I am in Columbus, Ohio for the GK US Classic, which also includes the Hopes Championship, an important event for pre-elite hopefuls (no pun intended). It is a beautiful day and the mood seems to be quite festive. The event staff are all very polite and helpful, and the Schottenstein Center is a nice facility. I managed to get a great seat eight rows back, between the FX and BB, so I’m hoping my Nikon point-and-shoot will be able to get a few nice photos (I really hate not being able to bring my good Pentax and best telephoto lens, but for some reason they think a schmoe like me getting a few decent photos to post on my fan blog is going to somehow cut into the exclusive profits of the pros on the floor. The 2008 Olympic Trials was the last major event I could get decent photos of with my DSLR kit (the frowning Alicia Sacramone photo in the previous NCAA-to-Elite post was taken there). Anyway, back to the present day and Hopes.
Before any of the competition had started, standing outside the arena waiting for the doors to open to the public, who should be walking by but the First State Gymnastics crew, with reigning world all-around champion Morgan Hurd, on their way to the practice gym. I hesitated to bother her myself, but some other girls recognized her and asked to have a picture with her, and I tagged along to the end of them, just as her coaches were reaching the end of their patiene with the delay.
2018 is my second Hopes Championship, having seen 2016 in Hartford. One thing that makes it a different experience from most other meets I attend, the gymnasts are not yet at a high level that I ever would have heard of any of them before, and even a lot of the clubs are unfamiliar, not being among those well-know gyms that routinely put gymnasts into the elite ranks and onto the national and Olympic teams.
As far as the routines go, in general they are consistently well-executed, with fewer big mistakes, falls and deductions than you’d expect to see in a typical junior or senior meet; but, of course, this is because the difficulty is kept quite low, with few tumbling passes on floor attempting anything more daring than a double back tuck (or occasional pike), and about the most daring bars dismount is a double layout. It makes sense, of course, for these youngsters hoping to enter into the elite ranks to demonstrate solid execution of moderately difficult skills, rather than try to throw something difficult and fail.
A word on the judging: the past few big meets I’ve been to (P&G Nationals 2014-2016, Hopes 2016), it was the FX judges who seemed to take forever to settle on a score, making the next gymnast wait a long time, and leaving everyone else standing around waiting for the rotation to end. Today, it was the beam judges who were playing the tortoise.
I’ll try to post a report later with some results and comments, and hopefully some photos.