Today, USAG released the roster for the women’s world championship selection camp, at which 11 athletes will contend for the five team spots and one traveling alternate position on the worlds team.
Selection Camp Roster
In addition to Konnor McClain’s withdrawal announced last week, this roster also confirms the absences of Zoe Miller (back) and Kayla DiCello (Florida), both of whom would also have been in serious contention for the worlds team if available.
Also missing are national team members Levi Jung-Ruivivar and Elle Mueller, and we can assume they must have declined positions at this camp because…they’re on the national team, and camp is what the national team does. It’s surprising not to see Jung-Ruivivar here after she just competed in Szombathely 30 seconds ago.
So it’s a pretty sparse group, but unlike the US men’s selection which intentionally limited the size of the size of the roster and didn’t invite some theoretical options, the women’s roster seems to be…just the ones who are left standing.
The selection competitions are held October 21 (7:00pm ET) and October 22 (5:50pm ET) and streamed on FlipWallet. We’re probably entering the fray with a default team in mind of Jones, Chiles, Carey, Wong, and Blakely, with the traveling alternate position totally up for grabs—or even a fifth team spot if someone in the five botches the competition.
B. Italian Championships
The injuries keep piling up for the Italian team. Following the European Championship injury to Asia D’Amato, now Angela Andreoli has withdrawn from this week’s national championship with an injury, putting additional strain on the Italian worlds team that for most of the year looked like a major medal favorite.
In better news, Giorgia Villa returned to the all-around on day 1 of nationals, and Alice D’Amato added back beam, which she had not competed yet in 2022, a critical development for an increasingly depleted team.
It now seems obvious that nominative roster members Manila Esposito and Veronica Mandriota will round out the team of five for Italy since there’s no one else very close to them. Alice D’Amato, Maggio, and Villa will have to do almost all the work in every phase of the competition at worlds, but there’s also still a need for someone to step in on vault and floor. Even though Villa is now back on those events, it’s not for the highest difficulty—and probably an unnecessary strain to have her do a bunch of vault and floor numbers at worlds so soon after bringing those events back. Esposito’s scores on day 1 of nationals were encouraging in that regard.
Overall, the absence of both Asia D’Amato and Angela Andreoli drops Italy from 2nd to 4th in terms of average scores in 2022, now behind the US, China, and Brazil. Still, the margin behind China and Brazil is not large, and neither of those these teams are exactly known for their amazing hit meets in critical team situations lately, so Italy will continue to entertain the possibility of a team medal this year despite the injuries, even though it’s going to be harder now. At the same time, this also brings the remarkably intact British team and a Melanie-d France closer to the medal pack as both teams now have a clearer pathway to pounce for a top-3 finish.
Broadcast notes for tomorrow’s women’s AA final (turns out no VPN required):
C. Worlds Teams
The second team registration window closes on Friday at midnight, so hopefully on Monday we’ll get a big update on worlds teams (because some of those currently registered teams are definitely not happening).
Still, we do have a confirmed team from Brazil, which is the expected five of Andrade, Saraiva, Soares, Oliveira, and Pedro. Christal Bezerra is the alternate, and it’s sort of either-or between her and Pedro, a spot that will probably only be asked to contribute a team final vault, where they have very similar scores for Yurchenko fulls. In her corner, Pedro did have a much better South American Games this week and is the more reliable option if you need her to, say, go instead of Flavia on bars. Of note, the men’s team does not include ringifier Arthur Zanetti, while the confirmed Swiss men’s team does not include Christian Baumann, both of whom were on the original nominative lists.
Several hours after the conclusion of yesterday’s trials—and exactly the millisecond I decided to stop waiting around for it—the US men announced their worlds team as Brody Malone, Donnell Whittenburg, Asher Hong, Colt Walker, and Stephen Nedoroscik, with Yul Moldauer as traveling alternate.
This is exactly what I would have done, and therefore it is smart and correct.
With Malone and Whittenburg already locked into the team based on their nationals results, this squad of five produced the highest 3-count team score based on average scores from nationals and selection camp. (The men’s selection procedures dictate that each of the four days is weighted at 25%, while the women’s selection procedures weigh 25% vibes, 25% shrug emoji, 35% the all-around standings I’m looking at right now, and 15% hair.)
This is a team with bigger D scores, the best available event final prospects in the group, and a very high ceiling, establishing a framework of routines and difficulty that can give the US a legitimate path toward contending for Olympic team medals in the future instead of just hoping for 4th at best.
But this is also a ri-i-isky team. There’s nothing “clean safe routines, guaranteed to stick” about this. Among the reasons this is the best-scoring team for the US is the upgrade on vault, with 6.0 D scores from Hong and Whittenburg and a 5.6 D from Walker—a drastic departure from the lineup of all 5.2s that the US was putting up last quad. But with Hong going 1-for-2 at selection camp and Whittenburg missing on vault in Paris, the idea of this lineup actually going to worlds and hitting to its capability is…up for interpretation.
There is every possibility that this US team goes to Liverpool and totally bombs, spoiling the best chance at a team medal that the US has had in a while (will have for a while?) given the absence of the Russian team. The blame and recriminations would be scorching, and the “Yul Moldauer should have been on the team!” of it all would be heavy.
There is a very solid argument for Yul Moldauer as part of this five instead. He was part of the highest-scoring team using only scores from selection camp (which is somewhat surprising because he didn’t have a great camp, but also…no one really did), and putting him in place of the locked Donnell Whittenburg on the overall average-score team would increase the total by about a half tenth. Of note, with no athletes locked, the highest-scoring team average would have come from Malone, Hong, Walker, Nedoroscik, and Juda. Talk about a risky game.
Yet, the named worlds team was not only the team that earned it with their scores based on the selection criteria laid down in advance, but it would also have been fairly hypocritical for the US men’s program to go with any other team. They’ve spent all year indicating that they want the difficulty scores to be pushed, and they imposed a comically massive bonus system in order to reward those who were pushing the difficulty, ensuring that they were still able to outscore those with normal difficulty even if they fell. The bonus system said, “We’d so much rather you fall while trying a 6.0 vault than hit a clean 5.2 vault.” The US couldn’t then turn around and say, “Actually, you fell on a 6.0 vault, so we’re going to take a clean 5.2 vault instead.”
Which leaves us with this very high-risk, high-reward team in which the US program got exactly what it was looking for. And now we’ll see how it goes.
As we waited for the US men’s team to be announced, Konnor McClain said, “You seem bored. Chew on this news” and officially announced her injury withdrawal from the worlds selection camp.
This certainly throws a wrench in the works and undermines the US women’s scoring potential at worlds, but it also clarifies some things in terms of the upcoming team selection.
With McClain out, the US is down to three athletes that seem like sure-thing choices for the worlds team in Shilese Jones, Jordan Chiles, and Jade Carey. You look at that three and say, “Well, first of all, vault and floor are done.” Really, there are only four other athletes who’ve shown the routines this year that could improve on that trio’s team total in an actual, meaningful way: Zoe Miller, Leanne Wong, Kayla DiCello, and Skye Blakely.
In a perfect world, Miller’s bars would be the absolute first choice to add to this team, but if she remains unable to do bars with the back injury that caused her to miss nationals, and Kayla DiCello indeed elects to opt out of worlds selection, then you’re left with two people for two spots in Wong and Blakely and you have the easiest worlds team decision there’s ever been (which is boring, so let’s hope it doesn’t happen). Wong, if healthy and present on at least two events, is the perfect supplement to the main three because she has bars and beam you’d put up in a team final, while Blakely at her best would be the natural next-in-line replacement to McClain’s beam. And if not at her best, well then she gets McCooled for TF.
Even though the performances from Jones and Carey in Paris allayed the beam fears on this team to some extent, it’s still not an extraordinary beam group without McClain, so if Blakely isn’t hitting for high beam scores at the selection camp or there are further injuries and absences, you’d still want to consider a Lexi Zeiss or an Elle Mueller—at minimum as traveling alternate—as they seem the most likely to put up a 13 there.
What I’m saying is, we’re going to need someone to yell “SURPRISE” and bring the drama to this camp.
Today, the FIG released the “definitely entirely meaningless but won’t stop me from talking about them” nominative rosters for the world championships, whereby countries submit the names of up to six athletes (five team members and an alternate) as placeholders to confirm that they do intend to send some athletes in those spots to worlds, even if not necessarily these exact individuals. So let’s get into what we “learned.”
The US women won’t conduct their selection camp until October 21-22, so for this list, they just submitted six gymnasts in all-around order from nationals: McClain, Jones, Chiles, Carey, Blakely, Zeiss. The only noteworthy part here is that they skipped over Kayla DiCello in that list of all-arounders, which one might decide to read as a tell regarding her intentions re: going for worlds.
The US men will conduct their selection camp this coming week on October 3 and 5 and submitted a nominative list that includes specialists Curran Phillips and Stephen Nedoroscik.
The other roster names are already confirmed team members Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg, along with Asher Hong and Colt Walker. That team of Malone, Whittenburg, Hong, Walker, Nedoroscik was the highest-scoring team based on the average of the two days of nationals (without bonus). “bUt WiLl ThEy TaKe A oNe EvEnTeR??????” – Me, all of next week.
Romania, see me after class. Despite qualifying a full team to worlds, the Romanian women have submitted just two athletes: Ana Barbosu and Andreea Preda.
Because Romania confirmed their team presence in the original allocation conducted after Euros, there’s now no mechanism in the rules to replace the Romanian women with the next team in line, which would be the Czech Republic. Instead, confirmed teams that end up not declining to send a full team receive a maximum of two athlete positions.
The Romanian men are like, “Look which side is suddenly the less disastrous one…”
Tyesha Mattis of Jamaica, who originally qualified her AA spot through the Pan American Championship, does not appear on the roster. Instead, there is a TBD placeholder spot for a replacement athlete from Pan Ams. Next in line for that spot would be Leyanet Pruna of Cuba.
Tran Doan Quynh Nam of Vietnam has not taken her vault and bars specialist spots. On vault, she is replaced by Mali Neurauter of Norway, which means Norway now has five women qualified to worlds but did not qualify a full team. Because there was literally no one left on bars (Tran had originally qualified as a bars specialist with a score of 0.300), her vacated spot goes unfilled.
Adam Steele of Ireland was originally confirmed for a floor specialist spot but does not appear on the nominative roster. He is replaced on floor by Niklas Syverhuset of Norway. Norway definitely gets the “hacked the system” award this year by getting 8 total athletes to worlds despite qualifying zero teams.
Leo Lehtinen of Finland, the #8 qualifier on high bar, did not take his spot. That instead goes to Rasuljon Abdurakjimov of Uzbekistan, who was already qualified for PBars and now has two events.
In noteworthy team submissions, Germany still has Sarah Voss on its nominative list, but she has been ruled out of worlds with injury. With that on top of Kim Bui’s retirement, Germany is pressed for depth as they wait for next year’s new seniors to save the day. On this nominative list, Anna-Lena König and Lea Marie Quaas appear alongside the obvious Seitz, Schäfer, Malewski group, though really, Germany’s best possible scoring plan would be to get Seitz and Schäfer back in the all-around.
Italy has listed Veronica Mandriota and Manila Esposito among its six—along with the obvious available four of Villa, Maggio, Andreoli, and Alice D’Amato. So right now the fifth spot looks to be between those two, which is about what we expected.
If you’re Italy, you basically want all your actual, real team final routines coming from the main four anyway, so it shouldn’t matter that much—except, we haven’t seen Alice D’Amato do beam this year, and you never know when Andreoli is going to fall 8 times, so I’d sort of want the fifth member to be able to have a team final beam if needed. Which is to say, I’m torn. Mandriota is elegant as the day is long and the better VT/FX complement to Villa’s UB/BB to make a well-rounded team, but if you want a beam score specifically, Esposito’s potential is probably higher.
Nina Derwael does indeed appear among Belgium’s six athletes. She was slated to return at the Paris World Cup but was a late withdrawal.
China has listed Tang Xijing, Wei Xiaoyuan, Ou Yushan, Zhang Jin, Luo Rui, and He Licheng as its six—six of the eight I’d have in major consideration, along with Wu Ran and Sun Xinyi, though given Wu Ran’s injury and Sun Xinyi’s beam specialist status, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see them miss out as we see on the nominative list.
Spain’s submitted six does not include their current best gymnast Alba Petisco, who was 12th AA at Euros and made the beam final. So that would not be ideal.
The Japanese men threw in 80-million-time medalist Kaya Kazuma as the alternate along with the already-named team. Must be nice. Kaya finished 4th AA after NHK and was not named to the team.
Ellie Downie, only recently back, is listed as Great Britain’s alternate alongside the Euros five, who have been announced as the team.
Eythora Thorsdottir is listed among the six for the Netherlands pending their upcoming selection competition. Watch that space.
Georgia-Rose Brown returns as part of the Australian women’s squad, and she is confirmed as part of Australia’s traveling six that will be winnowed to five after arriving in the UK.
Veterans Benjamin Gischard and Christain Baumann are part of Switzerland’s listed men’s team after being absent at Euros. The Swiss men haven’t missed a worlds team final since 2011.
Abigial Magistrati, Argentina’s best finisher at this year’s South American Championship, does not appear on the nominative list.
Carina Kröll, an essential part of Austria’s worlds qualification performance, does not appear on Austria’s list. She is replaced by Berta Schwaninger.
This week, China held its national championship (rescheduled from May), which primarily served to upend everything we thought we knew and complicate the worlds team picture in several delectable ways. We’d have it no other way.
In the results department, 2019 world silver medalist Tang Xijing took the two-day all-around title by what was ultimately a comfortable margin of 1.100 over Olympian Ou Yushan in second place and He Licheng in bronze. Perhaps the biggest stir, however, was made by junior Qiu Qiyuan, who led the all-around after qualification with a 55.350 (the highest single-day score for anyone).
Things fell apart for Qiu on bars and beam (her best events) in the all-around final to drop her all the way to 7th overall, but her first-day performance served as official notification for next year when she’s senior eligible that you should be bursting into rooms with, “Just want to say everyone’s sleeping on Qiu Qiyuan” before disappearing in a cloud of smoke.
On the events, perennial vault specialist Yu Linmin won that title facing relatively little challenge (Qi Qi has not been able to bring back her competitive difficulty), while Luo Rui and Wei Xiaoyuan tied for first on bars but the title went to Luo on the execution tiebreak. Qiu Qiyuan returned from her all-around struggles to win the beam title, and underdog Xiang Lulu leaped her way to an upset win on floor when Tang Xijing, Ou Yushan, and He Licheng all faltered on the last day.
So let’s get into what all this means for China’s prospective world championships team, which is shaping up to be one of the most unsettled selection processes with a month and a half to go before worlds, with a solid 8+ athletes still presenting logical cases for spots on the team.
Taking the entire year into account (so that means including the Asian Championships and Asian Championships trial in addition to nationals), the national championship semi-misleadingly brought no movement in the highest-scoring team, which would still be Zhang Jin, Tang Xijing, Wu Ran, Wei Xiaoyuan, and Luo Rui. Here’s how that team breaks down using the average of each athlete’s top 2 scores on each event this year:
For reference, this total would currently rank #3 in the world among all nations using the same method, behind the US and Italy and just head of Brazil.
This seemingly stable team of five was undercut by several developments at nationals. First, the injury to Wu Ran is a real bummer. She produced China’s highest beam and floor scores at the Asian Championship, an absolutely necessary combination of strengths in trying to put together an ideal team of five.
Wu remains on the athlete list for China’s final worlds selection competition, which is encouraging, but we’ll have to see how she fares at that event in deciding whether her spot on the worlds team will actually be hers. And after the debacle that was the Olympic team final, how will China feel about taking a “you’d definitely be on this team at your best, but you’re still kind of injured right now” athlete?
Similarly complicating matters at nationals was the performance of Olympian Zhang Jin. This spring and early summer, Zhang was on a roll, winning the the all-around title at the Asian Championship by a huge margin over Tang Xijing. Several months ago, she looked like a lock for worlds, but she had a weak national championship, finishing 8th in the all-around (she was 10th after qualification) and advancing to zero event finals. Going by only the scores at nationals, Zhang would not be on the highest-scoring team of five.
So what would that team look like?
Using the average of each athlete’s top 2 scores at nationals (so mimicking the team above, but just with nationals), we’d have this five:
In this setup, Sun Xinyi comes onto the team, primarily for her sublime and reliable beam routine but also to contribute vault and floor on a squad where those events are…not the deepest. That’s the crux of the conundrum from nationals—those whose vault and floor scores seem necessary, like Zhang Jin and He Licheng, did not consistently bring high enough scores on other events to get on a team.
In addition to Sun, Ou Yushan also drops into the national championships five thanks to floor return, and because he can provide one of the best beam options on her day, an event where she took bronze.
There’s a lot to like and a lot to be worried about with this group of five, but my main question is whether this group is unnecessarily stacked on the middle events (Tang Xijing’s beam score isn’t even counting here because she missed in qualification, but she’s sort of the Olympic silver medalist). Would it be more advantageous to chuck out one of the bars or beam specialists in favor of someone who could provide a vault and floor score—should that person exist?
Which brings us to the highest-scoring team using only each athlete’s top score from nationals.
This team gets He Licheng in the mix to contribute vault and floor scores. If she’s reliably landing it on her feet, hers is a vault you’d want to put up at worlds because even with form aplenty, she has a full point D-score advantage over the Yurchenko fulls.
After a strong qualification result on floor, He Licheng missed in both the all-around final and the event final, which is not ideal for someone looking to contribute a floor score for the worlds team. It’s an undeniable risk, one I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable dropping Wei Xiaoyuan’s bars routine for, which is the case in the team above. Wei’s bars has been a sure-thing for high 14s all year, while in this setup you’d end up using a bars routine from Ou Yushan or He Licheng in a team final instead, which is definitely not a sure thing.
So where does that leave us? Chaos town, basically.
Basically the only 100% gymnast on this worlds team is the national champion Tang Xijing. You’d happily put her on bars, beam, and floor in the team final—and even if she’s still just vaulting the Yfull, you may have to use that as well.
One thing China does have right now is a very clear top 3 on bars with Tang alongside Luo Rui and Wei Xiaoyuan. We have a tendency to take bars and beam for granted with China and focus (perhaps over-focus?) on how to squeeze enough competitive vault and floor scores into the five while just assuming that bars and beam will be there. But as the Olympics taught us in harsh fashion, bars should not be taken for granted as a big score. For me, having Tang, Luo, and Wei all on that worlds team is a top priority.
That brings us to the Wu Ran issue, which may dictate how everything plays out. If Wu is in form, not only would that deliver a necessary floor score, but you’d also then have Tang, Luo, and Wu pretty much covering beam. That would be bad news for Sun Xinyi’s hopes since beam is what she brings. Meanwhile, it would be good news for those who bring vault because a team with Tang, Luo, Wei, and Wu on it would be desperately, desperately in need of a vault score.
That’s why there’s absolutely still an opening for Zhang Jin despite nationals (or He Licheng) as long as she can hit vault and show 13s on floor at the final selection. Ou Yushan hasn’t shown the vault difficulty this year (and the track record for last minute re-upgrades is not ideal), which would be a major concern on that team. But, she is starting to look like one of the best floor options again, perhaps better than Zhang or He, and a third floor routine is something else a Tang, Luo, Wei, and Wu team would need.
And what if Wu Ran can’t go? Then you still need a beam routine, and Sun Xinyi is the best bet there, with a solid argument that her single huge beam score delivers more than those who can give you a few tenths across a couple events. Still, it’s one event, and if you’re looking for multiple events, Ou Yushan theoretically gives a beam, as well as floor, and bars on a good day, which would make her a very compelling option. You could pair either Sun or Ou with the vault/floor from Zhang or He (or with each other if everyone continues to fall apart on floor) to round out a senisble team without Wu.
Circles and circles forever, but there’s a reason that team at the top remained the highest-scoring team for China even after nationals. That distribution of strengths is probably the best bet, and only if they are not performing or healthy—which may well continue to be the case—do you start to look for what combination of other athletes makes up for it the most efficiently.