Category Archives: World Championships

Women’s Team Final

After a thrilling and controversial x 1000 men’s final yesterday, we had a not-that on the women’s side today. I don’t have a specific-enough understanding of the men’s code to make any kind of argument about scoring, at least with any confidence in myself (I’d start giving Kohei hair bonuses, and it would be all over the place). But, Uncle Tim has an excellent write-up of some of the issues involved in Zhang’s final gargantuan score. I defer.

I will say though, at first viewing, the Chinese high bar score that stood out to me as the stranger one was Lin’s preceding Zhang’s, with that completely horizontal turn at one point. Is this a situation like we often see in NCAA where a questionable 10 is awarded, and gets all the attention, but the real culprit is the super-random 9.950 beforehand that pushes the following score up?

But now some thoughts on the women’s team final.

1) The USA. Obviously. As much as I enjoy watching the US step all over everyone else’s faces while wearing Rene Lyst heels, it does make things super boring. A few more years of this, and I could see a serious change coming to start increasing the p-word. (Which is parity, if you don’t read here a lot.)

2) Alyssa Baumann’s lovely, non-broadcast leadoff beam routine. If I had to pick one place where I thought the US would fall in TF, it would have been here, but she got it down with just a couple wobbles. Martha’s little project scored big points (both real and figurative) for this.

3) Baumann had the smallest issues of the three US gymnasts on beam considering Ross did a third-base coach on her side somi and Simone had a larger-than-usual break on the layouts series. Of course, it didn’t matter, which was the problem with this final. That was such an uncharacteristic break for Kyla, but it was like, “Eh, whatever, go ahead and fall if you want. Have a blast. Do some jazz hands. Take a nap. It will change nothing.”

4) While we still have a chance to be excited before everyone gets injured over the next 12 months, the fight for the 2015 US team looks fuu-uun.  

5) Overall, this competition was terrible. We’re allowed to say that. Splatty bombatty. I’m looking at you, Russia and China.

6) Credit to Romania for pulling it together a little bit more in TF, or at least for letting Iordache be the star and not getting in her way too much. With that bars situation, fourth was as much as they could have hoped for, yet they almost got a Happy October gift of much more.

7) The Craig Heap and Christine Still pronunciation debacle is hysterical. Seriously, it’s not that hard. It takes two seconds of research to figure it out (the magic of youtube videos of domestic competitions—put your listening ears on!), and yet that definitely would have decreased my enjoyment of the meet tenfold. Craig stopped trying after a while. By the time we got to floor, he just introduced “Tan Jrrrrrr.”

8) Gah, Russia. You should be doing so much better. It’s not exactly an “I never expected the Russians to put up an athlete with so little talent” situation, but they’re seriously lacking in the non-Mustafina category.

9) It’s sort of offensive to me when people don’t even have the common decency to be Aliya Mustafina. There were so many people walking around today not being Aliya Mustafina. Unacceptable behavior.

10) I can finally (FINALLY) remember the difference between Alla Sosnitskaya and Daria Spiridonova after this competition. And I don’t like it.

11) I love how Grishina is seen as the fragile, headcase one in the eyes of the Rodionenkos and cronies because of the Olympics, but . . . as opposed to . . .? You have no less-headcasesque options. You better get on hands and knees to get that girl back when she’s healthy. You would be lucky to have her.

12A) China’s lineups. A side-eye experience. Why on earth was Shang Chunsong going on bars over Tan Jrrrrrr? Shang had been doing consistently worse than Tan at Asian Games and in prelims. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. No sense. A fall is appropriate punishment for that decision. Though a 7.666 is not appropriate punishment for that routine quality.

12B) Also, Bai Yawen, who qualified second on the team into beam finals, was not selected to do beam. It didn’t end up being a problem for the team, but it does reflect that she’s probably not in the highest standing with the team coaches if they didn’t even want to use her on her good event.

13) There’s no excuse for Hannah Whelan’s 4.5 D score on beam. She missed her acro series and lost 0.5 in CR, but when you do such a risky combination as your only acro series, there has to be a plan B in mind (and trained) just in case. This is like in 2010 when Mattie lost that decisive CR after not doing her combo pass or a simple forward element. That cannot happen. It’s too avoidable.

14)

Let’s play “Who can actually find 1.2 in deductions in Kyla’s bars routine?” Remember after the first night of US championships when SHE CAN’T DO BARS ANYMORE?

15) It was nice to see Australia show up with three events worth of routines that are very well-executed, though somewhat low in difficulty. An important change from the “you must have a 7.9 D score on beam, otherwise get back in the cage” attitude from last year.

16) Italy managed to finish 5th at both Worlds and Euros this year. One of those is a good result, and one is a bad result. Today, Italy scored 7.5 points better than Euro team finals, Russia scored 2 points better, and Romania and GB did around 2 points worse.

17) Japan is also a team, and I’ll just say this about the leotards: at least they’re going for something different. In true Project Runway fashion, I give more credit to that than to the fourth-rate versions of SPARKLY GIRL TIME SPARKLES that we usually see. 

World Championships Qualification

The qualification round happened! And we got to watch most of it! And I have thoughts! At least three. Probably more.

1) Simone Biles. The end.

2) Screwing up a kip is the new going out of bounds.

3) Eight real vaulters made the women’s vault final. Is the era of “just throw a random second vault, you’ll probably make finals”/”Tsuk full—I’m the best!” ending? Steingruber’s yfull was the only easier vault to make it to finals, and that’s sufficiently balanced by her rudi.

4) There are three executions scores on vault. 9.233 (great vault!), 8.933 (medium step or form break!), and 8.633 (ugly poo-poo!) Those are the choices. 

5) Do the US men select teams with more attention to qualification than to team finals?

6) Madison Kocian and MyKayla Skinner got basically the same E score on beam. What?

7) Kohei Uchimura might be a cursed pharaoh. Anytime anyone is mentioned as being a potential challenger to his reign, that person immediately falls 50 times. Men’s gymnastics is basically the plot of The Mummy.

8) Biggest improvements in 2014 compared to four years ago (women’s category): Austria (31st to 22nd), Colombia (34th to 25th – *they didn’t have enough scores in 2010), Mexico (21st to 14th), Germany (14th to 9th), Belgium (15th to 11th)

9) Biggest drops in 2014 compared to four years ago (also, women’s category): Ukraine (12th to 27th), Uzbekistan (24th to 31st), Brazil (10th to 16th), Greece (19th to 24th), Venezuela (22nd to 26th), Romania (4th to 7th), Switzerland (16th to 19th)

10) Not so much with the Canada. And I admit NCAA is at least partially culpable. We’ve taken all your bars workers and doused them in glitter and enthusiasm. 

11) What happened to Brazil? They looked almost Team Final-y at Pan Am Championships. And then . . . nope!

12) Romania’s bars routines are even weaker than I thought. They’re so bad at bars, they’re bad at beam. They finished 25th on bars. 25th. If bars were the whole sport, they wouldn’t be advancing to 2015. 

13) The beam judges were much stricter about connections than we’ve seen at any other event. This is a good thing. Don’t try to jam three rushed skills together and call it a connection. It just makes all of them look worse. If you can’t CONNECT connect them, just perform them individually.

14) If there were a Claudia Fragapane stuffed animal, I would probably buy it.

15) If there were a Rebecca Tunney healthy, Great Britain would definitely buy it. And pay the crown jewels for it.

16) If the Welsh women had competed as an independent team and repeated the team scores from Commonwealth Games, they would have finished 17th, within a point of Spain and Brazil.

17) Bai Yawen is a beautiful swan whom we’ll probably never see again because she has only one event of contribution, an area where China is already strong. Enjoy her while you can.

18) Tatiana Nabieva is my constant.

2014 USA Worlds Team

I feel obligated to have something to say about the US team for World Championships announced last night by USA Gymnastics, but I’m struggling to muster the energy because ultimately there wasn’t much decision in it at all. Utterly predictably, enough people were hit by the injury bus along the way to make the team a default.

Named to the team were Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Alyssa Baumann, Madison Kocian, Ashton Locklear, MyKayla Skinner, and Maddie Desch, with the alternate to be named once . . . it’s Maddie Desch.

The only question was Brenna Dowell, who is the non-traveling alternate, which is code for “even if we need you, we won’t use you because we’ll be in China and that’s far away. SEE YA.” Someone would have to get injured before they leave for the non-traveling alternate to come into play. Without competing the AA this summer, she would have needed quite the camp performance to prove her worth. And because Desch was selected over her as a “we can throw you in anywhere because meh” alternate selection, we can assume that didn’t happen. I’m fine with it. Get thee to a K.J.

The team final (which, by the way, is at 4:00am for west coasters—fun!) lineups seem pretty straightforward with this group, with Ross, Skinner, and Biles on vault, Ross, Kocian, and Locklear on bars, and Ross, Baumann, and Biles on beam. There’s more parity on floor, so I assume the default will be Ross, Skinner, Biles, and then we’ll see if anyone falls in prelims to create an argument over who should go in TF, a la Mattie in 2010.

This was the US team submitted for the nominative roster and the one nearly everyone predicted once the injuries shook out. So yeah. At this point, I’m more interested to see if the announced Russian team is actually the one that happens.

Worlds Reflections and Looking Ahead

The World Championships are over for another year. Breathe. Relax. Maybe have an entire pie. You’ve earned it. It’s an emotionally draining experience that you need to talk over with some food. True science: Watching an Aliya Mustafina training session is the equivalent of running a 10K. You lose a lot of fluids and need to replenish. Here are my reflections about Worlds, as well as some notes about what’s to come.

  • On the men’s side, I have to say that I’m being less of a disgrace to my sex and getting more into men’s gymnastics these days. I think part of the reason is that I don’t know the code all that well. I’m like Shannon Miller doing the commentary during the 2012 Olympics. I’m really proud of myself for knowing what a Tippelt is, and that’s about it. I don’t have a working knowledge of a lot of the deductions (at least the ones that are men-specific and aren’t universal gymnastics deductions), so I can enjoy the gymnastics without seeing only deductions. In women’s, all I see are the mistakes. 
  • Kohei won again. Yep. OK. Heh. It’s such a tough position because we expect everything from him. At this point, he can be interesting only by screwing up. His excellence is no longer news. We’re just waiting for him to make a mistake so we can start paying attention. 

  • Sam the Ham, Lord Dancy Pants, had a medal within his grasp in the men’s AA, then America-ed his HB routine to finish 6th. That, however, was beside the point because his dancing became the star. It was a serious talking point like it was something unusual. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time watching NCAA, but my reaction was “Yes, constant dancing, this is normal.” You know Bridget Sloan saw his land speed record for podium dancing and was like, “Puh. Child’s play. I dance more than that before vault.” But honestly, if you didn’t compose a chair-based interpretive dance to the between-rotations music from Worlds, then I understand nothing about you. Mine is about the changing of the seasons and loss of innocence. You’ll probably cry.
  • Epke Zonderland used the applause-o-meter to win HB over Fabian Hambuechen. (Did you notice Fabian watching Sam Mikulak throughout the competition trying to pick up tips on how to be more hammy? Love it.) It’s impossible to be mad at darling Epke because everything about him is a Dr. Seuss character: his face, his last name, his hair. He’s basically a truffula tree. In fact, it’s a little known truth that Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was actually written about Epke’s legs. “You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
  • In women’s land, Seemonay Biles won the AA, which was always going to be a given if she hit 4 for 4 considering her scoring potential (though the hitting part was not a given). She looked very Shawn Johnson 2007 AA throughout. Unfortunately for her, 2016 is still three years away. Rebecca Bross=cautionary tale. The best part about Seemonay (I will never stop calling her that, so thank you, Belgian PA announcer) is that she looks very comfortable with all the skills she is performing and does not appear to be maximizing her potential, which is a very good thing. There is still plenty of time. Take it slowly. Always be comfortable. 
  • Kyla Ross performed identical routines in every phase of the competition and won a million silvers. The interesting thing is what happens with Kyla moving forward. Should the focus be on upgrading vault and floor enough to continue to contend as an AAer with Biles, the future seniors like Key, and the potential comeback girls, or should it be on continuing to get her bars difficulty up into the sky so that she’s a lock for every team as an indispensable bars score? Both? Too ambitious?   
  • The women were worried the competition was getting a little straightforward, so they turned the beam final into the Dance of the Sugarplum Inquiries. First, Aliya performed a beautiful routine and got an immense score for it, but that wasn’t enough. So, the Russians submitted an inquiry (or enquiry to our European friends) that was rejected. This led to my favorite shot of the competition, Aliya doing math.
Basic elementary school addition skills! Weeeee!
      • Actually, I’m a little pleased to see an elite gymnast doing math because you never know. And I’m proud of her for being able to calculate her own D score. How many US elite women do you honestly think can do their own D scores? Later, Seemonay’s coach also submitted an inquiry that was accepted to raise her score .200 and give her the bronze for by far her weakest beam routine of the competition. Kyla’s coach also submitted one to raise her score by a tenth, but it was not enough to overtake Aliya. This flurry of inquiries led to my other favorite shot of the competition:
      “Enquiry submitted” before she begins her beam routine. Let’s be honest . . .
      • Helpful comment of the day: Injuries, boy I don’t know. In the women’s vault final, Phan of Vietnam foolishly attempted a Y2.5 and did at least a full twist of that vault into the ground like a corkscrew, then blithely walked away to a smiling coach. Oh, your knees just almost came off! Yay! Everything’s fine! Then, Chantysha Netteb followed, did a perfectly normal vault, and broke into several pieces. Like I said: Injuries, boy I don’t know. 
      • From now on, every time I see Huang Huidan, all I will be able to say is “She looks like JULIA.” Thanks, Martha. I believe Martha was confused because Huang is the one who looks the proper age. I think she was thinking of Shang, who is fetal. Maybe she was just talking about a different person, but you know Martha doesn’t bother to learn the difference between the Chinese gymnasts. Speaking of Martha, you must listen to Gymcastic episode 52 where my new hero whom I’ve never met named Emma talks about her harrowing Martha encounter. I can’t imagine. I would have had six kinds of diarrhea about it. “I’M WATCHING THE COMPETITION!” Ack.
      • Now that the elite season is over for all intents and purposes, it’s important to take a few days to decompress, but then I’m going to be all about the upcoming NCAA season. We’re only three months away. There’s so much to do! I’ve already started thinking through some lineups (So, note to coaches: you may not know your lineups yet, but I’ve already decided the correct ones for you. You’re welcome.) I have plans for stat analysis and freshman introductions and diatribes about vault lineup strategy and preseason rankings and team previews, so stayed tuned. It should be a fun time, with a good balance of analysis and complaining and yelling. My big three.