Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Talking with Greg Marsden

Utah Athletics 
When it was announced on April 20 that Greg Marsden was retiring after 40 years as the Head Coach at the University of Utah, it all seemed so sudden.  Marsden, who built the Utes program from the ground up, is passing the torch to the very capable hands of Megan Marsden and Tom Farden.  While it seemed sudden to gym fans, Marsden had planned this all season.  "Part of what I talked to them about was that it was very important to me that the focus of this year not be that it was my last year," Marsden said, "that the focus remain on our team and what their accomplishment are, and especially our seniors, and their last season."  

In the past 40 years, Marsden created an empire in the sport on Collegiate Gymnastics.  It took only five years, and then the winning started and hasn't stopped.  Under Marsden's leadership, Utah is the only team to qualify to every National Championship, as well as lead the team to 17 top 2 Championship finishes, including a second place finish this year.  While it seemed heartbreaking watching the Utes finish .05 behind the Florida Gators, Marsden has no regrets.  

"You know, I've never been an outcome kind of guy.  I know outcome is important, but that has never been my focus.  My focus has been on the process.  It hurt because we got that close..." Marsden shared, "So it hurt for about a minute, but then you think, no one really expected us to do that, no one expected us to be there, and we did everything we could.  The girls really left it out on the floor, did everything they could, and I believe in what I preach, and that’s all you can expect."

Deseret News

It seems odd that the team that leads attendance for all female college sports once had to beg people to come to meets.  In the beginning, Marsden worked hard to get people to support his athletes.  He was surprised how little people came to their meets, even after they started achieving national success.  "I was young and enthusiastic, and was thinking I didn't understand why the media didn't give us more attention.  I thought we deserved that, so I kept calling, kept calling, kept calling, and finally, one of them got fed up with me, and kinda let me have it," Marsden remembers, "saying, Coach, it’s not our responsibility to promote your program, when you have 4,000/ 5,000 people up there in the stands, you won’t have to call us anymore, we’ll be there."  Marsden worked hard to correct this, and eventually, 15,000 people started coming.  

"It became as important to me as the success that we had on the competitive floor.  So I looked at the sports that were successful with attendance, football, men’s basketball, hockey baseball, those kinds of things, and I tried to find the common thread in those sports.  I took those things and tried to do it in an appropriate way for gymnastics," Marsden shared,  "So we built a great environment, and once we had that, and I was convinced that we had a great event that people would enjoy being at, then we just went out in the community, anybody that would listen to us, we went and spoke to everybody, we took our team to elementary schools, preschools, we went anywhere that would have us, to try and convince people to come and give it a chance."
Utah Athletics

Looking ahead, Marsden isn't scared for the future of Utah Gymnastics, but for his future and the future of the sport.  Since he started the program in 1976, it is all Marsden has known.  "I told my seniors, they’re scared too, they’re finishing their careers in gymnastics, they’re finishing their college career," Marsden says, "I told them, the way I looked at it as, if you guys can do it, I can do it.  That’s kinda the way I’m approaching it."

"...There is just not going to be enough money to go around, and I am really concerned for the Olympic Sports, whether we are even be around in 5 or 10 years," Marsden voices, "gymnastics is number three on both the Pac 12 and SEC networks.  Everybody is just blown away by that right now.  I think it is really important for us to capitalize on that and get ourselves on live television as much as we possibly can with hopefully great ratings.  And then we need to make that transition to post season as well.  I don’t know if you watched it but the stands were relatively empty and we were not on live television.  We've got to do whatever it takes to get ourselves on live television with full stands.  If television wants us to stay, we’ll stay.  If they don’t, I don’t know if we will be around."


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.