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*

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