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Alex McMurtry Wins Nastia Liukin Cup

March 4, 2013
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USA Gymnastics: March 1, 2013 - Competition &emdash; Alex McMurtry - All-Around Champion

Alexandra McMurtry of Richmond Olympiad won the 2013 Nastia Liukin Cup on her third try, scoring 38.45. She had to absorb a very low 8.925 on bars in the first rotation, but came back to win event titles on beam, floor and vault on her way to winning the all around. The highlights of her performance for me included her first DTY and her sky-high first two passes (full-in and 2 1/2 to barani) with stuck, chest up landings. She is going to be fantastic at Florida.

Finishing in second place was Aja-Monet Sims of Brandy Johnson’s. She performed a solid beam routine for 3rd place on the event. I was particularly impressed with her floor choreography, which she seemed to enjoy. She also has a very nice Comaneci on bars, which was not shown in the broadcast but could be seen in the background.

Samantha Partyka, who some readers may remember from VISAs in 2010 and 2011, performed steadily all around and was the only gymnast to place top-10 on every event, finishing third overall. She looks much more mature than in years past and I am looking forward to seeing what she can bring to the level 10 scene and then the college scene in the next few years.

One pleasant surprise and the leader heading into the final rotation was Kari Lee, who eventually finished fourth. She performed clean, beautiful gymnastics, especially on beam where she earned the fifth-highest score of the night. She has an original mount and a layout stepout layout stepout series, which I love.

The top junior finisher was Reagan Campbell of Texas Dreams. She was especially impressive on floor, where she performed a nice full in, paired with beautiful choreography. She really does some beautiful gymnastics, and will do great regardless of whether she decides to stay level 10 or try elite again after this year.

Defending champion Charity Jones finished in a tie for 8th place. She had a decent meet, but had some small mistakes and didn’t quite look as sharp as she did last year, but I’m sure we’ll see her looking fantastic at Oklahoma a year from now!

Brianna Brown, who qualified with the highest score, earned the top score on bars but scratched beam and floor due to an injury. Hopefully we will see her come back strong for JO nationals!

Despite her not-so-impressive 23rd place finish, little Sydney Johnson-Scharpf was one of the stars of the show and is certainly one to look out for in the future. I think her bas and vault still need some work, but she is spectacular on beam and floor. NBC did not completely ignore the rightful winner and show her in their American Cup broadcast for no reason.

I was very impressed by all of the competitors this year, and imagine that we will see most of them doing great things over the next few years!

Click here for full results.

2013 American Cup Recap

March 4, 2013
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USA Gymnastics: March 2, 2013 - Competition &emdash; Katelyn Ohashi
As we all know at this point, Katelyn Ohashi won the American Cup yesterday followed by her teammate Simone Biles and Canadian Victoria Moors. I actually thought that the competition overall was very good. We pretty much knew that one of the Americans was going to win it from the beginning, but the international athletes actually almost all went 4/4 and gave great performances. The scoring wasn’t horrendous and there were no big scandals this year. USAG was fantastic in providing coverage of both podium training and the competition, and hopefully has set a standard for themselves that will continue throughout the quadrennium.

Ohashi was consistent throughout and looked fairly calm. Her vault looks 1000x better than it did last summer when it looked like a serious knee injury was in her future. Her bars still need some work. I’m almost tempted to say that she should ditch her E pirouettes and try working on something else. They no longer earn her .2 connection bonus when connected to each other or releases, and she is losing tenths for leg separations and handstands on them every single time. Her beam and floor looked good- both had small errors, but still scored well and showed that she is an athlete who is not afraid to downgrade in the moment to avoid a fall, even if she loses a few tenths. This was all we could have asked for in her senior international debut.

It was the first international competition for Biles, and it sort of showed. She looked fantastic on vault and bars, winning both events, but fell apart a bit on beam and floor. Her Amanar is gorgeous and could legitimately be a triple by the end of the year. This amount of power makes her a prime-candidate for huge floor scores, but it won’t happen if she can’t gain some control over her landings. She gets a huge amount of air on her tumbling passes, but she consistently has .3+ landing deductions on them. Her bars have significantly improved since 2012, and are not going to be a problem for her all around hopes if she continues on her upward trajectory. Beam was her downfall last night, but I hope to see that improve. She looked great in training, and her full-in dismount is top notch. Simone obviously has tons of potential, but we’ll have to see how she can harness it. Hopefully we’ll see her compete later this month in Europe.

Third place finisher Victoria Moors has long been a fan favorite for her floor routines, but has emerged over the past year as a solid all around competitor. Her double twisting yurchenko looked great yesterday, and her bars and beam, while not huge in difficulty, are very steady. Floor is obviously where she shines with her double double, 1 1/2 to 3/1 and double tuck, paired with fabulous expression. I am hoping for a floor medal for her at this year’s worlds, and it is certainly a possibility.

Germany’s Elisabeth Seitz, a mainstay on the world cup circuit since her senior debut in 2010, finished fourth. Seitz has always been a bit of a trickster, but performed clean, safe routines Saturday. She looks to be in good shape after the Olympics, although she will be skipping the European Championships to finish up her high school exams. By the time worlds come around, I expect her to once again be in shape to fight for a spot in the top 10 all around and bars finals.

Vanessa Ferrari finished fifth, and has retained most of her skills from the Olympics. She still has a strong presence on the Italian team, which is getting better and better every year. Her most impressive event, of course, is floor. Compositionally, I’m not totally impressed with her routine this year. She has taken advantage of the lack of combination pass requirement in this code and is doing four double back variations, one with a sort of connected back tuck (I absolutely hate this trend). It is still impressive, however, to see her compete year after year, improving her form and completely changing her style.

Great Britain’s Gabrielle Jupp was also making her senior debut, and looked great all around. She doesn’t quite have the difficulty to compete with the top gymnasts in the world in the all around yet, but she has clean, upgradable routines on all of the events and in my opinion should be a lock for Euros this year. She is especially impressive on beam, where she performs a gorgeous layout steopout layout stepout series and a double turn. Her bars set is highlighted by a clean full twisting double layout dismount.

Japanese Olympian Asuka Teramoto competed better than you would assume considering her 7th place finish. She looked great on bars, and generally pretty solid on bars and beam. Her acro series, front aerial-side somi, impressed me because it was incredibly fluid. I wouldn’t say that she was “screwed over” on floor, but she did lose over .5 in difficulty on an under-rotated 3/1 dismount. Honestly, I think that it might not be a bad idea for her to try switching her 3rd and 4th passes to be safe.

It was a bit of a rough senior international debut for Canada’s Maegan Chant, but hopefully she can view it as a learning experience. She has some built-in deductions, especially on bars, that need fixing, but she certainly has the potential, especially on vault and floor. She competed a beautiful double twisting tsukahara a few years ago, and that with her layout barani could take her to vault finals at the world level.

Kyla Ross did not compete, but her beam exhibition was solid as ever and she looked very good in training. Hopefully we’ll see some upgrades from her in Europe later this month!

Links: Full Results/NBC Broadcast/Individual Routines (NBC)/Unaired Routines/First 90 Minutes Broadcast

2013 Nastia Liukin Cup Preview

March 1, 2013
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Gabby Douglas at the 2010 Nastia Cup (photo: http://chalkbowl.com/gabrielle)

Over the past three years, the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup has become somewhat of  a mainstay in the level 10/elite gymnastics world. While there have been some complaints from fans about the cup “not being a real level 10 meet” and “drawing in too many former/current elites,” there is no denying that the competitors who qualify are a) extremely talented and b) ecstatic to be competing on the American Cup podium with Nastia looking on.

Competitors in the past have included many current collegiate stars, such as Diandra Milliner (Alabama), Kim Jacob (Alabama), Lia Del Priore (Utah), Georgia Dabritz (Utah), Lloimincia Hall (LSU), Sachi Sugiyama (Michigan), Caitlin Atkinson (Auburn) and Tory Wilson (Utah). Competitors have included many of the top level 10s (some with elite experience) who have yet to attend college, such as Charity Jones, Grace Williams and Alex McMurtry. Briley Casanova, Asi Peko and Kayla Williams had all been part of the US National team prior to competing at the Supergirl Cup, and Williams had won the world vault title. Gymnasts who have gone on from the Nastia Cup to make the US National team include Amelia Hundley, Mykayla Skinner, Polina Shchennikova, current junior national all around champion Lexie Priessman and, saving the best for last, current Olympic All Around Champion Gabrielle Douglas. For a competition that has only been going on for three years, that’s a pretty impressive list.

The gymnasts who qualified with the top scores for this year’s meet were Aja Monet-Sims and Brianna Brown with 38.725. They have both previously competed elite, and Brown made the junior national team in 2011. They have also both committed to compete in rival SEC schools, Alabama and Georgia. With lots of experience and talent, they may be hard to beat.

Charity Jones, 2012 Winner with a Chance to Defend Her Title (Photo: John Cheng)

The 2012 champion, Charity Jones, is returning to the cup in 2013 with her eyes on the prize. If she wins, she will be the first gymnast to earn two Supergirl Cup victories. Perhaps her most impressive event is vault, where she competes a strong yurchenko double full, but she is a steady competitor all around and will not give up easily. This is her last season as a level 10 before heading to compete for the currently first ranked Oklahoma Sooners.

Alex McMurty would like to think that third time’s a charm. She has competed in the Nastia Liukin Cup every year since 2011, and would love to improve ever-so-slightly on her second place finish last year. She has been highly successful as a level 10, winning two JO national titles and has recently committed to compete for the Florida Gators. Her power is displayed on vault, where she competed a yurchenko double full, and floor, where she has elite-level tumbling.

Another current JO national champion competing is Alicia Boren. She had one of the highest qualifying scores, and is certainly one to watch for, especially on floor where she competes a 1 1/2 to double tuck first pass and a full in last pass, which is rare even in elite.

Mackenzie Brannan will be competing at her second Nastia Liukin Cup after qualifying in 2011. She spent the last quad as an elite, but has returned to level 10 for this season. She is very clean on every event and will join Brown on the University of Alabama gymnastics team in 2014.

Two final gymnasts who I’d like to mention are Sydney Johnson-Scharpf and Bailey Ferrer. Both are very young, and have elite hopes. Johnson-Scharpf is the daughter of 1988 Olympian Brandy Johnson, has a great floor routine, and is (barely!) 2016 eligible. Ferrer is not 2016 eligible, but had one of the highest qualifying scores for this meet and is training some pretty awesome skills, including a Fabrichnova, double arabian half out and yes, an Amanar.

Of course, almost anyone competing tonight could win. We may or may not see a future olympic team member tonight, but we are guaranteed to see some great gymnastics.

For live scores and a webcast, click here. For a full list of competitors, click here. The meet will also be broadcast live on the Universal Sports TV channel.

Minnesota Quad Meet Recap

January 28, 2013
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I went to Minnesota’s meet yesterday against Michigan, Central Michigan and Iowa State. As a first live gymnastics experience at the college level (I haven’t been to an elite meet either!) it certainly didn’t disappoint. Michigan, along with maybe LSU, has been the pleasant surprise of the NCAA season so far. Their team was great in 2011, but was depleted in 2012 due to the loss of three exceptional seniors. They struggled to put out a full lineup week after week. This year, however, Michigan is back- they started off the season strong with a win at the Cancun Classic, and backed that up with two solid home performances, earning a 197.350 last week. This put them in the #1 spot last week.

Minnesota has also been having a great season. Despite counting falls both weeks, the team started out strong, with two scores in the 195.5 range. Junior Kayla Slechta was tied for #1 on vault last week, and as a team, Minnesota was ranked #12, 11 spots up from their #23 in the pre-season coaches’ poll.

Central Michigan and Iowa State performed some nice gymnastics (and I was super excited to be in the same building as Kristen Maloney), but the focus was certainly on the top two teams.

A little note on the scoring here, so I can focus on other things- yeah, it was a surprise to see Minnesota beat Michigan in the last rotation by a very small margin. I’d probably call this the upset of the weekend, considering the momentum that Michigan has been building for the past few weeks. Minnesota did somewhat shockingly win this meet 196.8 (their highest score since 2004) to Michigan’s 196.775.

Michigan had a really though time breaking out of the 9.8 range last night (their only 9.9+ score was Sugiyama’s 9.95 for a beautiful Yurchenko 1.5). I don’t necessarily disagree with that for the most part, though. Looking at their high scores for this season, it doesn’t really seem to be a surprise. Michigan was a team that was killing it with consistent 9.85s, 9.875s and a few 9.9s, for the most part. Only two of their routines, prior to this weekend, had averaged at or above 9.9. I think that it is possible that they occasionally were not given the benefit of the doubt, but I never saw one of their scores and thought that it was ridiculously low. They also had a few mistakes- Natalie Beilstein had a rough landing on vault and stumbled after one of her tumbling passes, and both of her scores were dropped.

As far as Minnesota goes, I thought that the scores for the first three rotations, at least, were reasonable. I didn’t think their bars were exceptional (there were some form breaks), but the scores reflected that. All of the beam dismounts were stuck or very close to it, except for one double back, and the gymnasts were pretty solid on all of their skills. I did think that there was some overscoring on floor, though. I, for one, did not think that their last routine was a 9.9 routine (I’d say more like 9.85), but I also had no desire to be in the middle of that crowd if Minnesota lost in a tiebreaker, which they would have if it had come to that.

So do I think that things would have gone differently if the meet was held in Michigan? Certainly. Would I be able to say things with more conviction if there had been only two teams competing and I had been totally focused on each routine? Probably. Either way, congratulations to Minnesota, and Michigan still got a pretty decent road score, so I don’t think they can be too upset.

Now that the scoring talk is over, I thought I’d give my highlights of the meet.

  1. Lindsay Mable in the all around
    Lindsay just won the all around for the second time in her collegiate career- and it’s only her third meet! She totalled 39.45 all around, and posted her first two 9.9+ scores, a 9.9 on beam and a 9.925 on floor. She should be a steady contributor to the Gophers over the next four years.
  2. Taylor Noonan’s beam
    Noonan is a Sophomore at Central Michigan who has very nice lines and performs a Silivas mount, which I highly appreciate. She scored a 9.85, the high score for the Chippewas on any event.
  3. Sachi Sugiyama on vault
    Sugiyama’s vault earned the only score in the 9.9s for the Wolverines, scoring a 9.95. Her yurchenko 1 1/2 was beautiful and perfectly stuck.
  4. Iowa State’s vault rotation
    I pretty much told the friend who I brought to the meet that vault would be boring because everyone does the same thing, then proceeded to sit in front of the vault (which is probably why this post seems slightly vault-centric). Iowa State, however, had a somewhat interesting lineup- I saw at least a tuck front 1/2 and a yurchenko 1/1 on back tuck off. I’m not sure what those are rated, but it was nice to see something different.
  5. Briley Casanova’s exhibition beam
    I enjoyed Briley as an elite, and it was nice to see her somewhere other than vault for the first time in her collegiate career. She performed a clean beam routine with a stuck dismount for a 9.8- hopefully we will see her in the lineup soon!
  6. Kayla Slechta’s vault
    Yeah, this is where it gets more obvious that I was sitting in front of the vault. Kayla earned her second 9.95 of the season for a beautiful yurchenko full.

That’s pretty much what I have for highlights. Overall, I had a great time at the meet, and I think that Michigan and Minnesota both may have a chance to qualify for nationals this year (Michigan probably a higher chance), which is pretty exciting!

I wish I could attend a dual meet this year, because last night was a bit chaotic, but I’m not sure that it would be worth the trek up to Minneapolis- I’d like to go to meets with stronger opponents, so I’d probably choose to go to the Arkansas, Centenary College and Nebraska quad meet if I were to go to any. It’s a shame that the Florida meet is away, because I would do anything to make it there if they were coming to Minnesota!

Click here to view full stats from Saturday’s meet.

80s Love

October 11, 2012
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Just a few favorites. Enjoy!

Tatiana Groshkova, 1989 Beam

Olga Mostepanova, 1983 Floor

Fan Di, 1989 Bars

Yang Bo, 1989 Beam

Mary Lou Retton, 1984 Vault

Elena Naimushina, 1980 Floor

Aurelia Dobre, 1987 Floor

Ma Yanhong, 1984 Bars

Irina Baraksanova, 1985 Floor

Natalia Laschenova, 1989 Vault

I tried very hard not to let this turn into a Soviet floor-fest, but that is a difficult task.

It’s Good to be Back. Some First Thoughts on the Olympics

August 21, 2012
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First of all, a huge thanks goes out to Clarissa for doing a wonderful job keeping up the blog while I was gone. She did a fantastic job, and I will admit that I even read my own blog for Olympic news!

I spent a good 14 days this summer knowing that there were new Olympic champions and having no clue who they were, which I must say was quite frustrating. I got a tiny bit of gymnastics news from a newspaper about a week ago, but all I really learned was that Rosie MacLennan won trampoline, Russia and Belarus won gold and silver in Rhythmic groups, Victoria Moors did not medal on floor and Romania did not win more than two of team, all around vault, beam and floor (bars was never even close to being a consideration).

Once I got somewhere that I could use wifi, I looked up the full results in a bit of a stupid way, but it quickly showed me a good chunk of what had happened at the Olympics. I went on Jordyn Wieber’s wikipedia page, and I saw that she had won team gold in London, and that was it. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised after “Jordyn Wieber Controversy” popped up as I searched her name, but it was still surprising. And the surprise just kept on coming.

For example, how was I supposed to know that Yao Jinnan and Larisa Iordache were injured? Not knowing that before seeing the results made them quite a bit confusing. And Gabby- I can’t say that I was shocked, more like excited in a “REALLY!?!” way. Yes, I did check my bags with my hands shaking. For all of the tears and disappointment that NBC talked about, I was frankly surprised that Russia did so well, considering their Europeans, and going back to Larisa’s injury, I was surprised that Romania didn’t win a few more medals. Then, of course, I got to the McKayla thing and had one of the biggest WTF moments of my life.

I just finished watching the coverage a few minutes ago, and I was, for the most part, pleased. Yeah, I wish that Russia didn’t have that meltdown in team finals, but they put the pressure on while they could and the US did a fantastic job and won the gold that they completely deserved. This is two years of near-perfect team finals in a row, which is quite unbelievable.

The all around was a bit too much of a two-way battle, but the top two were truly spectacular with the exception of one vault landing. You always hope that an Olympic all around final will bring out the best in gymnasts, and in this case, it most certainly brought out the best in Douglas and Komova. They were the two who should have been fighting for the gold if everyone hit, and somehow, despite my belief that they would probably be the first to breakdown, they delivered under pressure. I only wish that some other gymnasts had been able to compete with them, but if you think about it, nobody else has scored a high 61 or a 62 this quad and I don’t think that anybody else could have, at least not in their current shape.

Vault- I’m still in shock, but I think that the results were what they should have been. Again with bars, the best three finished 1-2-3, and really, it came down to those dismounts, and Mustafina absolutely nailed hers. I thought that beam was a bit disappointing with the gymnasts who really could have challenged the chinese falling, but the medals went where they should have and Deng and Sui did a fantastic job. Aly’s floor was spot on, and who doesn’t love a good comeback story in Ponor and Mustafina? I felt bad for Ferrari with the tie breaker… then I saw her leotard.

All-in-all, it was a fantastic olympic games which I intend to write more about in the future. I really hope that many of these gymnasts continue to compete until 2016, because they are fantastic athletes and having watched them this entire quadrennium (this is my first following all the way through), I am honestly very proud of each and every one of them.

About Beam and Floor Finals…

August 8, 2012

At the last day of such a long competition like the Olympics, it is understandable if the gymnasts are tired. And they were.

A lot of mistakes were seen in both beam and floor finals and I think it is safe to say that most of them were due to the gymnasts’ exhaustion.

 

The Chinese not only stayed on the beam, but showed very well executed routines, taking the gold and the silver medal, with Deng Linlin and Sui Lu, respectively. The third spot on the podium went for Aly Raisman, who won the tie-break against Catalina Ponor. On her interview on the Today Show, Aly admited she felt bad for Ponor, because she knows it is a really bad position to be in.

It really was Raisman’s day, and after nailing her tumbling passes and her energetic choreography on floor finals, she took the gold medal! Catalina isn’t the one to go home empty-handed and took the silver, with Mustafina in a surprising third (after another tie-braker, this time against Ferrari), becoming the most decorated female gymnast of the London Olympic Games.

 

Personally, I think the tie-breaking is the most upsetting rule of these Olympics. On the Women’s side, Raisman on the all-around, Ponor on the balance beam and Ferrari on floor, all deserved to share the bronze medal with the other girls. It is really unfair to decide that only one gets the medal, while the other girl who trained just as hard and delivered a performance just as great gets nothing. To me, those three girls are also champions and should be awarded!

 

Apart from the tie-breaks, I was very pleased with the results from the day 3 of event finals! The Chinese got some more individual medals, with Deng Linlin showing once again she is a strong and talented gymnast who should never be overlooked, and Sui Lu delivering one more gorgeous routine (even if she wasn’t too happy about the color of her medal). Raisman finally caught a break from the fourth-place curse, taking the confidence from her bronze medal on beam to get a gold one on floor! A very deserving end to a very hardworking girl! Ponor got a silver medal on floor after eight years from her Olympic gold on this apparatus! How awesome and hardcore is that? And to finish her amazing performance in London, Mustafina took one more medal to her collection, showing she is still that great gymnast from 2010 and also a true fighter.

 

What are your thoughts on beam and floor finals?

Leave on the comments below!

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