And Then There Was Drama

We have been wondering for many months if it would be a three way race in the USA for the top two coveted all around finals spots at the World Championships, or if Marta would put up two all-arounders and give two others the opportunity to qualify for event finals. She had said after US Nationals that she would be happy to go with the three all-arounder scenario and then take an alternate, but time would tell.

When the selection committee selected Brenna Dowell as the fourth member of the World Championship team, it was a little unclear as to what path they were taking. If Brenna perfectly hit her new bar routine, she might have an opportunity to make it to the bar event finals. But Brenna makes more sense as an all around alternate than as an event specialist. Peyton Ernst seemed to have more potential to make it into the beam finals than Brenna did to make it into the bars finals. So the selection of Brenna gave us our first clue that Marta might still be on the three all-arounders path. However, all official standings showed McKayla Maroney competing vault and floor and Brenna competing bars and beam.

Until yesterday. As podium training began, it became obvious that a shift had been made. International Gymnastics reported it first that McKayla Maroney would be competing the all around and Brenna would be an alternate. Read the full interview here. “All three have looked like All-around medal contenders in the training sessions we’ve observed here in Antwerp, but only two will be able to advance to All-around Finals due to the Worlds rules. So, one of the greatest battles during Prelims could be the battle among the three Americans for the two coveted Finals spots.”

Yes, we went from predictable to high drama. Isn’t it the American way? It must be mentioned how hard it must be for Brenna Dowell. And I agree. To come all the way to Antwerp and end up not competing is heart-breaking.  There have been many cries around the gymternet of how unfair it is because she has worked so hard. And I agree, it must be a heartbreaking experience. But I must admit. I think McKayla has worked incredibly hard for this opportunity as well.

Without a doubt, McKayla is the most popular, well spoken, sought out of the Fierce Five. She must have turned down so many opportunities to return to training. She went through three surgeries, an incredible media frenzy and still seemed to return to training better than ever, upgrading on floor and improving astronomically on beam and bars. Here McKayla talks about how very much she loves the sport.

Simone Biles comes in with the most difficulty at a 25.1. That is almost a point ahead of McKayla (24.2) and Kyla (24.0).  The real test here will be in consistency and in execution. Simone’s career is short, and not one yet that you can identify a pattern. However, US Nationals day 1 is the only time she has yet put 4 for 4 together. She has looked incredible in podium training, and with the proven results of Marta’s training camps, there is no solid reason to believe that she won’t come out and hit routine after routine. That being said, there is nothing that compares to the Olympic experience of McKayla and Kyla.

If Simone hits all her routines in prelims, McKayla and Kyla, best friends since they were little girls, will be battling it out for the second all around finals spot. McKayla comes in atleast .2 ahead in difficulty, but will most likely lose out more on beam and bars. On the other hand, Kyla cannot compete with McKayla on vault and floor. In the end, it will come down to stuck landings, legs together, and pointed toes. This will be a competition where every tenth counts.

All in all, I do believe it will be a race for the two all around spots (which I STILL disagree with as much as I EVER have!). Simone is looking AMAZING and if she hits, she will claim one of the two American spots. McKayla and Kyla will come down to sticks, form and a little bit of luck to see who makes it into the finals. They come into this competition with the lowest start values of all of the all around competitors, but the highest consistency and execution of all of the competitors

It is ironic, because often the controversy about difficulty vs execution is often about American vs European. But this year, the best execution but lowest difficulty will come from one, if not two of the American’s. The drama has begun to see who will make the top two..

McKayla Maroney Podium Training

McKayla Maroney is doing all around on the world stage! Marta had said this was the route she might go, but it is really exciting to see McKayla finally have this opportunity. She has worked so hard for it this year.

We have seen the 2012 team Olympic vault replayed so many times. Could this one even be better? I know the 10.0 in execution seems to be gone forever. But come on people! Award this kind of brilliance!

Bars is not McKayla’s strength. But she does have a nice swing, and this is the tightest form, most well executed routine I have seen her do.

She fell on one routine and stuck another, This seems to be a compilation of the two.

All pictures and videos by USA Gymnastics

She shimmies and shakes and and swoons with the best of them. And this vaulter can tumble. Really impressed with both the upgrades and the consistency of McKayla’s floor.

McKayla has, in my opinion, become one of the best interviewees in the sport of gymnastics EVER. Well, okay, maybe equal to Alicia Sacramone. But she always has authentic, heartfelt, interesting, non-trained things to say.

Simone Biles Podium Training

Ramping up the competition, Simone Biles also looked great in podium training.

Simone has so much power, she is great to watch on vault. In her first vault, she took a much bigger step than usual, but the second vault had her normal catlike landing.

No problem on bars, clean with a stuck dismount.

This might be one of the best beam routines I have seen Simone do. She is attacking the beam in Rebecca Bross style, and just hits. And her landing on a very tough dismount is just awesome!

Some people have said that Simone’s floor routine was one of the few things to get a spontaneous round of applause from the audience. It isn’t hard to see why. Smiles galore, sassy dance, hit leaps and jumps and the best landings I have seen in podium training. This girl is on fire!

Cute girl! She is just soaking it all in, loving the experience and having fun. Just what you want to see in a first senior outing. No nerves here.

All photos and videos by USA Gymnastics

Kyla Ross Podium Training

Kyla looked beautiful in podium training, as always. She has one of the most beautiful DTY being performed with just the slightest of little slides of her landing.

Her bars today weren’t quite as effortless and fluid as usual. In Gymnastike’s Beyond the Routine with Kyla done just before World’s Selection camp, Kyla was having a little trouble on bars and actually said that it was her hardest event. Should we be concerned? Nah. Kyla has been the most consistent bar’s performer of all the gymnasts going for the bar’s title. I am sure that she will put up the same beautiful routine she always does.

Kyla’s beam looked like always- like she is dancing in the clouds. So light and effortless. A small wobble and a bigger step than normal on her dismount. But she looks great.

Every time I watch this routine, I just CANNOT believe how far she has come in her performance this year. This routine is interesting, beautiful, has great musicality and expression of the music. In all honesty, I love it. I never thought I would say that. I LOVE Kyla Ross on floor. She needs to clean up her landings to save on those precious points. But it is as likely for her to stick her first two/three passes as not.

The highlight. Who would have thought that shy little Kyla could become so incredibly comfortable, herself, and fun in front of the camera. Love this girl.

All photos and videos from USA Gymnastics

World Podium Breakdown – Vault

As has been the case since her entry into the senior ranks, McKayla Maroney is the heavy favorite to win the Vault Championship. McKayla is firmly committed to training through the whole quad and making the Rio Olympic team. Wouldn’t it be an incredible feat for her to win Vault gold every year along the way? Though it seems ludicrous in the sport of gymnastics, It is an actual possibility for McKayla. The fluke fall on vault that lead to one of the most popular memes ever, that lead to a hunger and desire to compete four more years may have been one of the best things that ever happened to McKayla- and to gymnastics fans. Because most likely, it WAS a fluke that will not happen again. And as long as she continue in gymnastics, McKayla will grace us with the most incredible vaulting display we are likely to see.

For those of you that have never seen McKayla vault in person, let me assure you that it is one of the most magical things you have ever seen in gymnastics. Cameras just cannot capture the speed and power with which she gracefully barrels down the vault runway. The explosion that is McKayla coming off of the vaulting table. And the way she continues to gain height as she twists through the air. There is nothing else like it.

Simone Biles comes in a close second to McKayla. To look at her, it would seem that she could out power anyone in the world. And she almost can… anyone but McKayla that is. Simone doesn’t get quite the explosion that McKayla gets, but she makes up for it in her catlike landings. Though she has yet to do it in a competition, I have seen her stick two amanars cold in warm ups. Simone will make a definite run for the podium.

Next up as a vault contender is Hong Un Jong from North Korea. Hong Un Jong won the 2008 Olympic gold medal competing the same difficult vaults she will be competing at Worlds. It is amazing to think that she is still capable of that level of competition! She actually comes in with the most difficulty that will be completed. If she is able to compete them cleanly, she will be a front runner

Other contenders are:

Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland

Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan

Ellie Black of Canada

World Podium Breakdown – All Around

Though many exciting players have dropped out due to illness or injury, the 2013 Worlds All Around competition could actually almost live up to the expectations we all had of last year’s Olympic All Around Championships. The USA brings in two very strong all arounders in Simone Biles and Kyla Ross, who have both posted over a 60 all around score this year. Aliya Mustafina comes in healthier and more competitive than she has been since her injury. And Larisa Iordache has a chance to put in the performance that we all wanted to see last year. Any one of them has the ability to take the gold, and great gymnastics is in store.

The top five all around scores that have been posted this year mostly happened at the gymnasts’ perspective Nationals. Simone and Kyla pulled the top two, each scoring a 60.5. Aliya is right behind them with a 59.85. A new name to the all around podium possibilities this year is Giulia Steingruber from Switzerland. She scored a 59.4 at the Swiss Championships in early September. Larissa rounds out the top five of the gymnasts who will be competing at Worlds with a 58.55.

Simone and Kyla both looked great at US Nationals, and each still have a little bit of room for improvement. That is a great place to be going into Worlds. Simone comes in a full point ahead of Kyla in difficulty (D) scores, which usually means that Simone has to falter for Kyla to beat her. However, Simone has not had the most consistent history, and in her first major competition on a world stage, it would not be unheard of for her to do exactly that. Kyla has the advantage of her Olympic experience. She has been there, done that and just seems to get better under pressure. That being said, the USA has seemed to train their gymnasts to be machines on the world stage, and Simone is likely to be as well prepared for a solid competition as the past two years of girls have been.

Aliya also has a solid run at the gold. Reports are that she has had a cold, and isn’t as prepared as she would like to be. But she will be adding difficulty to her bars routine, putting her .5 behind Simone and .5 ahead of Kyla in the difficulty (D) score. It would be wonderful to see the delightful, mature Aliya combine with the fierce, unflappable Aliya of 2010 to grace the world stage. She is such a special gymnast, and seeing her return to an even better version of her former glory would be an incredible delight.

Giulia has dominated the all around in Switzerland for the past three years. However, this is the first year she has posted an all around score high enough to make a run for the podium on a world stage. Rumors are that she looked fantastic at the Swiss Championships. What a wonderful thing it would be to have a Swiss gymnast on the podium!

Last, but most certainly not least is Larissa. Everyone had such high hopes and expectations of her going into the Olympics. Something as common as plantar fasciitis hampered her dreams and our hopes for her. It would be wonderful to see a fully healthy Larissa come out and perform like we were all hoping to see last year.

It is unlikely that we will see anyone out of these top five on the podium. But anything can – and usually does- happen in elite gymnastics. Here is hoping that each of these girls comes into the all around finals healthy, happy and able to perform at their peak level. No matter what the order, that would be a win for all gymnastics fans.

The USA Has Landed

Today the recently announced US Worlds team – McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross, Simone Biles and Brenna Dowell -arrived in Antwerp. Elizabeth Price, the non traveling alternate, will continue to stay prepared in case she is called up to take the place of one of the girls on the team. I can’t imagine how hard that would be!

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by McKayla Maroney Instagram

Kyla and Simone were essentially considered locks to represent the US in the all around after their stellar performances at Nationals. As was McKayla on vault and floor. The question in everyone’s mind was if The selection committee would send a fourth person to compete on bars and beam or  have McKayla compete all around and send a fourth person as an alternate.

And that is still the question. Brenna Dowell is a strong all arounder, and was without a doubt the best choice as an alternate to compete in the all around. She has the potential to be a bars finalist, but has yet to compete her bar routine with all of her difficulty and with the execution necessary to achieve that kind of score. Unless she has shown a lot if improvement on bars at camp, it might be more likely for Marta to give McKayla the chance to do all around. Had the selection committee chosen someone like Peyton Ernst or Abby Millet, girls who are more clearly bars or beam specialists, it would have been more clear. But as The girls head into Antwerp, who will compete what is still a bit of a mystery to us.

Photo by John Cheng or Geoff Bolte from USAG

What is not a mystery is the medals the USA will be vying for.


855044_SHVmt7vjLtVmZjEj8nWX_xlSimone and Kyla are focused on becoming the 2013 World All Around Champion.

Photo by John Cheng or Geoff Bolte from USAG

Kyla will also be looking to challenge Aliya Mustafina and the Chinese women for the gold on Uneven Bars and to medal on beam.

Photo by John Cheng or Geoff Bolte from USAG

McKayla will be looking to win her second World Vault Championship and to add a medal on floor.

Photo by John Cheng or Geoff Bolte from USAG

Simone will be looking to challenge McKayla on both of those events and to make the beam event finals.

As more and more girls are being pulled out due to injury or illness, the competitiveness of this Worlds is decreasing. However, for the first year in an Olympic cycle, we will be treated to some incredible gymnastics, many of the big names we have grown to love, and more beautiful artistry on floor than usual. And while we wait, the 2013 International Junior Gymnastics Competition being held this weekend is the closest thing to a Junior Worlds we could get. The gymnastics there looks to be quite impressive! Stay tuned!