Monday, October 15, 2012

October Camp & News 2012

It's camp time again, kids! 

Property of Heather Maynez
Kyla Ross tweeted earlier today that she'd be returning to the ranch this weekend as well. This certainly seems like a good sign for her 2013 prospects. It's my understanding that the other 4 Olympians will remain on tour.

Nia Dennis, who has a "very close" Amanar will be attending as well. The '99 born gymnast was injured this summer but is working on some pretty impressive skills. 

Although I do not have confirmation on if Rebecca Bross will be attending camp, The Couch Gymnast reported that she may be competing at the Mexican Gymnastics Gala in November. My 
guess is, if she will be competing then, she'll attend this camp as well.

Here's a list of who is going. This is not yet complete and will be updated as I receive more information: 

Kennedy Baker
Simone Biles
Bridget Dean
Nia Dennis
Peyton Ernst
Ariana Guerra
Nica Hults
Bailie Key
Maggie Nichols
Katelyn Ohashi
Elizabeth Price
Lexie Priessman
Kyla Ross
Ragan Smith

The October camp may serve as an opportunity to add gymnasts onto the National Team, although additional members may not be added until January. I will keep you updated with any information that I can find.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Changes for the 2013 Code of Points

Recently, FIG voted their draft of the 2013-2016 Code of Points into practice. Although the basic premise of scoring remains the same, some changes have indeed been made with the intention of improving some of the "kinks" within the code. While well intended, I worry that some of the rules won't improve the way that FIG anticipates. Here are 3 of the changes and what I think it will ultimately accomplish in the sport.

1. Leaps out of passes on floor

NBC Sports
The Change: Previously, the connection value for leaps out of passes was .1 for an A leap out of a D or higher acro skill. Now, a gymnast has to compete a B or higher jump out of their passes to receive CV.

The Intention: I assume that FIG was trying to stop the BS that some people were doing out of every pass.  It seems that the CV of the leaps out of passes in combination with their ability to hide sloppiness caused people *cough*LaurenMitchell*cough* to overuse them.

The Reality:  Instead of requiring the skill to be rebounding without any pause or making sure that the leap is sufficient to receive CV, FIG has actually made it harder to do those things. Instead of seeing sissones, straddle jumps, split jumps and double stags out of tumbling passes, gymnasts will have to do HARDER skills out of passes. They're not going to just stop competing leaps if they look ugly, we'll just end up seeing more ugly leaps. Can you even contain your excitement about seeing someone attempt a sheep jump or a tuck jump full out of a double pike?

2. Downgraded Amanar

Gym Examiner
The Change: The Amanar has been downgraded from a 6.5 D score to a 6.3. 

The Intention: Equalizing the "unfair advantage" that people receive by competing the Amanar vault.

The Reality: Frankly, I'm not sure that .2 is going to be much a difference when an Amanar still scores .5 higher than a Double Twisting Yurchenko. Besides, I personally don't think that it will be too much longer that the Amanar will be the vault to beat. Think about where we were in 2008 when only a handful of women could compete the 2.5. I don't see a Triple Twisting Yurchenko or a Yurchenko Double Back too far off. Soon the women who can compete those skills will be the ones with the "unfair advantage." This is just a temporary fix for the so called "unfair vault advantage." 

3. Upgraded skills on Floor 

Grace Chui
The Change: This quad, floor exercise will become the first event to offer .3 for connection value (C+E, when the E is a double salto, A/B+F) and H Skill Values (for Double Doubles & Full Twisting Double Layouts).

The Intention: I assume that FIG is trying to close the gap between floor D scores and the other events. Although this gap has closed some, floor does still remain the lowest scoring event.

The Reality: I worry that coaches and choreographers will become obsessed with these differences and we'll see a ridiculous number of the same skills. I anticipate that we'll see those 2 H skills from girls unprepared to compete them well. Also, I bet that there will be a ton of 1.5s through to double arabians/full ins in search of that .3 bonus. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Women's Team Finals - American Success

They did it! The USA Women's gymnastics team earned the gold medal today by over five points. Twelve nearly flawless performances clinched the gold for the exceptionally young team including literally the most beautiful vault I've ever seen. To watch the women hit routine after routine was incredibly satisfying. The Fierce Five were as fierce as ever.

Why is the US Succeeding? I personally like to think that it's our "melting pot" and "best of both worlds" structures that provide everything and the kitchen sink to the American athletes. The Women's US Olympic Gymnastics Team is coached by individuals from each of the top 4 gymnastics nations, if you consider the old USSR & Russia one and the same. Rather than having a distinct weakness like some other teams, the varied coaching styles present different strengths amongst Americans. For instance, Aly Raisman is coached by Romanian Mihai Brestyan seemed to inherit the nation's weakness on bars but their strengths on beam and floor. Kyla Ross, Gabby Douglas and US Alternate Anna Li have all been nurtured by Chinese Coaches and seem to prevail on bars. Of course, many coaches are present within a young gymnast's career and other factors influence success besides coaching, but I thought it was worth noting that the US relies on a melting pot environment to hone a strong team.

I do think that we all need to applaud Marta Karolyi. For all the slack that we as fans give Marta, we should realize that she does have some earthly idea what she's doing. The USA's never earned lower than silver at the Olympics under her direction and today they not only earned the gold, but it was by a fairly hefty margin. At the end of the day, Marta has the majority of the control over who makes the team and on which events they compete.

But of course, the real indisputable reason for the win was the USA's performances. When competing that level of difficulty that impressively, they were nearly uncatchable. The USA stayed solid while competing some of the most difficult routines in the world. Ultimately, THAT'S why they won. I've already heard many people saying, "Well, if the Russians would have hit, they'd have the gold." Not only is that irrelevant, it's also untrue. I did a little experiment wondering if Russia had the opportunity to take the higher scores between prelims and finals for each routine, if they could beat the USA's performances today. The numbers that are crossed out are Team Finals results replaced by qualifying scores.

Komova- 15.833
Mustafina- 15.225
Paseka - 15.3  15.533

Grishina - 14.7 
Komova - 15.766  15.833
Mustafina - 15.7

Komova - 15.033  15.266
Mustafina - 14.533  14.7
Afan - 14.833 15.066

Floor - 
Grishina - 12.466 14.066
Mustafina - 14.8
Afan - 14.333  14.833

Russian Olympic High Score Total : 181.555
USA's Actual Team Total : 183.596

The bottom line is, it doesn't matter. The USA simply out performed Russia in both Prelims and Finals. Grishina & Afan's Floor Mistakes, Paseka's step on vault, as well as Komova and Mustafina's beam struggles were all frankly irrelevant. It wouldn't have mattered. It was the USA's competition to lose and they didn't budge. 

It was an exciting event and until Grishina's floor mishaps, I wondered if the USA would falter and Russia would prevail. The pressure was on the USA's shoulders and they rose to the occasion.  

Pictures all property of ESPN.

Twas the night before finals...

Twas the night before finals and all through the net, 
The gymnernet waited and started to fret.
Filled with excitement, knowing drama's ahead, 
Visions of Amanars, danced through my head.  

While lying awake, I started to think, 
What will they wear? Will the leos be pink?
Will Jordyn stay strong? And with Gabby on beam, 
Can the USA Women fulfill such a dream?

To win the team gold, it will sure be a fight, 
with the USA's lead just ever so slight,
Russia could overcome with their fabulous bars,
Either team could win big and become the new stars.

When thinking of this, I started to shake,
and decided to stop and just take a quick break,
So to twitter I headed and started to read,
and quickly found bitching about Aly's lead.

"She sucks", one girl wrote, "Ew, her toes!" another read,
 And yet still a few more were just tweeting with dread,
about Marta's choices, the rules and results,
a few more went on and sent Douglas insults.

As I kept reading tweets, I just had to yell "FUCK!"
Can you not just be funny and make jokes like Buck?
It's okay to be funny, without being a dick,
But to hate on sweet Gabby? You're just fucking sick.

As I read and I read I became more enraged,
With the BS on twitter, the girls are upstaged!
This is the Olympics! It's about the sport!
We shouldn't be hating, we should give support.

It's McKayla, Gabby, Kyla, Aly & Jo,
These girls are so fierce even with a bad toe.
While the placements have changed these girls still are on top,
We don't know if they'll stay there, or whether they'll flop.

We'll find out tomorrow, when finals begins,
 which countries will fail or will earn their first wins,
I can't believe that tomorrow the day will arrive,
when I'll get to cheer for my favorite Fierce 5.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Code Fun with Prelims Routines

By request, here's some code analysis... I'd like to remind you that I'm not a judge and this is just my take on routines that were asked for. I'm just answering the questions asked. :)

Jordyn Wieber's Beam
Split Mount (A)
Front Layout (D) + Back Handspring (B) + Back Layout Stepout (C) (.2 CV)
Front Handspring (B)
Back with a Full (F)
Back Handspring (B)
Switch Leap (C) + Back Pike (C) (.1 CV)
Side Aerial (D)
Side Somi (D)
Split Leap (A) + Sissone (A)
Johnson (C)
Full Turn with Leg Up (C)
Back Handspring (B) + Back Handspring (B) + Layout 2.5 (D) (.1 CV)

CR: 2.5
Acro: F+D+D+D+D= 2.2
Dance: C+C+C= .9
CV: .4

You'll notice that this was .3 lower than Jordyn got at Trials. That's because her Front Handspring to Full to Back Handspring wasn't credited as a connection. Her E score was 8.7, which seemed pretty straight forward to me.

Jordyn Wieber's Floor
Double Double (G)
1.5 (C) through to Triple (E) (CV .2) (I wouldn't credit the leap)
Triple Turn Downgraded to a Double Turn? (B)
Switch Leap (B) + Johnson Half (C)
2.5 (D) + Split Leap (A) (CV .1) 
Split Leap 1.5 (D)
Front Layout (A)
Double Pike (D)

CR: 2.5
Acro : G+E+D+D+C= 2.3
Dance : D+C+B= .9
CV : .3

I could be wrong here, but my guess would be that Jordyn's downgrades came with the icky turn she fell out of and the OOB/sketchy stag leap.

Victoria Moors's Floor
Double Double (G)
Split Leap 1.5 (D)
1.5 (C) Through to Triple (E) (CV .2)
Full Turn (A) (I think that's how this is credited?)
Front Layout (A) + Full Turn (A)
Switch Ring (C) + Split Leap Half (C)
Layout 2.5 (D)
Double Tuck (D)

CR: 2.5
Acro : G+E+D+D+C= 2.3
Dance : D+C+C= 1.0
CV : .2

Here's my take on the E score, and this is just my opinion.
-Low Chest Landing on Double Double (.3)
-Lunge on Triple (.3)
-Insufficient Arch Ring Leap (.1)
-Lunge on 2.5 (.3)
-Low Chest on Double Tuck (.3)
-Step on Double Tuck (.3)
MY E SCORE : 8.4 
Actual E Score : 8.1

It was probably a stupid deduction like "excessive preparation" on passes. The 8.1 does seem low to me, but I will emphasize that I'm not a judge.

Gabby Douglas's Floor
1.5 (C) through to Triple (E) (CV .2)
Double Arabian (E)
Switch Ring (C) + Split Leap 1.5 (D)
Double Turn with Leg at Horizontal (D)
Double Tuck with Full Twist (E)
Double Back (D) + Split Leap (A) (CV .1)

CR: 2.5
Acro : E+E+E+D+C= 2.2
Dance : D+D+C= 1.1
CV : .3
The actual D score : 5.7

After talking with several people, the conclusion is that her leg may have dropped below horizontal on the turn, the With Ring didn't have a front leg reaching 45 degrees before flying back. I personally would have appealed though. Granted, it didn't really end up mattering.

Catalina Ponor's Beam
Split Mount (A)
Switch Ring (E)
Double Turn (D)
Onodi (D) + Back Handspring (B) + Layout to 2 Feet (E) (.2 CV)
Front Layout (D) + Back Handspring (B) + Layout Stepout (C) (.2 CV)
Switch Leap (C) + Omelianchick (D) (.1 CV)
Wolf Jump (A) + Split Jump (A)
Roundoff (B) + Double Pike (E)

CR : 2.5
Acro : E+E+D+D+D= 2.2
Dance : E+D+C= 1.2
CV : .5

My Opinion on E Score:
-Front Leg Below Horizontal on Switch Ring (.1)
-Wobble on Switch Ring (.5)
-Wobble on Layout Stepout (.3)
-Low chest on dismount (.3)
-Step on dismount (.3)
Actual E Score : 8.633

Larisa Iordache's Beam
Stoop on Mount (A)
Back Handspring (B) + Tucked Full (F) (.2 CV) 
Double Turn (D)
Switch Leap Half (D)
Front Aerial (D)
"Chicken" (D)
Switch Leap (C) + Back Tuck (C) (.1 CV) 
Split Jump (A) + Sissone (A)
Roundoff (B) + Back Handspring (B) + Triple (F) (.2 CV) 

CR: 2.5
Acro : F+F+D+D+C = 2.3
Dance : D+D+C= 1.1
CV : .5

My Opinion on E Score :
-Wobble on Tucked Full (.5)
-Wobble on Double Turn (.1)
-Hips not square on Switch Leap Half (.1)
-Toes not precise on Switch Leap Half (.1)
-Wobble on Front Aerial (.3)
-Chest Position on Front Tuck (.1)
-Step on Dismount (.3)
Actual E Score : 8.4

Women's Qualifying - A Closer Look

Yesterday the women kicked off their Olympic experiences with an, all things considered, fairly uneventful day. The four top teams finished in their expected positions with the exception of Romania who seemed to have some uncharacteristic struggles. Romanian proclaimed "Future Olympic All Around Champion" Larisa Iordache was expected to be left out of the All Around due to plantar fasciitis but was thrown back in after a shitload of tape on her foot supposedly alleviated the issues. Apparently the tape didn't work its magic  as Larisa qualified 9th in the All Around and failed to qualify for any event finals. Her teammate Catalina Ponor, the 2004 Balance Beam & Floor Exercise Olympic Champion, had some issues as well, bobbling significantly on beam and balking a tumbling pass on floor, although her scores were still high enough to qualify her for the event finals on both apparatuses. China just had a really shitty day, lead by the mistakes of 2011 World All Around Bronze Medalist Yao Jinnan who fell on three of her four events. 

Japan & Canada both placed surprisingly well although Canada struggled with falls throughout the day. Regardless, they qualified the women for their first team final in Olympic History. Great Britain also seemed to rise to the pressure of competing on home turf rather than crumbling. Italy, who didn't qualify to team finals in 2011 yet placed 1st at the test event qualified to the team finals as well. 

Russia and the USA will be the two major contenders for the Gold Medal with each team lead by 3 strong all arounders. Russia seems to be closing the USA's difficulty gap with upgraded vaults. Historically this quadrennium, the USA's had an advantage on vault that Russia had the potential to overcome with their Uneven Bar scores. While each team gets stronger on every event, the winner may come down to small performance errors. 

Of course, the media portrayed the biggest story of the day as Jordyn Wieber's failure to qualify for the All Around Finals. I feel like people are making it a lot less cut and dry than it really is. It's been the rule since 1976 that a set number of gymnasts from each country are allowed into each final. (The number was 3 until 2004, now it's 2). You'd have thought that someone had murdered Jordyn Wieber with the way that people were talking. Phrases like "horrific" and "something she'll spend years coming to terms with" are the way that I hear violent attacks described. In reality, Jordyn was simply met with the same fate that many expected Aly Raisman to be faced with. People tend to forget that every member of the 2011 World's team would have qualified without the "2 per country rule" and that Gabby Douglas qualified just 1 place lower than where Wieber sits currently. Where were the cries of outrage then? I understand that Jordyn is the reigning World Champion and my heart goes out to her, but to be frank, I worry that the outrage is more about being bummed that a "favorite" is out than wanting actual "fairness" within the sport. 

People keep saying "The Olympics is supposed to be the best gymnasts in the world competing." Is it? If that were true, the IOC wouldn't have 2 Egyptian gymnasts competing rather than extra gymnasts from the USA, Russia, Romania & China. Certainly had Alicia Sacramone made the team, she'd be in Vault finals. Fifteen American Seniors scored higher than the 54.232 needed to qualify for this year's Olympic All Around Finals this season. Some of those girls didn't even qualify for the US Olympic Trials such as Amanda Jetter, Brianna Brown, Mykayla Skinner and Abigail Milliet. It's just a fact that the Olympics are NOT simply the best in the world competing. Although many of the gymnasts are the strongest, the entire field is never present for every competition as there are injuries, politics, age limits and limits on team size which prevent that.

It's not just gymnastics. A competitive swimmer recently told me on Twitter that her freestyle times were faster than numerous Olympians. Yet, she wasn't even close to qualifying for her country's team due to its dominance within the sport of swimming. If the Olympics were just for "the best of the best", the USA would have 20 female artistic gymnasts and no rhythmic gymnasts. (Yet we seem to be celebrating Julie Zetlin's inclusion by the IOC.) I suppose It's important to ask ourselves what the reaction would be if Aly were the gymnast left off the All Around roster.   

All in all, it's sure to be an interesting final. In my opinion, if the USA hits it will be difficult for Russia to catch them, but it's important to remember : This is gymnastics; anything can happen. 

Pictures property of Grace Chui (1&2), NBC Sports (3) & Sports Girls Play (4) 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My thoughts on USA's Podium Training...

Okay, so I just watched podium training, as I was at work while it was airing live. (Don't worry! I'll be able to watch everything else live!) Here are my thoughts on the American performances, as those were the only ones that I, like most of you, were able to see.

NBC Sports
-This whole thing was fierce. If the USA wins, this will be why. They are head and shoulders above everyone on this event. I mean, in my opinion, Paseka was put on the Russian team for an Amanar about as strong as our WEAKEST vaulter, Kyla.
-I was pleased to see that McKayla is vaulting like herself, which I anticipated. Even though she is dealing with a minor foot injury.
-I wish that there were a reason for Kyla to compete her vault that DIDN'T involve anyone else getting kicked off the lineup due to injury/whatever. That DTY is gorgeous and often stuck.

Uneven Bars: 
-NBC really bugged me with their coverage here. I suppose I should be grateful for anything but I do NOT want to see people chalking up over a Dougie release EVER.
-I honestly worry about Jo struggling on bars in TF and hitting at other points. Call me crazy, but her whole situation reminds me of Carly Patterson.
-I love how different Kyla and Gabby are on this event, and yet they're both so strong!
-To those of you freaking out, the whole point of this training is to get used to the equipment. It's not surprising that they fell some.

-I LOVED how quickly the women worked on this event. The second one girl was of, the next was on.
-Kyla Ross should do a press to handstand mount on beam. It could be really pretty.
-Super proud of Kyla & Gabby for not missing a fucking beat when they turned the lights off.
-WAIT! Somone's floor music is the song from the P&G mom commercial! Or is that just what they play in the background?

-The thought that Kyla will likely go up on FX in prelims makes me die a little bit inside. She seems like a really sweet girl, but that floor... ugh.
-Gabby's floor seemed more appropriate for the venue than I expected. Maybe it's the hot pink podium?
-Jordyn seemed less... connected than usual. Maybe it's nerves? Maybe it's because there's no crowd.
-Weird front tuck instead of front layout from Aly. I wonder if she was worried about getting it around or if that's the new plan?

Random Thoughts: 
NBC Sports
-I have to be honest, I didn't dislike the leotard, but it reminded me of a sparkly pink pot leaf.
-The pink podium looks great on camera, but does indeed clash with the Gymnova mats.
-It's really pissing me off that people feel the need to pit Jordyn & Gabby against each other saying things like "they haven't interacted at all." Jordyn doesn't interact with people on the podium really. That's just not how she rolls. It's bad enough for 12 year old girls to make up vicious rivalries, it's worse when members of the associated press do it.
-Pink is a good color on Marta.

You can watch a replay of podium training here :

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"The Way it Used to be"

Property of EMF
As the Olympics approach, I hear more and more people talking about "the way it used to be". From  "I miss the perfect 10" to "Artistry isn't what it used to be", it seems as if everyone surrounding the sport is upset about what Artistic Gymnastics has become.

I'm not upset. In fact, I'm pleased with the new developments in the the sport.

Yesterday evening, I was talking with a friend about gymnastics when Cathy Rigby came up. I watched her silver medal winning beam routine from the 1970 World Championships and was happily with the stylistic beauty throughout her routine. (That press handstand, OH! I love it!) But the more and more I looked at routine, the fewer skills there were and the more poses I noticed.

Just because something is pretty, doesn't make it better. Cathy (and the other Olympic caliber gymnasts of that era) were all fabulous, but the fact is, they'd all be eaten alive by today's standards. And maybe that's okay. Both sets of gymnastics live in independent spheres.

For example, As much as I respect Nadia, there's no such thing as perfection. Even in her classic bar routine, she shuffled her feet, in a landing that Tim Daggett would deem "not a stick". Seven times during the Montreal Olympics Nadia earned a so called "Perfect 10" and each every time she made at least one mistake. She'd never receive a 10 on those routines today,  and with the exception of a very few vaults, no one would even have a chance.

Property of
There's all this ongoing talk about the sacrifices of artistry for difficulty. I don't think that's fair. Ana Porgras was named queen of the balance beam in 2010 with a tremendous amount of artistry (defined by the WAG COP as creativity in choreography, ability to express theme/music, sufficient rhythm). Nastia Liukin is our reigning Olympic All Around Champion. And like it or not, the reigning World Champion, Jordyn Wieber's floor routine is one of the most audience captivating and artistic sets I've seen. There is plenty of artistry around these days which, believe it or not, is able to coexist with difficult tumbling passes.

Change isn't necessarily a bad thing. If nothing ever changed in gymnastics, Gymnasts would still have to climb a rope in competition and the hardest skill in Aly Raisman's floor routine would be a roundoff back handspring. Is that really what you want? Difficulty and artistry can coexist, and all things considered, I think that today's gymnasts are doing a pretty good job at incorporating both. We live in a world where 9 (yes, 9!) American gymnasts can hurl themselves over a giant table, do 1.5 flips and 2.5 twists and often land flawlessly. Is that not enough of a trade off to miss out on a few "prettier" skills?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The 2012 US Olympic Gymnastics team is...

"It's not just like a puppy that you want for Christmas, it's the Olympics." - McKayla Maroney.

Since 2009, many have been calling Ms. Jordyn Wieber of Dewitt, Michigan a "lock" for these Olympic games. While I never went that far, I was not even a little bit surprised to see her named. . Jordyn will likely go up on all four events, arguably contributing most on vault and floor. Not only will she contribute significantly, but she'll also work it in the All Around final, where she won the gold at last year's World Championship. Wieber trains at Geddert's Twistars in Lansing, MI.

Gabby Douglas who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, won tonight's Trials, securing her spot on the 5 person squad. After tonight's performance, Gabby will likely be put up on vault, bars and possibly floor. She, like Jordyn, will also likely end up in the All Around final and if she qualifies, the Uneven Bars finals. Gabby is coached by Liang Chow, who coached 2008 Olympian Shawn Johnson.

Aly Raisman, who's arguably been the consistent performer on the US team since she turned Senior in 2010 was also unsurprisingly named to the US Team. Aly won a bronze medal on floor at last year's World Championships. The US will certainly be used on Beam and Floor, and perhaps vault, depending on how she performs in training leading up to the games. Aly is coached by 2008 Olympian Alicia Sacramone's coach, Mihai Brestyan.

The newcomer to the team, Kyla Ross, is a first year senior with something to prove. At only 15 years old, Kyla is one of the USA's strongest bar workers and will most likely contribute to the team on beam. Kyla's only weakness is her lack of international experience in comparison to the other girls on the team, although she hasn't let it stop her before. Kyla trains at Gym-Max in Costa Mesa, CA.

The fifth member on the team (which was the biggest one up for grabs this evening), went to McKayla Maroney, who is the reigning world vault champion. She'll likely only go up on Vault (and compete in the Vault final), although her floor routine could help the USA. McKayla trains at All Olympia Gymnastics Academy in Los Angeles, CA.

Alternates are Elizabeth Price, Sarah Finnegan and Anna Li.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Best Gymnastics Book I've Ever Read...

"Which of the following is a famous Jewish gymnast-- Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug, or Dvora Meyers?" 

Cover art by Margarita Korol 
Thus begins the story of Dvora Meyers.

While Meyers was never an Olympian, abused by Bela Karolyi or persecuted by tabloids, her story isn't a dull one. Her refreshingly unsensationalized look into gymnastics, as both a fan and an athlete is unique in its brutal honesty. Frankly, Heresy on the High Beam: Confessions of an Unbalanced Jewess is like you're spending an afternoon having coffee with your really interesting friend.

Essentially, the book is a classic coming of age love story, where the love interest is gymnastics. From Bat Mitzvahs to beam routines, Meyers' maturation & affection in the sport will likely be one you recognize in yourself.

I mostly respected that the author viewed her challenges as just that: challenges. Although she narrated some of her most personal and pivotal life events, it never felt like a sob story, not even for a minute. That's why it's so captivating, you are able to ride the roller coaster with her; from the young child doing cartwheels in her living room to the young adult desperately longing to discover why she can no longer land that same cartwheel on a high beam.

You can buy Heresy on the High Beam on Amazon and download it directly to your iPad, Kindle or Computer. It really is worth it.

Just because you were a bad gymnast, doesn't make you a bad writer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nastia's Bars : What am I missing?

3 weeks ago Nastia looked like this in training:

And then placed 18th out of 19 on bars. 

Now she looks like this:

If you're saying "she'll be ready", ask yourself why. Maybe you're psychic? Maybe you know more about gymnastics than I do. Or maybe you're trying to hold on to 2008. Personally, I don't see this happening. I hope she proves me wrong. But no one, not even little hand-broken Brenna Dowell is being spotted this much. This doesn't seem like and improvement on nationals to me. A dismount, yes, but she did the dismount in training last time around too. I don't feel like she's got the stamina to do it. What am I missing? 

Trials Podium Training Thoughts...

Michael O'Leary 
Thoughts overall: 
-No major injuries. *Knock on wood*. This has become a "who's the best of the best" instead of who can survive the bullshit.
-I love that girls are all in National Team Leos.
-The USA is deeeeeeeeep. I'm so glad.

On individual gymnasts: (in no particular order whatsoever.)

Elizabeth Price has given me second thoughts on calling all Parkettes "skill chuckers". That Amanar is fierce as is the Double Double. She'll be a great alternate.

The videos of Sarah Finnegan weren't particularly impressive to me, but maybe that's because I've watched her routines so many times. I'm interested to see how she'll compete. She's another potentially great alternate.

Sabrina Vega's gymnastics is just so pretty. I wish we could give her Aly Raisman's consistency & difficulty.

I can't get over Rebecca Bross's feet. Still. I love her natural swing though. She did land her Patterson in training, but I'm not holding my breath for a clean dismount in competition. I STILL think that it's too much of a risk for a Team Final.

Gabrielle Douglas looks fierce as ever, but her ankle looks super taped. Was it that taped at Nationals? The slowmo Amanar is not to be missed.

Nastia looks about 0% more ready than she did at Nationals podium training. If it's the Olympic Trials and you can't do a full bar routine with out an enormous amount of spotting, I'm doubting you. (The ring leap was better, though.)

McKayla is impressing me. People were worried that she wouldn't compete at Trials but she looks as good as she did at Nationals, if not better.

Anna Li's bars are fantastic, but I can't imagine Marta taking someone who literally can only go up on one event, no matter what.

Kyla's Amanar is back and looks decent. I wonder if she'll compete it and if she does if she can compete it consistently. Bars & Beam are as solid as usual. I only put her floor on for 4 seconds to see if she had changed music. ... She hadn't.

Aly Raisman is proving herself as more and more of a lock. Honey child does not fall. You can't hate that.

USA Gymnastics
Jordyn Wieber might as well not even compete. She'll be in London unless her arm falls off... and even then she could probably pull off beam. There's honestly not much to say about her at this point. She's solid, but I'm honestly kind of bored, in a Pattersonian way.

Brenna Dowell looks sad throughout. I'm waiting for her to call the news and do an Ivana Hong like news story. You remember she has a broken hand, right? She looks like she's adding a wolf jump after her front double pike though. So that's fun.

Bridget Sloan is being spotted quite a bit on bars, and USAG didn't post a full routine from her. But then again, it was similar in at Nationals, and she performed satisfactorily there.

USAG only posted Alicia Sacramone's beam which looked clean, but I'm more interested in her Vault.  I can't see a FTY as her second vault being a strong enough case for her.

Kennedy Baker wasn't in podium training today, so that was kind of a bummer. She arrived in San Jose late Tuesday evening.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Aly Raisman & McKayla Maroney 2012 UB Olympic Champions?!

In the past 24 hours, I've read the following things from gymnastics fans or bloggers: 
-"Aly is great on bars and beam!"
-"[Kyla's] strongest events : Floor and Vault."
-"Maroney should be great on bars."
-A tweeter putting Nastia in her Olympic floor lineup

I'm starting to get frustrated, friends. So, instead of screaming and banging my head against the wall, I've decided I'll attempt to help clear up whatever confusion is going on.

Some of the following post is my opinion, but let's talk facts for a second. Aly is NOT great on bars, Kyla is NOT strongest on floor and Maroney will NOT be great on bars. Those are just facts! The US is looking for the 3 highest scorers on each event. I'm sharing with you the highest scores on each event for each Trials qualifiers, although that doesn't take consistency into account.

To be honest, competing on vault for the US in team finals isn't much of an option unless you've got an Amanar or a Rudi.

Girls whose vaults are CERTAINLY team finals worthy: Maroney, Wieber & Raisman.

Girls whose vaults MAY be team finals worthy: Douglas, Price, Ross & Sacramone.

Below is a list of the HIGHEST scores posted in 2012 by Trials Qualifiers.
1. Maroney - 16.15  (Nationals Day 1)
2T. Wieber - 16.1 (American Cup)
2T. Raisman - 16.1 (American Cup)
4. Douglas - 15.866 (American Cup)
5. Price - 15.8 (Nationals Day 1)
6. Ross - 15.55 (Jesolo)
7. Sacramone - 15.5 (Nationals Day 2)
8. Finnegan - 15.0 (Nationals Day 1)
9. Baker - 14.8 (Nationals Day 2)
10. Dowell - 14.7 (Nationals Day 2)
11. Vega - 14.5 (Nationals Day 2)
12. Sloan - 14.15 (Nationals Day 2)
Liukin, Li, Bross no longer compete Vault.

Bars is trickier, because fewer of the team "locks" are super strong on bars.

Girls whose bars are CERTAINLY team finals worthy: Dougals, Li, Ross, Bross & Sloan.

Girls whose bars MAY be team finals worthy: Wieber, Price & Liukin (if Nastia can show what people are expecting her to). 

Below is a list of the HIGHEST scores posted in 2012 by Trials Qualifiers. 

1. Douglas - 15.85 (Nationals Day 2)
2. Li - 15.55 (Nationals Day 2)
3. Ross - 15.5 (Nationals Day 1)
4. Bross - 15.3 (US Classic)
5. Sloan - 15.1(Nationals Day 1)
6. Wieber - 15.05 (Nationals Day 1)
7. Price - 14.95 (Nationals Day 1)
8. Baker - 14.85 (Nationals Day 1)
9. Dowell - 14.6 (Jesolo)
10. Raisman - 14.45 (Jesolo)
11. Vega - 14.4 (Nationals Day 2)
12. Finnegan - 14.15 (Jesolo)
13. Maroney - 13.95 (Jesolo)
14. Liukin - 13.65 (Nationals Day 2)
Sacramone does not compete this event.

The US is looking stronger and stronger on beam and should have plenty of coverage on that event, regardless of who is on the team.

Girls whose beam sets are CERTAINLY team finals worthy: Ross, Raisman & Finnegan.

Girls whose beam sets MAY be team finals worthy: Wieber (her high is MUCH higher than her average), Sacramone, Liukin.

Below is a list of the HIGHEST scores posted in 2012 by Trials Qualifiers. 
1. Wieber -  15.7 (Pac Rim AA)
2. Ross - 15.5 (Jesolo)
3. Raisman - 15.45 (Nationals Day 2) 
4. Finnegan - 15.35 (Nationals Day 1) 
5. Sacramone - 15.2 (Nationals Day 1) 
6T. Liukin - 15.1 (Nationals Day 1)
6T. Douglas - 15.1 (American Cup)
8. Maroney - 14.55 (Nationals Day 1)
9. Vega - 14.4 (Nationals Day 2) 
10. Baker - 14.3 (US Classic) 
11. Price - 14.3 (Nationals Day 1) 
12. Bross - 14.15 (Jesolo) 
13. Li - 13.9 (US Classic) 
14. Dowell - 13.9 (Nationals Day 2) 
15. Sloan - 13.85 (Nationals Day 2)

Girls whose floor routines are CERTAINLY team finals worthy: Raisman, Douglas, Wieber & Finnegan.

Girls whose floor routines MAY be team finals worthy: Vega & Price. 

Below is a list of the HIGHEST scores posted in 2012 by Trials Qualifiers. 
1. Raisman - 15.8 (Nationals Day 2)
2. Douglas - 15.3 (Nationals Day 2)
3. Wieber - 15.25 (Nationals Day 1)
4. Finnegan - 15.2 (US Classic)
5. Vega - 14.85 (US Classic)
6. Price -14.8 (Nationals Day 2)
7T. Ross - 14.6 (Nationals Day 2)
7T. Maroney - 14.6 (Nationals Day 1)
9. Baker - 14.4 (Nationals Day 1)
10. Dowell - 14.35 (Nationals Day 2)
11. Sloan - 13.9 (Nationals Day 2)
Li, Bross & Liukin do NOT compete Floor anymore.

So dearest fellow fans, go back and look what you've written and then look at the facts. Are you making sense? 

Want to feel 100 years old?

Back Row : Alicia Sacramone, Geralen Stack-Eaton, Nastia Liukin, Shayla Worley, Darling Hill, Bridget Sloan, Natasha Kelley, Amber Trani, Rebecca Clark

Middle-ish Row : Corrie Lothrop, Shawn Johnson, Sam Peszek, Sarah DeMeo, Olivia Courtney, Jana Bieger, Ivana Hong, Chelsea Davis

Front Row : Jordyn Wieber, Ashley Stott, Mattie Larson, Sami Shapiro, Rheagan CourvilleCassie Whitcomb, Rebecca Bross

These girls made up the US National Team in 2007 (plus Chellsie Memmel). Their names link to a routine from their most recent season.

Of these 24 National Team Members from 2007, 5 of them are still Elite competitors (and in fact, all in headed to Trials), 6 are retired and 13 were on college rosters this past season. I just found this a while back and thought I'd share! :)

I found this picture on Tumblr a while back, and lost my link, so let me know if it's your pic...

Friday, June 22, 2012

"My best events are vault and bars and beam and floor": The Kyla Ross Conundrum

Once upon a time, there was a wonderful Junior gymnast. Although she consistently placed well in the All Around, she struggled on bars and would sometimes place in the 20s on that event at national competitions. Then the gymnast grew some, trained a lot and suddenly, she became really good on bars. So good, that she started winning international medals. The gymnast's name was Rebecca Bross.

Rebecca Bross is a perfect example of the rule that you can change specialties. The girl who placed 15th amongst American Jrs in 2006 on an event could be named 3rd best in the world on that same event just 3 years later. Just because you were once weak on an event doesn't mean that it can't be your strongest event several years later.

While Rebecca Bross was winning that medal in London 3 years ago, an up and coming junior was arising in the spotlight. Kyla Ross won several competitions that year, equipped with her green bow and pack of Gym-Max teammates. At the time, Kyla was working with a 4.9 UB SV, and only tied for 12th on bars, despite winning Vault and Beam and earning 3rd on floor. But as it's so often said: "That was then, and this is now."

Kyla is a good bar worker now. You can't argue with that. She's won the uneven bars gold 2011 Classics and 2012 Jesolo, and the Silver at 2011 & 2012 Championships, 2012 Classics, 2012 Pac Rims, 2011 Jesolo and 2010 Pac Rims. Please don't tell me that all of those titles don't qualify someone to compete on Uneven Bars in a team final setting.

Furthermore, if you've pinned her as a bar specialist, don't be confused thinking that she can't compete on beam and that you need a beam worker on the team to go up instead of her. She's won as many titles there as she has on bars, and more of them are gold.

So you've got Kyla in your bars and beam lineup and you want to put her on floor? Don't! She's only got a 5.5 Start Value there. Her 5.5 is the lowest of any girl who will be competing floor at Trials! Once having an Amanar doesn't make someone a good floor worker!

I don't know what I think about Kyla's vault, but I certainly wouldn't call her a major team asset on vault. It seems that she's been struggling with the Amanar, but in an emergency, she could certainly pull out a fabulous double.

I'm not sure what the issue is or why fans can't get it straight, but even Kyla seems confused on where she fits in. When talking to a journalist she stated that her best events are "Vault and Bars and Beam and Floor." All in all, we need to realize that things can change within an athletes skill set. This isn't the same Kyla that we met in 2009.

Let's talk about ex(ecution), baby.

USA Gymnastics
Quick! Who do you think are the girls with the highest execution in the USA? I assumed that the "Chosen 4" would rank highly and then I thought that with only execution counting that Sarah Finnegan and Sabrina Vega would squeak into the top 5 or so. In fact, I thought that Sarah Finnegan would become a virtual lock for the team disregarding difficulty. I thought she had a good chance to place higher than Douglas. Well, I was wrong.

The Top 12 in execution only over the 2 days of competition were: (parentheses indicate place w/ D & E scores counting)
USA Gymnastics
1. Kyla Ross (4th)
2. Jordyn Wieber (1st)
3. Gabby Douglas (2nd)
4. Aly Raisman (3rd)
5. Elizabeth Price (5th)
6. McKayla Maroney (N/A)*
7. Sarah Finnegan (6th)
8. Sabrina Vega (7th Tie)
9. Brenna Dowell (9th)
10. Kennedy Baker (7th Tie)
11T. Bridget Sloan (10th)
11T.  Abigail Milliet (11th)

*I multiplied Maroney's day 1 E scores by 2 so we could see where she fits.

Places 13-18 fall in the same order that they did in competition.

Frankly, I was surprised. I started to question myself and other gymnastics fans. We love Sabrina Vega, we love Sarah Finnegan, We Well, I, love Kennedy Baker. We say that it's because they have clean gymnastics, but we're lying to ourselves. It's because they have pretty gymnastics. There's nothing wrong with liking gymnastics because it's pretty, we just need to be honest with ourselves about what's going on. It's worth mentioning that these girls fell, but even if they hadn't they wouldn't have been the leaders in execution. It's a myth that these girls would be the strongest if their difficulties were higher, as they're in the same positions or even lower. Pretty doesn't necessarily equal well executed, as much as sometimes I wish it did.

Inside Gymnastics
Other surprises included Raisman placing 12th amongst vaulters. (Maroney, not surprisingly, placed 1st), Jordyn Wieber placing higher than Anna Li on bars and Gabby placing 3rd on floor. You may not like her music, but you can't argue that she performs it well.

So difficulty aside, who would I name to my team? (Execution based ranks are in parentheses)

VT: Wieber (3), Ross (2), Maroney (1)
UB: Wieber (3), Ross (2), Douglas (1)
BB: Wieber (4), Raisman (3), Ross (1)
FX: Douglas (3), Raisman (2), Wieber (1)
Alt: Price, Sacramone, Finnegan

Monday, June 18, 2012

Who takes the 5th Spot? (Based on season averages)

It's arguable, but I personally believe that 4 of the American gymnasts have a 75% or greater shot of making the team. The three semi locks are Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. I personally believe that Kyla Ross will take the fourth spot. So that leaves the every popular question: Who takes the fifth spot?

To answer that question, I found the season averages on each event from everyone headed to Trials. To be fair, season averages may not be the best judge of who will perform the best, but I figured it would be a decent baseline. Falls ARE included in the average, so this is not an average of only hit routines. They're rounded to the hundredth's place.

The cool thing about this 4 person team is that if need be, these 4 girls could fill the 3 up, 3 count quota on each event. Here's how I'd do it.

VT : Wieber (15.85), Raisman (15.58), Douglas (15.24)
UB : Douglas (15.55), Ross (15.28), Wieber (14.85)
BB :  Ross (15.1), Raisman (15.03), Wieber (14.85)
FX : Raisman (15.34), Wieber (15.08), Douglas (14.97)

So to figure out which gymnast would fill the fifth spot, I figured out who would add the largest advantage by adding their routines instead of the lowest scoring routine(s) in the lineup above.

To my surprise, the girl who would add the largest advantage was McKayla Maroney who would increase the team average .84 if she vaulted instead of Douglas. Marta's openly said that she doesn't want to take a girl who can only help on one event, but McKayla's average is by far the most helpful to team USA.

Second is Alicia Sacramone whose average is higher than both Douglas on Vault and surprisingly, Jordyn Wieber on beam. (Jordyn's Pac Rim EF fall IS factored into this average though.) Her advantage is .53.

Elizabeth Price's was the third most helpful with her vault average adding .45 to the team total.

I was surprised that my most recent pick for #5, Sarah Finnegan's beam routine was the only helpful one (w/ a .21 advantage) and that her floor average wasn't higher than Raisman's, Douglas's or Wieber's.  Her individual floor scores have been higher than some of Gabby's though.

Bridget Sloan, Anna Li and Rebecca Bross each could help the team solely on bars, but because they've each had their share of mistakes their advantages each only average out to less than .2.

Kennedy, Sabrina, Nastia and Brenna don't have higher averages on any event than the already chosen four.

Obviously, season averages are not the end all be all of a selection process, but they do take into account both consistency and scoring potential. Who knows, Nastia, Becca or Anna could blow all of these girls out of the water at Trials, or perhaps one of my "Chosen Four" could seem unprepared for Olympic aspirations. *Knock on wood*. But, I thought it was a start to see who will take what I view as the last spot on the team.

**Pictures are all property of the USOC

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bar routines I loved and hated from Nationals


1. Gabby Douglas on Day 2

Score: 15.85 (6.6 D, 9.25 E)
Place: 1st
What I Loved: Her releases are sky high, she has such a natural swing and handled the pressure well.
What I Didn't: She seems a tiny bit too close to the bar on her Ray.

2. Anna Li on Day 2

Score: 15.55 (6.9 D, 8.65 E)
Place: 3rd
What I Loved: Those combos were CRAZY amazing and it's unique!
What I Didn't: A couple of awkward leg positions throughout.

3. McKenzie Wofford on Day 2

Score: 14.7 (6.3 D, 8.4 E) 
Place: 9th
What I Loved: Did you see that combination? Try to tell me that wasn't cool! She also stuck that dismount! I cannot WAIT to see this girl at OU! 
What I Didn't: She's got a few short handstands 


1. Nastia Liukin on Day 1

Score: 13.15 (5.8 D, 7.35 E)
Place: 19th 
What I Loved: That layed out Gienger is still FIERRRRCE. 
What I Didn't: The "dismount", obviously as well as the wonky pak and weird leg separations. 

2. Jessica Wang Day 1 

Score: 9.8 (4.3 D, 5.5 E) 
Place: 22nd
What I Loved: She pulls off her Jaeger.
What I Didn't: Honey child has a really hard time with that handstand.

3. Megan Skaggs Day 2

Score: 11.45 (4.9 D, 6.55 E)
Place: 21st 
What I Loved: A fairly strong dismount.
What I Didn't: Those are some icky handstands, also, the tkachev fall.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

An open letter to Nastia Liukin

Dear Nastia,

Over the past week, I've received many emails from your fans who disapprove of the many jokes I've made about you recently. What those fans have failed to realize is that I too, am a Nastia Liukin Fan.

From 2005-2008, your gymnastics seemed effortless, although you were competing some of the most difficult routines in the world. I love that you can compete a layed out Gienger although you're taller than most gymnasts out there. I love you earned 5 well deserved medals at the 2008 Olympics. And I love that you competed a phenomenally stuck vault on what was possibly the most stressful day of your life.

I personally believe that this is one of the most beautiful routines I've ever seen.

When I heard you were planning to return to the sport, to be honest, I was thrilled. Although I felt that your timing was somewhat off, I yearned to see your gorgeous lines on beam and your wonderful artistry on floor once again. After seeing you at Classics, I was thrilled about your performance and to be honest, felt bad that your news had been shoved aside as the gymnastics community addressed the Chellsie Memmel drama.

And then you arrived in St. Louis and I saw your double front half. I grew more and more excited to see you compete and began to see you as a serious contender for the Olympic Team.

I loved that things actually seemed to be coming together for you.

Here's what I DIDN'T love though: 
-I didn't love that you didn't have the professionalism to either pull out of the bar competition or compete a legitimate dismount.
-I didn't love that you told the press that you had only been training bars for about a week, while there are pictures from as far back as September with you in grips and you trained extensively at Classics.
-I didn't love that you didn't mention your "injury" to the media at Classics or Championships until you struggled in competition.

If you had a bad meet, just own up to it. It's the right thing to do.

Nastia, I've always been your fan, but you make it hard for me to root for you when it seems as if you aren't taking your "comeback" seriously.

Best wishes and good luck at Trials,

Vaults I loved and hated from Nationals

So I told everyone a while back that I'd be analyzing specific routined from Nationals. I've kinda been dragging my feet on this one, but here are my 3 favorite and least favorite Vaults...


1. McKayla Maroney's Mustafina (Day 1)
(Starts at 1:20)

Score: 15.7 (6.1 D, 9.6 E) 
Place: 1st After Day 1 
What I loved: Her form in the air is phenomenal. She lands it beautifully and has an amazing block. 
What I didn't: She has a tiny hop, so I guess that can be improved upon.

2. Simone Biles Amanar (Day 2)

Score: 16.0 (6.5 D, 9.5 E)
Place: 1st
What I loved: She gets phenomenal height and only takes a tiny hop.
What I didn't: Her feet are kinda funky in the air. It could be cleaner.

3. Jordyn Wieber's Amanar (Day 2) 

Score: 15.9 (6.5 D, 9.4 E) 
Place: 2nd of all Sr Vault Scores
What I loved: Travels far with it and twists sufficiently. 
What I didn't: Leg separation on block, step forward. 


1. Ohashi's Double (Day 2)

Score: 13.8 (5.8 D, 8.0 E) 
Place: 11th after 2 days
What I loved: Her feet look nice in the air and she manages to somehow stand it up. 
What I didn't: This vault is IDENTICAL to Rebecca Bross's in 2011 that blew out her knee. After Katelyn missed this vault in training, she did it on day 2 terribly. 

2. Merideth's Sylvia's FTY (Day 1) 

Score: 11.8 (5.0 D, 6.8 E)
Place: 23rd 
What I loved: Again, she's got nice toes. 
What I didn't: She has this GIANT pike that she's doing (and she did on Day 2 as well) and obviously, how underrotated she seems is terrible and dangerous. 

3. Jordyn Wieber's Amanar (Day 1) 

Score: 15.65 (6.5 D, 9.15 E)
Place: 3rd
What I loved: Good form until landing