Simone Biles Refuses to be Lonely on Top


In 2014, Simone Biles is without a doubt the most dominant gymnast in the world. She does some of the most difficult gymnastics with such ease, it is hard to comprehend just how incredible it really is. She defies the normal “rules” on floor, ending her routine with a pass that many gymnasts start with, and doing it with so much bounce to spare that you honestly wonder how many flips and twists it will take to nail those feet to the ground.

But Biles is not one to follow the rules. Most gymnasts present a serious demeanor on the floor, not watching other competitors routines and zoning in on what they have to do. Though there is nothing wrong with that, it’s just not her style.

Biles is all smiles and energy on the competition podium right up until she starts her event and again immediately as her feet touch the floor for her dismount. Except floor, where the sincere grin just never stops. Between routines she can be found chatting with other teammates, cheering on fellow competitors and laughing with her coach.

Simone Biles videobombs Kyla Ross's interview with USA Gymnastics.
Simone Biles videobombs Kyla Ross’s interview with USA Gymnastics.

 

They say that it is lonely at the top. But that is just not something Biles is willing to accept. Though she is serious about her gymnastics, and can immediately get into her zone when she needs to be, it is obvious that she values her teammates and her relationships with them more than anything else out on the floor. She is the first one to congratulate a fellow competitor on their routines, and it is unlikely that any gymnast mounts an event that Biles has not cheered on. She is known by all for her infectious smile and tackling other gymnasts with her bear hugs. McKayla Maroney says of Biles, “It’s impossible not to love her.”

Her twitter feed reads like a memoir to all the people she loves and can’t live without.

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So though Biles is miles ahead of her competitors when it comes down to the score, she is determined to walk the Road to Rio step by step and arm in arm with her U.S. teammates. This bouncy bundle of joy is changing all the rules about how to compete gymnastics. And giving many people in the world a lesson on how to live life.

 

U.S. Senior National Champions and National Team


Simone Biles made what everyone already knows official. At this point in USA gymnastics, she is in a league of her own. She decisively won back to back U.S. National Championship titles, this time by over four points – with a fall. Over a two day competition, she looked incredibly strong, relaxed and consistent until the very end of her beam routine where she fell. And when you are so far ahead that you are competing with yourself, that is frustrating. But on the scoreboard it hardly mattered. Biles also walked away with the national title on floor and vault.

Kyla Ross won her second silver national all-around title, as well as her second national beam title. Ross is also in a league of her own this year firmly capturing the silver despite two uncharacteristic falls on night one. Ross proved to everyone that she is indeed human on the first day of competition with a fall on floor and on bars. Her almost inhuman consistency and perfection are marveled at around the world, and they returned in full force on night two, where she earned the highest execution score total. 

Maggie Nichols, the only gymnast on the medal podium to hit eight for eight routines, took the bronze. At this championship, Nichols put an exclamation point on her statement from the U.S. Secret Classics. She is a consistent all-around gymnast who can be depended upon to hit on any event. She also won the bronze on bars, an important event in USA gymnastics.

Apart from the three all-arounders, Ashton Locklear made quite a splash at this competition, easily winning the uneven bars national title. Between the national championships and classics earlier this month, she has posted the highest bar’s scores in the world this year with her incredibly clean and difficult bar routine. 

The top six all-around gymnasts were automatically added to the national team. Additionally, four more gymnasts who were named to the Pan American Games team were also added. Ross and Biles, who have loads of international experience were left off the team, letting other gymnasts gain much needed international competition experience. 

U.S. Senior National Team

Alyssa Baumann, Plano, Texas/WOGA, Simone Biles, Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre, Madison Desch, Blue Springs, Mo./GAGE, Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo./GAGE, Amelia Hundley, Fairfield, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics, Madison Kocian, Dallas/WOGA, Ashton Locklear, Huntersville, N.C./Everest Gymnastics, Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn./Twin City Twisters, Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif./Gym-Max and MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz./Desert Lights.

The gymnasts leaving on a bus on Sunday to Canada to represent the USA at the Pan American Games are Baumann, Desch, Hundley, Kocian, Locklear, Nichols and Skinner.

The results for the all-around top six and the even medalists are as follows.

All-Around

  1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 122.550
  2. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 118.300
  3. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 117.900
  4. Alyssa Baumann, Plano, Texas, 116.100
  5. MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 115.450
  6. Amelia Hundley, Hamilton, Ohio, 112.200

Vault

  1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 31.025
  2. MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 30.225

 Uneven Bars

  1. Ashton Locklear, Hamlet, N.C., 31.050
  2. Madison Kocian, Dallas, Texas, 30.750
  3. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 29.400

Balance Beam

  1. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 30.550
  2. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 30.300
  3. Alyssa Baumann, Plano, Texas, 30.300

Floor Exercise

  1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 31.150
  2. MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 30.000
  3. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 29.000

U.S. Junior National Champions and National Team


Jazmyn Foberg of MG Elite blast on to the junior scene by winning the Junior National All-Around title in her first year competing at the national championships. Consistency and calm were the key, as Foberg hit routine after routine over the two day competition. Eight for eight is the mantra every gymnast repeats, but Foberg was the only junior gymnast on the podium able to actually do it. Foberg also took  top honors on uneven bars, her favorite event.

Nia Dennis managed to grab the silver medal despite two falls on her first day of competition and a fall on the second day. Dennis came into the meet as the favorite to win. She brings the most difficulty, and has been the highest scoring junior of those competing at nationals in earlier international competitions this year. However, it seems that she just succumbed to nerves this go round.

Norah Flatley rounded out the podium with the bronze medal. Flatley, who could easily compete in a senior level world championship beam final right now shocked everyone with a fall on beam BOTH days. However, he was still able to find a spot on the podium with her beautiful, clean gymnastics.

Jordan Chiles came in most recently winning the 2014 Secret U.S. Classics two weeks ago. She had an incredibly rough first day, but was able to come back the second day and put in a great performance. As she still has a lot of time left in her gymnastics career, the experience of coming back and performing well is a great thing.

The top six gymnasts automatically qualified to the junior national team. Bailie Key was injured and did not compete at nationals, but was added to the team as well due to her phenomenal success over the past year. As three of the seven will be seniors next year, it is likely that more juniors will be added at a later time.

U.S. Junior Women’s National Team

Jordan Chiles, Vancouver, Wash./Naydenov Gymnastics, Nia Dennis, Westerville, Ohio/Buckeye Gymnastics, Norah Flatley, Cumming, Iowa/Chow’s Gymnastics, Jazmyn Foberg, Morganville, N.J./MG Elite, Emily Gaskins, Fairfield, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics, Bailie Key, Montgomery, Texas/Texas Dreams, and Alexis Vasquez, West Des Moines, Iowa/Chow’s Gymnastics.

All-around results and even medalists are as follows:

All-Around

  1. Jazmyn Foberg, Bayville, N.J., 114.950
  2. Nia Dennis, Westerville, Ohio, 114.500
  3. Norah Flatley, Cumming, Iowa, 112.550
  4. Jordan Chiles, Vancouver, Wash., 111.600
  5. Alexis Vasquez, West Des Moines, Iowa, 111.150
  6. Emily Gaskins, Coral Springs, Fla., 110.800

Vault

  1. Nia Dennis, Westerville, Ohio, 30.000
  2. Olivia Trautman, Champlin, Minn., 29.700
  3. Jordan Chiles, Vancouver, Wash., 29.650

Uneven Bars

  1. Jazmyn Foberg, Bayville, N.J., 28.850
  2. Norah Flatley, Cumming, Iowa, 28.400
  3. Nia Dennis, Westerville, Ohio, 28.150

Balance Beam

  1. Alexis Vasquez, West Des Moines, Iowa, 29.400
  2. Ragan Smith, Lewisville, Texas, 29.000
  3. Lauren Navarro, La Verne, Calif., 28.700

Floor Exercise

  1. Nia Dennis, Westerville, Ohio, 29.600
  2. Ragan Smith, Lewisville, Texas, 29.150
  3. Jordan Chiles, Vancouver, Wash. and Victoria Nguyen, West Des Moines, Iowa, 28.750

Jazzy Foberg – The Real Deal


In March of 2013, Jazmyn Foberg (Jazzy as she is affectionately known) made a decision that would change the entire trajectory of her life. She started training with Maggie Haney at MG Elite. And now she finds herself topping the junior division scoreboard as she heads into the second day of competition for the P&G U.S. National Championships.

Jazmyn Foberg of MG Elite at the P&G National Championships. Photo by John Cheng via USA Gymnastics.

Her meteoric rise from not even qualifying for nationals last year to topping the leaderboard this year is quite rare in the sport of gymnastics. But her success is not a surprise to coach Haney. “What excites me the most about Jazzy is how fast she is progressing. She has improved so much in the past year; it’s actually amazing. She is a totally different gymnast now then she was one year ago. If she continues to improve at this rate; the sky is the limit for her!”

In this case, words like improved don’t even begin to capture the monumental progress Foberg has made. Last year at the Secret U.S. Classics, she placed 26th and missed out on qualifying for nationals. Her teammates Laurie Hernandez and Ari Agrapides went on to phenomenal success at nationals, where Hernandez took the all-around silver and Agrapides won the national vault title in the junior division. “I think it was very good for Jazzy to see Laurie & Ari have such successes last year. I think that Jazzy became very motivated after watching them go to camp after camp and even watching Laurie have International assignments. I feel like this was like dangling a carrot in front of Jazzy. It motivated her and this is what she wants and is willing to work towards,” said Haney.

Foberg’s hard work began to pay off earlier in 2014, where she won the all-around and the uneven bars at the 2014 Buckeye Elite Qualifer. She continued to gain speed at the American Classic in Huntsville, Texas where she won the all-around, vault and bars. Then there was the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic. Oh what a difference a year can make.

After a great showing at the national training camp, Foberg was one of the junior gymnasts selected to compete in the senior session. Foberg took the early lead in the competition, and as a result was featured twice in the NBC broadcast. For a junior elite gymnast, that is some pretty heady stuff. But Foberg took it all in stride. As it seems she always does. Haney said of Foberg, “I would describe Jazzy as a very “chill” kid. She is level headed and I never have any surprises with her. Inside the gym, Jazzy is extremely focused and very good at making corrections and feeling what she is doing.” Foberg went on to place 5th in the all-around at Classics.

Jazmyn Foberg, featured on the live broadcast of the 2014 Secret U.S. Classics as a junior.

Foberg came into nationals looking confident and ready to compete. Nia Dennis leads the junior field in difficulty, and has generally been considered the favorite to win after strong international performances earlier in the year. Right behind Dennis has been Norah Flatley, Chow’s latest star who has excellent execution and a stellar beam routine. And then there is Jordan Chiles, who took everyone by surprise winning the Secret U.S. Classic earlier this month. Foberg came into the meet with the second highest difficulty planned, and a strong desire to follow in the footsteps of her teammates and stand on that medal podium.

She started out the first day of competition with a strong double twisting Yurchenko that scored a 14.6. This gave her the early lead after rotation one, a position she only relinquished for one rotation the rest of the day. Moving into her strongest event, Foberg put up the second highest bar score of the competition; but a strong vault from Dennis pushed her into second half way through the meet.

With her two strongest events behind her, Foberg was going to need to put up solid routines and mistakes from the other girls to regain the lead. And that is just what she got. Dennis performed a beautiful bar routine, but fell on her dismount. Flatley had a shocking fall on beam, but still scored a 14.4 with her incredible routine. Foberg remained focused despite all the falls around her and hit a solid beam routine, putting her back in the lead. A lead she was able to hold onto in the last rotation as Dennis had a second fall.

“I would like Jazzy to be remembered as a calm & consistent competitor. Jazzy is really a great kid and I don’t think she should be underestimated,” said Haney. Done and done. As many of the juniors succumbed to nerves, Foberg continued to develop her reputation as a calm and consistent competitor. Adding this to the beautiful lines MG Elite is becoming known for, Foberg has proven that she is the real deal. “She had already far exceeded my expectations for this year; so now I know what she is capable of… I have already raised my goals and expectations for her. The plan is to make her a master on bars. So hopefully she will be remembered as a great bar worker who does a lot of releases!”

Whether or not Foberg is able to hold onto her lead tomorrow in the second day of competition, it is clear that she has legitimately come into her own as one of the juniors to watch on the Road to Rio. Her strong all-around abilities, cool and consistent performance personality, and her great bar work  firmly ingrain her into the mix of gymnasts who are strong contenders for 2016.

Jazzy Foberg 2013 Secret U.S. Classics

Jazzy Foberg 2014 P&G National Championships

2014 P&G U.S. National Championships Senior Preview and Predictions


Fourteen seniors took the floor today for podium training in preparation for the 2014 P&G U.S. National Championships. The championships kick off tomorrow with the junior women at 1p.m. EST in the CONSOL Energy Center – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The seniors take the floor later that evening at 7:30p.m.

An already thin field was stretched a little thinner as Rachel Gowey fractured her ankle during training and was forced to withdraw. Only eight of those competing are currently planning on competing in the all-around. Apart from the prestige of winning a national title, the gymnasts will be looking to make a case for being named to the Pan American Games team immediately following the competition, and/or invited to the 2014 World Championships team selection camp to be held in September.

Simone Biles of World Champions, Kyla Ross and Felicia Hano of Gym-Max, Maggie Nichols of Twin City Twisters, MyKayla Skinner of Desert Lights, Amelia Hundley of Cincinnati, Madison Desch of GAGE, Alyssa Baumann of WOGA, and Macy Toronjo of Texas Dreams are the gymnasts who will be competing for the coveted title of 2014 U.S. National Champion. 

Barring major disaster or injury, the title is all locked up. Current World Champion Simone Biles proved two weeks ago at the Secret U.S. Classics that she is in a league of her own. In today’s training, Biles had a few shaky go rounds on bars and missed the last skill in her tumbling series on beam once. She also had some quite large hops in her tumbling. However, none of these are things that will likely show up in her performance tomorrow or affect the outcome of the meet. The reigning US National Champion, Biles looks, healthy, happy and ready to defend her title.

The silver medal is firmly in the grasp of Kyla Ross, 2012 Olympian and 2013 World All-Around silver medalist. At Classics, Ross led the rest of the field by 2.5 points and if she puts in her normal steady performance it is hers for the taking. Ross looked calm and collected on the podium today, with her normal (how does such fluidity and steadiness ever become normal) solid performance.

The real battle will be for the bronze. Defending bronze medalist Brenna Dowell of GAGE is still recovering from an earlier ankle injury and will only be competing bars. So the third spot on the podium is wide open. Maggie Nichols took this honor two weeks ago at Classics. Her strong and steady performance then, and today in podium training, give her solid ground to make a bid for the podium. MyKayla Skinner comes into the meet with some of the most difficult gymnastics. However she often takes huge deductions on execution and has a hard time getting through her ridiculously hard floor routine without a fall. If Skinner is able to put together eight clean routines, she may just take the spot. She will be looking to prove her consistency on floor and vault as these are the events she would most likely be used on in a team setting. Skinner looked great on beam during training, but struggled on vault. She got through all the skills in her floor routine, but took a really long rest in the corner to do so.

Amelia Hundley has been a standout throughout her junior career, and she will want to make a statement at these championships. Hundley is one of those super dependable, consistent gymnasts you want on your team. Her exciting floor performances and strong bar routine help her make a case to be on the world team. A strong showing at nationals will be an important step for her.

The rest of the field are unlikely to find their way up onto the podium. Madison Desch and Alyssa Baumann are competing in the all-around, but will be looking to make a case to make the Pan American and World Championship teams as specialists. Desch is beautiful on bars and brings in a well-rounded performance everywhere else. Baumann is a stand out on beam. Though they will be focusing on hitting all eight routines, these events will be crucial. They both looked clean and solid on their pet events during training today.

In addition to the all-around, some of the gymnasts will just be competing on a few events. Injuries prevent Madison Kocian of WOGA, Ashton Locklear of Everest, Brenna Dowell of GAGE and Veronica Hults of Texas Dreams from competing on all four events, but these gymnasts will be looking to win titles on individual events as well as show the selection committee why they should be considered for a spot on one of the upcoming international assignments.

Madison Kocian has put up the highest bar score of the U.S. women on an international stage this year. She will be looking to contribute at the Pan American Games and the World Championships on bars. She will also be competing on beam, an event she could be called on if needed.

Ashton Locklear burst onto the scene two weeks ago at Classics with her whopping bar score of 15.7. With gorgeous lines and dreamy fluidity on both bars and beam, Locklear will be hoping to make these teams as a specialist. She is a first year senior, and was out with injury for most of last year, so she is still largely unproven on the competition stage.

Brenna Dowell has been one of the USA’s top gymnasts over the past year, and is usually a strong contender in the all-around. However injury has kept her out and right now she is trying to prove that her bars are worth bringing to a world stage. At Classics her bars bordered on disaster, but during training today she looked much improved and ready to compete her very difficult bar routine. She hopes to compete in the all-around by the selection camp next month.

Last but not least is Veronica Hults. Hults brings in beautiful gymnastics with beautiful technique and form. Her junior career was plagued with injuries and her senior career is starting out the same. However, Hults is beautiful on bars and beam and could definitely contribute to the US team on these events.

Predictions : just for fun. Tell me who you think!

All-Around

  1. Simone Biles
  2. Kyla Ross
  3. Maggie Nichols

Vault

  1. Simone Biles
  2. MyKayla Skinner

Bars

  1. Ashton Locklear
  2. Madison Kocian
  3. Kyla Ross

Beam

  1. Kyla Ross
  2. Simone Biles
  3. Alyssa Baumann

Floor

  1. Simone Biles
  2. Kyla Ross
  3. Amelia Hundley

Pan American Games Team

Maggie Nichols, Amelia Hundley, MyKayla Skinner, Madison Kocian, Alyssa Baumann, Ashton Locklear, and Madison Desch

World Championship Team

I think that all the competitors, minus Hano and Toronjo, will be invited to the selection camp. The selection for the team will not take place until that camp. I am sure that many things will change between now and then, but my predictions are:

Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Brenna Dowell, Ashton Locklear, MyKayla Skinner and Maggie Nichols.

  • Vault- Biles, Dowell, Ross (Nichols, Skinner)
  • Bars- Locklear, Ross, Dowell (Biles, Nichols)
  • Beam- Ross, Biles, Locklear (Skinner, Dowell)
  • Floor- Biles, Ross, Nichols (Skinner, Dowell)

The Latest on Peyton Ernst


Earlier this week, Peyton Ernst of Texas Dreams quietly withdrew from the 2014 P&G Senior U.S. National Championships. Gymnastike interviewed coach Kim Zmeskal Burdette to get an update on the situation. According to Burdette, Ernst had dislocated her shoulder doing a vault early in July. She had not had any problems with her shoulder previously. They worked to correct the problem and hoped for the best, but it happened again Monday, August 10th. Surgery became inevitable and will take her out the rest of the season. “Peytons [injury] has been the hardest one. She has been in such a good place, taking things step by step to try to make this world team,” shared Burdette. She went on in the interview to share about her disappointment for Ernst as she had finally began to believe in her ability to make the world team.

Ernst was a strong contender to make last year’s world championship team, but just fell short of the mark. She is a strong all-around gymnast, but stands out on beam and bars. Ernst was most definitely a strong contender for this year’s worlds team as she is likely to contribute a strong score to the team on those two events, has the potential to make a beam final, and is strong enough in the all-around that she can compete on any event if needed.

Ernst was nursing a sore ankle back in April when she received the call to jump on a plane early the next morning to fly from Texas to Vancouver, BC. She came to take the place of Simone Biles at the Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships. Ernst rose to the occasion and put in a stellar performance with very little prep time. However, when she returned home, it turned out that she had been competing with a hairline fracture in her foot.

Ernst rested the foot, and then returned to training.  When Ernst did not compete in the Secret U.S. Classics earlier this month, the plan was still for her to compete at nationals. However, the recent shoulder injury has put Ernst’s dreams of Worlds on hold for another year.

Ernst’s teammate Bailie Key, who is also out with an injury tweeted a picture of the two of them, with plans for “good times and tan lines” on Sunday. It appears the two are taking their injuries in stride and making the best of their forced time off.

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The Latest on Rachel Gowey


Rachel Gowey at the Secret U.S. Classics. Photo By John Cheng USA Gymnastics

The shining star that was Rachel Gowey at the Secret U.S. Classics two weeks ago has unexpectedly fizzled out. Gowey, one of the latestest proteges of Liang Chow, coach of Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas, put in an unexpected performance at the Classics earlier in the month. Her difficult skills and exquisite lines launched her from up-and-comer to full out player for a spot on the 2014 World Championship team. Since then, she has been on of the most anticipated performances at the P&G U.S. National Championships.

Today in training, she landed just a little short on her beam dismount and fractured her ankle. She had been performing well on beam in practice and her difficult dismount looked like it was all the way around. But she didn’t quite make it to her feet, bounced forward and fell to her knees. She didn’t get up until coach Chow carried her off the mat. The beam footage is in the bottom left feed of the video.

The timing of this injury is so unfortunate as Gowey will not only miss her senior debut at the national championships, but will undoubtedly be out for the rest of the year, missing the Pan American Championships and the World Championships. What is even more heartbreaking for the 16 year old is that Gowey was out all last year with a back injury, making this two years in a row that injury prevented her from showing the world what she can do.