The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, June 5, 2021
First day of nationals — Pan Ams are happening — thoughts from Chellsie Memmel
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It’s happening: Nationals, day one
Shit’s getting real, you guys.
Day one of the U.S. women’s national gymnastics championships has come to a close. The day seemed like another clear-out-the-cobwebs competition — we saw a lot of unlikely misses from some of the top all-arounders and not everyone is in Tokyo shape quite yet. Still, after the two days are over, I think we’ll have a pretty good picture of what this team will look like.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Simone Biles had a stronger performance here than she did at the U.S. Classic, hitting all four events with no major errors to take the lead after day one with a 59.550. She opted to go with the cheng and amanar on vault instead of the double pike, sticking the cheng cold:
She’s still having issues with her toe full on bars, but she powered through and hit. On beam, she almost came off on her switch half but was great otherwise, and on floor, she went out of bounds several times but still scored a 14.650. Here was her first pass:
I was pleasantly surprised to see Sunisa Lee do well in the all-around today, coming in second with a 57.350. Lee’s floor is watered down to three passes and it’s clear that her ankle is still bothering her, but her performance showed that it would be a mistake to count her out of the team equation.
She started the day by hitting her 6.8 D-score bar routine, which was incredible and by itself something that should get her to Tokyo:
Her beam was a bit tentative at points, but she hit with no big wobbles; on floor, she just landed short on her double tuck; and on vault, she hit a clean DTY.
Meanwhile, Jordan Chiles is still on a roll, coming in third with a 56.900. She did two vaults here, a clean DTY and tsuk full, which was super impressive and exciting to see. Her bars were excellent, finishing with a stuck full-in:
On beam, she was very close to coming off on her acro series, but she saved it and was rock solid for the rest of the routine, with just a short landing on her full-in. Similarly, on floor she landed out of bounds on her front double to front full and nearly fell, but saved it, and her opening laid-out full-in was incredible. Chiles has had such an exciting rise this season, and her confidence, consistency, and difficulty make her all but a lock for the Olympic team at this point.
Speaking of locks, Jade Carey did the all-around here, and she came in fourth with four clean events, including her new bar routine. But what everyone is talking about is the laid out triple double she debuted in podium training but didn’t compete. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn cool:
Really hoping we get to see this at the Olympics.
Nearly everyone ranked fifth through 10th had a fall or major error, thanks in part to the uneven bars, which were cursed. Leanne Wong had a good day other than having to take an extra swing on bars, coming in fifth with a 55.300. Her floor routine was the highlight here — she stuck her double double and triple twist cold and came in second with a 14.200. Kara Eaker had no falls and came in sixth with a 54.550, but she still hasn’t gotten a beam score that will help her stand out from the crowd. There, she had a major wobble and scored a 13.700. Emma Malabuyo surprised for seventh in her first all-around appearance since March camp; she fell on beam but had an otherwise impressive showing. Grace McCallum came in eighth after coming in fourth at Classics. She started her day with a floor fall and later also came off the bars, but she came in second on beam. Kayla DiCello, usually so consistent, fell on both bars and beam, and MyKayla Skinner fell on beam and was once again hammered by deductions on floor.
It always sucks to see our faves struggle, and I’m gutted for DiCello, who, if you remember, was on my hypothetical team after Classics. But we still have another day of competition, and a lot can change on Sunday. In the meantime, we did get some valuable information from day one, including that Lee is still an option for the team, Chiles is all but a lock, and that Wong is getting (mostly) more consistent as the season goes on.
As for the rest of the roster, Chellsie Memmel had a great day, hitting a DTY for the first time in a billion years:
… and hitting beam after nearly coming off on her arabian. She had to hop off bars at one point, but also says she hasn’t even done a full routine yet, so. Morgan Hurd was limited to beam and floor due to her elbow issues. Unfortunately, she scored just a 10.300 on beam after falling twice and putting her hands down on her dismount, but her floor had no major errors for a 12.600. She said in a tweet that she hopes to do the all-around at trials. Sadly, Riley McCusker could only do bars here due to the injury she sustained at Classics, but her routine was beautiful and she hit her dismount. Laurie Hernandez also only did one event after hyperextending her knee in warmups (she shared a video of the injury if that’s something that interests you). On beam, she had a few wobbles and skipped the dismount, then withdrew from the competition, and it’s unclear if she’ll be able to compete on day two.
Not on the roster: Konnor McClain. After a rough performance at Classics and a quick switch to WOGA, McClain has opted to withdraw from the season and has set her sights on worlds, according to the Olympic Channel. Sophia Butler has officially retired from elite, and Cecile Landi confirmed that Olivia Greaves is injured and hopes to make her comeback in the fall. Looks like Lilly Lippeatt is injured as well, though her snark is intact.
Here are your day one results. Day two of competition will air on Sunday at 7pm ET on NBC.
Jordan Chiles got a lot of press this week — she was profiled in ESPNW, USA Today, and the Associated Press, where she talked about a “toxic” culture with her previous coach. She also has a children’s book. Still, she told the media she has no intention of going pro and is excited to do NCAA after the elite season ends.
Laurie Hernandez talked to Reuters about her transition to training with Jenny Liang.
With all the misinformation regarding Simone’s vault floating around, I’d recommend reading this refreshing explainer on what Simone actually did, as well as Spenser’s in-depth analysis. Speaking of The Vault, Olympics.com talked to Natalia Yurchenko, who says she once tried throwing the double pike into a pit.
Tickets are on sale for Simone’s Gold Over American Tour, which is now sponsored by Athleta.
Turns out Doha is actually going to happen. On Thursday, the FIG announced that the apparatus world cup and final Olympic qualifier will take place on June 23–26, so … literally less than three weeks from now. Once that concludes, according to Gymnastics Now, the FIG will officially award individual Olympic spots and countries will have two weeks (by July 10th) to accept or reject them. That’s after the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, so Jade Carey will now be able to contend for the team before accepting or denying her individual spot. In short, USA Gymnastics needs to release another statement. Also at stake — the floor spot, which will go to Vanessa Ferrari or her compatriot Lara Mori.
Since gymnastics simply refuses to have a light news week, the Pan American Championships are happening, with women’s qualifications starting on Saturday. Reminder: the top two eligible all-arounders from qualifications (nominative, and one per country) will get spots at the Olympics.
From Team Brazil, Rebeca Andrade (check out her interview with Olympics.com) looks ready to grab an Olympic spot, but also looking great is compatriot Lorrane Oliveira, who debuted a piked double arabian half out, which apparently was provisionally awarded an F, in podium training. Flavia isn’t there because she’s rehabbing her ankle, and Jade Barbosa also unfortunately withdrew due to injury. Check out Brazilian Gymnastics on Twitter for podium training clips.
Looks like Jessica Lopez will not be competing, leaving the second spot wide open for other athletes. One of the Argentinian athletes here could do it, with a few of their team members previously scoring in the 50s, like Martina Dominici and Abigail Magistrati. Yamilet Peña Abreu will be there, but her all-around scores likely won’t be enough to get her to Tokyo. From Mexico, Paulina Campos or Victoria Mata might have a shot.
…which earned a 14.000 and was beautiful aside from a few wobbles. The competition continues with event finals on Saturday and Sunday.
The Varna World Cup was held last week. Highlights included Uliana Perebinosova winning the bars title with a 6.1 D score, and also taking vault silver and floor bronze. Coline Devillard took the vault title with a 14.150 average, ahead of Perebinosova and Oksana Chusovitina, who added a bronze to her massive medal pile.
Elizabeth Seitz won the German national all-around final with a 53.500, and leads on bars and floor in qualifications. The competition continues this weekend with event finals. French nationals will be held this weekend, too.
In NCAA news, Leah Smith switched allegiances from Washington to Arkansas.
Check out this essay from The Gymternet about the tragic death of a Cameroon gymnast and how Olympic qualification can help solve disparities between programs.
Tweet of the week
This week’s WTF moment brought to you by Pan Ams:
Five at the IX: Chellsie Memmel, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles
Three gymnasts talked to the media after day one of competition. Edited for clarity and length.
I’m ready for bed.
How did it feel to get back on bars, and to have the crowd behind you all night?
The crowd was phenomenal; that was amazing. The energy that that helps bring you, and that extra adrenaline, is huge.
I am happy with bars; obviously I would have loved to get a full bar routine. Full disclosure: I’ve never made a full bar routine so I was just going to see how it went. But I’m really happy with how that went; I’m good.
Tell me about what happened on bars. Your pak was so high.
It was a little high. The hindorff was a little bit far, and yeah, that pak, I just had to stretch and I was like, well, I hope I’m going to get to the bar and I hope I can hang on for the kip. Normally I try not to be that high, but it worked. I made it through. It was good; I haven’t had to deal with the nerves and the butterflies yet on bars so I was just really happy with that, getting it in the two parts; I’m good. I got down and they were like, “OK, 20 seconds,” and I was like, well, I’m taking the neutral [deduction], because I need a little more than 30 to breathe and get back up there.
What happened when you jumped off bars?
I usually do the clear hip half, so the clear hip just finished a little bit too far to get the half. If it went over, I was going to jump down, I wasn’t going to try to do a kip cast pirouette. It was just in the plan; if it didn’t go like it usually does, I was just going to get down and get back up. I was cool with that.
Can you take us to when you landed your dismount on beam and all the emotions of that moment?
That was a lot. Actually, the emotions started after I saved my arabian; I was like, yes! And I kind of smiled, and I was like, alright, I got this dismount. But then, after actually landing the dismount, and saluting, it was like a major exhale and sigh of relief and like, I did it; I made my beam routine. That was huge. I felt very proud of that.
Your dad said it’s been three years since he saw you compete in person. What was it like having him in the stands tonight, and what did he say to you before the meet?
It was amazing having him in the stands. Actually, before my bar routine I was trying to look for him. I was getting nervous, because I was like, I don’t know where they are. And then right before I went, I saw them, and I was like, OK, this is going to be a good routine. Before the competition, he came to our hotel and he was just saying to forget about everything and just do what I do best. He was just saying how he’s super proud of me and he’s super excited to watch.
How much did this performance mean to you?
This performance meant a lot to me, especially because it was my first all-around competition in about a year. I was really excited to get back out there on vault and floor. Floor wasn’t my best, and I kind of just gave it my all on vault because I was obviously really nervous; I haven’t really been the best at vault. But my bar routine was something that I’m super proud of. It just felt amazing, so surreal, that I actually made the bar routine, because I feel like people kind of doubted that I wouldn’t be able to make the bar routine. I was really excited about that.
How do you feel physically after having done all four events?
I feel really good, actually. The crowd was just amazing and it just felt really good to be back out there because I feel like people kind of counted me out a little bit because I was only doing bars and beam for a little bit. But by trials I think I’ll be back to 100%.
When you finish a bar routine like that with all the connections, what’s going through your mind?
I was super excited; I didn’t even salute the right way. It just felt like all my hard work has paid off, because in the past couple competitions I haven’t been able to make it, and at camps, too. So to make it in competition finally was something that just felt so amazing.
What do you mean when you say you didn’t salute the right way? Also what’s it like to compete on this brand of bars?
The Senoh bars I actually really like a lot. At the beginning I didn’t like them because they were super bouncy and I really like stiff bars because I like to be able to control the bar, whereas with these ones, you kind of have to let the bar do the work and then you just have to go with it. But the more I swing on it the more I started to like it, and now I’m really confident when I get on these bars.
I did salute the wrong way because I was just so excited that I just turned the other way, because usually there are judges on both sides, so then I did a half turn and then I saluted the other way, so I really did like a full twist.
It’s hard not to notice your ankle hurting you between events. What are you doing to manage the pain?
Today it was just a little bit sore because I did land short on my last pass. Usually I just push through it, but it’s because I want to. I want to be able to compete all four. I think it’s really important to get the all-around experience before trials for me. I’ve just been icing it, and taking the time off that I needed from it for a while. And now, it’s just time to push through because we’re at the end, we’re already here. I just have to get there.
I’m sorry about my voice; I’ve been screaming all day.
You had two really good meets at Winter Cup and Classic. How important was it to have a big meet tonight?
Honestly, looking back at Winter Cup and Classics and having such good meets there, I wanted to do the same for the rest of the time being. And this meet is really, really important due to it being a competition right before trials, and I just wanted to show that I can stay consistent throughout the whole time, and I’m really happy that I was able to do that today. We have one more day, and I can’t wait.
We saw you giving Simone a pep talk before she went on floor. What did you say?
Basically, making a long story short, I just told her that this is her time; she knows how to do everything. It’s just her and the floor, and to not worry about everybody else. And that’s what she did; she showed what she’s been doing in the gym and throughout the practices while we’re here. I’m really proud of her.
When you have a wobble like you did on beam, how do you stay mentally composed? Do you think you would have been able to do that a couple years ago?
Honestly, after that little wobble on beam, I had to rethink everything throughout the routine. I just had to take it one skill at a time, because yes, that was a major thing that happened right at the beginning, and I just wanted to stay focused throughout the whole thing. Definitely years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I probably would have been wobbling here and there throughout the rest of the routine, and it wouldn’t have been good. But my confidence in my gymnastics has been so much better throughout the whole time that I’ve been with Cecile and Laurent, and I’m very happy that I was able to pull the rest of the beam routine out.
What is your self-care routine in between practicing?
I was never a napper. I was like, no, I’m not going to nap between practices, because I always thought they made me tired, but now as I’ve gotten older, I can’t function without a nap and it’s really, really hard to function. So, I definitely do that. Sometimes I do some online shopping, I’ll do that a lot. I’ll go buy some shoes as well. Mostly I just nap and do Normatec and ice to make sure my body’s doing good.
What made you decide to do two vaults tonight?
It was a plan. This was just to see basically how I was going to feel after doing two vaults, because they’re back to back. Those were just a little sneak peek of what’s going to come for trials and stuff.