Four qualification sessions were held on Saturday to kick off the women’s artistic gymnastics competition at the 2014 Senior Pan Am Championships. Saturday’s competition served as the team and all-around final in addition to event qualifications, featuring 81 athletes from over twenty nations spread among North, Central, and South America.
Team USA picked up three medals on Saturday, earning gold as a team while MyKayla Skinner and Maggie Nichols took home the gold and bronze all-around medals, respectively. The U.S. squad also qualified seven gymnasts into event final spots, including Skinner on vault, beam, and floor, Ashton Locklear on bars, Madison Kocian on bars and beam, and Madison Desch on floor.
Nichols had originally qualified into beam and floor spots, but unfortunately was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury sustained on floor. She has returned home for further evaluation,
The team from Brazil earned the silver medal while Mexico got bronze, defeating home team Canada by almost four points. Canada, working with a young and inexperienced team, came in 5th place behind Cuba.
Team USA was the team to watch here, and though they weren’t at their best, we still saw some very strong performances, including from all-around winner Skinner, who got the team started on bars with the best routine I’ve seen her hit.
While others from the U.S. team scored half a point less than they did at home, Skinner added a great deal to her execution score. She arched over on a handstand but otherwise hit a nice routine. Bars was shockingly the strongest event for the team, as Desch, Nichols, Kocian, and Locklear also hit lovely sets.
On beam, Skinner again got the team started with a solid routine. Her switch half is still a problem in terms of amplitude, but her bhs to tuck full was solid and she hit her double tuck dismount. Amelia Hundley looked tentative here, and then Desch unfortunately fell on her flight series. Thankfully, Nichols and Kocian picked things up with strong sets, with Kocian proving she’s more than just a bars specialist.
Martha Karolyi chose to only use four gymnasts on floor instead of five, meaning all routines counted. Hundley crashed her 2.5 to punch front, setting up the team for a low score. Desch stepped out of bounds on her double arabian (though stuck a lovely double tuck at the end), Nichols had some messy passes but hit, and Skinner hit her double double layout out of bounds, coming in with way too much energy after hitting it pretty steadily all week…blame adrenaline?
Counting a fall really hurt the team score here, though it was something they had to deal with again on vault, where Nichols was only able to perform an FTY due to the knee she somehow tweaked in the previous rotation. In addition to her FTY (which was SO strong, there’s a reason she does a DTY!), the team had a somewhat messy Yurchenko 1.5 from Hundley, a strong DTY from Desch, and Skinner’s Cheng along with her awesome DTY. The Cheng looked great with just a step back and the usual block issue.
Overall, it was clear this was not Team USA’s typically polished team. The junior team sent in 2010 was able to earn a score about nine points higher than this one and though the code is slightly different, it was obvious this difference was due to many issues outside of that one. The vault situation looked bleak, beam wasn’t clean, no one hit a floor routine over a 14…again, the fact that bars came most naturally to this team is kind of shocking. It’s a team that could have done a lot better, but under the circumstances – and the much stricter scoring than the team saw at nationals – I thought they did well.
Also in the first subdivision were Chile, Argentina, Bermuda, and Ecuador. Argentina and Chile placed 8th and 9th as teams, respectively, while Argentina’s Ayelen Tarabini placed 12th in the all-around.
The second subdivision featured the athletes from Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Bolivia, Guatemala, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas, with Venezuela’s Jessica Lopez and Guatemala’s Sofi Gomez the ones to watch.
Lopez had an outstanding day to earn silver in the all-around just two tenths behind Skinner in addition to helping her team to 7th place. Her solid beam featured a great bhs bhs layout series, wolf full, and 2.5 dismount. On floor, she hit her whip to triple, 2.5 to punch front, and double pike. She vaulted a nice DTY, just jumping her feet together on the landing. But her uneven bars were great to watch…she hit her piked Jaeger to pak salto, a Tkatchev to Gienger, and a double front dismount with just a hop. I believe she had the highest difficulty of the day here, and though it wasn’t the cleanest routine, it was so much fun to watch.
Gomez unfortunately didn’t have the best day, but still managed a 7th place all-around finish with a 54.1. Beginning on floor, she had a hit routine that included a nice double tuck and double pike. Her DTY on vault was a little low, her body wasn’t really straight, and she had to hop back on the landing, but she hit. Bars were not her best, and then on beam she competed well until her double pike dismount, putting her knees down to the floor, unfortunately.
This was the most exciting competition of the day, as the Mexico, Cuba, and Canada all sent full teams and fought between the third, fourth, and fifth place spots with Mexico coming out on top for bronze. Also in this subdivision were the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Uruguay in the mixed group.
Cuba’s Yesenia Ferrera had an awesome surprise 4th place finish in the all-around, finishing just 0.05 behind Nichols in bronze position. Beginning on vault, she hit her Rudi and Tsuk double full despite balking the Tsuk before attempting it. This happened a lot among many competitors throughout the day, though I’ll chalk it up to most of these teams not being as experienced internationally as the top teams we see in finals at Worlds. She hit decent bars and beam sets before showing an incredibly strong floor that featured a 2.5 to punch front and double pike, qualifying third into the floor final.
Mexico was a team of fighters, and though Elsa Garcia had a rough day (she fell on her bhs layout on beam, went out of bounds on her double pike on floor, and then fell on her giant 1.5 to piked Jaeger on bars), overall the team showed promise even though they had to count two falls on beam. Alexa Morena had a very good day, hitting beam (where her biggest problem was a check on her front pike) and a strong – if slightly rushed – bars set in addition to her big Rudi and Tsuk double full on vault (both of which were a bit messy). Ahtziri Sandoval also showed a very nice bar routine, easily qualifying into the finals.
The young and inexperienced Canadian team had an unfortunate day from the very start, where bars were disastrous, for lack of a better word. The cleanest set came from Aleeza Yu, who brought in just a 12.8 for a routine that included a Maloney, Tkatchev, and a double pike stumbled back. Beam was slightly better; Yu and Victoria-Kayen Woo both had falls, though Maegan Chant and Madison Copiak had good sets. Chant’s leg came up on her bhs loso but it looked okay otherwise, and Copiak hit a nice leadoff effort with a side aerial, side somi, and hit dismount for a 13.6.
Canada ran into problems again on floor, mostly due to low difficulty but also thanks to faulty mishaps, like Kirsten Peterman putting her hands down on her double tuck and then falling on her 2.5 to front tuck. The team finished on vault, where there were a couple of stumbles and no huge standout vaults, though Chant came through with a solid Tsuk full and handspring layout half to end the day.
I didn’t see much of Yamilet Peña of the Dominican Republic, but I do know she had a dismal day – even on vault, where she should have made the final. I don’t think she planned on competing the Produnova here with a weaker vault field than she’s used to, but she did plan on competing a DTY. It didn’t work out, however, as she later said the mat slipped, which threw her off and she could only vault the Yurchenko layout. She didn’t really respond well to the situation and even yelled at officials at one point when asking if she could go again, but they didn’t allow it. She did a handspring layout half for her second vault and walked away angrily, knowing there was no way she’d end up in the vault final. A shame, but the mat hadn’t been a problem for anyone else and a second attempt would have been unfair under the circumstances.
All I remember from this subdivision is BRAZIL, BRAZIL, BRAZIL, if only because they look like such a strong and promising team, especially as they were missing Jade Barbosa and some of their most talented athletes are still among the junior ranks until next year. But they easily managed the silver medal in Mississauga, landing just seven points behind the U.S. team. It sounds like a lot but definitely isn’t something they could have managed even a year ago.
Brazil got things started on beam with a fall from Isabelle Cruz on her layout stepout, but otherwise things went along nicely. Julie Sinmon had a lovely bhs loso and double pike dismount for a 14.1 while Daniele Hypolito nailed her bhs bhs layout and double pike with a tiny hop for a 14.35. On floor, Sinmon stumbled on her 2.5 to front full, but otherwise I thought everything went nicely with no glaring errors. Hypolito was again a standout, nailing her 2.5 to punch front, stuck double tuck, and double pike for a 13.75 on an overall low-scoring floor day.
No vaults were incredibly difficult but most looked clean, especially Cruz on her Yurchenko 1.5 and handspring pike half. Compared to the rest of the day, bars was rather unfortunate, as Cruz got them started with a fall, Sinmon went into a dead hang on her toe shoot, and Hypolito landed her low double layout on her hands and knees. But Leticia Costa hit a solid routine here to secure a spot in the uneven bars final.
I saw a lot of Trinidad & Tobago in the final here, and was very impressed with the work done by Marisa Dick. Thema Williams also looks improved from when we last saw her, though unfortunately the team was missing Khazia Hislop, the Brestyan’s gymnast who was added to the T&T national team this past spring. Hislop broke her elbow early in August after someone at her gym apparently landed on her arm! Ouch. She also missed the Commonwealth Games due to a nagging injury. Hopefully we will see her in competition next season!
Also in the final subdivision were Colombia, Panama, and El Salvador, though I don’t actually remember seeing any El Salvadoran gymnasts compete. Colombia placed 6th and featured a great vault and floor from Luisa Leal, a standout gymnast at Rutgers.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to USA Gymnastics