August 20, 2013

That Was Good? The Execution of All Things

Everyone's favorite avuncular analyst and UTRS expert (so, gymnecologist?) recently recalled a post comparing execution scores between the US and international judges that I wrote in June and then promptly forgot about. What, am I supposed to remember everything I say?

Basically, it amounts to the idea that we often think that international judging is some paragon of strictness that would never be as lax and charitable as the US judges, but over the last few years the international judges have been within a believable range with the national judges in execution scores. So, I began to wonder if that will continue this year and if the World judges will mimic what we have seen so far in 2013, which brings us to an analysis of execution scores at this year's Nationals.

You probably had a lot of thoughts during last weekend's P&G Championships, ranging from "Hey, fewer of these hairstyles look like shanty towns" to "Hey, that's not a switch 1/2" to "Hey, so did Nastia kill Elfi?" and all of them are completely understandable. I bet you weren't thinking, "Hey, this is some historically excellent execution." But you know who was thinking that? The judges. Yeah. Deal with it.

The average execution score across the whole senior competition was an 8.515 this year. Guess what that's higher than? 2012 Nationals. And 2011 Nationals. And 2010 Nationals. And 2009 Nationals. In fact, the only recent competition that beats that number is 2012 Olympic Trials, which is to be expected. Trials should contain only the very best athletes at the peak of their Olympic preparation and not these barely qualified, happy to be there types who are getting 8.1s for hit routines. 

Let's also take a deeper look by event. (Numbers in parentheses indicate rank)

Aside from sucking the light fantastic on bars (and being the worst bars year in the United States is quite an accomplishment), 2013 Nationals saw remarkably high execution scores compared to recent competitions. The vault scores in particular are interesting. The vaults this year were okay, but two and three tenths better than recent years? Really? Would the new code alone justify such a bump?

August 13, 2013

Championships Time!

Yes, we're on the eve of P&G Championships (what's the over/under on how many times people call it Visas during the broadcasts?), but given that this is an NCAA blog in its heart of hearts, I would be remiss if I didn't address at least a little NCAA information before going into elite matters.

UCLA has officially announced Jenni Pinches as part of the team. There is some murmuring about the grant-in-aid language in the release and what exactly that means. I am far from knowledgeable on the scholarship aspects of collegiate gymnastics (leave me to my Yurchenkos), but as far as I understand it, committing recruits usually sign two things: the NLI (National Letter of Intent) and the GIA (Grant-in-Aid). The NLI commits the student to the school, and the GIA is the actual scholarship agreement. I assume the reference to Pinches signing the GIA simply indicates that she did not sign an NLI (the form that is usually referenced) because she didn't go through the normal recruiting process and never had to declare her commitment anywhere to end her recruiting eligibility. I wouldn't read much into it. She's joining the team and she's getting athletic aid. That's all we really need to know.

The teams are also starting to unveil schedules, which means it's time to get excited about the season way too early ("Five months away, time to start planning!" says only me). I'll put together the annual composite schedule in early September once a few more teams have released, but here are a few that we have:

Florida - Facing all Super Six teams from last year, good opener against UCLA. I have been hoping for a Florida/UCLA meet for a few years (championships doesn't really count), and the January 11 meet could be a tight competition to see who is consciously not peaking in January the most.

LSU - Usual SEC difficulty plus a meet with Oklahoma and the Metroplex. No road meets after February 21 except SECs, so they'll need to focus on getting some good road scores in the early months when top teams are usually working through consistency and doing depth exploration (sometimes some really deep-sea diving). They're also always fighting the reputation battle, so early big scores can only help that cause.  

Utah - Not starting against UCLA this year. The expected schedule mostly, really packing in the Pac-12 meets. March back-to-back with Michigan and Georgia should be good.

Auburn, Minnesota

OK, now elite matters. Championships begins in two days, everyone.

A paltry affair
For me, the women's competition is all about the health of Elizabeth Price because she is the one who can currently disrupt the expected team balance. Some people seem to be throwing the likes of Ernst and Milliet into Worlds conversations as well because they placed well on bars and beam at Classic, but that is meaningless. Making a team as a specialist is based on ability to challenge for a medal at Worlds, not ability to beat MyKayla Skinner.