Category Archives: Stuff and Nonsense

Things Are Happening – August 23, 2019

A. Russian Cup

Friday was qualification day at the Russian Cup, and with Mustafina not quite ready to compete yet (a.k.a. SO RETIRED) and Nabieva deciding to sit in that armchair and be a shining comet at the Aurora Games instead, it was hard to see the point heading in. But still, qualification went pretty much exactly as “throwing a bag of laundry down a flight of stairs” as you would need it to. Valentina’s One True Daughter Vladislava Urazova had a fantastic competition to place 1st by a margin of nearly three points, while everyone else can try Sears.

Angelina Melnikova sits in second after falling on beam and doing the jitterbug a couple times on floor (although I’m very much here for that fake triple L turn where she just kept turning). Melnikova is a hair ahead of Elena Gerasimova, who hit a big beam routine for 14.200 but fell on bars. Famed all-around gymnast Lilia Akhaimova was the next closest, excelling on her good events but also receiving a solid beam score and not fully dying during bars, which was enough for 4th overall.

As Urazova and Gerasimova are still juniors and Melnikova is a given for the worlds team anyway, Akhaimova is the one who probably did her case the most good with her performance today. Especially compared to Simakova who sits in 7th with a 51.467 (and a vault fall, sigh) and Schekoldina who is 10th with 50.133, though both did go 13+ on floor and Russia will still be looking for a third floor routine if Mustafina can’t get back there. Keep an eye on that. Schekoldina’s AA score was mostly deflated by a disastrous bars number, but she did viably well on vault and floor and is in the mix.

In terms of bars gymnasts, Daria Spiridonova performed a 6.1 D score and hit (!), but Anastasia Iliankova crashed her dismount—though still made the bars final with 13.3—and Perebinosova went 12.300. Everything’s going awesome. Speaking of that: Klimenko and Eremina sit in 11th and 12th.

Paseka qualified second into the vault final behind Akhaimova with 14.2s on both her vaults. She also attempted to do bars at this one and went 12.1.

So we don’t know anything, basically. But what I’ve learned is that there’s definitely a spot for Mustafina on this Russian worlds team if she’s remotely close to back to her usual self, despite what Valentina might claim. The all-around final for the women is tomorrow (10:00am ET US time).

For the dude-boys, Nagornyy qualified in first place, with Belyavskiy in 2nd, Stretovich in 3rd, and Dalaloyan in 4th after a couple not-so-muches on a few pieces. Poliashov didn’t get the kind of number he would have preferred on pommel horse and is currently 6th.

B. 2021-2023 world championships

As if grappling with the Olympic qualification procedure were not enough, the FIG is out with the new qualification procedures that it will introduce for world championships in the next quadrennium. Continue reading Things Are Happening – August 23, 2019

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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

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