Skinner’s Win Impresses in Glasgow

MyKayla Skinner

While MyKayla Skinner didn’t get the chance to compete in Glasgow at the world championships last October, instead watching her team win gold from the sidelines, she returned to the Scottish city to earn a gold medal all her own at the world cup this weekend.

Skinner went into the meet as the favorite to win, based on her strong levels of difficulty as well as her impressive ability to hit when it counts. Though she faced some big competition from gymnasts like Germany’s Elisabeth Seitz and the local favorite Claudia Fragapane (whose own history in Glasgow included multiple gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 as well as an historic team bronze for Great Britain last year), Skinner went four-for-four to come out with a win that set her over a point above the competition.

Her Amanar has given her some trouble in recent years, with the Cheng and her excellent DTY her go-to vaults instead, though she’s been working very hard on bringing it back with her Glasgow performance the litmus test. She actually did a fantastic job with it, getting a great block and looking clean in the air, bending her knees only slightly in the last half twist to prep for the landing, which had a big step forward. Even with the minor mistakes, it earned a 15.566 to set her over a point ahead of the competition going into the second rotation.

Her score of 14.3 on bars was her best score ever on this event, domestic and international competition combined. While she did have some noticeable form breaks on her pak, van Leeuwen, and toe full, the rest of her routine showed how hard she’s been working on the event, which shows much better technical ability and some awesome aggressive skills like her hop change to Weiler half to Maloney to pak (I loooooved this combo!) as well as a Tkachev and a Ray. It’s like watching Aly Raisman‘s own improvement on bars…you know this event will never be a strength, but her sheer determination and work ethic at turning a bad event into what ended up being her second-best score of the day after mistakes on beam and floor is incredibly admirable. Many in her situation give up completely on their weak events, but Skinner has raised her start value to a 6.1 while also improving on her form. Kudos to her.

Beam was okay for Skinner, though her difficulty there was actually quite low in comparison to her other events as well as to the other competitors, so a big wobble on her tuck full flight series took a toll, giving her a 13.5 on what was a very tightly-judged event. But as with bars, the name of the game here for Skinner was improvement, which is exactly what we saw with the amplitude on her leaps. She is finally hitting 180, and though she did sacrifice a bit of back leg form on her switch half , it was otherwise strong work and a noticeable improvement. The same can be said for her leaps on floor, which never hit 180 but did this weekend. She did face some huge deductions on the event, however, as her form on her Moors was a bit loose (she’s bringing it back to competition after scrapping it for a little while) and she also under-rotated her triple full by about a quarter turn, though given that this is a big upgrade from 2015, I’ll give her some time before I get too critical. In addition to her great work on her leaps, she had an awesome tucked double double and a beautifully-controlled wolf turn, earning a 13.633.

The day wasn’t perfect, but for every glitch, she had twice as many positives, coming away with a 56.999 all-around score and the confidence that comes with a big international win this early in the season, which should surely help her as she goes into Jesolo this weekend.

Seitz, in second place with a 55.732, looked so unbelievably happy after finishing her own four-for-four performance a week after counting a fall at the National Team Cup in Germany. With a big and clean FTY earning a 13.933 and a huge bars routine getting a 14.8, Seitz got off to a great start on her two best events, though I always get concerned when it comes to her beam and floor.

No need for concern this time, though! Her beam was one of the best I’ve seen from her, earning a 13.766 for one of the calmest sets of the day, including on her nicely-controlled double spin. She watered down her floor quite a bit, going for consistency over big difficulty, but the choice was a good one, as she looked mostly clean overall for a 13.233.

As a side note, in general I thought all floor scores were about half a point lower than they should’ve been. Seitz is a good example, as she had no real issues aside from minor deductions, and yet had only a 7.933 execution score, which I found quite low given her performance. There were only two e-scores above an 8.0, with Fragapane’s 8.166 the highest. The judges were at least consistent in their stinginess, but in addition to my confusion regarding the scores, you could also see it on the athletes’ faces as they saw their low totals come up for fully hit routines.

Speaking of Fragapane, once she got through her two weak opening routines, she started showing shades of the gymnast we know and love. Her DTY on vault has never been clean, but it’s certainly seen better days, looking almost fully tucked and still coming in short on the landing for a 14.466. And on bars, she added some great upgrades – including a monstrously cool giant full straight into her double layout dismount! – but her form was mostly messy and she counted a fall on her piked Jaeger to score just a 12.5. I have to give her credit, though, because like Skinner this is generally a weak event for her, and yet she does some very difficult work, which is commendable.

But this didn’t matter, because she didn’t let this early fall get to her later in the meet. In fact, she came back bigger and stronger than ever on beam with an immense 6.5 start value that included huge skills and combos like a standing arabian, a layout full flight series, and a standing full, because why not do two fulls in one beam set?! Last year I worried about the Brits getting big beam sets together but with Amy Tinkler’s upgrades at American Cup and now Fragapane’s equally impressive work here, I think they’ve figured it out. She was very wobbly throughout, earning just a 7.566 e-score for a hit routine, but she’ll get that under control.

Finishing up on floor, Fragapane gave us one of the best performances of the day, earning a 14.366 after hitting her full-twisting double layout, a double arabian to stag, a triple full (a bit shy of full rotation), and a double layout in her final pass. Some of her form and landings weren’t great, but it was a mostly excellent job and she managed to pull herself up to a 55.398 all-around even with her bars fall.

Asuka Teramoto of Japan was fourth with a 54.765. She had no major mistakes in her competition, but lots and lots of little mistakes added up, unfortunately leaving her unable to take advantage of Fragapane’s fall. She opted for a handspring layout half on vault, which was her best work of the day, looking beautiful in the air before piking down on the landing for a 14.233. Moving to bars, she earned a 13.933, getting quite hammered for messy legs and ankle separation on nearly all of her pirouettes, including her inbar full and stalder full, though the rest was lovely work and she stuck her full-out cold.

She’s a world class beam worker, but in Glasgow, Teramoto wobbled or had adjustments on nearly every skill aside from her flight series, earning just a 13.566 for a hit routine, which is probably about a full point (or more!) lower in execution than she’s capable of. A shame, as it was her best way to bring in a big score, with her work on floor not difficult enough to earn much there. While her tumbling on floor was clean, aside from a skid forward on her 2.5 to front tuck, she fell out of both of her turn sequences for just a 13.033.

Italy’s Enus Mariani had a day comparable to Teramoto, with hit routines but not enough difficulty to challenge, placing fifth with a 54.432. She showed some slight form issues on her FTY for a 13.933 and did some solid work on bars for a 13.666, where there were no real form breaks, though she doesn’t quite have the confidence there to make her skills look big and bold.

On beam, she showed beautiful extension on her side somi and on her bhs loso, but her leaps needed work and she had a couple of balance adjustments for a 13.4, getting a relatively good e-score of 8.0 though her difficulty was definitely not all that impressive. The same can be said about her floor, where I think she actually had the cleanest and one of the best-performed routines of the day, but again her difficulty was unfortunately too low for her score to look stronger than a 13.433.

Madison Copiak of Canada also had a successful – albeit low-difficulty – competition for a 53.233, hitting a Yurchenko 1.5 for a 14.2, a simple but beautiful bar routine for a 13.3, another simple but lovely beam routine for a 12.9 (her d-score was only 4.9 but she had one of the cleanest routines of the day), and then – you guessed it – a simple but nicely-performed floor routine for a 12.833.

Finishing in last place with a 51.465 was Vera van Pol of the Netherlands, the alternate for their worlds team last year. Starting her day with a huge and lovely FTY for a 13.833, she moved on to earn a 12.7 on bars for what was a hit routine until she sat her double arabian dismount, a bummer after seeing her do so well until that point. She is a frantic and frenzied bar worker, and maybe got ahead of herself, causing her to come off a little earlier than she intended and not getting the rotation she needed to hit.

Van Pol earned a 12.366 on beam where she showed some big skills like a switch 3/4 and a full-twisting back handspring, though she unfortunately fell on this skill to count her second fall of the day. Finally, her hit floor routine went for a 12.566. For the Dutch, her tumbling was a little more than what we’re used to seeing, including a double arabian, a 2.5, and a double pike, though she had considerable landing deductions, and she didn’t bolster her difficulty with intricate turn sequences, leaving her still a bit low in that department at a 5.0 start value.

In all, I think the day went almost exactly as I had expected it to go, and I’m not surprised that Fragapane was able to find herself on the podium with a fall after coming back with such difficult work on beam and then her untouchable performance on floor. I did hope we’d see better work from Teramoto, but in the end even with the super tight scoring on both beam and floor, I think everyone finished exactly where they were supposed to finish in the rankings.

It wasn’t the most thrilling Glasgow World Cup ever, with so many last-minute swaps and withdrawals affecting the quality of the field, but for the three at the top especially, it really helped put things into perspective going into the Olympic year.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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