Saturday, March 7, 2015

What to Take Away From the American Cup

When the women's field was announced in January, all eyes were on Simone Biles to claim her first American Cup title.  When the competition ended, there was no surprise that Biles was on top, and won the meet in a dominating fashion.  The race for the silver and bronze medals were tight, and The 2015 American Cup was a fun meet to watch.  In the grand scheme of this year, what can we take away from the American Cup?

Biles retains her status as the best in the world
While the most of the world's top gymnasts were not in Arlington today, Biles still stood out as the front runner for this year's World Championships.  After starting the meet with an insane stuck Amanar that scored a 16.033, Biles hit every routine, and capped it off with a 16.00 floor routine, with a 6.8 difficulty score.  It is still early in the season, and we did not even see all of Biles' possible upgrades.  It is possible that by the Olympics, Simone will have a 7.0 difficulty score on floor.  That's unheard of!  Biles continues to blow away everyone that watches her gymnastics, and does not appear to slow down until after the Olympics next summer. 

Italy is looking strong
Italy had a banner year last year, culminating in a fifth place finish in the team finals, a sixth place finish in the All Around Final, and two floor finalists.  Ferrari had a decent vault, but struggled a little elsewhere.  Fasana finished with a surprise bronze medal, after having a fantastic floor, where she stuck all of her landings cold.  The momentum from this competition, as well as the domestic meets that have taken place in Italy over the past couple weeks, should carry over well throughout the rest of the year.  The Italians should be ones to watch to repeat their fifth place finish this year, although are not quite ready to break up the Big Four just yet.

The US Men's program is in need of some work
The American men are not quite up to the level their female counterparts are, and need to implement some changes to reach the top of the sport.  While team chemistry is there, the way the team is run is not up to par.  The American men are great on paper, but tend to fall apart in competition.  Something is to be said about how intimidating Marta Karyoli is, and the men are clearly missing that.  Something is needs to change about the way the men prepare for competition, and soon.

This year's World Championships should be a fun meet
While many of the major players sitting this meet out, it still proved to be a great meet.  When the Russians, Chinese, and Romanians are all in top shape, it should be interesting to see who makes the podium.  The Americans are looking solid thus far, with a lot of potential to be even more dominant.  The US women do not look ready to hand over their crown, and their competitors have a big challenge come October.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

USA's Future is Bright

Earlier this week, USA Gymnastics broke the Gymternet yet again by posting videos from the most recent National Team Training Camp .  I would like to thank Scott Bregman, the head of media for USA Gymnastics, for these amazing videos!  So far, we only have the Junior National Team, most of whom is Rio eligible (with the exception of Victoria Nguyen and Jordan Chiles, who was missing for this camp).  The future of USA Gymnastics is looking bright, and the fight to Rio is already looking fierce!  I went through these videos and expressed my opinions on what was shown.

Ragan Smith
 Ragan Smith has been present at training camps for years before she qualified elite.  A couple of competitive years and a gym change later, Smith is looking good.  Here she showcases nice inbar stalder work to a blind change into a straddled Jaeger.  One of the more interesting skills she shows is a piked full on beam, which she lands beautifully with her chest up.  You can't twist in a truly piked position, so I wonder if this is just a place holder?  I did not realize until just now that I want Ragan to do a layout full a la Katelyn Ohashi, but I do.  Anyway... Ragan's piked full is as nice as that skill can get in my opinion.  On floor she shows a powerful double layout and a DOS SANTOS WHICH IS SO NICE.  Ragan has always been a favorite of mine and I am so
excited about her potential for next year.  Switching to Texas Dreams is the best decision of her career thus far.  Watch out for this tiny one!  She could be put up on floor, and her bars are improving every time we see her.

Alexis Vasquez
Alexis Vasquez is relatively knew to the elite scene and is a brand new senior.  The reigning Junior National Beam Champion is currently showing some new bar work, including a lot of places for potential connections.  While her bars is still not her strongest event, she is definitely putting in some work on this event.  Her beam is looking solid, although we are not shown much on this event.  If she made the world team this year, it would be because of her exquisite beam work.  She also shows a tight triple twist, which needs a little more height and rotation, but her form is very nice.  It will be hard for her to break into the top contenders this year, but her form and her beam work will definitely make her one to watch.

Victoria Nguyen
Victoria Nguyen is brand new to the elite scene, as she just finished her first elite season.  Pacing is definitely on Coach Chow's mind, as she is not Rio eligible.  Her bar work is looking great, and her endo skills look easy for her.  She just floats on the beam, making her back handspring- layout step out- layout step out series look effortless.  All of beam work is beautiful, she showcases beautiful lines and extension.  We don't see as much from her, but she will be one to watch in the next quadrennium.  She fits the role of a bar/ beam specialist perfectly, and I can't wait to see how she matures into an even more beautiful gymnast!

Laurie Hernandez
Perhaps one of the most anticipated junior videos, 2013 Junior All Around Silver medalist is returning back to form after missing the 2014 season with a knee injury.  In our first glimpse of Hernandez, she shows a super over rotated Double Twisting Yurchenko?  Are they going for the Amanar?  I personally hope not, as her Double Twisting Yurchenko has not always been enjoyable to watch.  You can tell she has been putting a lot of work into her bars, but they looked jittery to me?  you could tell she was trying very hard to bend the bar.  Her Downie is huge though.  As jittery as her bars looked, her beam was the exact opposite.  She was so solid on beam!  Her tumbling looks clean, and it is great to see her back out there!  Her return to competition this summer (maybe earlier?) will tell a lot about her Rio chances, but her international experience is definitely an advantage.  Time will only tell with this one.

Emily Gaskins
In our first look at Emily Gaskins since her gym change from Cincinnati Gymnastics to her old gym Intensity Gymnastics, Emily looked sharp.  Her bar work looked clean, and she has beautiful lines!  She shows a very line double layout, that was a little piked, but she has time to fix that.  Her new beam mount is quite possibly my favorite piece of gymnastics ever.  She does a press handstand to a planche with one foot on her shoulder, then lies face down on the beam to a chest roll, extends her arms, does a back kick over, back handspring step out layout step out.  How perfect is that?  She has such beautiful lines that it looks exquisite.  If I could only ever watch one piece of gymnastics for the rest of my life, it would be this.  Her floor, like in the past, has slightly lower difficulty, but she shows a stuck 1.5 through to a double tuck.  Gaskins could definitely be one to watch next year for her beam work, a spot that already has some serious contenders.  It will be hard for her to break into the top contenders next year, but I see her killing it in the next quadrennium.

Jazmyn Foberg
This is our first look at the reigning junior national champion, and she looks good.  She has some upgrades that are rather exciting, such as a pretty Ray straight into a Gienger.  I am absolutely obsessed with this combination!  Her Double Twisting Yurchenko also looks good.  Her beam work, while not super difficult, is unbelievably solid.  I love how fluid her movements on the beam are, she just looks so natural up there!  She also shows a nice double layout, which travels so far!  Overall, Jazmyn demonstrates some nice upgrades, however I do not think it will be enough for her to repeat as Junior National Champion, especially as her teammate Laurie Hernandez is back and looking great, and Norah Flately is also in great shape and poised to challenge.

Bailie Key
Many fans were excited to see Key, the 2013 Junior National Champion back in the gym after a shoulder injury kept her from competition this summer.  She looks good and poised to fight for her first World Team!  Her double twisting Yurchenko looks good, albeit slight leg crossing during the second twist.  Bars is where Key shows some HUGE upgrades, such as a BEAUTIFUL toe on- blind half- Jaeger.  My favorite bar upgrade she shows is a great Shang (Inbar stalder- piked Tchatchev).  Her marathon bar set will score nicely internationally, which also includes a Downie into a Pac.  She also shows intricate low to high to low to high pirouette combinations, which is already being executed wonderfully.  On beam, she shows us a nice standing arabian, along with a nice back handspring step out, back handspring, layout.  We also get a glimpse of a new double pike, which she lands a little low.  On floor, we see a nice, not quite there yet double layout, as well as a piked double Arabian, which will add quite a bit of start value.  Overall, things are looking great for Ms. Key.  She is in great shape for a senior debut in Jesolo, as well as looking ready for Worlds this year.  I expect Bailie to give Simone Biles a fight at Nationals!

Norah Flatley  
One of Chow's many challengers, Norah Flatley is looking strong.  The biggest upgrade here is a brand new Double Twisting Yurchenko, a vault in which she needs to competitive as an All Arounder next year.  While it is not perfect, it is definitely an improvement.  Her bar work is so intricate and clean, and she shows a possible PIKED ENDO!  I absolutely love endos and think they look so cool, so I was so excited to see this!  Her bar work is very WOGA-esque, and it is so beautiful!  Beam is solid as always.  We get to see her signature flexibility and her huge back handspring step out, back handspring, layout pass.  She gets so much air it's unreal.  Another change from last year is an aerial walkover sheep jump, which was gorgeous.  Norah is another gymnast who looks so fluid and natural on beam, she is a perfect example of what beam should look like.  I think being born in 2000 definitely hurts Norah's chances for next year, as I think this year's World's would be the perfect place for Marta to throw her into competition, and with a 5 person team I think it will be hard for her break into the team.

Nia Dennis
 Nia Dennis lost the National title more so than Jazmyn Foberg won it, and we got her first look as senior in her camp video.  She looks ready for this year!  Her bar work is reminiscent of Becca Bross, dynamic, powerful, and full of huge connections.  I personally LOVE her toe-full- Tchatchev.  She gets Gabby Douglas height on her Tchatchev!  All we got to see was her bar work, which looked good, but there are other girls in the USA who can swing bars better at this point.  I think it will be hard for her to break onto the World Team with so much depth this year.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My First NCAA Meet!

Saturday, I went to the Rutgers, Nebraska, SUNY Brockport, and Southern Connecticut meet.  It was my first one and I had SO much fun!  I had planned to take videos, but after recording introductions, I decided to just enjoy the meet, while my dad took pictures.  I was so grateful that my dad wasted his Saturday to take me to one of my favorite schools for a sneak peak of the next four years of my life!
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Nebraska compete, it was especially awesome seeing Ashley Lambert get a 10.0 on vault for the second week in a row, and watching Rutgers was also cool.  They are definitely a team on the rise and have some awesome recruits coming in.

When I first got to the meet (after my dad drove in a circle for like 10 minutes trying to find the gym), they gave us a tee shirt, and we went into the gym.  They had bleachers and no matter where you sat, you had a good view!  We watched the end of warm ups, and I was so excited to see the meet!  Once all of the teams walked out, the place went NUTS for Rutgers, and there were a lot of
Nebraska fans as well!  Once the meet started, we found one of the little ones from the gym back home and she was in awe (as was I!)  It was a little hard keeping up with everything (the only other meet I've been to was the 2012 American Cup where they competed one at a time) but I loved watching Nebraska.  The score board was a little screwy at time but I didn't really care.  After Hollie Blanske got a 9.95, every one was quiet, waiting for Ashley Lambert to vault.  After she vaulted, the place went CRAZY!  Every team's fans were screaming, Lambert was screaming, and the score was posted and it erupted again.  It was so cool!  They then announced the results, which were kind of predictable.  They announced that Rutgers got a 195.325 and the Rutgers team was so excited!

After the meet, I got to see my neighbor that competed, and she wasn't too happy (she fell three times on the one event she competed,) but laughed it off.  It was really cool to see her.  Then I was waiting around near the floor with the little one from my gym.  We got to meet Kami Moore, who was the one gymnast I wanted to meet most.  I introduced myself as the one that sent her an "Inspiration" bracelet I made her two years ago and she got so happy! "That was you?  I still have it in my dorm!"  She then gave me a huge hug, signed my index card, and took a selfie.  We almost met Jessie DeZiel, but she left to get on the bus before we could.  We then got a poster signed by the entire Rutgers team, and April Baker is SO nice!  She was also funny, but I mean duh.  Just look at her twitter.  The whole team was nice.  The little one knew Emma Hoffman and she was so excited to her!  After we went into the hallway, we saw Ashley Lambert talking to some family members, but I was not about to miss that opportunity, so we waited.  She noticed us about 2 minutes later and she is so funny.  As we were walking out, I accidentally bumped into Dan Kendig, so I got his autograph to.  He was slightly awkward, it was funny.

That was my first NCAA experience.  I enjoyed it, the atmosphere is just as fun as it looks on television.  I can not wait for college, as no matter where I go, they have gymnastics team!  To see my dad's pictures, click here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Controversies and Changes

In a subjective sport, controversial results happen, and with each come with their own waves of outrage and demands for a rule change.  This, obviously, is easier said than done, but what would happen if the rules actually changed?  What changes would be made?  I decided to look into some of the more famous scoring controversies of the past quad.

2011 All Around Final
As soon as Viktoria Komova's floor score was posted, leaving her in second behind Jordyn Wieber by .033, the insanity started immediately.  "Jordyn fell", they cried.  "Jordyn is inartistic", they screamed.  "Komova was totally robbed!", others argued.  I'm not going into immense detail about how Jordyn outperformed Komova on 3 out of the four events, as the wonderful Spanny Tampson posted in 2011, but it's evident that Jordyn Wieber had less deductions on that day.  And no, Jordyn did not fall.  I personally agree with these results, but a lot people argued incessantly that Komova was the rightful winner, and demanded changes in the code.  They demanded that artistry deductions should be bigger, although I personally believe Wieber's floor routine was more artistic than Komova's.  Anyway, I don't believe that any change in the code is going to prevent this type of controversy.  It just so happened to be a close final.  I'm not sure how fans want to avoid this type final, but a change to the code is not it.

2012 Vault Final
After McKayla Maroney fell on her second vault and her score was still the highest thus far, Sandra Izbasa competed and beat Maroney by .108.  Many were outraged that Maroney still received the silver medal despite not landing both her vaults.  Many people wanted to change the code to prevent this from happening in the future.  In fact, The FIG did did implement a new rule which made it harder to medal with a fall.  However, the FIG revoked this rule change in early 2013.  Another change that has been floating around the gymternet around that time is that a fall on vault should be more costly.  This makes sense, as you only are being judged on one piece of gymnastics instead of 8-10 skills as on other events.  I'm not quite sure how that would work, but it would make things interesting.  Perhaps this is something the FIG should look into?

These are two of the biggest controversies in recent gymnastics history.  If you think of anymore, let me know what you think!  How do you think the Code of Points should change?  In a subjective sport like gymnastics, controversies are impossible to avoid.  How would the Code of Points adapt to these controversies?  The gymternet has yet to see.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Current State of NCAA Scoring

During the first weekend of full schedule NCAA Gymnastics, we have already seen a 10.0.  Many members of the gymternet are outraged that Bridget Sloan of Florida received this illusive score, and rightly so.  Anyone who has followed my Twitter knows I am a huge Florida athletics fan, however I agree that it is ridiculous that we have seen a 10 in the first regular week of NCAA gymnastics.  However, I am more outraged the bias that many fans have towards Florida.

After Sloan's score was announced, Twitter and Tumblr were disgusted about her score.  However,
University of Florida
many people screaming about how over scored Florida is, were not even watching the meet.  I don't understand how someone can voice their opinion without knowing what they are talking about.  Some fans see that a Gator got a 10, and scream "She was over scored!" without bothering to look at the vault in question.  Just because it is Florida, people get outraged.

I am not trying to make everyone love Florida, or even say that Florida always gets the scores they deserve.  I believe Florida is a victim of over scoring.  I also believe that most other top schools are victims of over scoring.  Who could forget the Florida at Utah meet (that Bekah wrote about) in 2013 in which Georgia Dabritz nearly fell and still received a 9.8 on beam.  The "Zam Bonus" followed Vanessa Zamarippa at her years at UCLA.  I could go on and on, but the facts are the facts.  The top teams are over scored.  However, I do not believe fans should be able to call over scoring at a 9.9+ vault with out seeing the vault.  My point is, the stigma following Florida Gymnastics causes fans to write off a very good vault.  Bridget Sloan's vault was great, but it was not a 10.0 vault.

Instead of sitting around and complaining about over scoring for great-but-not-perfect vaults, why not complain about the NCAA Code of Points?  At NCAA competitions, we see the same skills performed over and over, which leads to a direct comparison.  What likely happened today at Ball State, after seeing six Ball State athletes compete equal or lesser vaults, and watching Florida's first, second, and third, compete the exact same vault, the judges saw Sloan's, which was much better compared to the other Full Twisting Yurchencko's.

So how do we go about making a change that will actually fix the problem, instead of disguising it?  I believe we need to devalue the Full Twisting Yurchenko.  Many of the gymnasts that receive 10's on this event are former elites or standout level tens who have been competing this or a harder Yurchenko for years.  A Full Twisting Yurchenko is an easy way to have a 10.0 vault.  If we devaulte it, I believe we will see more variety in NCAA vaults, which has been a problem in the sport for a long time.  I believe that until something is done to the code, we will always see over scored, great-but-not-perfect vaults receiving a 10.0.

Double Double Gym Blog would like to wish Bridget Sloan all the best with her ankle and hope that her injury is nothing too serious.  Feel better soon!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Impact of USA's New Seniors

Now that some big names are officially FIG Eligible, USA has some big decisions to make about the team they will send to the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland from October 23 to November 1.  While the USA has always been praised for their depth, the number of World Championship caliber athletes increases exponentially with the additions of the new seniors.  I've outlined all the new seniors to see where they could potentially impact the World Team Picture.

Nia Dennis 
Gymnastics Wiki
Nia Dennis, from Buckeye Gymnastics, is a talented all arounder, with her strength being on bars and beam.  I am absolutely obsessed with her lines on bars, and her tchatchev is sky high.  She will look to make a difference on this event, but with a slew of talented bar workers this quadrennium, she will need a couple of upgrades to break into a world's line up.  Her beam is also pretty when she hits, which features a high, flighty Arabian.    Also, I love her floor choreography, and she puts together four difficult passes.  She could factor on that event as well, however it will be hard with the return of Aly Raisman. However, consistency will be a factor for her, and she must learn to control her nerves in order to make a splash this year. Many are excited for her senior debut, myself included!

Jessica Frankl

Bailie Key
The most anticipated new senior in this field, Bailie Key was on fire two years ago.  Winning every possible All Around title in 2013, Key was poised to continue her junior dominance in 2014.  After winning 4 golds and 2 silvers at the Pacific Rim Championships, many were excited to see her repeat as Junior National Champion.  However, an elbow injury forced Key to the sidelines, making her 2015 Senior debut even more anticipated.  Key is a true All Arounder, and is expected to make the podium at this year's National Championship.  In order to compete with reigning National Champion, Key will need some upgrades.  Her current program, maxes out at a 23.7 difficulty, with her highest difficulty on beam.  Se does have planed upgrades and will more than likely make the world team as an all arounder.  Consistency has always been a strong point for her, and I am excited to see her shine as a senior!

USA Gymnastics 
Alexis Vasquez
Alexis Vasquez is one of Chow's four elites and one of the newer elites.  Vasquez, like all Chow athletes is exceptionally strong on beam, and will look to make her bid for the World Championship on this event.  Winning this event at Nationals was huge for her confidence, however, she will need major upgrades elsewhere in order to make splash as a senior.  She has tons of room to upgrade on bars, and the construction of her current routine makes tons of connections possible.  What skills and grace she has on beam, she lacks in power on floor and vault.  She vaults a Yurchenko full, which is another area in which an upgrade is possible.  She does not have the same experience as the others, as this is her first year on the National Team and has never competed internationally.  Look for her to make the Jesolo team and potentially the Pan American Games team in order to gain experience.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Thought on the United State's Qualification Competiton

The World Artistic Gymnastics Championships kicked off this morning in Nanning, China.  Halfway through Prelims, the United States leads team, vault, bars, beam, and floor qualifications, with several top nations still to go.  After watching the US Women this morning, there are definitely places for them to improve, but it was a solid qualifying day!

MyKayla Skinner- 13.533
   MyKayla Skinner has improved her form tremendously since last summer, and had a solid routine here.  Despite the sketchy switch half leap and the large bobble after the switch half- back tuck combination (which was rather slow), it was one of Skinner's more solid routines this year.  While she still has chronic soft knees throughout her set, it is much smaller than in the past and you can clearly see the effort she has put into cleaning up her form.  While it was not the highest scoring routine (and no one expected much higher than a 13.5,) it set the table for the other routines to follow, she fulfilled her duty as lead-off well.

Madison Kocian- 13.9
Kocian was not at her sharpest today, as almost every acrobatic move had a bobble.  She hit the Arabian relatively well, but after that, it seemed like most moves had some sort of bobble.  She did miss her front aerial- sheep jump combination, and it was definitely worth it.  That sheep jump was sop beautiful!  She hit her double nicely.  I am a little upset, I wish that Kocian had a better competition here, she is such a beautiful gymnast to watch!  Hopefully she will kill it in Team Finals.

Alyssa Baumann- 14.066
Once again building off of Kocian's score, Baumann started off with a huge bobble on her Arabian.  I am still in shock how she managed to stay on.  She came back nicely, although was a little shy on the switch half.  I know the switch half is worth a lot, but it is not a pretty leap, although Baumann does the best one I have seen thus far.  Baumann also does a beautiful Onodi, one that rivals Nastia's.  Watching this routine, it does remind me of Nastia's altered to fit today's Code of Points.  She finished nicely, despite some loose legs on her 2.5 twisting dismount.

Simone Biles- 15.133
Up next was reining World Bronze Medalist on this event Simone Biles. Biles' routine is composed so perfectly, Aimee Boorman should create routines for the entire National Team because everything about this routine is perfectly composed for Simone.  Everything from the connections, to the order of the skills, to the little "fluff" choreography in between.  Simone never fails to amaze me.  She can do a nearly flawless full;-in dismount, but wobbles on a pivot turn.  This is the same gymnast that tumbles on the concrete in front of her house.  Anyway, despite the little bobble on her pivot turn, Simone had very few obvious bobbles and errors.  Biles climbed into the lead in beam qualifications, ahead of reining World Champion Aliya Mustafina.  Look for this routine in finals, it is a fan favorite!

Kyla Ross- 14.391
   Anchoring the beam rotation was Silver Medalist Kyla Ross.  When Kyla is on, it is beautiful, elegant, flawless looking.  When Kyla is not on, it still is pretty beautiful (those lines!).  For the most part, Kyla was on this morning, there was a couple of connections where she was not, and unfortunately, with her beam routine that is all it takes.  Kyla relies SO heavily on connections that if she misses one or two, she receives a score in the low 14's as opposed to the high 14's.  Kyla has great air sense, that she knows whether or not to go for the connection.  She could do a skill and it could look perfect, but she knows that if she goes for the connection, she would find herself on the mat.  It is not something that can be taught and it sure is an advantage for Kyla Ross.  But since her routine composition relies so heavily on those connections, her start value is so low.

Madison Kocian- 13.633
Floor has been judged rather harshly all day, so while the 13.633 is slightly misleading when just looking at scores, once you see her start value, you will understand why.  Kocian has a beautiful expressive routine, although not the most difficult.  While it would be nice to see Kocian do something harder (she is capable of more), I was very happy to see her able to walk off of the podium with two healthy ankles, unlike the past two times we have seen her compete floor as a senior.  She had a large hop out of her full-in, but she hit her second pass, a double pike, nearly perfectly.  It is a shame she is not at full strength, I hope to see more from her in the future!

Alyssa Baumann- 14.000

  Following Kocian with another beautiful, elegant routine, fellow WOGA member Alyssa Baumann really knows how to nail those landings!  The triple twist, however, is cringe-worthy, I really hope she goes home and works on that after Championships.  Her double layout is floaty for the first 1.5 rotations, and then crunches her ankles at the end.  You can only take so many of those landing, so I hope they can work on that as well.  I would really love to see this routine again in Team Finals, I would put this routine in my lineup over Ross.  It has a higher scoring potential and is also very elegant.  I really do this this routine!

Kyla Ross- 13.8
Kyla Ross was up next, who does not have the same difficulty as Baumann, especially when she does not do the whip- Double Arabian combination like she did this morning.  The Double Arabian- Stag jump was very nice, although she came VERY close to stepping out of bounds.  She comes back nicely with the double pike, but shuffles out of that as well.  She took out the switch ring leap, instead opting for the switch leap- switch half combination.  I am assuming this has to do with her hip injury, which I hope she rests as soon as October 13th arrives.  Hip injuries are no joke.  I also noticed how far she travels in her twisting elements.  Maybe this is what derails her upgrading?  Despite the two modifications, Kyla ends her routine nicely.  It would not surprise me if she were taken out of the Team Final lineup, to rest for the All Around Final, especially because Baumann has a higher scoring potential.

MyKayla Skinner- 14.700
Floor is another area in which MyKayla Skinner has improved her form immensely,  The Double Double Layout is much more stratched than in the past, and only pikes down at the end.  She gets so much amplitude that it would not surprise me in the upcoming year she stays perfectly straight the whole time.  She flirted dangerously with the line.  The Double Double is also excellent, she opens out of it so early!  A lot of reports claimed that the floor was hard, but you would not know it watching MyKayla!  She truely has springs in her legs.  She finshes strong with her final two passes, and you can tell that her coaches at Desert Lights have put an emphasis on endurance, another area in which MyKayla has made great strides on since earlier this season.  I also like this routine, while it is more robotic than the WOGA girls and Ross, it goes well with the music and you can see that MyKayla is enjoying herself!

Simone Biles- 15.366
Speaking of springs in one's legs and enjoying a routine, Simone Biles absolutely KILLED her floor set.  Double Double? Easy. Biles? Piece of Cake.  Double Layout?  That's Nothing!  Full-in?  Child's play.  It seems like there is nothing Simone can't do on floor.  Many people are concerned about her pacing, as her floor routine is the hardest routine in the world by far and Rio is still 2 years away.  But if you look at her passes, they are all capable of being upgraded, but Coach Aimee has not so because Rio is two years away.  That double double could become a triple double, the Biles could easily have another 1.5 twist tacked on (a double double layout), the double layout could be graded to the Biles, and the full in would become a double double.  Or, it could be something completely different that sounds completely impossible, but somehow Simone would make it work.  It always turns out that way anyway.

Madison Kocian- 14.133
    Kocian set the table with a Yurchenko Full, which was very clean and almost perfect.  A Yurchenko Full is very out of place in a USA vault rotation, and although Kocian is capable of much more, I was glad to see the Yurchenko Full and leave the podium with two healthy ankles.  Kocian must have two of the weakest ankles since Mackenzie Caquatto in 2010/2011.  Once again, Kocian vaulted very cleanly, with a medium size slide back on the landing.  
Alyssa Baumann- 15.033
Another solid vault from WOGA, Baumann vaulted a Yurchenkop Double.  WHile her form in the air left something to be desired (it wasn't THAT bad, but there was a lot of crossed legs), her landing was almost perfect.  To steal words from Tim Daggett (cue groans), "Like a toothpick in a club sandwhich."  Baumann found that mat and hardly moved.  It wouldn't surprise me if we saw this routine in Team Finals, just to give Kyla a rest.  While this vault scored a tenth less, that tenth means nothing when the next closest competitor is 7 points behind.

Kyla Ross- 15.1
Wither her typical textbook form, and an almost perfect stuck landing, I do believe this vault deserved to be more than .07 above Alyssa Baumann's vault.  I'm not sure I would give this vault more, I would probably take a little more from Baumann.  While this vault is nearly perfect, I would rather go with Baumann in the Team Final to give Kyla's hip a rest, because those pesky hips can cause a lot of trouble for a LONG time.  

MyKayla Skinner- 15.666

Skinner's Cheng was one of her better attemps this year.  Much like in every aspect of her gymnastics, she is much improved.  While she still does not get that huge block, she is consistently getting her second hand out and I have faith that like the hand, she will improve her block.  Part of the problem is her shoulder angler.  She sticks her head out which prevents her blocking fully through her shoulders.  She also has a huge slide back, she has so much power.  Once she is able to convert that raw power to height, this vault will be great.
She also vaulted a nice double with a large hop back for a 15.033.

SImone Biles- 15.8
Simone Biles vaulted an insane Amanar today.  While the landing was not quite what we are used to from Biles, the amplitude and form was almost textbook perfect.  She did slightly cross her ankles, but even that has improved from last year that it is hardly noticeable, especially at the judge's angle.  It would not surprise me if all .5 of the deductions came from the hop.  
Biles also vaulted a super easy for her Lopez for a 15.1.  That vault is SCREAMING to be upgraded!

Uneven Bars
MyKayla Skinner- 13.9
Bars- Skinner's worst event- is also much improved.  She still doe not hit all of her handstands directly on top of the bar, and she still has some soft knees in her casts and giants, although it is much less noticeable.  Despite the late blind full, she still gets a lot of height in the Tckatchev.  She uses her power effectively even on bars.  The big killer in her bars score is missed handstands and the small inbar stalder.  You have to have so much flexibility to make inbar stalders look good, which Skinner does not have.  Her swing is not terrible, it isn't natural, but it isn't bad.  She also hits a nice full-in dismount.  I would not be surprised if she does a double double next year.

Simone Biles- 13.3
It seems almost insane to put Simone Biles this early in a line up, that the fourth best bar worker in the world last year may not even make the Team Final Line up (Bars Depth!), and it seems even crazier to see a 13.something next to Simone Biles name, but that's what happened today.  After easily sailing through the first part of her bar routine, Simone went to do a toe-on full pirouette, got stuck on top of the bar, had to put her foot on the bar, swing under the bar and switch her grip to face the low bar.  This is HUGE break and ultimately lowered her score to a number Simone has hardly seen as a senior.  However, Simone repeated the element and hit it, connected it to her Tchatchev and Pasc Salto, and moved on with her routine.  Simone finished her routine wonderfully, and would have been a great routine without the break.  

Kyla Ross- 14.650
Kyla, who looks roughly 12 feet tall on this event, looked confident on this event.  You never would have known she had a nagging hip injury and had fallen in podium training.  She looked like she did when she won the World Silver Medal on this event last year (okay maybe not THAT good).  She had the same little leg separation on the Van Leuween she always has, but otherwise looks stunning on this event.  This routine looks so easy for her, and like everywhere else, her difficulty score is her Achilles Heal.   She is having a hard time contending for medals with her current sets, and will have a hard time staying relevant next year if she does not upgrade.

Madison Kocian- 14.3

Kocian, who shows off her beautiful lines on this event, unfortunately did not perform the way she (and I) would have liked to compete.  She showcases a Maloney to Pac, immediate endo to Shaposhnikova-half, that is to die for.  After going for a piked sole circle, one foot gets caught on the bar and she is unable to shoot to handstand, and comes to a hang underneath the bar, much likes Biles but not as bad.  She repeats the element and finishes her routine (which stills has plenty of difficulty left!) nicely.  It is truly unfortunate that her competition was so disappointing, I am looking forward to big things from her (hopefully) in team finals.   
Ashton Locklear- 15.233
Locklear, brought to Nanning solely for bars, was the last gymnast to compete for the United STates.  She had to wait all competition for her chance and she took advantage of it.  Opening up with a piked sole circle full- Maloney- Pac Salto (which is breath-taking)- Maloney- Bail to handstand- inbar stalder toeshoot, which was absolutely amazing.  Ashton also looks about 12 feet tall here, her lines are gorgeous.  Locklear uses a lot of inbar stalders to get her monstrous 6.5 difficulty score, and her form on these elements has improved tremendously since P&G Championships in August.  Locklear's stunning set helped her score a huge 15.233, giving her the highest bar score halfway through qualifications.  

Overall, the US looked great this morning.  Of course there are areas to improve, missed connections to make, and piked sole circles to hit, but over all it was a great session for the US, who looks to continue to impress as they fight to defend their title from 2011.  

Competition continues on 10/6/14 at 11:00 PM EST with China, and the Team Competition on 10/8/14 at 7:00 AM EST. 

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