Last-Minute U.S. Worlds Thoughts

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13 powerful gymnasts stand before me but I only hold six leotards in my hands

Yesterday, I previewed the U.S. world championships selection situation, and then live blogged the first day of trials. Because SO much happened, including some moments that I thought really changed the status for several gymnasts, I thought I’d give my final thoughts before the second day of trials concludes and the team is named later today.

THE LOCKS

Simone Biles and Sunisa Lee were my two absolute locks for this team as of yesterday’s pre-selection meet, and although Biles had a fall on bars, she still very easily won the competition, though it actually got SUPER close between her and Lee, who absolutely slayed to come within the closest margin of Biles in years. With a standout bars set, Lee was also second-best on beam and floor, cementing her as a lock for Stuttgart.

Moving up from “borderline” to “lock” is Kara Eaker, who blew everyone’s minds with her flawless floor routine, a stuck vault, a hit bars set, and then a pretty close to perfect beam, where she won the gold. I had her as a one-event gymnast, but after yesterday, I want to include her as someone who could potentially compete all four events in qualifications, and then potentially compete floor in addition to beam in the team final. In addition to her beam win, she was third-best on bars and floor, which is huge, especially as her floor routine outscored even the specialists here, coming in a tenth ahead of Carey and a tenth and a half ahead of Skinner.

BORDERLINE

Jade Carey was superb yesterday, hitting all four events and crushing it on her key events to finish fifth all-around. I’m keeping her as “borderline” because we still don’t know Tom Forster’s thoughts as to whether she’d go to worlds and the world cups. She’s more than earned a spot at worlds, but with so much depth and with Carey essentially punching her ticket to Tokyo via the world cups, I still think there could be some justification as to why Carey shouldn’t go.

One of those justifications is MyKayla Skinner, who bumped herself up from “not making it” after an incredible day, breaking a 56 in the all-around to finish fourth. Skinner was only a couple of tenths away from Carey on both vault and floor, but she adds more on bars and beam if needed in a pinch, and her confidence is through the freaking roof.

I thought Skinner might need a bit more time, but she’s already made beyond insane improvements to every single event between nationals and now…and she even UPGRADED. Yeah, Skinner added her triple full back on floor as her final pass, and she’s now dismounting beam with a full-in. You know. As one does after not training elite for three years.

Personally, I’d take Skinner over Carey, if only because Skinner would be the more likely of the two on the Olympic team next year. As much as I think worlds should be its own competition and not just a test for the Olympics, it IS very much a test for the Olympics and there’s nothing I can do about that. As a team strategist,  you want to invest in the people who are going to pay it back to you (thanks Michelle Williams’ Emmy speech), and with that reasoning, Skinner goes. You invest in Carey by sending her to world cups, and she earns an individual Olympic spot in return, and you invest in Skinner by sending her to worlds, and she becomes one of the most productive potential members of next year’s Olympic team.

Still on my borderline list are Morgan Hurd, Grace McCallum, and Leanne Wong, none of whom exactly did themselves any favors yesterday as all three counted falls: Hurd had a weird trip during one of her dance elements on floor before uncharacteristically arching over before a pirouette on bars, McCallum also fell on bars, and Wong had some weak floor landings before crashing her Yurchenko double on vault.

Of the three, I still think Hurd makes the most sense, as her bars fall was the flukiest of all flukes (out of 18 routines competed in her senior career, this was her first fall) and I’d still absolutely trust her on that event in the team final. On a team with Biles, Lee, Eaker, and either Carey or Skinner, bars is the hole we need to fill, and if we’re considering Hurd, McCallum, and Wong for that spot, Hurd gets it.

That said, Wong has been iffy on vault and floor for a while now, and was used as a bars and beam specialist at Pan Ams, so it’s clear Forster thinks of her as more of a specialist than as someone who would be counted on to do the all-around. Her bars are great, even though her scoring potential there isn’t quite as high as Hurd’s by a few tenths, and she can actually outscore Hurd on beam pretty easily. However, if the team needed a last-minute sub on vault or floor, I wouldn’t trust Wong to do it as much as I’d trust Hurd, and to me, that matters.

As for McCallum, I just find it hard to include her on a team where she doesn’t truly have a standout event. With bars in question, McCallum would be my last pick among the borderline athletes, and as I said yesterday, even though her scores on beam and floor are really high, they’re almost too high, and there’s no way she (or anyone, let’s be real) is going to get an 8.700 E-score on beam at worlds. I feel like by scoring her this way, they’re either trying to boost her confidence or really push for a way to justify taking her, but I personally don’t see it even if the selection committee does. So she very well may make it, but of the eight gymnasts mentioned so far, McCallum would be eighth on my list of who makes it.

NOT MAKING IT

Aside from Skinner bumping up, the rest of this stays the same, with Jordan ChilesAleah Finnegan, Emily Lee, Trinity Thomas, and Faith Torrez not likely to be in legit contention for the team or for an alternate spot.

That said, I do want to talk about how impressed I was with everyone here. Torrez was phenomenal on vault and floor, and would’ve also put up a humongous beam score had she not fallen. She outscored both Wong and Hurd in the all-around, and really showed that she fits in with the best in the country, and if she continues to work at this level and beyond, perhaps we’ll see her in the mix for Tokyo.

Chiles unfortunately fell on her last pass on floor, and though she brought back her Amanar, it was a rough one, though I do admire the work she’s put in since moving to WCC, and hope that as she continues to do work, she’ll continue to up her chances for future teams. Lee was also very strong, Thomas had a few errors throughout her day but showed off a gorgeous beam set, and though Finnegan stuck only to beam, she did a lovely job, especially in getting her arabian directly into a jump series.

FINAL FINAL THOUGHTS

I’d personally take Biles, Lee, Eaker, Skinner, Hurd, and Wong to Stuttgart, and then decide between Hurd and Wong for the final spot based on how they look in training. This is a bit of a dream team, but it’s also one of the highest-scoring potential teams that exists, and you’d have room to move athletes around if need be.

Of course, that’s also me assuming that they’d prefer Skinner over Carey due to Carey’s whole world cup side hustle. If it turns out they don’t have any hang ups or bitterness about Carey, I do think she’ll make it over Skinner based on their entire bodies of work this year, so even though I personally would do the opposite (partly due to my own bias, but also because it legitimately works well), I’m not at all opposed to Carey being on the team.

In this case, Biles, Lee, Eaker, and Carey would make the most sense as the core four. I think they’d also want to take McCallum, and then either Hurd or Wong to add in another big bars score, and then make the final decisions regarding the alternate post-podium training…but I do think with these four as the core team, it’s pretty obviously going to be McCallum, Hurd, or Wong for that final spot, and that will just come down to what the selection committee values most.

Putting myself in the selection committee’s brains, they seem to really value McCallum, so I’m going to assume she’s on their team even though I wouldn’t necessarily know what to do with her particular skill set once in Stuttgart. Let me be clear: McCallum is an excellent gymnast, and perhaps one of the strongest and most balanced all-arounders if everyone’s hitting.

But without a clear standout event, it’s hard to justify her when you have three or more gymnasts outscoring her on all four events. She’s great on every event, and if there was room for a sixth gymnast who can step in as a utility player, that would be McCallum for me. But on a five-member team that already has three stronger all-arounders and a need for gymnasts who have more standout events to round them out, McCallum just doesn’t fit. She either has to be a top-three all-arounder, like Biles or Lee, or a top eight all-arounder with standout routines, like Carey on vault and floor. Right now, she’s neither of these things, and so I just find it really hard to squeeze her into any spot, aside from the alternate role…and she’s almost the perfect alternate, as someone who could do literally any event in a pinch and be totally great at whatever they need her to do.

That’s my position, but we’ll see what the selection committee thinks about McCallum, about Skinner vs. Carey, about Hurd vs. Wong, and about everyone else later today.

Again, as I’ve talked about many times previously, the 13 gymnasts at this camp are among the best gymnasts in the world, and no matter who is selected, it’ll still be the “right” team. The U.S. once again stands to dominate as a team and on the individual level, you could justify nearly anyone at this selection camp when making your final team decision, and it’s a bittersweet problem to have to turn down some of the most brilliant gymnasts in the world for this team because of so much talent and depth.

Best of luck to everyone involved, and I really look forward to seeing how this puzzle is solved.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

48 thoughts on “Last-Minute U.S. Worlds Thoughts

    • I think I’d do…

      VT: Hurd/Eaker, Lee, Skinner, Biles
      UB: Eaker, Biles, Hurd, Lee
      BB: Hurd, Lee, Biles, Eaker
      FX: Hurd/Eaker, Lee, Skinner, Biles

      I’d want to wait to get closer before deciding between Hurd and Eaker for the all-around in quals, but I’d be perfectly cool with Eaker doing AA and Hurd just doing UB/BB based on recent results.

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  1. In the spirit of tradition, should we start a “US weak on Bars” narrative as we head into the Olympic year?
    Or not panic and just wait until Riley heals, our best AAer with bars as a strength.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahahaha. I think even if they put up Biles, Skinner, and Carey on bars in the team final they’d still be one of the best bars teams in the world based on the overall decline on that event this year…but even if they had the best team bars score, the narrative would still be about the U.S. sucking on bars.

      Liked by 1 person

    • US leads in all 4 events including bars in 2016 and 2018. in 2018 it was even without douglas, kocian or locklear. And mustafina was there as were several chinese…. They will be just fine.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ahahhaah! You know, some people can just see what is not perfect, forgetting the fact that US are probably going to get 2 medals in the AA, BB, VT and FX… is it not yet enough? BTW, do you think Sunisa has a chance to medal in the UB final?

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  2. I’m so stressed out! I have like a billion team combos that I want to go. I would love seeing vault line up of Chengs from Biles, Carey, and Skinner.

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    • It could def be a scenario if hurd, wong, and mccallum can’t clearly put up any good bars. however, i have a feeling they will probably have someone that can get low 14 in both ub/bb.

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  3. OMG. Skinner made it!. both her and carey are on the team!…lol

    2019 Women’s World Championships Team:
    Simone Biles
    Jade Carey
    Kara Eaker
    Sunisa Lee
    Grace McCallum
    MyKayla Skinner

    Non-traveling alternates: Morgan Hurd & Leanne Wong

    We are gonna hear a lot about what happened. Are we gonna get any score from the 2nd day?

    Well, I guess according to this, they just went straight with the AA ranking?

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    • I guess either those borderlines (hurd, wong) didn’t make a case for themselves? also the team is a little tilted toward maximizing vt and fx score. but that probably would likely more than make up for the ub?

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      • I would leave McCallum as alternate. She would need a 14+ team final UB routine in order for me to swap her with Skinner.

        VT: Lee, Skinner, Carey, Biles
        UB: Skinner, Eaker, Biles, Lee
        BB: Skinner, Lee, Biles, Eaker
        FX: Lee, Skinner, Carey, Biles

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, same. I don’t see Grace putting up a top three score on anything even among these six…she’s out for me, but is the perfect alternate. And then this vault lineup is stacked AF. It’s so good.

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        • I’m really confused why people are writing Grace off. Her Worlds qualifying score was a 14.1, American Cup was a 14.2, and Classics was a 14.55. She’s had some struggles since then but it’s not like she’s incapable of getting over a 14, meanwhile Skinner has only scored over 15 on vault once, so Grace isn’t THAT far behind in what she offers on vault, besides being the best 4th option in qualifications for beam. I’m not saying anything is definitive but I don’t understand why everyone is so quick to count her out and assume Skinner’s vault is what takes priority.

          I get that everyone is salty about Morgan but her scoring potential on the one event we’d use her on isn’t THAT much higher than Grace’s. She beat Grace in qualifications at Worlds last year because she had .4 difficulty advantage and Grace still got over 14 with a 5.6 D score. Idk. Maybe it’s just me but I think the outrage has less to do with what’s fair and what makes sense and more to do with people just wanting who they want on the team, which is ironic. Because Morgan is positioned the way she is literally because for the last two years she was able to peak at the right time and hit when others who were expected to do better than her missed or were injured. I definitely think there was an argument for taking her but I don’t agree that leaving her off is going to make that much of a difference.

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    • So I heard after junior worlds that this was something coaches requested to make it “more fair” when there’s so much depth. So like, cool that they set that standard and hold onto it, but…it creates some REALLY weird situations lol.

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      • Ahhhhh I see. Haha, it feels weird because part of the fun of the gymnastics is predicting teams and predicting balanced teams but that makes sense. A little bummed but I agree, it’s fair

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        • I agree!! I love coming up with teams that make the most sense strategically…and after junior worlds where they left a potential all-around medalist at home and really missed out on getting that hardware, I thought they might’ve changed their ways. ALAS.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Oh… is sounds a little unfair this way too, in my opinion,
          I mean, if Simone made multiples falls (well I know… something like 10 falls to not being in the top 5/6) do you think they’d leave her home?
          If someone worked hard and had great results during the hole year it is a little unfair the he/she doesn’t make the team for just 1 bad day…

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  4. While I am happy for skinner and a little sad for hurd, wong, it does bother me a little regarding the ub/bb coverage. Obviously my ideal team would have been biles, lee, eaker, skinner (nothing against jade personally), and an ub/bb person. Martha would have probably gone with a more balanced team.

    I mean at this point, it really doesn’t matter if carey and skinner are on the same team. This team will score at least 1.5 point higher than any other teams on vt and at least 2 point higher on fx (probably more). you got your beams cover with 3 great beamers (literally the top 3 beam scores in the country). as for ub, if the worst thing is counting on a 13.5 from kara, or even a 13 from skinner or carey, that’s not even close to the end of the world.

    I am still very interested to see what kind of score we got for the 2nd day routines though..

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    • Taking a “more balanced” team pissed me off royally in 2016. It’s a BS and subjective criteria that doesn’t seem fair. They should maximize TF score and medal potential. Gabby did not earn her spot in 2016. Ashton or McKayla should have gone instead.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. Gabby had no business being in Rio, let alone competing in the all around qualifications over Laurie Hernandez. Laurie was worlds stronger in the AA than Gabby. Glad the US is starting to have more fair selection methods so we hopefully won’t see something like this again

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  5. The number of inappropriate responses to usagym’s tweet of the team angered me so much! Morgan, always a wonderful person, had such a sweet response. I’m sure she’s hurting right now but her fans could learn a thing or 10 from her!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, the responses are disgusting. Like I’ve said on here a few times, almost any of the 13 here could be justified in some way. It’s tough but if the rule is “hit/make the top six on this one day and you’re on the team,” then unfortunately if you don’t make that happen, you’re off the team and you know it. The athletes get it, but the fans…are another story.

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    • Agreed. This will help Morgan in the long haul, not hurt her. She didnt do well at camp last year, nor literally the podium training right before the competition last year, but she pulled through and made finals etc. But how many times can that be the process for them. This will help Morgan, motivate her more. Watch!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t heard anything…I know it’s not a full competition the way day one is. I think it’s more like, a regular day of training in the gym but closely watched by the selection committee…but if Tom was going based on AA standings, I guess day two didn’t matter at all?

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        • Yeah, possibly…it depends on the camp/selection. Not sure what this one was specifically but in the past they’ve done that, they’ve also done limited routines on all four events, a regular training session that’s monitored, etc.

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        • I hope tom will give us a facebook update with all of this like he did last year. That would help to clarify a lot of questions and goes a lot more toward transparency.

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  6. WELL HELLO THERE MY GIRL MYKAYLA!!!!!!! SO unbelievably thrilled for her, honestly – she’s been on an upward trajectory all season and it’s absolutely unreal what she’s managed to accomplish in less than six months. She’s gonna KILL IT.

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  7. If we’re making team decisions based on AA rankings, then Olympic trials could potentially be the most pressure competition we’ve ever seen. At this point I think if the USA qualifies an extra Olympic Spot, Tom would give that spot to the #5 ranked gymnast. No one but Jade + Simone are safe for 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So disappointed in some of the Twitter responses. We all have our favorites and nobody should bash any of the gymnasts, they all put their hearts and gymnastics out there and we should all stand behind them even if we don’t think “our” gymnast or “our” dream teams was selected.

    In terms of today we shall find out soon enough…”In accordance with the selection procedures, an independent observer will attend the selection meeting, and a written report will be provided to the athletes, coaches and general public.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So Lauren, any truth to the rumor that grace did very well on bars on day 2?

    The thing though is that she would have to score a lot higher than what she did and i do mean a lot higher than just adding back the 1 point for the fall or 13.7… It has to be high enough to counter at least a 0.4 point deficit on vt

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    • Grace got a 14.1 at Worlds last year in qualifications with a 5.6 D routine. Her routine now when she hits is worth 6.1 and she got a 14.55 at Classics. I’m really baffled that people are so quick to count her out on that event just because she’s struggled recently.

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    • Yeah, it’s definitely not impossible that grace can still make the team….lol… she is after THE designated DARK HORSE. I know she did get 14.55 and 14.2 at classics and AC.

      She definitely need to show that she can consistently score at least 14.3 to displace skinner from the team after podium. It’s definitely not impossible. Although i just have a feeling that Skinner consistently getting 15.1 for vt is easier than grace consistently getting 14.3…

      This will come down to podium much more so than any other years.

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  10. The US has a lot of depth and could have easily sent “A” & “B” team which would probably take gold and silver plus it has already qualified its Olympic spot. The differences between various permutations are a few tenths which considering how strong the US is (especially with Simone’s cushion) I don’t think it really matters. So although the worlds is a competition in its own rights, thinking ahead to the Olympic 4 person team (all 4 up in qualification) probably makes the most sense, for this reason I don’t believe Carey should be on this team and the selection of all rounders make sense. Morgan is just too tired so for I don’t think she should even be a non- travelling reserve, just let her rest and come back invigorated and make her case for Tokyo. Bars may seem a weakness compared to other events but they are competitive on the world stage

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  11. I kind of see leaving Carey off the team as a punishment for taking the World Cup route to the Olympics. She is world class, second best floor and vault worker in the world. She has more than earned her right to compete at Worlds in at least the event finals.

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  12. Just keep getting all these rumors from other places about grace hitting her bars well on day2 and morgan didn’t again. any chance we can somehow get a better confirmation on this?

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