National Semifinals – Live Blog

Friday, April 19
Scores Stream
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Semifinal #1
[2] UCLA
[3] LSU
[5] Utah
[6] Michigan
LINK ESPN2
Quad
Vault
Bars
Beam
Floor
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Semifinal #2
[1] Oklahoma
[4] Denver
[7] Georgia
[8] Oregon State
LINK ESPNU
Quad
Vault
Bars
Beam
Floor

I’m here for warmups, so I’ll update with notes and let you know what’s up if anything.

Before we begin, a few developments of the last day or so.

1) Emma McLean is out of championships with an injury to her arm (that definitely isn’t her ankle or anything—I don’t know why you would say that confidently to Team GymCastic on the way to championships—who would do that?)

2) Maggie Nichols is indeed going to compete the all-around here.

3) Sarah Finnegan won the AAI Award, which came as a surprise to…not many. There were some compelling contenders of course, but she’s the strongest AAer of the seniors this year.

Heads up that I’m going to have a horrendous view of vault, so if I’m like, “great stick!” and you’re like, “that wasn’t a stick you dumb whore”…that’s probably going to happen.

Norah Flatley is performing “Unwritten” right now in a split stretch on the vault runway, and it’s the most talent anyone has had when doing anything.

At the urging of the team, Bev just did a model runway walk down the bars mat. So, this isn’t elite, is what I’m saying.

Marz warming up vault in addition to the six who have been in the lineup.

Sarah Finnegan’s switch leap work shot a beam of light across the whole arena, so the usual.

Gracie Kramer sits a 1.5. Kyla’s looks good. Wright with her normal. Kramer goes again and hits her 1.5, large lunge to the side. Kyla stuck her second attempt at a 1.5. Wright followed her with a stick. Kramer hit her third as well.

Injury alert: Miss Val is limping and showing her foot to people. Possible redshirt year?

Nebraska with the backess leo to end all backless leos for warmup. That’s about what I have to report from the second rotation of warmups. Normal doing normal.

Priessman watch: she’s warming up vault as one of the 7 for LSU.

Also, I’m going to be a real bail-handstand-leg-separation Nazi today because I have THE view of that.

OK start lists out – Priessman in vault and bars. Michigan using Heiskell in place of McLean on vault and floor as expected.

I definitely intended to have more to say about warmups, but you know, people and talking. You guys got passed up for more important people. You may survive.

Overall thoughts have been that everyone looks fine and no one great in warmups, which is what you want. No one looked like they’re mentally falling apart, no one using it up. Continue reading National Semifinals – Live Blog

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National Championship Headquarters

As is tradition now, both days of nationals will be brought to you live on the ESPN family of networks, starting with the first semifinal on ESPN2, then the second semifinal on ESPNU (and then ESPN2 as well but missing the first half hour), and the Saturday team final on ESPNU.

So, the links.

Friday, April 19
Scores Stream
Info
1:00 ET/10:00 PT – Semifinal #1
[2] UCLA
[3] LSU
[5] Utah
[6] Michigan
LINK ESPN2
Quad
Vault
Bars
Beam
Floor
Preview

Rotations

Projected lineups/
Regional scores

7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Semifinal #2
[1] Oklahoma
[4] Denver
[7] Georgia
[8] Oregon State
LINK ESPNU
Quad
Vault
Bars
Beam
Floor

Preview

Rotations

Projected lineups/
Regional scores

Saturday, April 20
Scores Stream
Info
7:00 ET/4:00 PT – Team Final
LINK ESPNU
Quad
Vault
Bars
Beam
Floor

Preview

Rotations

The dedicated event feeds and four-event quad windows are ESPN3 coverage (for which access is done through ISPs), so if you’ve been able to watch those MAC home meets on ESPN3 in the past, you’ll be able to watch the good stuff here.

National Championship Preview: For the Win?

Team Title

I hesitate to do any kind of real or deep dive into the team title conversation right now because, first, we don’t know who the four advancing teams are and, second, we don’t know how everyone is going to look in the semifinal. I should wait and do a more informed preview that Saturday morning after the semifinals and before the team final, but I think we all know that’s not going to happen.

So…Oklahoma and UCLA, right? They are comfortably out in front by NQS, had the two highest scores from the regional finals, have been 1-2 all season long, own 2/3 of the 198s recorded this season, and…the list could go on and on. The margins in college gymnastics are too close to be confident…but Oklahoma and UCLA.

The argument for Oklahoma begins with vault. Oklahoma will put up a lineup with six 10.0-start Y1.5s, while UCLA is looking at putting up a couple fulls and has been more inconsistent with the overall landings on the 1.5s it does have. When Oklahoma has a lunge on a 1.5, it can drop that score and count the five other 1.5s in the lineup, but when UCLA has a big lunge on a 1.5 for 9.825, that score can’t be replaced as easily. That dynamic has carried Oklahoma to an NQS advantage of .170 over UCLA, the largest difference between these two teams on any single event.

The second-largest difference belongs to UCLA on floor with a lineup that owns a .150 advantage over Oklahoma there. When at its strongest, we’ve seen this UCLA floor lineup start with something like 9.925 from Frazier and not dip below that mark for the entire six routines, ending with what is a almost an auto-10 from Ohashi. Those big scores have become such a given that the only real question we have about UCLA’s floor heading into nationals is Tratz or Dennis for the lineup?

Meanwhile, floor has been Oklahoma’s low event with its most depleted lineup that has resulted in an NQS of (GASP) 49.570. You know, so bad. But it’s true that Oklahoma can get a little more 9.850y through the Draper and Schoepfer/LaPinta portion of the lineup, which makes the potential for a Maggie floor comeback so influential because she can erase much of that floor deficit we’ve seen develop this year. Continue reading National Championship Preview: For the Win?

National Championship Preview: Semifinal of Life

Semifinal #2 – April 19, 6:00 CT
[1] Oklahoma
[5] Denver
[8] Georgia
[15] Oregon State

If the other semifinal is the mean one, the deadly one, this semifinal is the bright forest of generosity, presenting an opportunity for a team you would never have expected to advance to the team final. Chances are you didn’t have Denver, Georgia, or Oregon State making 4F (trying to get it to catch on…it won’t) when the season started, but one will. Bottom line: none of these teams could have dreamed of a better scenario for themselves at nationals.

That includes Oklahoma, which will be much safer in this semifinal than UCLA will be as the top seed in the other semifinal. Here, a 197.3-197.4 would be an excellent performance for either Denver or Georgia. Even if they both manage it, that’s a score Oklahoma can beat even while counting a fall. It’s a risky game to say that a team can count a fall and still advance from a four-team semifinal (because theoretically the national standard is too tight to allow that), but Oklahoma…probably…maybe…could. With a hit meet, Oklahoma is through to Saturday without question.

On the other side of the rankings in this semifinal, we have Oregon State. Just by making it to nationals, Oregon State has tied the mark for its best season since 1995. Especially following last year’s (misleading but still real) 27th-place finish after a regionals disaster, this accomplishment must be exceptionally gratifying. Oregon State had missed nationals in 4 of the previous 6 seasons and really needed this. What’s unique is that this turnaround wasn’t accomplished with a “THE FRESHMAN CLASS HAS REVOLUTIONIZED US” talent infusion. Madi Dagen has been a big help, sure, but for the most part this team is the same. Just better.

As for results, Oregon State has already completed its big upset. That was getting to nationals. Beyond that, there’s not an obvious path to the team final for Oregon State that doesn’t involve help and a messy meet from other teams. Always possible. Oregon State’s best road score of the entire season is still just 196.650, which is not going to be enough here. Even if we allow for some improvement on that (because that was mid-season and the team is better now), a 197.0 or 197.1 would signify an absolutely excellent day and would be a wholly gratifying performance…and I still don’t expect that to be high enough to make the team final.

So let’s talk about Denver and Georgia. I love that these two teams will be fighting it out for a qualification spot because it’s a battle of contrasts. New money versus old money. Continue reading National Championship Preview: Semifinal of Life

European Championship – Event Finals Day 2

MEN’S VAULT

  • BOY HOWDY. You wanted drama? Here’s your drama.
  • The men’s vault final started extremely men’s vault-ishly, with Courtney Tulloch falling on both of his vaults. Scene effectively set. It’s like in distance running, when they have that one person go out in front and set the pace. Courtney definitely set the pace for this final.
  • He was followed by Nicola Bartolini who—and I cannot emphasize this enough—has an unlucky throat.
  • This is not just me being me. This is significant and influential information for the results because potential medalist Igor Radivilov was so distraught by having his Unfortunate Neck Tattoo title taken from him in such shocking fashion that he went on to fall on a Tsuk double pike, pushing him out of medal contention. He couldn’t even make it over to Luigi’s Couch of Horrors and had to sit in some stairwell about it that no one even knew was an option.
  • Note to all future events: You need a sadness stairwell in addition to the score couch.
  • Also fulfilling the prophecy of a preposterous men’s vault final was potential winner Artur Dalaloyan, who hit a glorious TTY as his first vault, but then for his second vault continued his assault on the Ri Se Gwang. And eyes. Yada yada yada, he definitely tucked it and shouldn’t have gotten credit, but DID, and also fell, and still sat in first place for a good long while.
  • I have produced a triptych to represent my thoughts about that:
  • It’s called “Unlucky.”
  • Dalaloyan was ultimately dislodged from first place by the simultaneously clean and difficult performance of Denis Abliazin who—you heard me—won TWO GOLD MEDALS at these European Championships despite being fully dead 14 minutes ago. And somehow that was the only non-crazy part of this final.
  • Competing last was Andrey Medvedev, who opened by drunkenly staggering back into dizzy oblivion on his first vault like that time you thought it would be fun to have a piñata at a party for adults and it went not great. On his second vault, however, Medvedev produced quite a nice front double pike.
  • And it got credited as tucked.
  • This was particularly ridiculous considering that Dalaloyan had just received credit for a pike shape on his tuck-burger, which meant the international peacekeeping organization called Coaches To The Rescue had to come in and submit an inquiry.
  • As far as I’m concerned, the inquiry consisted of just “GET EYES, BITCH” written in crayon. This inquiry was accepted, adding four tenths to Medvedev’s second vault score, and moving him from 4th up to 2nd.
  • Mixed feelings: On the one hand, the second vault was definitely piked and should have been credited as such in the first place. This was a correct inquiry. On the other hand, his first vault was not great, and his moving up to second meant both he and Dalaloyan’s fall placed ahead of Yahor Sharamkou of Belarus, who produced two clean vaults but ended up in 4th because of lower difficulty.
  • I blame the curse of Luigi
  • Jordan Peele and I are producing a horror film about Luigi the monkey mascot serial killer, out next summer
  • It’s called Unlucky

Continue reading European Championship – Event Finals Day 2

National Championship Preview: Semifinal of Death

Semifinal #1 – April 19, 12:00 CT
[2] UCLA
[3] LSU
[6] Utah
[7] Michigan

The simplest framing of this semifinal has UCLA advancing and LSU and Utah fighting it out for the second spot in the national championship. That is the most likely outcome, but it’s also an overly simplistic characterization. UCLA has to hit and hit well to avoid getting into trouble. The days of “you’re good enough to be bad” ended with regionals. And Michigan, with its 197.275 for an only-OK day in the regional final (a score that outpaced both of Utah’s own regional totals), is not out of this by any means and does not need something crazy to happen to get through.

For that simple framing to be upended, however, UCLA would first need to make a mistake. The precedent of the season tells us that if UCLA goes through this meet 24-for-24 (or 20-for-24 as long as they’re the right 20), then UCLA will have enough leadoff 9.9s and anchor 10s to outscore the rest of the field. It’s still a “hit and you advance” meet for UCLA. What’s changed is the margin for error. LSU and Utah are close enough that even a minor mistake that results in an inopportune counting 9.6 would bring UCLA back to the pack.

For Michigan to upend that simple framing, there’s a degree to which the team will have to outperform its normal. While we have seen big scores this season from Michigan—the kind of scores that will advance from the national semifinals—the typical performance has garnered a lower number than a typical performance from the other three teams. Still, if you look at the assembled score rankings at the very bottom, the two places where Michigan ranks in blue are the regional final scores on beam and floor. Michigan upended the regular season norm there, and now has to keep that going…while adding two more events. Just that.

Turning to the LSU/Utah comparison, so far this season we have seen an LSU team that is consistently just a little shred better than Utah. We saw that at the GQ Invite when LSU finished .175 ahead, and we saw that at the regional final when LSU finished .250 ahead. These are not large or decisive margins—and I wouldn’t anticipate a large or decisive margin in this semifinal either—but they are margins.

Yet in those score rankings at the bottom, you’ll see that the majority of places where Utah does have the advantage are average score categories. Vault average, floor average, season average (by only a smidge, but still higher). That’s because Utah has been the more consistent this season—didn’t have that slow start, didn’t lose conference meets it should have won.

It tells us that Utah is not as likely to reach the same peak score as LSU but will record the more predictable score and more predictable performance, one that LSU will either beat by having an excellent day, or lose to by having a fine day. We’ve seen both of them and we’ve seen both of them recently.

If LSU is to have that excellent day, it will be essential to bridge the vault gap. Utah ranks as the best team in this entire semifinal on vault, while LSU has shown a tendency to lunge for 9.850. In fact, vault is the only event where LSU does not rank in the top 2 in this semifinal despite having the most 10.0 starts of any of these teams. The Tigers must turn those vault landings around because if LSU does find a way to match Utah’s vault scores here, it becomes increasingly difficult to map Utah’s route to a top-2 finish.

For Utah, take that exact project, but swap out vault for beam. Utah ranks last in this semifinal on beam and will have to watch out. And not just watch out for falls (that’s immediate death at nationals), but watch out for OK. Even something like a hit for 49.200 probably doesn’t do you any good anymore. A 49.2 is basically a zero, and a 9.825 is basically a fall when the teams are this strong.

That’s why much of this semifinal will hinge on which team can best minimize its theoretical disadvantage. Who doesn’t get a disqualifyingly low score? Because it’s not about winning the meet. It’s about not losing to two of the teams. So if you’re staying 49.350, that’s not a WOW score on an apparatus that will go down in history, but across the events, it starts to add up to the kind of number that will advance to Saturday.

Continue reading National Championship Preview: Semifinal of Death

European Championship – Event Finals Day 1

MEN’S FLOOR

  • Artem Dolgopyat entered the floor final as the highest qualifier and tentative favorite for gold, but he was not quite able to reproduce the 15.366 performance from qualification. While about 2/3 of his landings we excellent, he got a little too bouncy on a couple, including suffering a critical OOB on his first pass.
  • That was enough to open the door for world champion Artur Dalaloyan, who walked right through it and into your dreams, showing the best combination of difficulty and landing control—save for the moment where he legit almost fell on a man wipe, which was more important to me than I can possibly say. A worthy victor with the best routine on the day.
  • I think Luigi the Mascot Monkey agrees since he basically sexually assaulted Artur when trying to lift him up for a victory hoist after the final.
  • Dolgopyat did manage to hang on for silver, just ahead of one of your triple back princes, Dmitri Lankin, who earned Russia’s 4th MAG medal of the competition with a bronze.
  • Those were the only three who truly had the difficulty to medal as long as they all hit, so while Benjamin Gischard and Alexander Shatilov successfully bearded their way through their routines with solid beard, it was not enough to challenge for the top three spots.
  • The first alternate to this final was Nicola “I think Casimir’s skin mural is a role model” Bartolini (though it turns out Bartolini’s body position and carriage are role models), but he was ultimately able to compete in the final because Dom Cunningham withdrew due to his qualification injury on vault. The injury does not currently sound as serious as it could have been, so you’re going to be OK emotionally.
  • It must be said, however, that the true highlight of this final was the couch politics. Everyone had to sit on the middle couch to get their scores, but then the usher boy kept leading the latest competitors to an already full couch of medalists with no instructions, and they didn’t know what to do next, and it was FRAUGHT.  I wanted them to all just to keep sitting on each other in a pyramid, but alas.

WOMEN’S VAULT

  • I mean, she landed it?
  • Maria Paseka’s Cheng. A vault that happened. Now, if we’re being honest, it was a legendary piece of garbage, but I also want to travel the world with it and have never loved a vault more in my entire life. I hope you can understand.
  • I’m going to years of therapy about it, but it was not a fall. It was just a straddle tuck corkscrew directly connected to Warp World 4 off the mat. 8.500 E score. Somehow.
  • Anyway, Paseka’s Amanar continued to be actually excellent—as it has been all year long—and that was enough to earn her another vault gold medal. Can we talk about how much better that Amanar is than her 2012 Amanar? She’s an entirely different person. (Quite literally, I don’t think any of her spine is original parts at this point. She’s got like seven people in there.)
  • Now, how there was only .5 difference in execution scores between her Amanar and her Cheng, I cannot begin to understand. I’m going to try to type through it but will not succeed.
  • Because of the current execution score hallucination that is women’s vault, Paseka’s victory has proven quite controversial. Coline Devillard finished only .066 behind Paseka, and that was with Paseka being held up with the score for her Cheng-acalifragilisticexpialidocious.
  • Devillard did not have ideal landing control (and could still have won with her very best vaults), but she executed the rudi and DTY both with sufficient power and safe-enough landings. This wasn’t one of her scary DTYs. Devillard has had to deal with injury problems and a dip in quality following her 2017 European gold, but like Ellie Downie, she has used this competition to prove she’s back to that level.
  • Speaking of Ellie Downie, she executed the actual best vaults of the entire final to win bronze (and therefore got the same execution score as all the other hit vaults…not past it), just didn’t have the difficulty to challenge what Paseka and Devillard did.
  • Sara Peter’s DTY was also excellent and earned a Blythe gasp—nearly as coveted as a Kathy gasp—but she too doesn’t quite have the second-vault difficulty to get a medal at this point.
  • Sadly, #2 qualifier Teja Belak fell on her Y1.5 after vaulting so well in qualification. I blame the Heart of the Ocean affixed to the front of her leotard. Would have thrown off her center-of-gravity expectations quite severely. Dear Slovenian leos, never change.

HORSE OF POMMELS

  • Max Whitlock beat all y’all by 40 billion tenths to take another European title. He has such a difficulty advantage on the rest of the field here that it didn’t even matter than his opening handstand position was basically at horizontal and if this were uneven bars, the judges would have shot him through the leg with a tranquilizer dart and given him an automatic execution score of 1.DIE.
  • Only two people fell in the final! That’s a pretty solid result, but also kind of disappointing because I’m obviously only here for the crazy falls when you spin yourself into oblivion little a little top.
  • One of those falls belonged to Oleg. He had exceeded expectations in qualifications by advancing to two event finals, but I’m concerned that he’s been out too long and his horse-drawn carriage is turning back into a hospital bed as we speak.
  • Despite qualifying in 8th, Cyril Tommasone delivered an exceptionally strong performance in the final to take the silver medal, 8 years removed from his last European Champs pommel horse medal. It was the best routine I’ve seen from him in a final for at least a quad, if not more.
  • Also performing quite cleanly was Vladislav Poliashov for bronze, which brought Russia’s MAG medal total up to 5. He only barely did outscore teammate Nikita Nagornyy for that third spot, but I think that was the right call execution-wise. Given my, you know, extensive work studying the pommel horse code. My favorite pommel horse skill is a One Spinny.
  • (It’s actually a Kehr, which I do know, so eat that.)
  • Brinn Bevan advanced to this final and did not come off the horse, but the crushing weight of his back tattoo did throw him off kilter a little bit for a low execution score, while Marios Georgiou placed last with an “I’m the European bronze medalist, bitches! Deal! Marios OUT!” of a performance.

UNEVEN BARS

  • Item #1, the highest execution score in this entire final was in the 8.5s, the same thing Paseka received for that vault. There is a mission in the FIG to standardize deduction size across events, which means vault has the highest E scores because there’s the least gymnastics going on and the least chance to make errors, but that’s dumb. Don’t do that.
  • That highest execution score of the final (8.566) deservedly belonged to Anastasia Alistratava of Belarus who performed a clean, toe-point-ified routine to prove that Belarus has live women’s elites, some of whom can even do gymnastics routines—this one just missing out on a medal because of lower D.
  • Pre-meet favorite Anastasia Iliankova had qualified down in a somewhat surprising 4th place but rediscovered her favored status with her performance in the final, performing the most difficult routine we saw with no significant breaks to take an unquestioned gold medal.
  • Finishing in the silver position was her teammate Angelina Melnikova, who went all, “Christ, where was this routine in the all-around final” for 14.533 (which would have almost entirely closed the gap with Ellie Downie if it had happened yesterday), while Alice D’Amato earned the first of many senior European medals for this group of 2003 Italians with a 14.400 for bronze.
  • With that score, she outpaced potential medalist Jonna Adlerteg, who ended up 5th. While she got through her routine without any major issues, she missed a critical Shang + Pak connection to lose two tenths, which was enough to bump her down to 5th. She would have won bronze with her D score from qualification.
  • De Jesus Dos Santos did have a fairly large break in her routine with an arch on a handstand and didn’t control the dismount quite as well as in the previous days of competition—so you understand why her execution score was among the lower in the final—but I still feel like she doesn’t get the execution reward that her form on bars should warrant.

RINGS

  • I don’t know…it occurred?
  • As we’ve come to expect in major rings finals, the seven who hit their routines all finished within 3 tenths of each other, so there was very little to differentiate. We get it. You’re all strong. Go eat a tire or something.
  • The only one who missed his routine was top qualifier and likely medalist Igor Radivilov, because of course he did, taking a one-way ticket to crazy-town on his dismount and putting a hand down.
  • With Radivilov out of contention and Petrounias not attending this year, those rings workers who typically are all “great work, almost there, 6th place” at every single meet were suddenly in contention for medals, with Vahagn Davtyan sneaking in for bronze and Marco Lodadio taking the silver.
  • But it was the triumphant comeback performance of Denis Abliazin that earned the gold medal on an execution score tiebreak with Lodadio—Russia’s 6th MAG medal of the meet. Abliazin has been the hard-luck story of the last 6 months because he elected not to compete at worlds in order to pursue an individual apparatus Olympic spot instead, but he was too injured to compete at the first four events. If he stays healthy and scores like this at the final four events, he’ll have a shot for rings, though it’s going to be very difficult to beat Liu Yang.
  • Nikita Nagornyy just missed out on a medal by a third of a tenth, recording the highest execution score of the entire final. It was his second consecutive 4th-place finish of the day, but judging by his “Chuck E Cheese is staying open an hour later than normal” reaction to his rings score and the fact that he’s, you know, the European all-around champion, I think he’ll be fine.