So much happened at junior podium training this morning, but it was pretty much all good. I think unlike the most predictable senior field we’ve had in years, it’s going to be a very exciting battle this weekend.
The top dogs are definitely Jordan Chiles, Nia Dennis, and Norah Flatley. If these three hit, they should top the podium based on their combinations of difficulty and execution. It’ll be hard to top these three – who earned gold, silver, and bronze in the all-around at the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic, by the way – if only because they have the strongest all-around packages.
Dennis probably has the best chance, if only because her difficulty is at a consistent 5.8-5.9 across the board. She is, however, somewhat inconsistent at times, especially under pressure. She will have to put the fact that she’s a favorite for the title out of her mind, and just focus on being in the moment, otherwise I think Chiles – under a lot less pressure as a younger gymnast who won’t factor into the 2016 equation – could definitely step up to repeat her U.S. Classic win.
Flatley typically places right behind Dennis when they both hit, largely because she still vaults a Yurchenko full and doesn’t really make up for it anywhere else but beam. Her execution everywhere is fantastic, which can definitely give her an edge, but it’s a lot more difficult to shoot for the title when you’re starting out at a disadvantage.
Jazmyn Foberg and Deanne Soza both have difficulty slightly higher than Flatley’s, so expect them to play a part in the decision this week. Both are new threats, with Foberg increasing her difficulty by several points over the past year to have some of the highest start values among any junior competing (I believe she is second only to Dennis overall) and Soza ready to stand out on several routines.
I think these will be the five medal hopefuls, and all were within about a point of each other at the U.S. Classic, so it could be a really exciting battle. Can anyone else factor in? Christina Desiderio and Megan Skaggs both have a lot of potential in their really strong routines, but neither match the top crew in execution, though both do have great standout events and will definitely place well in their pet events. Then there’s Maile O’Keefe, who’s a gorgeous athlete and will have some of the best execution you’ll see, though her difficulty is slightly lower than those at the very top.
Again, this should be a very exciting competition…probably one of the better domestic meets we’ve seen, with this current crop of juniors giving us dozens of top-caliber routines. Though the senior competition won’t be too exciting, the juniors should be a nail-biter until the very end.
And now, some standout moments from podium training…
- There was a lot of teamwork between gyms and coaches. Like, when Sydney Johnson-Scharpf missed her Jaeger on bars (laughing as she hit the mat), a Parkettes coach gave her a boost back up.
- Maggie Musselman is Kyla Ross 2.0. She is gorgeous to watch. When she was vaulting I thought she was Kyla, until I realized Kyla hasn’t been a junior for two years. Her lines on bars are absolutely beautiful!
- Another junior with great lines on bars? Elena Arenas! Her pak salto and handstands were gorgeous.
- Chow smiling. All the time. Enough said.
- Speaking of Olympic team coaches, having John Geddert back in the gym is great. I missed him last year…he’s like a football coach, so animated and you can tell he really roots for his girls.
- Soza does her Ezhova and full-twisting double layout like it’s nothing.
- Speaking of insane bars skills, Lexy Ramler’s Bhardwaj actually looks much cleaner this year! She also caught her Comaneci with no problems but seemed to have some trouble on her Endo. She reminds me of MyKayla Skinner…not the cleanest form but just so daring and awesome.
- Johnson-Scharpf looked so much more animated and sassy in her floor routine…MUCH better than at the U.S. Classic! She was probably just having an off day.
- Parkettes definitely knows how to pick music for their juniors. It’s so fun, and really suits them. They play to the crowd so well because they’re all spunky and adorable…works so much better than forcing them to be do more ‘dramatic’ artistry.
- Marissa Oakley‘s bars were awesome and her double double dismount got applause from the coaches nearby! It’s incredible.
- Vault in general was a bit bizarre…lots of deep landings and messy legs. It’s funny because last quad we were in desperate need of bar workers…now we have plenty of girls who are gorgeous on the event and have so much potential, but vault is getting comparatively weak!
Did you see anything on the podium training feed that stood out to you? Let us know in the comments!
Article by Lauren Hopkins