June 23, 2015

2000 Olympic Trials: Special Victims Unit

I decided to rewatch the 2000 Olympic Trials. I guess because I just haven't been feeling jaded and flabbergasted enough lately and really needed to work harder to grab that golden ring. It's a process. You've got to get your nose to the grindstone if you want to see results. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Trautwig.

This meet is insane, and this broadcast is traumatic. I have some horrible thoughts. Come. Join me. Let's see who can last the longest before jumping straight into a volcano.

Chapter 1: Everything Is Completely Healthy Here

-Look how everyone is smiling in this opening montage! We're all happy! Great time! Fun! I don't need any therapy!

-Parkettes hair. Never forget what happened here. Kristen Maloney, look at yourself. Think about your actions.

-"We don't need Paul Revere to climb to the Old North Church and yell out, 'The Olympics are coming.'" Stop. Everything about that sentence is historically inaccurate. Please return to the third grade.

-Tim Daggett is a DUCKLING here. Apparently, sitting next to Al for 20 years is the equivalent of being president. WATCH OUT NASTIA. SAVE YOURSELF.

-Bela and Martha hanging over a super cool laptop.
-100% they're reading Dawson's Creek fanfic. There's literally nothing else I can imagine them needing that computer for.

-Tim says the word "mutiny" with such ravenousness. He was totally rooting for pitchforks. So was I.

-"Elfi, a year ago, Jamie Dantzscher was a withered piece of useless garbage. How did she stop being garbage?"
-"Well Al, Bela Karolyi talked to her for 30 seconds, and then she was fixed." YAY GYMNASTICS NARRATIVE.

-Jamie Dantzscher on bars. "Plays gymnastics on this event." What does that mean? That's not a sentiment.
-I would describe the Dantzscher family's level of fervor for that routine as vaguely Spanish Inquisitiony. 

-Next up is Shang Chunsong. I mean Morgan White.
-But first, let's enjoy a video retrospective of her having a Level 50 nervous breakdown. YAY. It's like in romantic comedies when they have a musical montage of an unbearable trash couple trying on oversize sunglasses by a pier, except instead of that, it's a lifetime of emotional trauma. I know we all watch that replay and think, "This is normal. She's doing fine. I don't have any questions."
-And then after Morgan White vaults, and you're also going, "Oh God, Oh God, Oh God..."

-Not putting a mic on BLT is always the wrong decision. Yes, I meant to write MLT. No, I'm not changing it.

-And then, in a world of chaos, emotional collapses, and unfortunate misunderstandings of American Revolutionary history, the sun breaks through the clouds and bestows upon us Elise Ray Of Hope. Thank you. There is good in the world after all.

-Remember when Beth Rybacki was really into saying, "Stoi!"? Like really into it? Elise is like, "Oh. Yes. Stoi. Fine."

June 9, 2015

Brenna, Brenna, Brenna

In this week's edition of Things I Don't Really Understand, Brenna Dowell has elected to defer the 2015-2016 season at Oklahoma to train elite again in the run-up to Rio. Because she hasn't endured enough national team trauma already in her career and needed to give Martha yet another chance to name her to a team and then decide she shouldn't compete? No Brenna, this year we're going to put McKayla Maroney's Youtube channel up on bars in prelims instead of you. Enjoy the training gym.

Sigh. The unending power of that Olympic dream. "Unfinished business." This happens from time to time. Her Holiness (and by Her Holiness, I mean Kristina Vaculik, but you should know that by now), took a year off from Stanford to make Canada's 2012 team, though that was a more likely prospect than this is. But, you know, go for it? Or whatever? Dreams? Reach for the stars? The more the merrier. I wish she didn't have to take a year off from NCAA to do it, but it's extremely difficult to do both at the same time. We saw Zam try to go straight through NCAA season-elite season-NCAA season, and it ended with an Achilles tear. And she was more in the "I want to have the elite experience and see how it goes, whatever I'm Zam, let's smile and dance" camp. Brenna has had the elite experience. She's not going back just to have the experience. She wants THE PRECIOUS. 

In the short term, this does kind of suck for Oklahoma. Oh, you were relying on Brenna's scores on at least three events? Sorry bye now. It does give us something else to talk about this elite season, though. Team selection just got that little bit more interesting. 

Brenna is always going to be at least in the mix for a World Championship team given her Amanar and high D score on bars.

Those are valuable tools, but if that wasn't enough to make the team last year (though she was returning from injury in the first half of the summer), it's hard to see how that will be enough to make the team this year, with the addition of Douglas (most significantly because Douglas can fill a big spot on bars) along with Raisman, Key, and Dennis making selection even more challenging this time around. The possible opening for Brenna comes from the injury to Ashton Locklear and the "when exactly are you not injured?" career history of Madison Kocian, two bars specialists and some of her most direct competition. Presumably Dowell will try to D score everyone else into submission again this time, but boy, she cannot afford a single fall. She can't give anyone a chance to doubt her consistency.

As for Oklahoma, this one will sting a little bit, even though it doesn't stop the Sooners from being a title contender in 2016. They still have solid depth, but that's going to be tested now. Finally getting a healthy season from Charity Jones becomes that much more important because she can be that strong score on vault and floor that they would have expected to get from Brenna. Bars also just got a little bit interesting for the Sooners. Now just three members of last year's final lineup are returning: Wofford, Scaman, and Kmieciak. They'll have Nicole Lehrmann coming in, and several other possible 9.850s who have been hanging around the backup ranks, but they'll have to reinvent that lineup a bit and find some new big scores. They've done it before.

Elsewhere, in Opposite Of Brenna news, Lexie Priessman instannounced that she is, in fact, going to LSU in the fall. I didn't know there was still a question about that, so...good?

The other big chatter going around the gymternet has been about some pretty dramatic changes to NCAA for next season, including but not limited to devaluing the Yfull to 9.950, stepping up bars release requirements, and getting rid of event finals. I've decided to wait until we hear official things and details before thinking about this and formulating extended and dramatic opinions (we have plenty of time still), but you can read about it here. These are all areas that have been crying out for fixing. 

Also, Elise Ray is now Associate Head Coach at Washington as David McCreary is leaving to go Yim it up in Arizona. Elise will make a top program very happy one day.

June 1, 2015

2010 US Nationals, NCAA Style

We sort of know what's going to happen to former elites when they enter the NCAA ranks. Sort of. If you're crazy good, you probably shouldn't stop being crazy good all of a sudden. But there are all kinds of subcategories below crazy good that most people occupy, and when the NCAA CoP comes into play and limits what can be gained simply from mashing in the difficulty or absorbing errors, it can disrupt the previous balance of power.

The example I always use, because it's still recent (except I just realized it kind of isn't anymore) and pretty stark, is one Shayla Worley on bars. As an elite, Shayla was all about them bars. She was Duchess Tkatchev of Orlando. She made the 2007 team specifically to do bars in the team final (and floor, but mostly bars), and when we all agreed to pretend like the 2008 team selection came down to finding a bars worker to be the 6th member of the team, she seemed right in the hunt. 

In spite of her pedigree and accomplishments, however, Shayla's bars never became a major NCAA routine, mostly because of the dismount. That double front was never going to cut it in NCAA, both in the scoring department and the staying-alive department, so instead, she had to learn a DLO that never really became comfortable for her. (Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs had to do the same thing at around the same time, and also developed a mostly troubling DLO that was the primary culprit keeping her from weekly 9.9s). Because of that, and in spite of her clear talent on bars, Shayla was usually stuck at 9.850 instead of becoming the big fat star her elite success seemed to foretell. 

On the other side of the argument, we now have Alex McMurtry. (Not an elite, but) she was known for having a bars routine that fell clearly below the level of her other events and her top JO contemporaries. I believe in my preview of the 2015 season, I may have invoked the word "Brestyan's" when describing her bars work, which was probably overstating it a bit, but she was not expected to make an impact on bars for Florida.

(This commentary is a complete LOL now, by the way. No, she would never water down. How dare you suggest such a thing. Also note how Tim compared her gienger to Nastia's. Nastia laughed way too hard. Then immediately ran to a closet and snapped 50 pencils.)

But in the 2015 NCAA season, McMurtry managed to pull off the very rare Reverse Shayla, turning her routine from a nope into something that won Super Six. (And bested Shayla Worley's career high on bars in the process. Welcome to 2015 Super Six scoring, as we've over-discussed already.)

Florida definitely refined this routine quite a bit, but that's easier to do when you take out the hard parts. It's all about having a dismount. That's the difference between McMurtry and Shayla. Getting back that exceptional tuck full makes the whole routine. In spite of having no previous reputation for success on bars, this routine becomes a winner because of one vital, excellent skill. (And exposes some of the holes in the CoP, but holes exist to be exploited.) Get to NCAA, and the balance of power changes. An 8.9 in JO ends up with a better career high than a Worlds TF competitor.

Which is to say, we don't always know what will happen. Part of the joy of watching gymnasts move from elite/L10 into NCAA is in seeing how expectations shift, quality and stature evolve, and previous hierarchies are abolished. It happens all the time, and it can be fun to go back and compare how things stacked up in elite gymnastics compared to how they eventually played out in NCAA. (I should note at this time that I don't know what fun is.) This is the kind of rambling that the post-NCAA, pre-major-elite-events season is for.

I was just checking the standings from 2010 US Nationals, GREAT WEEKEND PLANS, and it's amusing to look back on those results knowing what we know now. Since I've already been talking about bars, I'll keep things there. These are the final rankings on bars from 2010 US Nationals, with the gymnasts who competed NCAA (excluding Whitcomb and Lee, who didn't really have NCAA careers) noted in bold.

1. Rebecca Bross
2. Cassie Whitcomb
3. Mattie Larson
4. Mackenzie Caquatto
5. Chelsea Davis
6. Morgan Smith
7. Vanessa Zamarripa
8. Sophia Lee
9. Samantha Shapiro
9. Bridgey Caquatto
11. Aly Raisman
12. Jaclyn McCartin
13. Kaitlyn Clark
14. Kytra Hunter
15. Georgia Dabritz
16. Rheagan Courville
17. Annette Miele
18. Lauren Beers
19. Brandie Jay
19. Briley Casanova