Freshman Orientation: Georgia

Our NCAA teams have now moved out of the not remotely voluntary portion of the preseason and into the official practice portion. There will not be a great deal for them to report about their progress over the next month or two other than groundbreaking stories like “The team is coming together really well” and “We’re excited about the season.”

But for our purposes, it’s time to start familiarizing ourselves with the freshman on each of the top teams so that we can have our utterly arbitrary opinions about how they will perform solidified and gathering mold well before the season begins. 

I’m starting with Georgia, where (in addition to being reliable workhorses in the all-around) the hardest job for incoming standouts Brandie Jay and Brittany Rogers will be finding a way to mitigate the loss of tenths on bars. Kat Ding and Gina Nuccio were bringing in 9.900s every week and showing their teammates what sticking looks like. Chelsea Davis will be expected to take on that Kat Ding responsibility this season, but both Jay and Rogers will need to prove worthy of late lineup positions to ensure there is not a major drop off from last season. Otherwise, they will be looking very 49.200 on an event where they will need 49.400s.

Brandie Jay





Jay has spent the last three years as one of those solid second-tier elites who lacked some precision and difficulty but who could excel in NCAA because she is talented, has a high skill level, and is relatively injury-free. She has the potential to be the gymnast they were hoping Tanella would be (9.875-y on multiple events).

Vault has been her signature event in the past, and even though it was weaker in 2012 than it had been before, she is capable of putting up a nice late-lineup Yurchenko 1.5 or full that could help make up for the loss of Ding.

Under the elite code, her execution scores were often low on the other events, but many of her major breaks were on skills she wouldn’t have to perform in NCAA. There is certainly some leg and foot form in places that I will harp on, and she’ll need to improve consistency on beam, but she could be a vital all-arounder. 

Brittany Rogers





Rogers had been written off by many after some extended injury breaks, but she returned to be a standout vault and bars worker on the Canadian Olympic team, and that’s where I expect her to be strongest for Georgia. But as we can see from these videos, she’s not hopeless on the other events. I don’t expect her to lead the team, but she could make lineups. They may need some 9.800ishness from her on each, which I can certainly see happening.

She won’t be joining the team until January, but if she’s in shape to compete right away, expect her to be a significant performer. The talent is there. Whether she can bring the team out that Noel Couch/Kaylan Earls/Sarah Persinger 9.825-9.850 territory remains to be seen.

Anysia Unick





Unick isn’t coming in with as much attention because she wasn’t a top international competitor for Canada. When she was recruited, Jay Clark touted her bars skills, and while her Tkatchev is high, I’m not ready to pronounce her a major contributor there. That’s a wait-and-see routine for me. 

I’m actually way more interested in her beam routine and that skill selection, which I hope (and know they won’t) maintain. Don’t discount this one.

Mary Beth Box
Box is a walk-on this year with similar strengths to Mariel. She doesn’t have much difficulty, but she could put together an efficient enough routine on floor to be a backup. She recently had knee surgery, so it remains to be seen if she will contribute in 2013. 


2013-2016 WAG Code of Points

There’s so little going on in the collegiate realm since it’s still September, so I can be forgiven for bouncing back to elite for the moment.

We have the offical Code for 2013-2016, so there is much to digest.

You can download it in the WAG section HERE if you don’t have it yet.

Most of this is similar to the provisional code from earlier in the year, so I won’t address most of that in detail, but there is also some interesting new stuff here that I will react to in no particular order after the jump:

  • I’m most interested in the new “Series Bonus” on beam which provides .10 for any connection of three acro elements valued at at least B+B+C. This means that D+B+C will be .10 instead of .20 (yay) but also that some easier combinations of three elements can also receive .10. I think I’m pro this move, but we’ll have to wait and see. This will be in addition to any CV earned in the combination, so C+C+C will now receive .20 in CV and .10 in SB. Don’t worry if you don’t get it yet, we will learn. Under this rule, a combination dismount like B+B+E will now be .10 instead of .20.
  • They’ve backed off the artistry deductions on beam that they presented in the provisional code, but there is now a .10-.30 deduction for lack of confidence, personal style, and uniqueness in the routine. Love it if it’s applied correctly, which it won’t be. 
  • No more combo pass requirement on floor (!). Instead, the double salto and full turn salto requirements are each different CRs. (Why not get rid of the dance combination while you were at it? Ugh.)
  • Removal of the .30 floor CV from the provisional code. I’m actually glad they did this because I thought .30 for C+E indirect was too much, but others will disagree.
  • UGH. They kept the D acro + A dance connection for floor. It was supposed to be changed to D+B. Not. Wanted.
  • Similar to beam, they have backed off the artistry deductions on floor. It’s a nice gesture but this is a little toothless. I do enjoy the deduction for the inability to play a role or character in the routine. 
  •  Good use of photos of Philipp Boy.
  • Downgrades of vaults are in line with the provisional code. Handspring rudi is down to 6.2, Produnova is down to 7.0, Tsuk 2.5 is down to 6.5, Amanar down to 6.3, Cheng down to 6.4. I appreciate their trying to keep vault scores down, but they’ve missed the point about non-Yurchenko vaults being undervalued.
  • Shushunova on bars down to an E instead of a G. Good. 
  • Kochetkova on beam now an E instead of a D.
  • Split jump with 1.5 turns and straddle 1.5 on floor are now D instead of C.
  • Cat leap and tuck leap 2/1 in floor are now C (kill me).
  • Double front 1/2 is now an F. Finally.
  •  Double double tucked is a new H skill for .80. Did we need that to happen? Double layout 1/1 is also an H. We did need that to happen.
  • They had four more years to learn how to spell people’s names in the named skills section and still no progress. Sigh.
  • There are more things that we already knew about because they were part of the provisional code (like no more bail HS+stalder shoot connection on bars and no more .20 CV for E+E pirouetting), and I’m sure I missed some things, but these are the thoughts for now.

    Tenths above Replacement

    Warning: Contains numbers.

    Even though coaches don’t like to talk explicitly about replacing routines because every team is different and every gymnast is a unique gemstone with her own personal sparkle blah, blah, blah, barf, finding the routines to replace scores that are no longer with the team can be a major struggle.

    Some teams have more work to do than others. As a way of measuring the value of a gymnast that has graduated or retired, we can compare that gymnast’s RQS to the score we would expect from an average replacement, a 7th-8th gymnast on a apparatus who competes in the event of an injury and keeps the team from falling apart. Certainly, that’s going to vary for every team, and Alabama on vault will be expecting a much higher replacement score than Ohio State on beam.

    Still, we can assume that on average most of the top teams will be looking at a replacement score of about 9.800. 9.800 is just OK for a team expecting to make Championships, and nearly all of these teams have 9.800s who were sitting on the bench last season.

    So, in analyzing how much replacement work the top 12 teams from last year have to do, we can examine how much the average team score would decrease if we replaced the graduated/retired routines from 2012 (measured by RQS) with 9.800s. That is the tenths above replacement score. For example, if all the Ferguson, Stone, and Cindell routines from last year become 9.800s instead, Oklahoma’s team score goes down an average of 0.700.

    A few notes:
    -Gymnasts are included if they made the final lineup for the team, be it in Super Six or Semifinals. That’s why Cindell is here even though she likely wouldn’t have competed if not for Nowak’s injury. A healthy Nowak makes up some of that 0.700 right away.
    -In cases where a gymnast competed on an event but the RQS was below replacement level (below 9.800), I did not include that routine in the statistics as it should be replaceable.
    -In cases where a gymnast did not have an RQS because of injury but did contribute in the postseason, I used the postseason average instead. I also intervened in the case of Kyndal Robarts since her very low RQS was not representative of the fact that Utah will have to find a score to replace hers on floor. It’s cheating, but it creates more realistic numbers. What can I say? I’m a rogue. Without that change, Utah’s number would be 0.390, if you’re interested.
    -The numbers slightly underestimate the importance of the seniors for Ohio State, where 9.800s were more rare and valuable last season. The Buckeyes have some of the most replacing to do.

    Tenths above Replacement:

    1. Oklahoma – 0.700
    Megan Ferguson – 0.380 (Bars: 9.910, Beam: 9.930, Floor: 9.940)
    Sara Stone – 0.295 (Vault: 9.935, Beam: 9.875, Floor: 9.885)
    Candace Cindell – 0.025 (Bars: 9.825)

    2. Arkansas – 0.545
    Jaime Pisani – 0.440 (Vault: 9.910, Bars: 9.895, Beam: 9.895, Floor: 9.940)
    Mariah Howdeshell – 0.105 (Bars: 9.905)

    3. UCLA – 0.510
    Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs – 0.220 (Vault: 9.815, Beam: 9.885, Floor: 9.920)
    Aisha Gerber – 0.145 (Bars: 9.890, Beam: 9.855)
    Tauny Frattone – 0.145 (Vault: 9.920, Floor: 9.825)

    4. Georgia – 0.458 
    Kat Ding – 0.338 (Vault: 9.910, Bars: 9.935, Beam: 9.830, Floor: 9.863)
    Gina Nuccio – 0.085 (Bars: 9.885, Floor: 9.800)
    Laura Moffatt – 0.035 (Beam: 9.835)

    5. Utah – 0.457
    Kyndal Robarts – 0.222 (Vault: 9.900, Beam: 9.855, Floor: 9.867)
    Stephanie McAllister – 0.180 (Bars: 9.865, Beam: 9.825, Floor: 9.890)
    Cortni Beers – 0.055 (Bars: 9.810, Beam: 9.845)

    6. Oregon State – 0.440
    Leslie Mak – 0.305 (Vault: 9.810, Bars: 9.885, Beam: 9.930, Floor: 9.880)
    Olivia Vivian – 0.135 (Bars: 9.895, Beam: 9.840)

    7. Stanford – 0.393
    Alyssa Brown – 0.233 (Vault: 9.908, Bars: 9.875, Beam: 9.850)
    Nicole Pechanec – 0.160 (Vault: 9.810, Bars: 9.900, Floor: 9.850)

    8. Alabama – 0.310
    Geralen Stack-Eaton – 0.310 (Vault: 9.895, Bars: 9.890, Beam: 9.820, Floor: 9.905)

    9. Ohio State – 0.240
    Alyssa Marohn – 0.080 (Vault: 9.840, Bars: 9.815, Beam: 9.825)
    Nicole Krauter – 0.060 (Vault: 9.835, Beam: 9.825)
    Taylor Jones – 0.050 (Vault: 9.800, Bars: 9.815, Floor: 9.835)
    Casey Williamson – 0.050 (Bars: 9.845, Floor: 9.805)

    10. Nebraska – 0.235
    Lora Evenstad – 0.235 (Vault: 9.825, Bars: 9.910, Floor: 9.900)

    11. Florida – 0.100
    Nicole Ellis – 0.065 (Bars: 9.865)
    Amy Ferguson – 0.035 (Floor: 9.835)

    12. LSU – 0.055
    Ashley Lee – 0.055 (Vault: 9.855)

    2013 Composite NCAA Schedule

    New look for the blog. Do we like it? I’m not sure yet. I think it’s more readable than before but is also maybe a little template-y and sterile, like a blog about orthodontics where orthodontists can say, “Oh, don’t you hate when braces do that?” We’ll see how it goes.

    It’s September, which means the preseason is rearing its head all over the place. We’re getting schedules and updated rosters and hearing the news that Cassie Whitcomb unsurprisingly took a medical retirement. At her strongest, Whitcomb had some ideal Mary Lee Tracy handstands (flat hips!), so when she couldn’t hit any handstands in exhibition routines last season, it became clear that her chronic back injury would not allow her to compete at this level. As a result, Kaelie Baer appears to have received a magic year.

    Most of the top teams have now released their 2013 schedules, and I have compiled them here to give us a single handy resource for planning and reference purposes. [Edit: All the top teams have now released their schedules, so let’s give a round of applause.]

    Georgia has a characteristically packed schedule, but this year it includes no weeks off during the regular season. The first weekend off will be the bye week between SECs and Regionals. That always makes me nervous. Durante will have to be farsighted in her lineup strategy to protect against injury, especially with her frail elites like Worley and Davis. 

    Stanford once again is barely competing. Last season, the Cardinal didn’t even register on the quality radar until Pac-12s and didn’t even settle on final lineups until the day of Super Six, but maybe there’s something to that. The team peaked at the right time, that’s for sure.  

    The SEC teams always have the most difficult schedules out of conference necessity, but Georgia and Alabama stand out this season as having the most challenging roads. The only potentially soft meets for either of those teams are the conference meets against Kentucky and Missouri (as well as Georgia’s meet against NC State).

    2013 NCAA Schedule

    Week 1 – January 4-6

    Friday, January 4
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ball State @ Florida
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – NC State @ LSU
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Stanford, Sacramento St., UC Davis @ San Jose State
    TBA – Cancun Invitational (Oregon State, Michigan, BYU)

    Saturday, January 5
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Oklahoma @ Georgia
    6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Penn State @ Denver
    TBA – Ohio State @ Bowling Green

    Sunday, January 6
    5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Southern Utah @ UCLA

    Week 2 – January 11-13

    Friday, January 11
    7:30 ET/4:30 PT ­– Alabama @ Missouri
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Florida @ LSU
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Georgia @ Arkansas
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Ohio State @ Oregon State

    Saturday, January 12
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Oklahoma @ Arizona State
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Nebraska @ Michigan
    5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Penn State @ Illinois-Chicago
    6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Stanford, Illinois, San Jose State @ Arizona
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Utah @ UCLA

    Week 3 – January 18-21

    Friday, January 18
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Missouri @ Florida
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Arkansas @ Kentucky
    7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Auburn @ Georgia
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Denver @ Oklahoma
    8:30 ET/5:30 PT – LSU @ Alabama

    Saturday, January 19
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Iowa @ Ohio State
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Illinois @ Michigan 
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Michigan State @ Nebraska
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Minnesota, Kent State, Towson @ Penn State
    9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Oregon State, West Virginia, Southern Utah @ Utah

    Monday, January 21
    2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Stanford @ Georgia

    Week 4 – January 25-27

    Friday, January 25
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Auburn @ Florida
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Nebraska @ Ohio State
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Denver @ Arkansas
    8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Kentucky @ Alabama
    9:00 ET/6:00 PT – UCLA @ Arizona State
    9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Utah @ Arizona

    Saturday, January 26
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Iowa, Pittsburgh, Rutgers @ Penn State
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Michigan, Iowa State @ Minnesota
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Metroplex Challenge (Oklahoma, Georgia, LSU, Oregon State, Washington)
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Stanford @ California

    Week 5 – February 1-3

    Friday, February 1
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Oklahoma @ West VIrginia
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Illinois @ Nebraska
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – LSU @ Kentucky
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Florida @ Arkansas
    9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Arizona State @ Utah

    Saturday, February 2
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Alabama @ Georgia
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Iowa @ Michigan 
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – UCLA @ Stanford
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Ohio State @ Penn State

    Sunday, February 3
    5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Oregon State @ California

    Week 6 – February 8-10

    Friday, February 8
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Alabama @ Florida
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Georgia @ Kentucky
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Michigan @ Ohio State
    7:30 ET/4:30 PT – LSU @ Missouri
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Oklahoma @ Iowa State
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Arkansas @ Auburn
    9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Oregon State @ Arizona State
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – California @ Utah

    Sunday, February 10
    3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Penn State @ Nebraska
    5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Washington, Sacramento St., UC Davis @ UCLA

    Week 7 – February 15-17

    Friday, February 15
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Bart & Nadia Jamboree (Oklahoma, Boise State, BYU, Texas Women’s)
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Arkansas @ LSU
    8:30 ET/4:30 PT – Auburn @ Alabama
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Utah @ Washington
    TBA – Arizona State @ Stanford

    Saturday, February 16
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Florida @ Georgia
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Penn State @ Michigan
    6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Nebraska @ Arizona 
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – UCLA @ Oregon State
    TBA – Ohio State @ Michigan State

    Week 8 – February 22-24

    Friday, February 22
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Kentucky @ Florida
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Boise State, Iowa State @ Nebraska
    7:30 ET/4:30 PT – Georgia @ Missouri
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Alabama @ Arkansas
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – UCLA @ Oklahoma
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – LSU @ Auburn
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Arizona, Seattle Pacific @ Oregon State

    Saturday, February 23
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Illinois @ Ohio State
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Michigan State @ Penn State
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Stanford @ Utah

    Sunday, February 24
    2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Michigan, New Hampshire, Towson @ West Virginia

    Week 9 – March 1-4

    Friday, March 1
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Minnesota @ Florida
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Oklahoma @ Texas Women’s
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Georgia @ LSU
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Missouri, Centenary, Lindenwood @ Arkansas
    8:30 ET/5:30 PT – UCLA @ Alabama
    8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Oregon State, California @ Stanford
    9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Utah, North Carolina @ BYU

    Saturday, March 2
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Penn State @ Illinois
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Michigan @ Michigan State

    Sunday, March 3
    6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Ohio State @ Illinois State
    Monday, March 4
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Iowa @ Nebraska

    Week 10 – March 8-10

    Friday, March 8
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Alabama @ LSU
    8:00 ET/5:00 PT – Arizona @ Oklahoma

    Saturday, March 9
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Utah @ Georgia
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Bridgeport @ Ohio State
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – New Hampshire, Penn, Temple @ Penn State
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Nebraska, Arkansas, Centenary @ Minnesota 
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Washington, Sacramento State @ Oregon State

    Sunday, March 10
    3:00 ET/12:00 PT – Stanford, North Carolina @ Oklahoma
    5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Michigan, California, Iowa State @ UCLA

    Week 11 – March 15-17

    Friday, March 15
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – LSU @ NC State
    8:30 ET/5:30 PT – Oklahoma @ Alabama

    Saturday, March 16
    4:00 ET/1:00 PT – Iowa State @ Michigan
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Kentucky @ Penn State
    9:00 ET/6:00 PT – Florida @ Utah
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Nebraska @ California
    TBA – Ohio State @ Minnesota

    Sunday, March 17
    1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Georgia @ NC State
    5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Arkansas @ UCLA

    Week 12 – March 22-24

    Saturday, March 23
    2:00 ET/11:00 PT – Big 10 Championships (@ Michigan State)
    5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Big 12 Championships (@ Iowa State)
    5:00 ET/2:00 PT – Pac-12 Championships Session 1 (@ Oregon State)
    10:00 ET/7:00 PT – Pac-12 Championships Session 2 (@ Oregon State)
    TBA ­– SEC Championships (Little Rock, Arkansas)

    Week 13 – March 29-31


    Week 14 – April 5-7

    Saturday, April 6
    TBA – Alabama Regional
    TBA ­– Oregon State Regional
    TBA – West Virginia Regional
    6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Florida Regional
    6:00 ET/3:00 PT – Ohio State Regional
    7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Oklahoma Regional

    Week 15 – April 12-14


    Week 16 – April 19-21

    Friday, April 19
    TBA – NCAA National Semifinal #1
    TBA – NCAA National Semifinal #2

    Saturday, April 20
    TBA – Super Six

    Sunday, April 21
    TBA – Event Finals

    Problems for Gym Fans with Eyes

    Buried in the hoopla of the Olympics was some not so pleasant news for gymnastics fans who may have an interest in, you know, actually watching the sport that they follow.

    First, in vile and disastrous news for elite fans, Universal Sports announced that live streaming of events on their website will henceforth be available only to subscribers of DirecTV and Dish Network who already have the super expensive sports plan of which Universal Sports is a part. So, um, no one.

    Universal Sports distributed the following letter from the CEO:

    Dear Fans of Universal Sports,

    With more than 30 different sports and 25 world championships, Universal Sports Network is your destination to watch your favorite Olympic sports and athletes year-round including exclusive and live event coverage of the Vuelta a España, Giro d’Italia, Diamond League track and field, Kona Ironman, Alpine Skiing World Cup and world marathon majors each year.

    This Friday, July 27th, our website will become fully authenticated which is a necessary measure in our efforts to continue to provide, and expand upon, the world-class sports content you have come to expect from Universal Sports.  Authentication, or verification, is the ability to login to our website using your current satellite or cable provider account to access live streaming content and online video on demand.

    Effective Friday, all online live events and replays on demand will be available exclusively to DIRECTV, DISH and cable customers who have Universal Sports as part of their television package. Individual long-form events and sport packages will no longer be offered for sale online, but will be free to users who verify their subscriptions on our website.  There is no additional charge for this service and a customer’s subscription will not be affected. As always, anyone who visits our website can enjoy video highlights, photos and breaking news for free without authentication.

    Thank you for your loyalty.
    David Sternberg
    CEO, Universal Sports Network

    Coverage of Secret Classic? BYE.
    Coverage of the first day of Nationals? BYE.
    Live coverage of Worlds before NBC decides to broadcast it? BYE.

    Not good news. 

    Also in NCAA coverage news, many cable providers (including mine) are not currently carrying the Pac-12 network. People are in a huff about that right now because college football season is coming up, but I don’t so much care about that.

    However, the Pac-12 Network is purportedly going to have some excellent coverage of gymnastics come the springtime, so if they don’t have a deal worked out by then, they will have some (at least one) very cranky gymnastics fans on their hands. What we lack in numbers, we make up for with mammoth levels of acute judgment and sarcasm. If the situation doesn’t improve, we may have to organize an extremely public and angry group reenactment of Anna Li’s 2010 routine as a protest. And if all else fails, we’ll just make fun of your hair.

    A Team Sport

    Here’s a rule: In gymnastics, you’re allowed to have the attention span of a hummingbird.

    So while the Olympics aren’t even cold yet, and we haven’t had time to fully process both the winners and those who will spend the next four years resenting the winners through creative use of dartboards and poppets, it’s okay if you already want to put a lid on elite until next summer. I know I do.

    But before I turn back to the main purpose of this blog, NCAA women’s gymnastics, where the schedules are currently coming out but there will be little else to discuss for months, I have a few thoughts on the concept of team in gymnastics.

    For as much as we all tend to joke about the attitude in NCAA where it is completely taboo to discuss a desire for individual accolades because the focus has to be “all about the team,” I’m a total follower of that philosophy. In all versions of gymnastics, I am way more interested in the team than I am in the individual, to the point where these current Olympics started to lose me after Team Final. That was the only event I really cared about, and even the All-Around was just bonus. I had about as much interest in the Olympic AA as I do in NCAA vault finals. (OK, maybe that’s going a little too far.)

    I think this is partially because, for a certain age group, our first news-worthy, memorable exposure to gymnastics was the 1996 Olympics Team Final as packaged by NBC and every conglomerate that thereafter sponsored the Mag 7. The Team Final was all we heard about because that’s where the Americans won. That year, it was truly all about the team in terms of public perception, and our age, our interest, and internet technology had not developed enough for us to be sufficiently cognizant of other countries or other competitions.

    To those for whom that event was an entry into the sport, gymnastics became solely a team event. So we still tend to experience dissonance when we hear people in elite gymnastics, be it Shannon Miller or Tim Daggett to use two recent examples, dismiss the team event as significantly less important than the All-Around (which is even more interesting when you consider that both of their biggest accomplishments were in team scenarios). This is not necessarily to criticize the people who focus solely on the individual. If you train all those years with your own accomplishments in mind, of course those feats would have more value than the accomplishments of people who don’t train with you and just happen to be from your same country.

    Still, to the public and the fans, original perceptions of gymnastics as a team sport are hard to shake, and this dismissal of the team as less important is bad for the sport. The team final needs to be played up because people want to get behind a group, not just a individual, and stake their allegiance to Team USA, a concept that will not waver. There will always be a US team even after the individuals retire. 

    But it’s about more than that. Gymnastics is infinitely more interesting when a team is competing together because the team dynamics, the strategy of lineups, and the pressure of competing after a fall are all so much more fascinating than some individuals doing some routines for themselves. That’s why I tend to gravitate more toward NCAA gymnastics than elite. It’s just more interesting, more nuanced sport. Next time I make fun of someone for falling back into those familiar tropes of team unity, remind me that I, too, am all about the team.

    Event Finals Day 3

    End of the line, everybody off. Four more event finals to finish off our Olympic Games.

    Men’s Parallel Bars:

     Women’s Beam:

     Men’s High Bar:

     Women’s Floor:

    Men’s Parallel Bars:
    Zhang opened for us on Pbars completely off, missing several handstands to Romanian degrees before coming off the bars. 13.808

    Sabot of France has some handstand trouble (but not to the degree of Zhang) as well and a major pause on one bars but improves as the routine goes on, minor hop on the double pike. 15.566.

    Feng – Really strong, tight tumbling, but the form on handstands wasn’t amazing and a minor struggle on a straddle release. Should be the best so far, but I wasn’t completely impressed. Isn’t it upsetting when people seem to overly celebrate based on performance level? 15.966.

    Nguyen – Good rhythm, good positions, minor hop on tuck full dismount. I understand that it won’t outscore Feng, but it was the superior routine. 15.800.

    Corral Barron – A fine but ultimately middle of the pack routine. 15.333.

    Tsolakidis – moves through pirouetting quite cleanly with a tighter position than most. Impressive front double pike, just a step on dismount. I appreciated what was happening there, but there wasn’t enough difficulty. 15.300.

    Tanaka 1 – I’m not completely pleased with these wonky handstands throughout, but very nice handstand on one bar and a stuck landing. 15.500. He should be doing better than that, but he was off at the start.

    Tanaka 2 – I think I like this Tanaka better, but he’s having even more struggles than his brother with some cranky handstands. Poor dismount with big lunge forward. Probably the lowest score we’ve seen. 15.100.

    Garibov – He had to be perfect to get into the medals, and some breaks with bent arms and a hop back on the double pike will keep him out of the medals. 15.300.

    This final needed a little more Danell Leyva or a little more Marcel Nguyen winning. Smiley Sabot is making it better.

    GOLD: Feng, SILVER: Nguyen, BRONZE: Sabot

    Women’s Beam:
    I’m looking forward to this final because, while we can expect it to be the China/Romania show with a Komova cameo, nearly everyone involved has a shot at a medal. There aren’t any clunkers  with no hope like in the vault and bars finals.

    For yet another time at these Olympics, we’ll start with the favorite, Sui Lu. Front pike + swingdown is good, as is barani, no choreography, good swith ring. A minor wobble on a back pike the only issue with this routine so far. She’s hitting everything. Small step on double pike. That will likely be our gold routine. 15.500.

    Ponor – her floppy switch ring as usual, wobble on double turn by making it 2.5 turn, huge wobble on her full bhs, with several steps. Boo. Glad she ended with the pike full dismount. Shouldn’t medal, but still fun to watch. 15.066. A little bit of Ponor scoring, but who cares? [Maybe Aly Raisman.]

    Deng – beautiful in the layout+korbut series and confident in the switch ring, dismounts with a minor step back on the double pike. It was similar to Sui’s routine, but I think Sui was a little more confident and should score higher. Both will likely medal. They just need to keep that fluidity, grace, and choreography back to Chinese beam to get me on the train. 15.600 into first. I disagree. Deng had several more hesitations.

     Iordache – Completely comes off on back full series after a valiant attempt to save, and follows it with more wobbles. Really found her confidence after the beginning and was more solid, finishing with a very nice 3/1 dismount. 14.200. This bronze position is wide open for the Russians and Americans.

    Afanasyeva – wobbles on pike 1/2, otherwise excellent, moving through with grace. I question a couple of these connections. Big stumble back out of double tuck, looks like she had so much time that she overrotated. 14.583.

    Douglas – wobbles on her walkover to lose the connection, already the biggest error she’s had over four routines, then a big wobble on her back full. She’s not quite on anymore, splits the beam on a switch 1/2 and comes off. Her gymnastics checked out after the AA win. Better that this beam routine happened during EF. 13.633.

    We’ve seen multiple shots of Sui Lu and she is devastated that Deng went ahead of her. I didn’t see it either, Lu.

    Komova – big wobble on L turn, series look nice but then a minor correction after her loso, huge wobble on front tuck and comes off. Shannon says she gave up, but her center of gravity was in Manchester at that point, so what was she supposed to do? Fall on Patterson. 13.166. Taking out her hair clips in disgust. That’s going to take a lot of work.

    These gymnasts are going to let Ponor back her way into a bronze medal after a wobble factory. Just Raisman left. She could sneak a bronze, though.

    Raisman – She’s wearing Flag Blender. Is it going to be good luck? Front tuck is good, as is layout. The front pike will be the big test now, another wobble but not the problem from the AA, though it may be just enough to put her behind Ponor. Very solid on everything else. Patterson now – big hop forward again. She will be the beneficiary of going last, can she pass Ponor? 14.966. Nope.

    How does Ponor always do it? That was a bad routine, but no one took it from her.

    GOLD: Deng, SILVER: Sui, BRONZE: Ponor

    Petition? Petition. Love a petition. Reviewing Raisman’s D Score. This is a dangerous thing, because there is an argument for downgrade on most of her split skills anyway. They raise Raisman’s D Score. She’ll get third based on execution! Another tie for Raisman, and now she moves up to bronze.

    Ponor’s face! Ponor’s face! Show it! Devastating for her. It’s like 2005 Beam Finals but worse. Aly better not go into any dark alleys anytime soon. Well, we’ll have something to talk about here.

    GOLD: Deng, SILVER: Sui, BRONZE: Raisman

    Men’s High Bar:
    Some really fun routines (and Zou Kai’s low amplitude code demonstration) in this event final.

    Leyva begins, full tkatchev and layout kovacs are nice, one or two minor issues with swing and handstand, and a pretty large step on his double double layout, so not his absolute best but a strong routine. 15.833. It may be tough to medal with that from the first position.

    Zhang – big releases and swinging well out of them, connecting with difficulty. Does a little dance to hang onto the stick on the double double layout. That will pass Leyva certainly. 16.266.

    Garibov – goes over on a handstand, which is a shame because it was an elegant routine until then. Same dismount as the others with a hop to the side. 15.333.

    Zou – Hits. Feet and amplitude. 16.366. I have nothing. Whenever you want to make the argument about this code overvaluing difficulty, point to this. But Zhang was competitive in difficulty and  superior on execution, so I don’t see that.

    Hambuchen – wonderful height, rhythm and combinations. Great routine! One or two handstand issues, but he can’t do it much better than that. 16.400! He’s rewarded. I didn’t think they would do it, and I’m so pleased that they did. It was really excellent.

    Zonderland – Absolutely tremendous releases and hair, which is why we forgive his frequent and extreme leg separations on every release. Excellent stuck dismount. Thrilling routine, epitomizes what high bar should be. 16.533. There will be much to discuss about this, but his difficulty was above Hambuchen. I can’t be mad at Zonderland, but I feel for Hambuchen because his routine is also thrilling and his form is superior. Nonetheless, Zonderland is also the kind of winner we want for this competition.

    Horton – Great, clean releases but not connected in the same way as the others. They have moved past him on this event to some extent. Step on dismount, but a great way to finish out for him. 15.466.

    Kim finishes for us – nice tuck position on his Kovacs, huge stumbles out of the dismount, but it was clean before that. 15.133

    GOLD: Zonderland, SILVER: Hambuchen, BRONZE: Zou

    Good podium considering we knew they were going to reward Zou. I’m absolutely right there with gold and silver. Our commentator said, “perfect dismount,” and it sounded like “birthing dismount.” That’s where I am with my gymnastics fatigue level right now.

    Women’s Floor:
    If I have to see Shawn Johnson’s pretend flooded gym one more time, I really will die. That portrait of her floating in the mud. . .

    Finally the floor finalists are entering. It’s a shame that Afan has to go first. Ponor is right behind Raisman in line. What does she want to do? I think I forgot Lauren Mitchell was a person since we haven’t seen her since day 1.

    Now that’s how you present to the crowd. Everyone watch Ksenia. There are some delightfully severe profiles in this group.

    Afanasyeva – Steps out of her double layout, some enemy of glory put her flag up. Boo. Nice attitude turn after solid 3/1. Stop clapping, audience, you’re making it bad. Steps out again on her third pass. Did commit to the leg work quite as much after her third pass. She’s tired and upset, but a good double pike dismount. Don’t they know they should expand the floor for her? She needs some Ponor scoring now. 14.566. Won’t be enough.

    Wieber – Stumbles out of double double surprisingly. Does her stupid stag after the triple and goes out of bounds again. Don’t these people learn? The Americans were trained within an inch of their lives to peak for Team and AA, and they are past due by this point. Raisman is still in form because she is so sturdy. 14.500. Three medals still up to be won. 

    Raisman – Does she do the mount? Does it and hits it perfectly. She’ll wish that was there in the AA. Piked double Arabian with a pretend jump that I would refer to as little more than a balance check. Just the double pike left. That was the best one she’s done at these Olympics. That will be well over 15 if we go on precedent. 15.600. Can anyone match that?

    Ponor time – perfect DLO to open, I was going to complain about the form on the second pass, but I’ll complain about the pretend tumbling out of the tumbling. Horrifying legs on the triple. Good double pike. Let’s hope for a medal here. 15.200. That could get one. 

    Mitchell – Whip double arabian looked too low but she got it around. Bizarre sissone out of piked full, almost falls on the 2.5 + layout. She’s off today. Fine double pike to finish, but it won’t be near the medals. 14.833.

    Ferrari – small stumble out of double double, back tuck out of tuck full, solid passes to open. This leo. . . I can’t even talk about it due to delicate sensibilities. Goes straight up for her double pike but lands it well. It could go into third for now.  14.900. Izbasa can likely pass her, though.

    Mustafina – This is not likely a routine that can go 15.000, and the triple full as a dismount was even leggier than usual. Great Olympics from her, though. Wow, 14.900! Did not expect that. She goes ahead of Ferrari on execution, though it will likely not matter.

    Izbasa – Great piked full. That’s how you stag leap out of something. A little stumble out of Double L. Takes a tumble on dismount! Devastating. 

     And there we have our Olympics.

    GOLD: Raisman, SILVER: Ponor, BRONZE: Mustafina.