The team from the United States, training in the fifth subdivision, looked super strong and ready to fight to defend their title.
All seven gymnasts did podium training, though Madison Desch was pinned in the final spot on each event, a spot Martha Karolyi usually saves for the alternate. Still, she looked strong all day (especially on her gorgeous bars routine!) and if someone needs to withdraw due to injury, Desch is a great option.
On vault, it looks as though Kyla Ross, Mykayla Skinner, and Simone Biles are who Martha wants to see go up in finals, though with Ross looking sloppier than usual on her DTY and Alyssa Baumann looking comparatively clean (split legs on the pre-flight aside), I wouldn’t be surprised if Karolyi gives Ross a break in team finals. Desch and Kocian had a clean DTY and FTY, respectively.
Skinner looked pretty close to flawless on vault. She’s still doing the one-hand on her Cheng block, but we can’t have expected that to change overnight, right? Besides, it’s much less obvious now than it has been thanks to her quick twist off the table. Her form and landing were excellent. Her DTY also looked pretty fabulous, the big rebound back aside. Biles’ Amanar and Lopez were awesome, as usual.
Ross peeled off the bars during a warmup, but her full routine looked mostly good…though not quite as good as usual, probably due to the injuries she’s dealing with. She caught her pak pretty close, had rough leg form on her van Leeuwen, and her double layout was slightly underrotated, so hopefully she can get everything a bit more in control for competition.
If she competes like that in qualifications, however, I think Ashton Locklear and Kocian will make it to the bar final over her. Locklear connected her inbar full to Komova II to pak salto, but broke it off there before going into the Maloney to bail to Ray. It looks like she meant to connect it all but didn’t feel confident enough with the way she caught the pak – a smart, quick decision. I’d love to see it all connected in competition, but either way, it was a very clean routine. Kocian was equally lovely, with an awesome Komova II to pak to Chow half connection. Both of these routines put years of U.S. bars to shame.
Biles and Skinner also trained bars, as they are expected to compete the all-around in qualifications. Biles looked good, and actually turned a mistake into a possible new skill! As she sometimes gets lost coming out of her Weiler half, USA Gymnastics actually submitted the Weiler full under her name “just in case” – a smart idea, because that exact scenario happened in podium training. If Biles gets a skill accidentally named for her, I’ll vote for her for president of the FIG. Skinner on bars, meanwhile, was Skinner on bars…but what can you do? It was one of her better efforts, and she stayed on! Also, she happens to be one of only a handful who happens to point her toes on her Tkatchev, so there’s that.
Baumann was gorgeous on beam; though her foot came up on her standing arabian and she cheated her leaps quite a bit, I think she was otherwise lovely to watch and she stuck her 2.5 dismount. Ross looked a bit stronger, with her leaps well under control and very clean, fluid connections throughout; her switch to back tuck looked like one completely unbroken motion! Biles nailed her set, and could be a huge threat in finals if she performs like she did today.
Though Kocian is unlikely to go up in finals over the above three, I think she’d put up a strong effort if she had to go up based on today’s training. Skinner got off to a shaky start, going too quickly into her bhs tuck full and nearly falling, but she got it together and has a decent enough set for qualifications.
Skinner and Biles are definitely going to compete on floor, but I think the first spot could go to either Ross, Kocian, or Baumann. Ross is most likely, as international judges tend to enjoy her here and she has a mostly clean exercise, as she showed today. Baumann has better potential, I think, but lacks the consistency and experience Ross has, so I don’t think they’d risk her in the final. And Kocian’s routine looked fabulous, but with her injuries and lack of competition on floor thus far in 2014, Ross is to me the only option.
Skinner’s form looked SO good in training, much like how she trained in Canada last month. Let’s just hope she can keep it up for competition? Honestly, she and Biles look the most “ready” for this meet, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Her double double layout was actually pretty well stretched, and the rest of her tumbling was strong. Then Biles…do I really need to say anything? No one stands a chance against this girl. She is out of this world, today and always.
Other teams and athletes of note?
Brazil began on vault, where I saw them going for a few Yurchenko 1.5s. While they had some shaky moments and form issues throughout, I thought Leticia Costa looked really crisp and on point when I got to see peeks of her. Julie Kim Sinmon was equally nice to watch on beam from what I saw, and Daniele Hypolito was killing it on floor, with her 2.5 to front layout, whip to double pike, 1.5 to front full, and double tuck all very strong passes for her. She should make the all-around without any problems.
For Switzerland, I mostly watched Giulia Steingruber, who had a decent day everywhere but vault, shockingly. Perhaps it’s just a “bad dress rehearsal, good opening night” kind of deal, but her handspring Rudis and DTYs looked much weaker than usual. She crashed at least one DTY attempt that I saw, and while her form looked nice, it seemed she wasn’t getting the power she normally gets. She hit the bar routine I saw, hit a couple of beam routines, and on floor, went for her full-twisting double layout, double layout, double tuck, and double pike, taking it easy on landings but otherwise looking solid.
Anna Pavlova of Azerbaijan wasn’t having the best day, but looked thrilled to be there. She vaulted a Yurchenko layout half and a Yurchenko half-on with a front tuck off, both comparatively easy vaults but neither of which she was able to land well. While her beam looked decent, she sat her 2.5 dismount at least once.
I didn’t see much of Poland’s Marta Pihan-Kulesza, though her floor is awesome…tumbling and choreography. It’s an interesting routine, to say the least, but her tumbling blew me a way. She opens with a piked double arabian and also throws a tucked double arabian. Choreo-wise, it’s something you have to watch, but she does a quad turn unusually well. It should be a highlight of qualifications!
For Mexico, Elsa Garcia looked good throughout the day for the most part. Her Yurchenko 1.5s looked absolutely stunning and her beam is truly excellent…I just hope she can hit her series that she’s missed twice so far this summer! She had such a rough appearance at Pan Ams, I hope she’s able to have a nice comeback here. On floor, she hit her double layout and full-in, but landed her double arabian out of bounds. She should compete well enough in the all-around to make finals if she hits.
Alexa Moreno landed both her Rudi and her Tsuk double full; she had problems with both at Pan Ams this summer and isn’t the cleanest gymnast, but if she can stand them up, the final could be within her reach. On floor, she has big tumbles but was pretty sloppy throughout the routine.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to USA Gymnastics