U.S. Women Rack Up Five Pac Rims Event Medals

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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

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14 thoughts on “U.S. Women Rack Up Five Pac Rims Event Medals

  1. Wow only one layout on beam was credited? That’s crazy. Who was the only one deemed worthy? What about layout fulls? Those all seem to have the form issues judges seem to get pissy about on layouts but never get downgraded.

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  2. US dominated the competition so outrageously because they sent their A team while everyone elsesent their B or C teams. I guess everyone is happy. It’s mentally good for the US girls to feel so dominant and it is great for the smaller countries to rub shoulders with the world favourites.

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    • Yes, the US girls really needed this PacRims to boost their confidence against international competition. It’s not like like they’ve dominated every international meet for the since 2011 or anything.

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    • Actually, Australia did send their A team, or at least their healthiest possible A team. Canada sent half A half B, only leaving their top two contenders off. China and Russia didn’t attend because they each had domestic meets at the same time. Whether the U.S. is dominating or not, they still need competitive experience. It’s not like this current crop of girls should just sit at home waiting for Rio just because other teams have won medals in the past.

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    • You can’t blame US sending their A team and everyone else (russia, china) staying home for whatever reasons or sending B or C teams. Beside they would have kicked other A teams asses anyway.

      Sure it would’ve been nice to have paseka, hong in VT with Biles and maybe ashton might get demoted if all the Chinese and Russian bars top workers were there. But they are not. So there you go….

      And it wouldn’t really matter if you got top A team from other countries b/c the US would still won the team gold as well as probably beam and fx anyway. and probably also VT if Biles were competing…

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      • USA is a Pacific great power. There is link between sport and politics and it is a mark of respect (from USA) to send the A team in such a competition. USA have at least 2 A teams : Douglas, Kocian, Key, Foberg, Flatley, Skinner, Bauman make another (or 2 others) A team. These women are just incredibly strong and consistent. And it was so interesting to have Pacific Rim, British championships and Russian championships at the same time to get a global overlook and compar different national tracks.

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  3. I am very concerned about ally’s beam routine. Any chance it will be reworked in terms of switching up skills/ connections before Rio? The US should have learned their lesson after what happened to Jordyn on beam in 2012.

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  4. Hmm. As someone who traveled interstate to attend Pac Rims and paid for top notch seats, motivated heavily by a desire to watch Simone, Aly, and Laurie live… If the decision to pull Simone was based on anything other than an injury or injury scare, then in my view it was out of line by USAG. They promoted the meet as Simone’s Olympic year debut for months and sold numerous tickets and caused people to travel to see her. “She has nothing to prove” is no basis to renege.

    I discussed this with many other attendees. We were all fine with dealing with the disappointment of not seeing her if there was even the slightest question about her health or safety. Everyone understood without question that the most important thing was her staying healthy for the Olympics. But if she wasn’t injured…then, well, it’s pretty disrespectful to people who spent hundreds of dollars and traveled for USAG to say, “she’s not here because she has nothing to prove to Marta.” When it comes to public competition for which tickets are sold, Marta is not the only relevant audience member. I’m glad that at least I got to see her in the AA, but I spoke to many EF attendees who hadn’t been able to afford tickets to both days or couldn’t logistically make it Sat night, who were pretty gutted to miss their only chance to see Simone.

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    • Martha isn’t the only audience member in the same way that It isn’t the Simone show either. She may be the most dominant competitor but if people came to watch just to see Simone its quite frankly redundant to the other gymnasts to just kind of say that they’re only there to build up energy for Simone. Ragen, Brenna and Aly all have something to show for Rio and Simone has nothing. All these meets are all leading up to Rio. How would you like it if you worked your whole life for the olympics but didn’t get to go because of that one competition opportunity that got dismissed just because the coordinator thought it was better for the audience to see one gymnast that’s already a lock hit for the 100th time in a row? This quads team is so deep that it really is going to come down to every single routine to discern who’s going to go and who’s going to say.

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      • I definitely agree that Ragan and Aly (and Laurie) have something to show for Rio, although I don’t believe that Brenna is in contention for the actual team, given her difficulties with hitting under pressure.

        That said, here’s the thing: USAG has consistently followed a pattern in international competition in which the two gymnasts who place the highest in qualifying compete in event finals. Occasionally this has been tweaked for Jesolo, although I can’t think offhand of a recent competition other than Jesolo in which it’s been tweaked (I’m sure Lauren or others could correct me if I’m wrong.) But generally, the audience has a reasonable expectation that the top two team members who hit in qualifying will be seen in event finals, absent something catastrophic like an injury. Here, because Simone was set to compete, it was reasonable for people purchasing tickets to expect that she would be in vault, beam, and floor EFs – and people did expect that and bought tickets (to the tune of nearly $100 per, for lower level seats) on that basis. I stand by my assertion that it would be disrespectful to pull her out for any reason other than a health/injury reason.

        This is true whether or not other competitors have more to prove than Simone. The fact that you “worked your whole life for the olympics” does not entitle you to competitive opportunities at the Olympics, or elsewhere, if you are not the most skilled gymnast (or two) to appear in that competition. If USAG nonetheless intended to yank Simone and use EFs as an opportunity to pit gymnasts who are less skilled than Simone against each other, then they should have been honest with fans about this from the start. But see, they didn’t want to be straightforward about that, because the reality is that the remainder of the team (with the possible exception of Aly, and probably even Aly) does not sell tickets like Simone sells tickets. Simone is exceptional, and people want to see her, will travel to see her, will pay a premium to see her. And that’s why it’s disrespectful (if not dishonest) to be less than straightforward about whether Simone is going to be present at a given event.

        Ashton vs. Brenna on bars, Aly vs. Ragan on beam – these are important questions for the U.S. team. I fully agree with USAG fully hashing those out – but I might have chosen to watch those dramas play out from the comfort of my own living room. I’d certainly have appreciated the info that Simone would be “resting up for the long Olympic year” prior to purchasing EF tickets (and an extra night of hotel, rental car, and a flight that made me late for work on Monday morning, specifically with the expectation of getting to see three more exceptional performances from Simone).

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    • Yeah but the point is, is that the main priority is and never will be the audience. It’s about the team, and what’s best to see from the team. Simone being in the EF isn’t in the best interest of team. So no it’s not disrespectful to not put Simone in the competition just because a bunch of whiney audience members decided to pay an unnecessary amount of money to watch 3 and a half minutes of gymnastics.

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      • If USAG had been upfront in advance about the fact that they apparently share your unnecessarily and uncalled for rude attitude, I’d have no objection, since I’d then have had the information I needed to know not to spend money on their event.

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