The U.S. women continued their dominant performance at the 2016 Pacific Rim Championships, winning three of the four senior event finals titles while grabbing a total of five total on Sunday night.
Gymnasts from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan also medaled, allowing some of the Canadian and Australian gymnasts in particular to redeem themselves from rougher showings during the team competition.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of event finals came before the competition began. U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi decided to withdraw three-time world champion Simone Biles and new senior Laurie Hernandez from their respective event finals, as Biles has proven herself time and again internationally while Hernandez was dealing with a lingering injury they didn’t want to risk turning into something more serious. They were replaced by Ragan Smith and Aly Raisman on beam, while Brenna Dowell replaced Biles on floor.
On vault, with Biles out of the competition, Canada’s Shallon Olsen won gold with a 14.75. She stuck her DTY for a 14.95 and also stuck her second vault – the Khorkina – despite a rough block, earning a 14.55 there. Teammate Brittany Rogers was second with an average of 14.437, unfortunately stumbling out of her DTY for a 14.325 and scoring a 14.55 for her Lopez despite piking down the landing and taking a step to the side. New Zealand’s Courtney McGregor won the bronze with a 14.25 average, scoring a 14.525 for her DTY and a 13.975 for her Podkopayeva. Emily Little finished seventh after downgrading the DTY she competed in the team competition to an FTY in the event final.
McGregor looks to be in excellent form heading into the upcoming Olympic Test Event, where she will have a great chance of becoming the first Kiwi to compete in gymnastics at the Olympic Games since 2000. It was also fun to watch her grow from a junior gymnast who scored a 42.1 in her international debut at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships to a gymnast who scored a 53.55 to place seventh in the all-around this weekend while qualifying to three event finals. She will also be a huge asset to Boise State’s division I team next season.
On bars, Ashton Locklear from the United States took gold, scoring a 15.625 in one of her cleanest and best-executed routines to date. Australia’s Larrissa Miller and Rogers were able to come back from falls in the team competition to take silver and bronze, respectively, with scores of 14.675 and 14.6. Miller caught her Ricna this time around and was able to connect it to her Gienger. Rogers also caught her missed skill, the Jaeger, highlighting her cool stalder full to reverse grip to Jaeger combination. Both gymnasts also stuck their dismounts cold.
In fourth place was Canada’s Madison Copiak, who had a solid routine, further confirming her readiness to stay in Olympic contention and before taking on a starring role at the University of Washington in 2017. Unfortunately, despite her confidence in her new routine, Dowell missed her Church and finished fifth. “It was weird. I never miss that in practice,” Dowell said of the skill. “It was definitely disappointing.”
Smith won the gold medal on beam with a 15.225, marking her fourth hit beam routine in four international competitions this spring and placing over her teammate Raisman in second. Raisman was initially awarded a 14.8, though the score was later raised to a 15.1, likely losing two tenths in her start value as the judges credited her layout as a D rather than an E because of her form breaks.
The skill was credited as a D at worlds last year and most likely will be credited as a D at the Olympics, taking away the tenth in bonus for her B+E series in addition to having the skill devalued a tenth. The FIG has cracked down on making sure layouts in this series are both fully laid-out and are performed with legs together, otherwise it resembles either a pike or a layout stepout. Rather than simply deduct for poor execution, the judges were instructed beginning in 2013 to devalue any layout that didn’t meet their strict standards, resulting in all but one layout on beam getting devalued at worlds last year.
Raisman’s layout in competition on Sunday featured her usual split legs – known as her “starfish layout” thanks to a few clever fans – and shouldn’t have been credited as an E skill, so the judges were right to devalue it, and it seems counterproductive to have reversed that decision following an inquiry, as it will only continue to hurt Raisman – who relies on her connection-heavy routine to build her difficulty and who has already been a victim of strict judging after seeing her d-score go from a 6.5 to a 5.8 at last year’s worlds – in the long run.
“I know I can do a lot better,” Raisman said of her performance, though noted that she was happy with the end result. “I got all of my connections, which is the first time [I’ve hit them all], so I was happy with that.”
All-around bronze medalist Nagi Kajita of Japan won the bronze with a 13.7 while New Zealand’s Charlotte Sullivan finished fourth less than a tenth behind. Like her teammate McGregor, Sullivan showed great growth in her return to the site of her international debut and she’s poised to be a major contributor at Iowa next season.
Raisman, the defending Olympic floor champion, rebounded from her mini controversy on beam to take the floor gold with a 15.1, omitting the front layout at the end of her first pass for a slightly safer option. Dowell also came back with a vengeance from her mistake on bars to win silver with a 14.825 after showing the best work on floor she’s ever done. After the meet, Dowell said that she had really been focusing on her front tumbling all winter, and it showed. After nearly skidding out of bounds during the team event, she absolutely nailed her new front layout to double front in event finals and got huge height on her eponymous skill, a piked double front.
Olsen scored a 14.4 to win bronze, also with one of the best floor routines of her career. This in addition to her gold on vault and a surprisingly sharp performance on beam really speaks to how much work she’s done this year, as she started out in 2016 looking a bit unsure of herself, which was a far cry from the 11-year-old who vaulted onto the scene with huge difficulty and has been pegged to go to this Olympics ever since. Now there seems to be a fire in her, and she collectively had some of her best work ever at this meet, which should move her name back to the top of the list of contenders. In this routine, she showed an excellent body position on her double double mount and upgraded the double pike she showed in the team competition to a piked full-in. If she keeps hitting floor routines like this, she will likely become an essential part of Canada’s 2016 Olympic squad.
In the junior event finals, Japan’s Kiko Kuwajima had a standout day, easily winning vault with a 14.9 and beam with a 14.15. Her DTY as well as her standing arabian and back handspring tuck full on beam were among the highlights of the session. Kuwajima also snuck ahead of Mexico’s Louise Lopez to win floor with a 13.625.
Lopez scored a 13.6 for silver with an engaging and well-choreographed performance that would have won gold had she not stepped out of bounds. She also won bronze on beam with a 13.05 following a rough start to her day, tripping on the vault runway and running into the table there and then showing rough work on bars, muscling a handstand first before later falling.
Japan’s Natsumi Hanashima easily won gold on bars with a 13.85.
On the men’s side, the U.S. team won all six event finals, redeeming itself from a poor team competition. On floor, Jake Dalton scored a 15.625 to beat teammate Eddie Penev by a tenth. Penev later edged Donnell Whittenburg 15.1 to 15.075 on vault. Whittenburg emerged victorious on rings with a 15.925 and on parallel bars with a 15.8, while teammate John Orozco finished second and fourth on the same events. Orozco went on to win high bar with a 15.4 while Whittenburg fell there to finish sixth. Alex Naddour recovered from his night one fall to nab an easy pommel horse win with a 15.65, and Sam Mikulak finished second on the same event in his only final.
Article by Trisha Wolf