While there was plenty to celebrate from all over the spectrum from every country represented at the City of Jesolo Trophy this weekend, it was the long-anticipated senior debuts from Ragan Smith and Laurie Hernandez that stole the show in Italy, with both taking home an all-around and two event medals apiece to throw a wrench into an already confusing U.S. Olympic team puzzle.
Smith won the all-around silver medal with a score of 59.05 after clean, fresh, and energetic work on all four apparatuses. She actually reminds me a bit of Jordyn Wieber in the sense that she’s made all four events relatively equal in terms of scoring potential, putting up a 14.85 for her DTY, a 14.6 for her newfound prowess on bars, a 15.1 for her perfectly clean and solid beam, and a 14.5 for her crowd-pleasing Addams Family floor routine.
Qualifying into the beam and floor event finals, Smith improved slightly on her all-around performances in both, adding two silver medals to her collection and proving that her brilliant work on Saturday wasn’t a fluke. She comes off as very calm and confident in her work, and displays a pizzazz on floor with choreography that is perfect for her personality. It was truly a fantastic start to her year and I’m pretty sure she still has a few upgrades coming our way.
Coming in right behind Smith was Hernandez, with an impressive performance of her own. Her DTY has improved so much, earning a 15.1, and she showed a difficult and expertly-performed beam routine for a 15.3. Bars didn’t go quite as planned after she dragged her feet on the mat during her pak, earning just a 13.8, and while her floor performance is fantastic, it’s not a super difficult routine and she loses a little bit in execution thanks to bouncy landings, getting a 14.35.
In all, however, she was able to pull in a 58.55 for her day, and then on Sunday picked up the silver on vault with a 14.85 and the gold on beam with a 15.25. Like Smith, she has shown that she could fit in pretty much anywhere when it comes to helping the U.S. team, especially when she continues to perfect what she already has.
The other all-arounders from the U.S. included Gabby Douglas in first with a 59.65, MyKayla Skinner in fifth with a 57.9, Aly Raisman in sixth with a 57.85, Emily Schild in seventh with a 57.45, Emily Gaskins in 14th with a 54.25, and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf in 18th with a 53.65.
Douglas, only two weeks away from her winning American Cup performance, came in a little downgraded here – especially on bars, where she scrapped her Chow half and counted only seven skills – but still had no problem hitting well enough to make a big impression. There’s not much more to say other than she is almost robotically good at this point, super consistent and reliable. In event finals, she came back to get the silver medal on bars and bronze on floor with continued strong work there.
It was a busy week for Skinner, who won the all-around title in Glasgow one Saturday and then put up an even stronger performance in Jesolo the next. Her Amanar was a bit rougher in competition than it had been in training all week, which was unfortunate, but she put up mostly strong performances on bars and beam, and then suffered a few rough landings on floor, especially on her triple full. I have to say, I continue to be impressed with the work she’s done on bars, and I think her beam when hit shows a ton of excellent form and great extension, so kudos to her. In the single vault event final, her vault looked better than it did in the all-around though her score remained a 15.2…though she still managed to easily snag gold.
Though she didn’t start out well with second-guessing her vault landing and sitting it, Raisman showed she was able to expertly come back from a mistake and hit solid efforts on her other three events. Her best execution came on beam, where she showed great improvement with her connections, though her d-score was knocked down two tenths from its potential, possibly because her layout wasn’t credited. She did some more strong work on this event in the final to get bronze, and then picked up the floor gold for her excellent tumbling and great performance.
I thought Schild did a great job improving on her bars from last year, and she also put up a great, clean DTY on vault, but her difficulty just isn’t strong enough to get her through on beam and floor. She got the bronze medal on vault in event finals, but didn’t medal on bars due to a nervous and tentative performance with leg separation on most of her skills following her strong and clean 15.0 in the all-around, unfortunately.
Gaskins and Johnson-Scharpf competed as individuals during the competition. These were the two I was most confused about in terms of earning the assignment, and after seeing them in competition, I’m guessing Martha Karolyi just wanted to see them in action as seniors. I say this to be realistic, not harsh, but I can’t imagine either making a legitimate push for the Olympic team this summer.
Gaskins, who struggled with form during training, actually had her best work all week during the competition to hit all four events, though her form was still rough everywhere with her execution in the mid-7 range on all but vault, where her DTY only earned a 14.35. Like Gaskins, Johnson-Scharpf was limited in her difficulty, though her form looked mostly strong; her problem, however, was hitting, as she counted a fall on beam, stumbled out of one of her passes on floor, and had a very rough DTY to get low scores on all three.
Finally, Ashton Locklear competed on bars and beam at the meet, with beautiful bars performances in both days of competition, earning a 15.65 on day one and a 15.25 in the event final for the gold there. Her beam difficulty is fairly low – too low to make her much of a contender there – and with some form issues and nervous wobbles, she got a 13.8 on that event.
What about those not from the U.S.?
Flavia Saraiva of Brazil was right in the middle of the big Team USA sandwich, placing fourth with a 58.4. She upgraded her vault to a DTY, and actually looked quite good there, showing clean form and a solid landing for a 15.05. Her bars and floor are a bit low in difficulty, but she did great work on both and the crowd went bananas for her fantastic performance on the latter. And she performed her tricky beam with flair for a big 14.95. She qualified into both the beam and floor finals, but had a few struggles on beam for a 14.4 and didn’t medal on either. Still, I think she showed how much she’s grown since last year, especially in her ability to come back from minor mistakes. I can’t WAIT for her to perform in Brazil at the test event and at the Olympic Games because she is going to tear right into everyone’s hearts.
Italy’s Carlotta Ferlito placed eighth in the all-around with a 56.3, showing a few mistakes but hitting everything. The crowd loved seeing their star shine, though Ferlito told our reporter how tired she was after competing at the American Cup and then going on to a week-long national team camp before Jesolo. She pulled out of the vault and floor finals, but decided to go for her best event, beam, in the hopes of claiming a medal. “I just hope my legs can hold out,” she joked.
Her beam started out well, but her joke ended up being a horrifying foreshadowing of what would happen at the end of her routine. She missed her foot on her double pike dismount – a dismount she feared but upgraded to after constantly getting docked for her twisting form on her 2.5 – but she kept rotating backwards, landing on her head with her full body weight. It was the scariest fall I’ve ever seen, and you couldn’t hear anything but her sobs for several minutes straight as medics attended to her to check her out and brace her neck. Thankfully, she was neurologically fine and the MRI for any neck injuries was negative, though she will be in a collar for a little while as she heals. We’re glad she’s fine, and as one of the only healthy top performers in the country so far in 2016, we hope she’s able to get back in order to help her team at the Olympics this summer.
Jade Barbosa of Brazil was ninth with a 56.0, Marine Brevet was tenth with a 55.35, the Italians Enus Mariani and Tea Ugrin tied in 11th with scores of 55.1, their teammate Giorgia Campana was 13th with a 54.65, Carolyne Pedro of Brazil was 15th with a 54.1, French gymnasts Anne Kuhm and Loan His were 16th and 17th with scores of 53.85 and 53.75 respectively, their teammate Oreane Lechenault was 19th with a 53.1, Daniele Hypolito was 20th with a 52.85 after a rough day with issues nearly everywhere (including a sat Yurchenko 1.5), Alessia Leolini of Italy was 21st with a 52.8, Desiree Carofiglio of Italy was 22nd with a 52.75, and Camille Bahl of France was 23rd with a 52.45.
Of these, competition highlights included Lechenault on floor (mostly for her gorgeous and haunting choreography), Brevet on beam, Kuhm and His with excellent work on bars (Kuhm is a bit too low-difficulty to make much of an impression but His has some very strong work and got the bronze medal in event finals there), and Carofiglio with her big tumbling on floor (she has a Dowell and a double front).
Marine Boyer of France, a first-year senior, competed everywhere but floor, showing a tremendous performance on beam. She was a standout there as a junior and it’s nice to see her bring big skills and gorgeous execution to the table as a senior, especially with Claire Martin out due to an injury limiting her training and what she can bring to the table. Louise Vanhille also competed everywhere but floor, showing tricky and solid work on bars, and Rebeca Andrade of Brazil – also competing everywhere but floor – showed another bar routine with big skills and clean execution, though she unfortunately fell in the event final.
In all, I thought the senior competition at Jesolo was a great one, showcasing top U.S. women with Olympic team potential, the many Italian women who will be battling for team spots this summer, and the Brazilian and French teams in a little preview as they push toward the Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro next month.
Article by Lauren Hopkins