July 31, 2012

Women's Team Final

This is it, our day of days. I hope the gymnasts are less nervous than I am right now, because otherwise they will all be falling all over the beam. If there was ever evidence that I could never be a high-level athlete, my mental state right now is it. I'm not even doing anything.

Gabby Douglas, Huang Qiushuang, and Ksenia Afanasyeva are all doing beam in an Olympic Team Final. I think I have reason to be disconcerted. How many times over the months and years have we said, "over my dead body" about all three of those?

My current state:

Well, here we go. All of the attention will revolve around how the US hasn't won since 1996, but the Russians have technically never won (as an independent state), so both are overdue. China is relying on Yao to do vault in Team Finals, so that tells me what I need to know about their chances, and Romania just isn't strong enough on bars or vault (aside from Izbasa) to challenge hits from the US and Russia. I say hits, but honestly I would be surprised if either the US or Russia goes 12 for 12 tonight. There will be falls, the question is when and how many.

Follow along after the jump at 11:30 ET/8:30 PT

July 30, 2012

Two Per Country

Obviously, in the wake of Jordyn Wieber missing out on the All-Around final, the subject of the two-per-country rule has come to the forefront once again. This is perhaps a positive side-effect of the result because it leads people to remember that this rule needs to be addressed.

However, I am a little resentful of the way this rule is being discussed both in gymnastics and in the wider sports media. Now, I agree with the large majority of people that a three-per-country rule makes more sense for our sport because it would provide a more engaging final competition and because the two-per-country rule doesn't do anything. (I don't buy this fairness argument, though, because sport isn't fair. That's what makes it sport. If it were fair, the US would be fielding a team of 11 here and everyone would get a participation trophy.) The true reasons this change should be made are getting lost behind emotion and a lack of understanding and explanation.

While everyone is quick to jump on the current rule and say how terrible it is because it was mean to Jordyn, during last night's NBC broadcast, for instance, not a single person stopped to explain why the rule exists in the first place. There is an actual reason there. It's not just arbitrary. The two-per-country rule is intended to encourage the international nature of the sport, cultivate the opportunities (and attention given to those opportunities) for people in countries without gymnastics history or a major program, and ultimately create a worldwide sport with true international parity. (I apologize for the use of parity. I've been watching NCAA for too long.)

I think we can all agree that those noble aims make complete sense and would nurture the health of the sport. While misguided, the FIG is at least coming from right place. However, the rule does not work because you cannot hope to build gymnastics programs by starting at the top and suddenly giving access at major competitions to people who aren't prepared for it. Artificially bringing in gymnasts who don't have the talent level to participate doesn't make the country stronger. The attention needs to be paid to the lower levels of the sport, to increasing funding and access on the junior and domestic levels (note that this is difficult, which is why the FIG chooses instead to pay lip service to the idea with a stupid rule).

Creating a more international sport has to start from the youngest gymnasts at the smallest clubs, not at the Olympics. That's why the two-per-country rule doesn't do anything. That's why we should get rid of it, and that's what we should be talking about. Right now, the argument against the rule is coming from a "the thing I wanted to happen didn't happen so now I want the rules to be changed!" place, which is petulant to say the least.

Men's Team Final

As we attempt to recover from the hoopla of women's qualification and the NBC broadcast of it, which was a ridiculous endeavor all of its own (with Jordyn standing there right behind Aly and Gabby during their Andrea interviews. . . I died of discomfort along with everyone in history). Though it did allow us to discover my new favorite Elfi-ism, "This routine is a piece of work in every sense of the word." I will be using that often. I don't understand why people don't like her. She cracks me up and is the shining star of that harrowing broadcast team.

But now we have a bigger event, the men's Team Final. Our wacky qualifying day saw Japan and China qualify in the fifth and sixth spots, but don't believe that makes them distant contenders in the final. I'm a little less optimistic for China because they seem to have legitimate holes in this lineup, while Japan's struggles were less indicative of a pattern of errors than of a bad day. [Message from the future: look how super smart I am. . . HA]. That being said, there are legitimately six countries in medal contention who could be exchanging the lead all day.

We saw a lot of tight routines and bizarre misses in Qualification, and the nerves will only increase for Team Finals. Even though there are a number of relevant countries, it may just be that going clean enough is the requirement for a Bronze.

The interesting US lineup decision was keeping Horton off vault in favor of Orozco, as we see above. Though Horton did not go in Qualification to allow Orozco and Leyva the opportunity to do the AA, he is usually a stronger vaulter than Orozco. Given his struggles in PT and his poor competition overall so far, this is not such a surprise.

Commentary after the jump from 11:30 ET/8:30 PT

July 29, 2012

Live Women's Qualification - Subdivision 5

We're almost home. Just one more subdivision to go. I would not expect Romania to have any trouble placing ahead of China, but it may be too much to expect them to challenge Russia or the US. There has been conflicting information about Iordache's health, but it does appear that she will attempt the AA today. How much difficulty? We wait and see.

Japan needs a 167.332 to advance to Team Finals, which I expect them to get.

Also to watch are the tenuous spots in the Event Finals, such as Afanasyeva's current 6th place on beam. If two Romanians pass her, it would take only one more routine to knock her out of finals.

Here we go!

Live Women's Qualification - Subdivision 4

This subdivision comes up too soon! I haven't yet fully processed the idea that Aly Raisman is in AA finals or why I am inexplicably thrilled about it. I'm no huge Aly fan, nor do I harbor any ill will towards Jordyn. It's just the joy of the unexpected. I'm going to need 18 montages about this on NBC. Jordyn's agent needs to be making sure she gets the big "get back on the horse" narrative during team finals so that she can maintain some press from this after we forget that she didn't make AA finals.

Now it's up to Mustafina and Komova to make me forget all about Team USA. Don't be surprised if multiple Russians outscore Raisman. Will Komova stay on all the apparatuses? After Wieber was knocked out, we need Mustafina and Grishina to knock out Komova. (I apologize for saying that.)

What are we going to see from China? Greatness or great mess, neither would be a surprise.

Notes coming soon as we get underway.

Live Women's Qualification - Subdivision 3

We are soon to get underway in the third subdivision of Women's Qualification, which features the US, Great Britain, France, and Canada. The final three subdivisions are the main event today, and I'm  excited to see what the US can put up. Does it make me a bad gymnastics fan if I'm going to follow the US team from apparatus to apparatus instead of watching the main feed? I can watch the other important routines (so, Tweddle's bars) on replay. The non-US question of this group will be whether a PPL-free Canada can beat Australia's fall-laden score.

For the United States, the most important routines will be Maroney's vault (is she really ready to do it at the 16.000 level she needs?), Wieber's bars (that routine composition is hanging by a thread), and Douglas's beam (obviously). If they get what they need out of those performances, it will be a successful day. Also, keep your eye on the ball, and the ball is Aly Raisman. She's not so far behind Wieber and Douglas in AA scoring potential. A fall from one of them could become a total thing.

What's going to happen here?

Current Standings after two subdivisions
1. Italy - 168.397
2. Australia - 166.721
3. Brazil - 161. 295

1. Ferrari - 57.932
2. Gomez Porras - 56.132
3. Ferlito - 55.500
4. Steingruber - 54.715
5. Little - 54.498

Competition begins at 9:45 ET/6:45 PT with commentary here.

Live Women's Qualification - Subdivision 2

After skipping our first subdivision due to early start time and lack of competitive teams (what can I say? I'm a scoundrel), it's time to start this thing for real with Subdivision 2, which includes Italy and Australia.

Neither team off to a great start, with Australia opening floor with a 12.666 from Emily Little.

July 28, 2012

Men's Qualification - A Day of Thoughts

Men's Qualification day at the Olympics. I'll be popping in and out of the coverage throughout the day with thoughts and concerns, mostly concerns.

Standings after 2 Subdivisions:
1. USA - 275.342
2. Great Britain - 272.420
3. Japan - 270.503
4. China - 269.985
5. France - 265.759
6. Italy - 262.085
7. Korea - 255.327

1. Danell Leyva - 91.265
2. John Orozco - 90.567
3. Kristian Thomas - 90.256
4. Kohei Uchimura - 89.764
5. Daniel Purvis - 89.199

Please don't let this mean that the US will suddenly become the "favorite" to win everything in the minds of certain commentators. 

Commentary after the jump:

July 26, 2012

Women's Podium Training Reflections

  • The big story of the day is the injury to Larisa Iordache's foot. Basically, Iordache's foot heard about Maroney's foot and was all like, "Pssssh, I can beat that." Iordache trained very minimally on vault and floor and looks like she will not compete them in Qualification. There is still hope that she will be back for Team Finals. Romania can certainly manage on floor without her, but they need her vault to help offset bars. Izbasa threw a Cheng on vault, and there are reports about Chelaru upgrading, but I have so many problems with her block that I'm not thinking about that yet.    
  • The United States looks to be on track. I don't say the team looked good because I thought it was a sluggish day overall, but they looked fine enough for right now. It's interesting that this team gets discussed as being among the most talented the US has produced because they clearly lack the flair of most of their predecessors. What they mean is that this team is more consistent and uses the code better than others. It's a smarter, safer team, but not a more talented one.  
  • On the issue of the American's safety, I think that's one of the biggest obstacles this team has to overcome. Martha is a huge worrywart and won't let people compete skills that they haven't proven at numerous camps over numerous months. So while we see other contenders putting forward late upgrades and adding connections, the US stays the same and allows others to catch them. The US wins the Olympics in April and then lets everyone catch them by July/August.
  • There were a few issues in PT with Gabby Douglas's Amanar and Kyla Ross taking a fall on beam, but all the other problems looked normal and minor. The decision as to who will be first up on vault and beam in TF will be an interesting storyline to watch during Qualification.  

US Women's Podium Training

After hearing nothing about NBC broadcasting podium training this time, I decided that there was no point to wait around by the computer for updates I could read and digest appropriately at any time. And alas, suddenly the broadcast appears. A little warning is all I ask.

I'm going to watch it now, so let's pretend this was a live blog after the break.

July 25, 2012

Men's Podium Training

Disappointingly, this year we have no broadcast of men's and women's podium training, which we had in Beijing, so instead we have to rely on our bevy of reporters embedded in the Pink Nightmare Arena.

Men's podium training (we need to stop for a minute and talk about how I recently heard someone refer to it as "Po Tray" after which I died a thousand deaths, and now that's all I can think of when talking about podium training) is notoriously unrepresentative of competition performance, similar to what we see from the Russian women. Unlike the situation with American women, a fall in podium training is not some kind of red flag that will get you taken out of the competition lineup. You know if Gabby Douglas falls on her Amanar in podium training tomorrow that Aly Raisman will become the #3 vaulter.

So what have we learned?

July 24, 2012

Olympic Gymnastics Score Sheets

For those who like to follow along at home, here are some score sheets for men's and women's qualification.

Men's Qualification

Women's Qualification


July 22, 2012

Get Excited

Last night, NBC slapped together a little "30 Greatest (NBC) Olympic Moments" retrospective that was supposed to get us excited about the Olympics (not that I need help), but it was a little bit of a missed opportunity. They rushed through too many of them without nearly enough grandiose language and sweeping instrumental music from a recent film score. It's like they didn't even want us to cry. Where were the dramatic overstatements and extreme sentimentality? That's what we're all here for.

This is more the style that I'm talking about:

OK, now I'm excited. The Opening Ceremony is on Friday, and I have high dramatic expectations. Don't disappoint. 

July 14, 2012

Olympic Gymnastics for Beginners

Two weeks. We have just two weeks until the Olympics begin and I sequester myself in a live-streaming bunker heretofore unexplored by civilized man. Mmm, early-round badminton at 2:30am? I'm there! I'm already a little angry at NBC that ranking round archery on the morning of July 27th is not on their live streaming schedule on the Live Extra App. (Yeah, I'm not well.) Frankly, I will emerge from my cave on August 12th looking like the missing link. I have the Smithsonian's number in my phone already just in case they need to make some observations for posterity.

But given that we are about to enter gymnastics' quadrennial foray into public consciousness before the attention is squandered yet again, those of you with social tendencies (I'm sorry) may find yourselves in the awkward position of watching Olympic gymnastics with other people. More specifically, other people who don't know anything about gymnastics.

It's a harrowing experience, what with all the questions and lack of understanding about 180-degree splits, so after the jump I have provided a handy list of common questions with their appropriate responses to help you through the process. Feel free to refer to this list, perhaps even employing a simple point so you don't have to use words, when dealing with a beginner.

July 2, 2012

A Moment for Alicia Sacramone

The women's Olympic team has been announced. It is certainly common knowledge in the gymnastics world by this point, so I don't feel the need to go into dissecting it here. It is the correct decision, but I just wanted to take a moment to talk about Alicia Sacramone.

I held out a little hope that she might have been named an alternate, but I certainly understand why she wasn't. Price serves as the backup for vault and Finnegan serves as the backup for beam (and they're both AAers) so there wasn't necessarily a need for Alicia, but still I had hope. It was not to be, so her elite career has come to an end.

July 1, 2012

Various Whatnots

  • USA Gymnastics has announced the men's team: Leyva, Orozco, Mikulak, Dalton, Horton. This is not surprising, especially given how much everyone has been playing up the Horton angle to make sure he made the team. There was a legitimate argument to be made for Legendre on this team instead of Horton, but given consistency considerations, this is probably the smartest choice. Legendre, Brooks, and Naddour are the alternates.
  • The women's Olympic Trials finish tonight. There's no reason to think anything has changed at this point. NBC was really trying to make Elizabeth Price happen on Night 1, but it's not going to happen. We saw some sloppiness in some key routines on Night 1, so let's watch for that to be eliminated on Night 2. Wieber got some favors that she won't at the Olympics. Mostly, I'm rooting for some veteran miracles tonight, like Nastia hitting a bar routine and Alicia sticking a vault in their last meets. After that, we'll have a good four weeks to debate lineups and worry about who got injured.
  • LSU has officially hired Jay Clark. This was originally discussed almost immediately after he was fired from Georgia, but these things take time to become official. At first, I thought it would be a good idea for Jay to get out of the SEC, but this seems like it could be a good fit. We know his skills as an assistant, but it will be interesting to watch whether he has much mark on LSU next season. 
  • Speaking of next season, LSU is among the schools that have already announced their 2013 schedules. They face NC State, Alabama, and Georgia all twice. I don't much care for repeat meets unless it's a big rivalry. I always like to see a few more out-of-conference meets, but I know how difficult that can be to work with the SEC schedule. Metroplex should be fun next year with Oklahoma, Georgia, Oregon State, and LSU.
  • Brenna Dowell (who was among the few second-tier girls to hit her routines on Night 1 of Trials, so she is in a surprising 8th) will be joining Mackenzie Wofford at Oklahoma in 2014-2015. K.J. got on these elites early, and she is building quite the future team.