Worlds debrief — Thoughts from Kennedy Hambrick — Other gym news
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, October 30, 2021
(Editor’s note: Erica L. Ayala was moving this week. We’ll be back with her Hockey Friday next week.)
Welcome to The IX Gymnastics, where we sit back and bask in the glory of Rebeca Andrade’s Cheng:
I’m afraid I have to eat my words here, because I thought this worlds would be kind of a dud, but it turned out to be kind of a delight instead. Yes, the competition wasn’t as fierce at the top, but the podium finishes were well deserved, and lesser-known gymnasts got the chance to make a splash on the worlds stage. Can we have an extra worlds every year? Please?
Here’s how event finals went down:
We started with vault, where Andrade did the above and a clean DTY, easily winning gold with a 14.966 average. The Gymternet did a great job of breaking down who broke records at these worlds, and Andrade was one of them, becoming the first Brazilian woman to win the vault final.
The recurring theme of this newsletter will be Delightful, and seeing Andrade thrive here after being so successful at the Olympics is just that.
Asia D’Amato did a DTY with some leg form and a Lopez with a hop, which was good for silver and Italy’s first-ever women’s vault medal, an incredible accomplishment for her. Angelina Melnikova did a DTY with a hop and a super piked (it was downgraded) and kind of messy Lopez with a big hop back, putting her just over a tenth behind D’Amato for bronze.
The vault final was the most open to lesser-known nations, and that made things interesting, as Egypt’s Nancy Taman was able to get close to the podium with her DTY and handspring pike front half, finishing just over two tenths behind Melnikova.
Wei Xiaoyuan took the gold here with a routine that had a slightly wonky piked jaeger and subsequent half but was otherwise great for a 14.733. Andrade nearly repeated her quals performance aside from a connection break and a little shuffle on the landing, good for silver with a 14.633.
Luo Rui’s routine was incredible, capped off with a stuck full-in:
… but she still only landed in third behind Andrade, who won the tiebreaker. There was some controversy surrounding her score, with some (myself included) saying she clearly should have won the final. Melnikova, meanwhile, hit with just a step on the landing, finishing a tenth off the podium.
Otherwise, everyone hit in this final, which was incredible to see, and it was such that a beautiful set from Elisa Iorio, for example, still only put her in sixth. It’s too rare in this sport for everyone to do their best, so this was, you guessed it, delightful.
Ashikawa Urara won the beam title with this gorgeous routine (14.100), which was excellent to see especially after her Matrix save during quals:
Pauline Schäfer — who hit her side somi half — and Murakami Mai — who just had a big wobble on her switch ring — both did well for silver and bronze, respectively. Everybody else fell and it was ridiculous. And by everybody, I mean six people, so everybody who stayed on got a medal, pretty much proving that having one-touch warmups doesn’t prevent falls.
Murakami Mai won gold at home with her final routine ever:
She cried (as did the rest of us) before saying goodbye during the closing ceremony.
It was delightful also terrible. What will we do without her?
Melnikova came in second because one of her turns wasn’t given full credit. She filed an inquiry, which was rejected, and she was NOT happy (Gymnovosti) but still came home with a silver to add to her gold and bronze from these worlds, in accordance with prophesy. Always satisfying to see a gymnast leave with a full set.
Rounding out the podium was Leanne Wong, who had issues on her landings but otherwise hit.
On another note, these finals took forever. The medal ceremonies, the pomp and circumstance, the time it took to get scores … all of it was ridiculously drawn out. No touch warmups indeed. Full results via The Gymternet.
- These worlds are rekindling conversation about Tom Forster’s performance as the national team coordinator. True, three medals (and no golds) is far from a successful outing for the U.S. at this point. All four athletes did a great job, but the lack of depth at Trials — leading the U.S. to have no representation at all in two finals — is more than a bit concerning.
- Hitomi Hatakeda left the hospital (MSN) after suffering a spinal injury last week.
- Here’s an interview with Becky and Ellie Downie that I can’t read because of a paywall (Telegraph). The Guardian covered the Gadirova twins and also Andrade.
- Laurie Hernandez and Simone Biles appeared on a mental health podcast called WeCanDoHardThings.
- Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles joined forces with GK Elite.
- Good to see the GOAT team having fun:
- Athlete safety news from this week: AG Garland confirms ‘new evidence’ in review of decision not to prosecute FBI agents handling Nassar probe (CNN), USA Gymnastics to send plan to resolve sex abuse claims to a vote (Reuters)
Tweet of the week
Five at the IX: Kennedy Hambrick
Arkansas senior Kennedy Hambrick kindly spoke to me about NIL, coaching changes, her future, and more. Edited for clarity and length.
How’s your day going so far?
Pretty good. I had an intrasquad today; it went pretty well. Super excited for season. Can’t wait to be out there.
What are your goals for the year, for the team and for yourself?
For the team, I think we should just keep rising. We’ve done so well every single year, getting better every single year. We’d like to continue breaking records. We broke two team records last year, one at home and one at Auburn. And the one at Auburn was the highest score we’ve ever gotten as a team.
For myself, I’d like to make this season super fun, the best one yet. I just really like competing and being out there with all the fans, interacting with them. I love competing and I think it’s super fun.
What was it like to find out Kyla Ross was joining the coaching team? Was the team excited?
Oh yeah. We heard about it and we were like, “Oh my gosh, Kyla!”
Are there last-minute things you want to accomplish for your final year?
I want to make it the best season I’ve ever had, because last year was, you know, crazy. I’d like to earn a 10 on each event. Doesn’t have to be the same meet; that’d be crazy. But yeah, that’d be really cool. I’ve gotten a few 10s thrown, but they average them out. So I’d really like to hit that peak, that would be super cool.
Tell me about your partnerships. Who are you working with and how did those relationships start?
JJ’s Grill reached out to me over Instagram and asked if we’d like to partner up. I was super excited; JJ’s is a well-known local restaurant. Their atmosphere is amazing. Their food is so good; I’ve probably had half the menu already. And their live music is better than any live music I’ve ever seen. But my favorite part about JJ’s is that Wednesday night is karaoke night, and me and my friends just go out and sing our hearts out. There’s a lot of regulars there. There’s this one guy, Doug; he’s the funniest older man I’ve ever met. He’s always the first to go up. He has a super great style, cool shoes, and puts on a whole performance every single time, and it’s really fun. So I’d have to say Wednesday nights are my favorite.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Fergalicious is definitely one of them. I also like Neon Moon with Kasey Musgraves. That’s a really fun one to sing.
Who else have you partnered with?
Liquid IV. I reached out to them on Instagram because I’ve used their products for years. It’s always helped me stay hydrated and I really notice the difference whenever I’m training; whenever I’ve used their products I feel so much better. But yeah, I get to try out all their new products, and they send me water bottles and cups and stuff, and that’s really cool.
I really like promoting products and brands that I’m actually interested in. I actually use this in my daily life already, so why not promote it.
What about FansMeetIdols?
That’s a new thing. It’s really cool. I just got my storefront put up. Still making little changes. But basically, if a fan wants to buy merchandise or a retweet or a personal message, or something cool like, I love country music so I could make you a 20-song playlist. You can ask me any question, I’ll give out recruiting advice, and stuff like that. I like to interact with the fans whenever I can, so that’s a cool way to do it.
What was your reaction to the NIL rule change?
I thought it was super great. In the beginning, it’s a little scary because you don’t know how it all works. But I think it’s really great for athletes. It allows them to manage their money and get into real life before they’re actually in real life, because growing up, as an athlete, you don’t have time for a job, so doing NIL is our job along with being an athlete. It allows you to manage money, learn how to do taxes. It gets your name out there, it gets you more exposure.
What are your post-grad plans?
They’re still kind of up in the air, but I’m planning to coach for a few years and see where it goes after that. I’ve already kind of started coaching with my teammates. If I notice that they’re having trouble with something, I’ll give them a tip because I’ve done most of those skills before and whatever’s worked for me will likely work for them. Even my coaches have said I could be a coach. It’s really cool to see that your teammates want you to help them. I think I could continue doing that for a job.
Do you see Jordyn Wieber as a mentor in that way?
What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as a gymnast?
I like being somebody that people can just come up to and ask for advice, or if they have a question about a skill they can’t get or something like that, I’m always wanting to help.
One of my role models is Jaime Pisani. She was also a gymnast at Arkansas and my beam coach at Arkansas. She was one of the greats and people know her as just being this amazing gymnast and she’s super kind and fun all the time. I want to leave a legacy like that.
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