Notes Taken During P&G Championships Junior and Senior Women, Session One

[Photo is a selfie I was lucky enough to get with the wonderful and gracious Mohini Bhardwaj Barry, when I spotted her outside the Bankers Life Fieldhouse; I’m lucky enough to be Facebook friend with Mohini, and a few days before this she had publicly thanked me on FB for a sincere tribute to her distinguished career, posted on the occasion of her upcoming induction into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Because of that exchange, when I introduced myself and asked for a picture with her, she knew who I was, and was appreciative of my post, and quite happy to chat for a few minutes! I never take selfies, so after a couple misfires, she grabbed my phone and took it herself. Mohini Bhardwaj took a selfie of us with my phone. How cool is that?]

NOTE: I posted this to my Facebook personal timeline 8/14/2015, where most likely the majority of my FB friends (non-gymnastics fans) rolled their eyes and scrolled their screen to the next post; now that I’ve got the new version of Gym2Day blog running, after a fashion, and the FB page to match, I figure I might as well share it here and there, where it’s more likely to reach someone who might be interested.

Notes on Session One:
*Early on Jazmyn Foberg of MG Elite showed herself to be the one to beat, and at the end of the day one, Foberg had a four-tenths lead over teammate Laurie Hernandez, with Ragan Smith of Texas Dreams in third over half a point behind second.
*The nicest thing was that there were no really bad falls or obvious injuries, and it looks like everyone will probably move on to the final Saturday.
*Floor Exercise judges were as slow as molasses in January, making many gymnasts wait a very long time before they could start, and extending the length of the rotations, everyone at the other three apparatus standing around waiting for FX to finish.
*Middletown, Delaware’s Morgan Hurd showed well, but consistenly good execution was hampered by a fall on beam and low start value on floor and vault to leave her 13th overall at the end of the day (without the fall on BB, she’s 8th). She needs to ugrade her vault, at this level a full-twisting Yurchenko is not enough, even as well as she does it; there is a video online of her training a triple-twisting Yurchenko into a foam pit (not to be confused with the video of her sticking a DTY onto lowered crash pads from around the same time) and she’s obviously mastered the FTY, so I gotta think we’ll see her competing a double before very long. So far, she hasn’t charmed the crowd this year the way she did last year, for whatever reason (maybe some tape on her glaasses would help). I bet she will Saturday.
*Parkettes Megan Freed had a good routine going on floor, but lost half a point or more on one tumbling run with a silly mistake (who the heck steps a foot out of bounds BEFORE starting a run, rather than at the end?), and then came up short on the landing, causing a big step and a hand on the ground. Gave away several more tenths there.
*Texas Dreams’ Emma Malabuyo fell off uneven bars not once but twice, but sallied forth and stuck her dismount; even so, her 10.1 score was the lowest posted of the day.
*Colbi Flory of TD had trouble with one of her runs on floor exercise, doing the FX version of a “Buttahara” from the movie “Stick it”, sitting the landing down flat on her duff.
*Deanne Soza of Arete took fall off the bars on a transition from the high to the low bar, face-planting on the mat awkwardly. She took a minute to recover (those mats are padded, but falling from ten feet with momentum onto your face has gotta hurt); she finished strong, still rubbing her cheek as she left the podium,
*Olivia Dunne (who is I beilieve the youngest competitor at 12) struggled all day, scoring poorly for executuion on beam due to numerous balance checks and a near fall, a tenth deduction on both VT and FX for stepping out of bounds, and the low start value on vault and bars didn’t help; she finished day one in 22nd overall. l’m sure she’d like to do better, but this experience is worth its weight in gold, since at 12 she’s got THREE more years to compete as a junior. There is a very good chance you will be hearing her name connected with the 2020 Olympics.
*I’m not sure if I just haven’t been watching enough junior elite lately, but I was rather surprised at how many triple twists I saw thrown on floor exercise [note: I am not an expert, and I have considerable difficulty accurately identifying some moves, the number of twists on FX tumbling runs with round-off entries being chief among them; I’m guessing I was mostly seeing 2.5 twists, which wouldn’t be terribly unusual, but, given the talent in this field, there probably were a few triples]. I counted more than half a dozen in the first two rotations.
*As someone else commented in a blog, execution was generally excellent and there were very few falls compared to what you’d usually expect; it’s nice to see, compared to the “throw your hardest trick, who cares what it looks like, and just cross your fingers for not too many deductions” attitude we’r used to seeing so much of in juniors.
*The top three or four positions look pretty solid, but there is going to be a big fight for the remaining positions on the National Team, with a dozen gymnasts within striking distance.

Senior Women Day One:
*WATCH WOMEN’S FINALS LIVE Saturday night NBC 8 PM EST, Men’s FINAL Sunday NBC 3 PM.
*Before the session, Indiana natives and gymnastics supestars all, Jaycie Phelps, Bridget Sloan and Sam Peszek were honored in their home state for their achievements in the sport.
*The competition was fantastic, and it was sort of goosebumps time to realize we’re most likely looking at the entire 2016 Rio Olympic team among these competitiors.
*Kyla Ross was off on everything except vault, and I was surprised to see such low difficulty in her floor routine (start value was around a half to a full point below all but one or two others; finished the day a disappointing tied for 12th.
*Aly Reisman struggled mightily to save herself from a fall on beam after a tumbling series, but ultimately couldn’t.
*Bailie Key of Texas Dreams had a very good day, finishing a strong 5th in only her second competition as a senior; she’d have been even higher but for a sloppy beam routine, with a big balance check and hand on the beam to save a fall, and a tenth off for going over the allowed time (she was in the middle of the beam a move or two away from her dismount when the first bell went off, so she didn’t was probably smart not to hurry, as the remaining skills in the routine are worth much more than a time deduction).
*Brenna Dowell of GAGE has a very unusual UB routine with a ton of release moves and some unusual transitions; I made that note during the competition, and in looking at the final scoresheet, her 6.7 difficulty was the highest bars start value in the field, with only 3 other gymnasts even within .3 start value. She needs to improve her execution, though.
*Ashton Locklear threw an incredible bars routine, good enough for second on the day. Her beam routine was not so good, and she has only competed those two events since hurting her back two years ago. She also didn’t post a score at the Secret US Classic in July, so I worry about her future in the sport. Already prone to injury, if she can’t start competing floor and vault again, a single-event specialist has limited value to the national team (though it was enough for a spot last year, and a medal at worlds).
*Biles, Douglas and Raisman were every bit as impressive as we expected, and Maggie Nichols has really broken out as a top contender, but the rest of the national team is up for grabs among about ten excellent gymnasts. At the moment the U.S. has an embarrassment of riches to choose from, and it will be very interesting to see who is eventually selected for 2015 Worlds. That team won’t necessarily indicate who’s going to Rio, as the dynamics will be very, very different next summer as to of who is on top of her game, who is health, and what combination will make for the strongest team.