qualify in 1st place here, outpacing the favorites Marine Boyer and Li Qi, who qualified in 2nd and 3rd. Boyer has some points from Cottbus to boost her potential total after Baku, while Li Qi is looking for her first points of the series (and it should be a lot of points if she hits in the final). Mana Oguchi also qualified for the final here after placing 3rd in Melbourne, so she’s making a sleeper case for herself.

But overall, the beam Olympic spot still looks open to be won by about 5500 different people.

Following qualification on floor, we have Jade Carey sandwiched by two Italians, with Lara Mori taking the first spot, Carey in second, and Vanessa Ferrari in third. Ferrari won the title in Melbourne, so if she finishes anywhere near the top here, she should retain the Olympic lead over the other challengers. Mori and Nedov have 4th-place points from previous events, and Carey has 5th-place points from Cottbus, so they should move up the standings here but still have some work to do to make up ground on Ferrari. Continue reading Things Are Happening – March 15, 2019

Things Are Happening – March 8, 2019

A. Russian Championships

The end.

So, um, it was Russian Championships. To best sum things up, this was the most composed performance of the meet.

After two days of competition, the women’s AA gold went to Angelina Simakova by a margin of 4 tenths, an important comeback competition for her after being limited last fall and competing only beam in the worlds team final. It does look like she missed on vault on the second day, but overall that counts as hitting here. The mostly solid performance allowed her to outpace pre-meet favorite Angelina Melnikova, who finished 2nd instead of 1st largely because of an absolute nightmare on floor, particularly on the second day when she fell twice on the first two passes, had a major struggle on a third, and SWEETIE WE’RE WORRIED ABOUT YOU. Over the other three events, Melnikova was the strongest at the competition.

But because of errors from the top two, it was Aliya Mustafina who recorded a higher score than either of them on the second day en route to a bronze medal overall. Mustafina brought back vault here (FTY) in preparation for her participation in all-around world cups this month, looked strong on bars obviously, had an acro series on beam which counts as a victory, and turning-turning-turning-through-the-years-ed her way to something competitive on floor. The four-event D isn’t there to get the huge AA scores, but no one is taking her spot any time soon.

That’s especially true as we also learned this week that Irina Alexeeva has elected not to continue on the Russian national team and will instead start NCAA this fall.

Continue reading Things Are Happening – March 8, 2019

Things Are Happening – March 1, 2019

A. American Cup preview

This weekend is A LOT. Much NCAA, much elite, and I’m not even getting into the English Championships because it’s too much, but that’s also happening.

Let’s start with the American Cup (Saturday, 11:30 ET/8:30 PT). The story of the women’s competition is the US win streak—currently at 16 consecutive American Cup all-around titles. This year, a (relatively) green US duo of Grace McCallum and Leanne Wong will have to fend off two of the world’s top all-arounders in Mai Murakami and Ellie Black to keep the streak alive, so it’s by no means a done deal that the number will reach 17. Either Wong or McCallum would have to—you know—hit the meet.

It’s worth noting that this US streak hasn’t come about only because the US has such a strong program, or only because of all of the obvious cheating in the days before it was an official FIG event. #SCAM4EVAH. The US also tends to take the American Cup a lot more seriously than any other country and is therefore far more prepared for the event than gymnasts from other nations—many of whom are only just rounding into competitive season form. That has come into play on many occasions in the past, but Murakami showed up at a solid level last year and forced Morgan Hurd to hit to win, and Ellie Black has already competed at Elite Canada this month, so expect both to be in form to make a real fight of things.

As for the rest of the field, they all profile really similarly—like creepily similarly—with obvious strength on bars for what will probably be their best score, absolute terror on beam at every second, some lovely floor possibilities, but overall a lack of difficulty on the leg events that will keep the AA totals down below the top four. Continue reading Things Are Happening – March 1, 2019

Things Are Happening – February 22, 2019

A. Li Li Leung

The big news of the week was the appointment (finally) of Li Li Leung as the new president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, a shocking upset of the supposed front-runner for the position, a cheesecloth full of spiders. Leung was herself an elite gymnast, competed at Michigan, and most recently worked for the NBA in a vice president position.

My baseline approach here is that we don’t really know anything yet. She seems…fine? She doesn’t have any immediate social media red flags, so that beats Bono, and she doesn’t seem like if someone tried to make a robot inspired by your mom’s book group and then spilled grape soda all over it right before the unveiling, so that beats Perry. Our standards are not that high, so she’s already the leader.

That means, at least, that we’ve reached the “let’s wait and see how she does” phase, which we never got to with Bono because she was too horrible to begin with. That said, “clean slate, fresh start, let’s support her” is farther than I’m willing to go. Surprise, surprise. The initial concerns raised by Manly and co. about her marketing background, while taken to the rhetorical extreme, are valid. We’ve been burned too many times, and anyone who takes control of this garbage barge must be subject to more criticism and vigilance than simply “new person with a clean slate” might otherwise allow.

That’s because, if we’re being honest, “continued bad” is the most likely outcome here. The entire USOC and NGB system is probably too fundamentally toxic for any simple USAG CEO hire to do anything to change, even if that person seems perfectly fine and professional as Leung does. That’s cynical, yes, but a year from now, I’m probably writing this post with the A. heading “Everything’s still terrible.”

So to me, trying to put on a slightly more charitable hat, I’ll go with measured skepticism. Wariness until proven otherwise. Leung might forge a positive direction, but as the representative of USAG, she has so much work to do to reverse our base assumption that everything USAG touches turns to garbage. She gets a chance to do that, but she has to do it. Then actual support can come. Continue reading Things Are Happening – February 22, 2019

Things Are Happening – February 15, 2019

A. Locklear Classic

Last weekend brought us the WOGA Classic, the headline performance being the return of Ashton Locklear to elite competition for the first time since 2017. Locklear competed beam and bars, scoring 12.550 on beam and 12.350 on bars for a two-fall performance that was sort of…Nastia 2012 Trials-esque?

I say that because the first half monster-connection was just like 2017 and clearly the on-the-bars skills are back (except for #ButHerInbars), but getting to full-routine-hit level with a dismount will take some more time. Unlike Nastia 2012 Trials, Locklear has that time.

For the most part, Locklear’s bars routine looks similar to her 2017 composition, except it seems she’s looking to add a toe 1/1 + full-twisting double tuck dismount combination to get her D-score up to 5.7—compared to the 5.5 from 2017. The FTDT isn’t there yet, but presumably that’s the plan.

Of course, the most entertaining part of Locklear’s comeback performance was Sophina the Diva over here impatiently chilling on the cable waiting for her to rechalk.

In the actual standings, Yurika Yumoto of Japan took the senior AA with 51.350. Yumoto was on that B-squad Asian Games team for Japan last year, and her 13.500 beam score, along with the fact that she outscored Nagi Kajita here (Kajita made the worlds team last year), should keep her in the conversation in 2019.

Placing 2nd in the seniors was Sloane Blakely, who went 50.050 despite an utter barstastrophe because of her massive 14.850 beam score. In the juniors, Kayla DiCello dominated as expected, though Skye Blakley’s three-event score (didn’t do bars) was competitive with what DiCello put up on those pieces. Love Birt took second in the juniors, followed by Sydney Morris in third.  Continue reading Things Are Happening – February 15, 2019