Morgan Hurd of the United States
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Following worlds, what do you think the U.S. will be looking to do in the future? What about Valeri Liukin? Do you think he will change things?
I don’t think you can really base any need for structural changes on this year’s worlds. The field overall in the U.S. (and internationally) was weak, but that’s because most of the top gymnasts are on hiatus. It’s the same way every post-Olympic year. We just got spoiled in 2013 because Simone Biles existed and we had two returning Olympians. Without a superhuman like Simone or two Olympians returning super strongly on their events, 2013 would’ve been an even weaker talent pool than this year. And 2009? Literally so weak compared to what eventually came in 2012.
No one is peaking for the post-Olympic year. If they’re naturally able to be at a high level, as Simone was in 2013, great, but that’s super rare. The girls who competed this year will likely keep improving and growing and adding difficulty in the years to come, the U.S. will have many exciting juniors coming up in the next few years (some of whom might not even be elite yet!), and there will also be several returning Olympians waiting to come back at a point closer to Tokyo because they don’t want to risk coming back super early and then burning out.
If the whole quad ends up being a bust, yeah, Valeri will probably look at restructuring things. But based on one world championships, where the team still got the all-around title and three individual world medals with only two athletes who were even remotely competitive? I don’t think they’re all that worried.
Did the 1.5 stepout used to be considered a forward pass? I could have sworn that a few did it in 2008 to fulfill the forward requirement.
No, it’s always been considered a backwards pass. I’m sure many did it in 2008 but I don’t think it was to fulfill the requirement? Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of that code of points but I’m pretty sure they’d never count a concretely backwards skill as a forward one.
Why did some upcoming college freshmen compete in the senior session while others competed as juniors at this year’s men’s U.S. championships?
With men’s elite, at 18 they basically have the option to continue junior elite for one more season or to compete senior elite. Sometimes men will even switch halfway through the year, beginning with international competition as a junior in the first half and then ‘graduating’ to the senior level before the year is up.
Does the current code have an increased emphasis on deductions for pauses and lack of flow on beam based on how the gymnast moves? Could that account for the super low E scores?
They changed the wording about flow and pauses, making it a little less vague in terms of what constitutes a hesitation, maybe? They also emphasized things like not doing little intermediate movements between skills…like really picky things like looking down at the beam to get yourself into place before a skill. They want it to look super effortless and like you don’t even have to think about what’s coming next, with everything supposed to kind of connect from one thing to the next, like, choreography in addition to skills. I think they just don’t want there to be random moments during which you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
I’m guessing when they all had their little judge meetings (the technical name!) they probably went over this and how strict they’re supposed to be, at least going into worlds, and that’s why worlds were SUPER picky with every little movement torn apart. All year long at most meets, both international and domestic, we didn’t see anything as strict as we saw at worlds, so even though the code did re-emphasize these deductions, it wasn’t really taken super seriously until Montreal (and even now after worlds at other meets, judges are still being lenient).
Before Morgan Hurd, who was the last gymnast to win a world championship or Olympic all-around title without having first won an all-around medal at nationals? Or is she the first to do so?
Prior to the past 15-20 years it’s hard to say because I don’t really have all of the data from non-U.S. competitions. Gabby Douglas was never a national all-around champion before winning in 2012, though she did win the bars title that year, and I don’t think Chellsie Memmel held a national title for any event.
I live in Australia but missed out on the lottery for Commonwealth Games tickets. I was wondering if I need tickets to see podium training?
Unfortunately pretty much all podium trainings are closed to the public. Maybe for some domestic meets they’d allow it but especially for a big meet like Commonwealth Games, I don’t think they’d sell tickets to that. Even the media is pretty limited with some podium trainings. Sorry about that! Maybe check for competition tickets through resellers?
Why didn’t Anastasia Iliankova perform on beam at worlds?
She had a minor injury and they wanted to keep her focus on bars. She wasn’t really a contender on beam, where her routines were okay, but definitely not worthy of the event final.
What are the futures of the rising programs we saw at worlds this year?
I think Japan and Germany are the biggest rising programs, which we kind of saw first in Rio last summer with them placing fourth and sixth in the team final. I said about both teams last year — and especially Japan — that if the bulk of their talent stuck around, they’d be major in the coming quad, and it looks like pretty much every member of both teams is hanging on for Tokyo, which is fantastic.
Japan does have a lot of depth, so they could still be quite strong even if some of their current top gymnasts ended up retiring, but Germany without some of their own top girls could be in a precarious situation. They basically have to keep everyone healthy or hope some of the juniors coming up eventually work out, but on both an individual and team level, they have so many standouts. If only they could put together a solid floor rotation! Both of these teams could be among the top in Tokyo, especially if Russia and China end up struggling, but with a healthy Russia and China, I don’t think we’ll see a shift in the teams that have been making the team final podiums between 2014 and 2016. But you never know!
There are a couple of programs that I’m excited about on a lower level that might not break into the team competition in Tokyo but that in general seem to be gaining in terms of overall strength. Ukraine is on a comeback both with Diana Varinska at the top but then also a solid team of the experienced Angelina Kysla alongside the young and super underrated Valeriia Osipova and Valeriia Iarmolenko, Hungary could put together something great with current seniors Zsofia Kovacs and Boglarka Devai and then they also have some promising juniors like Nora Feher, and the Swiss have some exciting up-and-coming talent that I’m hoping ends up working out.
Do you know if Jade Carey is planning on doing another year as elite? Do you think she has a chance at qualifying to Tokyo as a specialist?
Yes, Jade is planning on continuing through to Tokyo. I think she could qualify as an individual for sure, especially since her role on any kind of team basically becomes irrelevant with Simone Biles back at full strength. However…I don’t want to say that concretely because you never know what she’ll be able to do. A rudimentary bars set could get her to a solid all-around score, and if she’s a top four all-arounder with a weak bars thanks to the rest of her events being strong, then bam, she becomes relevant to the team. But if she doesn’t bother working on bars and ends up focusing on vault and floor, then yes, she absolutely has a chance at qualifying to Tokyo as an individual. She could very easily win the world cup series on her own and qualify a spot that way, or if the U.S. qualifies to spots via the continental championships and the all-around world cup, I could see them giving one of those spots to a specialist like Jade.
Why are gymnasts not allowed to wear their team warmups when accepting medals won during worlds or domestic competitions, but they do at the Olympics?
Generally the reason they wear warmups at the Olympic Games is because each country is given an official “kit” from its apparel sponsor and it’s separate from what each sport gives its athletes. Everyone on a country’s Olympic team has the same getup for the medal ceremonies whether they’re gymnasts, swimmers, runners, archers…whereas at worlds the warmups are from the individual sport’s supplier, and at nationals, the clubs get their own warmups. I don’t know why they wear leos at nationals, but at worlds, the rule is that medalists must wear competition attire for award ceremonies. If they don’t, the prize money is cut in half.
Do you feel Claudia Fragapane was underscored at the worlds floor final? I thought she should have outranked Jade Carey, as it’s frustrating to see Jade place above her when all she does is pose whereas Claudia dances.
No, not really. Jade did have that extra tenth in difficulty, and I think while Claudia has stronger artistry, Jade’s routine beat her both in terms of tumbling and her dance elements also being a bit better. Claudia did a hell of a job working on her form, and looks pretty fabulous now, but she’s still a tiny bit loose in some of her elements and her opening double layout full-in also had that super weird stumble, which is probably what did her in. Without that stumble, she definitely could’ve fought for the silver over Jade, but with a large mistake like that compared to Jade’s solid routine, I don’t think there’s any sort of question about why Jade beat her.
I know Ashton Locklear had been dealing with injuries. But I’m guessing there are ways she could have modified an easy routine (for her) to make up for some of those tenths and increase her D score. What could those changes have been? Or were her injuries really that limiting?
I mean, it’s difficult to just randomly start adding new skills you’ve never trained before into a routine. You could say that she could add a more difficult dismount or change up the way she does her connections to max that out, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. I also think she was hoping to get her inbars back in time, and so wasn’t counting on needing to figure out other ways to add difficulty. By the time she realized she wouldn’t be able to bring them back, it was waaaay too late to figure out new skills or a newly-structured routine. Any changes that were realistic at that point probably would’ve added maybe 0.2 max in difficulty, but while also running the risk that those miniscule upgrades wouldn’t be as clean as her 5.5 D, and so it made more sense for her to stick to the lower difficulty score and bank on strong execution. She was never going to win a medal with her D score a full point lower than the girl with the top D in that final, but just making the final with a 5.5 D, knocking out many who were half a point ahead of her, shows just how strong she was at this event.
What ended up happening with Australia and worlds? Wasn’t Mihai Brestyan going to be super strict about reaching a certain standard? Is there a reason Georgia-Rose Brown wasn’t selected?
I think the decision to keep girls home in 2013 and the decision to possibly keep girls home this year was more on the part of the federation/Olympic Committee, not Peggy Liddick or Mihai, and more related to “is it worth funding this when no one will make a final?” than about punishing the girls for not being at a certain standard. I think they still had some kind of standard in mind, which is maybe why Georgia didn’t get a spot, as her difficulty is generally pretty low? Unless she’s just injured and we don’t know. I thought bringing Talia Folino but leaving Georgia behind was weird, so I do think it’s possible that she just wasn’t at full health, especially as she was the silver medalist at nationals this summer…but aside from Georgia, the three who went, and Emily Little, there was really no one else who warranted a spot at this stage. My guess is they were probably hoping to bring Georgia as well, but that she just wasn’t at full strength.
Did the U.S. name a women’s team coach for worlds?
No, I’m pretty sure since there’s no team competition and therefore no need for a ‘team coach’ on the floor, they don’t bother naming a team coach at an individual worlds. Even so, Ashton Locklear still seemed to be the ‘team captain’ thanks to her experience, so even though that was likely unofficial, I don’t think they had even an unofficial team coach just because each coach goes with his or her own athlete and is on the floor with his or her own athlete, and so there’s no reason to have a team coach on the floor.
I counted nine skills in Anastasia Iliankova’s bars at worlds but I know only eight are counted. It looked like she connected her Maloney to clear hip half, which is a 0.2 CV, but if you drop the C skill (as she has eight other skills that are worth more), does the CV associated with the dropped skill get counted?
Generally a routine with more skills than required will have those extra skills solely because they can be used in connections. They don’t get the value for that skill, but they do get the connection value. Liu Tingting’s beam is a good example…she has about 17 skills in her routine, many of them simple A, B, or C skills that aren’t counted into her D score. But the bulk of her difficulty is built on her connections, and so she needs all of those simple elements in order to build up the CV and series bonuses, so even though she won’t count the skills into her D score, they’re all valuable in helping her reach a higher level of difficulty, and that’s basically how it works for Anastasia’s clear hip half in her bars set.
When do tickets go on sale for 2018 worlds? Do you think they will still be in Doha with all of the political issues happening there?
I’m not sure…sometimes the organizing committee will make them go on sale a year in advance and other times they’re released much closer to the event. I think for Glasgow and Montreal they went on sale pretty far in advance, but people tried to get tickets for Nanning a few months early and they didn’t have them online yet. It’s hard to say with Doha. I’ve heard rumors that with the political climate, they’re thinking of just relocating to Glasgow since they did a good job in 2015 and are also hosting Euros, so they’d be pretty good to go in terms of logistics and equipment. But we’ll see what happens!
Can you please explain how many gymnasts from the big countries will go to the 2018 and 2019 worlds? Can we send individual gymnasts too?
Any country listed as a federation with the FIG, no matter if they have a big gym program or a small one, can send up to five team members and one reserve in 2018. In 2019, the top 24 teams from 2018 can send five team members and one reserve, and the federations that didn’t make it into the top 24 can send up to three gymnasts. There are no individual spots on top of the team spots at worlds.
Have there been any female gymnasts who have changed their professional names after getting married? Seeing Agnes Suto hyphenate her name this year got me thinking!
Some do but many just keep their ‘professional’ names for gymnastics even if they go by their married name outside of the sport. Or they just hyphenate it. Angelina Kysla changed her last name to Radivilova professionally when she got married to Igor Radivilov, and at first when I saw that name on a results sheet I was like why does Ukraine have a random brand-new senior in her 20s?? It took me a minute to realize it was Kysla with her married name. 🙂
Did Jordan Chiles not replace Ragan Smith at worlds because it was after qualifications?
Alternates can’t replace gymnasts in individual competitions after qualifications. Had Ragan been injured prior to qualifications, they could’ve brought Jordan in to compete in her place, but since Ragan qualified into the all-around and floor finals for HERSELF, not for her country, those spots don’t get to go to someone else in the country. They have to go to someone who is a reserve, usually the girl who placed 9th. The only instance in which someone from the same country can replace someone is if they finished in finals contention but got two-per-country’ed out. So had Morgan Hurd qualified 7th into the floor final but got two-per-country’ed out because Ragan and Jade Carey were ahead of her, once Ragan withdrew, Morgan would get to take over her spot. But because Morgan didn’t place in the top eight, the spot that Ragan gave up had to go to the first reserve, who was Ellie Black. Had this been a team year and Ragan got injured between qualifications and the team final, Jordan as the alternate could’ve come in and replaced her for the team final, but the same rule would stand for any individual final.
Can you explain your reactions to the beam judging at worlds? What strategies might we see going forward in this quad so that the top kids are posting 14s instead of 12.5s?
I think what the judges were harshest on were pauses and lack of fluidity. These are things we don’t really think about, but they really add up, and since the code became less vague about these movements, I think the women’s technical committee really decided to be strict this year and that’s what resulted in so many low E scores.
When I was at Dynamo Gymnastics this summer, I watched Elvira Saadi working with Brooklyn Moors on covering up all of her ‘extraneous’ or ‘intermediate’ movements that she’d make, so I’d assume we’ll see a lot of that more intense training going forward, assuming judges will continue being so insanely detailed. With Brooklyn it was a lot like…watching her make a mistake as she’d pause for half a second to look at the position of her feet on the beam or something, and then Elvira showing her how to dance into that position.
It’s something that needs a looooot of repetition, though. You can train it a million times, but in competition, it just feels comfortable to finish a dance movement, and then look down at your feet to make sure you’re in the correct positioning. Even if you know intuitively, it’s a comfort thing to look down and shuffle your feet to make sure. Things like these were absolutely hammered at worlds, and I don’t think they were at many earlier competitions this season, so I hope if they continue with this super intense judging at worlds, the lower-ranked judges at domestic and smaller international competitions also get the memo just so scores are more uniform throughout the year.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins
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