The U.S. women arrived in Italy earlier this week and have spent the time since prepping for the annual City of Jesolo Trophy, beginning tomorrow with the team and all-around finals.
Watching videos of the training, it’s difficult to gauge how things are truly looking because we’re given a rose-colored sort of look at things. Routines with falls or big mistakes are cut down to show only the good, or aren’t shown at all, so it’s my understanding that everything Team USA is all sunshine and flowers and rainbows right now.
Based on the videos, they look fabulous. Mostly. There are still a few questionable selections in my opinion, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to give everyone a trial. Team leaders Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas are stepping up their game without their worlds teammates Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols, and Madison Kocian, and both looked confident and strong in their work.
Douglas, only a couple of weeks removed from her American Cup win, looks better than she ever has in training. I did notice she’s watered her bars down a tiny bit, changing the inbar half to Endo half to stalder to Chow half from her American Cup routine and instead doing an inbar half to Endo half to Chow without the twist, but I’d imagine this is just temporary, given that she doesn’t need to go above and beyond this week. Her block on her DTY looked better than it did in Newark, she was super aggressive on beam, performing with nary a wobble, and while her landings on floor were a little off, that’s something she’ll fix with more adrenaline in front of a crowd.
I thought Raisman looked super strong in all of her work that we saw, especially in that she was really going after her connections on beam. She’s capable of more difficulty but I think her connections here are very safe compared to last year, where she went in with trickier combos and ended up getting a huge chunk shaved off at worlds. If she hits her connections in competition as well as she did in training, I think she could get about a 6.4 out of it, which would be a solid start and then she can add more this year as she gets more comfortable.
We didn’t get any full floor routines, but there didn’t seem to be any major changes. Her opening 1.5 to double arabian to front layout looked as good as ever, she showed great control on her leaps, and the double pike in the last pass was strong. Her Amanar landings look better than last year though she’s still tucking her legs as she gets into the second half of the twist and prepares to land, and her bars looked super aggressive and strong with no form breaks, showing a great attention to detail compared to past routines.
MyKayla Skinner, less than a week after winning the Glasgow World Cup title, looks fantastic in training here. While she had a few wobbles and bad landings in Glasgow, she seems to have gotten them out of the way there and now looks fully prepared to impress again in Jesolo. Most of her Amanars were truly fantastic, aside from one attempt that looked a bit short, and aside from her leg form in her van Leeuwen on bars, I can’t get over how good she looks there.
Her beam looked much more controlled here, and the work she’s done on her leaps continues to shine through, especially on that switch half (which isn’t perfect but is better than ever). Every landing I saw on her tuck full was superb as well. Her body line in her Moors on floor was straighter and cleaner than it was in Glasgow and she even stuck one attempt that I saw, though she does tend to have a slight pike in her hips and slightly bent knees…though unlike Glasgow, where I thought she looked almost fully tucked, it didn’t look so bad here that they could get away with downgrading it. Her tucked double doubles are great as always, and her triple full rotation looked excellent, though she does get a little soft in the knees before landing it.
The other big senior contenders are the new seniors, Laurie Hernandez and Ragan Smith. I thought Smith looked fantastic, aside from a few leg form issues on her DTY as well as in her tour jete full on floor. Her new Addams Family routine has potential…I loved her West Side Story set from last year and already miss it, but this routine has so many good plucky little moments, I think crowds will love it.
I think I was most impressed with the work she’s done on bars, where her set is very aggressive and clean. She normally struggled there as a junior, but began showing shades of a good bar worker last summer, and now looks like she has quite the set, including lots of good inbar work. Her beam is also excellent even with the difficulty, which should be at about a 6.5 if she does the Patterson, though we only saw timers in training.
Hernandez looks so much better on vault than she did a year ago, with a better block and cleaner form, and aside from a few leg form issues on her floor leaps, her routine – same as last year’s though with a big double layout now her opening pass! – is as fabulous as ever. I think her work on beam has also improved a bit, though her bars – which I was hoping to see cleaned up if not upgraded – look exactly the same, still with the leg form break on her stalder full and her pak out of her Ricna looking straddled.
The remaining senior competitors include Ashton Locklear, her Everest teammate Emily Schild, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, and Emily Gaskins. Locklear seems to be sticking just to bars and beam, and she looks good on both, though her beam is very low difficulty (about 5.8) and with some noticeable form errors, I don’t think it’ll be a very high-scoring event for her. Her bars are strong, but she’s doing almost exactly what we saw from her in 2014, so based on her training I don’t see her as anything more than second-in-command to Madison Kocian, honestly, but we’ll see how the competition goes.
Schild, who has nearly the exact same bars routine as Locklear now, looks good across the board, with her DTY still a highlight, great amplitude on her leaps on both floor and beam, and solid tumbling on floor. Johnson-Scharpf has added a 1.5 to double arabian on floor, similar to Raisman’s opening pass but without the punch layout, but she lacks attention to detail with her form on all events and looked a little short on her DTY from what I saw. And Gaskins…she still has a great presence about her but her form leaves much to be desired, to be entirely honest. It’s most noticeable on bars and beam, with nearly every skill showing bent knees or split legs or too much arch. She was only doing an FTY on vault and even that was loose and piked, so it’ll be interesting to see how the judges compare her to her teammates, who are all a bit tighter and cleaner on their more difficult routines.
As for the juniors, the three who competed at Gymnix – Jordan Chiles, Emma Malabuyo, and Gabby Perea – looked about as strong as they did in Montreal, with the biggest exception being that Chiles is looking a million times better on her Amanar! She did some strong work on all four events, while Malabuyo looked best on beam and floor and Perea showed her best work on bars and beam.
Trinity Thomas, who will make her international debut here, showed lots of big upgrades from last year, and I have to say I was most impressed with her extension on beam, specifically on her aerials. She also showed a major opening to her bars set, which included a Weiler half to toe on to Maloney to clear hip to Tkachev, a seriously fabulous combination. It’s funny, because her work on the bars themselves is great, but then she only dismounts with a double pike! But even so, it’s very promising work, and she should definitely be added to the list of those to watch for the future.
Like I said, we’re not seeing everything in training. We’re seeing a highly-edited portion of everything being done, so for all we know someone who rocked a beam set could’ve fallen 300 times before that one hit, so take everything with a grain of salt. If the ladies from Team USA compete as well as they looked in these videos, it’ll be an excellent weekend, but I can definitely see some areas where nerves could lead to a few rough performances for some gymnasts.
Some of you who don’t have access to the videos asked for full routine lists, so I’ve provided them below for you. Enjoy!
- VT- Amanar
- UB- Toe on + toe half + straddle Jaeger, Tkachev + bail + toe shoot, toe full + Gienger, full-in
- BB- Full turn, bhs + loso + loso, switch + switch half, side somi, switch side, front aerial + sissone + pike jump, side aerial, punch front tuck, double tuck
- FX- Double arabian + stag, front double full + front layout, switch ring, tour jete full, 1.5 + 2.5, double turn, switch half + sissone, double tuck
- VT- DTY
- UB- Inbar full + piked Tkachev + pak, inbar half + Endo half + Chow, double layout
- BB- Punch front pike, bhs + loso, standing full, switch + switch half, punch front tuck, full L turn, switch ring, front aerial + split jump + pike jump, timer dismount (but she did a double pike at American Cup)
- FX- Double arabian + stag, tucked full-in, switch ring, tour jete full, Memmel turn, double pike, Ferrari leap, double tuck
- VT- FTY
- UB- Stalder full + Maloney + pak, stalder + van Leeuwen, stalder half + Jaeger, double layout
- BB- Front aerial + sissone, bhs + loso, switch + back tuck, side aerial, full Y turn, switch ring, punch front tuck, wolf jump + split jump, double pike
- FX- Memmel turn + full L turn, double layout, tucked full-in, switch ring, switch full + stag, front tuck + front tuck (must be a timer), timer for last pass
- VT- DTY
- UB- Stalder full + Tkachev, Downie, Ricna + pak, Endo half + Ray, stuck full-in
- BB- Front aerial + sissone + split jump, bhs + loso + loso, full turn, sheep jump, punch front tuck + wolf jump, side aerial, switch + switch half, switch ring, double pike
- FX- Double layout, double arabian + stag, switch ring, switch ring half, front layout + front double full + front tuck, switch full + sissone, double tuck, tour jete full + stag half
- VT- DTY
- UB- Stalder + toe full, Chow, Jaeger, Tkachev, pak, Ray, full-in
- BB- Wolf jump + front tuck, sissone + split jump, bhs + loso, full turn, side somi, switch + switch half, front aerial + sheep jump, side aerial, switch side, double tuck
- FX- 1.5 + double arabian
- UB- Inbar full + Komova II + pak + Maloney + bail + Ray, inbar half + straddle Jaeger, full-out
- BB- Bhs + loso, switch side, punch front tuck + split jump + wolf jump, full L turn + full turn, side somi, side aerial + sissone, switch + switch half, timer dismount
- VT- FTY
- UB- Inbar + stalder full + Tkachev, pak, Ray, stalder + stalder half + front giant half, full-in
- BB- Double wolf turn, bhs + loso + loso, sheep jump, punch front tuck + sissone, standing arabian, side aerial, front aerial + split jump + straddle jump, switch ring, double pike
- FX- Tucked full-in, double wolf turn, 1.5 + 2.5, switch ring, tour jete full, front double full + stag, switch full, double pike
- VT- FTY
- UB- Toe on + Chow half, inbar half + Jaeger, toe full + pak, van Leeuwen, double layout
- BB- Full turn, standing full, split jump + sissone, bhs + bhs + layout, switch + switch half, switch ring, front aerial, side somi, 2.5
- FX- 1.5 + 2.5, triple full
- VT- Amanar
- UB- Toe full + Maloney + Tkachev, hop change + Jaeger, toe on + bail + Ray, toe half + double front
- BB- Punch front pike + wolf jump, bhs + layout, switch + sissone, side aerial, switch half + back pike, punch front tuck + split jump, full L turn + full turn, Patterson
- FX- 1.5 + double arabian + layout, tour jete full, double L turn, timer second pass, timer third pass, switch leap, switch full + sissone, double pike
- VT- DTY
- UB- Inbar full + Komova II + pak + Maloney + bail + toe shoot, inbar half + straddle Jaeger, double layout
- BB- Switch side, full turn, bhs + loso, punch front tuck, side aerial + sissone + split jump, switch + switch half, front aerial + pike jump, double pike
- FX- Double arabian + stag, double front, switch full + sissone, switch ring, tour jete half, 1.5 + 2.5
- VT- Amanar
- UB- Weiler half + Maloney + pak, van Leeuwen, toe full + Tkachev, Ray, full-in
- BB- Bhs + tuck full, side aerial + split jump, switch + switch half + back tuck, full L turn + full turn, back pike, split jump + wolf jump, double tuck
- FX- Moors, double double, full L hop turn, switch full + sissone, tucked full-in, tour jete full, triple full
- VT- DTY
- UB- Inbar + inbar half + straddle Jaeger, stalder + Ricna, pak, inbar full, Ray, full-in
- BB- Double wolf turn, switch + straddle jump, bhs + layout, standing full, punch front tuck + sissone, front aerial + pike jump, sheep jump, timer dismount (she’s been training the Patterson)
- FX- Timer first pass, 1.5 + triple full, switch ring, tour jete full, timer third pass, switch full + sissone, double wolf turn, double pike
- VT- FTY
- UB- Weiler half + toe on + Maloney + clear hip + Tkachev, toe full + pak, van Leeuwen, double pike
- BB- Full turn, one-armed bhs + loso + loso, front aerial + sissone + split jump, side aerial, switch side, punch front tuck, switch + switch half, timer dismount
- FX- Double layout, front layout + front double full, triple full
Article by Lauren Hopkins