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. 

*All videos property of USAGymnastics*

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Diaries of a Gymnastics Coach- September 2014

As you may know, I was offered a job as a gymnastics coach at the gym I have belonged to my whole life.  After agreeing to move on from gymnastics, I have begun my third month as a gymnastics coach!  These are my stories as I learn how to be the best coach I can be and learn how to help my gymnasts become the best they can be.

I knew the gym would be opening soon, so I texted my coach to find out when he would need me.  After ignoring my texts for three days, it turns out I was put on the schedule for 6 days a week- and the other day the gym is closed.  I have been working a lot of hours, but I don't mind because I love coaching and spreading my love of gymnastics.  Each time I coach has been a learning experience.  With so many variables that can happen in the gym, I am learning how to handle each and every situation, and I know I still have a long way to go, but my coaching has improved a lot!

One of the hardest things for me to learn was how to handle the children.  I have a very good grasp of the gymnastics- how to spot and how to give technical instructions- but I can not seem to grasp how to care for the drama that comes with coaching young children.  I am never 100% sure how to handle the different emotions of kids.  Whoever calls children two-dimensional have never dealt with children.  There are so many different reasons that children can cry or become unresponsive to adults (or you know, almost adults), and I have not been able to get a grasp on how to react and how to handle each situation. It is something that I am trying to work on, and will hopefully come with time.

My coach's biggest critique this month has been my time management skills.  I will get to an event and not really know what to do, so we will move on in ten minutes.  In an hour and a half class, we quickly run out of events to go to!  I have been working hard on spending more time at each event, and as I work more, I am learning other drills to do and more skills that my gymnasts can do, so I have been able to do more with them and spend more time at each event.  I tend to get bored if we spend too much time at an event, so I assume my gymnasts do also, which is why I am in such a hurry.  I have been working very hard to spread out my time better.

One of the hardest days in the gym was the other day.  The head coaches were out, so other coaches came in to take their places (one of which has not been in the gym for at least two years).  The head coach that hired me took one boy group, so another new coach (let's just say he is not the best...) and I took over the group.  The group (I now know) was full of autistic boys.  We are trying top get them to vault when all of a sudden I hear one boy scream.  I turn around to see the boy screaming into another boy's ear, and watch as two other boys start to beat each other up!  We quickly separate the four boys and another runs away screaming and hides.  It was so difficult to get the boys to calm down and continue with the class.  After that train wreck of a class ended, the replacement head coaches sent the other coaches home but me and the other new coach.  Halfway through the class, while I took our group of five girls to bars (the event we need at least two coaches on), he just leaves.;  He comes up to me and says "I'm going to leave now," and just left.  It was so bizarre.  I had handled groups on my own before so I was not concerned, but I was just so confused.

Everyday I go into work, I get excited to learn more and to help my gymnasts get better.  Coaching has been pretty abusive- I have been kicked in the face, head, every limb, punched and hit- but all the mental and physical pain is worth it when I help a gymnast achieve a goal.  Seeing the face of the little girl I helped get her back walkover was priceless, worth all of the pain in the world.  I am so excited to get back into work on Monday and help more girls achieve their goals and dreams!

Check out last month's diary! Diaries of a Gymnastics Coach July 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Returning National Competitors 2014

Last year, I complied a list of gymnasts who returned to compete at the 2013 National Championships.  It was interesting to find that while it seemed like so few gymnasts who competed as seniors in 2012 returned to compete in 2013, it was actually quite normal.  Last year, I found that the average returning number of gymnasts was about 8.  Instead of analyzing this year's number to last quad, I decided to analyze the number of gymnasts in the mid-quad year.

The six gymnasts returning from last year are...
Simone Biles
Madison Desch
Brenna Dowell
Maggie Nichols
Kyla Ross
MyKayla Skinner

In 2010,  the United States would soon become the World Silver Medalist Team, after winning five medals at the 2009 Individual World Championships.  The eight returning seniors from 2009 to 2010 were...
Rebecca Bross
Mackenzie Caquatto
Kaitlyn Clark
Georgia Dabritz
Kytra Hunter
Annette Miele
Bridget Sloan
Cassandra Wittcomb

2006 was a turning point in USA Gymnastics.  A silver medal at the 2006 World Championships, with promising juniors ready to come up, in 2006 the future looked bright for USA!  The United STates were carried by veterans this quadrennium, however with eight returning seniors from 2005.  They!
Jana Bieger
Kayla Hoffman
Jacqueline Johnson
Nastia Liukin
Hillary Mauro
Chellsie Memmel
Kassi Price
Alicia Sacramone

So, as you can see, the average number of returning competitors in the mid-quad year is seven, which does not sound like a lot, but with the depth of USAGymnastics, does not sound like a problem!  Despite a lot of last minute scratches, the United States could make two World Championship teams and have them both be competitive! 

Watch the P&G National Championships this Thursday and Saturday at!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Diaries of a New Gymnastics Coach: July 2014

Over the past six years, I had practically reached all of my potential as a gymnast.  Yea my club has a USAIGC team that I had thought about trying out for, but I realized I had no time for more gymnastics than what I was doing, an advanced recreation class that met once a week for two hours.  Sometimes, I didn't even have time for that.  It was time to face the facts, as much as I love gymnastics, I had reached the highest level of gymnastics I was going to reach.  I had been working on getting my back tuck for two years, and I was not any closer now than I was a year ago.  So when my coach approached me in May about a job opportunity as a coach, starting this summer, I was more than happy to accept it.  I had no clue what it would take to be a coach, but I saw it as a great way to stay involved in my gym, and a nice summer job!  Since then, I have been coaching for about three weeks, and am starting to get the hang of it.  I still have a long way to go, but I am very excited to learn more and become a great coach!

My first job as a coach was to help during our annual "Olympics", which is our version of a recital.  The gymnasts rotate to all of the four events and show their relatives what they have been working on all year.  I stayed at bars the whole week, spotting the girls on their sole circles.  Basically, I lifted the girls hips while they straddled their legs and had to swing under the bar.  So basically, I became a weight lifter.  At the end of the week (which I was not paid for, my coach treated it like "training"), my fore arms ached, but I really liked spotting.  I became so much more excited for summer classes to start because that was where my knowledge of the technical side of gymnastics would come into play.  After the week, my coach sat me down and told me he was happy with how I was learning, and that this summer I would become a fill-in.  Since there were a lot of college kids that where working, he was not sure how often he would need me, but he assured me that I would get some work in.  

After the two week break (one week in between semesters and another so that four of our gymnasts could compete at the USAIGC/IAIGC World Championships), I called to see if I was needed.  Sure enough, that Thursday I was texted to see if I could pick up Thursday nights, and be at the gym in three hours.  With no transportation and canceled beach plans, I made it to the gym.  My first group of children were preschoolers.  What a weird experience that was.  Trying to teach a child how to do a forward roll was so weird for me, just because I was never taught how to do one, it just came naturally to me.  Trying to find the right way to phrase the corrections was the hardest thing I did that day.  After the preschool class was over, I coached the advanced girls.  It was pretty bizarre for me, as these girls were my classmates less than a month ago.  While I was giving a very frustrated girl corrections for her aerials, my coach called me over to help give corrections to the team girls on their vaults.  This was where I felt most natural, because it is what I have been doing online for years.  I mean, these girls were not doing hard vaults, just front handsprings, but giving technical corrections just felt so natural for me.  After class, my coach told me that I did great for my first time, but I have to increase my confidence and look less "lost".  Those were two things that would come with time, but were really difficult for me fix, because I felt out of place, as my coworkers had been doing it for so long.  I felt weird saying something because they knew what they were doing, and I did not.  

The next time I was called in, I got a text 15 minutes before my coach needed me.  My gym is 10 minutes away from my house, and I had woken up about ten minutes before my coach texted me and was still in bed.  I was such a mess that day.  I taught another preschool class and then helped with our day camp.  It was interesting, but I really enjoy helping the older kids more.  Nothing really important happened, but it was just great to get a chance to work.  

After that, my weekly schedule remained the same.  Preschool on Monday mornings (such a LOVELY Monday morning...), and preschool and advanced class on Thursday night.  Thursdays are definitely my favorite, even though I am there for what seems like FOREVER.  Today was my first day doing heavy spotting.  It is way more fun helping a girl get her back handspring than trying to get a four year old to walk across the beam with pointed toes.  

Each day that I am in the gym is a learning experience.  I have learned that kids are going to fall, it is simply a part of the sport.  In the beginning, I was terrified of letting a kid fall.  I know it sounds crazy, but I found there to be a lot of pressure when I am coaching.  I was (and still slightly am) scared of a kid falling, getting hurt, and it being all my fault.  Falls are going to happen, whether it is my fault or not.  I have learned that accidents happen, and I have learned not to let them faze me as much.  I have learned it is better to be safe then sorry, but sometimes you got to take that risk.  If a kid is ready for a back handspring and you show doubts, then that kid is going to have doubts, which is could be even more dangerous than the back handspring.  I have gained an exuberant amount of patience after starting this job.  Lastly, I have learned  that there is a time to have fun, but there has to be time to get serious.  I have learned to separate these times, and to enjoy the fun times, but be ready to get work done when we have to be serious. 

I have seriously enjoyed my first month of coaching, and am eagerly waiting for the next time I step foot in the gym to coach and spread my love for gymnastics!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mid Quad Schenanigans?

With two years to go until the torch is lit in Rio de Janeiro, many people are quick to disregard the "mid quad" year.  Some of the top contenders are still fighting for Junior Titles, others are nursing injuries, and some are have yet to even qualify elite.  Will the results that come from this year stay relevant in 2016, or will we look back at this year and laugh at the "Mid Quad Shenanigans?"

The start of 2006 saw Chellsie Memmel was the reigning World All Around Champion, Nastia Liukin had won her first American Cup Title, followed closely by Shayla Worley.  The United States sent seniors Jana Bieger, Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, and Shayla Worley to Honolulu, Hawaii for the 2006 Pacific Alliance Championships.  Nastia Liukin won her second National Title, edging out Natasha Kelley and Jana Bieger.  At the World Championships, a team consisting of Jana Bieger, Natasha Kelley, Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel, Ashley Priess, and Alicia Sacramone lost out on Team Gold by less than a point.

The key players this year where Nastia Liukin; who played less of a role in 2006 than other years because of an severe ankle injury, Shayla Worley; who was too injured to compete at Nationals and Worlds, but was influential in the early season success of the United States, and Jana Bieger; who ended the best season of her elite career with an All Around Silver Medal at the World Championships.  Chellsie Memmel, who was the reigning World All Around Champion, injured herself on bars during the Team Finals at Worlds, finished the Team Competition, and proceeded to miss the entire 2007 season with a torn shoulder.

Of these key players, three went on to make the 2008 Olympic Team.  Nastia Liukin went on to help the team win a Silver Medal, as well as the All Around Gold, Bars Silver, Beam Bronze and Floor Bronze.  Chellsie Memmel fractured her foot a week before competition started, and was able to compete solely on bars, helping Team USA secure the Silver Medal.  Alicia Sacramone went on to make the Olympic Team, where she competed on vault, beam, and floor.  After a breif retirement, Alicia came back, where she was a prominent force in 2010.

Shayla Worley successfully made the 2007 World Championships Team, where she became a World Champion with Team USA.  After injuring her back in early 20087, Worley came up short of making the Olympic Team, after petitioning to Trials and being invited to the Selection Camp.  After 2006, Jana Bieger injured herself at the 2007 American Cup, wasn't ready for Nationals, and did not make her third World Championship Team.  In 2008, she fell numerous times on bars, notably during Olympic Trials and Selection Camps, the event where she would be most valuable.  Bieger was subsequently named the alternate to the Olympic Team.

The first meet in 2010 saw Rebecca Bross claim her only American Cup victory and the Senior International debut of Aly Raisman.  Shortly after, the United States sent a team consisting of Rebecca Bross, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, Bridget Sloan, Sabrina Vega, and Jordyn Wieber.  Of these six gymnasts, half would end up Olympians in 2012.  Rebecca Bross captured the National Championship Title in dominating fashion ahead of Mattie Larson and Aly Raisman.  At Worlds, a team consisting of Rebecca Bross, Mackenzie Caquatto, Mattie Larson, Aly Raisman, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan narrowly missed the Gold, falling short .2 to take the silver behind Russia.  Alicia Sacramone went on to win the Vault Gold, Rebecca Bross went on to win the All Around Bronze, Bar Bronze, and Beam Silver.

Aly Raisman, who had an impressive rookie season, Jordyn Wieber, who was collecting Junior Titles left and right, and Kyla Ross, who won medals on every event but beam (including Gold on Vault), all ended up making the 2012 Olympic Team, who won the Team Gold.  Aly Raisman went on to become the most successful US Gymnast, winning the Beam Bronze and Floor Gold, and losing a tie-breaker for the All Around Bronze Medal.  Jordyn Wieber became the World All Around Champion in 2011, but narrowly missed qualifying to the London All Around Final, despite qualifying fourth into the final.

Rebecca Bross famously dislocated her knee cap day 2 of the 2011 Visa National Championships.  After struggling all competition, Bross continued to twist while making contact wioth the floor, eliminating her chances at making the 2011 World Championship Team.  Bross' training time was cut drastically when she tried to return, and after a heartbreaking final bar routine, she did not make the 2012 Olympic Team.  While trying to make the 2011 World Championship Team, Mackenzie Caquatto broke both ankles at a verification camp.  Accepting defeat, she retired from elite gymnastics and started a successful gymnastics career at the University of Florida, where she became a two time NCAA Champion with her team.  After failing to compete well on floor under pressure at the 2010 World Championships, Mattie retired from elite gymnastics and joined the UCLA Bruins for the 2011 Season.  In the winter of 2014, Larson retired altogether from gymnastics, quitting the team in her junior season.  After a successful 2010 World Championships, Alicia seemed back where she was before her retirement; and better.  After making the 2011 World Championship Team, Alicia tore her Achilles Tendon in training.  Alicia still came back in time to fight for a spot on the Olympic Team, but ultimately came up unsuccessfully.  After coming back strongly in the All Around for the first time since winning a World Title in 2009, Bridget Sloan fell during her touch warm up on the first day of Olympic Trials.  Sloan dislocated her elbow and was unable to fight for a spot. Sloan joined the University of Florida for the 2013 season, where she led the Gators to their first NCAA Team Title in school history.

In this Mid-Quad year, about half of the key players experience success two years later.  In this completely unpredictable sport, no one knows for sure what will happen in 2016.  Looking at past trends, many of the important faces were still prominent in their respective Olympic Years.  Of the 12 World Team Members, 8 of them competed at the Olympic Trials, and 4 of them made the Olympic Team.  No one knows for sure what will happen in 2016, but already 1 key player from 2014 is out of the running, as Elizabeth Price, who had a tremendous amount of success in the early season, is headed off to Stanford in the fall.  The key players this year so far have yet to be determined, and 2016 is still a huge puzzle.  Will the puzzle become a little clearer come Janurary 2015? The odds say, many of them will be in contention come June 2016.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Second Year at International Gymnastics Camp

After having an amazing time at IGC last summer (My Experience at International Gymnastics Camp), I begged my parents all year to let me go back.  They relented almost immediately, probably so I would shut up.  When I told one of my best friends about how amazing it was, she got her parents on board, and we went together.  One day when she was at the gym, IGC came up, and it just so happened that many of the girls on the team and in the gym were joining us!  Add on a last minute straggler, there were 14 of us in total!  I had such an amazing week, an amazing cabin, amazing counselors, and amazing company!  IGC 2014 was amazing and I will miss going there next summer!
*Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own and have not been sponsored or altered*

Day 1- Sunday
When my family dropped me off, I was completely fine; like I'm not homesick at all.  I'm really happy my friend and the minions (my friend and the team member's names have been withheld for privacy) are here because it feels like part of home is with me.  Once you left, I walked my friend's family around and we had our cabin meeting.  The cabin meeting literally didn't change at all from last year, but so far I really like my cabin.  There are two girls from Iceland, one from Mexico, and one from our sister gym on Long Island!  It's crazy how big the world is, but how it can also seem insanely small at the same time.  We were late to screening, we walked in as they announced Cabin 22.  Awkward.  I did my double back handspring (yay!) and a pullover and back hip circle for screening (Please do not judge my lack of skill, before this week I didn't do gymnastics for about 6 weeks and am hardly in the gym).  I didn't screw up bars (double yay)!  then we had pit fluff, which is easily the worst part of camp.  I legit had half of the pit in my hair.  An obnoxious coach separated my friend and I (Purple, move away from multi-colored!), and kicked a girl out for talking.  He became my vault coach the next day and is actually really funny.  A girl in our cabin told us our cabin cheer, so I didn't have to come up with anything (yay for no creativity!) and we went to dinner.  Being a picky eater, I found something yummy to eat, which was a small victory in itself.  Performing our cheer was awkward, but it wasn't too bad.  They announced that in addition to Alex Naddour and Marissa King, Hollie Vise and Kat Grable would be here this week.  Kat and Hollie were pleasant surprises!  Then we went to get to know you games, where they gave us the "you're a role model" speech, which I know is important, but kinda redundant when you're one of the two kids in your travel group over 11.  I made a new friend that night, someone from upstate New York.  During social hour, we hung out with our new friend and some of the little ones from the team.  The little one's faces when they found out they could get cotton candy from the canteen was adorable.  I'm having way more fun this year and can't wait for tomorrow!

Day 2- Matching Monday
I slept better last night than I did last year, but still woke up a bunch of times.  Morning came way too quickly.  After breakfast, I waited with the older members of our group.  Let me tell you, they're insane.  Warm up went well and then we got our groups.  They basically sit us down and read off our names.  I moved up from a B to a C, but I was the oldest one in my group, which was slightly awkward, but I'm used to it, as I'm the oldest in my gym now.  I'm in the same rotation as 5 girls from the gym, which made conditioning and dance so much better.  Conditioning wasn't bad, and dance was weird.  I don't really like dance, but I got a bunch of pictures of me laughing, so that's a positive.  We finally went to our first real gymnastics class-vault.  Garrett is really funny.  He runs like a deer while muttering "I'm fierce, I'm fierce" under his breath.  I'm really working hard on fixing my form on my front handspring, and Garrett thinks I have a lot of power.  During vault, my best friend was on the pit bar, and we kept making eye contact across the gym and making weird faces at each other.  She later told me that her coach (I would later find out he would be my floor coach) caught her looking at me and wanted us to make eye contact again so that he could say hi.  After lunch, I landed my cartwheels consistently and moved onto back walkovers.  A guy came over to me and told me "You know what I liked about that back walkover?  It was very aerodynamic, your mouth was open the whole time!  In all honesty, it was a good back walkover!"  It was hysterical.  I legit couldn't do a kip today, I wasn't used to the way my coaches were spotting me, but whatever.  I'm trying to be optimistic about bars this year, but I hate them.  I didn't rip!  Floor was good, it's my favorite class.  I worked on my roundoff back handspring, and my rebounds have so much power.  For rec, we walked around with the minions (they're so cute!).  After dinner, I went to open gym and HATED the coach.  I took one bad turn and she automatically thought that I was incapable of the skills I was doing.  I've been doing a roundoff backhandspring for years, at least let me show you that I can do it after I've warmed up before you tell yourself that I'm incapable.  A roundoff back handspring is one of the few skills I am capable of, so let me show you want I can do first.  Even when I started doing better (I swear my rebound was higher than the girls working layouts and fulls), but it wasn't good enough for her.  She sent me to the bar gym because I couldn't do it.  I had a pounding headache, and chalked it up to having a bad day, so I didn't go to the bar gym.  Question and Answer was funny as always, and Kat Grable said her second choice was Florida!  Social hour was cut short because of thunder, but before it did, we played mini golf.  IGC has a fun mini golf course!  We didn't get to shower because of lightning, and then were called into the Olympic Gym because of the high winds.  We played UNO with my cabin mates and my floor coach.  We left the Olympic Gym at 11:15.

Day 3- Tie-Dye Tuesday
I didn't wake up with a headache, so I didn't tell my counselors.  I was so tired.  After breakfast, we went back to the cabin and I slept for another 10 minutes.  It wasn't enough.  We worked on shaping and then went to dance, where we started learning the end of week dance, which is rather depressing since the week JUST started.  Vault was amazing.  Marissa King came and helped us and it was awesome.  Say what you want and listen to whatever rumors you want, but she is such a sweetheart.  She was always smiling and was super sweet.  One time I hurdled with the wrong foot and did a forward roll over the vault.  I was hysterically laughing in the pit, while Garrett was telling em it was a legit drill, and Marissa King was laughing.  It was actually really funny.  When I got out of the pit, Marissa asked if I was ok, and I told her I've done way worse.  She agreed with me.  Other than that, my vaults have improved a lot in just one day.  I was lectured by an 11 year old for eating salad on Taco Tuesday.  On beam, I landed my back walkover and my coach asked if I had it.  Seeing as I've only done a few in my life, I was surprised.  She had me work back handsprings on beam.  When I came here, I did not expect that I would come close to working them.  It was the first time in two years that my goal was too low.  I got on top of the bar when I did my kips, so progress!  Marissa King helped us on floor again and she apparently LOVED my roundoff back handsprings.  After literally every turn she gave me a high five and complimented me on my power and form.  At the end of class she complimented me again of how they looked and on being consistent.  That was so cool.  My cabin had Scary Aerie and I told my best friend that she couldn't let me chicken out this year, and we made a deal that we would force each other to go to the top.  We climbed side by side and I made it to the top!  I had a lot of fun, especially on the zip line.  The rocks at the top of the wall were awful, they were so small!  Afterwards we watched staff workout for a bit, but didn't see anything cool.  Then we found the little ones and one of them is JUST like me.  We didn't go to open gym so we played ping pong and spaceball.  They moved handstand, strength and flexibility into the Olympic Gym due to an impending storm (yes, another one).  The girl that did flexibility did not want to do it at all, but made it to the semifinals and the girl that did strength won!  they canceled social hour because of the storm, but I didn't mind because I don't really like social hour.  We were locked in the Olympic gym AGAIN until 9:30, because my cabin decided not to go up to the canteen.  We were aloud to shower thankfully because there was no lightning.  I was supposed to have the first shower, but someone took it.  I'm excited to sleep in tomorrow!

Day 4- On Wednesdays We Wear Pink
I slept through the night and didn't wake up with a headache!  Sleeping in was such a treat.  Our Cabin Picture was fine, but I don't look too great.  We did games in conditioning, and did ballet in dance, and I learned how to do turns like a dancer.  I totally belong on Dance Moms (just kidding).  During vault, a girl in my group was waiting my the vault near our coaches, and heard them talking about how if anyone in the group were to move up, it would be me (they pointed at me).  I was so surprised, because I didn't think I was the best person in our group.  I'm still not sure that they were talking about me, but that made me feel awesome.  I did back handsprings on beam the whole time and I think they've improved.  I can't really get my hands together though.  On tunnel bars, I fell twice, which is an improvement over last year!  On floor, my coaches thought I was ready to do tucks, but Katie reminded me not to just fling it, but to set.  I was so focused on the set that I didn't remember to tuck until it was too late.  It was actually kinda funny.  Katie got so mad, but I was learning a new skills, accidents and falls are going to happen.  We had to wait in the gym for 20 minutes because of rain.  Danny told me that next year I should come back as gym staff and I'm honestly considering it.  I know it wouldn't be as awesome, but I'd be getting paid to come to camp and meet some awesome celebrities and people.  I would love to come coach, I feel like I would learn so much.  I understand that they just want us to stay safe and dry, but it got boring fast.  I went jet skiing during rec, and I'm glad I went, even though I told dad I didn't want to go.  I got to drive though, and it was so much fun.  I went to beam open gym, and my back handsprings and they got so much better.  Then was safari hunt, it was so funny!  We had to find gym staff, who were acting like animals.  Danny (my floor coach), was a water buffalo, and he kept finding frogs and handing them to us.  He is my favorite coach by far.  I waited all of social hour for a gatorade, but I got it!  It started thundering and we couldn't shower AGAIN.  I felt disgusting.  There are some things I wished I had my phone for, just because I want to take pictures of the things going on in my cabin, it's hysterical.

Day 5- Thanksgiving Thursday
I can't believe it's already Thursday!  My counselor described it best, the days drag on, but the week flies by.  Two more sleeps until I fall asleep in my own bed!  Conditioning was annoying and dance wasn't really special, except the 12 year old I came here with asked for my "elderly assistance" in getting up.  It was insanely rude.  Nothing really happened during vault either, but my vault is improving tremendously.  We had pit beam today and my coach really liked my punch tucks and pikes.  I've always been strong with those.  I hate bars with every fiber of my being and I've accepted the fact that I will never do a kip, it is so bad.  I did a lot of drills.  Before bars, Kat Grable was working out and she did a full twisting tucked shaposh.  Seriously, she is such a beast.  I was having such a good floor day.  I was stretching out my back handspring and Katie was going to let me do another tuck.  On my last turn (the one I was going to tuck), I did my roundoff back handspring onto a locked arm.  I swear I heard a crack.  The trainers think that I strained it (I'm going to get it checked out).  It hurts like crazy but the iced numbed it up quite nicely.  I feel so bad for all of the gymnasts that have to sit in the ice bath after practice.  My friend knew there was something seriously wrong as soon as she saw me because she is mom and I never ice and am normally really good at hiding pain.  For rec, we were the first ones at the canteen and I got yoga pants and a matching sweatshirt (my favorites), and we watched Madagascar 2 while it (you guessed it) rained.  Afterwards we watched staff workout for a bit before dinner.  Dinner was okay, but I really wanted cake that they ran out of (this was legit the biggest disappointment of camp - besides my elbow that is).  I went to beam open gym (busted elbow and all) and did leaps and jumps.  The dance was way more fun this year, I was one of the first people on the autograph line, so early that Alex Naddour wasn't there yet and I was slightly depressed.  Later a girl in my cabin went up and asked him if he would sign my paper and he did so without a problem.  He is so sweet!  We Wobbled, did the Cotton Eyed Joe, and the Cupid Shuffle.  My counselor wanted us to Wobble in the cabin.  She agreed that we are her favorite cabin so far.  This cabin is so amazing and I'm going to miss them so much!

Day 6- Freaky Friday
I legit couldn't sleep last night.  I couldn't get comfortable because my elbow hurt so badly.  I can't bend it more than a 45 degree angle and I can't straighten it.  I did normal conditioning because we didn't use our arms.  I did the dance today, which is WAY better than last years.  On vault, Garrett and Katie (I have her on vault and floor) remembered that I hurt my self.  I was just going to do running drills, because Garrett said he wanted to fix my run, but he said I could do front and back tucks off of the vault, so I did.  Getting out of the pit was the worst, especially with one arm, it hurt so badly.  Garrett told me "Who needs arms to vault? Well to vault you do, but your special!"  It was so funny!  After vault, Katie was super nice, and she told me she was a twin too (2 other girls in my group had twin sisters, not including me).  It was the first time Katie was pleasant to be around.  She's a great coach, but doesn't have a nice attitude.  I saw Danny before lunch, and he felt so bad that I was hurt.  I improved my leaps so much on beam while I couldn't do anything else.  I really liked one of my beam coaches, she was so nice.  On bars, I joined conditioning since I couldn't straighten my arm or put weight on it.  On floor, I did front tucks, pikes, and layouts off of tumble track.  Katie was impressed with them.  We played laser tag during rec, and I won the game for my cabin during the second round.  I didn't go to open gym, because of my arm.  I signed my gym staff's book and it was so sad.  Then I started packing, which was literally depressing.  During open gym, I made a bracelet for my sister.Staff ex was awesome, our gym staff counselor was amazing!  I think she was elite in Canada.  Social hour was so depressing, I'm going to miss IGC and Cabin 22 so much it's not even funny.

I loved IGC so much and I would love to go back!  Seriously, if you ever get the chance to go, do it!  I had so much fun and couldn't have asked for a better week!  If you have any questions, let me know!  If any of you were there last week (week 4), let me know!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Talking with Rhonda Faehn
After being named alternate to the 1988 US Olympic Team, Rhonda Faehn continued her gymnastics career at UCLA, where her coaching career began in 1992.  After coaching at the University of Maryland and the University of Nebraska, Faehn took control of the gymnastics program at the University of Florida in 2003.  During the past 11 seasons, Faehn has created a dynasty in Gainesville.  Faehn has led the Gators to four Southeastern Conference Titles (2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013) and two consecutive NCAA Championship Titles, the first coming in 2013, and tying the University of Oklahoma for the 2014 title.  I was able to talk to Faehn about this historic season.

Double Double Gym Blog: How do you feel about being co-champions with Oklahoma?
Rhonda Faehn: It was definitely great to share the national title with the University of Oklahoma. I have tremendous respect for their gymnastics and what K.J. (Kindler, Oklaho
ma Head Coach) has done with the program. I thought both teams, Oklahoma and Florida, performed exceptionally at the championship, and they were both deserving of the title.

DDGB: This is the second consecutive championship. How does this one compare to last year?
Florida Gators
RF: It’s completely different. The entire season and the championships were completely different. Our first title that we won, the season was, I felt, very easy. It seemed as if when we went to the national championship we knew that we had an incredible chance to win, barring complete meltdown. We made it extremely challenging by having to count a fall, but we still came away with the win. This past championship there was no chance that we would be able to count a fall and win. It was a more challenging season in that we just really did not have the depth that we had the year before. With that, we had to play with our lineups more, we had to really try and rest the athletes. It was very challenging, but what was different was that at the actual championship, this year’s team performed the best that they could in every area. That was really wonderful to see because we needed to do that to be able to win.
Completely different seasons and years and championships with the same result make it absolutely incredible. I’ve heard from other teams before that have won multiple titles that every title is different, and that is very true.

DDGB: Did you know how close it was between Alabama, Oklahoma and Florida going into the last rotation?
RF: I had an idea. They show the scores on the overhead scoreboards so everybody’s looking at that, but in my head I wasn’t actually adding and counting the numbers as each one of our athletes competed. I did not know exactly where we were. In fact, I did not even know that Alabama had a mistake over on balance beam. I was solely focused on our team on floor, and it wasn’t until after Bridgey (Bridgette Caquatto) competed that Adrian (Burde, Assistant Coach) told me the score she needed for us to tie or win. I didn’t see the score come up, and I heard Adrian yell, and he came over again and said, ‘We tied!’ and I of course said, ‘What does that mean?’ Just like the year before, I always look to Adrian because he’s the numbers man and always has it running in his head so I trust what he’s going to say.

DDGB: With every success on floor this season, how comfortable were you ending your championship run on floor?
RF: I felt good about that. I thought it was a great rotation for our team. I look at floor as one of our absolute strengths throughout the season. There were only a few occasions where I felt like we completely put it together, but that was for a reason. We certainly could not put our absolute top lineup in every single competition because we didn’t have the depth. We knew that Bridgey (Caquatto) was not 100 percent prepared at all times because we had to rest her as much as we could on the pounding on her tumbling. She didn’t do any tumbling out on the floor until the week before the national championship. There were certain things we had to do to ensure they were going to be at their best at the championship. But, knowing that Bridget (Sloan) and Kytra (Hunter) had scored multiple 10s this year and Bridgey had that amazing routine going up last in the previous Super Six, which put us in a comfortable space. After I saw Claire (Boyce) lead us off with a gorgeous routine, and then Spicy (Rachel Spicer) went up second and really performed the best routine she had done since the very beginning of our season. Knowing all the pain she was in with her Achilles, I knew that the team was going to feed off of that and continue to get better. That floor rotation was a lot of fun, just as much as the year before. This year everyone just hit it “lights out” so it was great.

DDGB: When Bridgette Caquatto finished her floor routine, what was your first thought?
RF: My first thought was that I was so proud of her because she had two occasions that she was really trying to make corrections to. At the SEC Championship, she stepped out of bounds on her last pass. She was really hard on herself. Before the regional championship, we still didn’t have her do the hard landings in training and so she went a little bit hard for her last pass and then sat it down. So, with those two occasions, she was struggling with feeling the pressure and maybe doubting herself a little bit. The week before nationals, Adrian did a great job with her floor training. I spoke with her, and she said, ‘Rhonda, don’t worry. I’ll figure it out. I went a little hard. I held back here and there, but I’m ready now.’
That routine was one of the best she’s done since probably the national championship last year. I just remember her running toward the podium stairs, and I just wanted to hug her because I was just so proud of her really putting it together and knowing that it was just going to continue to build her confidence from here on out. I wasn’t thinking or concerned about the score. I was just happy that she hit that routine and that she was going to walk away feeling she did the absolute best she could.

DDGB: When the tie was announced, what were you thinking? Did you think that honoring the tie was the right decision?
RF: When the tie was announced, at first I didn’t really know what that meant because there’s never been a tie before for first place. I know that in our SEC Championship, we have the rule stated that if there’s a tie, it will not be broken. I was familiar with that, but when it comes to advancing out of regionals and the qualification round into the Super Six, the tie is always broken by adding the sixth score. In my head, I thought maybe they were going to go to the sixth score so I instantly asked Adrian to add up the sixth score and then who would win. While that was going on, Sarah Patterson from Alabama came over to me and said, ‘Congratulations on winning.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? What’s going on?’ and she said, ‘Well, they don’t break the tie. I found out the rules, and they don’t break the tie.’ That’s when I turned to the girls, and I announced that we won. We were celebrating, and I think during that time Adrian ran over to Oklahoma to let them know that they had also won because he didn’t want it to seem as though our team was celebrating and maybe they thought they lost the tie-break.
I thought it was great. I am not a proponent of breaking the tie, or extending the competition to 10 or 11 at night, or picking one athlete for an additional routine. I really think that the competition is extremely challenging and hard in the current format. It is so hard to win a championship - it needs to be honored if it’s a tie and not be broken by some other measure.

DDGB: What are your thoughts on the state of scoring in the NCAA?
RF: I think the judges have a very challenging job, and it’s always very hard for them. They try, and I think they do a great job in trying to separate the routines and trying to judge what they see in front of them. I would not want to be in their position, and I respect what they do.

DDGB: Was there any glitter hairspray used during the championship?
RF: I did not actually have to use the glitter hairspray this year. However, the girls did put it in their hair. I remember Macko (Mackenzie Caquatto) coming over to me and making the comment, ‘Do you see the glitter hairspray we put in?’
I didn’t feel the need to have to actually pump them back up because we didn’t have to count a fall anywhere or have any mistakes. It was very smooth sailing. I thought we performed, just from top to bottom, probably the best we could on every event.
But I’ll always have to have a can in my bag, just in case.