Category Archives: World Championships

The 2017 US Worlds Team

USA Gymnastics has just tweetnounced that the worlds team for 2017 is Ragan Smith, Jade Carey, Ashton Locklear, and Morgan Hurd.

So hmmmmmmmmm.

This was the rare year (among recent years) that we knew we were going to see a surprise no matter what because the second AA spot was so up for grabs. No clear option presented itself after the McCusker withdrawal.

BUT, it turns out that tonight’s big winner is Morgan Hurd, beating out Jordan Chiles and Trinity Thomas for the second all-around spot on the team. In the last post about team permutations, I noted that Hurd was close enough to the others to make it conceivable that she could beat both Chiles and Thomas at the selection camp. I assume that’s what must have happened for her to get the second AA spot since she was clearly behind Chiles and Thomas at nationals. She was still close enough that if she was the one who hit at camp…the choice makes sense.

As we learned from the videos (videos! From selection camp!), Thomas did not upgrade all the way to a DTY—put it on your Christmas list—still stepping up to the 1.5, though. That would have provided her with some lift in scoring potential, but not as much as she may have needed. Also, this is completely speculative, but while we got partial videos of everyone from the selection, Thomas’s routines were…more partial than those for the other major AAers. It could indicate errors that were taken out. That would make me more comfortable with the Thomas snub, if she totally botched selection. Otherwise, it is a snub, no two ways about it.

Chiles, meanwhile, has been named the alternate. I do still believe that Chiles has the higher peak scoring potential than Hurd when she hits because of her vault, but it’s close enough that just a few wobbles here and there would flip it, and if that’s what happened, then Hurd can very easily make sense as your AA option.

The thing is, however, that Hurd could show up at worlds, hit in the AA final, get a mid to high 56, and still not necessarily medal. She’s going to be in the hunt and a good contender, certainly, but it’s not a typical US-style sure thing.

That was going to be the case no matter who the US selected for that second AA position, but it’s something to get mentally accustomed to. Continue reading The 2017 US Worlds Team

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A Brief Dispatch on the McCusker Withdrawal

I’m coming to you today from the Balance Beam Situation London offices (where I have successfully mastered using the terms courgette and aubergine, saying toilet instead of restroom, and spending an hour and a half on a train glaring at too-loud teenagers and choosing to be miserable the entire time rather than say anything about it—where’s my citizenship?).

As requested, here are a few thoughts and reconstructions of team possibilities based on the withdrawal of Riley McCusker from the upcoming US selection camp. What does it do to the US worlds team conversation?

What it does is throw everything in the bin (BIN!).

Here’s what I said the last time I discussed the US team:

Basically, if McCusker isn’t your clear #2 AAer…selection will become an all-around free-for-all.

Pretty much!

The US is now left looking for its #2 all-around gymnast, which is good news for the selection hopes of Chiles, Thomas, Hurd, and Frazier, the contenders for that spot. If I were Valeri, I would be tempted to say, “OK, whoever finishes second to Smith at the selection camp is my second all-arounder” because no one else has really claimed the spot so far this year. But of course, that’s basing the decision on one competition, which we don’t do. Martha raised us to believe that every competition is a selection competition.

Jordan Chiles’ second-place finish at nationals makes a very good argument for her, creating one of the more competitive teams the US can select. Continue reading A Brief Dispatch on the McCusker Withdrawal

I Have Two Vaults

Vault has changed. Simone has abandoned us, North Korea is not registered to send anyone to worlds, Steingruber hasn’t competed since the Olympics, Karmakar is missing worlds after knee surgery, and Ellie Downie is out. Nothing is certain but death and Chuso.

So, as we consider who should receive spots on which worlds teams specifically to do vault, it’s worth examining the actual quality of the prospective field to know what kinds of vaults are likely to make the event final and what level of difficulty actually makes sense to put on a worlds team. The vaulters of 2017.

Amanar (5.8) + Cheng (6.0) = 11.8

Maria Paseka

Theoretically.

If Paseka is able to get back her highest-difficulty vaults, she has an edge on everyone else in the world right now in D. Some caveats: We didn’t see the Cheng at Universiade, where she was also 1-for-2 on Amanars. Plus, you know, this:

The 1/2-on vaults are usually terrifying, so even if Paseka brings back her top vaults, it’s not a done deal.

If she sticks with the Lopez we’ve been seeing, then her total is down to 11.0, well below a number of other contenders, meaning she’d have to rely on execution. So yeah. Paseka would be in it—and I wouldn’t bet against her chucking a Cheng just to see what happens—but she can’t currently be considered a favorite.

Though neither is anyone. Continue reading I Have Two Vaults

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Fixed It

Sadly, the world championship has come and gone for another year, like a fleeting spurt from a stage-mounted flamethrower that you’re convinced is going to singe Max Whitlock in the everywhere. But it was a good one! From the delectably OTT pomp and circumstance of the event production, to the avalanche of live coverage being injected into our eye sockets all throughout each day (thanks USAG!), to Maurice Lardo, to that thing where that small fishing village won the bars final for some reason, this ranks as the most entertaining world championship in memory. Everyone’s memory. I tapped into all of them, so I know. And, frankly, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

A little wistful? A little wistful. So, now that we’ll never again get to ro-TAINT, ro-TAINT—which is what it sounded like, a bunch of children just yelling TAINT—or wait with bated breath to find out whether Glasgow is ready or not (I didn’t say I’d miss all of it), that means we have just two short months left to prepare with catlike compulsive licking for the upcoming NCAA season and for remembering that a 10 is, like, good and wobbles are, like, a problem. Freshman previews are around the corner, probably.

But there’s still one more day of competition to break down until it weeps for mercy, so let’s get into it.

-The big bad news is that Oleg Stepko did not acquiesce to wearing his I-just-had-sex-with-a-volcano lava-smear singlet from the European Games, but thankfully, he did remind us that just because you cut your hair with half a stolen blender, doesn’t mean you can’t be a star. Check your judgment at the door, you worthless moron.

-Oleg S’s hair and dystopian tattooscape carried him through to a bronze on pbars and a spot in the Olympics among an exceptionally high-quality pbars field that did this weird thing where all the routines were good and impressive, and the result came down to small things like hesitations in handstands and steps on landing. Almost like an event final, or something. Leyva had just a couple breaks in form, which was enough to shove him all the way down to sixth, and Nile Wilson had the gall to be just fine and got basically a 2.

-Speaking of exactly the opposite of that, beam. Let’s face it, that beam final was a steaming landfill covered in mayonnaise on a hot summer day. The people who fell were everybody. I fell during that beam final, and I was in bed. (I’m very talented.) Medals were awarded to the people who successfully completed routines, because of ACCOMPLISHMENT, minus Victoria Komova, who stayed on the beam but went Full Weeble on every acro skill, which was doubly disappointing because it both took her out of the medals and struck a devastating blow to the “Vika has no fight!” narrative because she kind of stayed on. BUT NOW WHAT WILL WE SAY WHEN SHE FALLS???? Oh right. Still that, because we’ll forget about this in 11 seconds and go right back to what we thought before. Yay, ignoring evidence.

-Pauline Schaefer and Sanne Wevers both had a number of wobbles and breaks, which means congratulations, you’re the best. Schaefer hung on for bronze, while Wevers spinderella-ed her way to silver. Meanwhile, the one competitor who hit a real routine without looking as though a ghost was passing through her center of gravity at every moment, one Dr. Biles, hopped to gold by a casual full point. The beam final was basically just The Simone and Nope Show.
Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Fixed It

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Medal Stand

Obviously, we’re starting with uneven bars. Let’s just get that sarcastic leprechaun’s fever dream out of the way right now. Here’s how it went down.

This morning, Nellie Kim met with all the women’s judges to tell them of her plans for a passage of one-legged, no-look acro elements from side position in releve requirement for beam, because TEH ARTISTRY, at which point the judges robbed a Xanax truck at gunpoint, downed all of it, then hosed themselves into the uneven bars final going, “8.7 EXECUTION PROBABLY. EVERYONE TASTES LIKE WINNERS [coma].”

Everyone tastes like winners, indeed. Except for Gabby Douglas, apparently, since the judges looked at her cleanest-routine-of-the-final and went “Not quite. BOOP.”

But notwithstanding Gabby and Sophie Scheder, who sadly got the rickets in the middle of her dismount and temporarily forgot what walking is, the judges thought it would be funny (not ha-ha funny, more like sylvia-plath funny), if they just gave everyone and everything, all the flora and fauna, the exact same score. Because who the hell cares? Not us! Great. Fun. So once Fan Yilin got a 15.366, they said “Bingo, there’s the one” and conferenced for several short life cycles of a sea turtle about how to get Komova’s score down to 15.366. And with that never-say-die attitude they’re so famous for, they did it! Because of…sure. And…reasons. Komova thought that was some hilarious bullshit. Throughout the whole tie process, from getting her shut-up-nonsense-steroid-conspiracy of a score to being forced to hop up on that sister-wives medal stand with everyone else, she was basically this.

And once they got Komova in the tie, why not get Kocian and Spiridonova into the mix too? I CAN THINK OF NO REASON. This is such a fun game of Electronic Talking Fuck It! You stepped? That’s fine. You missed some handstands in there? That’s fine. 15.366! It’s a party! Four golds! We’re doing our jobs and there’s no problem with this! We definitely won’t run out of medals and won’t have to invite tomorrow’s winners onto the podium to give them a scrap of notebook paper with “Redeemable for one Mother’s Day present” on it.

Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Medal Stand

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke Everything I’ve Ever Loved

Well, there we have it. The annual Kohei has Koheied for another Kohei, and Kohei managed to Kohei through all six Koheis and Kohei the gold Kohei by Kohei points. In case that was unclear, Kohei “I, like, invented Simone” Uchimura did this thing where he pops out of a golden lamp, does all the perfects, and then laughs at all those pathetic sloths with leprosy that can barely even get a 90. Kohei persisted in being so much more un-terrible than everyone else that he physically died from lack of competition in the middle of his rings routine and still sent everyone else to the sadness corner by winning his 84th world championship and becoming sultan of hair and everything.

After this competition, if Kohei doesn’t fill a bathtub with gold medals and then take a picture of himself in it wearing only a captain’s hat while holding a cigar and a snifter of brandy with a parrot on his shoulder, then he and I have officially nothing in common.

[Spot reserved for Kohei Bathtub Pirate. Oh, I can wait……]

Hm. You want to play underwater charades? One word, five syllables? Talk to the hand because my finger is busy? Hi mom, but give me a minute? Hit me blisters, one more time? I just can’t crack your code.

-But memo to the world championship: you need to pick yourself up off of the snooze pile and pull your shit together. For a competition that started out with such promise of life-enforcing ridiculousness (remember when Romania got possessed by all those poltergeists on bars and got 11s? REMEMBER????), it has turned into a stale rehashing of three-year-old storylines these last few days. This isn’t Gossip Girl, you know. We have standards.

-The event finals really better bring out the big drama to make up for all this predictable Kohei/Simone will-they-won’t-they nonsense. At least give us a murder mystery, or a fake pregnancy, or an uneven bars mount, or an amnesiac quintuplet who bursts open the doors of the balance beam final and goes, “I’M THE REAL SANNE WEVERS! THAT’S AN IMPOSTOR!” Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. But let’s get into the men’s AA.
Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke Everything I’ve Ever Loved

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke Everyone Else’s Spirit

Was I the only one who didn’t know that Simone Biles is a space scientist? I feel like her PhD in Astronomical Beatdowns should play a bigger part in profile pieces about her. Just a note heading to the Olympics. Today, Dr. Biles went out to conduct some field research into how much bacon grease a preposterous alien space queen can rub on her feet before a meet and still beat all y’all serfs by an obscene margin. The study is ongoing, but the results we obtained today are very encouraging and indicate that the original hypothesis of 20 handfuls might be quite low.

Should any other gymnasts even bother having dreams anymore? That’s not for me to say, but absolutely not.

You see this?

And this?

You’re welcome. Have fun handing me my scepter.

-But the major conundrum confounding the space-science world lately has been just how many times Simone could fall and still win a world championship. Right now, it’s looking like the answer is two instead of the previously prevailing theory of SHUT UP A BILLION QUEEEEEEN [faint], proposed by Nichols, Me, et al. Simone didn’t fall today (there are still a lot of experiments to do be done in this field; we’re just scratching the surface of what we can learn), but her mistakes across three events probably combined to equal a fall, and she still won by a full point, then hugged a thousand pandas, ran into a nest of hipster beards and cured all of them, and eradicated the world of all LinkedIn requests. She’s basically a Marvel hero.
Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke Everyone Else’s Spirit

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Good China

With the US women, Simone the Conqueror, and Kohei Maximus all coming into this competition as ACME-anvil-sized favorites for three of the four major titles, the men’s team final was under a lot of pressure to achieve that elusive goal of being a slightly compelling sporting event, instead of a “Kim Jong Un challenges you to badminton”-style foregone conclusion. Tough task. But boy, it delivered like a raven bringing news of the pox.

We’ll all remember where we were when Kohei Uchimura totally trolled the entire world and only pretended to throw away the gold medal on high bar but then popped out from behind a bush and was like, “HA HA, I’M THE BEST!”

Coming into 2015, China had won the last 1207 consecutive team titles, dating back to the days when the pbars were elephant tusks and the vault was just a pile of scorched witch carcasses. And in spite of Japan being, you know, clearly several times better than China these last couple years (WHAT HOW DARE YOU), China learned in 2014 that they could pretty much just mobility-scooter their way down the vault runway, ask the high bar for a bedtime story, and then hand Bruno Grandi a drawing of a family holding hands and go, “CHAMPIONSHIP PLEASE.” So why would anything different happen this time? Perhaps that’s what lulled China into a false sense of security.
-China was so hooked on championships to start the meet that Xiao Ruoteng suggested everyone jump up for a rousing game of The Pommel Horse Is Lava Now. The rules are as follows: the pommel horse is lava. That’s pretty much it. Sounds fun, right? Nope. Terrible. Two falls later, and coupled with some floor routines suffering from a little bit of “this body ain’t big enough for the both of us” legs, China basically needed Japan to join a hippie commune never to be heard from again mid-vault to have any chance at title #1208.

Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Good China

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Tear Ducts of Ellie Downie

I must begin this time with some pretty big news. You might want to sit down for this. I don’t really know how to say it but…the US women won the team gold medal. I know. Totally blindsided. That’s life, isn’t it? You never see it coming. The beautiful thing about sports is that on any given day, anything can happen.

Man, Japan and China’s race for the men’s team gold medal tomorrow has some big shoes to fill. How can it possibly be as exciting as USA vs. [scene missing]?

-But really, the US margin of victory over China was only 5.174 this year. Pitiful. Have some self-respect, ladies. Imagine if Simone had fallen five times on floor. You would have…still won.

-OK, here’s how it played out. The US team entered the arena, unzipped their warmup jackets, and were immediately awarded the gold medal. WE DID IT! And then Gabby did such an excellent job putting on her grips that she got another gold medal, then the organizers were so impressed by the “ode to a weeping willow’s vagina” leotard (thanks to Spanny, that’s all I can see now) that they created a special Georgia O’Keefe tribute gold medal expressly for the United States, and then Simone smiled and six more gold medals popped out.

-We get spoiled by the US team. They’re just doing the backstroke in their money bin, lighting cigarettes with those podium bouquets, while the other countries are going, “Might we have a brass farthing to buy a sack of crumbs, please?” And they’re like, “NO! Stop getting poor all over the rug. AH HA HA MY WINNINGS.”

-But when a victory is this inevitable, it is hard to appreciate the performance as much as it probably deserves. The Americans can only meet expectations. They can never exceed them, regardless of how well they perform, because the expectations are hitting every routine and winning everything. And it happened again. The US went 12-for-12 for the 4th consecutive team final, and we just go “Yawn, toss another bag of diamonds in the diamond room.” Yeah, you nailed every routine when the pressure was on yet again with only a couple minor wobbles across four events. So what? I almost did laundry tonight. Who’s the real hero?
Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Tear Ducts of Ellie Downie

Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Actually Everyone

The last two days brought the opportunity for the MAGs to strap themselves into their manitards, chalk up the Pbars using pointillism, and turn to the women to say, “You thought you had a nightmare day this week? That’s adorable. We’ve been getting 6s in execution before you were even born, thank you.” But tomorrow, the women will have a chance for a splat-rebuttal as we arrive at the main event, the Great American Cakewalk. I mean, the team final. It’s going to be close……..anyone could win…………

The lineups for the women’s team final bring the news that Maggie Nichols will be competing the all-around. Oh. Hmm. What a groundbreaking idea. I wish someone had thought of that before. I suppose the opportunity to be the big AA star/hero for the team is Martha’s attempt at an apology alpaca. It will have to do for now.

Also note that Brenna Dowell has officially been erased from all of history. After her bars-tastrophe, Martha went back in time and killed a butterfly to ensure that Brenna was never born. Not only will Brenna compete no events in the team final, but she’s not even listed among the alternate team members on the start list anymore. Burnnnnnn. Taking someone off the roster is the gymnastics equivalent of pouring a drink in her weave. There has to be some kind of injury, right? They wouldn’t just expunge someone from the record as punishment for missing a routine……would they? Cut to Mattie Larson going, “Hello.” But, they also have not taken the opportunity to sub Skinner in to do the one-armed wonder, voluntarily competing with just five members.

Italy has made a substitution, replacing the hastily sewn-together form of Vanessa Ferrari with young Enus Mariani, who will be competing bars and beam in the TF after getting relegated to alternate status for qualification. Sadly, Ferrari is also out for the AA, meaning our global shoulder cut-out levels have reached an unprecedented low with serious environmental consequences. An inconvenient truth.
Continue reading Worlds 2015 – You Guys, I Think We Broke the Actually Everyone