Category Archives: Stuff and Nonsense

Things Are Happening – August 16, 2019

A. Retirement news

In surprising elite retirement news, Juliette Bossu has decided to call it quits. I still had Bossu on my prospective French worlds team to contribute her fantabulous bars right up until…she announced her retirement, so this is quite the significant development.

France still has a convincing core four in MDJDS, Boyer, Charpy, and Devillard, so they may try to replace the bars number that Bossu would have contributed with someone like Carolann Heduit, but this could also open up a spot for Aline Friess and her rudi to pump up the vaults since Friess also has a somewhat viable bars routine. The fifth person on the team must bring a bars routine now because neither Boyer nor Devillard will bring much of a countable score there.

Our favorite cat Celine Van Gerner also announced that she will be leaving gymnastics behind, so there’s no point anymore. We’ll always have the time the FIG felt it had to make a rule just for her. Van Gerner has been an essential contributor on bars, beam, and floor for the Netherlands for so long that it will be difficult to replace those routines, but now is the time that newer athletes like Naomi Visser and Sanna Veerman must rise to fill that role.

Agnes Suto-Tuuha has retired from elite competition as well, having spent a good chunk of the last three quadrennia as one of the top all-around gymnasts in Iceland. She won the all-around title at nationals just this year as well as being Iceland’s top finisher at worlds in 2018, and since it has been a few years since we’ve seen Irina Sazonova, Suto-Tuuha has filled that position as the scoring leader of Iceland’s team. She was also the most likely gymnast to be able to qualify a WAG Olympian for Iceland, so that’s going to be quite the tough ask now.

Oh, also, Valentina is trying to retire Aliya but neither Aliya nor we are having it. I’m sorry your application has been denied. Come back 1 year. Mustafina has, however, withdrawn from Russian Cup.

B. NCAA developments

Because LSU looked at the concept of losing Sarah Finnegan, Lexie Priessman, McKenna Kelley, and Julianna Cannamela next season and went, “Well crappit,” they went out and added Alyona Shchennikova to the roster for the 2020 competitive season.

Shchennikova had previously verbally committed to Michigan like her sister, but then switched to LSU, and it seems as though this year’s Achilles tear clinched the decision to head to LSU this fall rather than try for the 2020 Olympic process.

Coming off that injury, I would treat anything you get from Shchennikova in the 2020 season on vault and floor as a bonus, but there should be enough recovery time for them to get a bars routine and potentially some beam from her. That would provide a solid complement to Kai Rivers (who can compete all four, but her main things will be vault and floor) and Kiya Johnson who’s expected to compete all four pieces. Continue reading Things Are Happening – August 16, 2019

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Things Are Happening – August 2, 2019

A. Pan Am Games – final thoughts

Ellie Black.

End of final thoughts.

But not really. In terms of reading into the US women’s results from Pan Ams, which I know is our favorite pastime, I’d say…don’t so much.

By the time we get to actual worlds team selection, this competition will have paled in the memory nearly as much as US Classic and will be overtaken by things that will have happened more recently, like nationals and selection camp. That goes for both hits and misses. No one will be putting a ton of weight on Pan Ams performances, whether glorious or disastrous or somewhere in between (which was the reality for most of the competitors). The short-term memory is very small when it comes to selecting teams, and that’s largely how it should be. You want to select a team based on who is performing the best in the moment, not what happened two months ago. Worlds isn’t being held two months ago.

When it comes to Hurd, Wong, and Finnegan, we didn’t see a ton from them at Pan Ams, but they did the job successfully when we did see them, so it’s sort of a “checkpoint passed, move on to the next level, let’s see how you fare there” situation for them right now. We saw a lot more from Eaker and McCusker. Eaker had two excellent days and one rough day, performing stellar gymnastics in the team competition and day 2 of event finals, reasserting that she’ll be treated as an AA contender this year rather than solely a beam specialist, but she did fall twice in the all-around final to finish out of the medals. On balance, that’s still a successful competition, and those beam scores are just so very high that she will have a major advantage in all “best-case scenario, highest-scoring team” permutations.

More is being read into the performance of McCusker, which should also be marked as a successful showing overall. I mean, she won four medals. Still, because of past questions about her consistency, that fall in the AA final, the fall in the beam final, and the OOBs in the floor final carry a bit more weight because they are part of a trend. The question then arises: should that be taken into account when it comes to worlds team selection?

My answer: Not really. This is an argument specific to the US women’s team, but let’s not pretend like the US women aren’t going to win gold in the team final at worlds and that Simone isn’t going to win gold in the all-around. They are. That scenario gives the US more luxury to select its highest-scoring potential team regardless of consistency concerns. You can pick the group of five that you believe provides the highest possible scores, and if McCusker turns out to be part of that highest potential team (still several competitions to go), then she should go to worlds. Because here’s the deal: If she hits, McCusker has among the best non-Simone chances to win event medals at worlds and the US also wins the team final. And if she doesn’t hit, the US still wins the team final. There’s not really a downside to the US selecting a potentially inconsistent gymnast with huge scoring potential. You can go for your peak possible score on every event.

The only sense in which that inconsistency would come into play is if it ends up being really close for peak team score between McCusker and another gymnast like, say, Sunisa Lee who could also potentially win a bars medal. But who’s even winning that consistency race? I couldn’t say. Or perhaps it’s significant for the second AA spot. Still, if McCusker misses in qualification, then the other AAer would go to the final instead, and if she hits…well then she earned the opportunity for a spot in the final.

Meanwhile, if Forster just goes with the AA standings from selection camp again, it really doesn’t matter what you’ve done before that, but that’s rage for another day.

B. Nationals week!

Your life is scheduled below. Note that TV coverage for these meets is slated to begin 30 minutes after the listed meet starting time, which I’ve included below. For the women, I’m assuming the actual competition won’t begin until the TV start time because they’ve been given a two hour window and that’s plenty of time to run the whole women’s meet (unless you’re the Pan Am Games). For the men…who can say. We’ve missed rotations before.

USAG hasn’t posted streaming info for the juniors yet (or potential international streams for the seniors) or podium training, but we can assume USAG’s YouTube will be on that. Podium training for the women is always the day before the men’s competition begins.

Thursday, August 8
2:00 ET/11:00PT – Junior Men
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Senior Men – NBCSN

Friday, August 9
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Junior Women
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Senior Women – NBCSN

Saturday, August 10
2:00 ET/11:00PT – Junior Men
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Senior Men – NBCSN

Sunday, August 11
2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Junior Women
7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Senior Women – NBC

C. Nastia, come get your dad

Valeri Liukin did a word vomit with R-Sport, and I can only assume he thought that meant the interview was a secret because he said a couple baaaaads in there. From his claim that he had to leave the NTC position because of a “made-up reason” to his and the interviewer’s stupid and reductive opinions on TEH BLACKS in gymnastics, it’s…….well, don’t read it if you want to enjoy your Friday afternoon, that’s what I’ll say.

People really tell on themselves when they try to characterize Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas as the same style of gymnast. Have you watched them? Or did you just see black and stop thinking? Continue reading Things Are Happening – August 2, 2019

Did You Mean Mariah Carey?

So, remember when the news came out that Aunt Becky paid $18 billion so that USC would pretend her daughters had seen a canoe before, and then you texted your fellow gym nerds a link to that article with the words “Maria Caire” underneath? No? Well anyway, the LA Times did.

Today’s piece about favoritism/nepotism in the inclusion of seeming civilians on UCLA athletic rosters features the story of Maria Caire, the Carmen Sandiego of college gymnastics whose mysterious semi-existence has been fascinating us for years, and who turns out to be the niece of one of Miss Val’s buddies (oh, look how that worked out). I’m obviously in heaven that this is a news story.

If you don’t recall, Maria Caire appeared on the UCLA roster in the fall of 2016. At first glance, her inclusion was fairly unremarkable because this always happens. It seemed like Caire was just one in the long line of UCLA freshmen who are never in a million years going to compete a routine but appear on the roster for one year and then disappear—or hang around as a manager or something and we’re told “you guys don’t see it, but she’s the most important member of the team.” She just seemed to be that year’s Matteah Brow (2016), Karli Dugas (2015) [Edit: Dugas’s L7 background may take her out of this category and put her closer to Caire’s, but at least she was a gymnast], Jessy Macarthur/Alex Waller (2014), Rachel Luba (2011), Danielle Greig/Courtney Shannon/Chloe Takayanagi (2010), Tiffany Hyland (2009), and…at this point I got tired of looking. Continue reading Did You Mean Mariah Carey?

Things Are Happening – July 18, 2019

A. Worlds draw

The world championships “drawing of lots” (just say draw) has been revealed to us lowly peasants, and it’s…fine.

For the women, China, Canada, France, Romania, Germany, Belgium, Australia, and Ukraine were given the first day of qualification, which means that the US, Russia, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, and GB got the second day. Australia and Ukraine have been placed in the first subdivision, so there’s some hemming and hawing about what that means for Olympic qualification chances. There is, however, not too much actual evidence to support the idea that competing in the first group is devastating in the open code era.

Last year, Belgium, Argentina, and Poland got put in the first subdivision, and Argentina and Poland were both able to qualify teams in the top 24 despite that being a borderline prospect heading into the competition, while Derwael recorded a bars score that held up in first place and an all-around score that held up in 4th place through to the end of the two days, in addition to her making the beam final with the #2 execution score given out across the whole two days. If you have the routines, you have the routines, and the judges have been willing to be there for you, even in early subdivisions. Sure, it’s going to be a challenge for Australia and Ukraine to make the Olympics and will require not counting falls in qualification, but that would be true regardless of the draw.

The US will compete in the final subdivision of the second day, beginning on floor, Russia competes late on the second day, and China and Canada compete in the final session of the first day.

Refreshingly, the top qualifier will go last in the women’s vault, bars, and floor finals, and second-to-last in the beam final, though why we can’t just have them compete in reverse qualification order is still a mystery to me. When the best people go up first, it turns into the most anticlimactic final.

Contrary to the definitive registrations (BUT I THOUGHT THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE DEFINITIVE), Poland is sending two people to worlds rather than one, so we may not face the Pihan-Kulesza/Janik problem after all.

The men’s draw contains 25 teams and not the typical 24 because Australia is also able to send a team to fulfill continental representation despite finishing 25th at worlds last year. Russia is the lone top men’s team competing on the first day, with Japan, China, the US and Great Britain all drawn into the second day. The US and Japan are paired together in the first subdivision on day 2.

B. NCAA transfer window

The hills are alive with the sound of transfers. First, Samantha Sakti has transferred from William & Mary to UCLA following her freshman season. Sakti peaked out at 9.925 on floor, 9.875 on beam, and 9.800 on vault last season. Obviously, it’s going to be quite a bit more difficult to make a UCLA lineup, but she has a high level full-in on floor that should make her at least a legitimate contender for that lineup. Sakti has a reasonable beam routine and good amplitude on a full on vault, so she could see time or be an exhibition/depth option kind of thing, though I’d say floor is the most likely place we’ll see her. Continue reading Things Are Happening – July 18, 2019

Things Are Happening – July 12, 2019

A. World Championships

The FIG has released the definitive registration list for worlds—it’s slightly more definitive than the provisional registration, but decidedly less definitive than the nominative registration. It largely went as expected, though it’s worth noting that our two question mark nations, Cuba and North Korea, are both registered to send athletes this time around. Because you never know with them.

The real news is that Poland has not registered a full women’s team despite finishing 22nd last year and qualifying a team of five to 2019. The retirement of KJK has put a strain on the squad to be sure. Theoretically they’d still have Marta Pihan-Kulesza, Gabriela Janik, and Wiktoria Lopuszanska to put together a team score, though we haven’t seen Lopuszanska compete in 2019. Still, Paula Plichta continues kicking around. Ring ring, Alma Kuc, ring ring. There are gymnasts in Poland. Rather, Poland is slated to send just one athlete to worlds, which is an additional problem because both Pihan-Kulesza and Janik really should be there.

This doesn’t end up changing things for any other country because Egypt was the #25 team at worlds last year and theoretically the next country in, but as the top team in Africa, Egypt had already received a wildcard to send a team to worlds this year to fulfill continental representation.

You can tell there’s not a lot I find interesting this week since I’m leading with the politics of Poland’s world championships team selection. It’s my passion.

We also learned this week that Courtney McGregor is returning to worlds competing for New Zealand to try to get that sweet, sweet Olympic spot.

B. University Games

I mean, I did a GIF recap of Nabs’ every move and facial expression in qualification, so I think that competition is fully covered, right? Right.

Anyway, Japan sent a team of ringers and won pretty much all the things. Hitomi Hatakeda was the queen of the parade and will have to do a lot of Japan-saving this autumn because of the Mai situation. And Lilia Akhaimova is going to kill you forever with things like this tremendousness.

End of meet.

C. Men’s National Qualifier

The US men held an ice cream social at the OTC to decide who else got to qualify to nationals, and the answer was some of the people. Of significant note, Donnell Whittenburg just did squeak through in the second-to-last position. Continue reading Things Are Happening – July 12, 2019

Things Are Happening – June 20, 2019

A. US Olympic selection procedures

USAG has been releasing information all over the place this week. You’re shocked I know. (Except for when it comes to the senior national team verification from last weekend, in which case, it didn’t happen.)

Item #1) The 2020 Olympic selection procedures are out, including a couple significant changes from the previous quad.

First, the top TWO all-around gymnasts from Trials will now automatically be named to team. That’s back to how it used to be. In 2016, only the winner of Trials automatically made the team.

So…that’s kind of a lot for a four-person team. That’s half the team. You guys know how I don’t much care for “automatically on the team based on this all-around finish” rules because it can handcuff the ability to select the actual best possible team for a team-final format. Probably won’t, but it could. You might have a Carly 2004 situation that changes up some permutations.

I know they’re trying to make Olympic Trials seem as though it’s not the pointless charade that it obviously has been for the last several quads (like Martha didn’t have that team picked out 6 months beforehand…), but this is not my favorite.

The procedures have also introduced what is already known as the Simone Clause, whereby athletes may now injury petition directly onto the 2020 Olympic team. Pretty obviously the only person who would ever have an injury petition like this accepted is one Simone Andromedon Biles, just in case she’s injured and can’t compete at Trials. (Previously, it was possible to petition to Trials if you were injured, but not onto the team itself.)

But on the previous note, I once again like the opportunity to not be handcuffed by the results of the selection competition, so this allows you to put the person onto the team that you need to get onto the team. Like Simone. Cough Japan cough.

Item #2) USAG also unveiled new Safe Sport policies that are largely of the “shouldn’t that have been the policy already…?” variety. They emphasize reporting obligations on issues like verbal abuse and harassment (which are still the purview of USAG, which is going to keep being a problem) and adds policies regarding private coach/athlete interaction and parents being able to view training.

This is all progress, but I still come back to the issue that as long as one organization is expected to be the safety oversight organization, the athlete advocate, the coach advocate, the club advocate, and a promotion/marketing mechanism, you will have conflicts between those interests and you will have problems, no matter how many well-intentioned policy changes are introduced.

Also, the use of the British spelling of travelling totally makes me think they just copy/pasted these policies from some British organization’s rules. I’m not saying they did, I’m saying I wouldn’t be surprised.

B. Handspring front 2/1

We have a new vault! This week at the Korea Cup, Yeo Seojeong successfully completed the handspring front 2/1. She had attempted this vault before, unsuccessfully, but clearly some progress has been made in the intervening months. At least, you know, in terms of landing on her feet and kind of staying there. It’s nonetheless semi-terrifying.

The vault is a 6.2 D score, ranking it behind the Produnova and the Biles as the third most difficult vault in the code of points, and she managed a 15.100 for this effort. (E judges, meet me at camera 3…)

The cool part of this is the old “injured or happy?” question based on her facial expression afterward. It’s gymnastics. You’re never quite sure. Continue reading Things Are Happening – June 20, 2019

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