Today was media day at the Secret U.S. Classic, giving the press and fans one final glimpse into the routines we’ll get to see in competition tomorrow.
Starting off with the sad news, unfortunately Felicia Hano has been forced to withdraw from the meet after falling on her new tsuk layout full, something she added in order to compete for a medal in vault finals. Thankfully it seems like just a sprain, but it’s such a bummer knowing this summer was gearing up to be an awesome one for her. Get well soon, Fish!
Onto the happier events…
1. Maggie Nichols’ Amanar
So, Maggie Nichols‘ first Amanar landing was a bit rough, but one of her efforts on her brand new vault was excellent. She has some issues with messy legs, but this actually looks similar to her twisting form on her DTY so I don’t think it’s anything we need to worry about unique to this particular vault. One of her landings was fantastic, right in the center with just a small step to the side, so I’m excited to see how she can hit this in competition for the first time.
In addition to her vault, Nichols is also looking excellent on bars, connecting a whole mess of skills in her opening series (including a lovely Pak to van Leeuwen!) in addition to a big double layout dismount. I also love her double double on floor.
2. Kyla Ross’ Bhardwaj
Finally, a long-awaited upgrade from the World and Olympic champion Kyla Ross! When she said earlier this year she was training the Bhardwaj, I think she got a “sure, Jan” and an eye roll from the majority of gym fans who have been waiting for new skills for the past couple of years. But the Bhardwaj is real, and it’s actually pretty good considering it’s her first time including it in a full routine. She had some leg separation on an attempt we saw, but she catches it nicely and it doesn’t look like a struggle for her at all.
3. Aly Raisman’s Floor
Seriously, Aly Raisman looks about as good as she did in London. It’s unbelievable. Working her famous 1.5 to double arabian to punch layout as her opening pass, she follows up with a piked double arabian, a double layout, and a double pike, making for an incredibly packed routine. As if that’s not enough, she threw in a double arabian to punch front tuck at one point and looked awesome doing it (see above).
As if floor isn’t enough, her DTY looks great, she has cleaned up immensely on bars, and overall is just killing it in general. I’m so ready for this.
4. Brenna Dowell’s Bars
Be still, my heart. While Brenna Dowell spent the better part of the past year working on getting those 9.95s and even a perfect 10 in college, she also kept up her elite skills, including the Tweddle to Ezhova combination that killed us last summer. It was beautiful and solid and we need to all celebrate an early Thanksgiving so we can give thanks for her decision to continue elite. I was also impressed with her tumbling on floor, specifically the front layout to double front to stag!
5. Sabrina Vega
Yes, just Sabrina Vega in general. She was my favorite elite in 2009 because not many elites really knew how to perform and yet Sabrina could light up an arena with her eyes. Performing on beam and floor this weekend after spending the last couple of years dealing with injuries (including one that resulted in a recent shoulder surgery limiting her ability on bars), she looks fantastic. Nothing we saw looked super difficult, but she was as technically solid as I remember from back in the day, including on her full-in and whip to double tuck on floor.
6. Simone Biles’ Beam Upgrades
With a barani and punch front pike added to her repertoire, Simone Biles is upping her beam to even greater levels than before…impossible, right? Her whole routine is insane, and we also saw a couple of fantastic Amanars from the two-time world champion, but what we’re really antsy about is her brand new floor routine. Tim Daggett called it “off da charts” so I’m screaming in anticipation.
7. Bailie Key’s New Floor
I actually really enjoy Bailie Key‘s new routine, complete with the Elena Grosheva throwback choreography as seen above (called the “slip and slide” by gif-maker Rachel). I think Kim Zmeskal-Burdette always has something unique and ballsy for her athletes and this is no different. Key will open with a new and excellent double layout, and her ending choreography is my favorite.
8. Gabby Douglas
As with Vega, I can’t pick just one favorite moment for Gabby Douglas. I think it’s enough for me just seeing her out there on the competition floor again! Her leaps on beam looked explosive and effortless, especially on her punch front pike to sissone, and her standing full is as solid as ever.
On vault, her DTY looked very clean…don’t pay attention to the landing, she was likely rebounding out to save her ankles and knees for tomorrow, but considering it was a practice vault it’s pretty great. I do miss her floor routine from Jesolo, but think her new music is catchy and will certainly capture a crowd’s attention – as if she couldn’t do that with just her face.
Speaking of faces…
Honorable Mention – Laurent Landi’s Face
So we know Laurent is a coach, not an athlete, and shouldn’t technically be included here but I think one of the best moments of today’s training was when he stood dead center in front of one of the live cameras and primped for several seconds before shooting us an icy “blue steel” pose from Zoolander. Bless you, Laurent.
We went with the big upgrades and moments from today, but there were lots of little things we got to see glimpses of, like Nia Dennis‘ new floor routine (she’s using Ksenia Afanasyeva‘s music from 2012!), Polina Shchennikova working a Mustafina turn, Alyssa Baumann‘s quadruple turn, and Madison Kocian looking ready to come back in the all-around. What was your favorite moment? Who can’t you wait to see tomorrow?
Article by Lauren Hopkins