Category Archives: World Championships

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.