The United States looked as we have come to expect during podium training for the 2016 Pacific Rim Championships in Everett, Washington — confident, prepared, and ready to take care of business.
Ten-time world champion Simone Biles is making her season debut, where she will perform a new floor routine. Her tumbling looks big, clean, and powerful as always, and it will be interesting to see how the new music and choreography plays to the crowd. She is also debuting her Cheng vault, which looked great in podium training. Prior to training, Biles said she was hoping to show consistency on bars and beam, and she did just that, hitting both routines cleanly.
Brenna Dowell will also make her season debut this weekend. Her performance at last year’s world championships did not go according to plan and left many wondering about her future on the elite scene. She began to address those concerns today, showing a new front layout to double front pass on floor and the best DTY vault on the team. She also has a new bars routine, replacing the Tweddle to Ezhova with a smart Maloney to Tkachev connection, which picks up two tenths in bonus without being as tricky to catch. She also added a Jaeger, and her Church to pak looks much cleaner than it did last year. More importantly, she looks more confident in her ability to hit this routine. She did fall once on the Jaeger, but it looked like a simple miss and not a mental error. Her training on beam was mostly clean as well.
Two-time 2012 Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman looks like she is building confidence as the season goes on, as she slowly works up to being at her best in time for the summer and not too early. Her tumbling was strong in podium training, hitting all of her passes including the 1.5 through to double arabian to layout as well as the piked double arabian to stag leap in the full run-through, though she struggled to stay in-bounds when just warming up passes on their own. She trained DTYs and Amanars on vault, with the Amanar being the stronger of her two. She has also continued to improve on bars (adding a stalder full connected from a bail there for an extra two tenths in difficulty) and hit her beam routine well, including a nearly-stuck Patterson dismount.
Like Raisman, Laurie Hernandez also competed at Jesolo earlier this season. Her floor work was expressive as always and she hit her tumbling well. Her vaults were okay…her landings are not always the cleanest, and even when she sticks, she doesn’t get a ton of distance. Other than her opening stalder full, her bar work is incredibly clean and precise. She was also hitting beam very well, her only issue being her chest position on her double pike dismount.
Ashton Locklear is competing on two events here, bars and beam. Bars was her strength, as usual, and she hit her six skill connection series with ease. Beam had some highlights, like her aerial to split jump to wolf jump (all three of which were very fast and well-connected), but also included some balance checks and bent legs on her flight series.
Finally, Ragan Smith was added to the team after Maggie Nichols injured her knee on vault while training at the ranch. Smith thought the reason she wasn’t initially named to the team was because she fell on beam at camp, so she was particularly eager to show Martha Karolyi what she could do here. She responded by nailing her beam (even receiving praise from Karolyi), but unfortunately, she fell on her double layout in her floor run-through, though her choreography between her third and fourth passes was some of the best of the day. Her vault and bars have also continued to improve.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see as much of Canada, Japan, and New Zealand as I would have liked. Despite competing more than anyone this year – almost weekly as a member of the University of Georgia’s NCAA team – Brittany Rogers doesn’t look tired at all and seems to be in fantastic shape, with both her vault and bars looking very strong.
Shallon Olsen also trained some nice DTYs, and Megan Roberts stood out on floor with a piked double Arabian, a piked full-in, and a double pike, though her tumbling isn’t always the cleanest. She trained just a layout for her last pass, but I think she should throw in a Dowell, just because I think it would be fun to see four piked passes.
Australia highlighted the morning training session and the team looks to be rounding into form for next week’s Olympic Test Event, where they have to finish in the top four in order to qualify a full team to the Olympic Games. I only got to see their full vault and bar rotations, and found that Emily Little‘s DTY is the team’s best vault. Unfortunately, most of their fulls are a bit piked down. Larrissa Miller‘s bar routine was another major strength with her awesome Tkachev to Gienger combination. Bars overall looked to be a strength and several of the gymnasts showed nice van Leeuwens. Elsewhere, Costa Rica had lovely dance elements, and a gymnast from Hong Kong did a full-twisting kip mount onto the bars, which was a nice way of adding some variety.
The women’s team competition is set for Saturday with eight nations scheduled to compete at 1:30 pm PT and the remaining four, including the U.S., hitting the floor at 7 pm.
Article by Trisha Wolf